Bedfordshire County Council agreed a £267m Strategic Service-Delivery Partnership with HBS Business Services Group in June 2001 and transferred 550 staff to HBS.
Bedfordshire UNISON commissioned the Centre to undertake an evaluation of the Strategic Partnership. The study revealed that the partnership was in crisis and had failed to deliver:
Improvement in the quality of services (top 25% Best Value performance was promised, yet performance of some indicators has declined);
The software system for schools failed to be implemented and the quality of support services to schools are in decline;
A promised National Centre of Excellence in Education has been continuously delayed and may never be established;
A Bedfordshire Regional Business Centre and new jobs;
The County Council has incurred substantial additional costs on the HBS Partnership which question whether the savings targets have been met.
HBS investment to improve County Hall has not been fully spent;
HBS’s already weak company financial performance is deteriorating which is a major worry for staff and should be a major concern for the County Council.
The Centre examined County Council and partnership documents and interviewed several County Council and HBS staff.
“This is a high profile, multi-million pound partnership which promised better quality services, investment and new jobs. It has failed on all three counts” said Dexter Whitfield, Director of the Centre for Public Services.
Bedfordshire UNISON recommend:
The partnership contract with HBS should be terminated and the County Council should adopt a more incremental approach to the implementation of information technology systems based on full testing before implementation and using best-in-class suppliers.
In the interim period HBS should:
negotiate a recognition agreement locally and nationally with Unison.
eliminate the two-tier workforce with HBS agreeing to voluntarily abide by the Best Value Code of Practice on Workforce Matters.
agree to full participation and consultation with staff, UNISON and other trade unions.