Suffolk: End of line for controversial CSD at county council

THE controversial contract between Suffolk County Council and the BT-dominated Customer Service Direct is unlikely to renewed in 18 months’ time.

The 10-year deal was signed by the former Labour/LibDem administration at the county in 2004 which saw CSD, in which BT had a majority stake alongside the county and Mid Suffolk councils, taking over their financial administration, IT, and personnel functions.

The councils’ call centres were also operated by CSD.

The cost of the contract was initially �301 million, but this increased to �427 million over 10 years as more functions were added to the service.

The contract is to run out in May 2014, and the county has signalled it plans to find separate contractors for three areas: finance and personnel, IT services, and support for schools.

County council deputy leader Jane Storey said the contract had saved money over the last 10 years, but in the future it would be better to have more flexibility offered by separate deals.

She said: “In IT in particular things change very fast, and it will be better to have separate contracts to cover the different areas we work in.

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“There will also be flexibility built into the contracts to allow borough or district councils to join us if they want to in the future.”

LibDem finance spokesman Andrew Cann has been a long-term critic of the CSD deal.

He welcomed the news that the contracts were being split: “I am glad the council will not be putting all its eggs in one basket as it did with CSD.

“However I hope that it will put in place a strong enough system of monitoring to ensure these contracts offer good value for money, and that the cost does not go up year on year.”

The county is due to discuss the new contracts at its cabinet meeting in Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday. It will be asked to agree to setting up the procurement process, which should result in new contractors being proposed at county cabinet meeting late next year.