Private contractor Civica takes over a shared service that deals with council tax, housing benefit, non-domestic rates, debt recovery and customer services for Thanet, Dover and Canterbury today (February 1).
The three councils have signed contracts with the firm for a period of 7 years plus the option to extend by a further 3 years.
The outsourcing of the East Kent Services (EKS) functions, which looked after those areas for the three councils, is aimed at cutting costs without the need for redundancies.
EKS was formed five years ago to provide IT,HR, revenues and benefits and customer services. It has saved the three councils £6million but from this year the organisation would have needed to make savings of between £300,000 and £500,000.
Dominic Whelan, Director of Shared Services at East Kent Services (EKS), said: “We are extremely proud of the fact the team at EKS has saved the three councils more than £6m since it was created in 2011.
“But the financial challenges in the public sector continue to come thick and fast.
“Without our partnership with Civica, the three councils would have needed to invest £2m extra in EKS over the next seven years in order to maintain the level of service we currently provide.
“Or they could have cut services and lost around 70 highly-skilled jobs.
“By taking this path, the three councils have protected the jobs and terms and conditions of the 235 transferring EKS staff, and it is highly likely they will benefit from Civica’s expansion in the south east at a time when every penny counts as councils fight to balance their budgets and maintain services.
“Civica has a successful track record in local government partnerships which supports the sustained provision of quality services and delivers savings”.
Gary Bell, Executive Director, Partnerships and Managed Services at Civica commented: “This innovative agreement will provide the three councils in east Kent with a means to sustain and improve services to citizens while achieving predicted cost savings of £5.3m over the next seven years.
“The partnership harnesses our successful platform-based approach, combining Civica’s operational expertise and technology know-how with the local knowledge and experience of the East Kent Services team to blend the best of public and private sectors. We’re delighted to be setting up a service centre in east Kent and look forward to building on our long-term relationship to support the councils’ wider transformation.”
This will leave EKS with just ICT Services, HR, some Quality Assurance aspects and contract management.
A report to the three councils says: “In addition to the operational savings within EKS from the contract price, there will be additional savings from a future restructure within the remaining elements of EKS, overseen by the councils’ Heads of Paid Service. It is anticipated as the residual element of EKS will be able to achieve some efficiencies due to the reduction in scale of the overall organisation.”
Civica will take on:
- Council Tax Administration and Enforcement
- National Non-Domestic Rates Administration and Enforcement
- Housing Benefit and associated services
- Council Tax Reduction Scheme and associated services
- Debt Recovery
- Customer Services
So now we can look forward to even more homeless on our streets! Once this private company begins to engage itself with the residents who have to struggle to pay their council tax in the three areas covered they will be looking for profits above all else as this will no longer be a public service but a business. Now that is not very democratic and fair.
Thank god I have retired with my puny pension intact! I don’t envy the Council staff now they have been taken over by Civica, another bunch of profiteers getting their hands on their pensions, wages and conditions, but, magically, able to cream off big profits for the owners. It’s called “Crisis capitalism”.
The government underfunds and runs down Council services until the councillors are desperate and run ragged trying to think of even more savings to make up for the government’s deliberately-created crisis. Then along comes a private company,invented by a few vultures backed by the Banks, offering to do the job for a suspiciously low price. Once they get the work, we will all find the cost going up next time but, by then, the Council itself will no longer have an experienced team left to organise the job.
Yes – you have hit the nail on the head – most of the loyal, long serving, knowledgeable and experienced staff are long gone. So now we have a ludicrous situation where a private firm will make profits for it’s directors and shareholders for carrying out those services at the council tax payer’s expense
This is a type of decision that should have had public consultation. It is a paltry saving over the period and exposes significant risk to residents and businesses.