A shared service that deals with council tax, housing benefit, non-domestic rates, debt recovery and customer services for Thanet, Dover and Canterbury will have some of its responsibilities taken over by a private contractor.
Cabinet members at Thanet council discussed the development of a business case to outsource the council tax, housing benefit, non-domestic rates, debt recovery and customer services functions of East Kent Services (EKS), which currently looks after those areas for the three councils, last night (October 3),
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 2018 the organisation will need to make savings of between £300,000 and £500,000.
A report to Cabinet members said this would mean some 30 redundancies would have to take place. The report states: “EKS is now at the point where cutting services in line with its partner Councils’ affordability constraints will start to have a direct impact on service quality, raising the risk of service failure and performance degradation on Benefits (error bonus and payment time) and Council Tax and Business Rates collection levels as well as Customer Services.”
Several changes to the service were reviewed. Councillors agreed the option to allow EKS, which currently employs 300 people, to develop a business case for outsourcing:
- 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
The report says: “Rather than a traditional outsource of service, it is felt that a strategic Commercial Venture with a private partner has the potential to protect and grow jobs and develop services whilst delivering savings.”
Cabinet members agreed to approve the business case for entering into a strategic partnership and contract for the delivery of the Revenues, Benefits and Customer Services functions and to request the East Kent Services Committee to give effect to the recommendation.
The decision is still subject to all three councils agreeing and this will not be confirmed until 19 October.
A council spokesman said: “The decision, if agreed by all three authorities, then authorises the East Kent Services Committee (EKSC) to undertake the detailed contract work and negotiation which will lead to a confirmed set of contract terms. This will then come back to the EKSC in due course for their final decision on whether to award the contract. This will be the key decision point.”