Serco/Hoople contracts concerns at Lincolnshire County Council

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Councillors looking at the future of service contracts currently provided by Serco have raised concerns over a loss of control by the county authority should a shared services agreement go ahead.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee also raised concerns over the difficulty to recruit staff should the plans go ahead.

The committee members examined the progress Serco has made in the first quarter, the authority’s procurement methods and the potential partnership with Herefordshire Council.

Councillors were told that discussions with Herefordshire and Hoople had warranted ‘no specific issues of concern’.

However, there were some complexities aligning Hoople’s system with LCC’s, said a spokesman.

Risks investigated included concerns such as Hoople withdrawing, Serco’s service collapsing if an agreement was agreed, corruption of data, loss of strategic benefits over in-house management and risk of disruption while it was introduced.

Officers acknowledged the risk of lost control, but said there were benefits to working with a shared system

Following the meeting Counc Rob Parker, the chairman of the committee said: “One of the things we are anxious to make sure is we’ve got some control of the operation of the contract.

“We had some serious reservations that we would be able to change the contract to work in a way that suited us but still in a way that suited the terms of the contract.

“That seemed to be more limited than the Serco contract.”

He said they saw the recruitment issue as a ‘serious risk’ but had an open mind.

Coun Robert Faulkner said during the meeting that he was concerned that Herefordshire would continue to have problems as residents there preferred to go towards Birmingham for job prospects.

Council leader Martin Hill revealed during the meeting that he was confident the council would be in a position by next April to agree a potential contract.

Following the meeting he said a decision on what was to happen needed to be made in the next six weeks.

He added that the council would also have to invest in new technology to meet the future needs and demands of residents.

Councillors were told Serco’s performance for April-July had been strong and it was meeting its key performance indicators.

Investigations into new companies to provide IT services had whittled a list of 72 providers down to five.

Lincolnshire County Council is three years into a five-year contract with Serco worth £70 million to deliver IT, finance and HR services, as well as taking over the authority’s customer services centre.

However, the contract, which ends in 2020, has been beset by issues of poor performance and difficulties in configuring the software.

The situation became so chaotic that Lincolnshire County Council fined Serco more than £2 million for poor performance.