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Sandwell Council in gridlock over multi-million pound BT dispute
Sandwell Council is in gridlock due a massive dispute over a £300m 15 year contract with BT which provides vital services for the council.
The wrangle over the £300m contract comes in the same week fears rise that cost cutting will see library services reduced and Rounds Green library closed.
Councillors have been told not to enter into negotiations with BT until the contract dispute is sorted leaving them in limbo until it is sorted out.
BT provide a raft of services for the council under the Transform Sandwell banner including IT, call centres, human resources, finance, procurement and customer service.
In a leaked email to the News Stuart Kellas, the council’s director of finance and corporate services, outlined the dispute.
He said: “The council and BT have formally agreed to enter into dispute over the operation of the Transform Sandwell contract.
He added: “The initial negotiations meetings with Transform Sandwell about the future role of the contract have now begun. Over the next few weeks these will continue. It is very important during this phase that you do not enter into any commercial negotiations with TS.“ Langley Independent Socialist councillor Mick Davies is furious about the ‘multi-million pound shambles’.
He said: “This deal was not popular with Labour members at the time due to the huge cost and 15 year term.
“Someone somewhere has obviously made a massive mistake and the taxpayers of Sandwell will have to foot the bill.”
He added: “The fact this wrangle over hundreds of millions of pounds comes at the same time library services are being cut is another kick in the teeth for residents places like Rounds Green library are vital to our communities.”
He added: “The writing seemed to be on the wall when BT's partner in the project, Liberata, was dumped unceremoniously a couple of years ago.
“Any renegotiation of the contract must be in the interests of residents.”
He added: “The cabinet were quick enough to take back Sandwell Homes into Council Control let's hope they take back all those services they have hived off back into direct service provision.”
Sandwell Council deputy leader and cabinet member for strategic resources Councillor Steve Eling confirmed the dispute.
He said: "In view of the current climate and public expenditure reductions, the council is engaging with its partner to determine services that are needed over the medium term and to reduce the overall costs in light of public spending reductions."
A spokesman for BT said: “BT continually looks at ways to improve the service it provides to its customers. The original contract was signed in 2007 and as is normal with long-term partnerships BT constantly looks at ways to service the changing needs of both the council and citizens of Sandwell.”