One of the biggest unanswered questions in the Council’s proposal is exactly who is going to become involved in managing and delivering all the Council’s services. The impression created is that an army of citizens and community organisations will materialise and effortlessly assume the complicated task of running a county.
A clue as to what might really happen is contained (one might say buried) on page 43 of the only document I am aware of in the public domain which explains the New Strategic Direction. This document has not exactly been promoted far and wide. It can only be found by searching the list of papers presented at the Council meeting of 23 september 2010. To help things a little, this is it SCC New Strategic Direction (click on it to download).
There is a section in this document which deals with the roles and functions of what is called the ‘Strategic Council’. This is the label attached to what the Council will become, presumably seen as a more attracting sounding label than ‘Virtual Council’ which is what many have christened it thus far. Item g (on a list that goes to h) deals with ‘Back office functions’. This is a small, two-paragraph section, that covers the very large issue of exactly how everything is going to be run: both how the organisations that will deliver the services will run themselves as well as how what remains of the Council will coordinate these new service providers. The Council is at pains to stress that how these new service enterprises might perform their back office functions will be “commercial decisions for them” but goes on to suggest that to “make it possible for service providers to enter the market at low risk and low cost” there would be merit in “a supplier developing a solution which fits a range of different public, voluntary and private sector organisations”.
Just who might this “supplier” be? It seems to me that this very innocuous, almost throw-away, line actually opens the door to the creation of a massive framework contract that will be, in effect, the single contract that drives the whole process and essentially replaces the administrative function of the Council as it currently exists. This is an opportunity tailor-made for an organisation like Serco – a huge private sector contractor that derives most of its income already from the administration of large government contracts.
If this is the case (and I may be mis-reading this entirely) why is this not given more prominence? It also begs the question as to the extent to which the Council may have already established contacts or relationships with Serco or similar organisations and the extent to which such organisations may have already had a hand in the framing of the Council’s proposal. Perhaps someone might care to raise this when the Council meets in December to give final approval to the New Strategic Direction.
Only time will tell, but my suspicion would be that the wait for Serco (or similar) will not be a very long one.