Southwark council to bring customer services back in-house

Local authority puts forward proposals to prematurely end major contract with Vangent and bring customer services back under council management

Southwark council’s cabinet is set to agree to proposals to bring all customer services, including the authority’s web portal and contact centre, in-house.

The authority has opted to end its £116m deal with outsourcing firm Vangent two years earlier than previously agreed. The contract started in May 2005 and was scheduled to run until the end of May 2015. However the council has decided it wants the services back under its management by 1 June 2013. The move follows Vangent’s recent decision to sell all of its stock to General Dynamics.

Southwark said the decision is part of a plan to have greater control over the operation of its customer services. Prior to signing the deal with Vangent, the services were carried out in-house by the local authority.

According to the council, the termination of the deal has been mutually agreed and will be carried out under a deed of variation. This allows parties involved in a contract to change the terms of a deal by agreement. A spokesman for the local authority told Guardian Government Computing that there will be “no penalties from the early mutual termination”.

A council cabinet document on the new plans says that any additional costs arising from the transition of the services to the council will be met from within the existing customer services budget. The document also discloses that the contract provides for deductions from contractual payments should targets be missed by the supplier, although the council would not discuss Vangent’s service performance.

Southwark has said it wants to carry out more of its business online and believes that it can make savings and do this more efficiently if it runs all customer services itself. The contract with Vangent covers: the provision of a telephone customer service centre; services in the council’s three one-stop-shops; email response and translation services; and a complaint and receipt service.

Southwark’s cabinet will consider the proposals on 15 May. If agreed, the council will present the cabinet with a report in July, outlining a model for delivering the services.

Peter John, leader of the council, said: “The council has worked for many years with Vangent to improve the service we offer our residents. We are delighted that we have now been able to agree a new direction for the future with them and we look forward to working positively with Vangent to deliver our new model for customer services and a seamless transfer of responsibility to the council.

“We believe this is the right course of action to take if we are to deliver both a new approach to customer service that also delivers value for money in the current tough economic climate.”

Vangent would not comment on Southwark council’s plans when contacted by Guardian Government Computing.

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