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County workers celebrate demise of One Connect Ltd

Les Parker, who represents county council workers at trade union Unite

Les Parker, who represents county council workers at trade union Unite

County council staff seconded to One Connect Limited have spoken of their “enormous relief” over its demise.

The organisation, which was set up by the authority’s former Tory administration and BT in May 2011, was riddled with controversy, amid claims it was failing to deliver on its goal of saving £400m over 10 years.

The ruling Labour group has announced changes which will see One Connect Limited (OCL) become a wholly owned BT company, renamed BT Lancashire Services Limited.

The majority of its functions, like welfare rights, human resources and procurement, will return to being delivered by the council, while BT will be responsible for IT and payroll.

Hundreds of council staff seconded to OCL will return to the authority, with the remaining workers continuing their secondments with BT.

An OCL employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “I have worked for OCL since its inception and have been sickened by the way money is spent on consultants, office moves, office furniture etc.

“Far from an improvement in service, our customers report that it takes far longer to get things done. It is truly disheartening for those of us who take a genuine pride in serving the people of Lancashire.”

Another anonymous OCL worker said the move was an “enormous relief” to staff

He said: “It was my misfortune to witness at close quarters the misguided and incompetent OCL leadership.

“For me the OCL vision was fine but the implementation was completely and utterly disastrous.

“The need to save money was and remains essential, but there was a philosophy of arrogance, which disregarded in-house knowledge which simply needed support and evolution, not revolution.”

Les Parker, who represents county council workers at trade union Unite, said staff, service users and taxpayers had suffered because of OCL.

He said: “I think staff are so relieved they are going back into local government control.

“I don’t think they are looking beyond the horizon of what might happen next yet, because they have been so badly treated as employees by OCL.

“I’ve had people talking to me who had conducted business with OCL, who think it’s the best thing that has ever happened because they have not had a good service.

“Staff want to do a good job and get things right, but OCL had no interest in its employees or the service.

“They are excited on both sides of the fence, staff who were frustrated because they couldn’t do a proper job, and people using the service who couldn’t get proper answers because OCL would not allow staff to answer questions properly, It was all about secrecy.”

Meanwhile, an MP has called on County Hall chiefs to release the details of the scrapped OCL deal.

Rosie Cooper, a long time critic of the partnership with BT, said she wanted the original contract and all the costs and charges put in the public domain for residents to see.

The West Lancashire MP said: “I congratulate Lancashire County Council’s leader Jennifer Mein and her team on the progress so far to get rid of the OCL contract and bring numerous services back in-house.

“However, there are still too many unanswered questions about what has been happening around OCL since the signing of the original deal.

“This announcement does not mean those questions can now disappear. Although I am sure there are people who hope this announcement will draw a line under this issue, it won’t.

“The people of Lancashire deserve to know why this fiasco happened in the first place and what it has cost the taxpayers of Lancashire.

“These questions of probity, of value for money, of transparency and openness all still need to be addressed.”

 

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