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County council criticised over BT venture

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Suffolk CC has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money after the cost of a joint venture with BT spiralled to more than £100m.

The Conservative-run council teamed up with the telecommunications giant to set up Customer Service Direct, which handles human resources, finance and information technology across the county.

The new service is part of the council’s radical move to become a “virtual” authority that outsources all but a handful of services.

However, Michael Gower, the former head of supplier relationship management at Suffolk CC, said he had repeatedly complained that the venture with BT was over-budget until he resigned from his post in June.

He said his proposals to cut the cost of Customer Service Direct were ignored by the council’s chief executive Andrea Hill, left,who accepted trips courtesy of BT to San Francisco and Boston in 2009.

Mr Gower said: “Every attempt to make these changes was frustrated, mostly as a result of interventions by the chief executive.

“Suffolk County Council is not getting value for money out of one of its largest contracts. We were incapable of making the decisions needed to deliver the multimillion-pound savings to the benefit of the council taxpayers of Suffolk.”

A spokesman for BT said the increase in council money being spent on Customer Service Direct was because of additional services contracted by the council.

A spokesman for Suffolk CC said the deal with BT was being constantly scrutinised and that the flights accepted by its chief executive were approved by the council. 

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