Council’s £20m deal to offload services is praised

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A £20m deal to hand over council services to a profit-making company has been hailed a success.

Havant Borough Council decided to outsource its customer services to Capita in October 2009, despite concerns from some critics.

But 16 months on and a council report says the department is working better than ever, with 96 per cent of customers ‘satisfied’ with the service.

Leaders say the deal has created 30 more jobs, and will save the council £919,000 over the eight-year contract, which runs out in 2017.

Cllr Tony Briggs, leader of Havant Borough Council, said: ‘When we entered into negotiations our aim was two-fold.

‘One was to create jobs. The other was to be more efficient and save money.

‘Capita has delivered on both fronts.

‘It’s got more resilience because they are a big company.

‘Because they provide customer services for a number of authorities across the country it gives them a resilience in staff.’

The report says Capita has effectively dealt with more than 12,000 benefit claims – an increase of more than 13 per cent since October 2008.

The deal also saw the firm extend its involvement with the council’s revenue and benefits department.

Cllr Briggs said the council had not ruled out more outsourcing as it had to save £2m over the next two years and face a 17.5 per cent drop in government grant.

He said: ‘It does not mean to say that in the next round of finances and saving we don’t look again at outsourcing.

‘It might not be Capita.

‘What I require is to deliver no rate increase for our customers.’

He added: ‘The old ways are inefficient and costly.

‘If you look round at all the authorities in Hampshire, Havant is up at the top, ground-breaking and moving forward.’

Lib Dem Leigh Park Councillor Faith Ponsonby, who was initially worried about the outsourcing, said: ‘The customer services operation seems to have gone a lot more smoothly than we feared.

‘There was a lot of worry beforehand.

‘When I used it, I did not identify any real difference in service.’