Warning over ‘CSD mark two’ in Suffolk

OPPOSTION councillors are warning of the consequences of controversial proposals to transfer Suffolk's highways maintenance to a commercial operator.

Liberal Democrat councillors at Suffolk County Council have been vocal in their criticism of the management of the contract with Customer Services Direct (CSD) which was set up in 2004 to run the authority's computer network and call centres.

Now they fear proposals for a commercial operator to run highways maintenance could turn into ''CSD mark two''. CSD is largely owned by BT and Lib Dems have been critical of the cost which they say has increased considerably. Lib Dem resource management spokesman Andrew Cann is warning that any privatisation of the highways department risked similar cost implications.

'As presently constituted the exercise is doomed to fail in the same way as the CSD contract once effective management and scrutiny was removed,' he said. 'Suffolk County Council is now saying it will make the majority of �2million per annum savings from highways through 'transaction costs' meaning pushing around less pieces of paper.

'This is wishful thinking. The county has no idea how a contract will look, how benefits will accrue, how quality will be assured or where innovations will come from.

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'The Tories are telling the people of Suffolk they will save �2m a year from an unwritten contract, with an unidentified supplier without any experience of running such a contract successfully or with any intention of addressing this lack of commercial experience. If we're not careful Suffolk will soon be paying more for poorer roads in the same way we are going to pay over �100m more, for less, at CSD.'

County transport spokesman Guy McGregor said the contract would provide savings – and the authority would be able to monitor how the contract was run.

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'We shall retain our area offices and they will provide oversight. We already have a number of contracts with outside companies. What this will be doing is bringing all these together which will make it easier to manage,' he said.

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