Buried in a meeting last night we agreed to bring back in house our council’s contact centre. Good to see that we are rolling back the once fashionable outsourcing of services. Many people said at the time that they were inflexible and that in the end it would cost us more money.
The contact centre or hub is essentially a group of people that take calls from the public and answer the easier questions and refer on the more difficult issues to council officers for more information. The contract was originally awarded to Civica as a way of saving money – unfortunately the volume of calls has declined by about half and the costs of running the service are now much less than they were but we had a fixed contract. This means that we are currently paying well over the odds and have the added problem that our customers are held, to at least to some degree, at arms length by having a third party between council staff and local residents. The rigidity of the Civica contract meaning that it’s difficult to make in-contract changes to the way we deliver services.
The decision to pull out of the contract early will initially cost us money but the savings from bringing the service back in-house will in time pay for these costs. It’s interesting that all the political parties (Green, Labour and Conservatives) all agreed to the change and it’s commendable there was no crowing “we told you so!” at the meeting!