Remember the IBM takeover in Somerset—SouthwestOne?

Remember the ITV documentary on the IBM takeover of Somerset Council? In the documentary the Somerset Chief Executive explained that he visualised other councils queuing up to join SouthwestOne. Think again! The following story was reported in the Local Government Chronicle:


Somerset County Council’s chief executive has accused councils in the region of “institutional chauvinism” for refusing to join the authority’s flagship Southwest One shared services venture.

Alan Jones criticised councils’ unwillingness to consider efficiency projects devised outside their boundaries after the south-west’s biggest two authorities, Devon and Cornwall County Councils , both signalled they would not join the initiative.

The chief executive admitted that no new councils were currently considering entering Southwest One , despite Somerset holding talks with many of its regional counterparts. But he insisted the project was still viable. It is hoped the back office partnership between Somerset, Taunton Deane Borough Council , Avon & Somerset Police and IBM will save £200m over a decade.

Institutional chauvinism

Mr Jones queried why councils were not seeking the savings membership offered and concluded: “The answer has got to do with institutional chauvinism. People want something that has been invented in their patch.”

He added: “Our experience is that people are too conservative and cautious — they look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Earlier, Devon County Council chief executive Phil Norrey said the authority and its public sector partners “don’t want to export jobs from Devon to get relatively marginal savings”.

He added: “Somerset set up Southwest One with IBM very much with the view of having jobs in Taunton, which is great for them and the Somerset economy. “We monitor it but one of our considerations is providing jobs in our local economy.”


Meanwhile, Cornwall leader David Whalley (Lib Dem) said of Southwest One: “I don’t start out from the premise that we are inclined to be joining it.”

Kevin Lavery, chief executive of Cornwall, which is shortly to be transformed into a county-wide unitary, said that the council was based in a relatively low-wage area and more likely to run services for other authorities than have them provided elsewhere.

“What we don’t want to be in the business of is exporting jobs outside of Cornwall, given the economics of the area,” he said.