Birmingham ramps up outsourcing
Birmingham City Council has awarded a £110 million contract to run its customer call centres to Capita, the firm behind a new billing system that resulted in a backlog of nearly 30,000 invoices at the authority.
The outsourcing group is one half of Service Birmingham, a partnership with the city council set up two years ago to streamline the authority’s ICT systems. Service Birmingham will have responsibility for two call centres which will handle all calls to the authority – one in the city centre and a new one at Fort Dunlop in Erdington. The new contract is initially for four years and worth £52 million, but is expected to rise to £110 million over eight years if Capita continues with the service.
“Improving the quality and standard of contact with our citizens is a vital aspect of our Customer First programme,” said Councillor Paul Tilsley, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council. “Service Birmingham will ensure that the contact centre operation is fully integrated with our overall business transformation initiative.”
Service Birmingham claims to have already achieved savings of £28 million of which, the authority claims, £9 million has gone towards allowing the council tax increase for 2008/09 to be kept below the UK average, at just 1.9 per cent. But Capita came under fire after a new electronic method of paying invoices for which Service Birmingham had responsibility failed to work properly, resulting in the backlog and some traders threatening the council with bailiffs.
Meanwhile Birmingham City Council has extended a contract with Vertex for call centre services in a deal worth £40 million. The contract with Vertex, which was originally struck in 2002, has been extended to until 2012. The move is focused on bringing the call centre in line with a council initiative called the Customer First transformation programme, which seeks to provide simpler and easier ways for citizens to access council services through channels that are most convenient.