Contractor for county council’s back office tasks ‘sending West Sussex jobs to India’

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West Sussex jobs are being sent to India by the contractor looking after the county council’s back office functions and IT services, according to UNISON.

The public service trade union said it was ‘alarmed’ that Capita was intending to offshore five of ten total jobs to Pune, India, in its Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing (SAP) support team.

SAP is a piece of software that helps large organisations such as West Sussex County Council manage all aspects of its business, including payroll, personnel records, finance, and payments.

UNISON explained how the move followed a decision to relocate some of the West Sussex IT team in Chichester to Capita’s IT centre in Derby.

Dan Sartin, branch secretary of UNISON West Sussex, said: “It is hugely damaging when any council privatises its IT function and then finds it has no strategic control over it any more.

“We very much regret the loss of these jobs to West Sussex, following as they do the move of jobs to Derby.

“We have fears for the operation of the function in future. West Sussex already has significant problems with its payroll for example, which have impacted on schools.

“It is difficult to see how this will improve when communication on complex IT systems has to be with India, rather than Chichester.”

He added: “WSCC has declared its support for the local economy to be one of its top three strategic priorities.

“The West Sussex economy will not be stimulated by having good quality jobs moved to India. The job losses represent lost income which will stop circulating in the West Sussex economy and local businesses.

“Evidence shows that local government workers spend two thirds of their income in the local economy.”

He continued: “They spend it in local shops and on local services. That will be lost.”

A spokesman from Capita Local Government said: “Five people who provide back office IT support at the partnership have accepted voluntary redundancy.

“Five employees will continue to deliver back office IT support from within the partnership, supported by a team of four at our existing facility in India.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council added: “We are having ongoing discussions with Capita over its proposals to continue to provide support for our back-office technology system.”

Championing the local economy has been listed as one of the county council’s top priorities.

Mr Sartin added: “It is clearly wrong for the council to say it is championing the local economy if at the same time it is contracting to move jobs out of West Sussex.

“Capita confirmed to UNISON that it is not ruling out further offshoring if it is cheaper, so staff are naturally nervous.

“If the principle of offshoring is extended, it will be very bad news for the wider local economy and for the families directly impacted.”

The contractor was under the spotlight back in September 2015 when the performance of WSCC’s contact centre, which is run by Capita, was discussed.

At a finance and performance working group meeting which looked at the new Customer Experience Programme including proposals for a new customer services hub, Mr Sartin questioned the wisdom of any moves that would further embed Capita into the county council’s ways of working, making any contract with the company ‘too big to fail’.

He asked why the council was not looking harder at doing things in house, but he was told there was ‘no mass outsourcing’ planned as part of customer services hub.

Capita, which describes itself as the ‘UK’s leading provider of business process management and integrated professional support service solutions’, employs around 680 people at its partnership in West Sussex.

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