Sandwell Council to part ways with BT and end £300m contract

An exit plan is being drawn up for BT and a Black Country council to end their £300 million contract by March next year, it was revealed today.

Sandwell Council House in Oldbury
Sandwell Council House in Oldbury

Sandwell Council has been in a 15-year partnership with BT called Transform Sandwell, in which the company manages services such as finance, customer contact and communication. The current deal, signed in 2007, sees the council paying BT around £15m a year.

In July the authority told the telecommunications giant it wanted to bring its contract to an end, unless BT addressed issues raised by the council within 30 days.

And today it can be revealed that both parties have begun to thrash out how they will end their contract by March next year.

A memo to council workers said: “Discussions between the council and BT have been taking place to determine the way in which the current contractual arrangements will be brought to a close to both parties’ mutual satisfaction. As the 30-day notice period ends, we will be entering into a transitional period.

“During this time, BT will continue to manage Transform Sandwell and deliver services. Also during this period, BT and the council will work on an agreed exit plan which will prepare all relevant services for handover in March 2014.”

The memo said that it would be at that point that any arrangements for staff working for Transform Sandwell to legally transfer their contracts would take effect. The council’s ruling cabinet decided to begin the process to end the BT contract because it now has fewer workers, due to redundancies prompted by government cuts.

The authority wanted to pay BT less to reflect the reduced volume of work. It has also been unhappy with BT’s service and began dispute proceedings last September. Whether the council will face any costs to end the contract is still not clear.