Bucks County Council (BCC) has been accused of “not learning lessons” after it announced plans to cancel its contract with Bucks Learning Trust (BLT) and bring the service back into the council offices.
Councillors discussed numerous issues with outsourcing vital services – Alternative Delivery Vehicles – at a meeting of the finance, performance, and resources select committee last week.
In December 2016 several social care services, including Bucks Care, were brought back in house, after the county council sad it “lost confidence” in the care provider.
Cabinet member for resources, John Chilver, said “lessons have been learned” as a result of the failures, due to a lack of internal audits and progress reviews once the services were implemented.
He said: “As far as the Bucks Learning Trust is concerned we are in the process of implementing recommendations bringing that back in-house and discussing lessons that can be learned from the experience.
“We probably need to have better monitoring and scrutiny, particularly with Bucks care, we didn’t have any internal audits.
“We very much relied on the management assurances, in terms of the financial position without sort of rigorous inquiry and we perhaps didn’t look at the other non-financial performances and indicators as well as we could have done.”
However councillor Bill Bendyshe-Brown accused BCC of repeating mistakes previously made while working with Transport for Bucks– the county council’s transport arm.
He said: “When I first came on the council we went through scrutiny with the environment and transport and we felt there was no oversight at all on TfB – as a result of that we refreshed our home team at the county council, and we have got a much stronger team over seeing that – it seems as though we hadn’t actually learnt that in terms of BLT.”
A “better collaborative working relationship” will be required if the council continues working with certain contracted services in the same way, according to Cllr David Martin.
He said: “My suggestion if we ever do this again is we actually have a collaborative working relationship between the early days, weeks and months of setting up the operation, so we have assurance basic operational procedures that are being followed from the start, and not found to be defective some months down the line when the internal auditors come in.”
According to its website, BLT works with the county council to fulfil its statutory duties and “raise attainment” in schools across Buckinghamshire.