Members set to debate IT proposals in private

Sandy Aitchison
Sandy Aitchison

Elected members will today, for the first time, debate controversial plans to outsource the IT department of Scottish Borders Council – and its 80 skilled staff – to a private company based in Edinburgh.

The press and public will not be privy to the discussion, however.

Affected staff have lobbied councillors and challenged the partiality of the review and the role in its preparation and conclusions of Claudette Jones, the city council’s chief information officer.

Supported by their unions, staff were last week given an assurance their employers would not make a final decision until October and that they had, in effect, six months to prove their worth.

Today, the full council will be asked to consider the review and approve a process of staff engagement.

But the report will be considered in private, despite an attempt this week by the Conservative opposition group to have the matter moved to public business.

“There is nothing in the report that the staff do not already know and the local press has not already reported,” said a spokesperson for the group.

“This is an important matter involving, potentially, the exporting of skilled jobs out of the region and it warrants transparency.”

The request was rejected on Tuesday by the ruling SNP/Lib Dem/Independent administration on whose behalf Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for education, issued the following statement: “Having taken legal and procedural advice from our officers, we have decided that the report, which contains specific references to individuals and individual posts, should be considered in private.

“This will allow free and frank discussion of an issue of great concern, but I can give an assurance that any decision, along with a summary of the debate, will be included in a press statement as soon as possible after the meeting.”

One member of SBC’s IT staff, who preferred not to be named, told The Southern she was sceptical that councillors would be furnished with enough information to make an informed decision.

“No information about the size of the IT estate – laptops, servers, users etc. – has ever been requested and no one has told us what is required of us during this whole shabby exercise,” said the staff member.

“There is an increasing frustration that we face an uphill battle to save our jobs and that there is a certain inevitability about the outcome.

“I would like remind elected members that it is they, and not management, who are voted in by the public and who are in charge of all the services run by the council.”