Scottish Borders Council spent an hour in private session last week before agreeing that its IT (information technology) staff should be consulted over their future.
After what was, by all accounts, a fraught exchange of views, a press release proclaimed that a strategy would be developed over the next six months for an improved service.
However, it also revealed that elements of the service, delivered by 80 full-time staff, would be “market tested”.
“There is strong evidence that SBC would be able to take advantage of industry knowledge more quickly, access new skills, take advantage of economies of scale and benefit from a relationship with a private sector IT service provider,” said Councillor Michael Cook, executive member for human resources and corporate improvement, in the release.
Thursday’s private session was the first time elected members had gathered collectively to consider a scathing review of the IT department, carried out by City of Edinburgh Council, which recommended it should be outsourced to a private firm based in the capital.
Amid claims by staff and unions that the council should not be exporting skilled local jobs and that the review had not been impartial, the local authority agreed to delay any implementation until October.
Mr Cook went some way to repairing the mistrust by asserting: “We value the commitment and hard work of our staff.”
But he added: “At the same time, we believe this service can become even stronger.”
The press statement confirmed that all affected staff would be offered opportunities to play their part in drawing up the strategy through workshops planned over the next six months and that unions would continue to be consulted.
A spokesperson for Unite, which represents around half the IT staff at SBC, told The Southern: “The professionalism of IT staff in delivering the best service they possibly can over the last few unsettling weeks is testament to their dedication.
“They should be applauded for standing up and making their voices heard against the review’s conclusion, which was not founded on accurate information and involved little or no consultation with them.
“Although the decision offers no guarantees, it gives staff and the union an opportunity to work towards presenting a strategy which keeps jobs in SBC and gives value to the taxpayer.
“The union and its officials will continue to support staff and ensure the development of the strategy is carried out transparently and with the full engagement of staff.”