Lambeth Council: Capita contract

Kaye Wiggins reports from Lambeth Council

Last night’s council meeting was a much calmer affair than a previous meeting,  when protesters stormed the chamber and forced the councillors out.

There was a handful of quiet observers and the evening ran to a tight schedule, finishing after just an hour and 20 minutes.

Still, an important decision was passed: the council’s cabinet approved a plan to give a contract worth around £60m over 10 years to the services company Capita. The contract is to provide the council’s revenue collection (which includes council tax collection) and telephone customer services.

The Lib Dem councillor Alex Davies was quick to point out that Capita already ran Lambeth’s council tax collection. He pointed to that day’s front-page London Evening Standard article, which said Lambeth had more uncollected council tax than any other London borough, and asked whether it was a good idea to give the company any more responsibility.

Davies also said the plan meant jobs would be moved to Southampton. “This is untold upheaval, without notice,” he said.

“Staff were told about the decision by email, out of office hours. That’s not a nice email to find in your inbox. It’s no way to treat staff,” he said.

But Labour councillors were keen to point out the benefits. Councillor Pete Robbins said it would mean a £500,000 increase per year in council tax revenue if targets were met, and said Capita had agreed to create 40 apprenticeships as part of the contract.

The council leader, Steve Reed, described the contract as “an improved service at a reduced cost with community benefits.”

The new contract aims to save £10m over 10 years: a big sum, but still just a tiny fraction of the £79m the council must save this year alone.

Also at the meeting…

The council approved a new carbon management plan for its buildings. Under the plan, individual council departments will be responsible for their own energy budgets.

The council approved a new Local Implementation Plan for transport, which it will submit to Transport for London. The plan includes measures to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians in Lambeth.