SCOTTISH Borders Council (SBC) has responded to criticism of an IT contract extension until 2040, insisting “we have no secrets”.
But the council has rejected any secrecy claims, stating that the full council were told all details before agreeing to the deal.
A spokesperson for SBC said: “We have no secrets at Scottish Borders Council, only a desire to respect the commercial confidentiality of our key suppliers where it is right and proper to do so.
“The contract extension with CGI to 2040 will cost an additional £65m in service payments. That’s less per year than we are currently paying for our IT.
“It should be clarified that all councillors were fully briefed on the details of the deal before they debated the proposal at a meeting of the full council and agreed the contract extension.”
SBC added that its partnership with CGI “has delivered significant recurrent revenue savings and transformed many areas of the council”.
“By the end of the current financial year 2020/21 we will have delivered £10.3m of recurrent revenue savings through our work with CGI,” an SBC spokesperson said. “This work has helped us to balance our budget each year and has protected services.
“There have been challenges but the contract extension agreed with CGI reflects the confidence we have in our partnership and sustains high value jobs in the Borders.
“Our agreement will deliver £34m of investment in new technology over the next five years and has the ambition of making the Borders the first Smart Rural Region in the UK.”
SBC and CGI have been in partnership since 2016, with hopes to connect the council and Borders communities digitally.
Discussions with councillors over the contract extension were held confidentially, said Mr Bell, with full details yet to be released.
This led to Mr Bell questioning the secrecy of the deal, as well as the length, with the 20-year extension covering the next four council administrations.
But council leader Shona Haslam says she does not understand Mr Bell’s criticisms of the deal. She says a similar contract was struck by a neighbouring council led by the SNP, Mr Bell’s party.
Mrs Haslam said: “Edinburgh council, an SNP council, signed a similar contract extension with CGI to bring the best possible technology to the citizens of Edinburgh and make Edinburgh the first Digital City in the UK.
“Does councillor Bell believe that the Borders does not deserve similar advantages?”
She added: “This contract with CGI will bring so many advantages and savings to the council that I am completely perplexed by his comments.
“But apparently for the SNP what is good enough for Edinburgh is too good for the Borders, maybe he thinks that the Borders doesn’t deserve to have the same opportunities as our close neighbours.”