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Capita bosses grilled by councillors over growth failures and £4m payout

PUBLISHED: 21:04 19 March 2019 | UPDATED: 21:04 19 March 2019

Outside Capita's offices in Bournemouth, Dorset. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Outside Capita's offices in Bournemouth, Dorset. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Press Association

Bosses of the private firm behind a Norfolk council’s contentious planning service have been grilled over complaints from residents, a failure to deliver forecasted growth and a multi-million pound payout to a London council.

Deputy council leader Sam Chapman-Allen said: The council has £6m immediately available.Photo: Breckland CouncilDeputy council leader Sam Chapman-Allen said: The council has £6m immediately available.Photo: Breckland Council

Breckland councillors quizzed senior Capita officers for almost two hours throughout a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, March 19.

The firm took over the planning service in 2009 in a £35m contract, and pledged to deliver the council savings of up to £6m over the 15-year deal, as well as bonus cash as a share of any new business.

But an investigation by this newspaper last year revealed in the contract’s first year Breckland saw just half the savings it hoped for - which, if repeated, would see £2m saved in total - and no extra income has yet been brought in.

Pablo Dimoglou, independent councillor for Mattishall, thanked the officers for being “open and honest about the current situation” and said: “It’s like being an alcoholic - you’ve got to admit you’ve got a problem.”

Theresa Hewett, Conservative councillor for Saham Toney, said: “I represent a rural parish where residents are concerned about appropriate development.

“We have to make sure we are reassuring residents Capita and Breckland are working for them.”

Simon Wood, director of planning and building control, said Capita planned to attend more parish meetings.

Regional services director Mark Dally highlighted the focus on recruiting locally, and said Mr Wood and development head Jon Berry had relocated to Breckland.

Paul Hewett, Conservative councillor for Shipdham with Scarning, asked about a £4m payout to London council Barnet.

He said: “You talk about all the bad news at Breckland - what are you doing here that you weren’t doing in Barnet?

“You paid £4m to get out of your contract - where are we succeeding that Barnet weren’t?”

Mr Dally said: “There was a commercial settlement between Barnet and Capita. None of that settlement whatsoever was related to planning, building control or land charges. I can reassure you it wasn’t the same services.”

Speaking after the meeting, Sam Chapman Allen, deputy leader, said councillors had “held [Capita’s] feet to the fire” but defended the deal, which he said offered the council a guaranteed saving of £2m.

Breckland Council to see £150,000 boost from Capita growth forecasts

The original contract saw Breckland Council promised a 1.25pc share of new Capita business or a £50,000 bonus for new contracts signed with other councils.

But an investigation by this newspaper last year revealed no new business had been taken on and Breckland and Capita said at the time they were focusing on delivering a good service locally rather than driving expansion.

At Tuesday’s scrutiny committee meeting, Capita bosses stressed the importance of reputational ties between the two organisations, and pledged that the council would benefit from recalculated growth forecasts to the tune of £150k.

Growth estimates predict Breckland will receive an additional £10,000 from Capita each year over the coming five years.

This would break down into £10,000 for 2019, £20,000 for 2020, £30,000 for 2021, £40,000 for 2022, and £50,000 for 2023 - resulting in a net financial boost to the council of £150,000.

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