The West Sussex Capita contract has been beset with problems since it started in 2012. In recent months we have seen a series of insourcings of key ‘back office’ admin services returning from Capita to the County Council.
The latest service to be moved away from Capita is however planned to be moved to Hampshire County Council no later than 1st April 2019. This is the administration service Capita provide to support the West Sussex Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Many members will have encountered problems with this Capita service first-hand, and the service has twice missed statutory deadlines for the provision of annual pension statements. Many members will therefore welcome this move, from the for-profit Capita to a county council, and hope to see an improvement in the reliability of the service.
However, this move will be problematic for the staff who work to provide the pension admin service. The West Sussex branch recently supported a small group of WSCC workers providing the West Sussex audit function who TUPE-transferred to Hampshire County Council (HCC). However, they were able to stay located within County Hall, Chichester. The problem for our members working on the pension admin service for Capita is that it is anticipated currently that the work will move to Winchester. This would be much too far for most of our members to travel, and so redundancy would apply.
Also, due to the disruption of the anticipated change of employer, some staff – especially those with less than two years’ service who would not qualify for a redundancy payment – are leaving, which puts extra pressure on the service,
UNISON’s Capita reps have met with Capita to discuss the problems and seek urgent solutions. They have also met with our members in the pension admin team, and have approached HCC in order to discuss their plans for the service and seek clarity.
Whilst it is good news that WSCC finally has a long-term plan to improve the woeful service it commissioned in 2012, it is of major regret and deeply unfair if the workers involved are made to pay the ultimate price of losing their jobs for historic failures not of their making. The episode also illustrates the dangers of outsourcing and WSCC’s strategic failures: once you outsource a service, you can quickly lose the ability to run it yourself again, and then are beholden to others in perpetuity. WSCC decided it was no longer viable to take back responsibility for its own pension admin service for the West Sussex LGPS.
We will be defending our members’ interests during this period of change, and will keep you up-to-date as matters progress.