Cllr David Huxtable is the Cabinet Member directly responsible for devising the spending cuts programme. He also presides over the future development of Somerset’s joint venture enterprise with IBM, known as South West One. In 2007 a contract was agreed between SCC, Taunton Deane Council and IBM to establish a new company for the express purpose of streamlining operations and saving money. The projected savings for Somerset alone were promised as £200million during the lifetime of the ten year contract. In practise South West One has failed. The company made losses of £3.6million in its first year and £16.5 million in the last available figures produced for Companies House.
Savings accruing to Somerset County Council after 3 years are £4m in procurement (of £200m target). Additionally, SCC received a discount on services of 5% amounting to £1.7m/year = £5.1m (although it is known IBM/South West One charge extra for new work that should have been included in the overall contract price.)
South West One was driven by the Liberal Democrat administration at County Hall and the former Chief Executive, Alan Jones. Many Conservatives – then in opposition – regarded the company with deep suspicion.
South West One also attracted the determined antagonism of the MP for Bridgwater Ian Liddell-Grainger, also a Conservative.
But Cllr David Huxtable, at that time Chairman of the Audit & Resources Committee of Somerset County Council was a vocal supporter of South West One. His support attracted extraordinary public praise from the Liberal Democrat Leader, Jill Shortland:
2.5. “At this point I need to pause and reflect on the internal workings of Council because my next accolade goes to a Scrutiny Sub-Committee Chairman, David Huxtable, for his work leading the team on the Audit and Resources Sub Committee. It is very difficult for authorities to succeed and to continue to improve without good scrutiny and, particularly, without good scrutiny of their plans and their finances and the regulations that surround them.”
In most council chambers, where political rivalries are fundamental, warm words from one party leader to a senior opponent would have been regarded by Conservative colleagues as treason. But time has helped the truth to emerge. For Cllr Huxtable may have received material and/or financial benefits from backing South West One.
Councillor David Huxtable continues to defend South West One and trumpet its ‘achievements’. He told the Western Morning News two weeks ago:
- “Southwest One has helped us balance the books. I get increasingly frustrated by people who knock Southwest One and say you have only saved so many million. I don’t need to be beaten up for ‘only’ saving several million pounds”.
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