SOMERSET County Council has decided to rip up a contract it claimed would save the council taxpayer £180million over ten years.

The authority's cabinet agreed to terminate the deal with IBM-owned Southwest One a year early at a behind-closed-doors meeting ealier today (Wednesday, December 9).

Tasks the company carries out on behalf of the council include human resources administration and payroll, finance and procurement transactional services, customer contact centre, property and IT.

But a report to the meeting in County Hall, Taunton, said the contract had become "increasingly unaffordable" due to falling staff numbers and the amount the council receives in Government grants.

A number of other services originally included when the ten-year £535million deal struck in November 2007 had already been dropped.

Speaking before the meeting, a council spokesman said: “The Southwest One contract is large and complex so it makes sense for all parties, including the county council, to plan well in advance for what happens when it comes to an end.

"Cabinet will consider the options open to the authority and make a decision on next steps.

"Nothing has been agreed at this stage and cabinet will make its decision based on the best interests of the county council and taxpayers.”

Promoted stories Southwest One has not commented at this stage.

Independent county councillor Mike Rigby said the situation was yet another example of the authority's inability to handle big contracts, coming after it was announced last week that the completion date for the NIDR link road in Taunton had slipped back to the end of next year.

He said: "Coming on top of that fiasco, in SW1 here is yet another example of Somerset County Council failing to let and manage properly a contract involving huge sums of public money.

"The council is about to let another large contract, for learning disabilities, and I am very concerned that it has failed to learn the lessons from these experiences."

Council taxpayer David Orr said the SWO contract had ended up costing the council "significantly more than they got back in savings".

He added: "That has added to the financial pressures and cuts on the councils due to austerity, when IBM 'assured savings' should have been a help.

Share article "I think IBM should be ashamed of their record in Somerset; they should have the decency to explain themselves and then apologise to the people of Somerset."

Taunton Deane Council and Avon and Somerset Police also have contracts with SWO - a report into the future at the Deane when the contract expires is expected to be debated by members in January.