THE leader of Somerset County Council Cllr Ken Maddock has launched a stinging attack on Southwest One, which is hired to run several council and police services across the county.

Speaking at the full council meeting in Shire Hall, Mr Maddock said: "As an administration we inherited a partnership that promised a huge amount, but it was not delivering.

"Southwest One’s accounts year on year show losses, staggering losses just published of £31million, and failures to hit modest savings targets.

"We have bent over backwards to try to make this partnership work, but we have to state clearly that our primary duty in looking after the public’s hard earned money is to make sure we get the best possible deals, that we get the best possible value for the public’s money.

"I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.

"We are currently looking at all our services and all our contracts to see whether we are doing the best we can for our customers, whether we are providing the best possible services for our customers and at the best possible prices for our customers.

"I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.

"We need a council that can cope with future government cuts and rising demand.

"We will need to be efficient and flexible.

"I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.

"Sadly, Southwest One is failing.

"It is failing to deliver promised savings; failing to cope with a changing financial landscape; failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money.

"To make up for this failure, we will now accelerate our extensive review of everything that the council does.

"Almost half our most vital services are carried out by private sector or not for profit organisations – we will look to increase this where appropriate.

"We will encourage social enterprises, partnerships, communities and voluntary groups to get more involved in what we do and what we run.

"We will look to put the customer at the heart of what we do.

"And we will do this whilst we continue to do all we can to make Southwest One work.

"But I have to be clear; it is failing; it is inflexible; and it is intransigent.

"We are therefore looking at all the options available to us.

"I do have one final message for Southwest One – and that is to the staff and our Somerset County Council colleagues and secondees working there.

"The message is this - this continuing failure is not about you; it is about the contract, the complications, the failed technology, the missed opportunities, the lack of promised savings.

"It is about Southwest One itself, not about the people working for it."

*Watch this site for further updates from the meeting - and get your copy of tomorrow's Somerset County Gazette.