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London councils seek assurance over Capita's India offshoring plans

Half of system support engineers put at risk in one authority

London councils with Capita contracts have sought assurances from the outsourcing business that they will not be affected by its plans to offshore jobs to India.

According to a letter from Capita to one IT team working for a borough in the capital, half its software engineers have been put at risk of redundancy.

Following a review of the business, the outsourcer stated in the missive - seen by us - that "there’s an opportunity to reduce the cost of the function by leveraging offshore capability".

"That means tasks maybe be relocated to our Capita India operation. We have identified that should these tasks be relocated it may be likely that we will need to reduce the number of System Support Engineers from 11 to six."

At the end of last year Capita said it will axe 2,250 staff, which includes sending more jobs to India, following its first ever profit warning. The company remains the biggest provider of tech services and software to the British public sector: revenues swelled to £1.9bn in 2016, equating to a 50 per cent market share.

The Capita letter stated: "As discussed following the recent business updates and profit warning, there is a need to realign ITS [IT services] to become a more focussed organisation in the marketplace.

"We need to focus on our core business to achieve business plan and bring the business back into a profit… This means that we may need to make compulsory redundancies and I must advise you that the role of System Support Engineers is potentially redundant."

The firm said its "onshore/offshore mix could be more optimal". It added, "In some cases we believe work can be absorbed within our existing onshore teams. In other cases it is proposed work could be relocated to Capita India, where work can be completed in more cost effective ways".

Capita holds contracts with a number of London councils, including a controversial £322m 10-year outsourcing deal with Barnet, along with agreements with Croydon and Wycombe. The company also has a deal with Southwark, although the borough is about to wind that contract down and bring staff in-house.

One insider affected by the shake-up claimed it was "simply not possible" for a systems engineer role to be done without the person performing it being granted "super admin" privileges.

"These are senior engineers who have passed the UK government security clearance vetting process, they are the most highly privileged users on the networks in terms of the databases and systems that hold information about the council’s constituents," he said.

However, Capita and a number of councils have claimed they do not expect the current plans to affect services. A spokesman from Capita said: “We have entered into consultation with staff whose roles are potentially affected."

Barnet told us it had sought assurances from Capita in regards to the changes. "Any offshoring plans by Capita do not currently impact Barnet. Under the terms of our contract with Capita any plans for offshoring must be approved by the council‎."

A Croydon Council spokesperson said: "Capita has advised us of the proposed changes to their business, but these are not expected to impact on the Croydon service at this time."

Meanwhile, Wycombe said it hasn't been told by Capita about these plans. ®

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