back to article Court battle date set for £300m BT Cornwall termination dispute

A legal showdown between BT and county of Cornwall, over the local council's plans to prematurely exit its £300m outsourcing contract with the telco giant, is to be heard in the High Court in December. The adversaries are to fight out their dispute over the termination of the BT Cornwall contract this year, due to BT …

  1. Ashton Black

    If Cornwall has enough evidence of failure, with a "reasonable" attempt to resolve the issues then I wish them luck. Obviously, we don't have the data, so that could be way off, but I'm rooting for the council.

  2. Andy Non Silver badge

    I don't trust BT to install a business land line in a professional and timely manner, let alone handle such megga contracts. Twice bitten twice shy. There won't be a third time.

    1. future research

      "I don't trust BT to install a business land line in a professional and timely manner, let alone handle such megga contracts. Twice bitten twice shy. There won't be a third time."

      Problem I have is Virgin Media are even worse. Who do you intend on using the next time?

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Someone with experience in "IT, human resources, document management and other services", ie not a telephone company.

  3. future research

    This is going to be good to watch. Not sure it is going to be good PR for BT to send out, if we fail to meet the contract terms well will take you to court if you legally end it.

    Cllr Andrew Wallis claims BT failed in almost every area, and sure only some failures are needed to be able to pull out. http://www.cllrandrewwallis.co.uk/cornwall-council-tries-to-pull-the-plug-on-bt-cornwall/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is going to be good to watch. Not sure it is going to be good PR for BT to send out, if we fail to meet the contract terms well will take you to court if you legally end it.

      Outsourcer SLA's are always long, weasly documents intended to confer rights on the outsource provider over the dim-witted customer. A quick web search on the terms "cable wireless IBM dispute" will show the lengths outsourcers will go to to avoid being held to account, even when the are blatantly in breach of the original agreement.

      The most remarkable thing is that no matter how many times people get stung in under-performing or over-priced outsource deals, the world clearly never learns that smartly dressed, smooth talking snake-oil salesmen are not to be trusted.

      If these people can't run their own business at an acceptable cost, why did they ever think that bunglers like BT would be either able or willing to do son on their behalf?

      1. Fatman
        FAIL

        Playing the "blame game"....

        <quote>The most remarkable thing is that no matter how many times people get stung in under-performing or over-priced outsource deals, the world manglement clearly never learns that smartly dressed, smooth talking snake-oil salesmen are not to be trusted.</quote>

        FTFY!!!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Playing the "blame game"....

          manglement don't care as long as they get their golf games, secret handshakes and kickbacks.

      2. Steve 114
        Happy

        We were hit big time by 'EDS' (as was). But in fairness I think they really tried. The recurrent problem is that the client says 'we don't know what we need, just do it' and the outsource contract says 'here's what we do, just sign'. As a 'systems analyst' from the 1960's, I do think there's routinely a bit missing here.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a Cornishman living in the duchy and our council is a total fecking shambles and has been for some time, they continue to waste money with gay abandon! Some of the blinders they've pulled in the last few years include.

    RANT MODE ON

    A unified one Cornwall council that the overwhelming residents in Cornwall didn't want (they did it anyway) But are still building a £15M new council office in Bodmin despite one of the ideas of the one Cornwall project was the closing of old district council offices!

    The planned incinerator to be built by SITA that the council gave the nod for only to change there minds (just before a council election) resulting in legal action by SITA (its now being built)

    The awarding of a new waste/recycling collection contract that was a shambles for months on end as the company awarded the contract van's couldn't reach a large number of Cornish properties! (to big for the lanes)

    Now they plan to (along with Plymouth City council) borrow £3.3M to build new offices at the Tamar bridge! (the bridge and Torpoint ferry are jointly run by the two councils) Despite the fact the ferry is an awful service (could use some cash to improve it) despite the claim they have no money as a justification for charging Tamar Tag holders 80p a month for our bridge/ferry tags. And all this when the offices will be open 9-5 Mon-Fri (as are the current ones) when most of the regular users of said ferry and bridge use them before 9 and after 5! So if you need to go to the office as you have an issue with your tag tough sh1t as chances are they'll be closed! You really couldn't make this sh1t up

    RANT MODE OFF

    1. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

      Fellow Cornishman here. Just to say thanks for saving me the trouble of posting. One can only hope if it comes to court, they both lose. It's hard to know whether I hate Cornwall Council or BT the most.

  5. tsdadam

    I live and work in Cornwall, on the very same Council network that BTC are now supporting.

    Trust me, anyone dealing with them day-to-day, let alone on a massive scale, knows just how bad it is now.

    I've seen a lot of the numbers they're talking about, and to me (and a lot of others) it's astonishing they even need to put a case forward, it's not even close.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Doesn't surprise me

      From my experience, BT seem to live on a different planet.

  6. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    Ah, BT

    when our office was closed, and remaining staff transferred to homeworking, it was decided to install separate phone/broadband lines for them. I argued against the office managers decision of BT, and was given an opportunity to contact Virgin. Which I did, but they didn't reply, so probably no great loss there.

    BT managed to cock up every single install for 5 people. When it was all sorted (2 months after the contract date) the office manager asked why I had been so anti-BT, and couldn't understand my answer ... "I've used them."

    Seriously, my wife and I can't recall a single time we've had a BT service from install to moving which hasn't been blighted with some spectacular incompetence.

    The worrying thing is, having been private for the better part of 40 years, all the systematic incompetence from the 1970s era must be gone now. So where is this new generation of muppetry coming from ?

    1. Tim99 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Ah, BT

      Having worked in the public service, and a public monopoly, and private industry. I have learnt a truth - That systematic incompetence exists in all of them. I am sure that the only consistent thing that drives incompetence is the physical size of the organization. A very large private company may even be worse because they rightly suspect that their customers have no realistic alternative, as their competition will be similarly bad. When BT was the PMG, its reason for existence was, nominally, to provide a public utility. When you privatize a public monopoly it is difficult to see how an adequately competitive market can be created. Once the enterprise has been sold its only declared purpose is to provide a profit. This is not helped by the tendency of executives to maximize their rewards, usually at the expense of the organization's long term future.

      1. Fraggle850

        Re: Ah, BT

        Having worked at various levels in different sized organisations (public sector and private) I've come to a similar conclusion re: organisational size and efficiency.

        There ain't no one bigger than HMG and it's many tentacles. I tend to consider local authorities to be business units within HMG, rather than separate entities.

        HMGs efficiency problems are likely further exacerbated by the continuous regime change that results from democracy.

      2. JimC

        Re: Ah, BT : That systematic incompetence exists in all of them.

        Dear Mod, please may I give this post more upvotes...

    2. Fatman
      Joke

      Re: Ah, BT

      <quote>So where is this new generation of muppetry coming from ?</quote>

      The Jim The Boss School of Damagement.

      (If you are a reader of CW's Shark tank, you will get the reference.)

      It's a shame that ElReg has banned him for life, because he spouts plenty of wisdom when he sits on the (porcelain) Throne of Power. I feel sorry for the poor sod that has to clean up the left over wisdom! (Being a USasian, I hope I have the usage of /poor sod' right.)

    3. Vic

      Re: Ah, BT

      all the systematic incompetence from the 1970s era must be gone now. So where is this new generation of muppetry coming from ?

      It's cultural.

      Vic.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Boffin

      So where is this new generation of muppetry coming from ?

      Its inside the business and it exists because it can and the muppets know howto hide there.

      Take a small business, it employs 23 people for its day to day activities, each person has an area of expertise to use within the business in order to further the aims of the business.

      If one of those employees turns out to be a complete muppet , its very easy to identify said muppet and give him/her some corrective action (sending them to the job center is my favourite).

      Now take a huge business.. like say BT, it employs 1000's of people, many of who are doing the same role.

      One turns out to be a complete waste of space, you've got to identify which employee it is, then spend hours arguing with the personel dept over the right way to go about correcting said muppet.

      So it does'nt get done, the good employees have to cover for the muppet , while the muppet f***s up everything they get involved with, and from experience, the muppet is good at brown nosing the boss, and so gets promoted over the competent employees

    5. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Ah, BT

      Private monopolies are even worse than government monopolies, because you can't even express your displeasure at the ballot box.

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Lee D Silver badge

    Personal experience:

    BT took TWO YEARS to try to get a leased line to a school, that were otherwise working on dual-ADSL2-lines at about 10Mbps. We were willing to pay just about anything because you can't deal with 400 kids and 200 iPads on such a connection, even when it does decide to stay up.

    TWO YEARS later someone arrived on site, put a fibre tubing through the site (in five sections, unjoined!) and then - over a period of months - revisted and revisited until they decided that there was no room at the other end for the leased line anyway.

    We cancelled. Went Virgin. Told them NOT to use any BT circuit on their way to us. Six months later, we had the line - even with a 400m trench having to be dug by ourselves across the school site. It's been working fine ever since.

    BT are a shower, and still tried to get on-site months later - we told them where to go.

  8. Fraggle850

    Outsourcing contracts

    I'd suspect that the council have totally flubbed due diligence in respect of the contract. You'd have thought that consistent failure to meet agreed KPIs would result in a get out clause kicking in, if this were the case then BT would presumably not have a leg to stand on and legal action would be unlikely. Then again, I wouldn't put it past BT to try and finagle their way through.

    Be interesting to see the contract and the KPI data.

    It would also be interesting to see how much the legal action ends up costing the council.

    1. BillDarblay

      Re: Outsourcing contracts

      "if this were the case then BT would presumably not have a leg to stand on and legal action would be unlikely"

      BT didn't have a leg to stand on with their 'hypertext' patent but it didn't stop them trying.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing contracts

      I suspect BT plan to bleed them as much as possible purely to put the frighteners on anyone considering similar actions.

      Having said that I rather suspect this is a Tale of cockups on both sides and neither will cover themselves in glory.

  9. Elmer Phud

    Enter the usual suspect?

    I bet Capita is sniffing around

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Enter the usual suspect?

      But ominously you have no idea which one is the good cop.

      1. SteveK

        Re: Enter the usual suspect?

        It's a new tactic they're trying: bad cop, bad cop. The assumption is that eventually you'll have to give in and go with one, then switch to the other.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          [EDS enters from stage left]

          EDS: Bad cop, bad cop!? Bad cop, bad cop, worse cop!

  10. All names Taken
    Alien

    Typical?

    One local monopoly falls out with another bigger virtual-in-every-respect monopoly both of which have roots in public funding dependency.

    Sad innit?

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    BT - Council

    Council - BT

    BT - Council, Council - BT

    BT - Council, Council - BT

    Nope. Sorry, I just can't make up my mind which I have least support for.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    But shirly...

    ...either party can legally cancel a contract at any point. The only argument is what, if any, penalty clauses kick in, who has to pay and how much.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. chris 17 Silver badge

      The problem with that is a company doing a good job at a fair price could be out on their ear with no notice when a rival pops up and says they can do the same for half the price, & then doesn't and charges more for uncontracted extras.

      1. future research

        "The problem with that is a company doing a good job at a fair price could be out on their ear with no notice when a rival pops up and says they can do the same for half the price, & then doesn't and charges more for uncontracted extras"

        This is true but they should at least be able to do the basic job for the price they claim, and not take the customer to court because they can't. BT is the supposed "expert" so should be able to estimate the cost to do they job. The council (customer) should not have to legally responsibility if the supplier is lying to them.

        1. chris 17 Silver badge

          The standard contracts go something like :

          "We'll do what you've asked for this price, extras will cost from this price."

          The reality is the councils will have had no idea what they wanted so stuff they took for granted will be extras and they will ask the outsourcer for all kinds of extra stuff and be surprised when presented with the bill for requested items out side of their comprehensive contract. This issue would have happened with any outsourcer, as they are all as bad as each other as they know there us huge opportunity for extra revenue with each deal.

  14. David Roberts Silver badge

    Wait for the evidence?

    A lot of emotive talk here based on no firm evidence. Although there is a reference to another contract the council tried to cancel for apparently political reasons just before an election.

    BT may well have breached the terms of the contract.

    Then again the contract may be a poor one with badly described performance metrics.

    Readers of Private Eye may have some inkling that councils are not always competent or fully dedicated to the public they are supposed to serve. I would expect any contract with a council to be incredibly hard to cancel to avoid random cancellation due to political in-fighting or local elections. I doubt you would see any major outsourcing contract let for the priod that the current ruling majority is in power and doesn't change its mind.

    1. Bunbury

      Re: Wait for the evidence?

      Couldn't agree more. There's nothing here but "he said, she said" and hot air.

    2. paulf
      Boffin

      Re: Wait for the evidence?

      Some evidence:

      BT Cornwall Strategic Partnership Review

      https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s77905/Strategic%20Partnership%20Review.pdf

      "KPI Measures achieved 185/289 = 64%", p3

      "Delivery ... IT incident resolution having dropped from 96.6% in September 2014 to 70% in

      February of this year ..."

      From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-34120656

      A Strategic Partnership Review by the council in April said BT had promised it would create at least 197 extra jobs in Cornwall over the life of the contract.

      It also said 111 of those would be delivered in the first two years, but only 35 had been created.

  15. teebie

    I used to work for BT

    They aren't very good at stuff

  16. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    BT should stick to what it knows - communications

    BT was a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) only company and now it is a communications company.

    And even then it is not a very good communications company - witness the UK Fibre Optic roll out fiasco. Hardly an endorsement for BT. Compared to other countries, the UK is in the Dark Ages of Fibre Optic.

    China, which is considerably larger than the UK, has many parts of it's extreme landmass is fed through Fibre Optic. Same with Canada. My summer cottage is in a small hamlet with fewer than 20 homes yet we each have 20 Mbyte Fibre service, And the hamlet is half-way between Da Lat and Buon Ma Thuot - neither of which are large centres,

    1. chris 17 Silver badge

      Re: BT should stick to what it knows - communications

      You only get 20mb on fibre?

      If it was so easy to roll out fibre, why aren't the others doing it?

      Why did NTL/Telewest/Virgin roll out coax when they could have done fibre? Why aren't Virgin replacing their coax with fibre?

      The answer us it's bloody hard and expensive to replace existing with new using existing service access. It's cheaper in terms of man hours to lay new especially in vast open areas as found in North America.

  17. Jon Massey
    FAIL

    Cornwall?

    Them's is Cumbrian sheep!

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