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Birmingham council outsourcing jobs to India highlights the dilemma of whether authorities should prioritise local jobs or taxpayer value

By Jonathan Isaby
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A story which has attracted media attention this morning (see Daily Mail for example) is that Birmingham City Council is outsourcing up to 100 jobs to India (although a quick Google search shows that the story was first written over a week ago in ComputerWorldUK).

Basically, since 2006 a number of people have been employed to provide ICT, contact centre and revenue services by "Service Birmingham", a joint venture between Capita and the City Council.

Up to 100 of these staff are now facing potential redundancy as replacements are sought in India.

A spokesman for Service Birmingham explains:

"As part of our ongoing partnership with Birmingham City Council we are exploring how we can utilise some overseas expertise to help deliver a cost-effective addition to our existing Birmingham operation... We need to offer the council the best combination of operating models to deliver cost savings and efficiency gains while maintaining our existing service levels. We are talking about a limited number of back office technical roles. No customer-facing staff will be affected... It is important to emphasise that this is a very small element of the work we do for the council and we remain absolutely committed to our Birmingham workforce."

The Unite union are calling the decision "outrageous", whilst I understand the council are saying that the matter is out of their hands due to the contract already in place.

But in an era of globalisation - and especially in these difficult economic times - this highlights the difficult balancing act which any local authority has on its hands: should it prioritise creating employment locally or delivering best value for money for its council tax payers?


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