Two Suffolk councils have joined BT to form a £380m ten-year joint venture to cut the cost of back-office operations and present a single point of contact for residents.
Under the agreement, Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council will work with BT to streamline back-office systems and deliver service enhancements.
The partners will invest £380m over the course of the contract, with around 600 council staff transferring to the joint venture.
The partnerships will allow the councils to reduce running costs by sharing HR, payroll and parts of their finance systems, according to Sue Barnes, director of resource management at Suffolk County Council.
"One of the weaknesses of two-tier councils is the duplication of infrastructure," she said.
Under the two-tier system, country councils work alongside district councils, with both taking responsibility for providing a range of services to residents.
"This partnership allows us to present a common face to citizens so that they do not need to think about which council provides specific services," explained Barnes.
The joint venture will come into effect on 1 June 2004. One of the first benefits for Suffolk residents will be the opening of a one-stop shop in October where the public can access a range of services from both councils.
BT will also be developing a single website, providing information and allowing the public to carry out transactions.
The project will also help the councils to meet government targets for getting services online by 2005, but Barnes insisted that this is of secondary importance.
"The joint venture will make sure we meet the targets, but that's not really the point. It's about improving public services. Hitting the targets is a bonus," she said.
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