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Facing the Cuts: Good news for Lancashire's economy
Rod Aldridge
Business services group Capita's founder Rod Aldridge

As councils across the country are "Facing the Cuts" David Saville's been finding out there could be some good news for Lancashire's economy.

Capita is a private company which has taken over some of the administration at our local town halls.

Known as outsourcing, it is becoming a popular way for councils to save money.

Here in Lancashire, Capita has close links with Blackburn and Darwen.

The company administers TV licensing from a base in the borough, runs many of the local council's services and Capita's founder Rod Aldridge has also lent his name to a local high school, the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy.

Cheaper

Capita say they can provide services at its Blackburn base cheaper than a council can do it at their local town hall.

Now Cherwell Council in Oxfordshire has asked Capita to process revenues and benefits. Work which was done by council officers in Oxfordshire is now being done in Blackburn and has led to the creation on 20 jobs in Lancashire.

John Slee, Capita's business centre director, said: "We're able to move work around the country, so also from this centre here in Blackburn we administer revenues for Westminster Council in London, more recently Sheffield and just recently we've taken on work from Cherwell."

The firm say they have invested heavily in the area and with that investment has come jobs, at a time when many councils are cutting staff.

'Considerable amount of growth'

Capita's founder Rod Aldridge has also lent his name to a local high school
Capita's founder Rod Aldridge has also lent his name to a local high school

One of the employees benefiting is Lee Conroy who is a manager at Capita in Blackburn. He says: "I've been here now three and a half years and over that period of time I've seen a considerable amount of growth.

"The team was about three people strong five or six years ago and has grown to a team as strong as 20. We consider ourselves to be in quite a fortunate position given the current economic climate."

However, not everyone is happy. The Unite union criticised Capita last year for not giving some staff what they called a decent pay rise despite making healthy profits.

But John Slee refuted claims that Capita staff get paid less than council officers doing a similar job. "About 70% of the total staff that Capita employ nationally have been as a result of what's called TUPE (The Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations).

'Remarkable'

"We regularly take on local government workers and honour their terms and conditions in terms of salary and pension scheme."

Capita's work for local councils at Blackburn has seen it grow from 500 staff initially to over 1,000 employees at the start of 2010.

John Slee says: "It's been a really remarkable success story and a credit to Blackburn with Darwen Council for their vision in bringing a major FTSE-100 company into the borough."




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