Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Sammy Wilson faces quiz over effectiveness of £20m call centre deal

Sammy Wilson

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is to be grilled by MLAs after he announced a £20m deal to outsource phone calls from the public to government agencies to a BT contact centre.

The deputy chairman of Stormont’s finance scrutiny committee, Dominic Bradley, said he would be asking the DUP man for evidence that the massive multi-million pound move to the private sector would be more effective.

He also wants to know what impact the seven-to-10-year deal will have on the existing civil servant workforce.

Mr Wilson (right) told the Belfast Telegraph the new scheme — which will see private sector workers dealing with government queries — was aimed at doing business “quicker and cheaper”.

The minister said the department would be looking for efficiencies but he did not envisage public sector job losses in the near future. He said staff may instead have to be “redeployed”.

“Currently there are four million calls to government offices through NI Direct — 3.2m of those are passed to on to government departments and we are finding a way to circumvent this,” he said.

“Those with NI Direct within the public sector will have a chance to redeploy if they are no longer required.”

The new BT centre will take over crucial helplines — such as the flooding incident line, which is regularly overloaded in a crisis.

Mr Bradley said he would be seeking further information on the matter at a meeting of the Finance Committee today.

He will be seeking evidence that “placing work in the private sector will be more effective and efficient than keeping it in the public sector”, he said.

background

Sammy Wilson’s new NI Direct partnership scheme will mean those wishing to make payments, book appointments or report flooding will have to do so through a BT call centre in future. Starting on December 1, it will handle the reporting of faulty street lights, tell you the location of the nearest benefits office, and inform you how to pay your rates bills.

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