A council-owned company with a curious name is to close putting an end to its ambition to save millions of pounds by sharing back office functions.
CoSocius Ltd was only established in 2014 to provide payroll, payments and IT services to Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester councils, leading 300 council staff to transfer to the new organisation.
But last Friday Cheshire shared services joint committee agreed to bring the services currently provided by CoSocius back in-house following a review.
The company's long-term strategy was to win new business through providing services to other public sector organisations.
News of the closure came as a bolt from the blue for staff, some of whom jokingly branded the company ‘co-slow-cius’ because of its ways of working.
The Chronicle understands the move is unconnected with Labour taking control of CWaC from the Tories in May but relates to the failure of CoSocius to deliver the promised savings.
Cllr Louise Gittins, deputy leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “CoSocius has had a number of notable successes, however, we are constantly reviewing the service to ensure we get best value for money for our council tax payers.
“Staff who transfer to one of the two councils will be protected and services will now be delivered in-house with a shared arrangement to ensure value for money.”
CoSocius got off to an inauspicious start when Wirral Council pulled out of the opportunity to be part of the company. The failed exercise cost a total of £787,000 and the loss of a third partner meant reduced economies of scale.
In future, IT services will be provided by Cheshire East to both councils, and the finance and transactional HR services will be provided to both councils by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Staff working in these services will be transferred to one of the two councils starting in April 2016 or sooner and were informed of the decision earlier this week. Around 330 staff are affected. In the meantime, the company will continue to trade as normal.
Dave Hudson, managing director of CoSocius, said: “The committee acknowledged that CoSocius had made progress in a number of areas and contributed to the success of other areas of both councils, however the changing environment meant that many aspects of the company’s original agreed business plan had needed revisiting.
“I particularly would like to thank all the staff at CoSocius for their significant contributions and hard work over the last 18 months.”
What does CoSocius mean?
The organisation’s obscure name ‘CoSocius’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Socius’ meaning ‘shared, partner or ally’ and ‘Co’ was added to emphasise the collaborative approach. The firm has just 97 followers on Twitter. It’s lack of profile was humorously commented upon by Neville Sidebottom, of Artichoke restaurant, when it had just 46 followers.
What do you think of these changes? Do you work for CoSocius or the council? Let us know in the comments below