Stephen Hughes leaps to Capita's defence
Sensitivity over the relationship with private outsourcing firm Capita is so great at Birmingham City Council that it could be cut with a knife.
Stephen Hughes, the council chief executive, is particularly prickly when it comes to any criticism of the link up.
Quite what he thought the media reaction would be when the council published a "lessons to be learnt" report into installation of the Voyager IT system last year it is difficult to say.
In his dreams, Mr Hughes probably envisaged headlines along the lines of "Voyager a stunning success", or "Capita tremendous value for money", or even "Sir Stephen Hughes does it again!".
Sadly, this was not to be the case.
The Post headline that actually made Mr Hughes splutter over his cornflakes was: "Poor management led to council IT fiasco - report".
The fact that it was deemed necessary to learn lessons indicates that installation of the ÃÂ£140 million computer programme was not without problems.
The report, which the council took care to brief The Birmingham Post on in advance, revisited the Voyager fiasco between October 2007 and March this year, when a backlog of 30,000 unpaid invoices built up largely because staff simply didn't know how to work the new system.
The document explained how Voyager was installed without proper planning, chiefly as a result of incompetence by the council rather than Capita.
But the key point is that Voyager is now on course to save the council ÃÂ£860 million over 10 years - and 95 per cent of bills are being paid on time. And those all important lessons have been learnt.
All of these positive points were mentioned in our article, although that didn't stop Mr Hughes writing to the Post to express his disappointment at the nature of the coverage given to the report.
He is entitled to his opinion, but if he thinks intense media interest in Birmingham City Council's relationship with Capita is going to cease he is fooling only himself.
Since March 2006, the council has signed contracts worth almost ÃÂ£700 million with Capita.
It is true, as Mr Hughes will no doubt point out, that savings to the civic budget from Capita's modernisation programme are expected to exceed ÃÂ£1.5 billion and therefore the contracts represent incredible value for money.
There is nothing at all improper about a public authority spending so much on the services of a private company, as long as the performance of the company is transparent and open to inspection.
The lessons to be learnt report was an attempt, at least, to bring a little honesty to the business transformation debate.
Too much honesty for some people, clearly.
The city council's scrutiny section, if it was a free and independent spirit, would by now have looked in some detail at the Capita connection.
Fat chance of that happening, more's the pity.