BOSSES at the controversial Southwest One organisation have leapt to defend scathing comments made by Somerset County Council leader Cllr Ken Maddock.

At the council's annual budget meeting last week, Mr Maddock said Southwest One was showing “staggering losses” of £31million and “failures to hit modest savings targets”.

He added: “It is failing, inflexible and intransigent and we are therefore looking at all options available to us.

“This failure is not about the staff, it is about the contract, the complications, failed technology, missed opportunities and lack of promised savings.”

Computer giant IBM forged a joint venture with the council in 2007 in a bid to save the Conservative-led authority around £180m over a decade.

A spokesman from Southwest One said: “The 2010 accounts include a one-off item of £17m for costs needed to create Southwest One and implement major new systems.

“There has been no impact on residents' council tax or client service levels as a consequence of these financial results. Southwest One believes it is well-positioned to deliver further savings and further service improvements.”

The organisation also said it has negotiated contracts which will deliver savings of at least £71m for the partners, which include Taunton Deane Council and Avon and Somerset Police, over the next few years, of which they have implemented £15m to date.

A police spokesman said: “We have known for some Somerset County Council has been trying to renegotiate their contract with Southwest One and we have not been engaged in these talks.

“We have a different contract from the council which is on track to provide our planned savings.”

Cllr John Williams, leader of Taunton Deane Council, added: “We have been talking with partners in Southwest One but we do not have the same reservations as Somerset County Council.

“Southwest One continues to deliver savings, and although there is room for further improvement, we are dealing with this through the partnership, which we continue to support.”