AN SNP councillor has criticised Scottish Borders Council (SBC) for alleged "secret" negotiations leading to an IT contract extension until 2040.

The contract extension, between Canadian-based firm CGI and the council, aims to continue progress in making the Borders the most digitally advanced rural area in Europe.

However, Stuart Bell, an SBC member for Tweeddale East, said he despairs over “how the current council administration privately conducts its affairs”.

He said: “Whilst I am content that Scottish Borders Council continues its working relationship with CGI as an IT partner, whilst I think that improvements over the last four years of our contract with CGI have resulted in a more efficient and effective provision of services by this council, I do not think it is either prudent or transparent for the council to sign up in secret to a 20-year contract with this IT supplier.”

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Mr Bell says he is “not currently at liberty to inform my constituents” of the details of the deal, which he describes as “phenomenal”, with the extension talks conducted confidentially.

He added: “Council administrations only run for five years and this Tory-led administration have approved an agreement that not only commits the next administration to increased expenditure (and I am currently not allowed to say anything about that); but it has also committed the next four administrations to a contractual relationship with CGI.”

Mr Bell says that while he believes council officers have behaved with "integrity" during the contract negotiations, the partnership with CGI has “not been without its challenges”.

“It is a matter of public record (SBC Audit & Scrutiny Committee – Sept 2020), that in the first three and a half years of the current CGI contract, the council and its partners failed to deliver over £5m of targeted digital savings,” said Mr Bell.

“I despair of how the current council administration privately conducts its affairs in deciding how to spend public money,” he added.

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SBC and CGI, who have been in partnership since 2016, hope the extension will help them realise their digital goals for the Borders.

These include allowing Borderers to digitally report any problems, such as faulty streetlights, as well as systems to monitor patients for healthcare services and which bins need to be emptied.

CGI has also confirmed it will build a new office in Tweedbank next year, creating a variety of testing, software engineering and service desk jobs.

The Canadian company currently employs 70 people in the Borders, with plans to increase this to 250 by 2029.

The Border Telegraph has contacted SBC for comment.