BT today announced that it has reached a significant milestone agreement to become the private sector strategic partner to the West Midlands’ Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.

BT and business process outsourcing (BPO) partner Liberata have been named as preferred bidder to build a new regional business centre in Sandwell. The project will see BT plough an initial investment of almost £50 million into the venture in return for a contract valued at almost £300m over 15 years.

The project is forecast to create at least 450 new jobs at the new centre and the BT/Liberata partnership will run a range of IT and core business services for the council, upgrading its IT infrastructure and making improvements in the delivery of finance, human resources (HR), payroll and customer services.

The aim is to attract new business into the borough, improve the council’s performance and to boost access to services for local residents. Sandwell's services are currently judged as 'fair' with 'promising' prospects for improvement.

Following the preferred bidder decision, contracts are due to be signed in the next few weeks, with partnering arrangements scheduled to begin in April 2007.