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Backdoor privatisation

Back-Door Privatisation of Parks & Playgrounds

 

Cheshire East Council has finally admitted it has too many temps. Documents released to justify the outsourcing of Streetscape show that the bulk of the purported saving by outsourcing the maintenance of parks and playgrounds “will be achieved through the removal of existing casual/agency staff”.

 

Labour and Independent councillors have called in the decision to outsource Streetscape and demanded that it be properly debated by a committee of the council. Concerns have been expressed that while the Streetscape services run by the Council are close to excellent, the Highways Services Contract, which includes road repairs, run by a private company is at best unproven.

Labour councillors have expressed concern that the decision could be effectively privatising an efficient and well regarded service from the start of next year. If the aim is to save costs then the Council could save those costs now by removing the agency staff. This could be done without outsourcing.

 

The council has taken independent legal advice which concluded that outsourcing to Ringway Jacobs “the street cleansing and grounds maintenance activities in parks and open spaces amount to a technical breach”. Not surprisingly the legal advice was that it “would be unwise to proceed in the event that there was not universal support for the action”.

Despite this clear legal advice the Conservatives seem determined to push on with their plans.

 

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said,

“This decision shows that the Conservative Cabinet has learnt nothing from the fiasco of Lyme Green and the Audit Commission’s qualified report. The Conservatives are again pushing ahead with scheme that breaches procurement rules in a desperate attempt to save money. There is no consideration of the wider picture or how the new service provider will fit in with the Health & Wellbeing strategy of the council.

In a damning recent report the Audit Commission said that Cheshire East Council lacks clear strategic direction and political leadership when agreeing priorities and taking difficult decisions. The Audit Commission also said that management reports focus entirely on saving money. All those criticisms are evident in this rushed and inappropriate decision to outsource Streetscape.”

 

Steve Hogben, Labour Councillor for Crewe South, said,

“I wanted to call in this decision because there seems to be little or no evidence or consultation to support it. I can only conclude that the Conservative Cabinet acted on the basis of party political dogma to privatise and outsource services wherever possible. This decision came from so far out of the blue that even many Conservative backbenchers were shocked. Parks, playgrounds and the cleaning of our streets are highly valued council services. I hope that many councillors will speak up to defend these services from ideological cuts.”

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