Union hits out at council outsourcing plan

Public services union Unison has described plans by Suffolk County Council to outsource the majority of its services as “damaging” and “very dangerous”.

Under the New Strategic Direction plan, the Tory-led council will look to outsource a wide variety of services to the voluntary sector, private sector, and community groups, in a bid to cut its £1.1 billion budget by 30%.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “This decision was made with consideration to the financial deficit in the public sector and the coalition Government’s priority to reduce the deficit and the size of the state. The coalition requires lesser government and a bigger society, and Suffolk County Council has responded to this change.”

But Dave Prentis, general secretary at Unison, said outsourcing was not the way to run council services: “There will be no democratic accountability. It is a disgrace that the council has not asked the public, or council workers, what they think,” he said.

“Leaving vital services like child protection, home care and support for young people to the vagaries of the market is very dangerous. Services will be sold off to the lowest bidder, starting a race to the bottom. People using local services, and those working to provide them, will pay the price.

“Unison will be working with the local community to challenge these damaging plans.”

Other councils are considering similar, if less radical, plans to cut budgets ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

In April, Brighton and Hove Council approved proposals that will see it focus on being an “intelligent commissioner” rather than automatically providing services itself. Outsourcing is due to start in November and the intention is that the restructuring will be complete by next June. But the authority is clear that many services will still be provided in-house.

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