8:00pm Monday 7th January 2013
UNISON has upped the ante over controversial plans to hive off council services to new providers – labelling the project “a retrograde step”.
Worcester City Council wants to hand over as many services as possible to third parties, which could include the private sector, not-for-profit bodies or a whole range of other organisations.
The move, known as commissioning, will take a major step forward in February when councillors are asked to approve the 2013/14 budget.
Steve Brown, the county’s Unison spokesman, said staff were fearing a worsening of terms and conditions if departments they work in are commissioned out.
Council chiefs said bin collections, museums, revenues and benefits, and leisure centres are the first four areas which are being looked at for outsourcing. Mr Brown said: “Other councils have commissioned services out for a while now and in our experience it does not always mean a better or cheaper service.
“It is easy for politicians to say it will save money for taxpayers and improve things, but we are at the sharp end of all this. Unison believes this is a retrograde step.
“If private companies, for example, come forward to take these services on they will want to make profit.
“What we could end up with is regressions in terms and conditions for the workforce, and often it can happen within days of a service being transferred out to a new provider.
“We can’t be looking just at the pound signs by doing this. They need to make sure we don’t see pay and terms driven down.”
The comments echo the views of Worcester’s Liberal Democrat group, which said its main fear was the impact it could have on pay.
The city council says it will look at each service on a “case by case basis” and will be prepared to rule some areas out of the commissioning process if there is no overall benefit.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, the leader, has defended the move several times.
He said: “You can either stay as you are as an authority and retrench, or say there is a better alternative, and it is this.
“We have to be open about who provides a service and say we are prepared to look at all the options.”
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