Council set to welcome tenders for part-privatisation of services
Council chiefs have been accused of "risking" taxpayers' money after waving through proposals to part-privatise key services.
As part of an £800 million contract, a joint company between Cornwall Council and a private firm could save the authority at least £2.5 million a year, according to a report released earlier this month.
Yesterday at an extraordinary meeting of the cabinet, Cornwall Council rubber-stamped recommendations to invite private sector bids to share the running of services including libraries, "One-Stop Shops", IT and payroll.
The next step is for council bosses to put contracts out to tender – firms on the cards to do business with include BT and IT company CSC. Mark Kaczmarek, independent councillor and cabinet portfolio holder for housing and planning, voted against the move.
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He said: "I don't feel we had all the information in front of us.
"These companies are about profit – they have no loyalty to the people of Cornwall or those working for the council.
"I feel this is something we could have done in-house because we have the skills."
Andrew Wallis, independent Cornwall councillor, called for further debate on the issue.
He said: "I think the cabinet is taking a massive risk with taxpayers' money.
"There are so many unknowns and the whole process has been rushed. It's such a huge, complex issue that needs time to make sure we're doing the right thing. Worst-case scenario is, we end up with companies not doing the job properly, similar to the PFI fiasco with half-built schools."
Liberal Democrats on the council believe the matter should be decided by cabinet, but wanted a debate at full council.
Alex Folkes, deputy leader, pointed to the recent fiasco when the council handed the waste and recycling contract to Cory as evidence the authority did not have the wit to deal with the private sector.
He said: "They couldn't even get that right and it was one contract. What's being proposed now is massively complex. We are particularly concerned about the future of library and face-to-face services. Cornwall's Conservative leadership, which considered closing all but nine libraries just over a year ago, now wants a private company to run them as some sort of loss leader."
But Mr Folkes did not rule out dealing with the private sector totally. He added: "We can do some business with these companies on a limited basis, but we should not be trusting so many of our services to companies who have no history of carrying out similar work."
Stuart Roden, from the union Unison, said he was concerned about job losses.
He said: "We can't find evidence of where anything like this has worked well."
Alec Robertson, Conservative council leader, last night failed to respond to the WMN for comment in time for publication.