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Stark warning that privatisation could lead to spiralling costs
THE elected finance chief at Worcester City Council has issued a stark warning over handing swathes of services to outside providers – saying he doesn’t want to “lose control” of them.
Councillor Richard Boorn says the example of the energy industry – which is saddling the public with yearly inflation-busting price rises – shows that privatisation is not always the answer.
As your Worcester News revealed last year, the old Tory administration wanted to hand over as many services as possible to outside bodies to help save money.
But the Labour leadership, which took over in May, has been reluctant to be as gung-ho about the proposed project.
Coun Boorn, the cabinet member responsible for finance, said: “We will do whatever gives us the best saving and whatever is the best value for money.
“If we give up our expertise on this council you lose more than just your expertise, and if they (any new providers) increase prices, we’ll be in a difficult position to respond.
“I give you the example of energy prices. I’m not saying they will all be like that, but we’ve got to take a broad view.”
His comments were made during a meeting of the performance, management and budget scrutiny panel at the Guildhall.
Challenged by councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the opposition Tory group, he said “nothing has been ruled out”, despite his own scepticism.
Coun Boorn said: “It’s considerably easier to work with your in-house services to make savings and meet budget targets.
“Of course you (Coun Geraghty) will say ‘you can do this by outsourcing’, but you’ll lose control of that service.”
Coun Geraghty said keeping services in-house was not always the best option.
“If these services are run in-house at a higher cost, you’d end up running a service of less quality,” he said.
Coun Boorn said it was “not a black-and-white decision” and quality of services would remain paramount.
The tactic of hiving off services to new bodies, known as commissioining, can include the third sector, not-for-profit organisations, the private sector, charities or voluntary groups.
Bin collections and museum services were areas the Conservative leadership was aiming to hand over.
The city council needs to save more than £3 million by 2018.
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