9:30am Monday 10th February 2014
By Tom Edwards
MORE than 400 jobs at Worcestershire County Council are being hived off to outside bodies, it has emerged.
The Conservative leadership at County Hall has unveiled a controversial plan to send hundreds of staff to new service providers.
Under the blueprint:
- The council's IT department will be commissioned out, with a contract likely to be awarded to a new body by the autumn
- The Property Design Unit, which over the years has been considered one of the best in the country, will also be handed over to the best bidder
- Staff working in payroll, HR and finance roles who support schools will go through the same process, with a deal expected to be clinched by the summer of 2015
- The Occupational Health service, which deals with companies across the county, is also being placed on the market
Other departments available include the internal audit facility and property maintenance.
The move raises the prospect of all the services being privatised, with commercial firms around the country now starting to swallow up swathes of traditional council services regularly.
Alternatively, they could be ran by voluntary bodies, not-for-profit organisations or any other group expressing an interest.
A report on the plan says due to financial pressures the council most operate with "a smaller headquarter workforce".
It also states the ultimate aim is to "only directly provide" functions that are part of its core aims, or where there is "high reputational risk" if something goes wrong.
The package is expected to be just the start - with the end aim to dispose of more services to save cash.
Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for transformation and commissioning, said: "We've heard a lot about how we're changing as an organisation, operating less as a control and command 'bunker' at County Hall and becoming more of a business which concentrates on its core services.
"We will look to take more things out and commission them, but there are some things we will retain in-house.
"Some other councils are getting one major partner on board and saying 'deliver all our services', but that's not what we're about."
The health and safety service was also considered in the great hive off plan, but will now be retained in-house.
Bosses hope the plans will help contribute millions in savings, with around £100 million needing to be chopped off spending by 2018.
The deal to hand over all school support workers alone will save at least £900,000.
It is being opposed by the council's opposition Labour party, with group leader Councillor Peter McDonald calling it "hostile".
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