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Work-for-nothing call sparks row
CONTROVERSIAL plans to ask people to run council services for free have been described as utter nonsense and like a “script out of Toytown” during furious exchanges at County Hall.
Worcestershire County Council is launching a new scheme called Act Local to encouraged people to volunteer their own time. It could typically include cutting hedges, running libraries or opening up and managing community centres. The council’s Tory leadership say it has the potential to save money and inspire a community spirit similar to the Olympic Games. But some councillors say people are already saying that they would expect a cut in their council tax in return for volunteering.
Speaking before a full council meeting, Councillor Fran Oborski said: “There is a real reluctance out there to take on the running of council services – you’ve got a hard task ahead of you. There is a tendency for people to say: ‘If we’re being asked to do something the council currently does, we expect a cut in council tax in return’.”
Fellow politicians said asking people to volunteer was hypocritical at a time when so many staff are losing jobs.
Coun Peter McDonald, leader of the Labour group, said: “This is utter nonsense – this council has spent £6 million on redundancies over the last few years getting rid of hundreds of people – yet we’re asking people to do this. What are the volunteers supposed to eat – thin air? It’s like a script out of Toytown – we want proper, paid jobs.”
Coun Richard Udall said: “It’s a nice idea, but with very nasty undertones. The motivations are not about empowering people, it’s about selling off services and cutting jobs. People don’t want volunteers running things – they want professional staff.”
During the heated debate some councillors yelled at each other across the chamber with the Tories saying Labour were treating volunteers with contempt.
Coun Sue Askin, a Liberal Democrat, said she was not prepared to criticise the plan, citing the Olympic Games as an example of where volunteering has worked.
Coun John Campion, the cabinet member responsible for the scheme, said: “This is not a stick to beat the authority with at every opportunity. The Olympic Games is a shining example of what can be done. “It’s not about replacing people, it’s about building on the voluntary work that already goes on and saying let’s take it to the next level.”