The proposed outsourcing of most Suffolk County Council services continues to hit the headlines. Yesterday Radio 2 covered the issue on the Jeremy Vine show. Everyone recognises the need to identify savings and no change is clearly not an option, but there is no magic bullet. The Conservatives in Suffolk seem to be pinning all their hopes on outsourcing. However they have been unable to keep costs of existing contracts under control:
1) Adult Care services are predicting a £1.1m overspend this year, with a similar overspend in Children’s services.
2) There was a sudden, unexplained increase of 12% in the cost of the contract with Customer Services Direct (CSD) last year. (CSD is the joint venture company set up with BT to manage IT, Human Resources, Finance and Customer Service).
At the same time staff numbers at the centre of the organisation have gone up by 100 – in spite of various initiatives to reduce administrative overheads.
As the Liberal Democrat opposition we have consistently been fobbed off when we have asked for further details of the “New Strategic Direction”. Then we find that the press have received the recent council papers before councillors. This is an insult.
Unless all staff transfer into these new outsourced companies, the council will face massive redundancy costs. 4,000 staff redundancies will cost more than £110m. In addition many middle school teachers are being made redundant. Where have those costs been factored in to any predicted savings?
The council’s leadership has left both the Suffolk public and staff in shock. How can they hope to retain any confidence when they a) have sprung this decision upon us b) have failed to provide any detail and c) have not realistically factored in the likelihood of increased service costs as a result of outsourcing and redundancy payments?
There are now two Facebook groups which you can join: Save Suffolk Services and Don’t Privatise Suffolk.
I remain totally unconvinced that the Conservative leadership in Suffolk has any idea of the feasibility of their plans. I also remain unconvinced that they will make any savings as a result. They have alienated staff and public. It’s time to protest!