Moving towards privatisation

Labour Party Councillors and UNISON activists protest at Morpeth's County Hall.

Labour Party Councillors and UNISON activists protest at Morpeth's County Hall.

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Opposition councillors have called for a full debate over the possible privatisation of some council services.

Northumberland County Council has been looking at numerous ways to save money following government funding cuts, with one possibility being for outside companies to run a number of council services.

But Conservative group leader Coun Peter Jackson fears this could lead to job losses within the authority and a reduction in the quality of services.

At last week’s full council meeting, he called for a debate on the matter so all councillors could have their say, rather than a decision being made by the ruling Liberal Democrat executive.

“Given the crucial importance of any decision surrounding future delivery of services by Northumberland County Council, and the need to protect and value our staff, any change to our current way of working must be fully debated and agreed upon by full council,” said Coun Jackson.

“Any potential change to service delivery must be fully appraised, have all options considered, and financial and staffing implications weighed up carefully, fully and in detail.

“Public-Private Partnership will have fundamental and long-term consequences for our council. It is more far-reaching than anything this council has considered before.

“There are examples of where this has worked but there are some where this has been an unmitigated disaster.”

Council leader Jeff Reid added: “We have spent the last four years trying to be open and transparent in all our actions, and we need to extrapolate all these wild notions.

“We have not decided if this is the right or wrong thing to do, but we need to look at how to deliver the excellent services that we are, for less money.

“You will all decide if that option is right for Northumberland. We have to explore every option that is open to us because we are running out of time.”

Rothbury’s Coun Steven Bridgett said: “I am concerned about the removal of our democratic accountability. It would remove us from being able to deliver the services on the ground.

“The way this process has been handled so far has been appalling. A lot of people are asking elected members what is going on – the air of uncertainty is not good for the council.”

A report will be presented to the council on July 25.