800-plus council workers set to get new bosses

North Tyneside Council's Quadrant headquarters.

North Tyneside Council's Quadrant headquarters.

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HUNDREDS of North Tyneside Council staff look set to have their jobs transferred to outside companies as the authority looks to save £47m over the next four years.

Two businesses have been announced as preferred bidders to take over some of the council’s services.

As revealed in last week’s News Guardian, borough mayor Linda Arkley believes the prospective deals could save 360 council employees’ jobs that would otherwise be at risk.

At Monday’s cabinet meeting, members agreed on the two preferred bidders to be offered the chance to tender for two packages of council services.

Besides safeguarding jobs, the move could even result in extra staff being taken on, the meeting heard.

Balfour Beatty has been selected as the preferred partner for a business package including finance, procurement, revenues and benefits, IT, customer services and human resources.

And Capita Symonds has been chosen as the preferred partner for a technical package taking in property services, planning, engineering services, customer protection and environmental health.

Any decision will be subject to contractual and legal processes set down by European procurement guidelines and will require a ten-day standstill period before contracts are formally signed.

Mrs Arkley said: “The partnership with external providers is the best solution for the council, its taxpayers, its staff and the borough.

“I would like to pay tribute to all the bidders for their high-quality bids and their commitment to work with us to achieve the best solution for North Tyneside.

“The partnership options we have selected are by far the most advantageous for North Tyneside.

“They will enable the council to invest in services, safeguard employee jobs and deliver further growth and investment for the borough, as well as achieving the stringent efficient targets we have set.”

The authority was set a target of making efficiency savings of £47m over four years to accommodate having 28 per cent less in the way of resources available.

Initial proposals to share services with neighbouring authorities were ruled out as they would not be able to deliver the level of savings required.

The new partnerships will see the transfer of 420 council employees to Balfour Beatty and a further 335, plus the secondment of 58 employees, to Capita Symonds.

It is envisaged that all 800-plus staff affected would continue to work in their current council offices.

The contracts would be for an initial ten years, with the possibility of five-year extensions provided the partnerships continue to deliver value for money and improved performance.

Terry Woodhouse, managing director of Balfour Beatty Living Places, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the business services partnership for North Tyneside Council.

“We are dedicated and focused on delivering effective, efficient, sustainable and customer-focused services in an environment committed to flexible delivery, innovation and staff development.”

Graham Cowley, chief operating officer at Capita Symonds, said: “We look forward to working with the council over the next 15 years to deliver real value and improved services to North Tyneside communities.

“Our partnership presents us with exciting opportunities for development, growth and job creation in the region.”

Concerns have been raised in the past about the proposed partnerships by union chiefs and opposition councillors.

Last week, Labour councillors called for a decision to be delayed to allow further discussions and so that final approval could be given by the full council rather than just the cabinet.

After the announcement, group leader Jim Allan, of Camperdown, said: “This move flies in the face of democratic accountability.

“It represents the outsourcing of locally accountable services with no discussion, minimum transparency and no debate about the implications of a 15-year contract tying future generations into decisions made by a small number of Conservative elected members.”

Both companies picked have a track record of similar privatisation deals with other councils.

However, Sefton Council is to end its £65m contract with Capita Symonds in September next year after it was found to have failed to achieve the savings anticipated.

That contract was agreed in 2008 while the Merseyside authority’s chief executive was Graham Haywood, currently filling the same role on an interim basis at North Tyneside Council.