Opposition has not been ‘excluded’ from process

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YOU reported on the new partnership agreements between North Tyneside Council and private companies to deliver various services (News Guardian, August 9).

These agreements are being made with three objectives – to maintain services for residents and businesses, to protect jobs whilst providing opportunities to increase local employment, and to save tax payers’ money – and much careful preparatory work has been done before finalising the arrangements.

The report included claims by Labour councillors that they had not been consulted and had been “excluded”, and allegations that the agreements were made “behind closed doors”.

These are utterly incorrect.

There have been numerous opportunities for information, starting with meetings of all political group leaders with the mayor and chief executive in June 2011.

Last September, visits were made to other councils which have made similar agreements, and Labour and Lib Dem councillors were invited to join these visits, which they did.

There were opportunities at these other local authorities to question staff at several levels, trade unionists, councillors and the private companies about the practical operation of the agreements.

The councils we visited were of differing political persuasions so that we got a balanced view.

Additionally, two full day events were held with companies which were interested in these partnership arrangements to provide opportunities for further discussion.

The Labour councillors chose not to attend, although staff and trade unions did.

The chief executive has given at least three presentations, held in the evening, to Labour councillors as discussions with companies have progressed, between November 2011 and last month.

A meeting of the mayor and cabinet held last week, whilst not open to the public due to sensitive commercial information about the bidders, was open to opposition councillors but, again, they chose not to attend.

These arrangements have been very successful in other councils, and following extensive, detailed negotiations, I am confident that they will prove successful in North Tyneside.

The alternative in-house option would mean around one in three of the staff losing their jobs, with massive reductions in council services, which would be unacceptable.

COUN JUDITH WALLACE

Deputy Mayor

Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources

St Mary’s Ward