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Southampton City Council's cost-cutting plans 'are clearly privatisation’
WASTE collections, street cleaning and park keeping could be privatised and other services axed under a plan to slash costs by a quarter at Southampton council.
Unions have warned the cost cutting programme of £50m over the next three years represents a blueprint for “wholesale privatisation” of services.
The plan sets out how the Tory-run council will go about making massive budget savings following Government funding cuts by becoming more “customer focused”, “efficient” and “business like”. And says "by 2015, we expect to be primarily, a commissioning council."
The council has just launched a consultation on 217 job cuts under draft budget plans to save £15m in 2012/13.
The strategy document, by council leader Royston Smith and chief executive Alistair Neill, says that the council needs to move away from “piecemeal changes and salami slicing” and should “not be afraid to stop doing things”.
Other savings will come from sharing more services with other councils and brining in private firms and volunteers to run others.
“Commercial options” will be explored for parks, open spaces, waste, CCTV and street cleaning.
Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: “If this plan goes ahead many of the council’s services will be done by private companies by 2015.
Southampton’s citizens need to wake-up to what is being planned without the necessary public consultation.
“This will mean an inferior standard of services with many city council jobs being lost as private companies drive down costs and cut corners on services to maximise shareholder profits.”
Customer services, IT, human resources, property, tax and benefits work has already been contracted out to Capita under a ten-year £290m contract, begun four years ago, in return for guaranteed savings of £33m.
The council’s leisure venues are now mostly run by DC Leisure and its highways division is in the hands of construction giant Balfour Beatty under a £100m ten-year deal.
Unions are currently balloting staff over a proposal to end six months of industrial action over pay cuts of between two and 5.5 per cent brought in under threat of dismissal in July to “protect”
400 jobs. The proposal would lift around half the council workforce from the cuts and restore some lost pay to others, although a two-year pay freeze would remain.
Unite is recommending its members reject the proposal which would see a £12m unfair dismissal claim by union members set aside.
The “change programme” will be discussed by city councillors on Wednesday.