TORY plans to ‘outsource’ school support services are ‘gambling with taxpayers’ money and the lives of future generations of youngsters’, a union leader has claimed.
Peter Young, president of the Staffordshire division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), attacked the county council’s plans to ‘sell off the jewel in its crown’ after members unanimously called on the authority to scrap them.
Hours earlier, and previously reported by the Mail, the council said there would be ‘no pause’ in its plans to set up a joint venture to deliver services such as catering, cleaning and building maintenance to 400 schools, including those in Burton.
The authority indicated it would continue considering whether or not to strike a potential £4 billion, 20-year deal affecting 5,000 staff with one of two shortlisted companies, Carillion or Capita.
But Mr Young said: “The council is gambling with taxpayers’ money and the lives of future generations of Staffordshire youngsters.
“The private companies bidding for this contract have made it clear their horizons are much wider than Staffordshire and in my opinion there is a clear danger that provision in Staffordshire will be compromised in an effort to win business in other areas.
“Staffordshire schools value the services provided by the council. Satisfaction ratings are very high.
“We call on the council to draw back from selling off the jewel in its crown — high quality education services that are respected and supported by almost every school in the county — in favour of becoming a private company touting for business all over the country in pursuit of profit.”
During the NUT’s meeting, members voiced concern that Staffordshire ‘would be one of the first local authorities to commercialise sensitive public services such as special needs, performing arts and the youth service’.
They also noted that a report commissioned by fellow union Unison by APSE Solutions, part of the Association for Public Service Excellence, had branded the authority’s plans ‘substantially flawed’ and carrying ‘serious avoidable risks’.
The NUT’s criticisms emerged hours before last night’s GMB union meeting in Stafford against the plans.
Council leaders have previously rebuffed criticism of their proposals, arguing they are vital to secure the services’ future at a time when Government funding is reducing.
Deputy leader Ian Parry said: “This is about safeguarding jobs and protecting services so we can continue to provide the best education now and in future.” He also said the authority was confident all the issues raised in the APSE report had been addressed.