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'Shut council education department and save £1m' - councillor
6:40pm Tuesday 8th October 2013 in News
AN outspoken councillor is calling for Worcestershire County Council’s education department to be closed down.
Councillor Alan Amos says the radical move would save the cash-strapped authority about £1 million.
The Labour member for Warndon has come up with the idea after it emerged hundreds of school jobs across the county face being privatised to save money.
The controversial move would affect “in the region of 400 workers” employed by County Hall in areas such as IT, finance and HR that specifically help schools function.
Coun Amos says the idea, combined with a growing number of schools switching to “unaccountable” academies, means there is little need for the department.
“I have been warning that the county council has, for some time, been determined to end its role as a Local Education Authority by forcing schools to become academies, which puts them into the private sector run by companies, unaccountable to anybody at all,” he said.
“Now, the county has confirmed that all its support services are to be privatised as well.
“Henceforth, schools will have to waste time shopping around and our children will now only get the cheapest services, not the best.
“It is obviously turkeys voting for Christmas but, given that the county no longer has any need for an education department or an army of bureaucrats, I will be pressing for the department to be closed down with estimated savings of £1 million.”
According to a letter sent by the council to county councillors and seen by your Worcester News, the services set to be outsourced include ICT, property, human resources, finance, payroll and legal.
The union Unison says the privatisation idea is “extremely worrying”.
“We understand it means somewhere in the region of 400 staff that will be affected,” said county branch chairman Lyn Marie Chapman. “If the proposal goes ahead it may mean they transfer to other employers or lose their jobs.”
But the head of one city academy says the local authority still has “certain statutory responsibilities”.
“They co-ordinate admissions to schools and have a responsibility to children with special educational needs,” said Alun Williams, of Nunnery Wood High School.
“We still buy in human resources and payroll.
“The local authority has certainly had to cut and cut recently and I have great sympathy with it but I think there’s definitely a role for it.
“I think a lot of academies still buy from the county council and that is because what they are getting is good.”
He said broadband, finance support, health and safety and legal support are among the services they receive from elsewhere.
Hanley Castle High School, another academy, says services are often obtained on a “mix-and-match basis”.
Headteacher Lindsey Cooke says it still goes to the council for services such as payroll, human resources, advice on special needs and admissions.
It goes elsewhere for insurance, plus some legal and financial advice.
“From our point of view we think that (Coun Amos’ idea) would be a terrible step which would have a detrimental impact on the education of children in Worcestershire,” she said.
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