People don't care if we hand over council services to outside bodies, says council leader

Worcester News: Councillor Adrian Hardman, county council leader Councillor Adrian Hardman, county council leader

THE leader of Worcestershire County Council says he has "no regrets" over plans to hand swathes of services to outside providers - despite claims it could make people "millionaires".

Councillor Adrian Hardman said he was convinced taxpayers across the county care about the "end product" on offer, not who provides a particular service.

Due to unprecedented budget pressure, the Conservative leadership is looking to hand over as many departments as possible to other bodies, including the private sector, charities, voluntary groups or not-for-profit bodies.

Apart from children's social care no area is off limits, with £98 million needing to be slashed off spending by 2017 in order to balance the books.

The biggest recent example is the school support staff - around 400 workers who offer back office support to education providers across Worcestershire - a department the council wants to outsource.

During clashes in a County Hall meeting, Labour group leader Councillor Peter McDonald said he feared major companies taking over traditional services, making their bosses richer.

"There's been a great play at this council about commissioning, and how we want to get rid of this and that," he said.

"The leader wants to outsource services but does he realise he could be making people millionaires?

"I wonder if he regrets looking to commission out things like education services."

But Coun Hardman said handing over services is one way of "bridging the budget gap" over the next few years.

He said: "The difference between me and Peter McDonald is that he still associates efficient services with the number of people we employ.

"I associate efficient council services with the end product, and the general trend is that over the next few years we will have more delivered by outside bodies.

"I'm agnostic about it and don't mind who delivers that service, one way over the next four years of bridging the budget gap will be to do this."

"It could be the voluntary sector, the private sector, I see nothing wrong with 'people becoming millionaires' out of it if it delivers a better service."

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