Two councillors fire warning over privatising school jobs

Councillor Paul Denham, from the Labour Party

Councillor Paul Denham, from the Labour Party

First published in News Worcester News: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

TWO leading Worcestershire councillors have fired council chiefs a warning over privatising more than 400 school jobs - saying lessons must be learned from elsewhere.

As your Worcester News first revealed in April, the county council wants to hive off all its support staff which deal with a range of back office functions for schools.

The controversial move is aimed at saving £1.9 million by 2017.

Labour Councillor Paul Denham and Cllr Fran Oborski, a Liberal, have taken part in an investigation to see how Devon County Council went about the same project.

The duo took part in a conference call and were told in Devon, the process took three years and was still not as smooth as they hoped.

Cllr Oborski said: "What was made incredibly clear by Devon was that it can be a real case of act in haste, repent at leisure.

"They took over three years to commission education support services, but I do feel we're going hell to leather to commission staff out here.

"While I am not against it in principle, it's incredibly important we take our time for reflection."

Cllr Denham said: "A number of schools in Devon are very unhappy with the results of the service they are getting post-commissioning (after the sell off).

"I wonder what assurances we can get that this won't be happening in Worcestershire."

The Conservative leadership, which is under huge pressure to slash around £100 million off spending by 2018, has taken the feedback on board.

They aim to make the savings by handing over 85 per cent of services to new providers, shedding around 1,500 jobs.

Councillor Liz Eyre, cabinet member for children and families, said: "The terms surrounding process is about giving it to either 'single' or multiple deliverers.

"So there is some flexibility there, and there will also be those schools who decide to do their own thing.

"The staff will consult with me and we'll be sharing as much information as we can, as we go along."

The move, which will lead to the best bidder getting a contract by April 2015, has come about partly because of the rise in self-sufficient academies across Worcestershire.

There are 241 schools in Worcestershire but of those, 42 are now academies and more are likely to convert in 2014.

The workers are given a host of vital roles including school improvement advice, admissions, property, post-16 engagement, nursery support and educational psychology.

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