COUNCIL workers in Worcester have been blocked from making their own bid to take control of bin collections - with the city's leader saying it would create "unacceptable risk".

A last-ditch bid to allow more than 100 city council staff to create their own spin-off organisation and prevent the service from falling into private hands was voted down 16-19 during a meeting.

As your Worcester News first revealed back in January, the city's Conservative leadership wants to hand bin rounds, street sweeping and park maintenance to the private sector from 2017 to try and save taxpayers anywhere from £250,000 to £500,000 a year.

But that figure depends on what offers come back from private operators in deal set to include councils in Malvern and Wychavon which could save a combined £1.6 million yearly, according to consultants.

The jobs of around 111 city council staff are on the line, with most of them expected to be transferred over to the new employer although nothing is guaranteed.

The council's Labour group produced a motion calling for the workers to get support in preparing an "in-house bid" to run the service, as well as taking on the responsibility for Malvern and Wychavon bins.

But it divided opinion at the Guildhall, with Labour's insistence that more and more councils are ditching outsourcing rejected.

Councillor Adrian Gregson, Labour group leader, said: "It's a travesty that this cabinet has decided to privatise the service when there are so many questions left, including the savings that can be established for Worcester City Council and taxpayers."

He revealed that when he was leader of the council in 2013, he went to see depot staff to tell them there was "no way" it would be privatised.

Labour Councillor Lynn Denham said in Wychavon, where bin collections are already ran privately, costs went up "10 per cent from 2011 to 2014" due to the contract entitling the company to yearly funding rises in line with the Consumer Price Index.

Fellow Labour Councillor George Squires also read out an email from a concerned resident warning of "cut backs by stealth", saying he feared a private firm would reduce bulb planting in parks and street sweeping to maximise profits in the hope "nobody would notice".

But Conservative Councillor Andy Roberts, the cabinet member for cleaner and greener, said the aim was to "get the same service standards or even greater" under a watertight contract.

"Nobody is criticising our workforce in any way, they do a great job," he said.

"But what will be affected (unless the outsourcing goes ahead) is 90,000 people, plus many more who visit the city."

Leader Councillor Simon Geraghty said allowing staff to bid would involve "the creation of a bid team" costing £300,000, and also insisted that it would be very unlikely to compete with the "economies of scale" a huge company could offer.

"We've been very clear with the staff rather than pretend to them that an in-house bid is an option, only to let them down," he said.

"Allowing an in-house bid would put outside providers off and send a signal to the market, and that's what we don't need."

Labour's Richard Udall called the stance "ideological extremism" but Tory Marc Bayliss, the deputy leader, said Labour was obsessed with "public is good, private is bad".

During the debate Labour's Joy Squires said establishing an in-house bid could, if accepted, lead to it growing further by getting more work from other councils - which led to some of her colleagues calling the Tory outsourcing tactic "old fashioned" and lacking in imagination.

But the Conservatives insisted that an in-house bid would not be able to compete with the likely offers from commercial operators - resulting in neither of the political parties seeing eye-to-eye.

Green Party Councillor Neil Laurenson sided with Labour, but a majority Tory group show of hands saw the motion rejected 16-19.