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Southampton City Council outlines ‘privatisation’ blueprint

A blueprint for the wholescale privatisation of the Conservative-controlled Southampton City Council’s services will be discussed by councillors on 16 November. 

Unite, the union, is warning that 'the council is pushing through its proposals - which could mean the council becoming primarily a commissioning body by 2015 - without public consultation'. 

Unite regional officer, Ian Woodland said: "If this plan goes ahead, many of the council’s services will be done by private companies by 2015. Southampton’s citizens need to wake-up to what is being planned without the necessary public consultation. 

This will mean an inferior standard of services for the public with many city council jobs being lost, as private companies drive down costs and cut corners on services to maximise shareholder profits".

The council’s Change Programme, due to be discussed by the full council on Wednesday 16 November, said that gross costs need to be reduced by 25 per cent over the next three years. The report states: ‘By 2015, we expect to be primarily, a commissioning council.’ 

The report said that the controversial outsourcing firm, Capita, which has a chequered history in delivering services, is invited to meetings of the council’s Leadership Group. 

Ian Woodland said: "The involvement of Capita does not augur well for the provision of services for the public, many of them vulnerable; and the future employment conditions and pensions of the council’s staff.

We are already in consultations with the council about a proposed loss of 147 jobs, which are not even mentioned in the Change Programme document which is a disgraceful sleight of hand".

Unite have pointed out that a number of Tory councils, such as Suffolk County Council, had toyed with the ‘commissioning’ model, but were now retreating from this. Commissioning involves expense and there is a fear that statutory services might not be delivered – the scandal of Southern Cross care homes being the most recent glaring example. 

Members of Unite and Unison have been locked in a long-running dispute with the authority since the summer, involving strategic strike action, in an attempt to convince it to think again on imposed wage cuts of up to 5.5 per cent. 

S
ince November 2010, the unions have proposed wage freezes and temporary pay cuts as a means of balancing its budget, while retaining services. The council has consistently rejected this. 

-ends- 

Notes to news editors: 
For further information, please contact Ian Woodland on 07707 704480 and/or Unite communications officer, Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 

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