LIBERAL Democrats at the Civic Offices are calling on the Conservatives running Woking Borough Council to reject plans to privatise and outsource services, and instead seek to share ‘back office’ functions with other local authorities.
In May last year, the News & Mail revealed that a £3 million shortfall in central Government funding over the following three years had forced the local authority to investigate contracting out a range of transactional services to business outsourcing solutions group Capita.
In an emergency meeting, Chief Executive Ray Morgan briefed staff on the situation. Positions affected were to include those dealing with applications in finance, IT, revenues and benefits, planning and customer services.
It was surmised that more than 100 jobs could be under threat but that redundancy would be offered to all staff members, regardless of whether they will be affected. Mr Morgan outlined the challenges facing the authority as Government continues to withdraw financial support.
A statement at the time said: “Mr Morgan told staff that to enable the council to achieve further cost savings in delivering its existing services, it would be necessary to pursue outsourcing a range of transactional services.
“He said he was sorry this had become necessary and that he would do all he could to compassionately deal with colleagues adversely affected.”
The Lib Dems said the council has being privately working with Capita for the best part of a year on how key services currently provided by the authority could be taken over by the agency and their workers around the UK in a bid to cut costs.
During this lengthy process, local staff who have been feeling under threat by redundancy looming have left the council for other jobs.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Will Forster, said: “It is one thing for the council to reduce costs, but it is quite another to lose employees who have good local knowledge, and they should put an end to this uncertainty now.
“The Lib Dems and I think the council should instead be looking to share back office functions such as finance, IT and legal teams with other local authorities like Guildford Borough Council and Surrey County Council.
“I also think the time has come for us to question why each small borough and district council needs a high paid Chief Executive of its own. One of Surrey County Council’s Strategic Directors has also been serving as the Chief Executive for Mole Valley District Council since August 2012.
“This could surely work in Woking and save taxpayers a significant amount of money.”