Cabinet agree to privatise Welwyn Hatfield Council services

PUBLISHED: 12:04 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:49 26 October 2009

FEARS council services will be provided "on the cheap" once a private company takes over have been raised by sceptics. Last night the seven members of Welwyn Hatfield Council's cabinet agreed to privatise vital departments, in a bid to save

FEARS council services will be provided "on the cheap" once a private company takes over have been raised by sceptics.

Last night the seven members of Welwyn Hatfield Council's cabinet agreed to privatise vital departments, in a bid to save £6m.

Residents' cash in the form of council tax and benefit payments will be collected by the company.

And their staff will be the first point-of-call on the switchboard, reception and contact centre, as predicted by the WHT a year ago.

Opposition leader Margaret Birleson said: "A year on the cabinet have finally said what they're going to do.

"It's disgusting, what's going to happen to the staff.

"Residents aren't happy with the services that have already been privatised.

"We want quality and value for money, residents deserve the best not services on the cheap."

The Labour councillor added: "I don't trust this administration with any services; if they could sell off the council houses they would.

"We're going to be keeping an eye on them."

Liberal Democrat leader Tony Skottowe echoed her concerns. He said: "We still have very considerable doubts about this and believe its not being driven by logic but by politics.

"What we need to do is look carefully at the detail and see if there's a case for calling the decision in for scrutiny."

However council leader John Dean said Steria, a Paris-based company, was the preferred bidder.

He said all 62 staff would keep their jobs and they would be based in Welwyn Hatfield.

Cllr Dean said: "The union was obviously against outsourcing, but they agreed with us that Steria was the one to go for.

"We let the staff know a couple of weeks ago and we haven't had any negative feedback."

Steria claims it will save £500,000 annually for 12 years, 80 per cent in direct costs and 20 per cent through reducing overheads.

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