The Leader of the County Council has played down concerns by union leaders that a potential plan to share finance and administration services with another council provided by an outside contractor could lead to local job losses.
UNISON leaders in Lincolnshire are calling on Lincolnshire residents to demand that county councillors take steps to end the privatisation of local jobs.
The UK’s largest public service union fears that Lincolnshire County Council plans to enter into a shared service arrangement with Herefordshire County Council which, they say, would potentially mean further local job losses if the work is shifted to Herefordshire’s existing contractor, Hoople, 150 miles away.
The union has already written to elected county councillors demanding that services are brought back in house, instead of outsourcing them to private companies.
UNISON wants assurances on the long-term job prospects for local staff, as the county council is considering transferring payroll and HR services from April 1, 2020 to Hoople. It currently has a contract with Serco to deliver these services but this has been dogged with problems over its payroll system. The council has yet to determine the fate of staff employed in IT, Customer Services and Finance.
UNISON branch secretary for Lincolnshire Helen Stokes said: “The continued outsourcing and privatisation of public services by Lincolnshire County Council is unacceptable. The loss of jobs and the catalogue of errors delivered by the Serco contract shows that outsourcing doesn’t work.
“We want local services delivered by local staff, as this offers the best value and best scrutiny for local tax payers.
“On Lincoln High Street, BHS has gone and it seems hard working staff at House of Fraser may also lose their jobs soon. Of course the council wants to run cost-effective services, but cutting local jobs will hit our local economy hard.”
Many of the services proposed to be outsourced to Hoople have a long history of being run by other companies. In April 2000, some 1,088 payroll, HR, finance and IT staff transferred to Mouchel (formerly known as Hyder Business Services). At the end of the contract in 2015, Unison says there were only 420 employees left working on the LCC contract.
UNISON believes a total of over 800 jobs have been cut from the local economy, this includes job losses in other services which were transferred to other companies at the end of the 15 year contract.
Coun Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We constantly look at our frontline and back office services, to make sure that they are both fit for purpose and offer best value for the taxpayer.
“Where it’s appropriate we may outsource services both to private companies and within the public and voluntary sector, but equally we have brought services in-house where necessary. The Serco contract is currently due to end in 2020 but we are considering various options that are open to us, including to continue with their provision of some or all of the support functions they currently provide.
“No decisions have yet been taken about the future options, and although we are exploring a shared service with Hoople for HR administration and payroll functions, we are continuing to explore if this arrangement would be right for the council.”