Cuts to our public services revealed

SECRET reports which outline plans to radically overhaul public services in a bid to save millions of pounds were released this week.

Scarborough Borough Council tried to keep the documents secret but they reveal the results of a review carried out by Northgate Public Services, the private consultancy company that is paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to identify and implement cost cuts.

If the suggestions outlined in the report are implemented, the company said £9.5 million of public spending would be slashed annually.

Among the measures suggested were to replace the entire HR department and its 15 staff with a private company; ask community trusts to the jobs of paid parks and garden staff; make more money from parking fees and fines; allow private firms to take over the running of council run facilities such as Whitby Pavilion; cut the number of senior managers and sell off a number of council owned properties.

Northgate also interviewed council staff in December 2009 and January 2010 and found staff morale in Customer First centres was very low and the service in decline, a blame culture between departments, staff refusing to take calls from the public and leisure facilities in the borough “poor and disjointed”.

The terms of the agreement between Scarborough Council and Northgate, which sees the council pay the company based on the savings they make, were also revealed yesterday.

In the original report, Northgate had suggested SBC appoint a “specialist transformation partner” because many councils “attempt in-house transformation unsuccessfully” and months later Northgate was appointed as the council’s efficiency partner.

Following publication of the documents, Hilary Jones, the council’s strategic director, said not all suggestions would be implemented and the HR department, for example, would be restructured rather than outsourced.

She added: “The consultants were invited to review our services and to challenge whether there are better, cheaper ways of delivering services.

“The council reviewed all the options put forward by the consultants, some of which were rejected.

“The recommendations which we have chosen to take forward will, we feel, bring the most benefit to the council and its customers.

“Like other councils we are facing significant financial challenges as a result of decreased government funding and the impact of recession on our income.

“Our approach is to review everything we do to identify new, more effective and efficient ways of working that will deliver budget savings, while protecting services and service quality.”