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'Shared services project is best way forward'

By West Briton  |  Posted: October 04, 2012

Cornwall Councillor Steve Double.

Cornwall Councillor Steve Double.

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COUNCILLOR Steve Double, Cabinet member for shared services, finds himself speaking for the authority on its plans to transfer services such as payroll, benefits and libraries to a joint venture with a private company in a contract potentially worth up to £800 million.

Yet while the shared services project has brought concerns from councillors, unions and the public about what it means for the future of council services and jobs, Mr Double is confident it is the best way forward.

He says: "Under the terms of the contract the joint venture will have to make savings of 20 per cent on the services that it provides – that is something that the council would not be able to do without having to cut back those services.

"The contract will state that the services provided by the joint venture will have to be maintained and will have to remain at the same level and standard as now. And obviously there is a hope that with the expertise of our private partner the quality of those services will actually improve."

"What has been lost in the headline grabbing is that the alternative is not to do nothing. With the savings that we have to make the status quo is not an option.

"The alternative would be culling 200 to 300 jobs and a reduction in council services. This is about protecting council services and securing and protecting jobs for the future.

"The contract we are negotiating will clearly state service delivery has to be maintained and service standards have to be maintained at current levels and any strategic decisions, let's say, closing a library, the council would maintain the ultimate decision on that.

"Those services (covered by the joint venture) will be more secure than they currently are as they will be written into a contract.

"If we have got to make 20 per cent savings we will be forced with decisions to close things like libraries or reduce staff.

"The challenges the partnership will face are exactly the same. The difference, I believe, is that being in a joint venture gives us the opportunity to protect those services and it is less likely that we will have to make further cuts."

One of the main benefits highlighted has been the promise that 500 jobs could be created by the project – but how certain is that and what kind of jobs would they be?

Mr Double explains: "The level of jobs which will be created will be part of the contract – it will be a contractual obligation and there will be penalties if they don't deliver. These will be net jobs created by the venture. Both companies are considering relocating part of their existing base operations to locations in Cornwall. The other jobs will come from the winning of contracts from other councils across the country.

"People have questioned the level of jobs which will be available, but I always say that for every basic job you have to have supervisors, managers, you have to have technicians and human resources – I am confident that there will be a broad range of jobs created by this project. They will not all be low wage jobs.

"It will open up a new market as it is not seasonal employment, it's not dependent on the weather – it will be a new market for jobs. And all the jobs must be based in Cornwall – that doesn't stop people from outside Cornwall applying, but they must be based in Cornwall. It means the partner cannot move the operations elsewhere."

The Conservative Cabinet member also said while concerns have been made about changes which could come about due to the transfer of services he believes this will be negligible.

"What is important to understand is that we will be transferring our existing workforce into the joint venture, it will be the same staff in the same places delivering the same services. We are not talking about having new staff from the partner coming in here to do the jobs.

"In my conversations with the public they don't have any hang-ups about who delivers the services; all they are interested in is getting value for money and good quality services.

"People have made comparisons with the waste contract where we amalgamated six contracts into one unified contract. In that everything about that service changed, there were new vehicles, new rounds … on day one with this virtually nothing will change."

He also addressed concerns over the council's control over services in future, saying: "In future should the joint venture want to make any changes they will have to present to the partnership board a business plan for our approval on how they will operate our services. The partnership board will have representatives from health and from the council – how that will be formed and work I can't say as it is different for each bidder.

"In terms of the council there will be a role for members through a committee or panel that will closely scrutinise the partnership. I believe the control of the council over these services will be at the same level it currently is."

Asked whether he believed that the project would go ahead and whether it would work he said he was confident.

"The over-arching idea of the project is to take the best of the private sector and team it with the best of the public sector and using our joint expertise to protect public services.

"I am confident that this will deliver significant benefits for Cornwall both in terms of protecting council services and creating a new employment opportunity."

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  • shagrats  |  October 08 2012, 6:45PM

    I work as a contractor for a private company and I am absolutely raking it in. I have never earned so much money so fast. its a managerial position and will probably only last a couple of years. I don't take much time off as why should I as I'm on a day rate. If CC go to shared services they set themselves up to employ money grabbing gits like me. It can not be a good thing for Cornwall. I know that I'm not good value for money, but if someone is stupid enough to pay it then I'm going to take it. So Steve Double if you think this is a good thing getting public money involved with the private sector you are very very .......!

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  • ackedoff  |  October 08 2012, 11:45AM

    Mr Doubles comments are to be expected at this point in time, we have a vote of no confidence coming up on his benifactor over this very issue and what better way to drum up support than scare the pants off your oponants! Lavery and Robertson cant prove beyond a shadow of doubt that A) There wont be redundencies, B) They have considered ALL alternatives C) That these new companies have more experience in delivering services the council has been providing since the year dot and most crucially previous projects such as these have been successful else where. Finally I dont think Mr Double has grasped the fact that its not just this issue that people are fed up with, its also the un democratic way OUR council is being run! As cheekyman and Oli have implied....you work for us Mr Double...start doing your job

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  • kernewekonan  |  October 08 2012, 11:14AM

    all i can see here is a big big {double} cross.where these people come from i just cannot imagine. beware there is a judus in our midst.

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  October 08 2012, 9:35AM

    Cllr Double seems to be having a "toys out of the pram moment" with the threat to cut jobs or services if he doesn't get what he wants. And if he wants to compare waste contracts, let's just remember what happened when the contract changed over, streets in Cornwall were left without refuse collections for weeks! How about renegotiating the top earners salaries? I imagine cutting the chief execs pay by 50% would create or save at least 5 full time jobs. Now do that with the top 10 earners and you must be looking at around 25 jobs created at least. How about ensuring that no contrator or consultant earns more than their council role equivalent in pay, that'd be the remaining 275 jobs saved or created! I think I've just worked out how you can make those financial cuts Steve...just follow my simple steps (there's only two) and you can make those cuts, not lose any jobs or services. Remember, YOU work for US.

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  • Olly_Gark  |  October 08 2012, 8:35AM

    "... make savings of 20 per cent on the services that it provides – that is something that the council would not be able to do without having to cut back those services" In other words, a frank admission that the 'senior managers' at Cornwall Council aren't up to the job. If private sector managers can achieve economies so could the existing Council employed managers - IF they were competent. As for Councillor Double - whose interests does he represent? The Cornish tax payers or his friends in business? Looks like he's just another of Fat Alec's 'cabinet' of cronies and crooks looking after himself and the distributors of brown envelopes at our expense.

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  • Cknocker  |  October 07 2012, 10:45PM

    These idiots don't seem to realise that they are currently Turkeys voting for Christmas!

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  • ackedoff  |  October 07 2012, 7:47PM

    How are these companies going to maintain or improve services with the same financial constraints than the council and what expertise can the two main contenders bring to this? Have either of them run a library service for example??? What mr double hasn't mentioned is that the 500 jobs that are to be created are over a 10yr period! Little comfort to those who may loose their jobs shortly after the transition as the new owners wield the redundancy axe in order to stay in budget! The people of Cornwall aren't asking you to do nothing mr double, they are asking you to look at alternatives, I.E reduce the number of consultants, reduce the number of agency staff, better procurement of electronic management systems( ones that actually do what they are supposed to do!) reducing the number of days lost through sickness absence (£7-8 million a year) review £25 million loan deals to companies that should be able to stump up the cash any way etc etc etc...... Talk of job cuts like threats of legal action against councilors are just bully boy tactics again......get off your butt mr doble and start looking at alternatives at start representing the people who put you where you are and are voting overwhelmingly against this project!

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  • Phil_lip  |  October 07 2012, 6:56PM

    This is the same Steve Double that is meant to be a councillor for St Austell and went on how he was standing to do things for St Austell till a vote came along that he voted to move a records office to Redruth, the same Redruth that is going to be getting money for flood defences that will protect the renatl properties of the cabinet members of Cornwall Council that they should have declared an interest when the voting for the records office went through and didn't. So we should listen to him about shared services, pull the other one. Is about time this or some paper in Cornwall did some digging to uncover the real truths around Cornwall of all the people in bed with each other, recently finding the harbour master in Penzance had shares in the dredging company isn't the worst of it and journalists should do their job and paper owners and Editors should let them for some real news, not the negaitve rubbish they peddle everyday.

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  • CCPorkies  |  October 07 2012, 5:01PM

    Im sure there is a D over his right shoulder!!

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  • CCPorkies  |  October 07 2012, 5:00PM

    Clown!

    |   6

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