The Bickerstaffe Record
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Breaking News, Cotterill on the Council, Leisure and culture

‘Shared services’ – privatisation by stealth?

10.26.08 | Comment?

This appeared in 7 Days, West Lancashire District Council’s internal email newsletter from the Chief Executive, on Friday:

‘It’s been a very busy week in terms of meetings with colleagues from outside and inside the Council…..On Tuesday, the Leader, x and I met with Enterprise Limited for some exploratory talks around Shared Services themes………. On Wednesday, x and I met with Serco, again for preliminary discussions around Shared Services……’ 

(As usual, I remove Council officers’ names from the post, out of courtesy).’

The term ‘shared services’ used to refer locally to the idea of increasing cost-effectiveness in service delivery through sharing costs with neighbouring authorities, not least in recognition of the relatively small size of this and the neighbouring Councils.  Nothing wrong with that as an initial principle, though obviously I’d want to see the detail of what’s proposed.

Now, though, ‘shared services’ appears to mean negotiations with private operators about delivering services – perhaps in common contract with other authorities, I wouldn’t know at this stage as I’ve not been briefed, though I do know that there’s much talk in the Council offices of hiving off the rest of the Council’s leisure provision – parks and open spaces.

And which private operator is at the head of the queue?  Yes, it’s our old friends Serco.  You may remember them from previous posts here, and here, and here, and here and here.  Oh, and here.

Yes, the firm about whom we provided detailed evidence to the Council and to the Audit Commission to support our claim that their leisure operation is a huge disservice to the people of West Lancashire – evidence which has never been contested in any way by the Council, which has preferred simply to ignore it as best it can;  evidence, the type of which I’ve now been prohibited from publishing on this website. 

Yes, that Serco.

That Serco, which has helped to scupper free swimming for under 16s in West Lancashire because it and its Lesiure Trust partners couldn’t come up with a contribution, despite getting £1 million a year in subsidy from the Council to run the service in the first place.

Yes, that Serco.

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