Exposed: Secret Tory plans for massive privatisation
Guest post by Paul Cotterill
(Cross-posted from Though Cowards Flinch)
I’m well used to Tory incompetence and arrogance, but even I’ve been pretty shocked by the news that the Tory administration at Lancashire County Council, with the connivance of their Tory colleagues at West Lancashire Borough Council and other Tory boroughs across the County, have been secretly preparing a massive privatisation of services.
The facts are simple enough.
1) The Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council was instructed by the new Tory administration in Preston to write out to all boroughs seeking their agreement for inclusion in a massive tendering process for ‘computer-related services’, with an estimated £1.9bn over ten years, with potential for a further five years’ extension.
2) The leader at West Lancashire Borough Council agreed that the Borough should be involved in the tendering process.
3) The contract notice was dispatched on 18 December 2009, and the deadline for receipt of tenders is 29 January 2010. The notice states that between 3 and 5 tenderers are likely to be invited into a ‘dialogue’.
4) Services put out to tender stretch the interpretation of ‘”computer-related” beyond what I consider reasonable. According to the contract notice they ”include, but are not limited to”:
“information and communication technology (ICT) including business applications system support & development, professional ICT, operational ICT, help desk and support, technical ICT support, print and reprographic and schools ICT; customer access and customer services including web, telephone, face to face; human resources (HR) including HR advice, transactional HR and payroll processing; pensions scheme administration services…. strategic services; programme management services; programme development services; project development services, project implementation services and project delivery services.”
5) The tendering process has been kept as secret as possible. There have been no official notifications to councillors either at County or Borough level of the Tories’ intentions, and I only became aware of what was going on when I was alerted by my Labour colleague Steve Hanlon, who had seen an item about the tender in the specialist press.
6) As far as I know, there has been no contact with the trade unions at all. This secrecy and total disregard for council workforces up and down the county speaks for itself.
It was I who brought it to the attention of Labour colleagues across the county, who have been as shocked as I was , both at the Tories’ total disregard for the democratic process, and the astonishing decision to privatise such a massive range of services without any assessment of current performance or options. The contract notice is quite specific that only private sector firms are invited to bid.
The more I look at this, the more astonished I become at what’s going on. In the case of the Tories in the borough council, the fact that they are happily planning to sign off a ten year contract to a private firm, with little or no input into what might be in the contract, is simply staggering. It is clear that they are unable to think for themselves, unable to take responsibility, unable to do anything other than kow tow to their ideological masters in Preston.
The Tories in West Lancashire have simply learnt nothing from the distastrous long term contract they signed with Serco in 2004, which has led to massive service inequalities and hugely inflated costs about now being paid by the taxpayers they were elected to serve.
There’ll be much, much more to come on this, believe me, as I dig out more information and start to work with colleagues to challenge this totally illegitimate, underhand process which, if allowed to proceed, could damage services across Lancashire irrevocably.
• Paul Cotterill is Labour Councillor for rural Bickerstaffe ward in West Lancashire. He blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.
Posted by Other TPA at 10:57pm on 16 January 2010
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