More council services privatised

Unison lobbying North Somerset's decision to privatise more services

Unison lobbying North Somerset's decision to privatise more services - Credit: Archant

MEMBERS of public service union Unison were left disappointed this week as their chants to ‘keep public service jobs in the public sector’ failed to prevent North Somerset Council from voting yes to further privatisation.

The council has agreed to extend its current contract with private company Agilisys to a 15-year term, handing over a further 130 jobs and more services to make a £2.7million saving.

The jobs affected will be mostly administrative and front office roles, leading to strong opposition from Unison members, as many protested outside of Weston’s Town Hall before Tuesday’s full council meeting.

The district’s Unison representative Helen Thornton said: “It was very disappointing to see Conservative councillors vote for the contract extension, even though the great turnout on the night from staff that don’t usually come to Unison demos showed the strength of feeling on this issue.

“Quite simply they don’t want to work for Agilisys and they fear their services will be badly affected.”

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At the beginning of the meeting she said: “The report you are voting on tonight is all about the money.

“It provides you with no information about the impact on council services, service users and staff.”

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But the authority’s deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees described the move as the ‘right thing to do’.

Cllr Ap Rees, who voted in favour of the proposal, admitted he could ‘absolutely understand Unison’s attitude’, but added: “I think it creates new jobs and apprenticeships, and it helps us to save services for North Somerset residents which, if we don’t go this way, we would have to stop.

“I think this is absolutely the right thing to do. I think there are better opportunities for staff development, for young employees and apprenticeships with Agilisys.”

Questions were raised about why work could not be done in-house.

Cllr Mike Bell voted against the proposal, and said: “I haven’t had the fundamental question answered, and that is, is this the best thing on offer?”

Cllr Roz Willis said she had earlier had similar doubts, but said: “I have had all my questions answered and I think this is the best way, and the only way, we have of securing something for our staff and securing something for our residents.”

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