Agenda item

Notices of Motion given under Council Procedure Rule 12:

From:  Councillor Ashley Baxter

 

The council notes that:

 

1.     Across the country, many public services have been outsourced to private sector providers. Local government outsourcing doubled under the last parliament.

2.     The award of tenders to private sector partners is often beset with difficulty. It is not a guarantee of efficiency or value for money.

3.     Outsourcing has often failed to deliver the expected savings to the taxpayer, and failed to lead to better service provision. In-house provision can provide better value for money and more flexibility at a time of severe budget cuts.

4.     Research shows that the public want to see more transparency and accountability over outsourcing contracts, and they want public ownership to be the default for running services.

 

The council believes that:

                      

5.     Transparency is needed in the provision of public services. Public service contracts and performance and financial data of providers should always be available. Freedom of Information legislation should apply to private companies running public services.

6.     Accountability is needed in the provision of public services. Meaningful consultation with the public and other stakeholders regarding service delivery objectives should take place before any outsourcing or privatisation.

7.     Public ownership should be the default, so a public interest case must be made for any outsourcing or privatisation. There should always be an in-house bid on the table if services are contracted out (or an explanation given why not).

8.     Social value must be the over-riding priority whenever contracts are awarded.

 

The council resolves to:

 

9.     Consult local residents and stakeholders before Council services (above the value of £50,000/annum) are outsourced to the private sector.

10.  Give consideration to in-house provision before the tender process commences for new contracts as well as for existing contracts due to expire.

11.  Publicly commit to the principles of transparency and accountability in relation to the provision of public services.

Minutes:

A notice of motion had been submitted by Councillor Baxter:

 

The council notes that:

 

1.     Across the country, many public services have been outsourced to private sector providers. Local government outsourcing doubled under the last parliament.

2.     The award of tenders to private sector partners is often beset with difficulty. It is not a guarantee of efficiency or value for money.

3.     Outsourcing has often failed to deliver the expected savings to the taxpayer, and failed to lead to better service provision. In-house provision can provide better value for money and more flexibility at a time of severe budget cuts.

4.     Research shows that the public want to see more transparency and accountability over outsourcing contracts, and they want public ownership to be the default for running services.

 

 

The council believes that:

                      

5.     Transparency is needed in the provision of public services. Public service contracts and performance and financial data of providers should always be available. Freedom of Information legislation should apply to private companies running public services.

6.     Accountability is needed in the provision of public services. Meaningful consultation with the public and other stakeholders regarding service delivery objectives should take place before any outsourcing or privatisation.

7.     Public ownership should be the default, so a public interest case must be made for any outsourcing or privatisation. There should always be an in-house bid on the table if services are contracted out (or an explanation given why not).

8.     Social value must be the over-riding priority whenever contracts are awarded.

 

The council resolves to:

 

9.     Consult local residents and stakeholders before Council services (above the value of £50,000/annum) are outsourced to the private sector.

10.  Give consideration to in-house provision before the tender process commences for new contracts as well as for existing contracts due to expire.

11.  Publicly commit to the principles of transparency

 

In proposing his motion Councillor Baxter spoke about the Council’s commitment to delivering the best possible public services in the best way. While he recognised that there were some examples of successful public/private partnerships delivering local authority services he also referred to some that had proved less successful. He also connected provision of a quality service with a provider that had a local interest that went beyond the terms of its current contract. Councillor Baxter explained that the intention of his motion was to ensure that full public consultation was undertaken if the Council considered outsourcing any of its services, that an in-house approach should be considered alongside a proposal to tender or re-tender to the external market, and to ensure that any decision to outsource was transparent and accountable, providing the public with the same opportunities to interrogate the contract as if it was being delivered by the Council.

 

The motion was seconded. The following amendment was then proposed and seconded:

 

This Council resolves that:

 

·         Against the backdrop of very clear and continued financial constraints and as discussed by the Resources PDG at their meeting on 8 October 2015, this council will continue to explore and evaluate a range of delivery models in order to provide high quality, cost-effective customer-focused services.

·         This council will look to continue to adopt a mixed economy approach of best providers including internal, external, public/public and public/private partnerships

·         This Council recognises that this continued and longstanding approach in a range of areas, including grounds maintenance, building control and leisure has, for example, enabled continued leisure provision throughout the district and by effective management resulted in the leisure management fee reducing from circa £675,000 per annum 3 years ago to zero during 2016/17.

·         This Council is committed to maintaining frontline services wherever possible despite a £4.3m reduction in government grant over the last few years.

 

In response to concerns raised by some members, the Monitoring Officer clarified the validity of the amendment in accordance with article 4.11.6 of the Constitution. Some members who spoke against the amendment were concerned that it did not include mention of transparency. During debate this comment was rebutted, with members who supported the amendment stating that arrangements for ensuring transparency were enumerated within the Council’s Constitution and to support a motion calling for transparency implied that it was a new concept. Other members challenged this by saying that if provision was already within the Constitution then there would be no detriment from including it in any resolution of the Council. The proposer of the original motion was given the opportunity to sum up. In so doing he urged members to vote against the amendment as it destroyed the original motion that had been put before Council. The amendment was subsequently put to the vote and won, making it the new substantive motion.

 

One member expressed disappointment, as they did not feel the two perspectives presented were mutually exclusive. Consequently the proposition was made that the substantive motion be amended by adding paragraph 5 of Councillor Baxter’s original motion. This was seconded. The Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer advised that this amendment was not admissible as it compelled the Council to require external service-providers to comply with freedom of information legislation, which it was not empowered to do. The wording in Councillor Baxter’s original motion did not require the Council to enforce partners’ transparency; instead it was a statement that “this Council believes”. The proposer of the amendment subsequently adjusted the wording so that the following was added to the substantive motion:

 

Transparency is needed in the provision of public services. Public service contracts and performance and financial data of providers should always be available.”

 

On being put to the vote, the amendment was lost.

 

Debate returned to the substantive motion. Those Councillors who spoke against the motion stated that they were not suggesting that the Council had not acted in a transparent way, instead they felt an overt commitment would be appropriate. Consequently a new amendment was proposed that the following phrase should be included in the substantive motion:

 

“Continued transparency is needed in the provision of public services. Public service contracts and performance and financial data of providers should always be available.”

 

17:00 - As the meeting had been in progress for three hours, in accordance with Article 4.6.4 of the Council’s Constitution, it was proposed, seconded and agreed that the meeting should be extended by a further 30 minutes.

 

The proposer of the substantive motion stated that he was prepared to accept the amendment.

 

Following further brief comments from members that reiterated points raised earlier in the debate, the substantive motion was put to the vote and lost.