Councils are bringing public services back in house

Conference calls for full review of outsourcing as tide begins to turn

Delegate's t shirt with slogan: unity is our strength

“More and more public councils are bringing public services back in house,” Angela Warner of UNISON’s local government executive told delegates at the service group conference in Brighton.

Speaking as part of a debate on privatisation and bringing services back in-house, she called for a UK-wide campaign similar to UNISON Scotland’s Public Works campaign.

And as part of that, she said, council “procurement policies need to be rewritten to default in-house provision.

She was backed up by Tracey Holmes of Sefton who  reported that councils of different persuasions are bringing services in house.”

Why that is so important was spelled out by West Sussex branch chair Ian Harvey, who works in a privatised call centre himself.

He reported that his branch has to deal with 339 employer in more than 700 workplaces. And as a local rep, he finds himself representing members with five different sets of terms and conditions.

“In 14 years working at the call centre,” he told conference, “I’ve had five different employers. Each new employer looked for savings which are just not there.”

On a personal level, he pointed out that he had had to take unpaid leave to represent his branch and its members at conference.

Ken Curren, representing the new private contractors forum, works for the same employer as Ian Harvey, though in a different area.

He said the forum backed the motion and the call to bring services back in-house, but sounded a note of caution.

For many services and groups of workers “there is not an in-house to go back to.

“Services have been stripped of skills and resources, and the workforce will need support from councils if their work is transferred.

At the same time, he said, “we need branches to support members still employed in the private sector”.

Conference called for a complete review of outsourcing, the total costs of contracts, the effects on staff, service quality and the social and economic costs to our wider society.”