Ceredigion County councillors are paying a consultant a large amount of money to tell them how to make savings by closing or privatising vital local services and sacking employees, including those working with vulnerable adults. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) council contract is thought to be worth at least £1m.
UNISON Cymru Wales is furious that public money is being wasted and trade union representatives have been frozen out of the consultation process so far.
The union is warning that care provision for adults with severe learning disabilities will suffer if three day centres are closed, privatised or the opening hours reduced. Refuse collection, vehicle maintenance and highways services are also likely to be badly affected by PwC’s proposals.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ contract is believed to include a special clause which pays them a percentage of any council cuts realised, so UNISON argues it has an interest in recommending that more care workers, refuse workers, vehicle maintenance and highways staff are sacked or privatised, regardless of what it will mean for the quality of the services left for the community.
Owain Davies, Ceredigion UNISON branch secretary said:
“We are deeply disappointed by the council’s failure to engage with UNISON while developing proposals with PwC. As representatives of front-line council workers we should be involved in discussions and we’ve got ideas on how improvements could be made to ensure essential services remain viable and in-house.
“The council has brought forward their plans, on the basis of the advice of PwC, without allowing the trade unions to question the assumptions or findings that lay behind these plans.
“You can’t just contract out decision making to a private consultant that does not have the best interests of the Ceredigion community at heart.
“Our message to councillors is: ‘you are the elected officials, stand up for local democracy by listening to local people and service providers and ensure we have the best we can possibly have here: quality public services provided by directly employed council staff.’”
Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru Wales head of local government said,
“We know that Welsh councils are under great strain because of the savage UK Conservative government’s austerity cuts but the answer can’t be to bring in private consultants who say the only way is to dismantle the community services we all hold dear.
“We showed that this is the wrong strategy in Merthyr Tydfil last year when that council paid PwC nearly half a million pounds to advise on making devastating cuts.
“PwC is milking the public purse and they don’t care about critical public services for vulnerable adults and others being run down or ensuring that the Ceredigion has a vibrant community with sustainable local jobs in future.
“MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said that PwC promoted ‘tax avoidance on an industrial scale’. Are they really a company we would like associated with public services in Wales?”
Notes to editors
The threatened day centres for adults with severe learning disabilities are Canolfan Meugan (Cardigan), Canolfan Steffan (Lampeter), and Canolfan Padarn (Aberystwyth)
In December last year, UNISON’s Freedom of Information request revealed that Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council paid PwC £479,617 to advise the council on how to make up to 200 council staff redundant and slash vital public services.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee reported in February 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31147276
Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru/Wales Press Officer on 07816 538 397.