Tory call to safeguard services

OPPOSITION councillors have called for a full debate over the possible privatisation of council services.

Northumberland County Council has been looking at ways to save money following Government funding cuts, with one possibility being for outside companies to run a number of services.

But Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson fears this could lead to job losses and a reduction in the quality of services.

At a full council meeting, he called for a debate so all councillors could have their say, rather than a decision being made by the Executive.

“Given the crucial importance of any decision surrounding future delivery of services by Northumberland County Council, and the need to protect and value our staff, any change to our current way of working must be fully debated and agreed upon by full council,” he said.

“Any potential change to service delivery must be fully appraised, have all options considered, and financial and staffing implications weighed up carefully, fully and in detail.”

The authority faces pressure to save £70million within the next four years, on top of the £100million and 1,500 jobs it has slashed already.

Labour Group Leader Grant Davey called for a cross-party working group to look at the options.

Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “We have spent the last four years trying to be open and transparent in all our actions and we need to extrapolate all these wild notions.

“We have £101million savings to make and it is going to be very difficult. We have to explore all routes and deliver all the services that residents have paid for. We have not decided if this is the right or wrong thing to do, but we need to look at how to deliver the excellent services that we do for less money.

“You will all decide if that option is right for Northumberland.

“We have to explore every option that is open to us because we are running out of time.”

A report will be presented to the council on Wednesday, July 25.