Tuesday, September 26, 2023

County Council Outsourcing to Suffolk

Hundreds of caretakers and cleaners currently employed by Derbyshire County Council are set to be outsourced to Suffolk County Council, 180 miles away.

This forms part of an aim by Derbyshire County Council’s property division to save money from its £12.6 million budget.

It employs 1,500 of the authority’s lowest-paid staff, including caretakers, grounds maintenance and cleaners, through to electricians, architects and plumbers.

Derbyshire’s ruling cabinet is set to sign off on the plans on Wednesday, September 11.

The move could be sealed by March next year, with Derbyshire’s current caretakers and cleaners transferred across onto Suffolk contracts.

These employees would work for one of Suffolk’s subsidiaries called Vertas.

Derbyshire has not ruled out redundancies as part of the move, saying: “The council will make every effort to avoid job losses as a result of the changes, however in the circumstances that this is not possible, proposals will be subject to formal consultation and managed in line with the council’s redundancy, redeployment, protection of earnings and buy-out-of-hours policy.”

The employees transferring will retain their existing terms and conditions of employment.

Derbyshire said earlier this that it has “experienced significant financial change” as a result of schools converting to academies – taking them out of local authority control – and carrying out their own building repairs and employing their own cleaning and maintenance staff instead of retaining the county’s services.

Accountants Ernst Young had recommended that much of the council’s property division should be outsourced or “provided externally”.

As part of the move, another of Suffolk’s subsidiaries, Concertus, will also take on DCC’s design services for construction projects which cost over £50,000.

Derbyshire said that its caretakers and cleaners carry out services at 344 sites in the county.

A full business case due back at the council in January will shed light on how much money the move will cost and save.

Councillor Angelique Foster, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Council Services, said: “We decided earlier this year that we would look for other organisations to run our cleaning, caretaking, and some design and construction services, as part of our enterprising council approach.

“We have spent the last few months looking at what the best option might be, and we are recommending that we start talks with Suffolk County Council about subsidiary companies they already have running these services.

“Keeping cleaning and caretaking within the public sector is the best possible option for our customers, in the main schools across the county, our employees, and offers best value for money for council tax payers at this time.

“If cabinet agree then we will start detailed negotiations and would hope, if all goes well, that our employees could move over to work for Suffolk and its subsidiaries by next March.

“Suffolk offered the best fit for our services, and have a good track record of working for schools. If employees transfer then this will be done under the usual procedures, with their employment rights protected.

”The proposals also will ensure that we offer as much work as possible to small local contractors to support the Derbyshire economy.”

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “We are excited about the potential opportunities that this partnership could create and look forward to the decision of Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet later this month.”

Eddie Bisknell (LDRS)

Eddie writes for Nailed through the Local Democracy Reporting Service, in partnership with the BBC. The Local Democracy Reporting Service is a partnership of media outlets sharing reporters to cover council meetings.

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