Public services union, UNISON, has called upon expert evidence to effectively demolish Pembrokeshire County Council’s case to transfer leisure services to a charitable trust. In a hard-hitting response to the council’s consultation, the union has stated there is a lack of evidence that the new proposal will be cheaper or more effective and the loss of democratic control means local people will forever be denied a say in how services are run.
Pembrokeshire County Council has paid thousands of pounds of public money to law firm Winckworth Sherwood to advise on the outsourcing of libraries, leisure centres, sports pitches, museums, archives and arts development, to a charitable trust. The union has complained Winckworth does not have the best interests of the local community at heart and neither is it committed to sustainable quality public services. UNISON has accused the council of swallowing the law firm’s slick presentation without properly examining what it will mean for local people.
In its submission, UNISON said the council does not properly understand the Public Contract Regulations 2015; that the council has been too quick to believe in the promises of long-term financial savings and the council will have to bear costs without having any power to direct services. The councillors sitting in the two reserved seats on trust’s board will be bound by company law to act in the best interests of the charitable trust and not the community they were elected to serve. The union has also warned it would be very likely the trust would spend more money on higher salaries for executives rather than investing in leisure services.
Pembrokeshire County UNISON branch commissioned the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), to carefully analyse the council’s proposals for flaws. APSE is a not–for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting excellence in the delivery of frontline services to local communities.
Vic Dennis, UNISON Branch Secretary said,
“The overwhelming response at public consultation meetings has shown local people want a say in the running of their services and they want them directly delivered by Pembrokeshire County Council. They won’t be hoodwinked by a council rushing into a decision in the mistaken belief they will save lots of money.
“We know the pressures local authorities are under because of the cruel Tory austerity and we have worked with Pembrokeshire County Council over the last few years to negotiate extensive savings. Winckworth Sherwood and the council are proposing a short term solution with a potentially devastating long term affect. The only winner will be Winckworth Sherwood. Public services must be delivered by the council’s directly employed staff and this would maintain the high quality services which the people of Pembrokeshire expect and deserve. The consultation period is very short and has been partially over the holiday period. People need time to read, understand and do their own research into the options before feeding into the council’s consultation and the council is not allowing that time.”