Councils pledge to fight for in-house services

    Key services must be kept in-house if councils are to fulfil
    their community leadership roles effectively, delegates
    concluded.

    A motion in favour of councils retaining a direct provider role,
    rather than contracting out services to a third party, was passed
    with a two to one majority at a session attended by more than 100
    delegates.

    The proposer of the motion, Dennis Reed, director of the Local
    Government Information Unit, said it would be “complete folly” to
    strip local government of its core services and core business. Any
    such move would have serious repercussions for accountability and
    democracy. He said the introduction of “diversity targets”, such as
    those proposed in the recently-published Institute for Public
    Policy Research Commission’s report, would amount to the return of
    compulsory competitive tendering, forcing local authorities to
    prove that a certain proportion of their services had been
    outsourced.

    Reed said that providing services in-house enabled councils to
    lead by example, react to emergencies and ensure the achievement of
    corporate objectives. He questioned whether a private-sector
    provider, whose legal responsibilities would be first and foremost
    to its shareholders rather than its service-users, could ever share
    public sector values.

    Opposing the motion, Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Greg
    Wilkinson denied that outsourcing services would amount to
    privatisation or result in councils losing power, leadership or
    responsibility.

    “I accept that responsibilities and budgets are going to help
    local government retain credibility,” Wilkinson said. “But what
    brings about real credibility is ensuring that services are
    excellent, irrespective of who provides them.

    “Credibility comes from being pragmatic, not dogmatic,” he
    added.

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