Putting adult social care on a more commercial basis will help to protect against redundancies and changes to terms and conditions, a council has claimed.
However, unions have questioned the move, warning terms and conditions will still be at risk if the company is unable to raise extra revenue from the private sector.
£38m trading company
Adult care services in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole are due to be incorporated into a trading partnership on 1 July.
The £38m local authority trading company, known as Tricuro, will be able to seek business outside of the local authority from private individuals, for example, those who require re-ablement services. It follows similar arrangements undertaken in local authorities like Wokingham, North Hamptonshire and the London Borough of Barnet.
A council spokesperson said the move was the only way to give social care staff a “fighting chance” against the threats of central government cuts.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE) dictate terms and conditions can only be changed with the agreement of the authority.
But, Unison assistant branch secretary, Ken Attwool, said it was unclear how expected savings would be made if the company was unable to raise extra revenue in the private sector.
“The concern is they will seek savings from the staffing budget because that’s where the big numbers are. The terms and conditions are naturally going to be where they look and that’s a huge concern to us.”
Attwool does not believe the local authority has any bad intentions, but fears their hands will be tied once the trading company is launched and they are forced to make demonstrable savings in line with the business case laid out in setting up the trading company.
“The local authority trading company is not going to be immune from austerity cuts. The only place they will be able to make savings is the staff budget. The issue is once it is launched, if those numbers don’t happen the local authority will be forced to look at the terms and conditions because there’s nowhere else to go.”
Sickness and absence
He said he thought the authority would have to start looking at changes to terms and conditions within the first 12 months and areas such as sickness and absence allowances and pay would be the first to be cut.
Jane Portman, director for adults and children services at Bournemouth Council, said: “Constraints placed on the public sector meant we couldn’t be as flexible, adaptable and efficient as our independent sector counterparts, or generate income above cost recovery.
“The extension of our already excellent joint working relationships to the formation of a local authority trading company for adult social care seemed a natural one, which will bring benefits not just to the local authorities, but to our service users too.”