Thursday, 2 December 2010

The NWLDC Tories waste £40,000 of taxpayers money (again?)

Today North West Leicestershire District Council announced that they would 'Secure Future Management of Leisure Centres' in the district. To put it mildly this is possibly the most hogwash ever coming out of our local Council Offices.

In a comprehensive about turn today the Tories said that they would be 'ruling out private sector management', in other words privatisation.

Let us not make any bones about this for the past several months the Tory administration have been going through an exploratory, but nevertheless formal, process of talking to private sector suppliers with the view of privatising management of our council-owned leisure centres.

The Tories, along with their counterpart groups at Charnwood and Melton, may argue that this was simply a 'market-testing' exercise.  But we should be clear that the intention throughout was the ideological outsourcing of our community owned facilities.

Why do I say that this was the case? The answer my friends is simple.

In a report on 31 August the Cabinet approved a very detailed timetable and evaluation criteria which would lead to privatisation. This isn't the actions of a body who are simply 'dipping their toe'.

What is worse in that report it was revealed that £41,350 had already been committed in this folly and that officers were requesting a further £10,000 be added to the pre-approved budget of £50,000 to allow the process to be completed on time.

And what has been the outcome of this process?

If you accept the press release issued by Councillor Pendleton it is because 'we have succeeded in delivering on a number of savings targets...'

Now I wouldn't want to call this statement into question, however, is you look at the previously approved timetable you will see what should have been happening now was 'pre-submission meetings'. I have been party to processes such as this and the only thing, I would suggest, which would have stopped this process would be private sector companies stating that they were not interested in moving forward with the formal exercise.

I would add that there is only one reason that those self same companies don't want to move forward and that is because there isn't any money to be made! And the reason for that is because our Leisure Centres have been well run historically by both officers and members!

Now I am at the end of this tirade I have two points to make.

My first point is ideological and needs to be set out in capitals for emphasis. THE PRIVATE SECTOR ISN'T A PANACEA AND THE PUBLIC SECTOR CAN DO THINGS WELL.

Over the past ten years under both Labour and now Tory governments the entire public sector has been striving to rid itself of inefficiencies. Why on earth does anyone think that the private sector will simply step in and find huge amounts of savings?

In simple terms if at present we are paying for efficient services all privatisation will mean is that we are paying for those same efficient services AND shareholder profits!

My second point is much more local. When is this Tory administration at our district council going to stop wasting money on ridiculous cost cutting plans?

If we accept that no more money has been spent since that August report (and incidentally I would be astonished if that was the case) our cash strapped council has wasted over £40,000 on this exercise.

That would be bad enough but this isn't a one off incident.

You may recall that as recently as 21 September the Cabinet resolved that they would no longer pursue their preferred option of moving to a site at Stephenson College after an extended investigation. Once again that process wouldn't have been cheap, although the cost is not particularly easy to determine because as I write this supporting reports are missing from the councils minutes website.

How many times is our council going to waste taxpayer money on money saving initiatives?

Let's hope that this administration is voted out before any more!

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