CITY COUNCILLORS clashed during a stormy meeting over the plans to hand bin collections across Worcester to a private firm.
A heated debate at the Guildhall saw Labour and Conservative councillors at loggerheads throughout the extraordinary meeting of the authority’s scrutiny committee last Tuesday (August 18).
The meeting had been called by Labour councillors in a bid to force the ruling Conservative cabinet to discuss again the decision to press ahead with the controversial strategy.
Cabinet members voted to approve the the next phase of the scheme, which could see a private firm take over bin collections in a tri-council deal involving Malvern and Wychavon, at a meeting on July 28.
But the decision attracted scorn from Labour members who claimed a contractor would put profit before service quality, and criticised the decision-making process for lacking scrutiny and transparency.
Coun Lynn Denham, who is leading Labour’s examination of the proposed outsourcing strategy said: “This decision will have a profound impact on the council and on the most high profile, core services we provide to the public.
“There are implications about the loss of direct provider control and concerns about flexibility to meet the needs of Worcester in the future.
“The citizens of Worcester don’t want this and the Conservative cabinet have not considered all legitimate options such as a council-owned Teckal company or a shared service.”
And Labour’s cause was also supported by Coun Anthony Warburton from Malvern Hills District Council who was invited to speak at the meeting but was not officially representing the local authority.
“This council was not allowed to see the report that was the basis for this decision, the sort of decision making would do credit to North Korea,” he said.
However Conservative councillors defended their actions and claimed the approach was agreed at a meeting of the council on December 9, 2014.
Council leader Coun Simon Geraghty and Deputy Leader Coun Marc Bayliss said the project would include a Worcester-only contract for the outsourcing of street cleaning and park maintenance and save the council a minimum of £250,000 a year for an initial investment of £200,000.
Coun Bayliss said: “We believe that, in very difficult times, this is the only way to maintain standards and services for the people of Worcester.
“But accountability can never be outsourced and the buck will always stop with the city council.
“This policy will mean a change to the way we operate but it will not be a profound change for the people of Worcester,” he added.
A motion to reject the re-evaluation of the decision taken on July 28 by members of the cabinet was rejected by six votes to five.