Council's £625k bill for advisors and consultants
A COUNCIL has spent £625,000 on private consultants and advisors hired to oversee controversial plans to out-source school jobs.
Staffordshire County Council has run up the bill paying consultant KPMG and a legal firm to advise on its disputed plans to put thousands of jobs and dozens of school services in a private company's control.
The bill will continue rising until a deal is signed.
It has also emerged that the stake the council will retain in the private venture could be as small as 26 per cent.
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Three firms, including two giant multi-national companies and a private firm, are in the running to take control of school cleaners, cooks, grounds staff, support workers for disabled children, careers advice and even outdoor education.
A 10-year deal worth £2 billion is due to be signed in March in a move which will halve the size of the Conservative-controlled council.
It will include an option to extend the deal for another 10 years. Unison, which is campaigning against the plans over fears the private firm will cut jobs to boost profits, today condemned the spending.
Steve Elsey, Unison branch secretary for Staffordshire, said: "The council is saying they haven't got the capacity to invest in these services or support an internal bid, and yet they have already racked up a £625,000 bill for consultants with five months still to go before the deal is completed.
"People are generally shocked when they find out what is being proposed.
"They do not want to see these well-regarded services put in private control which will see a company making a profit out of their children's education."
Mark Olszewski, Labour councillor for Wolstanton on Newcastle Borough Council, collected signatures for a petition against the plans at Hempstalls County Primary School, Cross Heath, on Friday.
He said: "We had an excellent reception and collected more than 100 signatures. We didn't find anybody against the campaign.
"We believe a good service is provided already and it's a travesty to transfer staff to a private company which will have a negative impact on them.
"We want to preserve jobs. We believe the schools don't want this to happen. If it isn't broke, why try to fix it?"
County Councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for finance, education and skills said: "This is a large, complex project to safeguard school services and jobs for the future, and the process we are going through is strictly regulated by European legislation.
"It's essential we get the best knowledge and expertise possible to make the right decision for our staff, our schools and the taxpayer as well as fulfilling the legal requirements of the procurement process.
"Given the vital investment this project will bring, we are being as diligent as we need to be. We owe it to our staff, schools and the public."