Staffordshire County Council discloses concerns ahead of education service offloads
EDUCATION services on the brink of being privatised have had their funding cut by £5 million in two years with the loss of more than 120 jobs, according to the authority preparing to offload them.
Staffordshire County Council today disclosed concerns about the financial stability of services sold to 400 schools amid growing criticism of its out-sourcing plan.
It said education transformation services – including special needs support, performing arts and outdoor education centres – have lost 120 workers in just two years through £5 million cuts linked to axed Government grants.
Ground maintenance teams have also been cut in half with 20 redundancies.
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And catering services providing school dinners lost five per cent of their business due to lack of investment.
The Conservative-controlled council is to transfer the services, worth £70 million annually, and almost 5,000 jobs to a private firm from April.
It will retain a minority stake in the newly-formed business, which it believes will protect services from further cuts and competition from other businesses.
But the Unison union is campaigning against the move amid fears the private firm will cut staff – which make up almost three quarters of the costs – to boost profits.
And MPs last week called for the plan to be shelved after The Sentinel revealed the council’s project leader Phil Cresswell had quit to join Carillion – one of three firms chosen from an initial 14 interested parties to compete for the contract.
Councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for education, finance and transformation, said: “These support services, from catering and cleaning to school improvement and performing arts, help provide pupils with the very best start in life.
“But they are under huge pressure. Standing still is not an option and indeed it would be a dereliction of our duty.
“Reduced funding and income have already led to redundancies and pared back services.
“I will not oversee a death by a thousand cuts.
“Schools have already expressed concern about further cutbacks, fearing we are at the tipping point where the provision of support services becomes unsustainable.”
Steve Elsey, branch secretary at Unison Staffordshire, said: “There has been reductions in these services, and it is all well and good to say that we have to do something.
“But the council has not produced any evidence that what they are proposing will actually resolve the problem.
“Difficulties in the grounds service have been caused by private companies drastically under-cutting the council on price.”