Suffolk votes to outsource most services

24 September 2010

25 September 2010 | Angeline Albert

Suffolk County Council plans to cut 30 per cent from its £1.1 billion annual budget over the next three years by outsourcing most of its services.

Speaking to SM yesterday, the authority said it was too early to say whether this move would lead to more work for the procurement department or whether the function itself could ultimately be outsourced.

At a full council meeting last Thursday, councillors voted by a majority of 55-11 to outsource services in three waves from next April.

A statement from the authority confirmed that in future, it will focus more on commissioning services and supporting other organisations, including voluntary sector and community groups, to deliver services.

Almost three-quarters – 72 per cent – of the council’s adult and community services is already outsourced.

Half of the £1.1 billion budget is ring-fenced for schools and education, which will be kept in-house, but the rest could be outsourced.

In a speech at the meeting, council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: “We need to be bold, imaginative and to recognise the benefit in enabling services to be delivered from outside the authority.

“We need to be brave enough to trust the voluntary sector, charities and communities, and maybe the private sector, to deliver services.

“This decision was made with consideration of the financial deficit in the public sector and the coalition government’s priority to reduce the deficit and the size of the state.

“The coalition requires lesser government and a bigger society, and Suffolk County Council has responded to this change.”

Suffolk councillor Craig Dearden-Phillips said: “I think the least politically risky services such as libraries will be outsourced first. I’m the only Lib Dem on the council who voted for it, because I believe it’s the best strategy in the face of budget cuts.”

Last week, Dearden-Phillips set up a consultancy aimed at advising public sector organisations on becoming a social enterprise. So far, seven UK councils have enquired about how to outsource more of their services.

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