City councillors postpone call on privatisation plans

City chiefs have delayed a decision on whether to privatise a tranche of council jobs including janitors, cleaners and caterers – weeks after councillors put back a decision on whether to contract out bin collections.

Two consortiums are in the running to take over the “integrated facilities management” (IFM) contract at the council, which also includes building maintenance and design, porters and security services.

But the city council has confirmed that officials want more time to finalise details of the in-house alternative to privatisation before asking councillors to make a decision. That means that the decision, which had been due to be made next week, will now not be made until December 22.

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It comes after councillors agreed to a four-week delay to a decision on the separate “environmental services” contract, including refuse collectors and street cleaners, in order to look closely at the in-house alternative to outsourcing these services to private firm Enterprise.

Trade union leaders said the delay to the IFM contract was a sign that officials were now taking seriously the option of keeping services within the council.

Peter Hunter, regional organiser for the Unison trade union, which has campaigned against the privatisation plan under the banner “Our City’s Not For Sale”, said: “I think now there is a realisation from officials that the chances of privatisation are diminishing.

“They never expected to use the in-house option but it is now becoming clear that is the most likely choice.

“They realise they will have to use some, if not all, of the in-house options so they can’t afford for them to fail.”

Three tranches of services are part of the “alternative business models” programme, where private firms were invited to take part in a project looking at providing services in a different way and delivering savings for the public.

The IFM contract covers £33.2 million of services, compared to £37.6m of services within environmental services.

A third contract, for “corporate and transactional services” including payroll, HR and revenue and benefits, is also due to come before councillors at a meeting on December 22.

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For the IFM contract, a joint bid by outsourcing company Shanks and former tram contractor Carillion will compete with a separate joint bid by outsourcing firm Mitie and consultancy Atkins, while officials will also demonstrate what savings are achievable if the services are kept in-house.

Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “There has been a hugely disproportionate amount of money spent on private sector bids and if this is a sign that more time and money is being spent on the in-house options then I welcome that.”