Tax payers hit by privatisation review

ANOTHER £400,000 of taxpayers' money is to be spent on looking at ways of privatising services in Suffolk, it can be revealed today.But the findings of the report will only be published once they have been agreed by the council's administration at a series of behind-closed-door meetings.

ANOTHER £400,000 of taxpayers' money is to be spent on looking at ways of privatising services in Suffolk, it can be revealed today.

But the findings of the report will only be published once they have been agreed by the council's administration at a series of behind-closed-door meetings.

Suffolk County Council is to spend the extra money on top of the £250,000 original cost of a report from consultants KPMG.

The Star revealed earlier this year that the report, entitled Securing the Future, looked at a number of alternative proposals for the county - including selling off all its services to the voluntary and private sector and reducing the number of employees at the county from 11,000 to 700.

The report was only published by the authority after its findings were revealed in this newspaper.

Now the Conservative administration at the county's Endeavour House headquarters in Russell Road, Ipswich has gone back to KPMG and offered the company a further £400,000 to carry out more research into the options.

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And, controversially, it has recommended that when the proposals are drawn up they should be discussed by working parties - which meet in secret - rather than council committees that are open to the press and public.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Andrew Cann accused the administration of hypocrisy and anti-democratic policies.

He said: “We currently have the administration at the county attacking Ipswich council's bid for unitary status and claiming it does not have full information.

“To accuse the borough of not giving full information while hiding behind this kind of secrecy smacks of hypocrisy.”

Sue Thomas, Labour lead for customer services, said: “After attempting to keep their original 11,000-job privatisation report a secret, the Conservatives are now trying to stop the public from viewing how it is to be implemented.”

County council deputy leader Sue Sida-Lockett said it was always intended that more work would be done on the review, and that would cost an extra £400,000.

And she defended the decision to use working parties to study the proposal rather than committees: “There is a convention that when people's jobs and their working lives are under review then they should be the first to know what is happening.

“But there will be a full debate in the open once proposals have been drawn up by the administration and everyone will have an opportunity to contribute to that debate.”

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