Privatisation fears

PUBLISHED: 14:23 10 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:48 25 August 2010

A COUNCIL is set to privatise some of its services by setting up an independent commercial company.

A COUNCIL is set to privatise some of its services by setting up an independent commercial company.

Greenwich councillors agreed to spend £83,000 setting up two trading companies, Greenwich Service Solutions Ltd (GSS) and Greenwich Facilities Management Services Ltd (GFMS).

It is hoped the company will generate revenue and allow it to provide catering for its three schools being built under the Building Schools for the Future programme.

However they noted that industrial relations will be the greatest risk to the company because some of its workers will have to be moved into its private service.

Greenwich Unison branch secretary, Onay Kasab, fears that gardeners, drivers, street cleaners, caretakers and dustmen could see their working rights deteriorate once moved to GSS.

Mr Kasab said: "There will be less democratic accountability, so it will be easier for services to be cut and it means our members' terms and conditions will suffer.

"We're in the middle of an economic crises and their big idea is to create a trading company."

GSS will operate independently of the council and will require council workers to be moved into its service on their current terms and conditions.

Council documents noted that whilst the company would be autonomous, it would also "be perceived as 'council' by residents in terms of standards and safety."

GFMS will be a separate legal entity from the council designed to sub-contract work out to GSS. Its staff would be seconded from the council.

Bexley and Bromley council have never set up trading companies.

But members of Greenwich council's cabinet committee were given examples including Kent Commercial Services, which provides vehicle, landscaping and management services.

Greenwich council refused to reveal how many employees will be affected by the move but a spokesman added: "The companies will permit the council to respond to requests to tender for services from other councils where they wish to take advantage of Greenwich's excellent practice.

"This is particularly the case with school dinners where Greenwich pioneered healthy school dinners in its partnership with Jamie Oliver.

"If the enterprise is successful, the council hopes that the expansion will create greater opportunities in the future to develop more apprenticeships."

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