Union fears Tower Hamlets public services being switched to outside firms

PUBLISHED: 09:49 05 January 2012

Town Hall bosses could be risking public services by putting its computer data to outside firms, trade union leaders fear.

Tower Hamlets Council is negotiating a ‘partnership’ deal with a commercial company to run its ICT services which Unison, the union representing 3,000 in-house staff, believes could lead to other services such as benefits and housing being contracted out.

The union commissioned a European Services Strategy Unit report which has labelled the council’s proposed partnership “a high-risk strategy.”

Unison estimates partnerships with outside agencies could involve services worth up to £1 billion over 10 years.

“There’s nothing to force contractors to keep the work specific to Tower Hamlets,” warned union branch secretary John McLoughlin.

“They would be free to move people across other contracts and there’s nothing to stop contractors asking to take over other areas run by the council.”

The authority has told the union that only ICT services would be affected in the first phase of any privatisation. It is securing a contractor to provide ICT services to reduce costs and have better staff training—but insists there is “no question of outsourcing any other services.”

A Town Hall spokesman added: “Fewer than 70 employees will be affected—those that are affected will have a non-compulsory redundancy guarantee and have their conditions protected for the lifetime of the partnership.”

The council says whoever wins the ICT contract will base its operations in Tower Hamlets.

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