Reading and District Labour Party (RDLP) notes and welcomes the decision of the RBC Labour Group not to proceed with the market testing of most services as set out in the recent public consultation.
RDLP also notes:
That all local councils, particularly Labour Councils, have faced unprecedented and ideologically- driven cuts to their government grants since 2010 when the Coalition Government came to power. By 2020, what was once a £58million annual grant to RBC will have been reduced to nothing.
The Council’s budget must, by law, be balanced in each year and the Council cannot run a deficit. The Council’s statutory officers and the external auditors must agree that the budget is robust and deliverable; otherwise they can issue statutory notices (i.e. a Section 144 Notice) which can lead to government intervention and removal of local democratic decision making.
The national Labour Party Leadership has written to Councils telling them to set legal budgets.
That Reading Labour Councillors are proud to have protected vital services to a far greater extent than many other authorities, including many Labour ones. RBC also has a well-known policy of preferring to keep services in-house, and this remains the case. There are very few Labour Unitary Councils with as much in-house service provision as Reading.
RDLP further notes and welcomes the Labour Party policy formally agreed at National Conference which places a moratorium on any privatisation of Council services and calls for services currently outsourced to be brought back in-house (Composite motion 6 Agreed 27 September 2018).
In this context RDLP notes with great concern the statement of the RBC Labour Group that it intends to proceed with market testing of Revenues and Benefits services.
RDLP is further concerned that this proposal is in breach of agreements made between the three national trade union with memberships in local councils, and the Labour Group in the Local Government Association to bring an end to outsourcing and to promote the re-municipalisation of outsourced services.
RDLP notes that many local authorities are turning away from outsourcing of services due to the spiralling costs they incur and the poor services they deliver. That, large businesses specialising in taking on outsourced contracts have fallen into financial difficulties, such as Capita and the now- liquidated Carillion, leaving public authorities to ‘pick up the pieces’ and costs, and service users to suffer the consequences of such disruption.
Reading and District Labour Party believes that:
There is a very real danger that superficially low-cost bids will ultimately result in higher costs, poorer services and worsened terms and conditions for employees as well as negative consequences for the Council’s finances and Reading’s economic and social well-being.
Reading and District Labour Party resolves:
- To affirm support for Labour Party policy set out in the 2017 Labour Party Manifesto and conference resolution of Composite Motion 6 on 27 September 2018, opposing the outsourcing of public services.
- To affirm support for the national agreement reached between the Unions and the LGA Labour Group.
- To instruct the Chair of RDLP to write to the RBC Labour Group requesting it abandon proposals to ‘market test’ Revenue and Benefits services.
- To instruct the Chair of RDLP to write to the RBC Labour Group requesting it reconsider proposals to establish charitable trusts to manage Children’s Services and Museums and Libraries.
- To instruct the Chair of RDLP to further request the RBC Labour Group to commit to working collaboratively with Trades’ Unions and other staff to undertake a comprehensive feasibility study into the delivery of all Revenue and Benefits services through in-house provision, taking account of wider economic, social and environmental considerations.
- To instruct the Chair of RDLP to respectfully request the Leader and Deputy Leader of RBC to report back to the next RDLP AMM on this matter.