Derbyshire council chief describes outsourcing of hundreds of jobs to Suffolk County Council as ‘modern’ and ‘athletic’

Derbyshire County Council leader Barry Lewis.
Derbyshire County Council leader Barry Lewis.

Derbyshire County Council’s leader has called the outsourcing of its caretakers and cleaners to Suffolk County Council ‘modern’ and ‘athletic’.

Coun Barry Lewis made the comments in a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday.

The cabinet agreed a move to outsource hundreds of many of its lowest-paid staff to its counterpart in Suffolk, 180 miles away, in a bid to cut costs.

These employees would work under one of Suffolk County Council’s wholly owned subsidiaries, Vertas, from March next year but remain in Derbyshire.

The amount the move could cost and save will not be revealed until next year.

Redundancies have not been ruled out as part of the move, with Derbyshire saying that it will ‘make every effort to avoid job losses’.

Coun Lewis said: “This is something we have been looking at for a considerable amount of time.

“We need to be more modern, athletic organisation and we need to find better uses for our buildings and this is one way we are doing that.

“I am really pleased to see it (the decision) here today.”

Coun Angelique Foster, cabinet member for council services, dubbed the work of the authority’s hundreds of caretakers and cleaners as ‘non-core business’.

Deputy leader of the authority, Coun Simon Spencer, said that the council had to ensure it was getting the best ‘value for money for the taxpayer’.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader has asked how another council is capable of doing what Derbyshire says it cannot.

Coun Anne Western said: “From day one we have been resisting this.

“We have a fundamental disagreement with what the council’s core business is – we think that this is an important part of what we do, we think it is core business.

“Part of me is relieved it is going to another public sector body but what I can’t understand is that if Suffolk are able to do this and make a profit, why can’t we?

“The staff are being run ragged – they are always being asked to do more.”

Caretakers and cleaners from part of the 1,500 staff in the council’s property division – which has an annual budget of £12.6 million.

The employees transferring will retain their existing terms and conditions of employment.

Derbyshire said earlier this year that it has ‘experienced significant financial change’ as a result of schools converting to academies – taking them out of local authority control – and carrying out their own building repairs and employing their own cleaning and maintenance staff instead of retaining the county’s services.

Derbyshire said that its caretakers and cleaners carry out services at 344 sites in the county.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service