No I haven't made and error, it is a Liberal Democratic Council, not a Tory one but there is little that is democratic about the way they have come to such a decision. For a start, despite the noises from the Lib Dem front bench in parliament critical of government ministers briefing the press before Parliament, their party in Local Government act just as crassly if not worse. The local press were the first to know of their plans with the details not being made available to elected local Councillors from any of the party's until the next day at 10am and then only on request.
It is not just the opposition that has been kept in the dark, it seems as if not even the Liberal Democratic group on the Council have discussed the plans! Andrew Simpson their Parliamentary candidate in Northampton North must be beside himself this morning, just as it seems as if Sally Keeble had come to the rescue of his parliamentary ambitions with her 'home flipping' expense exploits, his colleagues on the Council drop a bombshell on his doorstep which will keep his party the wrong side of the popularity fence right up until election day.
Surely their group discuss their forward plans? Surely they consider the potential political fall out of every decision they take? Surely if you were a Liberal Democrat Councillor you would expect to be told by your group leader what was going to happen on Council rather than hear it second hand from another Councillor who had been tipped off that the press had been tipped off? And surely you would think a Liberal, let alone Democratic Council would liaise more with it's Trade Union staff before dropping such a bombshell on the workforce?
No doubt the real reason for the "market testing" is to cut the budgets once again. The Council Leader will give us all assurances that it will only happen if the savings are there and if it is in our best interests, but if that was the case then why the big press release? Any Council can review its contractual arrangements for the provision of it's services as and when they come up for renewal? In fact they are obliged to do so. Any Council can make a saving outsourcing services in years one and two when contractors are keen to get your business. But do they ever stick to the contract without adding on variations? or reducing standards? Perhaps they should ask their colleagues on other Lib Dem Councils who I am sure will be happy to tell them of the perils of trying to save a few quid at the expense of the public works.
So why the big announcement? And why a major review rather than a natural examination as contracts expire? It is my firm belief that if this destructive process is allowed to progress unchallenged then we could lose the very reasoning for the Council itself. If we don't run our Street Sweeping and Refuse and Leisure Services and we sell off all our Housing Stock and ask 'Partners' to run any other services like IT and Personnel, then our councillors will become little more than business managers turning up periodically to agree the let contracts. (a bit like theTory County Council that they are always criticizing)
Northampton Borough Council should be preparing itself, and its case to Government Ministers to be a Unitary Authority responsible for all services across Northampton, but instead the current Liberal Democrat Leadership is planning (without consultation,even amongst themselves) to turn us into Britain's Largest Parish Council.
Will the last one to leave the Guildhall please ask the private contractor to switch off the lights!