Shropshire Council plans changes to services

A Midlands council has announced plans to create a holding company to run some services in a bid to make them more cost effective and free from red tape.

Shropshire Council's cabinet will meet next week to discuss the proposals.

The leader of the Conservative-led authority, Keith Barrow, said the company could generate a profit.

The Liberal Democrat group urged caution over making "fundamental changes" while a Unison spokesman was worried for staff and the public.

Mr Barrow said the new company would be controlled by the council, which announced further cuts of £24m by 2014 as well as a freeze on council tax for 2012-13 earlier this year.

He said: "[Services] need to become more efficient, less bureaucratic and more business like.

"It will mean we can avoid closing or reducing the quality of public services, avoid losing valuable local jobs for local people and avoid increases in council tax."

Outsourcing claim

Mr Barrow claimed it was not a move towards privatisation, despite the planned use of private sector businesses and voluntary organisations.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nigel Hartin, said he supported the principle of making "public profit out of services" but did not want the council to rush its decision.

He said: "It will fundamentally change the way that the councillors on the ground work with officers.

"We've got to work out how we do that to make sure the bottom up approach still works so that councillors can feed in information from their own areas about council services and so localism still works."

Unison representative, Alan James, said the first it had heard about the plans was when staff were told on Wednesday.

He said: "My chief concerns are for the people of Shropshire, for whom public services are vital, and the staff who've already been subjected to cutbacks.

"We are going through the fine detail but it appears that this is outsourcing by another name."

Shropshire Council's cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday 2 May.

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