A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
Hundreds of council jobs are at risk as borough bosses prepare for the next round of austerity cuts.
Letters will be sent out to hundreds of Gateshead Council workers next Thursday as the authority slashes £25m from its budget over the next 12 months.
A specialist home support team could be axed under the proposals, while cleaning services at some council-run buildings are expected to be reduced.
Union leaders say private companies might now be brought in to complete tasks that used to be carried out by in-house staff.
More than 650 people are currently employed within the affected departments, according to the council.
Hundreds of staff have already had a verbal briefing, with letters due to be posted home to workers on October 30.
The council has said it does not know final numbers at this stage, however the unions expect several hundred jobs to be under review.
Unison expects jobs to be axed from the council’s library, leisure and housing services, as well as its support provision for older people.
However this could change as the council prepares its draft budget proposals. More details will be heard at the council’s cabinet meeting on November 4.
Dave Smith, branch secretary for Gateshead’s Unison branch, said for some of his members this was the third year in a row they had been told their job is at risk by being sent what’s known as an ‘188 at risk’ letter.
“This is the first time the home support service has been looked at because that’s part of services for vulnerable people.
“It’s just a treadmill, it’s cut after cut after cut. For some people they have had three ‘at risk’ letters over the past three years.
“How do you plan anything? If you’re at risk on a 188 letter, that affects your mortgage as you’ve got to declare it. This has a huge impact on people’s lives.
“Christmas will be cancelled yet again.”
However he said there was always a big difference between the number of people getting letters of being ‘at risk’ and those who will eventually lose their jobs through compulsory redundancy.
One worker, who works within the home support service, said:
“This service is needed. I don’t understand how people can just come in and take it away.
“It’s absolutely shocking. It could happen as soon as January and once we get Christmas out of the way that will be it.”
In 2012 the council scrapped 1,000 jobs, however the announcement for 2015-16 is expected to be considerably less.
A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said:
“Due to reductions in Government funding, Gateshead Council has an estimated funding gap of £46m over the next two years.
“We are in the process of drafting proposals that will be put forward to Cabinet on Tuesday, November 4, to consider beginning formal consultation on the draft proposals.
“However, no decisions will be made until our budget is agreed at the end of February 2015. When we are facing funding pressures of this scale, it is highly likely that a number of employees will be directly affected by the draft proposals.
“Where this is the case, every effort will be made to limit the number of compulsory redundancies.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014
Families will be forced to pay out a staggering £250bn to modernise Britain’s creaking water, gas, electricity and rail industries, a Teesside MP has warned.
Most of the massive cost of replacing the country’s ageing infrastructure is being added to household bills.
It means energy bills, which have already shot up, are set to increase by a fifth by 2030, on top of the effects of inflation.
Redcar MP Ian Swales was part of a Commons inquiry which looked at the way improvements to the nation’s utilities and transport networks were funded.
He warned that Government red tape was making it difficult for new businesses such as energy companies to get started – making it easier for the existing energy giants to charge sky high prices.
Speaking as MPs quizzed Government officials, he said: “Based on all the investors to whom I have talked – none of whom are the big six, which is an important point – we want to try to break the pseudo-monopolies.
“If we have people who want to invest, surely we should be making it as easy as possible for them.”
The so-called big six energy firms include E.On, EDF, SSE, Scottish Power, British Gas and Npower.
But Government rules made it almost impossible for new firms to enter the market, he said.
He urged civil servants in the Department of Energy and Climate Change to take action, telling one official: “In my constituency there are four potential power station investments right now, three of which are for fossil fuels.
“If you talk to all those investors, they will tell you that they feel like giving up because the system is almost impossible to deal with.”
The MP is one of the authors of a report which warns the UK is set to spend more than £375bn to replace infrastructure.
This includes replace assets such as rail track or waterworks which are simply too old; replace assets which don’t comply with EU regulation; introducing new facilities which cause less pollution, and catering for a growing population.
Around two-thirds of this will be paid for by private companies – but that really means consumers will pay through higher utility bills and rail fares, MPs said.
They warned: “Energy and water bills have risen considerably faster than incomes in recent years, and high levels of new investment in infrastructure mean that bills and charges are likely to continue to rise significantly.”
The Government should act by ensuring there is real competition, which would encourage companies to keep prices down, and in some cases by simply setting the prices consumers can be charged, MPs said.
Source – Sunday Sun, 06 July 2014