28 January 2015
A Cheshire council's joint venture with Cofely has been criticised as "wrong in every respect" by local councillors.
Cheshire West and Chester Council's (CWAC) executive gave unanimous support to plans that will see a new company delivering customer and integrated workplace management services at the town hall.
The joint venture will involve the transfer of 304 CWAC employees to the new company, including customer services and administration staff, cleaners and buildings maintenance workers.
The arrangement is intended to cut costs, improve services and enable the council to transfer more funds into frontline services.
Cofely will retain the council's contact centre in Cheshire West and Chester and invest £3.1 million in new IT systems. It will also provide 65 two-year apprenticeships and 20 local graduate placements.
The local authority has four other companies operating in the leisure, care, schools and back-office services sectors.
But, according to news reports, opposition Labour leader Councillor Samantha Dixon has warned that the reputational risk of the move would be "entirely" the council's, although the town hall holds only 49 per cent of the new company.
Labour councillor Mark Henesy also branded the decision to "privatise" the public face of the council as "wrong in every respect".
But Cllr Lynn Riley, executive member for localities, said: "We have been careful to approach this in a prudent and considered way. Learning lessons from joint ventures elsewhere, this joint venture company will develop and grow in a phased way, based on track record and improved performance."