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Privatisation plans for Wirral parks may be subject of rethink

Published by in English ·

Privatsation plans for Wirral’s parks could be re-thought under the incoming Labour administration.

New council leader Steve Foulkes insisted throughout last year that an in-house bid from council workers should be allowed.

However, this was dismissed by the previous administration and the contract is currently out to tender.

Cllr Foulkes said his administration would be examining the bids closely to see whether they provide value for money.

Earlier this year, the plans to hand over maintenance of Wirral’s parks and countryside services to the private sector were dramatically scaled back.

Wirral Council had hoped to save up to £10m over the next decade with its parks and countryside services procurement exercise (pacspe).

At the time, Cllr Foulkes said the savings would be drastically reduced and questioned the need for the process in the light of the changes, describing it as "privatisation for privatisation’s sake".

The original review included all of the parks and countryside service, which is responsible for managing and maintaining 1,505 hectares of land at 272 sites located throughout the borough.

This includes 60 parks, six country parks, seven local nature reserves, 27 natural areas, 24 sports grounds, 42 green spaces, nine cemeteries, four municipal golf courses and 41 allotment sites.

However, bidders for the contract are no longer being asked to take on buildings repair and renewal, including war memorials, or repair of paths, walls and fences in parks.

Also removed from the outsourcing process was Landican Crematorium and the Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm, along with schools grounds maintenance and the beach lifeguard service, while the management of golf courses was kept in house.

Cllr Foulkes said: "The pacspe contract is currently out to tender. Our concerns over this contract have been well publicised."

"We have been particularly concerned over whether this exercise is actually going to provide the council real value for money.

"The failure to allow an in-house bid means that comparative costs against which to judge whether or not an incoming tender provides value for money are not easily available. It is therefore doubly important that we make sure, when the tenders have been received, that the work is done to make sure that these tenders are carefully evaluated against what the actual cost to the council would be of providing those services in-house.

"Any long-term contract, by its nature, restricts future options available to the council.

"We will need to be convinced that a tender actually does demonstrate real and long lasting value for money for Wirral’s council taxpayers before we take any final decision."




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