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Council leader's denial over outsource plans

PUBLISHED: 10:54 29 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:10 03 July 2010

Conservative Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox yesterday denied his administration was drawing up plans to outsource services for vulnerable children after a leaked email from one of his councillors claimed it was a better option for saving money than selling off county farms.

Conservative Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox yesterday denied his administration was drawing up plans to outsource services for vulnerable children after a leaked email from one of his councillors claimed it was a better option for saving money than selling off county farms.

Last week it emerged that the Tory-run authority had carried out a policy U-turn on the farms and was now looking at selling off a chunk of the 16,000-acre holdings as it grapples to deal with a £140m shortfall in its finances in the next three years.

Mr Cox faced questions from Lib Dem leader Paul Morse after a leaked email from Tory councillor Bev Spratt, who chaired a working group looking at the future of the county farms, said the Tories should be looking elsewhere and he found it “difficult” to sell off land.

“I am looking for savings for the county council,” Mr Spratt's email said. “I think we must look at outsourcing children's services.

“Selling good Norfolk land to prop up failed government policies should not be the way forward.”

But Mr Cox said: “It's very much his personal view. There are no plans being worked up to outsource children's services.”

However, the council leader conceded that a review of the council looking at services in the wake of a £140m shortfall in government funding “ruled nothing in, and nothing out” and it may be appropriate in some departments, while it has also been carried out in adult social services.

“Outsourcing everything isn't the solution,” he added. “It doesn't always bring any better value or more efficient services. We have got no plans to do that at this moment in time, and no plans are being drawn up, it isn't on the table at the moment.”

“I'm pleased to receive the denial,” Mr Morse said. “Evidence elsewhere suggests that this doesn't improve services and it also reduces accountability.”

Members of the council's scrutiny committee are due to consider the county farms issue today.

But Tory chiefs are unhappy that news of the farm policy changes got into the public domain and prompted an email warning from Tony Williams, cabinet member for corporate and commercial services.

Mr Williams said it was worrying that “the group decision to change policy has got out into the wider world”.

“It is disappointing to see confidential group discussions circulated outside this forum,” he added.

“Please ensure you make every effort to ensure that these discussions remain confidential.”


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