LACK OF SCRUTINY, LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, LACK OF A FAIR ECONOMIC PLAN FOR DISABLED PEOPLE
A report into Learning Disability Accommodation Services in Brighton and Hove has heavily criticised the council’s decision to privatise the service. APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) was commissioned by the biggest public sector trade union, UNISON, to provide an analysis of the decision and subsequent procurement process. This came after the union locally had repeatedly requested to meet with the authority from early June, which is yet to happen.
Sue Beatty, Branch Secretary of Brighton & Hove UNISON said: “UNISON has raised concerns directly with the council regarding the procurement process and has requested all relevant documentation, some of which has not been supplied due to apparent ‘confidentiality.’
APSE, a local government body which works with over 300 councils throughout the UK and is the foremost specialist in local authority front line services, found that:-
- The evidence, a “commissioning review” in June 2014 which underpins the first key decision to cease provision by the council has not been published or otherwise made available
- A further 3 day review in October 2014 has not been made public
- As a purely cost-driven exercise, elected members were not given any indication of how the position might have changed subsequently with the imminent introduction of the National Living Wage and the auto-pension enrolment
- No other options apart from open contracting out were presented to the elected members, in an apparent breach of statutory requirements and to the detriment of future service provision
- The decision to cease in-house provision was made before consultation was carried out and consultees were actively prevented from expressing a preference for this option, therefore effectively having no consultation on this key decision.
- It is a fundamental requirement of the public procurement legal regime that contracting is conducted in an open and transparent manner. In this case it is confusing and opaque.
- It is also a legal requirement that contract notices are published on the UK government website, Contracts Finder, which APSE was unable to find. This is a serious breach, opening up the prospect of a judicial challenge from anyone who felt they were deprived of an opportunity to submit a bid
Sue Beatty said: “UNISON Brighton & Hove Branch is calling for a halt to what is clearly a worryingly shoddy process that affects the most vulnerable residents located in 12 homes across the city. APSE, an independent well-respected expert body, has concluded that the non-disclosure of key documents and the narrowing down of the consultation exercise casts doubt on the robustness of the decision-making process. UNISON has asked for the Policy and Resources Committee to be recalled, by writing directly to the Authority, councillors and the city’s three MPs, as it is imperative that any decision for the future of this service is based on proper scrutiny, transparency and a fair economic plan.”
The full APSE report is available here to download or view: apse-report-ldas