Calling time on privatised services

In an email to all staff last week, Leader of Southampton City Council Christopher Hammond stated:

“…over the last 11 years the nature of local government has changed significantly, as has the city and the needs of our customers. As a result, Full Council has today made the decision that the time is right to bring the services currently provided by Capita back in-house.”

Capita currently provide Customer Services, HR Pay, Revenues & Benefits, Procurement, Health & Safety, Print, Post Room and IT services for the local authority. All of this work will now be brought back into the council, with all staff members in those roles TUPE’d back under contract with SCC.

SCC are going to be working with Capita to develop detailed plans and timescales for this transition. Face to face briefings have been planned for Capita staff which began on Friday 20 July, with briefings for SCC staff beginning Tuesday 24 July. UNISON representatives will attend as many as is practicable.

The council’s Unison branch responded with:

Southampton District UNISON welcomes the decision of Southampton City Councillors to bring back in-house operations run under the Strategic Services Partnership that have been run by Capita since 2007.

UNISON believes that services are best provided in-house in order to ensure value for money for Southampton tax payers, accountability and the flexibility for the council to respond to changing needs and priorities. We will support our members through the transition process and ensure that the workforce are fully involved in the consultation and design of future services.

Southampton First

A divorce from Capita means SCC can better follow its Southampton First policy, a commitment to “…utilise in-house services to meet SCC requirements where such capability exists and where “SCC Best Value” can be demonstrated.”

This means SCC will always look to provide in-house services instead of instantly outsourcing.

What does this mean for members in Southampton?

In terms of timescales, UNISON is aware of the following: the contract notice period is (at least) 12 months from the date of formal notification, meaning the contract should end July 2019. This would signal the point at which Capita staff are officially transferred over to SCC.

However, it may be possible to transfer some services earlier if both Capita and the Council agree. Your UNISON branch will provide updates as soon as is possible to any members affected by early transfers.

It is important to note that UNISON believes this process will bring transferred employees many benefits. It’s no secret that the branch have a better relationship with SCC leadership than Capita, which puts us in a better bargaining position for SCC employees.

Also, any positive changes we negotiate with SCC regarding staff terms and conditions or council policy will affect all staff providing public services. Previously, those benefits would not have been extended to Capita employees – even though members working for Capita are providing a public service funded by the taxpayer. We are optimistic that this transfer will see an improvement to the terms and conditions of staff currently employed by Capita and an increase in morale.

Finally, this move works for citizens. It means that taxpayer money will be reinvested into local services, instead of profits being siphoned off and paid out to shareholders. Capita are experts in winning contracts to provide public services, local authorities are experts in providing public services

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