Kids to lose out as council plan to privatise play services and slash youth provision city-wide falls into crisis
Bristol City Council’s plan to save money by outsourcing the Youth and Play Service to new provider Learning Partnership West has COLLAPSED just days before responsibility was supposed to be handed over.
The madcap plan to slash the service’s budget by one-quarter had already caused concern when it emerged recently that this “transformation” of the service placed seven youth centres in the city’s most deprived areas and most of the city’s adventure playgrounds under THREAT OF CLOSURE.
The full transfer, scheduled to take place on 31 January, has not yet occurred, though at the start of February Windmill City Farm playground was SHUTTERED with the loss of half its staff following transfer to LPW. The rest of Bristol’s adventure playgrounds and the most vulnerable youth centres look set to close by July – shut in the face of kids just starting their summer holidays.
The youth centres facing the most immediate threat are Southmead, Brentry Lodge, Docklands, Lawrence Weston, Oldbury Court, Hillfields and Hareclive, whilst the adventure playgrounds staring into the abyss are Felix Road, St Paul’s, Southmead and the Lockleaze Youth and Play Space.
The reason for this shameful abandonment of services? The new private providers were only required to achieve a series of barely-defined “outcomes” rather than manage existing public buildings and assets more efficiently.
However, the council’s ballast-dumping rush to wash its hands of the Youth Service at any cost really started taking a turn for the worse late last year. It was then that Rose Richards, senior manager in Bristol Youth Links and the council officer overseeing the sell-off of our youth and play services, decided to EXCLUDE TRADE UNIONS from all discussions. This included talks on ‘TUPE’ arrangements – the laws and regulations protecting workers’ pay, terms and conditions when staff are transferred out of the public sector and into the private sector. Now why would she want to do that?
Complaints from staff and unions were consistently REJECTED OR IGNORED by Richards and the council continued headlong into its youth service giveaway. But just before the TUPE transfer was due to occur at the end of January, it became clear that neither the council nor Learning Partnership West had any idea who or what was actually being transferred – or what their legal obligations were. Employees with years of service discovered their pensions and other benefits were under threat. Understandably outraged, they threatened to take the council to court. On top of this it has emerged that Learning Partnership West does not want any of the council’s admin staff nor any of the youth centres and playgrounds.
Meanwhile, the council faces LITIGATION and the closure of vital public facilities in the city’s most deprived areas, with the whole sorry mess likely to cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds – completely undermining any savings that could have been made – in legal bills. All because one council officer would not listen to reason and wanted to conduct the transfer behind closed doors and stiff her own staff.
What a bastard outrage.