Concern over secret City Hall talks on future of £20m worth of Norwich contracts

PUBLISHED: 17:26 08 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:14 08 October 2018

Denise Carlo, leader of the Green group at Norwich City Council. Pic: Denise Bradley.

Denise Carlo, leader of the Green group at Norwich City Council. Pic: Denise Bradley.

©Archant Photographic 2008

Concern has been expressed that the future of hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is to be discussed behind closed doors this week.

Photo: Nick Butcher.Photo: Nick Butcher.

As reported, further talks about how millions of pounds worth of contracts for Norwich services, including looking after council homes, street cleaning and tending parks, are provided will take place on Wednesday - in secret.

Norwich City Council currently has four contracts with Norse, an arms-length company owned by Norfolk County Council, to provide those services, worth £20m a year.

But, at the start of the summer City Hall chief executive Laura McGillivray wrote to Norse signalling the council’s “strong intention” for the council to provide the services itself, rather than through the contractor.

There are still more than three years left to run on the contracts and it is not yet clear how much it would cost the city council to break them.

But, at a meeting of the city council’s Labour-controlled cabinet on Wednesday, the issue will be debated, although the public and press will not be allowed to hear the debate.

The issue is being discussed “below the line”, with the council saying it needs to be discussed in secret because confidential information will be revealed.

However, Denise Carlo, leader of the Green opposition group at City Hall, said there was a need for transparency.

She said: “It’s important to maintain confidentiality in certain financial situations. However, with regard to a decision as far-reaching as this and one which will affect hundreds of employees directly, as well as all the residents of the city who depend on delivery of these important services, the council must act in a transparent way so that taxpayers’ money is not wasted.

“Green councillors have plenty of questions to ask behind the scenes, and we will be doing so. We just wish it were possible to make the questions and the answers public.

“Current Norse employees will be worried about the future of their jobs and any affect these changes might have on their pensions or working conditions.”

The council has previously said the 400 workers would be transferred to them from Norse, if the change goes ahead.

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