Labour councillors have referred plans to outsource Barnet Council's Education and Skills Service up to Full Council for further debate after the Conservative Chair of the education committee used his casting vote last night to defeat Labour's call to work up an in-house business case alongside the Joint Venture Company model.
The Labour Group amendment submitted by Cllr Anne Hutton simply asked for a business case to be developed for the current in-house service to continue to run education and skills services at the same time as the development of a business case for a Joint Venture option. This would have enabled the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committee (CELS) to make a safe and well informed decision about which model would provide the best service to schools, parents and children when they came to make their final decision in July.
Cllr Hutton submitted her amendment after finding that the outline business case for a Joint Venture looked very weak with little evidence that it would be able to increase income by the promised 20% given the sketchy market analysis provided in the report.
A consultation of schools showed that the Joint Venture Company (JVC) option did not receive majority support, with support evenly divided between all three options - in-house, JVC and a social enterprise.
Labour's CELS spokesperson, Cllr Anne Hutton said: "There is a lot of concern about how the Education & Skills Service will be run. As a large amount of both statutory and traded services are proposed to come under this new umbrella it is imperative that the process is seen to be robust and transparent.
"The case drawn up for the CELS committee is perceived to be very weak with 32 pages of questions submitted to the committee. This undermines confidence in the whole procedure and the only option on the table - a Joint Venture Company.
"The Committee was effectively being asked to approve only one option before any comprehensive business case for a JVC model is worked up, and I strongly believe that including the In House option to run alongside would strengthen whichever case is eventually chosen and give confidence to all stakeholders that all aspects have been thoroughly researched and benchmarked.
"We've referred it up to Full Council to make this argument to a wider group of councillors, as while the Chair of the Committee didn't initially seem to have a problem with my suggested amendment he went on to use his casting vote to defeat it after consulting the other members of his group on the committee.
"Including the in house option at this stage does not hold up the process in any way - it just gives the committee more options when it comes to make a final decision."
The committee report will now be discussed at the Full Council meeting next week on Tuesday 20 January at Hendon Town Hall.
1. A copy of the CELS report on Education and Skills can be found here:
For further details please contact:
Cllr Anne Hutton: email@example.com
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568