Meeting the challenge

Wandsworth consults on market testing

Artists' impression of the Town HallIn a drive to keep average council tax bills the lowest in the country, Wandsworth council is consulting local people on proposals for major restructuring of the way services are provided.

Like all councils, Wandsworth faces a major budget challenge. The town hall has already identified £70m of savings since 2010 as part of its commitment to reducing the national deficit, but it now needs to find in the region of £40million by 2015.

The council is reviewing every single service to assess the scope for market testing or alternative service models, from youth services and leisure management to environmental services and planning.

The council is asking local residents, community organisations and businesses for their views on its proposed market testing programme. The consultation runs from 1 August to 13 September.

"Wandsworth Council is widely acknowledged as the leading UK authority when it comes to exploring what external providers can offer as a way of  delivering high quality local services at the best prices," says Council Leader, Cllr Ravi Govindia.

"We are proud of our 35-year track-record of competitive tendering that has enabled us to maintain some of the best parks and cleanest streets in London, along with low council tax bills. We are proud to be maintaining weekly refuse collections and proud to be keeping all our libraries open, despite the tough financial climate.

"Our approach has always been pragmatic based on who can provide the best value for taxpayers. We are open to new options, such as setting up staff mutuals or sharing services with other councils, to further diversify the supply of public services, started by this Council even before  compulsory competitive tendering in the 1980s. Staff mutuals that are independent of the council and compete successfully with private providers could add to the range of out-sourcing options. For each service we will be looking for the provider that delivers best value for money."

The proposed programme comes as part of comprehensive streamlining at the town hall that will see the number of departments reduced from six to four and a corresponding reduction in the number of senior officers, plus improved methods of working.

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