Friday, 26 September 2008

Scrap the Serco contract? Yes or No?

So, Cllrs Follows and Rigby are calling for the Serco contract to be scrapped, according to a report in today’s Sentinel.

As someone who has been actively involved in the BSF programme from a school/community viewpoint, I am fully aware of how the BSF issues have impacted on the lives of the people in this city, not least the kids, and hardly a brick has been laid (with the exception of one school in the south of the city, of course).

I am firmly of the opinion that there are certainly questions to be asked about how the Serco contract is operating, how the people employed within it are performing, and whether the whole thing is right for Stoke on Trent.

However, given that this contract is a very costly one – worth several million pounds of city taxpayer’s money – is it really a good idea to scrap it part way through?

I understand how strongly Cllr Follows feels about this situation, given his involvement with the Trentham High Action Group, and, speaking as a parent of a child at Longton High School, we all have emotional involvement in what is a very stressful issue for us. Again, from a purely personal viewpoint as a parent, one of the highest items on my agenda in terms of what I want for my kids, is a sound education. That’s what gives them a great start in life, helps them to become well rounded, knowledgeable individuals, ready to take their place in society and in the world of work.

How then, will the scrapping of the Serco contract improve the education of the kids in this city? I am in no doubt that across the board, we must do better for our kids. Every headteacher and school governor I have spoken to feels the same. But what do we do about it?

What do you think? Should the Serco contract be scrapped, possibly wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers money? Or is there a better way? How can we make Serco more accountable to us – the people of Stoke on Trent – in order to ensure they perform and meet the obligations of their contract? Over to you….


Tony said...

Just why this has taken so long is a mystery to me! This is what happens when we have a maverick mayor hell bent on one thing and a group of councilors hell bent on another. Let's see what the Trentham Action Group think about this, I wonder...

Uncle Bob said...

Whilst the situation with Serco is obviously far from ideal, it seems that Councillors Follows and Rigby have not thought this one through. The cost of buying Serco out of their contract could be many millions of £. Perhaps they can tell us where this money will come from if their motion is successful?

ian norris said...

Is the option that the "City Council that it supports a soft statutory federation between St Joseph’s College and Trentham High School and that, as a consequence, Trentham High School be removed from any school closure list and placed on the upgrade and renovation programme" which should be considered again by the EMB or Full Councill, anyone any ideas on when this report is due?

Tony said...

Ian welcome to pitsnpots, i hope you pass the message round that this is the only place for local no holds barred debate available 24/7! I have heard that this vote of no confidence is to be discussed on Thursday next and sources tell me that there are quite a few councilors who want rid of SERCO, but at what cost? What do you think?

ian norris said...

Is it even possible to scrap Serco contract I believed they came in due to the City Councils failings in the Childrens Department. or is it a simple partnership, if there are clawbacks from closing contract early then the City Can't afford it, but neither can it afford the changes proposed. Plus could be more clawback on Childrens Centres as Tunstall is still not open despite clawback deadline being March 08. Its all bit of mess councilors fighting to much about HOW the city shoould be run instead of Running it.

nita said...

Although the whole BSF Proposals are very controversial, I personally believe we owe it to the children of the City to make sure they get the best education they can. Over the years the City's results have not been that brilliant, apart from a handful of schools, who seem to perform consistently well. This is not always down to the teaching standards, in the schools, many issues get in the way. Sometimes, a pupil may lack in self confidence, family problems may get in the way of learning, behavioural problems, or they simply do not want to learn, and gain qualifications. All these issues need to be addressed, as we cannot simply say a new building will suddenly make a difference. If the BSF, as we are told, is based on pupil numbers, then Serco has to address this issue, to ensure schools are not running half empty, as this can be costly. Why has it taken so much time, before certain Councillors are suddenly wanting a vote in no confidence in Serco? I have heard that a soft federation of St Joseph's and Trentham, is not possible, and it would have to be a hard federation. This would result in Trentham no longer being a comprehensive school. Would this not mean that the school would become selective, and I feel that this would not be fair on every family living in the Trentham/Hanford area. Some pupils would not get a place. However, I can see why the TAG is asking to keep their school open, as results over the past few years have been fantastic. Blurton High has done well too, so the two combined should make an excellent school. However, the issue is, where to place the Academy for Trentham/Blurton. Can the city afford to start again, if a vote of no confidence in Serco is agreed. I think not. What are your thoughts on this?

nicky said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Terry and Alan's motion.

It just has to be said how bad SERCO are.

Their calculations on pupil numbers for Stoke-on-Trent are shamefully innaccurate.
A better analysis of this has been done by Save Trentham High:

There are obviously some Trentham specific numbers in here, but also some for the whole city.

Unfortunately the BSF plans need to be completely reviewed,
centred importantly on what communities want. I agree this is likely to be costly but it is outrageous the damage that has been done so far, just look at what has been inflicted on Longton High. We have to do whatever we can to stop this bad practice by SERCO spreading. Our children and their education are just too important to let it go.

Ian you have made a very important point about the proposed Trentham/St.Jo's federation that CYP scrutiny approved in July. It was received by EMB in August but they didn't discuss it, said they would do then report back. Has not been discussed at EMBs since then. Report is listed in full council meeting papers for Oct 2nd. Don't know how much discussion will be allowed there.

Save Trentham High put in a petition to the meeting requesting all councillors be allowed discussion and free vote on this. We have been denied our petition because they say it's too similar to a previous petition. We are still arguing that. Our point is not to petition about the federation and letting Trentham stay open again, we've already done that. The point we wanted to make this time is a democratic point, that we want it discussed and voted on by full council.

We will be protesting outside the council offices on Oct 2nd. Some people will be there from 1pm, meeting starts 2.30pm. Some of us can't get there until much later after work/school.

ian norris said...

Joy Garner replied to Question about CYP recommendation. "As an ex councillor, you know that the committee can only recommend an action, and that they have to pass this back to the decision maker for them to look at. The decision maker this time was the executive, not the council, so the council will not be debating the decision."

And I can only see the Longton Petition being but before the Full Council next Week.

nicky said...

The two schools related issues I am especially interested in, relating to the Oct 2nd full council meeting, are Terry and Alan's SERCO motion and the fact the minutes of the CYP scrutiny committee with the Trentham High recommendation appear there. Also related to that is the rejection of the Save Trentham High petition to the Oct 2nd meeting, which was merely requesting a democratic discussion and vote on the CYP scrutiny committee recommendation. Our petition doesn't appear in the reports pack because the council have not allowed it. Hence the big protest demo we will be doing on Oct 2nd.

The CYP Scrutiny minutes are here:$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

The recommendation itself is on page 7. On page 3 it is stated that the recommendation will be considered by the Executive and the minutes will be considered by the City Council.

The EMB on Aug 13th:$$$Minutes.doc.pdf

received the CYP Scrutiny recommendation and said they will give it further consideration and report back in due course.

Now they have not reported further at EMBs since then. That might be entirely sensible if they prefer to have it considered by the City Council first and take that into account before they report back. However it only makes sense to wait if there is to be discussion at council. If as Ian reports, Joy Garner says they will not be debating the decision, then they will thus far have neglected their duty to report back. Let's just see will we, how much noise and debate about this, and about SERCO, does go on on Oct 2nd, inside the Council chamber. There will certainly be a lot of noisy protest going on outside the Council chamber (any supporters welcome).

Ged said...

Why do we need to replace SERCO staff at all? Advertise permanent posts and appoint people who are really committed to Stoke not just here for the money.