West Sussex County Council may indeed be pleased with progress made so far in relation to its adult education service being branded ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED (“County pleased with ‘fair’ adult education Ofsted report”.
But it is not out the woods yet having made ‘reasonable progress’ in four problem areas, and ‘insufficient progress’ in a fifth. The fact that the county is having to expend this effort and expense to help get its adult education service back firing on all cylinders is testimony to the consequences of its unhealthy obsession with outsourcing perfectly good council services. OFSTED rated the county’s adult education as ‘good’ before it was outsourced.
Contracting out essential public services has a track record of failure in our county – and tax payers should be concerned at the waste of money which can sometimes also accompany the deterioration of services. When the county had the chance recently of re-looking at its adult education services and potentially insourcing them, it took the decision not to do so on the flimsiest of evidence bases. That the back of a fag packet is deemed sufficient for these decisions is another source of concern. This approach is continuing across other services, and residents have the recent discussion on potentially outsourcing a range of essential children’s services like children and family centres to also be concerned about now.
The county needs a fresh and more rigorous approach to how it takes decisions about the future of its services, but there is scant sign of this as yet.
Branch Secretary, UNISON West Sussex
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