Northamptonshire ease teacher concerns over ‘Next Generation Council’

Council bosses have moved to ease fears about changes in education provision amid plans to outsource all of a local authority’s services to “specialist social enterprises”.

Northamptonshire County Council announced the “Next Generation Council” plans last week in a bid to make £148m budget cuts over the next five years.

It will include moving most of its 4,000 staff to four new bodies, which will be commissioned to run services by a remaining 150 ‘core’ staff.

The overhaul has been billed as one of the biggest ever changes to public services in the council’s 125 year history.

Schools Week reported the proposals last week, leading to worried teachers raising concerns about the potential changes.

However the council has released more details this week to clarify the new model is not expected to significantly impact on schools.

The county’s schools currently buy their back office function services, including finance, IT and HR, from LGSS – a public sector shared services organisation owned by both Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire county councils. The council said it expects this arrangement to continue.

A council spokesperson added: “The development of the next generation model for the council shouldn’t really have an impact on schools in the county as they are relatively autonomous in their operations.”

The council’s education services, such as strategic planning and admissions, are expected to fall under the remit of the new “children services mutual” organisation. It would be employed by the council to deliver “safeguarding and other services for young people”, however the council stressed plans are still at an early stage.

The council wants the new bodies to be up and running within five years. The other organisations to be set up will fall under “accountable care”, “wellbeing community” and “place shaping”.

Work will now start on setting up the first body, a wellbeing community interest company.

Bill Parker, cabinet member for finance, added: “As well as these larger organisations the message is clear that other services would also be able to form new enterprises either as private businesses, social enterprises, charities or as part of the voluntary sector. They would all be free to win other contracts to generate additional income to help reduce their costs to the council.”

The plan was approved by councillors on Thursday last week.

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