Liverpool LEA coerced into privatisation, LGA claims

22 Jul 99
Liverpool's local education authority is being pushed into privatising most of its services without being allowed to consider the alternatives, ministers were told this week.

23 July 1999

Graham Lane, the Local Government Association's education chair, claimed the government was forcing Liverpool's council to take the same action as two London councils on the basis of an unpublished report by consultants KPMG.

Lane was given a copy of the KPMG report by school standards minister Estelle Morris on July 20 – the same day the Department for Education and Employment announced that the consultancy was drawing up plans for Liverpool to contract out most education services by the end of the year.

Lane said Morris told him that KPMG had uncovered serious problems at Liverpool that had not been highlighted in a report by Ofsted, published last month.

If the situation in Liverpool is as serious as the government believes, Lane asked why KPMG was being given until the end of the year to find solutions. He offered to bring in the Improvement and Development Agency to Liverpool immediately so it could work alongside the LEA.

'Privatisation won't work,' he said. 'The government is setting Liverpool up to give away things it doesn't need to. We could get help in tomorrow but the government has rejected our offer.'

Liverpool is the third LEA to be forced to privatise all or part of its services. The London Borough of Hackney has handed its school improvement and ethnic minority achievement units over to Nord Anglia. Fellow London council Islington has set up a management board with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, probably ahead of bringing in private contractors.

KPMG recommended cutting Liverpool's education department from five divisions to three, along with recruiting a permanent director of education to replace Frank Cogley, who retired in June. It told the council its education department was overstaffed by up to 25%.

Paul Clein, Liverpool City Council's executive member for lifelong learning, was angered that the changes had been reported as full-scale privatisation. He added that there was no guarantee anything other than its quality assurance service would be outsourced. 'I'm sure that certain sections of the DfEE would like to see what would be a private LEA, but I do not believe that is the way we will go', he said.


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