One of the key elements in this bidding process has been the existence of the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE), which requires the new contractor to take over responsibility for all existing staff, including accumulated pension and redundancy rights. However, it was not acknowledged officially that TUPE applied.
If this acknowledgement had been official, there would have been a requirement on the existing contractors to provide full information for other bidders on staff numbers, gradings and other aspects of employment costs. In fact, if this organisation's experience is anything to go by, the local authorities declined to give any of this information.
The result was that, to a large extent, alternative bids were on the basis of a theoretical model of the likely cost of managing the service.
The lesson from this is that if such services are put out to tender, the tendering procedure needs to be carefully thought through and local authorities, whose interest ought to be in public service and not in their own bureaucracy, should be obliged to make public relevant information.
Finally, the Government should have the courage of its convictions and encourage bidders to come up with new ways of addressing old problems to achieve agreed goals.
NEIL McINTOSH Chief executive Centre for British Teachers Education Services East Street Reading