A CONTROVERSIAL deal to privatise more than 100 council jobs in Worcestershire is going to be extended.

Worcester City Council is on the verge of signing up to a fiveyear extension with a private company to run the revenues and benefits joint service.

Under the deal, the contract with Civica will now run until 2023 rather than 2018, with the firm saying they will safeguard all the current jobs and take on extra ones by bringing in extra work from third parties.

The service operates for councils in Worcester, Wychavon and Malvern, and is based at the civic centre in Pershore.

The private takeover launched back in October after the three councils said around 40 of the 101 jobs would face the axe by 2017 unless an outside operator could be found.

The scheme has been hailed as a major success and the extension will go before councillors in the summer.

Under the new ownership, the councils are saving £1 million by 2018 and Civica says an additional £750,000 will then be saved from 2018 until 2023.

A report on the move says 15 extra jobs have already been created since October, taking staffing to 116, and there is a “strong pipeline of further work” which is actively being pursued.

The staff handle queries from residents across south Worcestershire on benefit related problems.

It also says that by reducing backlogs of queries from the public, the centre will have 27 per cent spare capacity by August, and Civica is looking at securing long-term deals with other third parties for new work.

The five year extension is now expected to be finalised in June or July, with Civica saying staffing will continue to grow.

Councillor Richard Boorn, the city council’s cabinet member for finance, said the scheme had performed well since it got underway.

“I’m very pleased. I have seen the performance figures and there’s been improvements in every area,” he said.

And he said further deals could not be ruled out.

“Civica is going out to get more work. They are creating jobs.

This is a good deal all round,” he added.

“If we could produce more deals like this, then all the better.”

Part of the reason why the service was in danger of major cuts was because the Department for Work and Pensions has taken over housing benefit administration.

Prior to 2007, all three south Worcestershire district councils ran their own revenues and benefits services, before bringing it together as a shared department.