PLANS to outsource bin collections, street cleaning and park maintenance across Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon to a private company have been given the go-ahead.

Worcester City Council’s Conservative-run cabinet has approved plans to enter into a joint agreement with Malvern Hills District Council and Wychavon District Council to go out to tender for a private firm to operate the services – which are currently run in-house – from 2017.

The council has made a budget of £200,000 available for the process of going out to procurement, which it is hoped could save up to £1.6 million. But it has not ruled out the possibility of job losses as part of the project.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 28 the council’s portfolio holder for cleaner, greener and safer city Cllr Andy Roberts said the most important thing was the current standards were maintained by any new arrangement.

“Standards are the point of all we do,” he said. “We’ve talked about doing the old fashioned thing and just cutting staff.

“There would have been simplicity in that but it would not have protected standards. So it wasn’t a real option.

“We want to manage standards so the residents of the city don’t actually notice any change.”

But Cllr Roberts said he was disappointed the other two district councils in Worcestershire – Wyre Forest and Redditch and Bromsgrove – were not interested in taking part as he said there was scope for “tremendous savings” from a county-wide agreement.

Although cabinet members were firmly in favour of the plans, Labour member Cllr Lynn Denham said she was concerned a decision was being made too hastily.

“This represents an absolutely fundamental change in culture for the council,” she said. “I don’t this should just slide past.”

Cllr Denham also said she was worried a report by Manchester-based GlobeEC had not been made available to members of the city council, while members on Malvern Hills District Council had been allowed to see it.

Council leader Cllr Simon Geraghty said he believed people in Worcester did not mind who ran the services as long as they were done.

“I’m really proud of the services provided by cleaner and greener,” he said. “But we must operate in the market we live in.

“If we don’t move forward with this we would be moving forward with cuts.

“I’m not prepared to do that.”

The scheme was also given the go-ahead by Malvern Hills District Council’s executive committee on Tuesday, where members approved plans to jointly market test the project with the other two authorities.

Wychavon District Council’s waste collections are already outsourced to a firm called FCC Environmental, but its contract expires in 2017, coinciding with the start of the new arrangement.