COUNCIL chiefs expect no job losses as a result of its own arms-length body losing a £1 million public health contract to a London-based firm.

Everybody Sport and Recreation (ESAR), a charitable trust set up by Cheshire East Council in 2014, was awarded the contract to run the borough’s ‘One You’ public health services two years later.

But after the £1 million contract was put up for retender, CEC awarded it to London-based firm Reed Wellbeing in July.

With the company set to take over the service from Friday, November 1, CEC has confirmed it does not anticipate jobs will be lost through the move – after councillors raised concerns about it last week.

A CEC spokesman said: “The new ‘One You’ contract was awarded to Reed following a robust competitive tendering process.

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“It is anticipated that no jobs will be lost as a result of the new contract and that the new service will go live, on a phased introduction, from November 1.”

Cheshire East’s ‘One You’ public health service includes weight management, falls prevention, physical activity and a stop-smoking programme.

At last Thursday’s CEC meeting, former Conservative cabinet members raised concerns about the contract – which is expected to save CEC up to £100,000 a year – being awarded to Reed over ESAR.

Cllr Liz Wardlaw, cabinet member for health before May’s election, said: “ESAR is our arms-length, not-for-profit partner which has successfully delivered the Cheshire East public health ‘One You’ initiative to our residents for the last three years.

Knutsford Guardian:

“It has gained the trust and respect of our local medical fraternity and the public alike.

“In July, the £1 million public health contract was not awarded to them, but to Reed Wellbeing of London.

“Can this Labour administration confirm it is happy with the potential loss of jobs this may create and the likely detrimental effect this will have on the terms and conditions of those staff who may or may not be [moved] across?”

Cllr Janet Clowes, leader of the Conservative group and former cabinet member for adult social care, added: “Are you aware of the weaknesses in the actual procurement process decision-making which took place well after the elections?

“It may or may not be that it was an inappropriate process, but there are questions and concerns for our workforce, and it is right and proper that they have those assurances.”

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of CEC in the new Labour-Independent administration, admitted he is not happy at the situation.

But he pointed the finger squarely at the Conservatives for setting the terms of the contract procurement which meant Reed was to be chosen as the highest bidder, over ESAR.

Cllr Corcoran said: “The answer from my point of view is very clearly no, I am not at all happy about this, I’m actually quite angry about it – but it was set up by the Conservative administration.

Knutsford Guardian:

“The Conservative administration set up a tender process before the new administration took control. That tender process has to continue legally.

“It is the Conservatives who set the terms for the tender process and the decision has to follow the tender process – otherwise you are being unfair to the people who bid for the contract.

“I am advised by officers that there was no flaw in the process, and therefore that contract had to be awarded to the winning bidder.”