AN ALL-PARTY working group has been established to oversee the return of front-line functions carried out by Swindon Commercial Services brought back under Swindon Council control.

SCS, based at Waterside Park, on Cheney Manor Industrial Estate, was made an arms-length council-owned company in 2010.

This allowed it to compete in the free market and provide services to other organisations, producing extra income for the council and improving the efficiency of services.

But at a special meeting of the Cabinet last week the decision was made to rubber-stamp the proposal to bring basic services such as waste collection, recycling, highways maintenance and grass cutting, back in-house in a bid to save about £1.8m.

SCS would be retained as a smaller specialist wholly-owned council company.

It will concentrate its services on waste treatment and new and emerging green energy markets, such as refuse-derived fuel and photovoltaic cells, where there is perceived potential for growth.

The decision will have to go before a special committee for ratification, which the Adver understands will be a formality, while timelines for the transfer of staff from SCS to the council is set to begin in November this year.

It comes after SCS, which employs 770 people, held a consultation in January on plans to shed up to 70 jobs to cope with expected ongoing reduced funding from council, as well as other public sector clients.

Coun Mike Bawden, the cabinet member for strategic projects and transformation, said further job losses could not be guaranteed.

He said: “The council’s officer team identified £1.8m savings hopefully protecting jobs but in the real world I cannot give that guarantee.

“It’s all about savings on the one side of the equation but on the other it’s about providing the best possible service for the people of Swindon and it’s a balancing act.

“I am delighted there is cross-party co-operation on this issue.

“And, while I can see the Labour group’s point of view, I think the fact that they and the Liberals are willing to work together shows how seriously the elected councillors see the position.”

Coun Des Moffatt, Labour’s representative on the working group, said he had concerns about the proposal but welcomed the chance to work with the administration.

He said: “I’m not terribly comfortable with the proposal.

“But we have withdrawn our opposition in the interest of the services provided and the people who work for SCS.

“Indecision is the worst thing you can do for people.

“It seemed like a sensible decision at the time and in my view it still is.

“The operation did make a profit in the last year but not as much profit as was expected of them.

“What the accountants don’t understand is they appear top-heavy in management because, on behalf of the council, they manage sub-contractors.

“I’m delighted to serve on the working group and I want to be sure those people who work at the borough have a level playing field with the private sector.”