Petition to stop welfare shift

Concern: Chris Cheetham
Concern: Chris Cheetham
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A former county councillor has launched a petition against plans to transfer welfare rights services to a part-privatised company.

Chris Cheetham, who served on Lancashire County Council for 27 years, has called on the authority to withdraw plans to move services over to One Connect Ltd, a joint partnership between the county council and BT.

BT owns 60 per cent of One Connect, while Lancashire County Council owns 40 per cent.

The authority has already moved HR services, pension administration, and customer service activities over to the company.

Meanwhile, the council has slammed the campaign as ‘inaccurate and incorrect’.

Mr Cheetham, 68, who previously headed the adult and community services department at the council, said the timing of the changeover, just before the welfare reform, which will see the biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years, may mean services are affected.

He said: “The Government is changing the whole welfare system and right in the middle of that the county council decide to have a reorganisation. It seems to be the worst possible time. If you find yourself unemployed you might not know where to go. Life gets fairly tough. I just worry that the service is going to suffer.”

The petition has now drawn 400 signatures.

Leader of Lancashire County Council, Coun Geoff Driver. said: “Mr Cheetham completely misunderstands what is happening. What we have done is amalgamate all the benefit services that the county council provides so we can provide a much better service for the most needy people of Lancashire in time for the reform.

“One Connect is just an extension of the county council. It means all the staff remain county council staff, but they are being better managed.”