Outsourcing benefits sought

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says he is looking to potential benefits of the Compass Group hospital food outsourcing, while maintaining some reservations about the controversial proposal.

Compass Group and the Government's Health Benefits Ltd have tried to convince a sceptical southern community of the benefits of the proposal.

Regional development benefits are promised from the multinational's procurement system, meaning southern businesses could gain national contracts.

Compass Group managing director Glenn Corbett was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Compass Group and HBL made a presentation to the Dunedin City Council's planning and regulatory committee recently, and Mr Cull has softened his stance on the proposal.

''If they're going to go ahead with it then I want to know what measures can be put in place to protect some of our suppliers, and our economy, and our jobs down here.''

Mr Cull had learnt more about the proposal.

While meals on wheels would be trucked from Auckland, hospital patient meals would be sourced from around the country, meaning regional development opportunities.

Much remained unknown, and he still had reservations about some aspects.

Last month, Mr Cull said he did not believe the claimed savings, and said there had to be alternatives to outsourcing.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has written a letter supporting the SFWU's opposition to the move.

It accompanied the union counterproposal for the May 7 meeting at which the health board would make a decision.

''It is our strong belief that if this proposal was to go ahead, it will have a negative impact by way of local job losses, loss of contracts for local businesses and potentially a decrease in nutritional food for patients and the elderly receiving meals on wheels ...'' Mr Shadbolt's letter said.

A protest is planned on May 2 in the Octagon, Dunedin, starting at noon.

The outsourcing is expected to save $6.96 million or more over 15 years.

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