A move to bring council cleaning services back in house has raised fears staff could be laid off – and led some councillors to claim the decision was not given enough scrutiny.

Town hall chiefs decided against renewing a deal with cleaning firm Enfield Norse, meaning up to 140 of its staff will transfer to being directly employed by the council.

The decision – taken at a cabinet meeting on October 16 – affects staff who clean 80 council-owned buildings.

Council bosses say insourcing will offer the workers better terms than they currently enjoy, including the option to join the Local Government Pension Scheme.

But the decision was later ‘called in’ to the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee by members of both the Conservative and Labour groups, as councillors raised concerns over job security and the transparency of decision-making.

The issues were discussed a meeting of the committee on Thursday (November 14).

Cllr James Hockney (Conservatives, Bush Hill Park), told the meeting the council’s plan to sell off around ten per cent of the buildings it owns could lead to job losses.

He said: “We know the level of work is reducing and the assumption is that staff levels, through people leaving, will be satisfactory to meet the reduction in buildings.

“That is an assumption. There is a risk that if there is not the turnover of staff, and we reduce in buildings, we are committing to a situation where people potentially lose their jobs.”

Cabinet member for finance and procurement Cllr Mary Maguire (Labour, Palmers Green) said: “We have discussed the turnover rate of staff, and it would be achieved by ‘natural wastage’. There will be no compulsory redundancies.

“I disagree with the assumption that we are going to be increasing unemployment.

“What we are about is creating employment and jobs for local people, offering them better terms and conditions and giving them job security.”

Cllr Derek Levy (Labour, Southgate) asked why cabinet members had not raised questions about the insourcing decision at the meeting on October 16.

He said: “I was present at the cabinet meeting when this item came up. In part two of the meeting, not one question was asked by members of the cabinet.

“This is a cabinet decision taken by ten people. It troubles me that decisions were not taken in an open and transparent way.

“I am asking nine questions that were not asked by cabinet at all.”

Cllr Levy asked about the costs of insourcing the contract, arguing they had not been fully considered.

Cllr Maguire said the report on the insourcing was “comprehensive” and “in-line with earlier discussions about what we should be doing”.

She added that there had been “a lot of discussion” about the insourcing move before the cabinet meeting.

Cllr Maguire said: “Just because we did not ask the questions that some members think we should ask doesn’t mean they were not dealt with in the report and earlier discussions.”

After the discussion of both call-ins, the committee decided to approve the original decision taken by cabinet.

But Cllr Achilleas Georgiou, (Labour, Bowes) said he believed had been “flaws” in decision-making.

He said: “I think Derek makes some very good points, and the process by which the decision has been made has a number of flaws in it, and the questions that were asked show there were flaws in that process.

“Cabinet needs to look at how it makes decisions. I agree with the sentiment and what is trying to be achieved, but the process of getting there is not a straight one.”