“IT’S the biggest deal of your life,” a Bournemouth councillor stressed to his colleagues at last night’s climactic meeting.

And his colleagues voted 34-12 for that deal – a controversial £150m agreement to transfer four departments to a private contractor, Mouchel.

The vote came after a two years of study and three council meetings this week alone. Monday’s went on from 6pm to 11.30pm. Mouchel will take over the revenues, benefits, ICT and facilities management departments for the next 10 years.

Unison fought the deal and branch secretary Dave Higgins said last night 88 jobs from just over 300 being transferred will be lost. He said the union will now work with Mouchel, but some of the debate must have hurt him and the dozen or so watching staff.

Cllr Beverly Dunlop questioned why council staff had not made sufficient improvements themselves over the past 5-10 years. “Any manager that needs to be asked to reduce costs and increase output is clearly not demonstrating the basic tool kit you would expect,” she said.

Tory leader Cllr Peter Charon said he’d got a stronger public reaction to the plans to close Hengistbury Head recreation centre.

Conservative members argued the deal is essential. It is supposed to save 40 per cent on the revenue budget on the next 10 years and create 650 private sector jobs. The Government grant to Bournemouth is dropping by 11 per cent next year alone so making savings protects services and saves jobs in the long run, they said.

The problem is, not everyone agrees – one of the council’s own section 151 officers, responsible for making sure money is spent properly, broke ranks to argue it could cost more than the current arrangement.

Cllr Ben Grower, Labour leader and the deal’s most vocal critic, told the Tory group Mouchel needed the council more than the council need Mouchel. “You talk about the council taxpayers as shareholders,” he said. “But why should council tax payers subsidise the shareholders of Mouchel?

“They won’t be getting a dividend this year, but presumably they will be getting one next now this deal is done.” He said afterwards we could expect them to throw resources at the deal for 4-5 years then the service would drop off to protect profits.

The contract is secret but a few details emerged. The council can stop Mouchel being paid for work it does not do, but it cannot impose penalties.

Steve Moriss, a managing director of Mouchel, said afterwards: “There’s a heavy responsibility on us to deliver and we are committed to doing that.

“The whole aim of the contract is to improve services, given the difficult budgetary constraints, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in our other partnerships.”