A private sector company has won a Wirral Council contract to provide counselling and health advice to town hall staff.

The move is revealed in a report that shows the local authority expects to spend around £300,000 on occupational therapy this year.

This is more than last year's £291,000 - but considerably less than the 2010 figure of £420,700.

People Asset Management Ltd - based in Warrington but with a practice at St Catherine's Hospital in Birkenhead - successfully tendered for the work.

The cash is considered money well spent as failure to have effective occupational health provision would leave the council at risk from litigation.

It would also mean Wirral could not meet its own policy requirements to support staff’s well-being.

The council's health, safety and resilience manager Mark Camborne says in a report that the auithority is about to undergo a significant period of change.

Several hundred staff will be made redundant next month and those who remain can expect major changes to their terms and conditions of employment.

Mr Camborne's report states: "In previous years the council had contracted various external occupational health providers including the NHS, Norwich Union/Aviva and more latterly Capita Health & Wellbeing, who provided services based on a price per unit/appointment basis.

"This has proved not only less effective in terms of proactive occupational health provision, but more importantly, has seen unit costs increase considerably over the previous 12-24 months."

A range of options were considered, including sharing other public sector bodies' occupational health resources.

But the report claims: "While there was potential for savings, these arrangements would take some time to put in place and for savings to be realised."

The contract will be discussed at tomorrow night's employment and appointments committee.