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Sheffield council looks set to become the first to hive off its design and building service construction department to a public-private joint venture.The council will retain a big stake in the new firm, while under the plan the council's architects, engineers and surveyors will be free to bid for any work.Tony Woods, director of Sheffield's 580-strong department of design and building services, said the council wanted to sell a 51 per cent stake in the operation to a private partner.The remainder would be divided between the council and the department's architects, surveyors and engineers.Mr Woods said: 'We will reach a decision on a partner in late summer. Because the council would be an active partner the joint venture company would be in a good position to compete for work with other public sector bodies, and it would be able to keep the council's agency agreement for water and sewerage work with Yorkshire Water.'He said a straightforward privatisation would be of less benefit because the council would lose any influence over the service and a privatised company would not have such good access to public clients.Meanwhile, Ealing council is due tonight (Thursday) to consider rival bids for its 1,450-strong technical services department. These come from American-owned engineer Brown and Root and the French firm SITA, which is mainly involved in the cleansing and refuse disposal industries. CONSTRUCTION NEWS