Monday, 21 February 2011

Two tales of the public sector which should raise concern

The Tory-led government have made many tough but ideological decisions over the past few months.

Amongst the additional taxes and u-turns on policies the government have presided over no one can have failed to notice how the government has made sustained attacks on the public sector.

Two stories have been reported on today which relate to public services and highlight the many problems aligned to Mr Camerons plans and how they will affect us all.

This morning, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron told us that there needed to be a 'complete change' to boost standards and end the 'states monopoly' over public services. He explained that he planned that there should be a new 'presumption' that private companies, charities and voluntary groups could run public services.

Mr Cameron, I have news for you.

This isn't a complete change or even a new presumption - you're doing exactly the same thing that the Thatcher government did in the 1980's under Compulsary Competitive Tendering (CCT) and that was an unmitigated disaster.

Public services were delivered by private companies on a 'cheapest possible' model and in short everywhere those services failed and eventually cost significantly more putting right the wrongs when they were brought back in-house.

Anyone who worked under CCT witnessed how services suffered and how they improved post 1997, not just for the employees but more importantly for the customers.

The simple fact is that the first concern for private companies isn't to deliver high quality public services but to deliver profits to their shareholders. Whilst undoubtedly companies will derive new business from adhering to key contract performance indicators the focus will always be on doing the least possible to deliver the most profit.

At first sight this might appear perfectly acceptable, but as is always the case the slightest change in requirements (for example due to new legislation) will result in a change management procedure being activated and additional charges being accrued - quite the opposite of the current ethos of public services who take on board such change in their stride.

The second story is perhaps even more worrying.

The government have maintained that all of the public sector job losses currently taking place will eventually be compensated for through a growing private sector economy.

The only problem is that in a major survey conducted by Barclays Corporate and the Financial Times 57% of the 500 companies who responded said they were not interested in employing former public workers.

Undoubtedly therefore what we are going to see is greater (not fewer) numbers of skilled people who will become long term unemployed and as a result will not only draw increasingly on the welfare system but will not contribute to improving the economy.

Once again we see an ideological measure which is going to decimate hard working families and we are continuously faced with the question 'is this government seeking to improve our economy or simply make a political point?'

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