The foreword to the document by the leaders of the TGWU and UCATT follows:
This timely publication puts the case for direct labour. We do not argue 'direct labour, right or wrong', because the community is entitled to nothing but the best. It is simply the case that good direct labour has a good track-record, a track-record that has been too much ignored by politicians and managers alike.
We have conducted a detailed study over the last 18 months, concentrating on direct labour organisations, but with important implications for local government as a whole. We have drawn lessons from good direct labour and given best practice examples of DLOs at their best. Our aim is to encourage others to learn valuable lessons as part of a progressive change and improvement agenda.
Public policy needs to change. It is a bitter irony that two of the DLOs we feature are under threat because of housing stock transfer. The break-up of either would be a tragic loss to the communities of Glasgow and Walsall.
We also want to challenge a narrow approach towards 'what works best'. Instead, we argue that there are wider public interest issues that, when councils decide on who provides, they ignore at their peril. Who will train, for example, the next generation of skilled workers? Ministers have acknowledged the private sector has an 'abysmal' record. Winding up DLOs will, therefore, simply erode further the national skill-base.
We want to open a new debate, therefore, on, yes, what works best, not just now but also in the future, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term. UK manufacturing has suffered because past generations of industrialists lived for the present and failed to plan for the future. Our country should not make the same mistakes in the great debate over the renewal of the public services, not least because the price of failure is so immense.
* APSE is a local authority networking organisation dedicated to quality public services. The document will be launched at APSE's annual Building Maintenance Seminar in Newcastle on 18 April.