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Solace president calls for transparency to extend to private sector

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Solace president Kim Ryley has called for the future private and third-sector providers of public services to be subject to the same levels of accountability and transparency as the public sector.

Delivering his speech to the Solace annual dinner on Thursday evening, Shropshire CC chief executive Mr Ryley said the move towards councils becoming “strategic commissioners” of services would have to go hand in hand with “behaviour change on all sides”.

“We need all our suppliers to demonstrate long-term commitment to the wider public interest, and to assisting us in our leadership role of shaping, and growing the capacity of local communities and local economies,” he said. “Our suppliers must also be prepared to be publicly accountable and transparent in their operations, and expect to be required to nurture and support social enterprises and SMEs in their local supply chains.”

Mr Ryley also took the opportunity to hit back at comments from LGC’s mystery chief executive columnist who, in this week’s magazine, wrote that Solace should have cancelled the dinner as it “played into the hands of [communities secretary] Eric Pickles in his public bullying of chief executives”.

“Sometimes leadership requires standing up to the ill-informed prejudices of others,” he said, pointing out that the dinner was entirely supported by private sector enterprise.  “It is an important opportunity for us to network with senior executives of the private and third sectors, which we would have been unwise to forego.  To cancel our dinner would also have deprived and disappointed Macmillan Cancer Support, for whom we are fundraising tonight.”

The dinner also heard from Sir Bob Kerslake, permanent secretary at the Department for Communities & Local Government.

Sir Bob urged councils to embrace the “community rights agenda”, stressing that the Localism Bill would not herald “the restoration of some golden age of local government”.

“You will need to throw away a generation of beliefs,” he said. “Both central and local government will need to fundamentally rethink their roles.

He also sought to calm anger over the local government finance settlement, saying it was as “fair as it could be… within the realities of the spending settlement”. But in stark contrast to Mr Pickles who has repeatedly insisted that cuts to government grants could be dealt with through sharing managers and back-office services, Sir Bob admitted: “The spending review and subsequent settlement have made a tough task exceptionally demanding and I will not insult your intelligence by suggesting otherwise.”

To read a transcript of Mr Ryley’s speech, click here and a transcript of Mr Kerslake’s speech, click here.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Kim Ryley’s call for the future private and third-sector providers of public services to be subject to the same levels of accountability and transparency as the public sector should be supported.
    Unfortunately, his call is simply based on the need for them to be publicly accountable and transparent in anticipation of them undertaking more public functions. This is important in its own right, but he has failed to make the business case for transparency.
    Academic research in the private sector has shown that, within three years of outsourcing the supply of a good or service, companies have lost the capacity to be an effective client for those goods and services for the future. There are different ways in which many companies – and public bodies – overcome this lack of capacity:
    • they can buy in the expertise – but for some reason, they never factor this inevitable future cost into the original outsourcing decision, or
    • they determine to retain direct provision of part of the service, both as a means of retaining client capacity and as a guard against oligopoly pricing. For example, many US cities always retained direct control of part of their refuse collection service.
    A colleague, responsible for £3bn pa global procurement of goods and services for the European arm of a successful multi-national, expresses complete astonishment at the UK public sector’s failure to require complete transparency – business and technology methods, costing and management accounts, quality control and internal audit – of its suppliers. He wants his partners and suppliers to be successful, but knows that will only continue to be achieved if they are going to be continually working together on better value – efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness. That can only be achieved with information transparency.
    It is time for the UK public sector – and local authorities could lead the way on this – to start re-defining and re-specifying their transparency requirements for all their partnering and key supplier relationships.

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  • davy jones

    Agreed and why not go further and require all those organisations providing local public services to promote the social, economic and well-being of their local communities - forcing private sector suppliers to put the interests of their customers before their shareholders ?

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