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Cameron pledges public sector sell-off plans


Almost all public services could be opened up to private companies under plans being put forward by David Cameron.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister said that “complete change” was needed in the public sector to improve standards for users.

A new presumption that private companies, voluntary groups and charities should be allowed to bid to provide services would allow the government to transform public services without having to legislate repeatedly to allow different providers to get involved.

The changes, to be set out in a White Paper within the next fortnight, could allow non-public providers to run schools, hospitals and council services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools and roads maintenance.

Outside providers would be offered payment-by-results contracts, increasing their earnings as the quality of services improves.

Mr Cameron wrote: “We will create a new presumption - backed up by new rights for public service users and a new system of independent adjudication - that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.

“Of course, there are some areas - like national security services or the judiciary - where this wouldn’t make sense. But everywhere else should be open to real diversity.”

Mr Cameron said that the changes would release the public sector from “the grip of state control”, ending the era of “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what you’re-given” services.

The government hopes that the plan will reduce bureaucracy, improve quality and save money but it is certain to be opposed by Labour, the unions and many users of public services.

“I would argue that our plans to devolve power from Whitehall, and to modernise public services, are more significant aspects of our Big Society agenda than the work we’re doing to boost social action,” said the prime minister in his Telegraph column

“We will soon publish a White Paper setting out our approach to public service reform. It will put in place principles that will signal the decisive end of the old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given model of public services.

“And it is a vital part of our mission to dismantle big government and build the Big Society in its place.”


Readers' comments (8)

  • davy jones

    So now we have it - privatisation of local public services !

    It's a lie to say that it doesn't matter who provides local services. The bottom line for private sector providers is profit and their shareholders not the needs of local people and service users.

    There needs to be a new duty on all local service providers to promote the social, environmental and economic needs of the communities they are serving.

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  • This would carry more weight if the private sector had to apply the same open policies as those in the public sector. Also the restrictive practices applied in the private sector making it difficult for neighbouring authorities to work together to achieve greater efficiencies e.g. access to bullion centres is only granted to BSIA members (a trade organisation).

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  • Some local services run by councils actually operate at a profit and subsidise local council taxpayers, eg car parking.
    Will they also be up for grabs by the private sector?

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  • Some local services run by councils actually operate at a profit and subsidise local council taxpayers, eg car parking.
    Will they also be up for grabs by the private sector?

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  • Having worked through the start up of CCT in the early 1980's and then the conversion to Best Value in the late 1990's this all encapsualating coversation is no surprise.

    I wonder how the Government intends to overcome the huge power of the EU and all its procurement rules, yet alone the mountain of red tape that they love to lavish on the world?

    Strangely The Big Society can be bigger than this... we await the next phase with interest.

    Enabling Innovation may be easier than giving away the crown jewells!

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  • Doug Forbes

    Yes its deja vu and what happened the last time? Apart from a few areas it ran into the sand.
    As I read this, the only way to keep it local will be to make it run efficiently at best in class levels.
    Any social enterprise will still have to get through the EU Procurement rules and will then face a cashflow issue, the costs of compliance and the contingent liabilities.
    So who will then have the courage to take on Assessment and Care Management in Social Care?
    As I also recall, Rhydian Wyne Davies, formerly of LGC is now managing editor at the Telegraph. This will run and run.

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  • Doug Forbes

    Please also understand what 'sell off' means and the application of competition which has a long history in local government. There is a difference. We always thought that the Best Value legislation could be used in this way. After all, what happened when councils ignored their Best Value duty?

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  • Initial Cabinet Office material on the Big Society did not mention 'opening up public services'. Now it features as one of three 'key elements'. David Cameron's reference to an 'adjudication' process to decide which public services should be outsourced will bring memories to all of those who wasted time dealing with the bureaucracy and game-playing surrounding CCT. With Paul Kirby back in a No.10 heading a 'policy and implementation unit' this really will feel like old times for local government.

    Let us hope that the forthcoming Open Public Services white paper is not quite as centralist and ideological as the Cameron preview in the Telegraph suggests.

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