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Open services ‘CCT with spades’

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The government’s ‘open commissioning’ proposals pose an even bigger threat to local government services than compulsory competitive tendering did in the 1980s, according to a leading sector analyst.

The private sector’s right to challenge for service provision proposed in last month’s Open Public Services white paper is likely to be used in conjunction with transparency data to allow outsourcing firms to identify “vulnerable” services, Cipfa Networks performance adviser Peter Eckersley said.

The white paper says potential providers should be empowered “with the right to propose new ways to deliver services, and linking payment to results so that providers are free to innovate and eliminate waste”.

Mr Eckersley said the proposals exceeded CCT by taking away from councils the ability to choose which services to put out to tender, or to have the exclusive right to dictate the terms.

“I don’t think it is a return to CCT, I think it’s CCT with spades,” he said. “Suppliers will have access to a lot more info about services through the transparency agenda. So they’ll be in a better position to choose which services might be vulnerable - and they can also decide when to challenge. Under CCT the ball was more in the authority’s court.”

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “As purchasing power shifts to a more diverse range of commissioners, opening up government data will also enable new providers - from all sectors - to compete to deliver better public services.”

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