This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Exploding the privatisation myth

Once upon a time, I will admit it, I was a supporter of the mixed supply of public services: some private, some charitable & some publicly funded. After all, as a pragmatist, led by evidence, I could see how some services could be more effectively and efficiently provided by different suppliers, and it didn't matter what governance structure those entities had. I was persuaded by Charles Handy's 'shamrock' organisational structure where outsourcing was the norm and commissioning was critical. I saw this model being increasingly applied to the NHS & local authorities & beyond. I went with the flow...

But my support has only ever been luke warm. And now it has disappeared altogether. For what I see is nothing short of a long term and careful plan to find more and more ways to siphon off public taxes into private corporations. And the result of all this is a fragmented set of public services, that struggle to provide anything near to a good quality service to those who are its users and beneficiaries. And I also observe politicians who are ideologically (and personally financially) deeply committed to 'liberalising' public sector provision. And they are so committed that they make stories up, invent data and generally dissemble about the real consequences of these policies.

So this creeping, often rampant, privatisation, now has to stop and be reversed. A report out this morning highlights the failings of social care for older people. The Ministry of Justice is about to throw probation services into a pit of privatisation that will leave the country less safe and poorer to boot.

Here are six reasons why privatisation has and always will fail:
  1. Chasing after profit will detract from providing good quality public services: you only have to be a sardine on a train once to know that.
  2. Profit driven companies cannot keep volunteers: why would anyone give their labour free to a company that then ships money off to a tax haven?
  3. Privatisation contracts are usually won on short and long term cost by governments hungry to shed long term pension commitments. But guess who picks up the tab when those workers retire with insufficient pensions in years to come?
  4. Under privatisation you either end of with huge corporations (like G4sercapita) which are too big to fail (and therefore know they will be bailed out) or a whole set of small providers scrabbling to survive or both... leading to an impossible-to-cordinate fragmentation of services which harms the user
  5. There is no evidence that privatised services in the long term are any cheaper to run and manage that carefully planned publicly provided ones.
  6. You don't get 'owt for nowt': if profit is being creamed off, someone is not getting the service or quality of care & help they need
There are many more reasons too.

It is time to stop this neo-liberal roller coaster. 

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