Save our Public Services
Posted By: Wera Hobhouse
Date Posted: 15/02/2010
Today the Tories announced yet another of their ‘new’ ideas. Public Sector Cooperatives to run our Public Services. Under Tory plans, employee-owned co-operatives would be able to decide on management structures, "innovate" to cut costs and improve the standard of service.
Heard all this before?
Countless Public Services have either been completely privatised, part privatised, run as arm’s length companies or transformed into charitable organisations. Have any of theses services actually reduced costs in real terms, improved services or made customers more satisfied?Not sure!
Example ‘Public’ transport in Greater Manchester: every year more bus services are being cut and only the most profitable routes are kept. The most vulnerable people suffer. A better public service?
Example PFI Schools in the borough: a 25 year management contract and two years later the company has gone bust. Who will pick up the tab?
In a different way arms length’s companies like RBH which is directly funded by the government are independent from direct Council control. The Rochdale Development Agency is mostly funded by the Council but has its own management structures. The Impact Partnership with its private partners Mouchel Parkman and Agilisys has Council staff seconded to it but the main drivers are private companies which are accountable to their shareholders not councillors and residents of this borough. Link4Life is a trust with separate management structures from the Council and accountable to the board of trustees.
All this makes local government less effective because it makes local accountability more and more opaque. Decision making is removed from Elected Members; they in turn can just hold up their hands and say they didn’t make the decision.
In my experience it is possible to run good efficient public services from in house. At the core of it lies a fired up work force and good management. There are many good examples of it in Rochdale Council. If I would change anything it would be the ability to get rid of those members of staff who clearly underperform. But privatisation outsourcing or coops are not the solution for public service improvements.
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