Abstracts: July 14th, 2008

This pamphlet from the TUC seeks to inject a trade union perspective into the debate about public policy issues. It analyses successive market initiatives by different governments and shows that the original justification for contracting out was that it would simply deliver cash savings.

Evidence is presented suggesting that private sector efficiency savings do not outweigh the extra costs of providing a return to shareholders and the private sector’s inability to borrow as cheaply as the public sector. Also increasing choice can increase inequality. For example, parental choice has led to greater inequalities between the best performing schools and the rest, as better off articulate parents are more successful in getting their children into such schools.

The pamphlet instead says that future public service developments should be based on the alternative ‘public value’ model, increasingly supported by academics and thinktanks. This model aims to maximise the value from public services, not simply minimise the costs. While value for money is always important, public value also involves service users in planning and assessing public services. It asks users and citizens directly what they want from public services and then seeks to deliver it. There are no blue-prints or off-the-shelf solutions.

The pamphlet is available from the TUC. http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-14910-f0.cfm