Headlines: July 27th, 2001

The TUC has set out its concerns about the Government’s intentions to invite the private sector to play a greater role in modernizing public services. It warns that this path will lead to an increasingly bitter dispute and to derailment of plans.The reasons for opposing greater private sector involvement were set out in a statement by TUC General Secretary John Monks. The TUC believes that the market left to itself will not deliver equality of access to public goods such as health care, education, quality public transport and a high quality environment. Private involvement also undermines democracy and diminishes accountability for delivery, because a dissatisfied public cannot remove those responsible at a subsequent election. It also argues that some services should not be subject to the profit motive since this might conflict with other objectives.

The TUC recognizes that failure to deliver better services is not an option and advocates better public sector management brought about by establishing new academies and making greater use of existing centres of excellence. It urges that there should be a new emphasis on high quality skills, training, and career development for all public servants. It also wants recruitment and retention issues tackled through better terms and conditions of service.

UNISON has supported the TUC statement and called on the Government to stop its privatisation agenda and not to waste valuable time on “a sterile debate over the role of the private sector”. It has called for the enthusiasm and commitment of public service workers to be harnessed and for new ways of sharing management skills and good practice.

While the debate about the principle of private sector involvement rages on, details continue to emerge about the way it is working out in practice. Liverpool Direct Ltd., a company formed by a 300 million pounds partnership between the City Council and BT aims to transform council services using the latest technology and by sharing the knowledge and expertise of both the public and private sectors. It has appointed David McElhinney, an Executive Director with the Council, as the first Chief Executive. He will be seconded to the company in the same way that 300 staff employed by the Council have already been seconded.