Headlines: September 11th, 2001

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt speaking to the TUC conference in Brighton made it clear that the blurring of the line between the public and private sectors would continue to be a key element of government policy. She assured delegates that the policy would not be pursued at the expense of public service workers and gave a commitment to safeguard conditions of service. This was not the message delegates wanted to hear and she received polite applause at the end of her speech.TUC president Bill Morris warned the government that it would be morally wrong to depend on private companies to run schools and hospitals. He attacked the government over its obsession with its plans to shake up public services.

Patricia Hewitt said that the government would not allow public servants to be short-changed and that the occupational pension rights of public service workers who transfer to the private sector would be strengthened. She gave an assurance that the wholesale review of the Employment Relations Act would result in legislation this parliament, if changes were deemed necessary. She gave a specific commitment that workers would not be left in limbo when a public service contract transfers from one company to another.

While the battle of words continued in Brighton with the main focus on the health service, 300 miles north in Sheffield local government forged ahead with a partnership with the private sector. First Point, the Council’s one stop shop was launched. It is run and staffed jointly by CSL the business process outsourcing specialists, and Sheffield City Council. The IT systems and software have been implemented by CSL and Sx3, theUK’s leading supplier of open, enterprise wide business solutions to local government. The shop includes interactive kiosks, provided as a managed service from Sx3. They provide easy and free access to Council and local non-council information such as cinemas, restaurants and football results