Headlines: February 4th, 2002

Prime Minister Tony Blair called for the defeat in argument of those who resist reform of public services. Without naming trades unions he described the ‘wreckers’ as small c conservatives who believe the old ways will do. He said the Government is on the side of the pupil, the patient, the passenger, the victim of crime, and that means that things cannot be left as they are. The principles of reform include: “more choice for the consumer, being prepared to use alternative providers, including where it makes sense and gives value for money and with guarantees that staff are properly treated; using the voluntary and the private sector.”He argued that if the Government is to win the argument for collective provision and defeat the wreckers and secure the future of our public services, it must be prepared to use all available means to make the improvements that patients and pupils and passengers demand.

There has been an angry reaction from trades union leaders. TUC Secreatary John Monks described Tony Blair’s speech as “bizarre” and “juvenile”. GMB Secretary John Edmonds said there is no public support for privatization. Bill Morris of the TGWU said the concern of public sector workers is that private sector involvement leads to a two tier workforce where employees of private companies receive lower pay, worse pension provision and lack of job security.

Talks have been in progress for some months between the unions, the government and the CBI on the extent of protection to be given to workers employed by private contractors on public service contracts. It is thought that this unresolved issue is delaying publication of the DTLR review of the Best Value regime.