Headlines: March 14th, 2002

Senior local government managers are being urged to use competition as a lever to improve services and consider outsourcing as a viable alternative to ‘in house’ team service delivery. At a conference today organized by the Institute of Local Government Studies speakers will call for greater choice in the purchasing of public services. Professor Sir Michael Lyons, former Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, will tell the conference that outsourcing services presents risks, but so does unchallenged service delivery by in-house teams. The greatest risk of all, however, is in a lack of choice. Authorities should seek to create a mixed economy of suppliers so they get the benefits of competition and do not rely on one supplier alone – whether that be in house or external.Other speakers will call for strong partnership working with the private and voluntary sectors and to move beyond traditional thinking and boundaries for service delivery so that consumers have a wider choice. Councils will also be asked to look at their relationships with each other and explore ways in which inter authority partnerships could be developed for mutual benefit.

Trade union concern about the use of the private sector has been voiced by UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis who has called on the Prime Minister to focus on how to deliver world class public services. In a letter to Tony Blair he said that union members want to hear that their expertise is valued. That their views have been listened to that the private sector is not the way forward. He stressed that public services are too valuable to be left to the whim of market forces.