Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Backtracking again

As promised yesterday, I am abandoning the bin Laden story for the time being and going back to other matters. So, when I say backtracking I do not mean the White House and its various unco-ordinated accounts or yet another sob-story from bin Laden's family who, if one were to believe some people, resemble George Washington in their inability to tell a lie.

No, it is the Cleggeron Coalition that appears to be backtracking again, this time on the subject of whether the private sector should take on some of what is known as "public services".

The BBC tells us:
Leaked documents suggest ministers have decided the "wholesale outsourcing" of public services to the private sector would be politically "unpalatable".

Ministers instead want to use more charities, social enterprises and employee-owned "mutual" organisations.

Outsourcing was meant to be a key part of the government's drive to cut costs and reduce the UK's budget deficit.

The shift in policy will raise questions about whether the government can make the savings it has promised - or deliver the services it is committed to - just by using charities and mutuals.

The change will also raise questions about whether the Conservatives are bowing to Liberal Democrat pressure to focus more on delivering public services locally rather than privately.

The government's plans will be unveiled in the long-delayed Open Public Services White Paper which is expected to be published later this month.
The Guardian is cautiously hopeful that its main source of revenue - advertisements of public sector jobs - will not be affected.
A leaked memo of a meeting between business chiefs and the minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, says there will be "no return to the 1990s" and wholesale outsourcing. Maude is preparing a white paper on public services – delayed since February – setting out the future direction of public services, which is expected to contain plans to match private sector companies to charities and volunteer groups to run public services.

Labour accused the government of being in retreat after the fierce opposition to plans to bring in private providers to the NHS and forestry. But Downing Street played down the reports. "We were never planning wholesale privatisation. It was perhaps interpreted as such but that was never the plan," a spokesperson said.
Well, goodness me, we can't have competition within the NHS. Why that would mean patients having a choice and, perhaps, not choosing the pharmaceutical companies that the government and the extensive NHS bureaucracy has set up various deals with. You know how contrary some people can be.

Well, another day, another U-turn. Nothing to wonder about. Nevertheless, the news and its reporting shows up what is so deeply wrong with the Cleggeron Coalition's attitude to the whole problem of the public sector. They see it entirely as a matter of cuts to save money. No possible question that in all ways - economic, social, moral - much of what the public sector does would be better in private hands. Of course, the thousands of people employed to push bits of paper round whenever their computers crash and click on various computer programmes in the odd intervals between those crashes might find that they have get real jobs and work a good deal harder than they do now, and that would never do.

The very language used gives it away: "outsourcing". In other words, the norm is services run by the state and in the interests of saving money they might have to be "outsourced" to private companies who would probably be better at it. This, to the Cleggerons, is a shocking thought. No, no, no. We shall deal with charities, which are really quangos as they live off money handed out to them by the state, and the bloated and inefficient local government that has shown itself incapable of running anything. After all, that is precisely what happened in the nineties (and the late eighties).

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