TUC spells out alternative model of reform, based on collaboration between the public sector, voluntary groups and charities

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The gap between the rhetoric and reality of the government’s public service reforms is growing, as privatisation and workforce opposition to the changes increases, says a new TUC paper published today.

In response to the government’s Open Public Services white paper, the TUC highlights how a market-led approach to reform is increasing the private sector takeover of public services, and how public sector workers are increasingly turning against the measures:

  • When NHS Surrey awarded the contract for its community health care services, the winner was private provider Assura Medical Ltd (which is 75 per cent owned by the Virgin Group) rather than the government’s social enterprise champions Central Surrey Health, when health ministers are promoting social enterprise in the UK.
  • The government-funded Work Programme, hailed by Employment Minister Chris Grayling as “a massive boost for the big society”, has ended up in the hands of private sector, with 35 out of the 40 prime contracts awarded to large private businesses such as SERCO, A4E and G4S.
  • The government’s claim to be “empowering millions of public sector workers” by enabling them to form their own employee-led mutuals is being undermined by continuing opposition to the moves by public sector workers. The government is continuing with its plans to outsource MyCSP, the civil service pensions administrator, in a joint venture with a yet-to-be named private sector partner, despite surveys showing that 95 per cent of staff oppose the move.

The TUC paper shows that the general public remains strongly opposed to privatisation. While the public values choice in public services, a substantial amount oppose private businesses running schools (55 per cent of those asked), hospitals (57 per cent) and social care services (43 per cent).

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “We know that public services need to keep track with changing times, but handing over large slices of services to private business does nothing but undermine accountability, local responsiveness and choice. The government’s rhetoric doesn’t match the reality and it has created a credibility deficit.

“In our response to the government the TUC spells out an alternative model of reform. A model based on collaboration between the public sector, voluntary groups and charities, which invests in modern, flexible services that remain publicly-owned, are accountable to service users and benefit the whole community.

“No wonder we’ve heard so little about the big society from the Prime Minister lately. It’s clear that the reforms being implemented by this government have little to do with charities or voluntary providers.

“From the health service to local government, the government’s plan is to open up a market free-for-all. And, as we have seen, the only winner is the private sector. When multi-million pound public service contracts are up for grabs, any pretence of empowering public service workers or giving communities a voice goes out of the window, and the TUC shares the concerns of the British public about the widespread privatisation of our public services.”


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