UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Privatisation is as innovative as a quill pen

As reported once again in the Manchester Evening News Trafford’s new young Tory leader at aged 26 and three quarters thinks he is ahead of the game in developing a mass outsourcing of public services. As you might expect the lure of the private sector selling promises of services the same if not better than they are now, and for cheaper, is a sum which only adds up to those yet to be introduced to an abacus board.
   Which may in fact be the case with Sean Anstree. What however is alarming is the seeming silence of the sensible – and yes I know that they are Conservative - backbenchers at Trafford Council who appear to be naively sleepwalking into this chaotic nonsense. Given:-

•The embarrassment caused to their Conservative Government on everything from the G4S failure to the rail franchising that ended up costing millions of pounds to taxpayers

•The hundreds of services that other Conservative councils have bravely brought back in-house following contract failure by the private sector

•The entrepreneurship shown by many other Conservative councils who have developed a more commercial trading approach to their local services

•They already run high performing local services

Then shouldn’t the grey-beards in Trafford be warning off young Anstree from this particular precipice?

What is even more terrifying is the spectacle of Manchester City Council, a previous bastion of Labour principles agreeing to this nonsense with the privatisation of their own street cleansing and refuse services.

The workforce made up of working class, predominantly white males which operate these services, are being sent a timely election message from Leese. Yes you are right the Labour council AKA the Labour Party really does not care about you and your job. We would happily see your terms and conditions, and job security, sold out to the cheapest provider. But we don’t care because you can’t put a cigarette paper between Tory Trafford and Labour Manchester. Why not gift wrap the votes for UKIP or the BNP Sir Richard? The party acknowledges it is losing its white working class support – does it really need to ask itself why?

Many years ago at Labour party conference hosted in Manchester Sir Richard Leese was asked how they managed to keep Manchester streets so clean and tidy with all the major conferences, nightlife, clubs and restaurants. Leese responded that it was quite simple. He employed people to do that and they could direct resources where they are most needed.

It would seem Sir Richard has forgotten his own lessons. If a vital service to a city like Manchester is outsourced the contractors will only do what they are paid for under the contract. Vital flexibility will be lost and the service will be governed by the confines of a contract not by responding to what elected members want and what local residents, and businesses, need from their council services.

Residents already resent council tax – not understanding the make-up of local government finance is an irrelevance. Residents who know that their council tax is going to line the pockets of fat cat contractors, with local lads under the pseudo protection of TUPE either seeing their pay cut or being put on the dole will hopefully show their contempt for this crass and cruel decision in May’s elections. If not then surely this must land on Miliband’s own doorstep since Leese is a member of his ‘Innovation’ panel.

There is nothing innovative about Manchester’s rush to privatise services. Privatisation is about as innovative as a quill pen. It saddens me and sickens me in equal parts. It is the ultimate betrayal of the working class workforce by a Labour council that should no longer call itself Labour.

Anna Rose