The collapse of Carillion last week was a wake-up call. That the failure of one private company can destabilise so many key public services across the country and put 20,000 jobs at risk is appalling. It is surely time for the days of blindly outsourcing the delivery of public services to end.
I can understand why cash-strapped local councils, deprived of funds by the Tory Government, may be tempted to outsource services to private companies offering cheap deals. However, the evidence is clear that this has largely resulted in poorer quality services and worse terms and conditions for employees. Improvements and savings have proved easier to promise than deliver, and more often than not taxpayers’ money has simply gone to line the pockets of fat cat bosses.
The Tories try to argue that there is no alternative to the growing involvement of private companies in the delivery our public services. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, it is Conservative ideology that is behind the Government’s blind commitment to outsourcing. The Welsh Labour Government has led the way on this in the past by bringing private cleaning contracts in the NHS in Wales to an end. This, and the pragmatic approach of Labour councils across the country, has shown that it is possible to bring services back in-house and run them successfully.
A Labour Government in Westminster would take a completely different approach to the one that has led to this crisis – an approach that addresses current failings in a sensible, logical way. We would make in-house delivery of services the default option, only looking for private involvement if the service is underperforming in public hands. Under Labour, no private company delivering public services would escape proper scrutiny or be allowed to drive down staff pay and conditions.
This column appeared in the Llanelli Star on Wednesday 24th January 2018