Denton and Reddish MP, Andrew Gwynne, has announced a radical set of proposals at Labour’s annual conference which would seek to improve the delivery of local authority services across the country.
Since 2010 councils and communities have continued to lose control over their local services due to outsourcing and privatisation. Under pressure to make cuts, a growing number of councils are handing contracts for the delivery of vital services such as tax collection, children’s services and care for people with disabilities, to private companies.
With contracts that often outlive the electoral cycle, and companies exempt from FOI (Freedom of Information) legislation and held to far lower financial transparency standards, people have little knowledge or say in where hundreds of millions of public money is being spent.
Although outsourcing is driven by pressure to cut costs, it often fails to give value for money, and, when savings are made, this is usually the result of cuts to the pay and conditions of our public service workers.
During his speech, Gwynne outlined how the next Labour government will reverse this decline by transferring control of services back to communities by introducing legislation that will:
- Make delivering local services in-house the default option – because our services should be run for our local communities, not for shareholders.
- Require a realistic and thorough in-house bid for tendered contracts whenever reasonable.
- Ensure there is full consultation before any service is privatised or outsourced.
- Extend rules regarding freedom of information and transparency about performance and financial data to the private sector, which currently only apply to the public sector.
- Compel contractors to provide their staff – both new and transferred – with pay and conditions at least as good as those received by directly employed staff doing equivalent work, and to keep pace with the same pay increases and improvements in conditions as directly employed staff during the life of the contract.
- Establish a Public Value Contracts Commissioner to ensure that any tender process is awarded on the basis of public value rather than which company is the cheapest employer.
Andrew Gwynne said:
“We know what happens when our local services are handed over to private companies; our councils continue to have responsibility for local services, but they lose the ability to deliver them. So that when you report a pothole or complain about street cleaning, it is to someone in a call centre far away who doesn’t know your area, and has never walked down your streets –that’s if you’re lucky enough to speak to someone at all.
“And with every contract that’s outsourced, our democratic institutions lose dedicated, qualified staff. This erosion of our democratic institutions has to stop.
“And so, today, I can announce Labour’s plan to renew faith in local services and deliver a renaissance of local government.
“Taken together, this will be the largest set of reforms to local government in generations. They will rebuild local government capacity and give power back to communities – because they are your public services, and you are more important than profit.”