Policy & Politics News
Becky Slack
Published 12 July 2011

Fears of privatisation and an unfair playing field for charities and social enterprises


Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison
"The Government wants to wash its hands of providing people with decent public services. For all its talk of mutuals and charities, the White paper is nothing but a smokescreen for privatisation and will do nothing to improve quality.

Source: Unison

"We will be looking carefully at the fine print and holding the coalition to account for any illegitimate attempts to hand over services to private companies, whose primary concern is the bottom line rather than service users.

"The collapse today of home care owners, Southern Cross, should act as a grim warning about what can happen when the private sector take over public services.

"The bottom line should not be profit but public services run by committed public service staff. The quality, efficiency, accountability, flexibility and economics of in-house public services just cannot be matched."

Peter Holbrook, chief executive, The Social Enterprise Coalition
"We are concerned that the proposed reforms will create an unequal playing field in which social enterprises are unable to compete with large private sector providers for public sector contracts. Social enterprises often do not have the capital or scale required to compete with big private businesses in open markets.

Peter Holbrook

Source: The Social Enterprise Coalition

"These reforms must protect our public services, not put them at risk. Without the necessary safeguards, the consequence of these proposals will be that private providers will dominate public sector markets. Taxpayers' money will flow into profit seeking organisations that exist only to satisfy the needs of their shareholders. Public services must operate for the communities and people they serve, nobody else.

"The Government's plans to extend Payment by results across a number of other public services will put private sector organisations at an automatic advantage. The reality is that without decisive action to use public spending to improve social outcomes, the big organisations will simply use their stronger balance sheets and ability to attract private investment to win contracts.

Katy Wing, director of Improving Local Services, NAVCA
"The Open Public Service White Paper has the potential to harness the power of local charities and voluntary organisations. But this won't happen unless the Government ensures an intelligent approach to commissioning by placing social value at the heart of public services.

Katy Wing

Source: NAVCA

"We are pleased to see the unequivocal recognition in the white paper that action is needed to remove barriers for small, local organisations. NAVCA's commissioning and procurement team knows the difficulties local charities face and we will offer the Government constructive proposals to make commissioning work better for smaller charities.

"Intelligent commissioning benefits local citizens and communities - those that pay for and use the services. It allows proper recognition of the wider social value local voluntary organisations bring to service delivery, such as volunteering and the close involvement of local people in shaping services."

Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive,Turning Point
"Turning Point supports the vision of today's White Paper. Public services need to become services for the public but we also need solutions that actually work. Public services can be delivered in a variety of ways. What's important is that we don't leave the most vulnerable behind, and that communities get bespoke services.

Lord Victor Adebowale

Source:Turning Point

"What we need are post rhetoric public services, because let's face it, if governments keep doing what they've always done the public's patience with getting what they've always got will start to wear thin."

Spokesperson, Lasa
"While we welcome the opportunity for voluntary organisations to bid to deliver public services, the government must ensure such opportunities are sustainable. Without sustainable funding, there is a risk that charities will be set up to fail, as we fear will happen with legal aid.

Lasa, a welfare rights and technology charity, is concerned that civil legal aid has already largely been contracted out to third secto providers. Yet the government is proposing cuts to legal aid which will disproportionately affect not-for-profit agencies. This expertise will be lost if funding is cut.

A Big Society approach to public sector provision needs to be sustainable so it can make the most of the expertise and skills that charities can offer.

What do you think to the public services white paper? Join the debate below.

Photo source: Opening Public Service/Cabinet Office

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