In the context of Inside Croydon‘s coverage over the weekend of the five-borough merger deal which has reportedly already been signed before being put forward for formal approval at Croydon Council tonight, a commentary posted today on LocalGov.co.uk makes for insightful reading.
The piece is by Mark Curtis, the political editor of The Municipal Journal. Curtis takes the policy announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron in today’s Daily Torygraph (where else?) as his starting point.
Curtis shrewdly suggests that with few people taken in by the empty political rhetoric of Old Etonian Cameron’s Big Society “big idea”, today’s announcement is a significant shift by the coalition government.
Cameron says there will soon be a government white paper to propose the commercial tendering for many local council services. Curtis writes:
“It is Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) writ large for the 21st Century, if you like.
“Any voters, commentators or public service practitioners still musing over the possible direction of travel the Conservative-led coalition would take with public services over the next four years should now be in no doubt.
“I make no philosophical comment on the pros and cons of a privatisation, and devolved provision agenda, as wide in scope as that implied by Mr Cameron’s Telegraph piece. The interesting thing for local government, however, is the implied message that coalition ministers place little trust in local authorities – or other local public services providers – to act as effective gatekeepers of the public interest when it comes to the delivery of services.
“No doubt the white paper, and the resulting bill, will provide additional insight as to just how the government will enshrine this ‘presumption’ of outsourcing in law. But the early indications are that local government will at best become commissioners – and no longer providers – of huge swathes of the services it has traditionally delivered.
“Of course, this commissioning role for public bodies has long been the direction of travel, and it will be interesting to read what the opposition Labour party – which did much to promote public bodies as mere commissioners of services – makes of the new Big Society.”
Read Curtis’s column in full by clicking here: LocalGov.co.uk – Your authority on UK Local Government .