Saturday, 5 December 2009

When private business fishes in public service

Barnet trades council will have a stall in the high street in Barnet this Sunday 6 December during the Christmas fair (must check weather forecast), 11am to 4pm.

We had a stall last year (lovely, bright day) and attracted a lot of interest when we talked about Barnet council's Future Shape plan. A year later, to be blunt, the residents of Barnet are almost as in the dark about the council's plans as they were then.

In this year, a new word has been coined, 'easyCouncil', and Barnet council is it! We know that we might have to pay extra for more things in the future, but we still don't know what things and how much extra. Grandiose schemes to contract out almost all council services have foundered for want of a company prepared to do more than 'cherry pick' the easiest, plummest parts.

An acquaintance recently told me about his brother's experience weighing private medicine against the NHS. His brother believes in private medicine: he wants something done quickly, he's willing to pay. He took his daughter to a private hospital to have her earring removed as her ear had become infected. They offered to give her a general anaesthetic and remove it, for a large fee.

The man and his daughter passed an NHS hospital on the way home and popped into A&E for a second opinion - why not, it didn't cost anything. The doctor dabbed the girl's ear with antiseptic and removed the earring with pliers.

Private businesses exist to make profits, which is fair enough, that's the way many people make their living. But when private businesses get involved in providing public services, they only want to do the easy bits, and, since they are making money from the transaction, you can be sure that whatever they do could be done more cheaply 'in-house', ie, where a profit will not be creamed off.

That's not to say that the public sector doesn't need better management and so on, but achieving that is the challenge we should set for politicians - not how much can we outsource.

1 comment:

Crowbard said...

Don't say the NHS needs better management. I know it does but management will believe you mean MORE management... and that we definitely do not need.
Put 75% of current management on cleaning duties with cleaners pay, rotating through all levels of management, 3 weeks cleaning, one week management... half would leave and the other half would start to understand what management is for.