Friday, 15 November 2013

A Public Service Award for ignoring the public and privatising (and cutting) public services!

The Guardian have just awarded their Public Service Awards for 2013 and the one that immediately caught my eye was the winner of the 'Financial Excellence Award', Brent, Harrow and Ealing councils. They apparently won the award for;

"..combining their purchasing power and driving a hard bargain, three west London councils are turning loss-making leisure centres and libraries that were heading for closure into modern community hubs."

Now i can't really comment on the leisure centres part of this, won by all three councils, apart from saying that they should be managed in-house, but i can and will comment on the libraries part.

A short while ago Harrow and Ealing outsourced their libraries to John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS), who also ran Hounslow and Croydon Libraries, even though in Harrow 74% of those consulted said that they wanted the service to remain in-house and in Ealing, Unison and library users protested against the handover.
Then approx 4 weeks ago JLIS where bought-out by Carillion, the support services and construction firm who along with others where instigated in the blacklisting scandal, they have also been accused of bullying staff into accepting lower terms and conditions at a hospital in Swindon. This buyout was apparently done without consultation and apparently came as a surprise to the staff and service users effected.

I will also mention Brent, although they haven't outsourced their libraries they did close 6 of them despite huge public protest and according to recent CIPFA data the performance of the service has deteriorated considerably since then.

Whether you class outsourcing/privatising and cutting services as 'Financial Excellence' and thus worthy of an award really depends on what side of the political fence you sit on, something i wish the Guardian would make it's mind up about before making unsubstantiated statements such as;
"Contracting out the management of leisure centres and libraries to not-for-profit trusts through innovative, multi-borough contracts will create more modern and inclusive services, and save an estimated £30m over 10 years."

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