So far work worth £112 billion has been taken out of Britain’s public sector and placed in the hands of private companies. The government’s next move, getting underway now under the label Operational Efficiency Programme, is to push this process much further and, more importantly, sell off at bargain prices the land and buildings belonging to local authorities.
In 13 pilots deemed ‘Total Place’, it will examine what services can be considered duplicates, what services could be merged, shared, outsourced, run differently and allegedly more efficiently. Services that have grown separate and distinct – health, local government, central government, education etc – for a multitude of organic and different reasons over decades – will be bundled together.
The bundling will be about supposed savings. It will be also about parcelling services up into devourable chunks for sale or privatisation.
A root and branch reconfiguration of health, local government, higher and further education, local public services in the name of efficiency is being planned. But really it is about freeing up the billions of pounds in fixed and frozen assets in estates, property, expenditure etc in the what’s being called the “Great Sale of the 21st Century”.
One size for all
Total Place is in addition to efficiency savings already being driven forward by local authorities, outsourcing in health etc. Councils as disparate and distant as Bournemouth, Newham, Essex, Birmingham, and Barnet are all pursuing a one-size -fits-all solution. Buildings are being centralised: Birmingham will go from 55 sites to 5, Newham from 38 to 1. Hot desking, home working, outsourcing of services and staff, the tick-box culture for service delivery, targets monitored and set by computer, management by email, key performance indicators – KPIs – ratcheting up productivity, “hubs” of remaining rumps of tiny supposed strategic workers will be today’s fad and model for the future.
This will be reflected in fragmentation of services, and place delivery with myriad competing providers. Myriad that is, until as with the privatised utilities, private monopolies gain control.
An estimated 365,000 jobs are forecast to be lost as part of cuts in public sector funding and the removal of services due to Total Place rationalisation. These changes will impact in many ways. Services used by the public will be available, funded out of the public purse, but controlled and driven for profit by private companies, in most cases multinationals. Gone will be democratic accountability. Local services for localities and local people will cease.
Corruption and the Rotten Boroughs will rise and the cycle will have come full circle: services vital for civil society which are too important to be left in the maw of politicians and civil servants will have to be brought back under control of British workers.