“Privatisation and outsourcing are a constant threat to public services and the people who provide them,” said Paul Gilroy of the national executive, introducing a substantial composite motion on outsourcing and privatisation.
Privatisation has meant that “people have to choose between feeding themselves and heating themselves”.
The planned privatisation of Royal Mail is simply “a fire sale” to plug the gap in chancellor George Osborne’s failed economic policies.
And he observed that there is no evidence that mutualisation won’t result in the same problems that we have seen caused by privatisation and outsourcing.
Diane Kelly of the North West said that there were three questions about public services: “Who gets it? Who pays for it? Who provides it?”
And she went on to state that historically, in Europe, the answers have been those who need it, those who can afford it – “through fair taxation” – and the state.
“It is wholly unacceptable for the state to abdicate its responsibility” and hand it back to the people through such ideas as the big society, she explained.
Paula Barker of Halton local government said that although the union had to continue to stress the importance of in-house services, “we must also seek to influence procurement decisions.”
She called on the union’s Labour Link to work with the Labour Party on the issue, including ensuring that any procurement process includes an in-house option.
Tony Phillips of the London fire and emergency planning authority said that “outsourcing is spreading across the country”.
He told delegates that firefighting equipment in London had been privatised – to a company that then went bust, leaving the possibility of firefighting equipment being impounded by the administrator.
A delegate from the North West ambulance service said that the service had “lost a contract – a contract! These are patients! – to a bus company, Arriva! Mr Cameron,” he added, “stop meddling with stuff you know nothing about!”
Nigel Jefferies from South West police and justice branch, a probation service employee, said that the government was “hellbent” on privatising it.
He went on to say that there was a “moral argument” against privatisation. “It’s just plain wrong for any company to profit from the judicial system.”
These companies “are not accountable to the public when things go wrong. You just get: ‘Sorry’ and they blame it on the poorly-paid workers.”
Conference backed a raft of measures. These included calling on the NEC to:
- continue to promote the value of public services as the best vehicle for service provision and as the best value for money for the public purse;
- encourage and support a forceful interpretation of the Social Value Act;
- continue to resist all attempts to outsource and privatise public services.