Privatisation still the threat but we are turning the tide, conference hears

The privatisation of public services remains one of the biggest threats to the members and services, but there are successes to be celebrated

Privatisation and the ‘scourge of outsourcing’ is still one of the biggest threats to members and services,UNISON’s local government conference heard this afternoon.

But a succession of speakers also provided hope by describing how the tide has been turned with services being taken back in-house across the country.

The union restated its opposition to our public services being driven by profit. Services get worse and services get fragmented, conference was told.

UNISON has had some success in fighting outsourcing and conference was told that, post-Brexit, the union will need to influence the procurement landscape.

Speaker after speaker said that we need to bring services back in house and that our members future depends on it.

Paul Couchman from Surrey described the debate as one of the most important at the conference.

“We need to join up the struggles,” he said. “Using the inspiring examples of Derby and Durham, the inspiring messages of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn and the mobilisation of the youth vote.”

“The tide is turning and outsourcing can be defeated.”

Delegates heard speaker after speaker tell their own tales of private companies putting profit before people.

But Helen O’Sullivan from Wales (above) reminded conference that it isn’t just Conservative councils pushing through the privatisation agenda: “Support Corbyn and remind our Labour councillors that what we need is nationalisation.”

Andrew Berry from Islington continued the theme detailing the services that the north London council had brought back in house including cleaning, waste and council house repairs.

“We still have lots to do,” he said, “and it didn’t just happen by accident. We stood up outside the town hall and demonstrated.

“Labour councils around the country don’t have to outsource. They don’t have to wait for a Labour government to act. They can do it now.”

One delegate who used to work for Capita said: “They skim the wages of the staff and they make £10m profit. If there is any chance of fighting Capita, take it.”

And David Higgins from Bournemouth said services had been brought back in house in the south coast council and that they had a lot of support from national office.

“Everything we said before outsourcing ended up being true,” he said.