Who actually benefits from the privatisation of public services?

SWU logo

SWU National Organiser Carol Reid comments on the continuing wave of privatisation and loss of public sector services

A recent announcement that the Department for Education (DfE) has awarded £7million to Frontline for the provision of “training and development for council children’s social work managers and leaders” emphasises the current government’s penchant for transferring public funds into the pockets of private sector associates. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) England has recently criticised the previous Frontline training scheme as not providing value for money and raised concerns about the inequality in government funding between routes that “ostensibly have the same aim…to educate the future workforce.”

These monopoly-money figures are a far cry from the realities of a cost of living crisis, and it’s hardly surprising if some of us become noseblind to the ongoing Tory shenanigans – not least following the handover of £650million worth of PPE contracts to ideologically-minded members of a WhatsApp Group – but just take a minute to think about this latest mega-bucks transaction.

The current government’s tabloid and TV propaganda increasingly reports of “failing local authorities” and “crumbling public sector services” by way of inserting a notion into our collective mindset – nowadays this is called “dog-whistling” I believe. Over time we assume that our “unworkable” public services must be in need of some kind of overhaul, or even be replaced by “another style” of service – slick, polished, streamlined, and privatised.

Over a decade ago we were patronisingly told to tighten our belts by Eton-educated millionaires as they imposed “The Cuts” upon an already struggling nation. This ideologically-driven Austerity was not about saving money and budgeting though; it was about shrinking public sector welfare services towards a point of non-existence – a notion inspired by the neo-liberal Thatcher and continued through to today’s pilferers-in-plain-sight. 

Think of the public sector services we’ve lost over the last several decades, the things we took for granted when growing up in almost every town or city in the UK – youth clubs, community centres, public libraries, galleries, museums, parks, probation services, regulated residential care, accessible dentists and healthcare, free education, transport, council housing offering long-term, well maintained, and affordable tenancies. All communities, but mainly working-class communities, have been deliberately and consistently robbed of these vital resources which support not only our health and wellbeing, but also nurture our knowledge and collectivism.

When we see privately run organisations like Frontline replacing our public services and receiving lottery-figure sums for the privilege, we should not dismiss it or roll our eyes. We should be angry. We should demand organisational transparency to see how they are linked to the current government, for it seems almost inevitable that they will be. We should keep in mind what our local authorities, youth services, health care, education, care-leavers, and housing could have done with money like that.