A fairly bizarre call from the Chair of CBI Scotland over the weekend to end the ‘war of words’ over public services. At the CBI Scotland annual dinner Linda Urquhart declared it was time to “call a halt to ‘them and us’ attitudes which have prevailed for decades”.
This would be really welcome if she meant it. However, it is hard to take such calls seriously when the rest of her speech was an unrestrained attack on public service delivery. Councils shouldn't deliver services, Scottish Water should be privatised and more of the usual self serving cant, drumming up business for her members.
The current financial crisis was caused by private corporate folly and the deregulated financial system that the CBI supported. It is public service workers and the communities they serve that are paying the price of the policy promoted by big business. To impose this failed policy on public services would be further economic vandalism.
The CBI leaders speech also called for further privatisation of public services. Evidence submitted by UNISON Scotland to Parliament last week (see blog below) shows that this approach has cost the taxpayer millions of pounds in extra costs and undermined the integrated delivery of services.
In a week that has seen the collapse of a leading outsourcing company (Connaught), it is a strange time to call for the imposition of further chaos on hard pressed councils. One Council that is buying the CBI hard sell is Edinburgh City. This is the council that made a complete mess of a recent social care tender. In their latest tender evaluation they gave Connaught a clean bill of health financially!
Public services should be democratically accountable to local communities, not to the Boards of big business who are driven solely by the need to make profits. Profit is of course part of what makes the corporate sector tick. But the public realm is different, driven by a public service ethos that the CBI just doesn't understand.