A huge debate is taking place at present about which are the best models available to divest public services through. I have got to say I remain to be convinced. Whatever service options local authorities decide to pursue in future the benchmark against which to appraise the options is the existing in-house service. Does any alternative form of provision meet or surpass the benefits that managing services directly yourself brings.
These benefits are:
Firstly, high quality, value for money, service provision.
Secondly, the retention of public resources within the local economy and the avoidance of leakage from the local area. This point was covered extensively in our Economic Footprint research in Swindon that showed for every £1 spent by the council on services £1.64 circulated in the local economy.
Thirdly, the ability to act as a market regulator to ensure the Council achieves a fair price over the long term.
Fourthly, being an employment standard setter in promoting fair employment practice, skills training and apprenticeships.
Fifthly, joining up wider public policy and council corporate objectives by integrating this into and across service delivery, an example of this being responding to climate change.
Sixthly, the contribution made to financing and supporting the democratic and corporate core of the council.
Seventhly, the flexibility to change priorities and reduce budgets without having to revert to a contract.
Eighthly, being responsive in a crisis such as the recent riots, the vast majority of councils street cleansing teams had already returned the streets to normal by the time the public had arrived the following morning.
Ninthly and finally, being democratically accountable to elected members and being focused on the community because the workforce from top to bottom are predominately from the community.
In my view this list is non-exhaustive but is an important contribution to the debate on future service delivery models and is one that cannot be ignored. A number of elected members have remarked to me in the past that you often don’t realise the value of what you had, until it’s gone.