Instability in employment with a cycle of different forms of privatisation some inevitably doomed to failure. When enterprises fail they are brought back into the Council and a new idiotic privatisation idea is proposed so the cycle begins again. Many will remember Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) which was discriminatory or the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO’s) which cost so much it could not be afforded. Also the exposé’s on television showing driving down of standards in home care and residential homes. The outrageous pressures put on the care workers to provide care with inadequate time or resources.   

You may wonder why so many of these efforts fail when private industry is supposed to be more efficient. Firstly there is a lack of quality management within the Council caused by: -

An element of cronyism distorts the training promotion and selection process reducing the quality of candidates. Some obviously under qualified and useless individuals favoured by certain managers are chosen for training that supports the promotion process. Employees now take a cynical and jaundiced view of the fairness and transparency of promotion particularly when they never get an Individual Performance Appraisal and Development (IPAD) interviews. Particularly useless individuals who would not pass the selection procedure have been promoted temporarily and left in position for a year so they can claim the post substantively. Further rounds of promotion therefore can include an already incompetent selection and these are the people who work with the so called privatisation consultants. Years of abuse of the promotion procedures culminated in the Middle Management Review (MMR) promoted more mediocre under qualified staff to new levels of incompetence.

Secondly the 1950’s Civil Service idea that you can manage departments even if you have no understanding of the process (an amateur approach). Managers are reluctant to admit their ignorance of the processes within their departments so never learn. We now even have Directors who are not properly qualified for their specialism in the post. It is hardly surprising then that so many disciplinary cases or projects fail because they don’t adhere to Council policy or the law.

Thirdly there is a perceived lack of commitment to the privatisation outcome by the “consultants” so incorrect information provided by Council management is not properly checked. Over optimistic conclusions on the financial outcomes encourage the Council to proceed with the privatisation. Either no claw back facility exists in the contract with the Consultancy or these are not enforced. No one loses therefore except the staff moved to the new organisation and the taxpayer.  Some companies see the Council as a cash cow so reduce standards in the light of lack of challenge from inadequate Council managers.  When the quality and financial outcomes fall low enough the service can be brought back into the Council and the cycle begins again. Managers spend an inordinate amount of time on privatisations instead of running their departments more efficiently. Why bother to keep costs down when it’s only going to be privatised anyway and it makes a better case for privatisation?

The latest of these privatisation monstrosities called Social Enterprises give the impression that they are workers cooperatives. We believe incompetent senior and middle management will be cut and pasted onto these bodies and the workforce will have no option to prevent this.  This appears to be a job creation scheme for the failed managers who otherwise would not get within a mile of an executive job. Again senior management appear to have not done their homework and can’t answer simple questions about how the finances or operation of these bodies is to be organised (thus confirming our opinion of them).

Privatisation does not work as shown by increased rail fares, gas or electricity prices. Only Council’s are helping to keep inflation under control. Not by increasing the rates or better management of resources but by cutting the standard of living for lower and middle income employees. The impact will be also felt by excessive workloads and increasing stress on workers.

We don’t need further privatisations but ethical, competent, qualified and committed managers who tell us the truth rather than dissemble. We don’t need managers who are good at massaging performance indicators and who refuse to be accountable to the staff and unions. We don’t need managers who try to argue that schools were semi autonomous but when challenged over asbestos issues by the HSE then cave in and admit responsibility. Strangely the Council having pacified the HSE are back to arguing that schools are semi autonomous. This has not stopped the Council from attempting to interfere in the terms and conditions of our members working in schools. Worse they allowed an Academies Representative to attend a meeting where Council terms and conditions were being discussed.

We all know what it means when you call privatisation a modernisation or a reform when it patently is neither. Not greater efficiency and a better deal for the taxpayer but a transfer of cash and resources from the public to private individuals. Companies examine poorly written contracts for what loopholes they can exploit on previously “free” services and charge more. While staff gets hammered on pay, pensions and conditions company directors are awarding themselves large pay rises and bonuses. To extract even more money companies will bear down on staff conditions and the quality of the services they offer. Greater efficiency or value for money is a distant prospect especially when incompetent managers also transfer.  

Let us challenge these privatisations with greater vigour and commitment and seek a root and branch reform of management.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00

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