Neo-liberalism isn’t the default position

New Statesman on British workers fighting “austerity”, which in effect are the most vulnerable being shafted to pay for the mistakes of the 1%:

Last week, a group of public sector workers, supporters and others who’ve had enough of the neoliberal mantra that “public services improve if they’re run by the private sector” protested outside a Capita conference called “New Models of Service Delivery – Opening Up Local Government Services to New Providers”.

That was Capita – one of the country’s biggest outsourcing firms, playing host (at more than …£300 per head, behind closed doors) to senior council people who are in the process of deciding which private companies should win contracts to provide council services.

“There’s no transparency – these big outsourcing plans are being discussed behind the backs of the residents and staff who are most affected,” said Barnet Alliance For Public Services protestor Vicki Morris. “It’s wrong for the companies who will profit from outsourcing to have privileged access to those making outsourcing decisions.” Morris’s group is fighting a Barnet council plan (called One Barnet) to mass-outsource council services. Capita is bidding for a …£750m contract to provide services like finance and revenues and benefits as part of One Barnet.

There’s every reason to suppose that Capita will get that contract. If there’s a manual on snorkelling cash out of the public sector, Capita wrote it – every page. Last year, Capita’s profits increased by 12 per cent to …£364.2m, with dividends up by 19 per cent (you can read the rest… here… if you can stand it).

No matter that the questionable achievements of some of the outsourcing giants have frightened a few councils off. More ought to be terrified. Sefton council recently… decided… to terminate a …£65m contract with Capita Symonds (a division of the Capita Group), because it failed (spectacularly) to deliver expected savings. Mouchel, another of the UK’s biggest outsourcing companies, is in a tight spot. In October, chief executive Richard Cuthbert resigned when a …£4.3m hole was… found… in the company’s accounts. Mouchelreportedly… has a net debt of …£879m. The… European Services Strategy Unit… has an excellent document cataloguing some of Capita, Mouchel and BT’s larger contracts and failures, as does almost every edition of… Private Eye.

Still, the goldrush goes on. The public services industry is not just big business – it is and has been colossal business. Figures vary, but… Unisonreports estimated a worth of …£79bn in 2008 with growth expected to put that figure near …£100bn round about now. Wherever the total settles in so-called austerity, you can rest assured that the likes of Capita will fling themselves at it.