By Ellen Lees
This article was originally published on Green World on 23 March 2022. It is the third in a series of blogs exploring how Greens in local government and communities can work closely with trade unions.
You might not notice a lot of the services your local council provides. But you’d notice if they stopped! Local councils’ services keep our communities running.
Following successive brutal budget cuts, local councils are desperate to cut costs in any way. And due to the ideology of privatisation dominating public services since the 80s, services are now often outsourced to private companies in an attempt to save money.
But these companies are selling a lie: that they can provide the same quality service as the council for a lower cost. The truth is that they waste money, quality drops, and the council loses all control and accountability over how the work is done. It’s a bad deal for councils and it’s a bad deal for all of us.
Here are five reasons to end local outsourcing:
1. We’d save money
Outsourcing services is a waste of money. First, every private company has a cost attached that local councils don’t have. Private companies have to make a profit to appease their shareholders. That means cutting corners and shaving off the council’s money for service delivery.
Secondly, the cost of managing the contracts adds precious pounds to the council’s cost because whenever these contracts need to be changed, local councils have to shell out money to renegotiate and redraft.
2. We’d be more resilient
Public services are essential – a lot of the time, they can’t afford to fail. So when a private company fails while delivering a public service, local councils have no choice but to step in and pick up the pieces. That’s what happened when Carillion collapsed in 2018 – the directors and shareholders made a profit and walked away, leaving local and national government to sort out the mess.
3. We’d get better terms and conditions
One of the ways that outsourcing companies can save money compared to insourced services is by undermining workers. All workers deserve decent pay and conditions, but public service staff often do vital but thankless work for wages that are too low and in difficult situations. Local authorities are held to higher standards than private companies when it comes to treating their workers fairly, so by bringing services in house, workers get a better deal.
4. We can keep funds in the local economy
By bringing council services in house, we can keep wealth in the community instead of funnelling it out via shareholders of multinational private corporations. That means more money circulating in the local economy.
5. We can hold our service providers accountable
People don’t trust outsourcing companies like G4S, Capita and Serco – and it’s no wonder! They’ve been caught up in scandal after scandal thanks to their dodgy business practices and corner-cutting. By bringing our services in house, we no longer have to rely on these companies and we will have democratic means of holding our service providers accountable.
Outsourcing has been failing for decades. It’s time we took control of the services that keep our communities running.