Local services open to private bids

Its power to the people, as the Government announced the biggest overhaul of state-provided services for half a century. Prime Minister David Cameron announced that voluntary and community organisations will be able to bid to run services that are currently run by the state, including education, health service functions and some Local Authority activities.

The plans will be published in a Government White Paper in February. Mr Cameron cited the experience of his own disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009, saying that one of the things he could not understand why the Local Authority had control of the purse-strings for his care and that people would be given more power over those purse-strings. He was keen to stress that Government at both central and local level would continue to play a key role in ensuring value for money for public services.

One small but important piece of legislation will make this important change. Currently, a separate piece of legislation has to be passed every time a particular service is contracted out to private sector, voluntary and community organisations.

The plans are all part of ‘The Big Society’, a flagship of Conservative policy of the foreseeable future. The new service providers will be paid by results, which should help to ensure that the general public can clearly see where the money is being spent, by whom, and how they directly benefit.

The services are expected to be provided by organisations and individuals that know their area best, the ‘localism’ that the Conservatives have been so keen to support. There will, of course, be exceptions, like security services and the courts, however, the general presumption now will be that the state will need to justify itself rather than the bidders have to do so.