Compulsory Competitive Tendering AKA to the Tories as Council & Community Termination By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The Tories branded Compulsory Competitive Tendering as efficiency, quality implementation and provided value for money to the local tax payer.

It proved to be the dismantling of the democratic relationship between the citizen, elected members and service provision, which is at the heart of local authority provision.

The Local Government Planning and Land Act of 1980 introduced a block grant and compulsory competitive tendering (CCT). A block grant is the bulk of funding that a local authority gets from Whitehall each year, local authorities can spend it as they see fit to do so, but the amount is determined by central government. Ring fenced grants are also given by central government, but are solely for a specific purpose and the local authority cannot spend as they please.

Savings through CCT would result in savings and less to pay out from a central government viewpoint.

Thatcher’s crusade against Labour councils had begun and the implications certainly made their impact until Labour came into power and changed CCT to Best Value(Local Government Act 1999). Best Value gave far greater consideration to service users and local authorities.

At the time the U.K was the only place in Europe where an act of Parliament dictated that local councils must tender out their services to the cheapest bidder; the Tory governments turned our local authorities into nothing but auction houses.

During the years of CCT local government was only a local authority in name, the services and maintenance that is rightfully meant to be supplied by the people for the people had been sourced out to the cheapest bidder and in many cases the councils had to accept the cheapest bid.

CCT value was only assessed by the cheapest tender and CCT did not consider the employment agenda, the process of the tender submission stage characterises CCT in a nutshell. It is very fair to say that the Tory ethos was to ensure that private industry increased their ability to pay more corporation tax to the government whilst making the corporations bigger players in society.

What employment rights were in place one may ask, they were not expected to be in the submitted tender and more so where was the union in all of this?

The answer is nowhere in sight, because many who worked on tenders were not part of a union, and by working for the private sector they were cultured to participate in the mindset of the cheapest size fits all and profits before people.

The Tories knew fine well that council employees who were blue and white-collar workers were both part of the union movement, and by implementing the CCT strategy it eliminated council worker participation and they were replaced by the ‘profits before people’ ethos. CCT has affected all services across the board from parking to parks, from housing management and home to school transport.

How could the presence of the union, employment rights, legislation and fair opportunity for those in local government service be secured when the services themselves had been tendered out under the legislation of the Local Government Acts of 1988 & 1992?

As for social requirements being incorporated into the tender this is allowed in European nations but in the U.K it was outlawed. Citizens of democracy were being treated as consumers and the elected members of the council were simply ‘just there’ for the sake of being there and are not being active participants in the say of the private company’s way of working and service provision.

The key issue is the elimination or severe reduction in democratic control over service provision. Public service safeguarding was completely ignored, and business objectives were put in place. Service provision at the cost of democratic provision is a total capitalistic hostile takeover directed by the Tory machine that will not stop until it is satisfied that society has no or very little say in the process of service provision!  

The nature of CCT took a lot of power away from elected members and officers of the local authority seemed to be the negotiators and acted as the officialdom that the tenders went through.

Traditionally officers have advised members but CCT took the power away from members making officers more involved with the private contractor?

Is this the Tories idea of greater democratic provision? Social and political objectives were outlawed from the tendering process, surely this eliminates the elected member from the electorate, is this the Tory’s idea of greater democratic participation?  

We will obtain better value for money and higher quality services” (Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for Environment, January 1992).

This statement turned out to be the Cri de Coeur for anyone who believed in local democracy.  

At what cost is there better value for money, direct employees of the council having no employment and facing redundancy!

Direct Service Organisation employees are employed directly, and they cannot be replaced for a cheaper alternative by the local authority.

Private firms know this very well and can easily employ people on low wage, temporary and agency contracts to get the job done as soon as possible. Just how can a local authority compete one may ask the obvious question?

With the exploitation we see today of European workers and others we all know how much employment agencies have managed to get away with!

Making the poor poorer – Is this not a traditional Tory policy?

For many council staff that couldn’t remain employed by the local authority they found themselves being employed by the private contractor. Their wages went down, their hours reduced, their holidays were impacted, and sick pay was non-existent. The nature of the competitive tender resulted in health & safety practices being exploited to cut corners and make savings.

A survey instructed by the Department of Environment discovered that, in those services that fell victim to CCT one in eight jobs had been lost. A further examination of 20 local authorities revealed that CCT caused more than 10,000 part-time jobs to be lost in the lower paid sectors of building and cleaning.

Evidence that the poor and working classes were the victims of the Tory policies that hit that most financially vulnerable in society.

The main objective of the Tories was to increase taxation revenue and take away the powers from the unions and the Labour party controlled authorities. Once again, the working classes in the north of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland were badly affected.

Unions were seriously affected, bargaining power was taken away from them, reduced membership and less consultation over management policies and decisions. It really was a major clean up operation for the ‘fat cat’ Tory thus ensuring a comfortable income for the Treasury, company shareholders and the losers, as usual, were the working classes.

What did Heseltine care for the working classes when he made his 1992 statement, he was in the full swing of his political domain and with the income that comes with it. All he had to do was play the Tory tune at every opportunity he could to make enterprise the way forward and local democratic participation a thing of the past and an outdated concept.

Nationally and locally agreed pay structures were ignored and the position of the local authority as a major local employer was clearly undermined or diminished in many cases. Did the Tories consider the fact that people like cleaners and maintenance workers were having to claim for in work benefits and housing benefits to make ends meet due to the treatment they were getting by the private contractor?

In addition to this the job losses that the local authority had to endure were immense and many in ‘secure long term’ employment found themselves with no work at all.

Did the Tories care? No, they did not!

That was not their concern, when was the last time the Tories cared for anyone apart from themselves or their associates and friends in industry.

Remember profits before people and power over society is the main concern and policy of the Tories and their ilk.  

One would believe that the Tories would have least protected themselves and their friends in industry. By the early ’90s The Public Service Privatisation Research Unit discovered that the failure rate of private companies was 4.5 times higher than that of the work carried out by the local authorities.

Complaints relating to the standard of cleaning to the maintenance work carried out in schools was in high occurrence. Work was not completed on time, in many cases incomplete and overall very poor standard.

In 1997 Hilary Armstrong, the then Local Government Minister, changed the agenda of CCT to prioritising Best Value and making consultative changes. CCT was replaced by Best Value in 2000, the TUC welcomed the proposals by the then Labour government and added that pay and working conditions were of paramount importance.

At the time Jon Monks, the TUC General Secretary said, “This is a clear recognition that CCT has failed. Its market-driven approach has failed to deliver improvements in service quality and has driven down pay and conditions for public sector workers.”

The Tory divisions of class and social segregation spared nobody as it usually does. The first wave of victims were blue collar workers and in 1993 white collar workers were targeted.

As usual all services were subjected to phased changes causing uncertainty and insecurity spreading throughout the workplace; fear was the best instrument to select for the Tories as a resource to subdue and control the working classes.  

In 2016 the state owned Calmac ferries won the contract over Serco to run the ferry service in Scotland. The employee centric focus and modern technology commitment was a major factor in winning the bid. An area of attraction was a commitment to maintaining the living wage and boosting local employment including apprenticeships, in addition to this their bid involved communities in the decision-making process.

This clearly has the hallmarks of the Labour changes that were made in 1997 and best value characteristics are evident.

The Scottish Conservative response to this successful bid was in defence of private companies – (Quote from BBC news coverage) The Scottish Conservatives said the tender process had been designed to deter private companies from bidding and winning, and that a number of questions remained to be answered as to why Serco’s bid was ruled out as being non-compliant.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36330479

CCT and other Tory policies were selfishly thought out by Thatcher, she firstly prepared the police to be on side to deal with the miners and any form of protest.

They carried out her physical and brute force agenda, whilst appeasement to the corporations extracted out whatever willpower and strong blood was left in the veins of society and its representatives through taking power from the local authorities.

The very nature of using corporate enforcement and breaking the relationship that the electorate has with elected members in relation to local service provision will always be at the centre of serious controversy.

Greed has no limit and does not know when to stop. However, a mind that is cautious of the implications of greed and puts society first will prevail; that mind belongs to the electorate and they must choose wisely to deal with the crusade that has taken from the poor and allowed the rich to exploit at will.  

Sources: BBC, Unison, EURWORK & The Insecure Workforce (Walsh & Davis report 1993).

Carillion: Public Risk, Private Profit By Kelly Grehan

So Carillion has gone into liquidation, plunging the lives of the 20,000 people working for them in the UK and those reliant on the public services they are paid by the coffers supplied by taxpayers to provide, into uncertainty.

Carillion is one of largest providers of NHS facilities management, covering:

200 operating theatres;

-300 critical-care beds and

-11,500 in-patient beds.

It also has contracts to maintain:

-50,000 armed forces’ houses;

– £680m contract to provide 130 new buildings in Aldershot and Salisbury plain for troops returning from Germany;

– It provides cleaning and school meals for 875 schools and

– Maintains 50% of prisons.

When governments began outsourcing the work for public services we were told it was a means  of transferring the risks arising from major projects to the private sector.

Of course this has proven to be categorically untrue.  

Outsourcing and privatisation doesn’t transfer risk to a company. Instead, it transfers any profits or savings made (coming from general taxation)  to shareholders and leaves taxpayers exposed and vulnerable towards all the risks and failures; because if they fail the government bails them out.

Privatisation simply means no accountability for public money

For over a year now, Carillion has been in meltdown. Its shares have dropped 90% and it issued profit warnings, and went through three chief executive within six months  Yet they continued to be awarded government contracts including the £1.4 billion HS2 contact.

Could the reason Carillion have continued to be given government contracts have anything to do with their Chairman, Phillip Green being a Tory Party donor?

Of course, while Carillion workers are likely to face a difficult time with regards to their future, no such worries exist for those who headed up the company.

Carillion’s pay policy wording was changed to make it harder for investors to claw back bonuses in the event of ‘corporate failure.’

Chief operating officer Richard Howson has made £1.9m in cash and share bonuses during his tenure while ex-finance chief Richard Adam has received £2.6m.

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has already said contracts run by Carillion should be bought back ‘in-house.’

Rehana Azam, the National Secretary of the GMB Union, said: “The fact such a massive government contractor like Carillion has been allowed to go into administration shows the complete failure of a system that has put our public services in the grip of shady profit-making contractors.’

So what will happen next? Is this the beginning of the end of the privatisation of public services?

We are told that MPs will be holding an enquiry into outsourcing Public Sector jobs in the wake of the Carillion collapse.

Jeremy Corbyn echoes once again what most of us are thinking and hoping for. He has said that this ” Is a watershed moment for PFI contracts”.

One can hope.

What they will ‘find’ and act upon remains to be seen and many will feel that this is just the current government making another empty promise in a long and sorry saga of public services outsourced for private profit.

I Am A Mental Health Worker And This Is A Letter To My Patients That I’ll Never Send By The Masked Avenger

Author Anoynmous

Dear Service User,

I am sorry I cannot offer more.

I am sorry I couldn’t call you back yesterday when you needed me and I am sorry I am not able to do more to help you.

I have worked in mental health for 10+ years and whilst I love my job it never gets any easier. 

I have books on my shelves and articles in files on the latest evidence based practice. I have ideas in my head for sessions we can do together and the passion to sit with you whilst we figure all this out. 

However, first you need to get to me and I need the time to deliver it all.

Referrals into mental health services are on the increase, this could be due to the ever growing pressures in society on everyone; from children to the elderly or the successful drive to normalize and promote mental health like never before, ripping down barriers and shouting from the roof tops that it is ok to not be ok.

So you gather the courage to call someone (which I know is so hard to do) and get help…

Unfortunately our pie is not getting any bigger, there is no more ‘money tree’ and we cannot afford anymore resources. So whilst we are able to see you, accessing treatment is entirely different. 
In the service I work in there are 30 practitioners for nearly 400 people on the waiting lists. No matter how you do the maths it is never going to fit. We try and change the service, we make it more lean, we shave things down to try and get everyone in but it is impossible. We have ideas of more we can offer but no money to fund it and no bodies to deliver it.

I want to see you straight away but there are hundreds of other people ahead of you.

I want to take it at your pace and see you for as long as it takes but I only have 8 sessions otherwise other people will have to wait longer. 

I want to be there to answer the phone straight away when you need me but I already have 6 other back to back appointments, before racing to collect my children from school. 

I constantly squeeze every drop of time to fit in more people but inevitably it all runs out as I cannot make 24 hours into 25. 

I want to offer you the therapy you need but no service, that I know of, is commissioned to offer it, which just really sucks.

I don’t know what the solution is but I want you to know that I am sorry because I feel just as frustrated as you. 

I know my boss, their boss and the bosses’ boss also constantly look for answers, but with an ever growing population and more needs becoming prevalent it is very hard. 

It’s not just us either; before, we could have referred you to other 3rd sector organisations which could have helped but they are just as squeezed as us and having to make equally hard and heartbreaking decisions. 

So please don’t be offended when we talk about self help materials or equipping you with the tools to help yourself, it is the only weapon I have at the moment to help you long after I have to reluctantly discharge and move on to the next case. 

Please don’t think I don’t care if my next visit isn’t for another 6 weeks, I hate this just as much as you do. I need you to understand that my intervention isn’t limited through choice , so all we can do in the short time we have is to teach you the skills I have to help yourself.

I need you to not miss any appointments as they count in my limited time and I need you to work with me as much as you can so that I can give you all I have. 

One day maybe we will have enough resources, but for now all I have is I am sorry!! 

We all deserve more than this, no one more than you. 
Please hang on in there, believe in yourself, take any support you can find and know that your wait isn’t because we don’t care, our pie just simply isn’t big enough.

From Your Practitioner. 

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No-one Today Should Be Caring Alone By Miriam Gwynne

By Miriam Gwynne


Middle aged man, commuting by train
Thoughts turn to his sister he left crying in pain
He’s off to a meeting, while she struggles at home
Both of them left to face it alone

Teenage mum struggling, pushing a chair
The child is yelling, people just stare
She is begging for help as she picks up the phone
She cares for her child, but does it alone

The couple at the cafe, sharing their tea
One of them lost yet no-one can see
He lives in the past, a mind not his own
Forgetting her name, they both grieve alone

The parents of a child, who may never walk
They sing to a baby who still can not talk
Kissing a hand, though it’s all skin and bone
Everyday precious, weeping alone

Little eight year old, should be out to play
Instead she is feeding her dad everyday
Doing his care as the nurses have shown
With no one to tell her she isn’t alone

The next door neighbour, bringing some meals
Staying and listening to ask how she feels
Filling out forms while letting her moan
Determined his friend should not feel alone

The father sitting at the hospital bed
Digesting the words that the doctor just said
A new diagnosis, his mind has been thrown
Needing support so he isn’t alone

So many people with stories to tell
Caring for others, and doing it well
Yet they all need support, to know they are not on their own
Because no-one today should be caring alone

The NHS Staff Are Heroes, So Why Do We Let The Government Treat Them So Badly? By Kelly Grehan

This article was originally written in the Summer by Kelly Grehan
  

Two weeks ago I had a mastectomy. I went into St Thomas Hospital where surgeons removed my (currently) healthy (and frankly beautiful) breasts and reconstructed new ones using tissue from my stomach in what is known as diep flap reconstruction.

 

The reason I chose to do this is I have a defective brca 1 gene. This gene is usually a tumour suppressor, but it’s faulty status in my body gives me an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

 

Since I told people about my decision to proceed with the operation, thus reducing my cancer chances I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’ve made a brave or heroic decision. Of course, that is not true, I was in the fortunate position to be able to take control of my own health and future. There is a hero in my story of course, in fact there are several: the NHS and their staff.

 

How could I have taken a decision like this without the NHS? From the moment I saw a genetic counsellor at Guy’s Hospital who talked me through the decision to take the diagnostic test to the nurses I saw at the Wound Clinic today I have been treated as an individual with individual needs and have been dealt with by highly trained individuals too numerous to mention, but that include surgeons from two highly trained teams (breast and plastics), anaesthetists, researchers, specialist nurses, physios and other great professionals like porters and health care assistants as well as volunteers supplying services such as the patient cinema at St Thomas’ and helping in the waiting room at clinics.

 

In all of this, despite the nature of the decision I made and the operation meaning I spent a lot of time undressed I never felt I was losing my dignity. I was helped to shower, comforted as I vomited, helped into bed and had my complicated wounds checked every single hour. The empathy of the nursing and other staff left me feeling good about myself.  

 

I also never had to make any decision in which cost had any bearing at all. Money was simply never mentioned at any stage. Compare this to the situation I could have faced were I an American citizen where my decisions would be governed by the level of insurance I had. Where I may be tied to my job because of the insurance package it gave were the procedure to go wrong at any point and revisions needed. Where I might find parts of my treatment were covered and others not and where the threat of reduction in Obama Care might have forced my to make decisions early.

 

Now ironically my hospital room overlooked the Houses of Parliament and I happened to be recovering when the Labour Party amendment to give public sector workers a modest pay increase was voted down by the tories to cheers and cackles. Austerity has left public sector staff getting progressively poorer year on year. At the same time the tories have continued to cut tax for top earners.  

 

The number of billionaires in the country has actually risen, this is in a context where the nursing bursary (a recognition of the work students nurses provide on wards up and down the country and the hours they study making it difficult for them to support themselves) has been scrapped. Rather than scrapping it there is a credible argument student nurses should be paid the minimum (sorry, living) wage for the hours they spend working for the NHS. Indeed I was cared for by several students nurses during my stay in hospital. Looking after sick people is no easy task and they all did brilliantly. It’s an absurd thought that they are reliant on loans and overdrafts to allow them to carry out this work and that after a 12 hours shift in the hospital some will have been off to other jobs just to pay their rent. The nursing courses are tough, and that is right as it is hard work, physically, emotionally and academically. Why on earth would we make it hard to survive financially too?

 

It’s not just student nurses hit by austerity. 17 nurses a day apply for payday loans and there has been a rise in nurses attending food banks. A 40,000 shortage in nurses is, maybe unsurprisingly, predicted,

 

Then there is the treatment of other hospital staff. For example last week porters, security staff and domestics at Barts Health NHS Trust who are actually employed by Serco (but paid for by taxpayers of course) decided on strike action. They are asking for a 30p per hour pay increase. Serco made profits of £82 million last year.  

 

This country is the 6th richest on earth. Why are we happy to treat our health care workers with such disdain? I owe the NHS staff a huge debt of gratitude, as do many others. I am ashamed that this country is not prepared to reward them with recent pay and conditions and I fear in the future many people, in my position will simple to enjoy the excellent treatment I did.  

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