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Union: public service and profits don't mix

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 19, 2012

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Trade unions are calling for an end to outsourcing the Westcountry's public sector services to private firms.

The TUC claims the tide is turning against the practice in the light of recent controversies such as those surrounding firms which deliver health care.

Nigel Costley, South West TUC regional secretary, said people were fed up with the services being taken out of the hands of local authorities and the NHS. He said private firms were about delivering profits to shareholders and that didn't sit well with providing public services.

"Wherever humans work, they have the capacity to mess up, but a company with shareholder profit as its prime motive will inevitably cut corners to boost returns," he said. "Value for money will take second place to big salaries for those at the top and squeezed wages for the rest – and at what cost to those who actually use the public services?"

The TUC has staged a seminar bringing together academics, trade unionists, researchers and practitioners to discuss how alternatives might form part of a progressive political agenda.

The South West branch highlighted particular concerns over health in Cornwall where the out-of-hours GP service is run by the multinational firm Serco.

Mr Costley told the seminar that earlier this year the service was at the centre of an independent investigation in the light of a scathing inspection report. The report found no evidence that the out-of-hours GP provision was unsafe but said improvements were required.

Mr Costley said people wanted such services to be run by the NHS, but things were changing and voices were being heard.

In Cornwall last month, the Conservative leader of the council was ditched after championing an unpopular shared business venture to outsource services.

Mr Costley said: "These decisions show the level of public disquiet at the outsourcing of public services. Councils reflect the views that voters are nervous about losing control of vital public services and that promises made to win contracts may not be delivered."

Bridget Sampson, director of primary care at NHS Cornwall, the primary care trust which awarded the out-of-hours GP service contract to Serco, said it worked well.

"The contract with Serco provides a value for money, high quality service for patients with equitable access to GP appointments out of hours," she said.

"We undertook a full procurement process as required by NHS regulations and Serco were successful in winning the contract.

"The service scores very highly in local patient satisfaction surveys and meets the required national standards."

Cornwall Council said it worked with a range of partners including the private sector, the voluntary sector, public bodies and joint venture organisations to provide the most effective and efficient use of public funds.

A spokeswoman said: "In all cases, the council retains the responsibility to specify what service is required and to monitor the performance of the service to the public. Each service and procurement opportunity is different, however, in many cases the savings amount to millions of pounds."

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  • ackedoff  |  November 21 2012, 6:45PM

    Oh dear personal insults again trev? Just take note of the review numbers for your posts.......not exactly endearing your self to readers are you? I've said it before and I'll say it again, its not always the issues you comment on that irks me but your constant generalising about local government and its employees Get out of your arm chair and go visit a local cc workplace, see if you can spot loads of staff with their feet up, have a look and see if you can spot inefficient practices....... By the way do you shout at kids when their ball lands in your garden??

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  • shagrats  |  November 21 2012, 6:14PM

    "for the benefit of ackedoff and several other cerebrally challenged readers" Nothing like playing to the crowd is there Trev. What a DK you are. Anyway I would like to take your doom gloom hypothesis and expand on it a bit more. If you do not sell cornwall down the river and place its services in the hands of private companies, or should i say BT 1) There will be a huge plague that will turn everyone into the undead and the only way of getting your bins emptied will be to put some fresh brains in it. 2) The tetonic plates that run up the mid atlantic will shift and Cornwall will be submerged under water for eternity So there we have it, if you dont let BT run riot with our public services you only have yourselves to blame. Its Zombies or complete destruction, you choose !

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 21 2012, 2:01PM

    for the benefit of ackedoff and several other cerebrally challenged readers.. ...imagine we stay with services run in house as per today ....two or three years down the line cuts are still coming ....the council have already cut everything to a skeleton crew {sheding more jobs}.....the choices now faced are 1 cut ESSENTIAL services or 2 outsource the council tax dept and benefits dept to a council who did a joint venture with a BT type company. Obviously option 2 is what will happen. The up the line council that gets our taxes and our jobs will have protected thier staff and increased employment in thier area. Ackedoff and our councillors will blame central gov, bankers, big business in fact anyone but themselves for the loss of local jobs...but the result is the same Cornwall loses as it's tax reciepts go to a more forward thinking authority with the acu,men to seize an opportunity rather than wallow in doubt and ignorance

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  • fancyabrew  |  November 21 2012, 1:37PM

    Let's not forget the reason the out of hours service changed was that GP's contracts changed and they were then not obliged to run an out of hours service anymore. Lots weren't interested in running out of hours and opted out from doing so.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 21 2012, 1:16PM

    G'day Ackedoff are you going to actually engage with the issue at any point? I for one look forward to hearing the full majesty of what ''you reckon'

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  • JJLee  |  November 21 2012, 1:06PM

    Bit of shame the public disapprove of the services often held hostage by unions creating the need to use third party suppliers, so you only have yourselves to blame union freeloaders

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  • ackedoff  |  November 21 2012, 12:54PM

    H-treverrow, you realy cant manage to get off your soap box can you? Look at the reviews of your posts in this and other threads, you are clearly in a minority with alot of your views.....isnt that telling you something?

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 21 2012, 12:31PM

    Shagrats said '' .....doesn't work for complicated council services.'' Could you elaborate on what exactly is so complicated that a company like BT would find too difficult. Is there perhaps a black magic dept at county hall where a ju -ju man in sack cloth performs ancient secret ceremonies to facilitate the collection of councuil tax. Maybe our council is blessed with the power of voodoo enabling the benefit sytem to function, a power which would vanish in the ether if it were to be touched by an unbeleiver from the world of commerce. Shagrats what druidical special powers are invested in ye sacred and ancient council that would apparently not be transferrable. It 's jingoistic clap trap pard.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 21 2012, 12:10PM

    turn down the joint venture and a few years from now our council will be having to make a choice between vital welfare services or keeping an exspensive administration dept going when there is a private /council iniative from up the line willing to do the same job for less.

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  November 21 2012, 11:51AM

    Shagrats councils all over the country are looking to save money and are openly looking to share the costs of the services they provide. What is being proposed is that Cornwall uses it's expertise to fulfill this need. If we do not try to sell the services we already provide to other cash strapped councils there is a very real danger that we will be forced to employ another council , who have embraced a joint venture, to run our services for us. Resulting in jobs going out of the county. So if we can run a system for Cornwall then why not for Plymouth council and Exeter council,,,and why not for Torbay etc etc.

    |   -8