The proper role of private enterprise in the delivery of public services is to improve the services.
Private enterprise is dependent on the existence of competition, risk and reward to function properly.
No public service should be controlled and managed by private enterprise unless competition, risk and reward are present. All private enterprise involvement in public services must remain democratically accountable.
Recent examples of the privatisation of schools (“Academies”), out of hours health services, and employment counselling and training, have all demonstrated a lack of due care and diligence on behalf of the public contracting authorities. Responsibility for oversight has been relinquished and democratic accountability has been abrogated.
Communities should be free to engage with the private sector for public service delivery, and their direct accountability to the local population should correct the derelictions of duty that centralised government has demonstrated. Guidelines that establish the necessity of competition, risk and reward in order to achieve success, and which warn against the tendency toward CATNAP (“Cheapest Available Technology, Narrowly Avoiding Prosecution”) that private enterprises exhibit, will serve to inform and direct the involvement of private enterprise in public service provision for the betterment of all.
Regulated Public Utilities
Where a service does not reasonably have competition (e.g. water supplies and many other “utility” supplies) then the involvement of an enterprise must be prescribed, and the performance of the organisation measured by its satisfaction of public objectives, and reviewed for public interest.
Such an enterprise cannot be a private, for-profit organisation because it has no competition, there is no market and market pricing mechanisms cannot operate.
These organisations may be privately owned for various reasons, such as the attraction of private capital or the leverage of skills and experience. However they do not and cannot be allowed or expected to operate as free-market enterprises. They must be explicitly designated as regulated organisations and subjected to democratic accountability.
All businesses designated as Regulated Public Utilities will be subject to:
- Democratic oversight, include prescriptions on retained profits and executive compensation
- Content and pricing for services included in WellFair
- Free customer service access
Electricity & Water
Suppliers of electricity and water throughout the UK will be reviewed to determine if they should be designated as regulated public utilities. Where they are increasing prices while sending profits abroad and missing their carbon targets they will be strong candidates for designation. For instance, as is the case with Scottish Power.
In any event, LIFE will apply the regulated public utility designation to Royal Mail and the Post Office network.
Public Service Contractors
Any service contracted out to a privately owned entity must be subject to democratic oversight. The contract must be subject to public review, and the performance standards published along with audit results.
A requirement to provide training and apprenticeships needs to be built into all pubic service contracts, especially highly sensitive ones like nuclear weapons maintenance.