New polling shows the public wants a say over outsourcing contracts

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20 November 2015


New polling reveals that 73% of the public want to be consulted before outsourcing while 67% think public service contracts and data should be publicly available. Three times as many think public ownership should be the default for delivering public services, rather than outsourcing.

The polling, carried out by Survation, is being released on the day of the annual National Outsourcing Association (NOA) awards dinner. We Own It is launching its new campaign, Our Services Our Say, asking councils around the country to commit to giving public service users a say over their own public services.

The polling reveals that nearly half of the public haven’t heard of Capita, who are nominated for 'Outsourcing Service Provider of the Year' award and describe themselves as ‘leaders’ in providing local government services. Meanwhile the research also revealed that Serco, nominated for the ‘Outsourcing Works - Award for Delivering Business Value’ award, is only completely trusted by 5% of the public to deliver services.

The Our Services Our Say campaign calls on councils to support principles of transparency, accountability and people before profit in public services, and do what they can to put these into practice in their local areas.  It builds on support for the Public Service Users Bill, supported by over 100 MPs from various parties in the last parliament. Our Services Our Say takes the campaign local and aims to gain support from councils around the country.

John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor, said:

Outsourcing and privatisation have gone much too far without giving the people affected any kind of say. ‘We Own It’ is calling for highly popular, common sense measures that would increase transparency and accountability and put people ahead of profit. The Public Service Users Bill is a great idea that councils around the country should start putting into practice.

Caroline Lucas MP said:

For the last three decades we’ve seen the scandal of more and more areas of public life being outsourced – a project which the Tories have accelerated. There are effective alternatives. When services are owned by the people who rely on them, there is more accountability, more democracy, and the knowledge that profits aren’t ending up in the pockets of big business. This research clearly shows that people want to be consulted when local services are outsourced. Local authorities should respond by doing what they can to be more transparent and accountable to the people who they represent.

The campaign follows a post-election surge in public sector outsourcing. The value of local government contracts keeps increasing, whilst contracts are getting substantially longer. Government outsourcing doubled in value under the coalition government.

Public service users, councillors, MPs and academics will join together to launch the campaign outside the NOA awards on Thursday. Guest speakers will include campaigners from Barnet and West Sussex who have direct experience of Capita's impact locally, and academic Colin Haslam, one of the authors of recently released book 'What a waste: Outsourcing and how it goes wrong'. (9)

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, said:

The rights and views of the public are completely ignored in current debate about outsourcing. Our polling consistently shows that the public want more transparency, they want to be able to recall bad providers, and they want people to come before profit.

The National Outsourcing Association awards demonstrate everything that’s wrong with the current approach to outsourcing. It’s not acceptable that companies like Capita and Serco keep failing to deliver and yet take part in awards to slap each other on the back.

We're offering councils a way to show they care about the people who use public services. At a time of budget cuts, councils can take this positive step by increasing transparency and accountability. They can save money in the long term by bringing services in-house. The Our Services Our Say campaign is about common sense principles that put the people who use and pay for public services first.

The research shows strong public support for the principles of the campaign. Full polling data is available on request.

  • Transparency: 67% think that public service contracts and performance data should be public – this currently isn’t the case for private companies on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’

  • Accountability: 73% of the public think they should be consulted before any outsourcing decisions

  • People before profit: 61% of the public think that local and central government should try to run services in house first – before outsourcing. That’s three times as many think that it should be outsourced or put out to a private tender first.

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