council services are better in house
However, many of these services are now outsourced to private companies, in expensive and underperforming contracts which leave councils with no bargaining power or flexibility.
Wtf is going on?
In the early 20th century local councils, or 'municipal corporations' as they were then, were responsible for all sorts of vital public services, and had the power to deliver them. After the second world war, councils gradually ceded power and funding to the central government. By the 70's, 60% of local government funding was decided by the central government. By the 2000s the proportion was 85%. Without the power to decide their budgets, councils began to outsource their services in an attempt to decrease their workload.
Council outsourcing, like much other privatisation in the UK, began in the 1980s under Thatcher. It started out as a Conservative ideology, but shifted into the mainstream in the early 2000s. Research in 2012 found that more than 1/3 of all council leaders from all parties believed that all council services could be outsourced to private contractors.
However the evidence all points to the conclusion that outsourcing is useless. It doesn’t save money, and in fact it is usually more expensive to outsource! Outsourced contracts are also highly likely to fail - be abandoned early, or run into serious problems that affect the delivery of services to our communities.
Between 2008 - 2013 councils were desperate to cut costs. Outsourced contrasts increased by 85% during this time. But over a quarter of them FAILED.
And we’ve noticed. According to our polling (Survation, Nov 2015) 73% of us think that we should be consulted before services are contracted out to private companies. The majority of the country want local councils to run services as a default, only switching to private if the council fails to run the a good quality service at a reasonable cost.
More damningly, we found that companies who take contracts from local councils are widely mistrusted by the public. Only 5% and 7% of people polled had a ‘high level of trust’ in the outsourcing companies Serco and Capita, respectively.
Luckily, insourced council services are working brilliantly. Take Sevenoaks, who insourced all of their local services and have balanced their budget even during austerity.
Read more about the case for local public ownership, and find more example of great local councils running fantastic public services in house.
Still don’t believe us? Check out our Local Public Ownership Awards:
The 2017 shortlist was full of innovative and quality local services from around the country. If you spot an excellent example of in-house services provided by your local council, let us know - we might include them in the 2018 shortlist!