Last year, Devon County Council privatised the school meals service. Now it seems, as a result of this, some primary schools are now not able to provide hot meals to their pupils. The managing director of the company which provides the service pointed out that “it’s not a charity. We have got to cover our costs.” What this means translated into reality is that they are a private company who wants to make as much money out of providing food to schoolchildren as possible. This means increasing charges to schools while reducing their own costs. The usual way to do this is by attacking the pay and conditions of staff and reducing the quality of the service. Time and time again, this is what happens when public services are privatised (‘outsourced’ is usually the euphemism). We have seen it in public transport, the NHS, water, anything you care to think of. The public pays more for a service that gets worse.
And now Devon County Council is privatising Devon Education Services, which provides a whole host of services and support for local schools. How long until local schools can no longer afford these, while taxpayers money goes to wealthy shareholders rather than into improving children’s opportunities?
The privatisation agenda in local and national government is allied to the general cuts agenda. Some services are cut, and others are sold off to private companies. More and more, wealth is transferred from us to the already rich, and we pay the added price of worse (and fewer) vital services, job cuts, pay freezes and attacks on our pensions (public AND private). And as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have been at pains to point out, in all important respects, the Labour Party supports these policies along with the Tories and Lib Dems. Isn’t it time we had an alternative to this madness?