By David Bicknell
A report in the Financial Times has suggested that David Cameron’s plan to free public services “from the grip of state control” has been put on hold until July, in the face of opposition from the Liberal Democrats and public concern over the privatisation of health and social care.
The positive aspect of this story, however, is still that the White Paper has been delayed, not shelved, and that ‘mid-July’ is still only a few weeks away.
The report says the plan to transform public services through greater use of private providers, mutuals and social enterprises has already been cut back and is now the subject of coalition wrangling.
The FT report says: “Downing St insiders confirmed on Wednesday that the vaunted white paper on reform – originally set for publication in January – is now unlikely to be published until mid-July.
“Mr Cameron has already been forced to abandon a proposal in last year’s comprehensive spending review that the white paper should set quotas for handing over public services to independent providers.
“In February, he promised to create “a new presumption” for public services to be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.
“Conservative officials said work was under way to create a white paper that set the framework for the coalition’s approach to the public services, including opening up opportunities for small and medium-sized companies and mutuals.
“An earlier draft largely set out existing government plans, including cutting the cost of Whitehall procurement by centralising much of it, encouraging a million public sector employees to form social enterprises and using payment by results for welfare-to-work and offender rehabilitation.
“Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, is insisting the final white paper does not pave the way for the wholesale privatisation of public services – resisting a push for a big expansion in independent provision by Mr Cameron’s policy adviser Steve Hilton.
“Nick does not want there to be any sense that the public sector can’t be a provider of good quality public services,” said one Lib Dem official.”