Mark Wallace and Frances O’Grady go head-to-head in this month's duelby Mark Wallace, Frances O’Grady / February 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
Yes (Mark Wallace)
Look at the world around us, in all its amazing creativity and variety. The winning combination of specialisation and competition, which is the foundation of the modern economy, has made available more and better things in every sphere of life, and provided more people than ever before with the opportunity to access them. Instead of asking why would we let the private sector get involved in public services, the real question is why on earth wouldn’t we want to harness such a successful system for such an important job?
Of course the private sector helps our public services to run better. We know this inherently when we think about, say, the NHS finding supplies of pens.
It would be insane and disastrous for hospital trusts or the Department of Health to develop and manufacture their own Biros. It would waste a fortune trying and failing to replicate work that others already do perfectly well. Instead, we all accept that they outsource the job to the private sector, and various specialist companies compete to provide the most attractive service, motivated by profit.
The end result is good for all involved—the supplier earns a living, while the NHS receives what it needs at a decent price, and can get on with focusing on its real job.
We all accept this private delivery as sensible—I doubt you or anyone else would want the NHS pen supply nationalised and brought in-house.
So why pretend that the same principle does not apply to other aspects of helping public services get the job done? What people want, and what they pay for, is services that deliver, as well as possible and at a reasonable and sustainable cost.
The private sector helps them do that, and without its contribution we would all lose out.
No (Frances O’Grady)
Private enterprise can do incredible things. Taking risks, investing in new products and services, and stimulating innovation are at the heart of what many businesses do. But when it comes to public services, all too often the private sector is failing to deliver. Why is that?
Pens aren’t people. And public services are not the same as consumer goods. Services like the NHS belong to all of us by right. As a result, they come with a different set of expectations:…