Public sector needs breaking up, says former mandarin

6 Dec 01
Private companies must be allowed to absorb swathes of the public sector if service improvements are to be achieved, a former Treasury mandarin has claimed.

07 December 2001

Sir Steve Robson, former second permanent secretary to the Treasury, said the public sector's monopoly over services would never be tolerated in any other industry.

He told the public administration select committee on November 29 that more diversity was needed to increase competition and give consumers a choice of provider. 'There is a fundamental problem with monopolies in that they don't work in the interest of consumers. Part of the way to improve the sector is to reduce that monopoly,' he said.

He told MPs that private companies should be allowed to run whole 'delivery units', such as primary care trusts, rather than outsourcing a few services. 'Services should be taken as a totality,' he said.

Despite 30 years in the public sector, Robson, the architect of rail privatisation, was highly critical of staff. He said managers were inadequate and workers lacked clear objectives and the skills to do their jobs.

But Jonathan Baume, general secretary of the FDA union for senior civil servants, warned that the government was already creating problems for the future with its pursuit of privatisation.

'To shackle future governments or public sector organisations to contracts signed in secret and subject to no scrutiny or accountability whatsoever is storing up trouble,' he told the committee.


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