Set of principles needed for outsourcing contracts, says Unison

12 Feb 18

Public services trade union Unison has called for a set of principles – similar to standards adopted in the 1990s - imposed on private contractors that deliver public works.

In a letter to Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said in-house service provision should be the default option for public service delivery.

But where private companies were involved “we need a set of principles to ensure that the driving force and prime consideration is the public, not the private interest”, Prentis wrote. 

He said that a ‘Nolan’ “for our 21st century public services” was needed.

The Nolan principles were adopted in public life following the 1990s ‘cash for questions’ scandal.

They are: selflessness, integrity, accountability, openness, honesty, objectivity and leadership.

Prentis said last month’s failure by outsourcing and construction contractor Carillion showed “it’s time to reassert the public service ethos when it comes to the delivery of public services”.

Prentis attacked, in particular, contractors who won public business and then sought to increase profits by lowering pay and benefits, practices that “not only place extra demands on the public purse, they also create future liabilities for the state when those workers retire with little or no pension entitlement”.

He added: “Selflessness and integrity mean there can be no place for companies that use tax havens, that blacklist workers for belonging to unions, make it hard for unions to represent the workforce, and generate profits by attacking pay and terms and conditions.”

The principles of accountability and openness require full transparency, Prentis also said.

Unison called for all public procurement information to be available online - including tender documentation, bids and all signed and amended contracts, with Freedom of Information requirements written into contracts.

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