Public sector workers do some of the most vital work in our country, from caring for the elderly to educating our children. I deplore the way the Coalition Government has undermined our public services. It is clear their approach was never about eradicating the deficit, but driven by a dogma to reduce the public sector. As a Labour candidate I want to see top quality well run public services. For me, to achieve decent jobs for all we need to strengthen our public services as well as investing in key areas of our economy.
Green Public Services
I also want to see the relationship between the public sector and the private sector used for better public good. Labour will actively use the public sector to boost demand for green goods and services. A good example of this is about to take shape in Kirklees, where some new council houses will be built to very high environmental standards, helping increase demand for better quality construction materials.
Public sector pay
I congratulate Kirklees council on finding a way to introduce the Living Wage for all employees, including those in schools. As a means of lifting families out of poverty, this is a real step in the right direction. Many public sector workers, especially those in the NHS have lived with pay restraint for a long time. I support fair ways of setting pay. Labour is committed to respecting the outcomes of Independent Pay Review Bodies.
Public sector contracts
I am concerned about the extent to which key services, especially the NHS are being contracted to commercial companies. Since 2010, UK government spending on outsourcing has doubled to £88 billion I don't want to see my taxes - or your taxes - funding the profits of multi-national companies. The way some of our transport services are provided show how contracting can be costly in the longer term.
A number of Labour MPs recently promoted an EDM seeking a Public Services Users Bill. The Bill they wanted to see would give the public real powers to object to sell-offs, access information and hold private providers to account for their performance. I am fully supportive of that approach.
I don’t think there should ever be a presumption that outsourcing is the right approach. I want to see services brought back in house where practical, with decisions based on a true evaluation of life cycle costs and wider social impact. Some recent Government contracts haven’t allowed public sector bidders. I agree with Michael Dugher MP when he points out the way the East Coast Franchise was allocated amounted to ‘an ideologically driven, politically rigged timetable’... designed to ‘kill off the very idea of having a public sector operator’. I want to make sure there is always an in-house bid.
Supporting families, vulnerable individuals and vital community enterprise needs a thriving and imaginative public sector. I am proud to be part of the wider Labour team promoting that approach.