As expected, Suffolk County Council yesterday gave its final endorsement to the plan to outsource itself (know as the New Strategic Direction but perhaps more accurately described as No Specific Detail). As reported in today’s East Anglian Daily Times, council leader, Jeremy Pembroke has declared that “there is no blueprint under the table” and that it is too early to “come up with any firm details of how services would be transferred to other providers”. I am not sure if we are meant to feel reassured by this. Suffolk County Council has launched itself into the most radical transformation imaginable without a blueprint or having thought through the details.
What this really means, for the Council (obviously) and everyone else with an interest in this is that the real work starts now. The lack of transparency and consultation has to end. The maximum amount of scrutiny needs to be brought to bear on what happens next. The East Anglian Daily Times has been doing a very good job exposing the key issues – it needs to keep its’ foot on the pedal. The Council cannot be allowed to roll-through these changes under cover. Jeremy Pembroke has declared that “Our intention is to encourage a diverse range of mutuals, co-operatives, social enterprises, charities, community groups, town and parish councils” to deliver Council services. His toes need to held to the fire on this one. He needs to define right now exactly what proportion of our money is going to go to these organisations and how much will go to the likes of Serco. If this intention is genuine, this figure must exist and must be made public.
The whole Big Society project is one shrouded in a mist of non-specific nonsense from the top down. We need to see through this focus on what actually happens on the ground.