As suspected, Suffolk County Council’s New (No) Strategic Direction has not gone away. Today’s front page of the East Anglian Daily Times carries the story of the privatisation of all of the Council’s care homes. This would seem to indicate that the idea of turning all of the Council’s core services into profit making opportunities is proceeding apace, but simply without the fanfare, and thus controversy, that accompanied its initial foray into this area. It will be interesting to see who wins the contract to run the homes. Almost certainly it will not be any form of social or community enterprise, of the likes that we were told would be filling the gap as the Council divests itself of its responsibilities.
This move is highlighted on the same day that David Cameron tries to revive interest in The Big Society via the creation of Big Society Capital – an organisation designed to fund the creation of new state funded contractors operating in the guise of “social enterprises”. It also follows hard on the heels of BBC Panorama revelations revealing how private suppiers are ripping-off the taxpayer via sub-standard apprentice schemes and the controversy over A4e and the £8.6 million taxpayer funded dividend the boss of that particular company awarded themselves. Not so much a Big Society as a Big Business Society it seems.
The New (No) Strategic Direction has claimed its first casualites (that is if you don’t count community libraries and parks). Today it was announced that Council Leader Jeremy Pembroke is to retire. This follows a day after announcement of the immediate departure of Resources Director Graham Dixon and monitoring officer Eric Whitfield. Both Dixon and Whitfield were closely associated with the implementation of the NSD – which raises the question of whether they were ousted as a result of failure to move this forward or because of objections to the self-evident madness of the policy.
Much is being made of Pembroke’s decency. Presumeably therefore he has done the decent thing.
How many more people will end up going before the policy itself becomes a casualty. Silly question really because, of course, the intention of the policy is to get rid of everyone and pay Serco to run the place. Serco already takes care of our rubbish, why not then take care of the elderly or education?
Update: Just noticed – there was an earlier casualty as James Hargraves’ blog points out.
The Council is going to be organising some roadshows across the region in the next couple of weeks. Details are a bit sketchy at the moment, but I have the dates and places (not yet times or locations). I think we will find that there will be some sort of presence on the high street somewhere, rather than any formal venue.
I believe the idea is not so much to give people the opportunity to ask questions, more to allow the Council to get a perspective on what people actually think. So if you have something to say, it definitely would be a good idea to turn-up.
Here are the details as I have them.
November 16 – Newmarket
November 17 – Bury St Edmunds
November 18 – Sudbury
November 19 – Ipswich
November 24 – Lowestoft
November 25 – Felixstowe and Stowmarket
November 26 – Mildenhall and Beccles
December 3 – Haverhill
Two days ago, Suffolk County Council posted its answers to the eight, very pertinent, questions posed by the East Anglian Daily Times. Here are the answers as run by the EADT yesterday on its website. What the EADT didn’t run is the answers to the four questions the Council posed to itself in the introduction to its response. These questions (statements really) were:
- Everything is being sold off to the private sector
- You are expecting people to volunteer services for nothing
- Whatever people think you will do it anyway
- It’s all been decided behind closed doors: we don’t know what is going on
One imagines that these reflect the type of responses coming back from its on-line survey – which in itself is instructive. Not surprisingly the answer the Council gives to all of these is No. If you want to see the full copy of their response click here. NSD response
Having read and digested the Council’s answers I am not reassured. Most of the answers are in fact evasions, but they do serve to throw into sharper relief the key issues we need to focus on.
The first of these is the issue of who will be actually be receiving our money to deliver the ‘divested’ services. Continue reading ‘Suffolk County Council’s response – answers or evasions?’