I have always been pragmatic on the issue of privatisation. I don’t believe in the automatic assumption that the private sector is better at doing things than the public sector. I am a champion of small private enterprises and will always stand up for those with the courage to set up their own business. But if you look at very large multi-national corporations, you will frequently find more waste and inefficiency than in the public sector. Professions such as health and education are also stronger because of the fact that money is not the only motivating factor. A nurse or a teacher has a vocation for their profession, a desire to care for others or to pass on knowledge to the next generation and that creates a depth to the work they do.
It is with this pragmatic view that I have watched the unfolding debate about the new Strategic Partnership proposal being developed by Cornwall Council. What if it were possible to marry the energy and creative thinking of small private sector organisations with the values and skills of the public sector?
Contracting out the delivery of certain services to the private sector is hardly new. For decades councils have paid private contractors to deliver core tasks such as collecting the rubbish, repairing the roads, delivering domiciliary care to the elderly and operating day care centres. Is it such a major step to do something similar with other services such as advice lines, payroll services and social care? Hardly. The “Strategic Partnership” proposal is not even about outsourcing to a private contractor but instead to a joint venture company in which the Council would retain a major stake and with policy still controlled absolutely by the Council.
The proposals will help to join up the work of the NHS and Cornwall Council when it comes to delivering social care. A major problem in the past has been the fact that both organisations work in silos which means that there is duplication and lack of coordination. Some steps have already been made to improve this situation with the joint commissioning of some services and the new Strategic Partnership will take it to the next stage and also enable Cornwall to pioneer the development of “Telehealth” services which use modern technology to help people manage their care needs from home.
Finally, in an era where money is tight and budgets under pressure, Cornwall Council has a choice between creating jobs or losing jobs. The plans are projected to create 500 new jobs in Cornwall by providing new services in health. There are always risks to any venture which must be managed but doing nothing is not an option and the alternative would be cuts to jobs and front line services.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.