"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Big Society (Privatisation) Bank

Today at Prime Ministers Questions Ed Miliband riled David Cameron about the failure of his big idea, the Big Society. Cameron replied:

And something I can tell him for the first time today is, because of our deals with the banks, the big society bank will be taking £200m from Britain's banks to put into the voluntary sector.
This is nothing to be proud of. The Big Society Bank will not provide cash for charities as we know them now. It is Cameron's rather sneaky privatisation fund.

In the following I will use "private sector" rather than the government's preferred term "voluntary, community and independent sector" because I am more honest than the government.

The Spending Review in October explains this:
1.87 The Government believes that while it should continue to fund important services, it does not have to be the default provider. This stifles competition and innovation and crowds out civil society.1.89 As well as new opportunities and rights, the Government will assist new providers by improving access to the resources they need. The Spending Review announces that:

  • the Government will direct around £470 million over the Spending Review period to support capacity building in the voluntary and community sector... As part of this, the Government will ... establish a Transition Fund of £100 million to provide short term support for voluntary sector organisations providing public services. The Big Society Bank will bring in private sector funding in addition to receiving all funding available to England from dormant accounts;
The point is that the government does not want the state providing public services. Put that another way: they do not want central government, local government nor the NHS to provide public services. Francis Maude will even publish a paper mandating that a proportion of public services must be provided by non-public bodies. In the past Thatcher and Major were honest and said that they were privatising, Cameron is congenitally dishonest, and he will not use the "p" word because he knows how unpopular it is. So therefore he talks about "Big Society" and "voluntary, community and independent sector" providing public services. It just means privatisation.

The £200m Cameron announced is to fund the removal of public services from public sector providers and hand them to non-public (private) sector providers. This is just Cameron's privatisation fund. And note that £200m is less than half the £470m promised last October.

Update:  Urban Forum point out that the £200m will be provided to the Big Society Bank "on a commercial basis" by the big banks. That is, all the deal has done is to get the banks to agree to lend the money.

1 comment:

  1. Why the assumption that because it is not public it is therefore private? Many non-government activities are neither private. Perhaps the exponential sprouting of a myriad of NGOs and not-for-profits in the last two decades is a citizen initiative to fill in the gap that public and private sectors can bridge.
    If innovations like the Big Society Bank or the Social Impact Bond render success, it would have been a great use of political capital.