Cameron's "Big Society" Agenda is an attack on local democracy

Francis Gilbert's picture
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In an "important" speech today about public service reform, David Cameron claimed he will improve the efficiency of the health service by making services compete with each other for work. Doctors will form "GP Commissioning Consortia" which will decide upon which services should be bought. Former consultant obstetrician and Keep Our NHS Public campaigner Professor Wendy Savage said: "If GPs accept this poisoned chalice of being the commissioners they are likely to end up rationing, and likely to fail, in which case they are likely to be taken over by the private sector. But GP consortia don't have to happen. We must argue with our MPs to prevent it."

Sounds familiar? Cameron's "Big Society" agenda seems to be about removing a "multiplicity" of stakeholders at a local level, both in Health and Education. This is definitely what is happening in schools: they are being turned into Academies, making them either ripe for privatisation or actually privatised because they are more or less run by a private company. The Coalition is concentrating power in doctor's hands in the Health system, and doing very similar things with his Academies and Free Schools agenda in education by giving the "sponsors" (usually private companies) unlimited power over what goes on a school. Moreover, there will be a huge centralisation of power because the private companies will lobby Whitehall to be "licenced" to "work with" the state sector; the government will pick and choose the providers that they like the look of. This is currently happening with "free schools": the DfE is making decisions about what groups of parents set up schools, and concurrently what private providers can run those schools. In other words, the DfE is becoming a huge local authority for England, making decisions that stakeholders in local communities used to make.

By removing various stakeholders from being involved in decision making in our hospitals and schools -- parents, teachers, unions, community members, councillors -- we will see some very powerful people and companies emerging, making crucial financial, political and educational decisions for all of us. This is an attack on local democracy in the name of efficiency. By concentrating power in so few hands, the chances for corruption, bullying, malpractice and inefficiency will be greatly increased.
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