Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, is being helped by a research assistant funded by accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Private Eye
revealed today*. The donation, described in Hunt’s register of interest** as a ‘donation in kind’ and valued at £74,655, runs from June to December 2014.
reminds its readers that PWC supports opening up public services to ‘a wider range of providers from the private, not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors’ and warns that a PWC-funded research assistant is in a favourable position to influence Hunt. This means, the Eye
says, ‘he is likely to stick with the introduction of commercial providers into schools’.
Hunt told the Labour Conference
‘only a Labour Government will ensure our schools are not privatized for profit.’ But there are ways of privatising by the back door whereby public money can be diverted into shareholders’ pockets.
Already, many academy trustees have awarded contracts to companies linked to trustees or their relatives, the Guardian
found. One approved academy sponsor made no secret that its charitable trust was a ‘vehicle
’ which would help the long-term profitability of the parent firm. And Private Eye
wondered last year if Sabres Educational Trust was just a 'powerless conduit
' for the Department for Education (DfE) to send taxpayers' money to IES, the Swedish for-profit education provider hired by Sabres to run the free school IES Breckland (since judged Inadequate).
Some high-ranking Labour politicians have already been named as being in favour of running schools for profit.
Before the last election, Policy Exchange said ‘the most radical ministers (including Lord Adonis and John Hutton) knew that allowing profit would provide a significant boost to the [education] market, but considered the politics unworkable’. The think-tank made this claim in a document entitled, without irony, Blocking the Best
. This advocated turning state schools into ‘independent’ ones which could circumvent rules which prevented schools running for a profit. Academies are technically ‘independent’ schools and they are able to outsource education provision. And PWC is set to profit
from just such an outsourcing arrangement.
PWC hopes to set up a limited liability partnership
with the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), a fast-growing chain recently halted by the Department for Education (DfE) from taking on more schools amid concerns about poor performance. The contract would pay PWC to provide services, such as school business management, IT and secretarial staff, curriculum development and professional education, to AET academies. PWC would be paid £400m of taxpayers’ money over 10 years if the contract, currently being reviewed by the DfE, goes ahead. Alex Cunningham, MP, a member of the Education Select Committee, has described the AET outsourcing proposal as a 'huge step towards a huge privatization
' over a range of school services.
It’s worrying, therefore, that PWC, which could profit from academies outsourcing services, should be funding an assistant to do research for the shadow SoS for education. It was unwise of Hunt to accept this ‘donation in kind’.
*Private Eye, number 1377, 17 October -30 October 2014
**available from TheyWorkForYou.com