Sunday 24 March 2019 / 7:45 AM Andrew Gwynne

Labour pledges to end the scandal of outsourcing services involving contact with people ‘at risk’

After a string of outsourcing disasters across whole swathes of Britain’s public services, Labour today outlines new guidelines for central and local government managing contracts for services which come into contact with ‘at risk’ people and exercise coercive state powers.

These kinds of services include assessments for sick and disabled people claiming social security, NHS care, the treatment of people in detention centres and prisons, and failures over recruitment and substandard housing for our Armed Forces.

Under Labour’s plans, whenever a relevant contract expires or is terminated, central or local government will be required to assess whether a service involves significant contact with ‘at risk’ groups, exercise of coercive powers, or risk of infringement of people’s rights. If the answer is “yes,” statutory guidance will be to bring the service back in house – except in the following cases:

– The contract does not fall under a statutory definition of ‘relevant contract’.

– The value of the contract is below a certain threshold.

– The contract is between local authorities (or between a local authority and another public authority).

– The public authority can demonstrate that it has ‘good reason’ to override statutory guidance, where ‘good reason’ is defined to include the following:

o The risks involved with significant contact with ‘at risk’ people, exercise of coercive powers, or infringement of people’s rights are best mitigated by retaining outsourced provision.

o A council or department does not yet have sufficient capacity to insource a service, even after taking into consideration new measures, introduced as part of the Labour Party’s insourcing policy, to support the expansion of council capacity (these will include: the provision of a model contract (which will save contracts and departments time and resources in drafting contracts); access to the Government Legal Department for contract management, modification, and review; and greater support for collaboration amongst councillors across the country.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said:

“For too long the British public have paid the price for outsourcing.

“The Tories’ dogmatic commitment to markets at all costs has delivered sub-standard services at inflated prices. And when they fail, as they often do, it’s the taxpayer that picks up the bill.

“Labour is proposing a radical new settlement that gives people the power to end outsourcing and decide for themselves how best to deliver the services they need.

“For too long this county has been run by and in the interests of a small few who are all in it together. It’s time to shift the scales and bring democracy and accountability back to government, and put power in the hands of the many”.