At the London Assembly Economy committee this week the topic for discussion was outsourcing and procurement. Not so long ago outsourcing was the default position for local authorities and central Government alike. It seemed like things only stayed in-house if there were no private providers prepared to take them on. Many of our councils turned into little more than contract managers. Private sector good, public sector bad was the oft heard refrain.
With the collapse of Carillion and constant press speculation that the behemoths of private procurement are all teetering on the edge, outsourcing no longer looks like quite such a rosy option. Perhaps the idea that private sector magicians could continue to provide double-digit savings on a yearly basis while still delivering top quality services was, in retrospect, a touch fanciful.
The reality is that outsourcing has its place. Thanks to economies of scale, specific expertise and technological know-how there are things that private providers do better. But the one thing they don't do is make up for incompetence and penny-pinching by public officials. Nor are they the best choice by default.
Excellent public services have to be well funded and well managed. And it is excellent public services that we all want. Well-trained and well-paid carers for our loved ones, bins collected on time, clean and safe streets, and much more.
As the Liberal Democrat London Assembly candidate for Bexley and Bromley I stand for excellent public services, both for those who use them, and those who work to provide them. Ideologies are for the debating chamber. I'm interested in results.