Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

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Little Heresies: The love-in with outsourcing is not the answer to public service reform

Join us for the next Little Heresies seminar

Date/Time: Thursday 28th June 2018, 17:30-20:00

Venue: Partners' Room 8.10, Newcastle University Business School

Guest speaker: John Tizard

Registration and networking: 17:30

Event starts: 18:00

Overview: Public service outsourcing has grown in volume, value and scope dramatically over the last few decades. Politicians and public-sector managers have seen it as the answer to their prayers – they expect it to reduce costs and thus expenditure, improve quality and performance, and at the same. They may also see it as a means to introduce innovation, transfer risks, create additional capacity, address under-performance and/or poor industrial relations and even to offer service users greater choice.

Yet there have been many examples of where outsourcing has not worked and certainly not delivered the objectives promoted prior to contracting.

The public sector has demonstrated that can too often find it very difficult to be an effective client yet it has continued to outsource.

The nostrums of New Public Management (NPM) stand exposed. The mantra “private good, public bad” sounds like it always was, a strophe of the anti-state, pro-market ideology that has dominated British public life for over three decades.

Public services in England (and to varying extents in other parts of the United Kingdom) have been stigmatised and eviscerated not just by fiscal austerity but by the enforcement of market-inflected doctrine, especially NPM. In the UK Thatcher was the doctrine’s high priest, but the gospel was actively propagated by Blair and Brown and set out canonically in Cameron and Osborne’s 2011 ‘open public services’ white paper. Public service reform and outsourcing have falsely and dangerously become conflated.

The expansion of outsourcing has continued despite any comprehensive evidence on its effectiveness and its wider impact. No one knows the extent of its reach, how much public money it consumers let alone its impact. Many supply markets have proved to be uncompetitive and there are a small number of major contractors.

None the less, outsourcing has been driven into the further reaches of human services. Under perennial financial pressure – now very acute – councillors and NHS trust boards reach for the seductively cheaper options offered by companies based, often, on worse conditions for their staff. Outsourcing has been a perfect match for British administrative empiricism and short termism; it has been both cause and consequence of the dismembered condition of the British social state. The model has now come spectacularly unstuck.

John will argue that outsourcing cannot continue, and it most certainly is unlikely to transform public services.

He will argue that there is evidence of public bodies taking services back under public control; and that many public bodies have redesigned and reformed services without involvement of outsourcing. He will also propose how Government and the public sector could address the legacy of inherited contracts; and if there is a need to contract with the private sector through outsourcing the strategic questions that should be addressed prior to procurement and the regulation that is urgently needed in respect of public service outsourcing.

Biography: John Tizard is a strategic advisor and commentator on public policy, governance, leadership and public services including commissioning, procurement and change management.

John regularly advises, writes, speaks and comments on these and other issues nationally and internationally.

John has recently co-authored with David Walker a report on public service outsourcing – Out of Contract: time to move on from the love-in with outsourcing and PFI - http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/book/contract-time-move-love-outsourcing-pfi/
He works with organisations from the public especially local government, business, charity, wider VCSE, and trade union sectors as well as think tanks and academic institutions.
John holds a number of charity trustee and NED including chair appointments.
He has been an evaluator for the European Public Service Awards 2013, 2015 and 2o17.
John was a county councillor for eighteen years until 1997. He was joint council leader council for much of this time He also has had board experience with the central government agencies, the police and the NHS. And has had senior executive roles in the business sector (Capita) and the voluntary sector (The Spastics Society/Scope).
He is an economic and mathematics graduate of the London School of Economics; and until recently has been an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Birmingham and a Visiting Fellow at London South Bank University. He is a Fellow of the RSA
More at www.johntizard.com