Health and education unions yesterday responded angrily to Prime Minister Blair’s policy review that signals a stepping up of Blair and Brown’s privatisation drive under the guise of the ‘personalisation of public services’.
Blair and Chancellor Brown launched their public services policy review at a City Academy in Hackney, where Brown let slip that he plans to expand the private management of state schools, which is already happening via ‘not-for-profit’ companies.
Brown praised academies and, in a reference to self-managed schools, added ‘we must empower the professionals to get on with the job’.
Blair said Labour wants to make sure public services ‘are truly personalised services where there’s a much greater diversity of provider and the old ways of working are broken down.’
Blair added that ‘in terms of health there is an increasing understanding by people that they have to take some responsibility for their own health if we are all to make our healthcare system work for the future’.
His policy review suggests that to help ‘empower’ people, schools and hospital league tables may include satisfaction ratings, like ones on eBay.
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis responded: ‘We need to get back to basics with public services.
‘Survey after survey shows that people don’t so much want choice, but urgently want access to good local schools, hospitals and other public services in their own area.
‘We do welcome the extra investment in public services under Labour, but this money should be directed straight into delivering dependable, local public services, not endless reform, reconfigurations and top-down change.’
Teachers’ union leader Steve Sinnott, NUT General Secretary, said: ‘I regret that the Prime Minister’s vision for education is skewed towards the fantasy world of eBay and Amazon style league tables.’
Sinnott added: ‘League tables using such “satisfaction” ratings enables one discontented parent to dominate and distort public perception of a school.
‘Such on-line bullying of schools is as reprehensible as on-line bullying of pupils or teachers.
‘He should jettison the academies programme which eats up millions of taxpayers’ money and use the funds to get on with the job of providing real additional support for those youngsters who need it most through personalised learning.
‘His addiction to academy status indirectly denigrates the vast majority of teachers who work in successful community schools.’
Chris Keates, General Secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT slammed ‘meaningless gimmicks such as the “Amazon-style” user ratings that have been suggested today.’
Keates added: ‘Despite the Prime Minister’s remarks today, the case to support the continuing huge investment of public money in Academies remains unproven.’
Responding to plans by Health Secretary Hewitt for GP surgeries in supermarkets and more practices run by private companies, BMA’s GPs Committee chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, warned: ‘What we don’t want to see is any attempt to use this announcement as a back door way of privatising the NHS.’
• Second news story
BUSH APPEALS FOR WAR CASH
Against a background of three days of mass anti-war protests across the whole of the United States, four years on from the invasion of Iraq, President Bush admitted that ‘prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy’.
He appealed to the Democrat-led Congress to fund the continued occupation.
In a statement to the nation from the White House, Bush said the Baghdad security plan was still in its early stages and ‘success will take months not days or weeks’.
He stressed there ‘will be good days and bad days ahead’ and appealed to Congress to ensure an emergency war spending bill ‘provides the funds and the flexibility that our troops need’.
He added that Congressmen ‘have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk without strings and without delay’.
He said: ‘It would be easy to conclude that our best option is to pack up and go home.’
He warned that ‘the consequences for American security would be devastating’.
He added that ‘prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy’, that ‘four years after this war began the fight is difficult’ but it ‘will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.’
After thanking ‘our troops and their families for their sacrifices’ he left without taking questions.