British Prime Minister Tony Blair enraged public sector unions at a conference this week, saying he was (saving) Britain’s public services with his reform agenda that encourages privatization, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.
“There is a basic deal here. Investment for results,” Blair told the mainly public sector audience. “I know that if having put in this extra money, we can’t show clearly, demonstrably that the service has got radically better, then the consent from the public for investment is in jeopardy. That is why change is not about attacking public services but saving and inspiring them.”
Ahead of the conference over breakfast, Blair met with representatives from hospital trusts and major corporations. He used the occasion to tell attendees that he wanted to end the notion that public and private sectors exist and operate separately “with contradictory value systems.”
Blair said he wanted to encourage partnerships between hospitals, run by the National Health Service, and big business managers, in charge of some of the largest private corporations in the world like pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline or banking’s Lloyds TSB. Blair suggested private business could lend its “time and expertise” to help improve public services.
The suggestion offended labour unions back at the conference. They warned the Blair government that this was not the way to woo back disaffected Labour Party supporters at the next election.
Blair’s suggestion likely offended managers of the 31 NHS trusts that have already achieved foundation status. NHS foundation trusts are autonomous organizations, free from government control, that attain foundation status by managing their budgets and investments wisely, and delivering high standards of service.