15 January, 2019 is not only the day that MPs vote on Theresa May’s botched Brexit deal. It is also the date that marks a year since one of the UK’s largest suppliers to the public sector, Carillion, collapsed, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
Both these events expose a government ideologically wedded to a rigged economic model, which serves the interests of the few, and not the many.
The downfall of Carillion was a wake-up call to the damaging effects of the Tories’ outsourcing model; a deeply unjust system that has disrupted lives across the country and put our public services at unnecessary risk. Barely a month has gone by without further outsourcing scandals, revealing wrongdoing, conflicts of interest or poor performance.
While the bosses of Carillion have walked away unscathed, with hundreds of thousands of pounds in their pockets, thousands of workers and apprentices have lost their jobs and key infrastructure projects, such as the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, remain unfinished.
Meanwhile, the public have footed the bill for the £148million spent wrapping up Carillion’s accounts, despite the Conservative Government insisting that “shareholders and not the taxpayer (are) taking the burden on this”.
It could be years before the full cost of Carillion’s failure is known. Yet what is clear is that the Tories are more concerned with the commercial interests of big business than protecting taxpayers’ money or delivering essential public services to the highest standard.
Under their leadership outsourcing has boomed, while at the same time the Tories have failed to properly monitor it and have repeatedly absolved themselves from any responsibility when things go wrong, as they often do.
Blinded by a dogmatic commitment to outsourcing, and the mantra the market always knows best, the Government has failed to learn from their mistakes. They are still handing out public sector contracts worth millions to companies that are effectively insolvent. This is grossly irresponsible.
Carillion’s collapse should have been a wake-up call. Instead the Tories buried their heads in the sand and carried on as if nothing had happened. This cannot continue.
Labour will end the Tories’ failed approach to outsourcing. Where it serves the public interest, we will bring services back in-house to provide the necessary democratic accountability and ensure quality of delivery. Where we continue to procure goods and services, we will ensure that all companies working for the public sector adhere to strict standards on performance, working conditions and transparency.
Furthermore, we will support suppliers and small businesses plagued by late payments and stop auditors acting like a cartel and providing cover for bad business practices.
This has gone on for too long. And is just one of the many reasons why Labour is calling for a General Election.
A General Election would break the Brexit deadlock, as well as offer the prospect of real change to the millions of hard working people, who pay their taxes, contribute to their communities but for too long have been ignored by this Government.
Jon Trickett is the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Labour MP for Hemsworth