The public conflict that frequently emerges between parts of the Labour Party and parts of the Conservative Party regarding how public services and utilities should be owned and controlled, often appears to be a matter of ideology rather than a genuine focus on what is best for society as a whole. Unfortunately rather than this ideology being tested out in a way that is theoretical and allows fresh ideas and considerations to be included, the ideologues in Government get to test out their theories in a way that puts people’s lives and health or the environment at risk and rarely impacts the personal lives or pockets of those who decide on such ideologies. My own work in the private sector rarely comes close to anything which would feature in such discussions but the principles can easily be seen even by small businesses such as the one I work for. The same is true for some of the charities that I have been involved in over the last two decades. When our business is invited to quote for work that we are perceived to have the skill to deliver, we take some time to consider if this will help our business fulfil its ambitions, in the same way a charity will consider if such an opportunity matches their Memorandum and Articles of Association. Then the organisations can assess if the work will help to grow or at least help sustain their work, which will also help determine the minimum cost of delivery of such an approach. Sadly some businesses such as Carillion will operate in a manner that drives down costs in an unsustainable way turning to subcontractors or shareholders to make the sums add up. In a similar way some charities such as Kids Co will operate outside of economic realities believing that they can then tap up politicians to help fill in the hole in their balance sheet, or they will make emotive demands of their personal donors. The strength of the State is that if a service is needed to sustain society, the Government should make the service or infrastructure a reality, irrespective of price and capacity of small organisations within the country. In good cases the Government will carry out a meaningful assessment of cost and benefit and make a case to the country for doing this. Something like this happened in the late 1940s when the NHS was formed. In other cases such as Brexit, HS2, Millennium Dome and London 2012 Governments set about their objectives and only discover problems later by which time it was too late for major changes to be made. It is this aspect that allows people to be protected irrespective of the size of the threat and that is where the State plays a vital part in our nation. If a Government irrespective of the colour of its rosettes was effective at deciding when the state should deliver and when to turn to charities or to business, we could live in a much more comfortable nation. One of the strengths of well run businesses and charities is that they can achieve outcomes very much quicker than the state, and usually much more efficiently. On the other hand they will sometimes make a decision at the outset not to deal with issues that fall outside of their objectives or that are not well costed. At these points the State must step up if its plans are to be achieved.
Two recent examples of how Governments get things badly wrong have emerged in the last few days. Because we have a Conservative Government, Labour has expressed their frustration with these failures but Labour is just as capable of getting this sort of thing wrong as the Conservatives. That said both matters should have featured as a priority back in 2010 and indeed one was well under control by the Labour Party at the time. In November two promises were made during the budget. The first was to create a task force to address the issue of Homelessness in our nation, the second was that there would be a consultation on the best way of taxing single use plastics. Both of these matters are vital to our nation’s wellbeing. Protecting the environment and protecting vulnerable people is something that all Governments should address in an effective manner. However it is vital that consultations and task forces should be established as a matter of priority, rather than after months of needless delays. It is now more than three months since the budget and there is still no indication of how either of these matters will be handled. A business or charity could easily help the Government speed such matters up, if only they had a chance to do so!