UNISON calls for a new set of principles for public service contracts

With the collapse of Carillion and profit warnings from Capita, the government needs to urgently establish a new code of conduct for the delivery of public services by private companies, says UNISON today (Thursday).

UNISON’s preferred option is to bring services back in-house. But where the private sector is running public contracts, UNISON wants firms to abide by a set of principles to ensure the driving force is the public, not the private, interest.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington MP, calling for a new public service ethos to underpin the delivery of services.

In the letter Dave Prentis writes: “It is over twenty years since the Nolan Committee published the seven principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, accountability, openness, honesty, objectivity and leadership – following the cash for questions scandals in the 1990s.

“We now need a ‘Nolan’ for our 21st century public services.

“If the UK is to have decent public services, the country now needs an equivalent set of principles that will apply to any private company that receives taxpayers’ money to deliver public services. The government should set about establishing these new principles without delay.

“Selflessness and integrity mean there can be no place for companies that use tax havens, that blacklist workers for belonging to unions, make it hard for unions to represent the workforce, and generate profits by attacking pay and terms and conditions.

“Equally unacceptable are those companies such as NSL Patient Transport, which take over the delivery of public services and then seek to exploit staff by offering new employees much reduced pensions, simply to achieve short-term gains for shareholders or hedge fund owners.

“The principles of accountability and openness require full transparency. This means that all procurement information should be available online – including tender documentation, bids and all signed and amended contracts. George Osborne committed a future Conservative government to this in February 2010, but failed to deliver.

“The principle of honesty would mean that propriety is both rigorous and demonstrable so conflicts of interest do not arise.

“In terms of objectivity and leadership, the companies delivering public services should be at the forefront on issues such as equality, environmental sustainability and paying the real living wage.

“The government needs to give effect to the values of British public life set out by Lord Nolan by establishing this new set of principles.

“Ultimately, the primary motivation for the provision of services must be the public interest, not the pursuance of profit.”

Notes to editors:
– The full text of the letter from UNISON to the Minister for the Cabinet Office is available herenews