Letters: Private profit and public debts

Letters: If David Cameron's ambition of putting all public service out to tender becomes a reality, then we face the end of proper democratic accountability for those services which civilise our society and underpin our sense of national identity

Paul Kirby says that "the boundaries between public, private and third sector provision should melt away" (Extend public service reform – policy chief, 22 February). He should ask himself why there is a public sector: it is because the private (market) sector, left to itself, would not provide services with the coverage and quality that society wants, and is prepared to pay for through taxation. Of course some public services can be contracted out, when the required level of service can be specified and enforceable. But this is cumbersome and can fail badly: Mr Kirby should look at the story of London Underground's "public-private partnership". And for many services such specification is impossible. It is all very well to rely on professional judgment, but the taxpayer will demand political accountability – which means multiple and varying criteria. This may look inefficient from a KPMG point of view, but it is in the nature of the mixed economy.

Alan Bailey


• Perhaps someone should tell Mr Cameron and Mr Kirby that this is a coalition not a Conservative government and that their coalition partners may have something to say about this. Liberal Democrat policies are for decentralisation and democratisation of public services, not hiving them all off to whichever private companies want to run and shape them for profit, with the inevitable loss of democratic involvement and accountability. Throwing a few high-profile crumbs to charities will not mask a policy of wholesale privatisation or make it acceptable to the public.

I have little doubt that the Liberal Democrats as a party will refuse to accept this rightwing nonsense – which anyway is not in the coalition agreement. The question is: are our leadership in government willing and able to put their foot down and stop it happening before the bandwagon starts to roll and it breaks the coalition?

Tony Greaves

Liberal Democrat, House of Lords

• I have just finished reading Polly Toynbee's brilliant article (NHS turmoil is just the start of Tory ideology run wild, 22 February). All I can say is, enough is enough. If the Liberal Democrats want to re-establish their credibility then now is the time to bring this government down.

Kenneth Smith

Newbury, Berkshire

• If David Cameron's ambition – well hidden before he became PM – of putting all public services out to tender becomes a reality, then we face the end of proper democratic accountability for those services which civilise our society and underpin our sense of national identity. The principles of a decent education for every child, child protection, support of the physically and mentally vulnerable, and an NHS led by professionals and driven by the needs and views of the patient, will all become a thing of the past.

We face a society more divided by underpinning religious differences through the education system, and the development of an underclass of those who can never aspire to a halfway decent life – which in itself brutalises the rest of us who stand and watch. This will all take place against a background of savage cuts to those easiest to hit. If Ed Miliband cannot find a coherent response to this appalling list of planned butchery, then it will be the end of the Labour movement – and deservedly so.

Irene Short

Halton, Buckinghamshire

• Where is the evidence that the private sector is better? Heathrow airport? British Airways? Network Rail? Deregulated buses? The cartel that is now our energy companies? And what about the whole financial sector? Didn't their greed, short-termism and incompetent management almost bring about the collapse of the western world's financial systems (saved by public intervention)? Of course there are examples of inefficiency in the public sector, but essentially people there go to work to "do a good job" for their service users, an ethos that seems now to be completely overlooked in the Tory party's one-sided ideological attacks. Is anyone seriously going to argue that there is not inefficiency in the private sector?

John Strongman


The GuardianTramp

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