A few years ago a school governor friend asked me to look at a Standard Model Contract for cleaning their primary school. The budgets had been devolved, but quite rightly the school had to demonstrate that its procurement of services was competitive. The school was then cleaned by two sisters, both of whom had kids there, and a friend of theirs. They were being asked to complete a contract folio two inches thick, and submit a boxful of supporting information including their training policy, equalities policies, quality systems and a host of minor requirements. They would be bidding against two nationally known facilities management companies.
The answer of course was to draft a replacement service specification that reflected exactly what was done and what the Head wanted to be done by the school's cleaners. This included providing replacement clothing for 'accidents' and laundering and returning the soiled items, acting as set dressers and stage managers for the nativity play and most importantly taking the school's goldfish and Syrian Hamsters home for the school holidays. The bulk of the onerous supporting information, so easy for large firms to churn out but a real market barrier for micro-enterprises, was to be provided only on winning the contract. The result was that the big boys declined to tender and the school kept its cleaners.
If Cameron's empowerment means anything it's this. It's allowing Ward Sisters to dictate service standards and specifications, not some KPMG blow-in in Regional HQ. It's allowing park users to determine their priorities, not the strategic planning authority. And it's allowing me and my neighbours to set, and pay for, the services we want, not some bloke in a silk suit in PWC Towers.
The Grauniad expects a tsunami of profits for the private providers from the cuts. I think they're being pessimistic. I think this could be a real chance for users to take control of the services they consume, discard the central Statist model that the big players are so inextricably entwined with and let's see how Crapita and Crapco respond to 20,000 micro contracts each with an empowered client holding the budget.