Aditya Chakraborrty in the Grauniad has rather missed the point about outsourcing. Primarily because the poor fellow labours under the delusion that privatised services are free and only Council binmen cost money, thus he is outraged when Barnet's outsourced revenue services don't produce revenue savings. No dear, they won't. Crapita, G4S and their stable mates are experts at wringing profits out of public service contracts, whether from money-tree PPI or cost-squeezing simple outsourcing. They're contract experts and make their margins on all the additional charges having won the work on low bids for fixed-price core work. But if Barnet is doing things right, Crapita is only an intermediate stage.
One of the biggest costs to downsizing in local government are pension and redundancy costs associated with shedding staff with generous and protective T&Cs of employment. So Stage One is to transfer this risk out of the council. Risk in a contract should always be placed with the party best able to deal with it - and that generally means the Crapitas of this world. The second stage is to reduce contracts and contract scope until residual services are too small to be commercially viable when, unless they are statutory, they can be undertaken by the third sector and local volunteers to much public advantage.
The great exception of course are what are termed Childrens' Services - the armies of social workers who spend 75% of their time covering eachothers' backs in the event a child is abused on their patch. Until we find a solution to this, they will eat every pound of savings made elsewhere in councils.
News of Charles Kennedy's death came in whilst I was writing. Shocking at age 55, it is perhaps not quite as shocking if his appearance on QT prior to the election was a clue. If losing his seat and watching his party nosedive drove him even deeper into the bottle in the last four weeks then death was just a matter of time. I love alcohol, but then I've always been the master and never its servant.