The unemployment figures which came out yesterday weren't over-hyped, even by the government. For an excellent analysis of what they mean, read Mark Easton on the BBC news site. Long-term unemployment is rising inexorably, which shows that the Work Programme isn't doing what it was supposed to do. But no one is really asking why.
The G4S fiasco has opened up a debate about the whole privatisation project. We're still not entirely clear what went wrong, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. It must be galling for A4e that the company is routinely linked with G4S as an example of the dangers of outsourcing. But will the lessons be learned? There's a very thoughtful piece in the New Statesman by Rick Muir, and another in the Guardian by Seamus Milne. Here are my observations, for what they're worth.
One of my earliest concerns when I started examining A4e was how quickly one company could drive out the competition. The bigger the contract, the more likely this is to happen. And when everything is privatised, where do you go when things go wrong? When the public sector no longer exists, you can't take a service back in-house. Olympic security now depends on the army and the police. But my pension is now run by Capita. What happens if they screw up? Serco runs an out-of-hours GP service in Cornwall which has become so poor that they've been ordered to improve it. What happens if they can't? Three companies - Serco, G4S and Capita - now run vast numbers of services in this country. You and I have no control over them. It is no longer a case of deciding that private profit is a better motivator than public service. The politicians decided that long ago. It's no coincidence that many of the politicians have connections with these companies. Perhaps it takes a huge mess like that which G4S has put us in to focus minds.
Your thoughts, please.