The party conference season is always depressing, but this year it's frightening as well. I've taken to avoiding the BBC's news and politics output altogether. So what are the important issues which are not being talked about?
Outsourcing (or privatisation - in the public mind they're the same thing) should be in the forefront. It is in the clamour about the NHS. As private companies move in to pick up contracts it's pointed out that i) many are American and ii) many MPs have financial interests in them. But creeping privatisation is happening in lots of areas. The academy chain AET has gone into an arrangement with accountants PriceWaterhouseCooper to outsource all its non-teaching staff. It won't stop there.
There's a great piece by Patrick Butler in the Guardian which shows that outsourcing is about driving down costs by cutting wages. Around 5.4 million people now work in outsourced public services, and it's being driven, particularly in the "care" sector, by the cuts to local authority budgets. That's how this government has achieved its aim, by pushing the responsibility back onto local councils and then claiming that it's their fault.
How is that veteran of outsourcing, the Work Programme, going? Swimmingly if you believe the government. But the Welfare News Service site did an excellent analysis of the figures showing just how badly it's letting down the unemployed. A4e, of course, spun it frantically. "A recent report by Europe Economics, an independent research company commissioned by the Employment Related Services Association, has also estimated that around 100,000 jobs for the long term unemployed would not have taken place without the programme and that £18 billion in value to the UK economy is likely to be generated by the Work Programme." Neither of those figures bear examination.
Let's hear some pearls of wisdom from Leo McKinstry of the Express: "Under Work And Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith the Government has rooted out abuses, introduced tough sanctions, ensured that work pays more than the dole and tackled the housing benefit scandal where jobless claimants could live in luxurious accommodation courtesy of the taxpayer." In any field except journalism and politics this would be regarded as symptomatic of delusional illness.
If you have thoughts on the conferences relevant to this blog, please comment. (I don't promise to publish unless you stick to the rules, basically be relevant, literate and polite.)