Friday, 12 February 2010

The Waiting Time

This is a waiting time for private contractors. We're eight weeks from a general election, the outcome of which is still anyone's guess; and local councils are finalising budgets and working out how to save money. We can be certain that a great deal of lobbying is going on behind the scenes, with companies like A4e seeking to influence decision-makers both locally and nationally. But nothing much is happening at the moment.
I suspect that, whoever is in power after 6 May, New Deal (Flexible or otherwise) is dead. If Labour is returned they must surely try to bring some coherence to the various programmes aimed at getting the unemployed into work. Contracts will either be renegotiated or allowed to run down. We have no figures as yet for FND but we know that, ironically, it has cost jobs. The providers need fewer staff because clients only have to put in the occasional appearance; and sub-contractors are largely redundant, except where the specialist skills of sub-contractors like FE colleges have been picked up by those running local schemes. The Conservatives are determined on their "Work Programme" but this will not be viable (and will attract no bidders) unless it embraces all the unemployed, not only the long-term, and that would drive out local initiatives. If there is a hung parliament, it's all up for grabs.
Local councils will be more promising ground. We've already seen Tory councils contracting out all their services to the likes of IBM, and more are promising to do so. This may well be where the action is for A4e and others.

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