Saturday, 25 September 2010

Round-up, 25 September 2010

Knowing that PR pieces are more effective than news, A4e are still plugging the failed Pathways scheme. Typical is an article on Guildford People citing the success of one man in getting back into work, thanks to A4e. It ends with the standard advert for the company. We're happy for the man who is back in a job - let's hope there a few more such successes.

Another piece of marketing is A4e's involvement with the Homeless World Cup. It's a tournament taking place in Brazil. Like all such events, it's a vehicle for sponsoring companies to advertise their wares, and A4e are making the most of it.

All the outsourcing companies will be watching events in Suffolk, as the County Council plans to flog off all its services. They are following Barnet, which was dubbed "easycouncil" after its plans to do the same (although Barnet's auditors have now warned that the council doesn't have a credible business plan). In Suffolk, "Services would be offloaded in stages. While some 'early adopter' services could be outsourced as early as this autumn, the rest would be divested in three phases from April 2011. Libraries, youth clubs, highway services, independent living centres, careers advice, children's centres, registrars, country parks and a records office are among the first services that could be divested." This is supposed to save 30% of the council's budget, and it's an attractive model for Tory-controlled councils around the country. But, as Chrus Huhne has pointed out, unless the contracts are very well designed the councils can get stuck with failing delivery which they can do nothing about. As the bids go in from the likes of A4e, Serco and the rest, residents will have no say in which company ends up running, for profit, the public services that are vital to them.

A4e have submitted a memorandum to the government on Local Enterprise Partnerships. These LEPs are going to replace the Regional Development Agencies which were a lucrative source of contracts for private companies, not least A4e, so you would expect to find them eager to have a role in the new set-up. Sure enough, the memo proclaims A4e's credentials; it "has close, practical experience of the past and current approaches to local economic development, understands the issues intimately and is well placed to contribute to the debate on their future led by the new LEPs." There is much more in that vein. They want to ensure that the Work Programme is "joined up" to the rest of the LEPs' activities; and they want more of the "Total Place" concept, "joining up locally provided services". A4e wants to be one of the "managing agents" which, they recommend, will be commissioned by the LEPs. You can't blame them for trying, and perhaps they'll succeed. LEPs could be a bigger source of profit than the RDAs.

For a political take on New Deal read an article on Progressonline by Alison McGovern, a new Labour MP.

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