One of the great advantages to government of flogging off public services is that the politicians are then not accountable. Information is refused because it is "commercially sensitive". Even at local council level, the taxpayers and the service users (and even councillors) are told that the details of contracts are none of their business. The debacle over A4e highlighted the problems with this situation. But for this government the Work Programme leaves them nowhere to hide.
Iain Duncan Smith spent years in opposition developing his theories on welfare. Being in government has brought him face to face with reality. But he can't afford for his theories to be proved wrong. So, along with the imperturbable Chris Grayling, he has to insist, against all the evidence, that the Work Programme is proving a rip-roaring success. The government can't afford for it to fail; it is the model for all future privatisation. And if that means redefining failure as success, they'll do it. The contracts, we are told, are strictly "payment by results". But that isn't true. The companies insisted on "attachment fees", an upfront payment for each starter. Someone on the MyLegal website has analysed the finances and shown that A4e must already have received £25.3 million in attachment fees alone. And if they are achieving only 10% job outcomes they are likely to have been paid around £32.8 million for getting 6,300 people into work. But the dead weight figure (those who would have got work without any intervention) is reckoned to be around 25%. When the government is finally obliged to publish figures it will be interesting to see how they get round that. Then there's the fact that the contracts were supposed to involve small, local and charity organisations; but 28 of these have already dropped out, unable to make it pay.
What does increased "Mandatory Work Activity" do to the availability of actual jobs? Never mind, there are plenty of jobs out there. IDS, Grayling and other ministers trot out figures for the number of vacancies which bear an increasingly tenuous relationship with reality. On 14 June IDS claimed that 500,000 new jobs are being added to Jobcentres every week. The FullFact website has shown that this is simply not true. JCP reckons it's about 10,000 a day; but any jobseeker knows that this doesn't reflect genuine job vacancies.
So annoyed is Iain Duncan Smith by the refusal of the real world to conform to his theories that he is increasingly blaming the poor for their poverty. There's nothing new in that for the right wing of politics.