Social care workers and other public sector staff would be given
more freedom to run local services under the Liberal
Proposals endorsed at last week’s party conference in Brighton
would limit central control over health and social care and give
greater powers to local professionals and communities to halt
“enslavement by Whitehall’s control culture”.
In a debate on public services, Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor
Matthew Taylor said reform, decentralisation and local democracy
were the bedrock of the Liberal Democrat approach. “Our proposals
will transform the role of the state so that government is
enabling, not controlling as it is today,” he said.
The debate centred on a 60-page policy paper, Quality, Innovation,
Choice, which spells out the party’s vision for public services.
It says local service providers should be free to choose methods of
delivery, from both public and private sectors, in order to achieve
best outcomes. Although some delegates warned against the transfer
of public services to “cherry-picking” private providers, an
amendment that would have limited private sector involvement in
public service delivery was rejected.
The policy paper acknowledges the “strong element of altruism”
among Britain’s public sector staff. “We value that commitment,” it
It also supports local pay flexibility to help recruit staff to
high-cost areas or to unattractive jobs.
The plans won overwhelming support from delegates. Liberal Democrat
MEP Chris Huhne, who chaired the commission that drew up the
policy, said: “Our policies will put power back in the hands of the
people who use these services and the professionals who run
Party leader Charles Kennedy said the debate over public services
had moved on from funding to delivery.
“The argument is no longer about how much you spend but about how
effectively you spend it,” he said. “The issue is this: do you
spend the money wastefully from the centre or effectively through
Quality, Innovation, Choice from