Turning Point chief executive Lord Adebowale clashed with Brendan Barber over the TUC general secretary’s refusal to encourage workers to run their own services as part of the Big Society programme.
In a fringe event at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference, Adebowale urged Barber to back the policy after hearing his concerns that it would open the door to privatisation.
“Frontline services are already being cut, and we need a debate about the future of public services and what form they should take,” said Adebowale, whose not-for-profit organisation provides health and social care to adults.
“The TUC should have a discussion with us about reforming these, and social enterprises and mutuals, because too many ideas are being dismissed at the moment.”
Barber agreed to take part in future talks, but said: “There are fears on the part of unions about different models which have been seen as a stepping stone towards privatisation. You might have social enterprises which have been set up to take on service delivery and in no time at all they have given the contract to a bigger provider in the private sector to deliver services.”
Adebowale replied: “That’s why we need a discussion, because some of those fears are imagined.”
Also at the session was Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the treasury, who defended the government’s Big Society agenda.
“Many organisations, like social enterprises, will help us to get better results because they’re rooted in their local communities and often run by their employees, which is something we as Liberal Democrats have supported for a very long time. We can’t afford not to make these changes,” he said.
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