In the end it won’t be lack of money that does for the public sector. It won’t be the loss of skills or the lack of experience due to early retirements and redundancies. It won’t be the increased role of the private sector and a greater reliance on faith, community and voluntary groups. It won’t be the erosion of the public sector ethos as a more business like approach takes over. No, what will do for the public sector is pessimism and cynicism.
Pessimism and cynicism are corrosive. If you don’t think things will get better, if you believe there is no hope for improvement and even that things can only get worse, then why would you struggle on? If you start to believe that the real motivation for change is self interest, career advancement and some well paid jobs for a select few, then why would you try harder, work longer or do anything other than as little as possible?
This could be summed up as a loss of faith. No longer believing you can make a difference, no longer believing others are motivated by the same desire and no longer believing that what makes the public sector different is the aim of doing what’s best for the wider community rather than making a profit.
Maybe this doesn’t matter when it comes to emptying the bins. If the private sector can do it cheaper and make a profit then why not give them a contract for refuse disposal or office cleaning? But is it right and proper to increasingly give over the care of frail and vulnerable older people to companies whose primary aim is to do it as cheap as possible in order to make as much profit as possible? If that is acceptable presumably it’s acceptable to do the same with the care of people who have a learning disability and the care of people who have mental health problems? And what about child protection services?
The vulnerable are by definition not able to stand up for themselves. They need people and organisations whose overriding motivation is to help them enjoy a better quality of life. Already many local authorities no longer directly provide residential care or home helps instead placing contracts for these services to be provided by a range of businesses. And what is the difference between a foundation hospital that takes private patients and a private hospital that takes NHS patients?
The danger is that pessimism and cynicism leads to people being unable to distinguish between the private and public sector at which point why have a public sector?