The prime minister has been accused of trying to take the UK back to the “divisive” years of the 1980s after suggesting that all public services could be opened up to private companies.

David Cameron wrote in a newspaper article that “complete change” was needed in the public sector to improve standards for users.

A new presumption that private companies, voluntary groups and charities should be allowed to bid to provide services would allow the government to transform public services without having to legislate repeatedly to allow different providers to get involved, he said.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused Mr Cameron of pursuing a “naked right wing agenda” that would take the country back to the most divisive years of the 1980s.

“The prime minister has been telling us that the cuts are sadly necessary, not a secret political project to destroy public services. Yet today’s proposal to privatise everything that moves is exactly the kind of proposal that voters would reject if put at an election.”

General secretary of Unison Dave Prentis said: “Not content with breaking apart our NHS and our schools, the Tories are now turning their wrecking ball onto the entire public sector.

“The Tories want to turn the clock back to a time when private companies ran schools, hospitals and other council services. The state was forced to step in when the market failed to give people equal access to decent services.

“Taking vital services out of the public sector will see a postcode lottery develop. Huge transaction costs and a tsunami of bureaucracy will waste billions. As private companies seek to eke out profits they will strip our services to their bare bones.

Mr Prentis added: “This is not about modernisation - it is about privatisation, creating an open market for the Tories’ friends in big business to make billions out of our public services.”