Welsh Labour is ‘failing to protect public services from unscrupulous bidders’ claims Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru has expressed disbelief after Labour Senedd Members failed to back a series of legal amendments aimed at protecting the public interest from unscrupulous private suppliers when the Welsh Government procures goods and services.
Wales’ biggest trade union Unison is currently campaigning on the issue and has published a lengthy report about it which states: “An emphasis on competition and markets has undermined the public service ethos associated with public services and has too often worked against the public interest. Although it was argued at the time that such an approach did in fact align with the public interest by reducing costs, promoting innovation, and giving public bodies greater flexibility, it is now clear that the experiment has failed to fulfil the promise on which it was sold. All too often wider social, environmental, and economic implications have been eclipsed by the pursuit of narrow, short term cost savings.”
The report continues: “A public interest test should be established to evaluate any consideration of outsourcing. This would require a contracting body to demonstrate that an inhouse solution is not possible and that outsourcing is in the public interest.
“The public interest test should also be applied prior to reletting existing contracts. In all cases it would require a thorough evaluation of the impact of contracting out a service on service quality and accessibility; value for money of the expenditure; implications for other public services and public sector budgets; resilience of the service being provided; implications for the local economy and availability of good work in relevant sub national labour markets; implications for public accountability and transparency; effect on employment conditions, terms and standards within the provision of the service to be outsourced and when outsourced; implications for public sector contributions to climate change targets; implications on equalities policies of the contracting authority and its compliance with public sector equalities duties.”
Plaid Cymru put forward amendments to the NHS Procurement Bill in the Senedd that it says was along much of the same lines – but every Labour MS voted against them, despite it seemingly being aligned with the campaign work of a Labour-affiliated union.
Plaid also pointed out that there is a similar piece of legislation currently moving through the House of Lords called the Procurement Bill, which would introduce similar protections in England. The Bill is being advocated and proposed by Labour front bencher Florence Eshalomi, the Shadow Minister for Democracy.
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for housing and health, said: “We put a dozen or so amendments forward to protect our NHS from creeping privatisation. We also aimed to ensure that all staff in the procurement chain were in receipt of the Real Living Wage. And we also put forward amendments to stop the kind of cronyism that we saw with the PPE scandal and the VIP lane that was set up for those that were linked to senior politicians during the height of the Covid crisis. Sadly, on each occasion the Labour government voted our amendments down.
“Plaid Cymru will always put the interests of the people of Wales first and it is bitterly disappointing that the Labour government doesn’t share our values when it comes to transparency and probity in this respect.”
Former Plaid leader Adam Price, the MS for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said: “It is immensely frustrating that our amendments, which were suggested to protect the NHS in Wales and offer its staff better working conditions, were so bluntly opposed by the Welsh Labour government.
“On the specific issue of public interest tests for outsourcing, we have Labour affiliated unions backing this idea with policy papers, we have a Labour opposition in Westminster backing the idea in the House of Lords, and yet we have a Labour government in Wales rejecting the idea out of hand. Labour is saying one thing in opposition and doing another in government – it’s ‘do as I say, not as I do’.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Health Services Procurement (Wales) Bill provides a framework for future regulations and guidance. The Bill is deliberately narrow in scope to provide flexibility for Wales to respond effectively to changes already being brought about by the UK Government’s Health and Care Act 2022.
“Under the new regime to be developed as a result of this Bill the Welsh Government will be able to consider a wide range of matters, potentially including public interest tests, in bringing forward future regulations to be approved by the Senedd.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.