John Davis responds to James Purnell

I am a retired civil servant who endured the dogmatic approach of the Thatcher Government to the privatisation of the public services, and who has observed at first hand the consequences of the failing of the Labour Government to understand the reasons for its failure.

My response to the article is that nobody has understood the ability of most — perhaps all — public service managers to adapt (with the right training and motivation) to the new requirements which are now evident. Many of them have been drawn from the ranks of the professionals within the service, and so understand the problems — but have not so much understanding of management practices.

Within my own branch, the training was given, the motivation was instilled — but to no avail, because the service was (in line with Thatcher’s dogma) privatised. It is now clear that, in order to maintain the service required by the Department, former members have had to be re-recruited.

The waste of money on managers and consultants from the private sector, and the accusations of privatisation by the back door, could be avoided if the current managers were allowed control of their own services, and given the brief to ensure that choices were available to the public within the services provided by the public sector.

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