BSA Blog: Party manifestos and the outsourcing industry

  • BSA staff
  • 27 Apr 2015

Blog by new policy advisor Michael Rose for the BSA

With just two weeks to go until Britain’s voters head to the polls in what is anticipated to be the tightest general election in decades, the political parties have now laid out their programmes for office. Normally the principal focus would be on Labour and the Conservatives, the two parties traditionally vying for power and whose policies have the most realistic chance of implementation. However, 2010 showed us that the platforms of smaller parties, in that instance the Liberal Democrats, are not to be ignored. This time around, with a hung parliament hotly anticipated, the manifesto commitments of the smaller parties are being poured over more feverishly than ever before.

The business services industry, in anticipation of a governing coalition or a confidence and supply deal between Labour or the Conservatives and one or more of the smaller parties, would be wise to examine the opportunities in their manifesto proposals. The influence a party outside of the Conservative/Labour duopoly may be greater than many would have previously predicted. The future provision of public services and the competitive tendering process may be subject to the watchful eye of politicians of more than one persuasion.

Changes to government procurement practices can be expected no matter who comes to office after May 7th. Labour, for example, have pledged to use government procurement to ensure more employers pay a living wage . The Conservatives meanwhile have committed to raising the government target for SME procurement to one third . In their manifestos both parties express their keenness for public services to represent value for taxpayers money.

With intense scrutiny of the political parties manifesto tax and spend plans, a future government will likely be more focused than ever on squeezing as much as they can out of every pound spent. This provides an opportunity for the outsourcing industry to demonstrate to an incoming government not only their ability to provide cost efficient services, but examples of previous best practice. In addition to this, both major parties have expressed a desire to improve services in the public sector, particularly in the NHS, for example. Outsourcing companies will need to, as Home Secretary Theresa May said with regard to the police service, show they can ‘do more with less’ .

The further devolution of powers, and by implication procurement decision making, will likely be higher up the agenda, should a power sharing deal be struck with one of the nationalist parties. A much mooted deal between Labour and the Scottish Nationalists will likely see additional powers to Scotland included as part of any agreement. Additionally the further devolvement of power to Wales will likely form part of any arrangement with Plaid Cymru.

This will have direct implications for service providers, who will have the chance to tailor their offering to suit the needs of these legislatively emboldened, devolved power centres. With more spending power in the hands of governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the business services industry will have the opportunity to show off their cost and efficiency saving credentials to a new audience.

Whilst nobody, from the Prime Minister downwards, knows what the country will look like after May 7th, the business services industry must be aware of continuing reform and changes. It is essential for the outsourcing sector to understand the landscape and be engaged with whatever changes are proposed, at every layer of government. As an industry which employs over 10% of the workforce and contributes over 8% of total economic output , theirs is a voice to be heard. The manifesto commitments can be a useful guide as to what to expect, however the distinct possibility of multi-party government means they cannot be taken as gospel.

  Related topics: Procurement, Public service reform, Public spending, Scotland, Local Government, Economy and growth