So far the argument over the role of private firms in the provision of public services has mainly been waged in terms of efficiency. Those in favour of greater involvement have focused on the improvements to service quality and the cost-effectiveness offered by private sector providers; those opposed have questioned the truth of these claims. Yet there is another debate about the implications of private involvement for the character of public services which deserves attention.
In Commercialisation or Citizenship Colin Crouch looks at how this use of private business in public services changes the character of the services delivered and the notions of citizenship which underpin them. He argues that public services were designed to provide entitlements or rights – to education, health and social care – and that they did this through an equitable allocation of resources on a universal basis. The role now being given to private business in this field does not simply ignore this foundation, it actively undermines it.
Using education as his example, Crouch gives a comprehensive analysis of private sector involvement showing how this threatens the citizenship basis of education. He then offers a number of practical proposals for a strategy of modernising public services in a manner which is compatible with the concept of the welfare state as a fundamental component of social citizenship.
You can buy a printed copy edition of Commercialisation or Citizenship: Education policy and the future of public services for £6.95, plus £1 p+p, by phoning the Fabian Society bookshop on 020 7227 4900, emailing us at [email protected] or send a cheque payable to “The Fabian Society” to 11 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BN.