Whitehall will be sold off in the name of reform

 

Westminster Outlook Royal Mail aside, this Tory-led Coalition has not been a government marked by grand privatisations.

Indeed, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has been fairly true to his word in a meeting with CBI director-general John Cridland three years ago. A leaked memo showed Mr Maude vowed that there "would not be a return to the 1990s with wholesale outsourcing to the private sector".

Although he was once a managing director at Morgan Stanley, Mr Maude argued that the Government "was not prepared to run the political risk of fully transferring services to the private sector". The Horsham MP did not want the Coalition to be accused of "allowing excess profitmaking by private sector firms".

Instead, the Coalition has altered the corporate status of great swathes of the state, slowly ripening departmental bodies for privatisation. Large chunks of taxpayer-funded work, from the £14bn-budget arm of the Ministry of Defence that buys military kit to parts of the Health & Safety Executive, have been loosened from the Civil Service's grip and granted certain commercial freedoms.

The legislatively thin Queen's Speech on Wednesday might have betrayed that this is a Coalition preparing for separation at next year's general election, yet still there was a continuation of this policy.

The Infrastructure Bill will turn the Highways Agency – which runs, maintains and improves Britain's most important 4,300 miles of motorways and trunk roads – into a Government-owned company. This means the agency will be able to break the Civil Service's strict pay code to help attract top staff from the private sector and could be granted certain borrowing powers, in moves the Coalition believes will save £2.6bn over 10 years.

The transport minister, Robert Goodwill, has been very clear that he doesn't see this as a move towards privatisation, as many industry insiders hope and virtually all union chiefs fear.

What is unquestionable, though, is that it will be less of a major step, and therefore not as controversial, for a future government to sell off the Highways Agency – as well as those other parts of the state that have been commercialised under David Cameron's watch.

This leaves two big questions: will a Conservative government armed with a sizeable majority after the next election make that final, decisive move and float shares in these agencies or at least outsource the management to the likes of Serco and Capita? And what is next?

I'm not sure of the answer to the first, but I'd be willing to bet that the Government is taking a good hard look at the Environment Agency.

After being trounced for its lax response to the winter floods, the Environment Agency finds itself in a precarious position. And this gives the Government the excuse it barely needs to expand a policy of commercialising Whitehall under the guise of necessary reform.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Arts and Entertainment
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
tv'Friends' cafe will be complete with Gunther and orange couch
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

£200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

Test Manager - Banking - Yorkshire - £450 per day

£400 - £500 per day: Orgtel: Test Manager - Banking - West Yorkshire - £400-£5...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone