Public 'not against' private-funded public services


British consumers are more than happy to have public services provided by private businesses and want government reform on the issue to be speeded up, a new survey says.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) claims that trade union opposition to private-backed public services are "out of touch" with public opinion.

Set against the backdrop of strikes in the NHS over increased use of private firms, 62 per cent of respondents in the YouGov poll said they thought the pace of reform should be faster, while only one in ten said it should be slowed or stopped altogether.

Two-thirds of people said that private sector companies should be allowed full-access into the public sector as long as their services were of a high quality.

Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, commented: "This new poll proves that attempts to derail public service reform are not only misguided, they also misjudge the public mood. People want more reform, not less, to bring services up to the levels they rightly expect."

Mr Lambert insisted that private and voluntary sectors are "central to delivering better, more efficient public services".

At next week's Labour conference, party leaders are expected to suffer a backlash from trade unions over the increased use of business in the public sector, and the CBI chief added: "As the government debates its future political direction and leadership, it should stay true to its reform programme and not blink in the face of strike threats or conference ambushes. To put reform into reverse gear would be to betray the very people that voted it in."

Commenting on today's survey, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Brendan Barber, called the CBI's conclusions "ludicrous".

"Trade union members work hard to deliver public services day -in day-out but they also rely on them to educate and care for their families. The public and employees want outstanding public services but are equally concerned about how businesses intend to make money from our health and education," he said.

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