Following an injudicious decision by the Confederation for British Industry in Scotland, several agencies have suspended or withdrawn from membership. The agencies include universities, the BBC and public bodies such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority. I had no idea that so many public services were members.
The CBI has several functions, and they offer opportunities for networking; but that much could be said for joining the Freemasons. The CBI is primarily, in its own terms, a campaigning organisation, which exists
to promote the conditions in which businesses of all sizes and sectors in the UK can compete and prosper for the benefit of all. To achieve this, we campaign in the UK, the EU and internationally for a competitive policy landscape.
The CBI is explicitly a pro-market lobbying organisation, making the case for greater competition in economic markets. In relation to public services, the CBI describes its role in these terms:
Creating effective public services markets – from education and healthcare, to policing and welfare – is a key element to how successfully government at all levels can transform public services to meet the long-term demands facing them. … Business has a vital role to play in improving public services and helping government get the most out of its markets. Having a diverse range of providers increases quality, stimulates new ways of working and encourages greater efficiency – essential to encouraging growth and dealing with the deficit. The best providers from the public, private and voluntary sectors should compete on a level playing field …
This is familiar stuff, because we have had thirty years of it from the New Right. It is ideologically driven, self-interested, and largely unrelated to the needs, achievements or challenges of public services. What troubles me is not that the CBI should peddle this twaddle, but that so many public services should be ready to use public money to support the CBI in saying it.