Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, believes that paying consultants exorbitant fees is the wrong way to involve the private sector.
A major article in the The Mail on Sunday makes disturbing reading for those of us who are free-marketeers. Based on leaked documents, it describes how Graham McAvoy, who not long ago was a key government adviser on promoting and setting up academy schools, has now become a private-sector consultant doing the same thing.
The difference is that his company can now make millions of pounds by charging exorbitant fees for its work It would help to be able to quote from the article's list of fees charged for routine tasks. But by Monday evening, the link to the main article no longer worked.
As the leader says:
'Our once-simple government, local and national, has vanished behind a bewildering smog of agencies, consultancies and authorities, inaccessible and unaccountable. It is also far more expensive and much less efficient than what went before.'
An all too common story. But why? Too often, the private sector is used, not to provide efficient services at fair prices, but to absolve elected politicians and their officials from direct responsibility. Nowhere is this more true than in education. Using every trick in the book, honest private-sector competition is scrupulously avoided. How many local authorities now pay companies to do what they once did themselves?
How many of these companies use exactly the same ideologically-motivated personnel who were previously employed by the local authority? Their wages still come from the taxpayer – there's just another respectable sounding name in between. Whose fault is that? (Hint: if local authorities did their job properly, why the need to consider alternative providers?)
It seems safe to assume Graham McAvoy's multi-million pound fees were paid by the Department for Children, Schools and Families with taxpayers' money. Wouldn't it be fair for taxpayers to be told exactly who in the Department was involved at every stage – and how and why?