By Robin Clapp
In a week where spiv firms like G4S have shown they couldn't organise a proverbial in a brewery and hospitals are told they're bankrupt because PFI contracts have begun to, predictably, go belly-up, it might have been advisable for Bristol City Council's Lib Dem leadership to hold back from their announcement that they intend giving up on providing public care homes in favour of seeking partnerships with the private sector.
Eight care homes will close across the city, displacing over 200 residents and costing the jobs of over 300 dedicated staff.
This comes on top of the privatisation of the home care service and drastic cuts in grants to the voluntary sector.
Previously even the Tories blanched at these steps before dutifully falling behind their coalition partners, while the New Labour leaders seem either to have undertaken a collective vow of silence or, at most, are timorously asking whether this step is wise. Not a word about what they would do.
Under the guise of offering "consumer choice",councillors have resorted to mouthing increasingly discredited platitudes like "social enterprise" and "not for profit provision" as offering the best ways ahead.
Yet just up the road in south Gloucester, BBC's Panorama last year exposed the scandal of where these words can lead when the "make a quick buck and cut costs to the bone" private sector gets its snout into the care budget.
This example is one of many. All three mainstream parties are in it together in town halls, preparing cutsthat represent an ideological attack on public welfare and social provision.
So it's left to the trade unions, community groups, service users and the anti-cuts alliance to sound the alarm bells and spell out the catastrophe that lies ahead for elderly and vulnerable people if this privatisers' charter gets the green light. We'll be lobbying the Cabinet on 26 July, then the full council meeting.
We'll demand there that the council should immediately use its £60 million reserves to plug any urgent spending gaps and renew and update the current in-house provision. A city-wide campaign of opposition will then be stepped up.
The private sector cannot provide good quality services. The Bristol and District anti-cuts Alliance (BADACA) will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who are prepared to resist this latest assault and campaign for a national, publicly funded social care service based on need.