The Conservatives are continuing their bid to woo Labour supporters by renewing their promise of giving public sector workers the chance to form co-operatives to run services.
The policy would be the biggest shift of power to employees since Margaret Thatcher brought in the right to buy council houses in the 1980s, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said.
The plans would mean staff who work in services funded by the taxpayer – such as nursing teams and job centres – would be able to decide how they were run to a certain degree.
Opposition leader David Cameron (pictured) launched the Conservative Co-operative Movement in 2007, insisting that such groups embodied core Conservative values, and it was time to reclaim them from the political Left.
Mr Osborne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the move was “pretty radical”.
“This is a power shift to public sector workers so that they take control of their own working environment and they get away from these top-down bureaucracies which have made life a misery for so many people in the public sector.”
He denied that it would result in a “free-for-all”.
“The check on quality here is that they would be contracting services to the local authority or the NHS and they would be providing a contract, for community nursing or for primary education.
“And we would be making sure, as taxpayers, that we were getting value for money and it was appropriately run and the standards the kids were being taught to were at the right level and the like. So it is not a complete free for all.”
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“There is a desperate need to move away from the centralist, command-and-control culture we currently experience. There is nothing good about it; top-down management, institutionalised bullying, costly and ineffective bureaucracy to measure politically expedient targets, etc. Anything that adds to the debate is welcome” – Chris Maude, Reading