Mutuality? No, listen to what the voices of neo-Conservatism are saying in their unguarded moments…

There can’t be many who haven’t heard something about Conservative-controlled Wandsworth council’s plans to charge children to play in Battersea Park adventure playground. What struck me as the most genuinely scandalous aspect of this story were the remarks attributed to a council spokesperson in the Guardian’s coverage at the weekend: ‘Why should Wandsworth taxpayers subsidise children from other boroughs?’

Think about it. Parks, green spaces and other attractions have always operated in this way — they bring people from different places together, they are a cause for local pride, facilities for wider common good. But Wandsworth’s view rejects the very idea of a ‘common good’.

But these have not been the only unguarded remarks to reach the national papers in recent days.

The other story that caught my eye at the weekend was about Mark Britnell. Britnell used to be head of commissioning and systems in the NHS; he’s now head of health at accountancy and consulting  giant KPMG.

Speaking to an audience of private sector health business executives in New York last October at a conference organised by private equity fund Apax, Britnell told delegates that the next two years would be a bonanza for private sector health companies. ‘GPs,’ Britnell told his audience, ‘will have to aggregate purchasing power and there will be a big opportunity for those companies that can facilitate this process … In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer. The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.’

Many will say this is old news, but it gains additional relevance when we know that Britnell was recently appointed to Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’ and is now one of the PM’s most senior advisors on health ‘reforms’. (‘Reforms’: amongst the most abused words in the English language).

In recent years, partly as a consequence of new technology and the internet, the concept of ‘disruptors’ has become fashionable in business analysis. I hear it is in wide useage amongst health pundits and policy analysts. For these people, disruption is good. The power of ‘disruptors’ means that old, established interests are dismantled or challenged in favour of the market place, enabling the formation of new business models, new organisational structures or new economic forces. I’m sure ‘disruptor’ would be a term Britnell would use: meaning, the destruction we enable will be your opportunity.

Oddly, those who most ruthlessly advocate the transformative power of disruptors are often those who stand to  gain most financially. They may consider themselves genuine ‘reformers’, but their actions are fuelled by financial gain and an innate antipathy to co-operation, mutuality and the common good — because these values hinder competition.

Think long and hard about this when next a ‘disruptor’ offers your social enterprise unparalleled opportunities.


  1. Conor Barry Reply

    Charging people to enjoy Public spaces and Public facilities as Wandsworth propose is disgraceful but alas its nothing new. Birmingham City Council has been charging its citizens to use Sutton Park at week-ends and Public Holidays for ages. They may say that you only pay if you drive into one of its car parks but to ensure you do they have painted yellow lines around Europe’s largest park.

  2. Conor Barry Reply

    The same will probably apply to the NHS. Having paid for it since 1948 it will become a service that we must buy again if we wish to use it. Next year Employers and Employees must all have a second pension and I wonder how long will it be before we all have to have private health care

    • MicWorx Reply

      I briefly saw a headline about children paying for parks, I just didn’t realise it was Battersea Park.
      As a man who grew up in the pre-gentrified Battersea area (yes I remember when Labours Alf Dubs was the MP), it ways heavy on my heart to hear this news.
      My family still live in the area and my sister took my son to play there only 3 weeks ago.
      To think my child cannot enjoy a basic provision like the adventure playground disgusts me. However, the park is very big and children can still play in other green areas……BUT, how long will it be until they start charging everyone an entry fee into the park, let alone the play areas!!??!!
      Can somebody please tell me what we pay our taxes for (because it looks like it won’t be the NHS in a couple of years time!!)

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