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.