The Prime Minister has been accused of trying to take the UK back to the “divisive” years of the 1980s after suggesting that all public services could be opened up to private companies.
David Cameron wrote a newspaper article saying that “complete change” is needed in the public sector to improve standards for users.
A new presumption that private companies, voluntary groups and charities should be allowed to bid to provide services would allow the Government to transform public services without having to legislate repeatedly to allow different providers to get involved, he said.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber accused Mr Cameron of pursuing a “naked right wing agenda” that would take the country back to the most divisive years of the 1980s.
“What is particularly laughable is the idea that this will reduce bureaucracy. Privatisation replaces democratic oversight and accountability with a contract culture that is a job creation scheme for lawyers.”
Rail Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow said the Government would “privatise the air that we breathe if they thought they could away with it”.
He added: “Cameron wants to give his big business supporters the chance to make a profit out of every section of our public services and he will have a bare knuckle fight on his hands as trade unions join with local communities to defend everything from hospitals to fire services.
The changes, to be set out in a White Paper within the next fortnight, could allow non-public providers to run schools, hospitals and council services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools and roads maintenance.
Outside providers would be offered payment-by-results contracts, increasing their earnings as the quality of services improves.
Andrew Haldenby, director of the think-tank Reform, said: “The need to get value in public spending means that the Prime Minister is right to confront the opponents of change, but his policies don’t match up to his rhetoric. The Prime Minister will have to change some of his existing policies if he is to deliver his welcome vision.”