The Key Ideas

#25 End the use of commercial consultancy in advising government

By fearlessly developing participatory democracy techniques into robust and lasting structures, the government can cease to use private sector consultancy firms and in particular the large, generalist ones which have become the default source of advice for many parts of government. Large accountancy and legal firms have pitched themselves as 'honest brokers' whom government can come to for a 'neutral' assessment of what is in the public interest. This practice is little understood by the public but is of very serious concern. These companies not only shape public policy through these contracts to provide advice to government, they then advise their commercial customers how to navigate and benefit from public policy. There is a clear conflict of interests here; perhaps the most blatant recent example was the company that advised the Westminster government on the price of the privatisation of the Royal Mail, at the same time as advising its investment clients to buy the shares because they were undervalued. There are many examples of so-called independent advice changing public policy in a way that financially benefits the company providing that advice (for example they often propose mergers and then win contracts to oversee the process of the merger). There is absolutely no need for this and with the processes proposed above, the practice of using private sector consultancy to shape public policy should be ended.