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Labour wants to hand RE to Mammon

Even successful authorities will soon see businesses take over key areas of their work, such as control of religious studies and the curriculum. Clare Dean reports.

BUSINESSES will be able to police the national curriculum and religious education in schools under government plans to step up privatisation of the state education sector.

Ministers want councils to hand over the nitty-gritty of education to companies. They aim to see around 80 services now run by local authorities contracted out.

The proposals, which come as councils fight a scheme to change the way they are funded (see box), reveal Labour's determination to cut local authorities' powers to the bone. They also suggest Labour may be paving the way for the intoduction of regional government.

The Labour leadership believe contracting out will allow successful authorities to improve further, and they intend to change the law to enable it to happen.

Current government rules allow only badly-run services, such as those criticised by inspectors in the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney, to be let to outside contractors.

But ministers want to loosen the restrictions, and consultations are taking place on a change in the law, a new contracting out Order.

The Order would leave councils with core duties such as a general responsibility for securing efficient education and promoting high standards.

They would retain overall responsibility and accountability.

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