I was trying to put this as a comment on PLN but the captcha isn't working, for me at least:
Firstly I'm amazed that a contract can be bought and sold like a commodity and there is nothing the council can do about it. If you make a agreement with someone, you make it with them, you shouldn't end up bound to someone else. If you walk into a posh, swanky restaurant and ask for a burger and then suddenly while there a McDonalds sign appears and the place has become a fast food chain (I like McDonalds btw, mmmm) then you should be able to not buy it as its being provided by someone you didn't ask for the burger. The contracts councils have should prevent this unless the company becomes insolvent. Despite probably being to the right (I think so anyway) of most library campaigners I don't think libraries should be put out to the private sector, the neutrality and ethos aren't compatible with the goal of private companies to make profit. I have worked in the private sector when companies have bought out others, the first thing the company does is tries to strip out costs to maximize their return. This is fine in the private sector as that is how a market is supposed to work, they best and most efficient companies make the most money for shareholders, the crap inefficient go bust and cease trading, but in libraries it isn't ok. Things libraries do don't have an apparent return on the balance sheet and a private company might not recognize the importance of this and believe its just money wasted. Of course all of this could be mitigated by a proper contracts and clear service level agreements but when the service provision is being bought and sold like this and councils are powerless (or unwilling because they have to save face or are ideological idiots) its clear these contracts aren't good enough. I have doubts that some councils are competent enough to draw up proper contracts and articulate the service level agreements to the required detail, then have the data and staff and can actually be bothered to enforce them. A private company could also go into a market and offer an apparently very good deal for taxpayers and councils but they're going in at a loss to get market share. I don't believe competitive tendering works and what we will end up is like with rail franchises/utilities and the other fake markets created by Whitehall that need expensive but useless regulators is a small number of very large players that deliver nearly all public services and because it isn't a real market they can charge what they want, deliver a poor service and there isn't much we can do about it. The private sector ends up with too much leverage as the politicians have to save face and its the taxpayer that takes all the risk. To quote Miles Jupp on rail franchises "publically funded, privately run and answerable to no one".