The UK prime minister apparent David Cameron has turned to easyJet’s low-frills model as a way to run the public sector in recessionary times. Cameron believes that no-frills politics is the way forward, having looked at the Sir Stelios’s success in starting up a tightly-run business that is used by everyone from the royalty to hen parties.
The Tories have already suggested that local councils should be run on easyJet lines.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the easyJet founder, told The Times: “Political parties are now proposing different ways of running local councils – one is easyCouncil and the other is John Lewis. I am not going to say I know which one is right but I think the public know exactly what easyCouncil means – a standard level of service at a low price with additional services that cost more. Nothing’s hidden.”
He adds: “It’s about choice as much as price. It’s all about giving power to people to pay for what they value. Take ‘speedy boarding’. I have flown for 14 years a couple of times a week on easyJet. If you buy ‘speedy boarding’ you get on the plane among the first people. Others like to use it to sit at the front because that’s where first class usually is, but I prefer the back of the plane as it feels more spacious.”
There could be ways to apply the same principles to the public services. “You have to let people decide what they need and think is best for them. I have dealt with many consumers and I think that people are happy to pay for things that are genuinely optional extras but they aren’t happy paying for something they don’t use.
“In the old days of the flag carriers you only had one full service. The market has shown that people want power to pay for what they want. One size never fits all.”
So could this also be applied to the National Health Service and the education system? “There are some elements where the state has to decide whether something is necessary or not. Education is not an optional extra, everyone has to go to school. But is it a good thing for everyone to go to university? Probably not. So you pay, or others pay.
And how about the health service. “The problem with health – which is why I haven’t rushed to create easyHospitals – is that the more successful you are at keeping people alive the more expensive it becomes. It’s not necessarily cheaper. It’s a very difficult area of human need and interaction.”