Serco and G4S Overcharged the Government? Really?

This is an admittedly late response to a story which broke several weeks ago. The reason is that until the end of July I worked for Serco, so could not really say anything earlier.

So, two companies running “outsourced” public services – Serco & G4S – have been found to have consistently overcharged the government. For “overcharged” read “ripped off”. I am not surprised by this but am amazed that the government are.

I have never understood the ideological obsession with outsourcing public services. An obsession now shared by the “Labour” party. It will improve services, they say, and give more value for money for taxpayers. As if taxpayers and those who use public services were separate classes of being.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want my public services to be publicly run. Not run for profit and not run by some fly-by-night shyster company out to make a quick buck at public expense. The whole competition/choice idea is an utter nonsense. Services provided by your local council are not generally provided by anyone else, so you can’t take your “business” elsewhere if you’re unhappy. For example, if your council takes three months to assess your Housing Benefit claim, you can’t go to another council who can do it faster and ask them to do it. Not without moving house anyway. And yet the same economic logic is applied as that between competing shops. It’s rubbish. Public bad, private good. Is your public service badly run? Then sell it off to make it better.

I wonder just how much cheaper privatised services really are. Vast amounts of public money are wasted on consultants and lawyers in the run up to the sell off, and then the public body will have to retain some extra staff to monitor performance of the contract, a “client monitoring team” or some such guff. A extra layer of bureaucracy that was not needed before. Anyone who thinks the railways are run more efficiently and cheaply now than they were in the days of BR is an ignorant fool. If BR received the level of subsidy currently paid to the private operators, we would have a vastly better railway. But of course, that would never happened. It’s OK to pour public money into the coffers of private companies, but not into a public sector one.

Private companies exist to make money, that is their sole function. So no-one should be surprised that Serco and G4S acted as they did. Public and private sectors have their own roles and I want private sector operation removed from the public sector. I believe services provided by local and national government, as well as public transport and the utilities should be publicly run, for the benefit of the people. They should not be a cash cow for rich businessmen and shareholders. I just wish there was a political party with a chance of power that believed this. Sadly, the main parties are now totally corrupted by crony capitalism. I’m sure Mrs Thatcher must be smiling from whichever pit in hell she’s confined.

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One Response to “Serco and G4S Overcharged the Government? Really?”

  1. Jacki Says:

    Yes, with you on this one!

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