Incendiary Procurement

Whatever the enquiry finds, it is without doubt that Grenfell Tower went up like a dry stick because its refurbishment was procured at least in part on the basis of price. If the same fire had started in one of the gleaming new blocks in London’s docklands, it would not have spread. The people buying … Continue reading

They made their bed

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have just commenced buying the new Work and Health Programme. This will replace the existing Work Programme, which has run since the coalition government came to power. It will be the layer of services, contracted out mainly to private sector ‘welfare to work’ providers, that is intended to … Continue reading

Nine cheap warehouses

Michael Gove, Justice Secretary, has announced his intention to build nine new prisons. These will be much needed replacements for some of the old, crumbling prison estate. However, there are important questions to ask about financing and outsourcing. Lazy thinking on location must be challenged. Their long-term value will also depend on whether their purpose … Continue reading

Dos and Don’ts from Down Under

In the late nineties, as Blair and co were rolling out the New Deals and experimenting with contestability at the edges of Jobcentre Plus, the Australians were outsourcing their Commonwealth Employment Service in its entirety. The two countries have watched each other closely ever since. With roughly similar welfare systems, we keep looking to the … Continue reading

Public open markets are private closed shops

Is a Social Serco possible? Challenging the public sector monopoly on some public services has the potential to deliver better social impact. However, the difficulty in opening a public sector market to competition from other sectors is that market making is an inherent feature of the private sector. Public and third sectors, apparently, are not … Continue reading

The Serco smoke screen

We must be careful that the corporate failures of the big outsourcers in the UK, such as Serco and G4S, do not become a smoke screen behind which failures of the commissioners are forgotten. Media coverage this week of Serco’s failure to hold on to their £600m Docklands Light Railway (DLR) contract has focused on … Continue reading

Grayling’s secret revolution

Chris Grayling, the UK’s Secretary of State for Justice and “Tory attack dog”, is about to do what Thatcher and successive Prime Ministers (of all persuasions) were unable to achieve – throw the public sector open to total privatisation. Grayling’s so-called ‘rehabilitation revolution’ entails taking the existing probation service, currently sitting within relatively independent local … Continue reading

Competition killed the cat

Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic On Friday 25th October, Serco announced that its Chief Executive, Chris Hyman, had fallen on his sword. Earlier that week, the CEO of G4S in the UK departed. A few weeks earlier, the CEO of Serco UK mysteriously disappeared. This is in order to provide the government (and particularly … Continue reading

The Politics of Ivy

“They have learned nothing – literally nothing” David Cameron David Cameron’s criticism of Labour captures the broader frustration of many listening to the political parties play benefit bingo over the last few weeks. Shirkers – check; something for nothing – check; hard-working – check; tough – check; work that pays – check. Think you’ve heard … Continue reading

Spend to offend (the outsourcing of probation)

The Ministry of Justice has set out the proposed payment mechanism for the forthcoming “rehabilitation programme” contracts (http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/rehab-prog/payment-mechanism.pdf). The mechanism appears to be a relatively straightforward and robust funding model. However, despite the rhetoric about a “rehabilitation revolution” (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/12-months-supervision-for-all-prisoners-on-release), this is the outsourcing of probation, pure and simple. It has the potential to deliver more … Continue reading