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

Think of the children

When the state intervenes in the UK and takes a child into its care, it surely does so with all the best intentions. The intervention is instigated in response to and governed by strict rules on child welfare or ‘safeguarding’, made even tighter since the infamous, sad case of Baby Peter. It costs over £2.5 … 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 path to the precipice

We are blithely rushing along a path towards a fundamental change in our welfare system that will have far-reaching social and fiscal consequences. There is a perfect storm of a poorly contracted Work Programme, political rhetoric, and short-term accounting practice. It is propelling us towards the edge and the introduction of a precipice system for … 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

Risky business

The following piece appeared in The Guardian on 22nd May 2013. It is banging a drum we have been beating on here repeatedly. The underspend on the Work Programme (as noted in the Select Committee’s newly published report) is a stark example of a key point we are trying to make about the relationship between … Continue reading