Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oh What Sweet Music...

I was always taught that it was bad form to gloat, but sometimes in life exceptions have to be made, and so it is with the aptly-named Nick Buckles, Chief Executive of now utterly humiliated G4S. He was forced to admit to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday that the reputation of the company now 'lay in tatters'. Quite an achievement really when we also heard him tell the astonished Committee that he only took on the £300 million contract to supply security guards to the Olympics as a bit of a loss leader and as a way of building reputational value for the future. Blimey - and this guy thinks he can hang on to his job! 

Make no mistake this is a 'Ratners Moment' for G4S and that can only be good news for all of us who care about the future of our public services under the present coalition government. This story isn't going to go away for ages either. Those irritating MP's have got the bit between their teeth and can't wait to heap shit on any group that diverts attention from their own peccadillo's.  Already people are beginning to take notice of exactly what else this 'transglobal bandit' is up to and start asking some very awkward and searching questions about other contracts. It might help to bring back into focus attention on those former senior Civil Servants who 'jumped ship' from NOMS to the private sector and indeed might cause a moment of reflection for those senior Probation Trust managers possibly contemplating going in a similar direction. 

Most important of all, it brings to the attention of the public what is going on and in an extremely graphic way what the issues are. The potential disasters that await us if we continue down this politically-driven dogmatic road of privatisation in the illusory belief that it delivers cost savings and improved services. The debacle has brought the whole issue to the top of the political agenda and in the process people are now beginning to cast a critical eye over the whole sector. Other predators such as Sodexo, Interserve, Mitie, and A4E all have serious issues with their practices and indeed their very ethos. 

This scandal has the possibility of beginning a sea change in the whole political landscape that is called variously 'marketisation', 'contestability' 'payment by results' or plain old 'contracting out' because it demonstrates beyond doubt that the private sector doesn't give a toss about anything other than turning a profit. If they can't make money or 'deliver', they just walk away. Why did we think it was anything other than like this? Is this really how we want our probation and police services to be provided in the future?     


  1. By all means gloat, G4S deserves that for their awful performance on this contract, but its not right to denigrate the whole of the company's work, still less their hundreds of thousands of workers. We object when a screw up in probation is said to represent the whole of our work; its not fair or objective.

    Yes, private companies make mistakes but the public sector has plenty of its own horror stories of incompetence and greed.

    Like it or not their is going to be a greater plurality of provision in the public sector - all parties have broadly similar aims - so we should start to celebrate the good work from wherever it comes and put the spotlight on poor practice whether regardless of the sector concerned.

  2. "All parties have broadly similar aims" - I don't think so!

  3. The Government's proposals for Probation are only possible without legislation because of the Labour government's Offender Management Act 2007.

    1. Indeed - both main political parties are as bad as each other in this regard - our only hope is that the public mood begins to question this whole unholy alliance.