After Carillion, social enterprises must take charge of public services

It will not be a shock to those working in a charity or social enterprise that Carillion is in liquidation. Nor is it a surprise that the board and senior management of this juggernaut appear to have rabidly pursued short term profit, paying themselves hefty salaries and bonuses in the process. It is no great revelation that the nation’s public services, and the often vulnerable people who depend upon them, have been put in jeopardy by the greedy feckless few. But the government is complicit in this mess and must now take responsibility for sorting it out.

Advocates in business, charity and social enterprise have argued for years that the seedy Carillion model of price-obsessed, public service outsourcing – which was near fetishised under the Coalition government – will cost us big in the long run. These outsourcing giants create “pipelines” – massive banks of contracts – put together by teams of young graduates who write bid after bid and submit them to the government, blithely disregarding the impact of their work in the real world. The result is an endless stream of government contracts, boosted by upfront money and the promise of more to come. The bottom line looks healthy and everyone gets their bonuses. But all of these contracts, amassed as they have been with little thought or care, have only the smallest chance of ever being delivered as promised.

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