Sunday, 27 March 2011

A lesson from Bradford

This is not about A4e. But it's a story which shows the flaws in the privatisation of public services.

In 2001 the government forced Bradford council to outsource its education services, all of them, to a private company. The 10-year contract went to Serco. The council leader, asked why Serco, a company which had no experience in education, said that they got through the procurement process as the best option on the basis of the promises they made; they would hire the required expertise. Serco said that they would improve education in Bradford, and would be paid bonuses on the only measure which the government saw as relevant, the number of GCSE passes. Those passes went down, with teachers complaining that they were under continual pressure to improve GCSE results at the expense of everything else. Serco tried to renegotiate the contract when it was clear that they were not going to achieve the promised results. Ten years on, the council is taking education back in-house, to no one's regret. Serco say they haven't made a penny from the contract, and insist that they have improved primary education in the city.

There are stark lessons here.
  • Large private companies are good at getting contracts in all sorts of areas where they have no experience, because they employ bid writers to make the right promises, and are willing to hire the people with the relevant expertise. But all too often those promises are not fulfilled.
  • Contracts have to contain some measure of success on which to base payments to the company; outcomes, in other words. Focussing on these outcomes can do great damage to the overall service.
  • Once tied into a contract, a local authority can do little or nothing to save a service from going down the tubes until the contract period is up.
Bradford has learned the same lesson that Middlesborough learned when it outsourced its social care direct payments to A4e. This government, however, has learned nothing.


  1. Call me cynical, but I think our our present government, like the previous one, have learned tht the UK has a deadbeat economy which is totally incapable of generating the kind of growth needed to produce enough decent quality jobs.

    Instead were confronted with more and more low paid part-time temporary jobs often without a pension and any job security.

    I'm sure many of you will disagree, the government would rather give taxpayers money to private companies like A4e, who have failed miserably time and time again, to continue the illusion that they're doing something to reduce unemployment. And those that don't want to work only have themselves to blame. And whilst that may be true of a very small minority it is not a tru reflection of the majority of the unemployed.

    Whilst at the same time they have their friends in the right wing press constantly demonising the unemployed as scroungers and benefit cheats. Last year some 70 million pounds was spent advertising benefit cheats, yet only 600k was spent advertising tax avoidance. Even the government's own figures put benefit fraud at less than 1% most of the money they lose is from clerical errors by the DWP!

    When was the last time you read a story in the media about unemployed people doing voluntary work.

  2. Office for National Statistics reveals first drop...

    This is being discussed on Radio 4 on Yours And Yours at the moment.

  3. Can a jobcenter advisor make a person take a part time job, can they make a person work nights, can they make a person take shift work?

  4. They can insist that you apply for all these sorts of jobs.

  5. Not quite sure that you are right Historian. I stated on my first Jobseekers Agreement form the hours I was prepared to work. I have just looked and at the revised one I recently signed, the hours section has been left blank ..... Oh dear. Check Anonymous what your Agreement says in that section

  6. I'd be inclined to agree with Simone on this one. There is also a limit of how much time you could be expected to spend commuting to a job. As well as the the availability of public transport.

  7. What I meant was that the Jobcentre can insist that you apply for jobs, but that isn't the same as making you take a job. An employer has to offer you the job first.

  8. You are expected to travel for up to one and a half hours to your job! In London there is Journey Planner on London Transports website which The Job Centre uses so you cannot bluff it, perish the thought!

  9. Simone, you can only restrict your availability for work hours (always advisable to do so) for the duration of your "permitted period" i.e the first 13 weeks of your claim.

  10. Well the hours I stated on my original agreement a good few years ago were Monday to Friday, daytime. The Agreement was as I said only updated recently.

    No way would I endanger my life/health working nights in say Brixton. I am a diabetic, normal routine is an essential part of keeping me alive.

    Anyway it is Anonymous that originally asked the question. I am very close to state pension.


  11. "Today we will be setting out a completely new way of helping people off benefits and getting them back into work."

    April 1st joke?


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