Sunday, 23 September 2012

Looking back

It's useful to remind ourselves sometimes of the wilder shores of A4e's ambitions.

There was the bank.  One wonders now how it ever got as far as it did, but A4e wanted to set up a bank for poor people.  They had an arrangement with a South African bank, Capitec, the exact nature of which we'll never now know, but it lead to the setting up by A4e of a company called Capitec UK.  A grant of £1 million was given by a Regional Development Agency to start this bank.  Then something happened.  Again, we'll probably never know what, but the whole project was dropped without the money being handed over. Capitec UK never traded and was dissolved early last year.  There's no chance now of A4e ever being allowed to run a bank, but who could ever have thought that it was a good idea?

And then there's "total place".  A4e had scooped up contracts for various outsourced public services, and had a vision of one grand contract covering a whole local authority area.  A single company would provide all the services, from welfare-to-work, to legal and financial advice, to pupil referral units to - you name it.  They put forward a version of this to government in 2010 when Local Enterprise Partnerships were invented.  (See this blog 25 September 2010.)  This idea seemed a whole lot more likely than the bank; but what has happened in practice is the grand contract which doesn't help A4e.  Some local authorities (Conservative controlled, naturally) have decided to outsource everything, handing over all their services to one company which then sub-contracts them out piecemeal.  The only companies in the running for such super-contracts are, as you would expect, the likes of Serco, Capita and IBM, with other big American companies wanting a piece of the action too.  A4e isn't big enough.  Which is a relief.

The setbacks of this year will not have dampened A4e's ambitions.  Why should they?  G4S made a complete mess of its Olympics contract, but it's caused barely a dent in their business.  There are frequent failures in outsourcing, but no slowing of its growth.  And that's because it has little or nothing to do with cost or efficiency.  It's down to what Private Eye calls the revolving door; the happy club of politicians, business people and civil servants who switch roles and create opportunities for money-making for each other.  It's a wealth creation scheme for the elite.


  1. Jack of all trade's,Master of none..comparable to hunting with a scatter gun...point,shoot and hope you hit something,after all if you fail to fulfill the terms of the contract,either ask for more money or grab what you can while waiting for the next contract to come along.Recently a few MP's have visited A4E and talked to some clients,all smiles and success stories(Think they staged this?)One MP gushed about what great training and support that clients are receiving,really? perhaps he could let the clients know what training is available, as it seems to be a mystery to most staff regardless of the provider.

    1. :"Think they staged this?"" If this was just one office visited, possibly, but given that a few offices throughout the UK, I'm fairly sure this was a PR staged exercise rather than reality.

      Interestingly the MPs who are so enthusiastic, do not to have their party mentioned/published alongside their name, as far as I can see. Do we assume they are all from the Coalition Government ...... ?

  2. Hi Simone.
    Not all from coalition govt. As reported in the earlier "PR or results" thread at least one - Vernon Coaker is from Labour (MP for Gedling).
    In athread I gave the text of an e-mail I sent to Mr. Coaker:

    I am still awaiting a reply!

    1. Cheers Gissajob. So 1 Labour who gave a4e the thumbs up ..... Maybe he's planning to deflect to the other side!

      Okay, how many MPs altogether paid a4e visits and what was the breakdown of the parties involved? Did they actually visit offices in their own constituencies or were they done randomly? Did anyone decline? Were the drinks flowing and for the "clients"? And so on .....

      Me of little faith!

    2. No Simone - it's me who is "of little faith"!
      I received a reply from Mr. Coaker, this is it:
      "Thank you for your email. I apologise for the delay in responding.
      If you have specific problems you will need to take this to your own MP, as there is a strict protocol that MPs deal with their own constituents. However, on the question of my visit to A4E generally, I would say the following:
      Where there are individual problems raised with me regarding A4E, I always take these up on behalf of my constituents. It is also right however that there is a responsibility on people to seek work and even under the last Labour government there were sanctions for people who wilfully avoided work. Clearly this has to be done sensitively and properly.
      The government’s overall economic strategy means the big problem that unemployed people are facing is the lack of jobs and I will continue to oppose their policies on the economy.
      Vernon Coaker MP"

      So not very helpful!

      I don't know the breakdown of MPs who have accepted A4e's hospitality but the strategy is clear - it's a PR offensive intended to repair A4e's sordid reputation.
      It would be no surprise to me that the effusive compliments published on the A4greed website were mainly from the right wing but I think guilt is probably spread right through the political spectrum.

  3. dont forget the VOX by a4e, and At Vox 4 Tots, a vocational scheme for primary-age children, pupils paint. Run by a4e.

    they just need to get into pensions but could that have come under the bank, and funerals. Of course they have/had the CLAC contract replacing some CAB, they also are linked to the money advice service as well.

    1. You're right, but we've covered all of those in the past. You've also forgotten a few!

  4. The interesting thing about the Total Place concept was that it was a Brown-era step back from outsourcing, privatisation, etc to having more things provided as integrated municipal services. Fascinating that it drifted far enough to be an A4e candidate.

    Of course, this also shows how marked A4e is by chancer culture.


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