Until the G4S Olympics debacle, public service commissioning had very rarely made the front pages. This is strange, because it's a huge industry. The current outsourced market for public services has an annual turnover of £82bn, representing around 24 per cent spend on public services in the UK. Under the Coalition, it's getting bigger.
We now can't afford a company like Serco to fail: it deals with prisons, health and social care, transport services, maintenance services for missile defence, air traffic control, pathology, government websites and waste collection, among other services. Outsourced public services have an impact on the entire economy, in terms of wage levels, benefit demands and spending power. It matters because these services are vital to our social fabric. What happens to a child in a children’s home or a prisoner in jail affects all of us. Should these services be delivered for profit? And exactly what is happening in the shadow state? Until now, the public has had precious little idea.
Alan White is News Editor at BuzzFeed UK. He has won the Royal Television Society Award for Scoop of the Year and been shortlisted for a British Journalism Award for Investigation of the Year. Prior to joining BuzzFeed his work appeared in the Observer, TLS, Private Eye and the Sunday Express. His series of articles, ‘The Shadow State', ran on the New Statesman website and were amongst its most read pieces that year.
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