Blog: Carillion’s collapse has shown the true face of privatisation

January is a stressful time for many of us, with bills to pay and our finances stretched. So spare a thought this morning for those employed by Carillion. This is a terrible time for all those employed under the company’s contracts – including thousands right across the public sector.

They will want assurances from the government that public servants working in vital roles will be protected, and they need to know who will pay their wages and what’s going to happen to their pensions.

The government needs to move quickly to bring these contracts back in-house – to safeguard services and protect thousands of jobs in schools, local authorities and libraries.

As things stand, Carillion holds key contracts across the health service. With the current winter pressures, staff shortages and underfunding, further uncertainty puts the NHS in an even more precarious position, piling more pressure onto an overstretched system.

It’s disgraceful that Carillion was lining the pockets of its shareholders, even though the company’s future was increasingly uncertain. And now the taxpayer is going to be stuck picking up the bill for another failed privatisation experiment.

This is just another example of the failures of outsourcing – a race to the bottom that prioritises greed over service and puts jobs, wages and services in jeopardy by encouraging ever lower bids, regardless of the inevitable costs involved when things go wrong.

Indeed, the government continued to give Carillion bumper contracts, even after alarm bells started ringing over the future of the company. Hapless Transport Secretary Chris Grayling handed over £2bn in contracts just last year – even after concerns had been raised about the long-term viability of Carillion.

Sadly, this just confirms that for many of those in government, privatisation, outsourcing and the PFI agenda are not about ‘value for money’ or ‘quality of service’, they’re tools in an ideologically motivated attack on publicly owned, publicly run, public services.

What we’re increasingly seeing is a situation where the government and big business play roulette with public services – with the only possible outcomes a big financial gain for the privateers and a massive loss for everyone else.

It’s now high time to stop the games and experiments with people’s jobs and people’s lives, to protect services and ensure their future within the public sector. It’s time too to put to an end, once and for all, the facile notion that it’s possible to provide better public services and pay decent wages while raking it in for shareholders. That’s simply not true, as Carillion’s collapse has shown.

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