Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

All Your Base Are Belong To Serco

Photo of a Northern Rail Class 333 train, part-operated by Serco

Serco is, according to Guardian journalist Jane Martinson, “the biggest company you’ve never heard of“. Though the chances are that you’ve come across their services several times before, maybe without even knowing.

If you’ve ever been on the Docklands Light Railway, or most of the commuter trains in northern England, you’ve been on a train run by Serco. They’re part of a joint venture with a company called Abellio, which is owned by the Dutch national railway company (and, by extension, the Dutch govenment).

Prefer to drive? Then you may have been caught by a Serco speed camera, or seen a message on a matrix display that they operate.

You may find that your local hospital’s facilities are managed by Serco. Or that your local education authority (which looks after schools) is run by them – this was the case in Bradford until recently. And if you’ve been really naughty, you may have spent time in a Serco prison or young offender’s institute. Or you may have had to wear one of their electronic tags as part of a curfew order.

Wikipedia has a big list of Serco’s operations, which include some businesses outside the UK. But many of the services that Serco provides are ones formerly provided by the state and civil servants, that have been subsequently outsourced to the private sector.

Today, our prime minister David Cameron announced that more private companies should be allowed to run almost any kind of public service. I would suggest buying shares in Serco, if I were you.

In July 2013, The Guardian published another article about Serco and the in-roads that it is making to the NHS. In particular, there are some worrying allegations that the company is failing in its duties and yet still being rewarded bonuses for good performance.

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