22 January 2024
Serco has a terrible track record of ripping off the public when contracts to run our vital public services are handed over to them.
Now Oxford City Council wants to award the outsourcing firm a contract to run three leisure centres, a pool and an ice rink.
We Own It founder and Director Cat Hobbs grew up in Oxford and has spent most of her life in the city. In a powerful video, she outlines 5 times outsourcing to Serco has left local and national government worse off.
Watch the video below (and remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel!)
Take action! Here are three things you can do:
1) Sign a petition calling on Oxford to say no to Serco HERE
2) Write to your councillors if you live in Oxford and JOIN the protests outside the Council's Cabinet meeting this Wednesday 24th January at 5pm outside the Town Hall on St Aldate's.
3) Share Cat's video!
In a statement submitted to Oxford City Council ahead of their Cabinet meeting this Wednesday, Cat said:
I was truly appalled to find out that Oxford City Council, which has been such a leader in insourcing and direct running of council services, is planning to hand over its leisure contract to Serco. I grew up in Oxford and have spent most of my life here - I love Hinksey Pool and the ice rink and have regularly used the other leisure facilities too.
I work at the Old Music Hall on Cowley Road at We Own It which campaigns for public services that work for people not profit. I have been aware of Serco’s unbelievably bad track record for over a decade now.
I would like to highlight five examples of the company having contracts ended early or earlier than expected - because it didn’t provide the value for money, control and flexibility or service quality that the public sector needed.
2013: Serco had a contract to run the out of hours GP service in Cornwall. It left surgeries short of doctors and then falsified data 252 times.
2015: Thurrock Council in Essex ended Serco’s back office services contract 5 years early because it wasn’t providing value for money. The council had to pay £10 million to exit the contract early but said it would save £4 million a year as a result. The council leader said he wanted profits to go towards services for local people, not Serco’s shareholders.
2019: Serco’s contract with the Scottish government to provide asylum accommodation came to an end and was not renewed. Serco treated the people relying on its service - including parents, pregnant women and children - with a lack of dignity.
2022: Serco’s contract to run the Caledonian Sleeper railway service was ended 7 years early. Serco tried to renegotiate the contract. The Transport Minister in Scotland said it did not represent ‘value for money to the public’.
2024: Peterborough City Council has just announced it will end its contract with Serco 7 years early to save money and provide ‘best value for residents’. The council had to pay an undisclosed sum but said the savings would outweigh this cost.
I really do understand that these are incredibly difficult times for councils with the ongoing, deeply damaging policy of underfunding and austerity from national government. I know you have difficult decisions to make but this is not the way forward.
Serco, as a multinational company with teams of lawyers, is well placed to benefit from contracts with the public sector. Whatever sweeteners it may offer now, it may be viewing this contract as a loss leader from which it will ultimately benefit financially, as we have seen in the examples above.
I implore you to think again so that Oxford’s vitally important swimming pools, leisure facilities and ice rink can provide the high quality service we expect, the control the council needs and the value for money that we all deserve in our wonderful city.