Council services

Our local councils provide a huge number of services that we all rely on, from social care to rubbish collection, but increasingly, these services are run by private companies. But many of these contracts fail and there is little evidence that they actually save money.

Outsourcing isn’t what most of us want, and it leads to worse public services, and less transparency and accountability because we can’t see contracts that are ‘commercially confidential’, even though terminating them can cost our councils millions. Here is a list of key players in this sector: serial public service offenders who are consistently failing to provide quality services or value for money.

  • Veolia

Interserve is a multinational company delivering 'support services' and construction. It is one of the largest private providers of public services, delivering everything from cleaning for Network Rail to probation and from security, cleaning and catering for London hospitals to upgrading pipes for private water companies. 70% of its turnover comes from government contracts. 

Interserve's share price has been plummeting since 2014. In the last year alone, its share price has fallen by 70%. Alongside this, it has faced major financial difficulties due to delayed and cancelled construction contracts, as well as its bungled work in waste-to-energy projects in which it accrued £630 million of debt. The company has sought multiple refinancing rescue deals, but went into administration in March.

Serco is a multinational outsourcing company that provides outsourced public services and security services. In the UK, Serco operates in a number sectors of public service provision:

  • Health services, including NHS and GP services
  • Transport, including train services on Merseyside and the north of England, in partnership with Abellio
  • Prisons and justice, where it was banned from further government contracts after overcharging on electronic tagging contracts
  • Immigration and border control, including the infamous Yarl's Wood detention centre
  • Defence, mainly maintenance contracts.​
  • Shared and back-office services for local councils

Serco is a UK-based plc that is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Serco was forced to pull out of a contract to provide out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall after it emerged that the company had been falsifying data and that it had a ‘bullying culture' which discouraged whistleblowing in the interests of patients.



Capita is a multinational outsourcing and business services company, based in London. It is one of the largest outsourcing companies in the UK, and is contracted to provide public services in a huge variety of areas, including local government, the NHS, central government, defence, justice services, some emergency services and others.  

Capita's share price fell over 40% in 2 days in January 2018 after it was revealed that the company was in debt and managing too many complex contracts. Shareholders sold their shares in a rush, worrying about the effect of the collapse of Carillion just a couple of weeks earlier on the UK outsourcing market.

Capita's entanglement with private companies and local and central government is extensive; their latest annual report boasts that the company is 'systemically important to the UK economy'. They have an estimated 41% of the £4bn-a-year public sector outsourcing market. They are currently entirely responsible for the NHS's Primary Care Support service, (PCSE), which has been heavily criticised by GPs for being chaotic and dangerous for patients.

Capita is a plc listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its major shareholders are mostly investment and asset management funds. 

Amey is a subsidiary of the Spanish construction, infrastructure and urban services group Grupo Ferrovial, which is publicly traded on the stock exchange.

Amey works for local and central government delivering services such as highways and rail management and maintenance, facilities management, waste collection and treatment and other utilities services. 

It has recently been thrust into the spotlight because of its role in tearing down trees in Sheffield, despite a strong protest campaign by locals.


Carillion plc was a British multinational facilities management and construction services company headquartered in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Carillion dramatically collapsed in January 2018 following multiple warnings about its financial situation.  It had public sector contracts in construction, tagging prisoners, building hospitals and schools, and providing school lunches.

It has dozens of subsidiary companies, a few of which are involved in NHS service provision. The most notorious is Clinicenta, who ran a hospital in Stevenage, and had their license revoked by the Care Quality Commission in 2013 after failing to provide a safe level of care to patients.


IBM is based in New York, and is listed on the New York stock exchange.

IBM have contracts with a number of councils to provide IT and back office functions, and was part of Southwest One, a joint venture public-private partnership set up by IBM, Somerset County Council, Taunton & Dean Borough Council and Avon & Somerset Police.

Southwest One was set up in 2007 to 'modernise' the public sector bodies' business processes and deliver shared services to the councils involved. After a series of failures by IBM to deliver promised savings, the contract was terminated following a legal battle. 


​Veolia, is a French transnational company which works in four main service and utility areas traditionally managed by public authorities – water management, waste management, transport and energy services. 

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