News of the latest outsourcing giant to hit choppy waters is worrying for anyone with responsibility for their council’s contracts. Following the collapse of Carillion in January and the losses reported by Capita last week, the announcement of a massive drop in Interserve’s share price comes like the arrival of the proverbial third bus.
And although each company is different they have certain similarities which raise important questions about the balance between the public and private spheres.
All three are – or were, in the case of Carillion – companies spanning the continents and offering services in a dazzling array of sectors.
Capita is very much a child of local government – started back in the 1980s when senior CIPFA staff saw an opportunity to set up on their own and provide outsourced services to councils – but quickly grew into a multinational business operating in Europe, Africa and Asia, with about half its business in the public sector and the other half in the private sector.
Most of Carillion’s business was in the United Kingdom, but it also operated in several other regions including Canada, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
Interserve, the latest to run into problems with mounting debts and falling share prices, operates in more than 40 countries, providing services to a wide range of industries including oil and gas, civil engineering and construction and providing facilities management at UK embassies throughout Europe.

Business logic might suggest the wide range of skills and experience offered by this kind of international, inter-sectoral organisation can be a big plus. Local government and other parts of the public sector – the NHS, for example – can benefit from the entrepreneurialism and know-how of senior personnel in business. Oil and gas industry executives no doubt have much to A crisis in local government outsourcing – LocalGov.co.uk – Your …

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