Researching an organisation like Serco is a massive undertaking and I’ve been constantly surprised by the information I’ve managed to uncover. One question, that has been at the back of mind during this research is: ‘Why hasn’t someone else done this already?’
An investigation into Serco would fit into the BBC’s renowned Panoramastrand with great ease, it’s relevant, newsworthy and crucially it’s in the public interest.
In January, Serco announced they would be making hundreds of staff redundant at their head office in Hook, Hampshire. Due to the large numbers of people involved it was naturally reported on the BBC’s regional news program South Today.
I felt somewhat misled as the reporter described Serco as a “prisoner transport company.” The BBC’s online story did a little better by highlighting some of the other area’s in which Serco operate:
“Serco, which works with banking, insurance, travel, defence, transport and healthcare, is merging its business-processing operations into one global division, following a series of acquisitions in the UK, India and Australia.”
I felt that the BBC, were, in someway playing down the role Serco has in the UK’s public service provision, The report focuses on the job losses but it negates to ask the obvious question:
How will the redundancies effect the management of Serco run GP services, Hospital maintenance, prisons and other public services?
When a council announces job cuts – as we have frequently seen over the past year – BBC reporters are working overtime to analyse how public services would be affected and the challenges service users may experience, so it seemed odd to me that even a hint of this was not covered in any of the BBC’s reports.
I was not, therefore surprised to learn that the BBC employed Serco to modernise over-the-counter TV License revenue collection. (see: page 11).
“Serco brought dedication and focus to a complex programme and were a pleasure to work with. They knew how to run procurement, helping us select a supplier that would be able to deliver our vision.”
Nick Mason – BBC TV Licencing
Nor was I surprised to learn that employees of the BBC & TV Licensing have moved to Serco, and vise-versa. Or that Journalists, such as Mark Easton, the BBC’s Home Editor, have written for Ethos, Serco’s public service ‘journal’.
The BBC also took advantage of a scheme organised by Serco where prisoners, paid just £30 per week were tasked with digitising some of the corporations archive footage. The BBC’s involvement in a trial of the scheme saw more than 20 hours of footage processed in the prison operated by Serco.
Although the BBC said that the corporation made no payments to Serco and had no plans to sign up to the project, David Crocker the Serco employee behind the scheme said that “the major concern was around the potential negative newspaper headlines that the BBC may attract.”