On 15 January, Carillion – the UK’s “second-largest construction company” – went into compulsory liquidation. It ran up debts of £1.5bn (including its pension fund deficit). Carillion, a private company, claims to be “a leading integrated support services business”. This means it provides many services across the public sector – including hospitals, prisons and schools. Carillion held contracts to provide over 32,000 school meals in 90 schools across the country. And its collapse has far-reaching implications. Because firefighters are now on standby to ensure schoolchildren are fed.
The government’s Insolvency Service said:
employees should continue to turn up for work and will be paid as normal
But in areas where Carillion provides services to schools, contingency measures are in place. Oxfordshire County Council said it will “take over services provided by Carillion, including meal provision in 90 schools”. And as an additional measure, the fire service is “on standby to deliver” school meals. Although not needed yet, this highlights the extent of the crisis.
As Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
Headteachers and other school staff face another strain on their excessive workloads as they try and make short-term contingency plans and new arrangements for the long-term.
And Courtney went on to say that the government:
must also take a long hard look at its encouragement of private sector involvement in schools and the unnecessary risks being taken with children’s education and wellbeing.
The Carillion collapse raises serious questions about outsourcing public sector services to private companies for profit. As TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said:
Tens of thousands of jobs are now at risk, along with vital public services and major infrastructure projects across the country. Workers, taxpayers and public service users could well be left to carry the can. Carillion is a textbook example of the failures of privatisation and outsourcing. The government needs to step in, guarantee jobs and services, and explain how they let this mess happen in the first place.
And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:
The Government must act quickly to protect employees, pension holders, taxpayers and companies across the supply chain by bringing these crucial public sector contracts back in-house. https://t.co/3kkXLpGiFx
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) January 15, 2018
Rumours circulated earlier that the government would hold an emergency COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) meeting to discuss the crisis. But there is still some confusion about the government’s response.
It seems ironic that the fire service is on standby to help feed children. The Fire Brigades Union has warned of a “crisis”, explaining: “Seven years of budget cuts have left the public at greater risk as there are far fewer firefighters left to respond to emergencies”. And there are fears of “privatisation through the back door” in the fire service itself.
There is also a crisis in the education system. A new report shows a 40% increase in teachers needing charity grants because they struggle financially.
And yet school dinners have been tendered out for profit. As writer and political commentator Harry Leslie Smith said:
I've always thought the greatest treason isn't from those who trade state secrets with our adversaries but from corporate executives that wreck our economy with their greed and lack of empathy for a decent society. #Carillion
— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) January 15, 2018
If we need firefighters to deliver school meals, it seems clear that corporate greed has gone too far.
– Support the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?