Serco, the private contractor that runs many public services as the government outsources in an attempt to save money, has informed Glasgow City Council that it will begin changing the locks at its refugee housing projects, leaving 300 people stranded and homeless.
An official for the firm, Jenni Halliday, explained: “each of these former Asylum Seekers have been refused the right to stay in the UK by the Government and the Home Office does not fund Serco to provide them with accommodation.” She also claimed the contractor had told authorities and the council they were changing locks in a series of discussions. However, Jennifer Layden, of Glasgow City Council, refutes these claims, saying the council was “blind-sided” by Serco’s decision.
The council cannot provide accommodation to people denied asylum status, despite the 300 residents having arrived in the UK as Asylum Seekers (they have since lost their rights to asylum). Meanwhile, local charities simply don’t have the resources to provide the support these 300 refugees require urgently.
The refugees, the majority of whom escaped war zones in the Middle East, face homelessness unless they can arrange accommodation. They will have to do so swiftly, as Serco has only provided a week’s notice to some residents before they lock them out. Many of the refugees facing eviction are pursuing their right to asylum and are likely to have the decision to refuse them asylum overturned on appeal.
Halliday says Serco are “sympathetic to their [the refugees] plight,” but evidently sympathy isn’t a very profitable policy, so patience is all out and the locksmiths have been called.
Private contractors were never beacons of trust. Outsourcing public services is seen by some (particularly in the Westminster area) as a means of saving the government and taxpayers money, leaving private firms to worry about costs and management. However this has long been derailed as a fallacy, a government mired in conflicts of interest, debilitated by its advocacy of austerity and simply inept at outsourcing, combined with avaricious private contractors concerned only with profit over performance, makes for an unproductive and unsuccessful relationship.
And so it has proven: from the spectacular collapse of Carillion earlier in the year, to the railway network’s continued ordeal with privatisation, and the woeful sale of Royal Mail which lost taxpayers millions, outsourcing to private contractors has cost the public dearly, while lining the pockets of a select few.
Now Serco threatens to engineer a humanitarian crisis, in order to save a little money. Owen Fenn, of the Govan Community Project got it right when he said "Serco have proven that they can’t be trusted to deliver a public service.” The government now needs to contemplate whether any of these private contractors are up to the task at hand, and consequently re-evaluate their penchant for outsourcing.