Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Cost-cutting Stormont must take note of the G4S shambles

The admission by G4S - formerly Group 4 - that it cannot fulfil its contract to provide security for the Olympics is a warning of the dangers of privatisation.

Stormont ministers are being pressed to cut back the public sector and hand sections of service delivery over to private enterprise, or charity, which will, it is claimed, be more efficient and cheaper.

The secret of cutting costs is often pushing down wages and pushing down professionalism by making more of the workforce casual employees.

At the same time, bosses, like G4S's Nick Buckles, who admitted the Olympic contract had been a "shambles", become millionaires.

Yet G4S wasn't suffering teething problems. It has form.

In the 1990s, it was notorious for allowing prisoners to escape. It currently runs some prisons and Lincolnshire police's control room, detention cells and administration.

The 2012 Olympics would have been complete fiasco if all the planned Army and police cuts had been in place.

Public Finance Initiatives (PFIs) - initially attractive ways of getting private investors to provide public services for a guaranteed annual return - haven't turned out to be the cost-cutting panacea hoped for.

They have often turned out to be the equivalent of pay day loans, leaving financial black holes in their wake.

It doesn't have to be like that, but it often is.

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