Bucking the trend: Poll shows huge opposition to privately-run public services

G4S: Huge levels of public distrust to outsourced public services
G4S: Huge levels of public distrust to outsourced public services
Ian Dunt By

The public are overwhelmingly opposed to private firms running public services, a new poll has revealed.

The findings, in a Survation poll for campaign group We Own It, reveals the extent of public opposition to the role of Serco, G4S and others in providing public services.

Sixty-three per cent of people think Serco should be banned from bidding for any new public contracts after the firm was investigated for overcharging on government contracts.

Just seven per cent believed they should be able to bid for government contracts now.


Fifty-nine per cent of  people thought G4S should never be able to bid on another government contract after it overcharged for prison tags.

The poll comes as campaigners target Serco's annual general meeting in London.

"People are feeling more than a little sick of Serco - too big to fail, too sprawling to deliver but too profit-hungry to serve us properly," Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, said.

The poll suggests the public's hostility towards private provision of public services varies depending on the sector.

Only 28% of people believe it is appropriate for the private sector to be running prisons. Just 21% believe it is appropriate for them to be running emergency services like ambulances.

On the electronic tagging of prisoners, the percentage of people comfortable with private sector involvement rises to 39%, although it is still lower than the 43% of people uncomfortable with private involvement.

Trust in the public sector is much higher.  Sixty-five per cent of people would be comfortable with public ownership of GP services, 66% with emergency services and 69% with non-emergency police services.

Just 16% of people thought the relationship between government and outsourcing companies is about right, while 37% thought it was too close.

Only 16% believed there was adequate regulation of private coompanies, compared to 59% who thought there was not.

Asked what five words they would associate with Serco, the most popular terms were 'self-interested', 'unreliable', 'expensive', 'greedy'  and 'unaccountable'.

The least commons words were 'patriotic', 'old-fashioned', 'caring', 'honest' and 'innovative'.
        
The poll shows that the public still have huge levels of support for public institutions. Trust for the NHS was at 79%, for the police at 65% and the armed forces at 79%.

Only 21% trusted private outsourcing companies.

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