I found this article in response to a comment on my blog: re: MH370. Time to name names re: S E R C O. http://www.abeldanger.net/ It meant little to me, even after visiting the Abel Danger website, and I still do not understand it – yet, but I will 🙂 This article has fanned my curiosity . . . ~J
Have you heard about the company that controls time? It also runs Britain.
Serco is also a real-life timelord, controlling the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, which sets the standard for measuring Greenwich Mean Time, length, mass and temperature.
With the country in recession, the outsourcing company is also growing, and quickly. Figures for the half-year, released yesterday, showed Serco has secured a record number of contracts in 2009 so far, worth £4bn, as revenues climbed 31pc to £1.95bn. Pre-tax profits jumped 33pc to £83.4m.
Alongside rivals Capita and Interserve, Serco has grown into the lives of Britons amid a growing culture of outsourcing public services, which began under Margaret Thatcher and has accelerated under Labour. Last December, Serco’s rapid rise propelled it into the FTSE 100.
Chris Hyman, the South African chief executive, expects this trend to continue – no matter which party wins next year’s general election – as the gaping hole in the public finances forces administrators to make cutbacks.
Among the company’s new deals are the contracts to design, build and operate Boris Johnson’s cycle hire scheme for London, and to operate two new prisons at Belmarsh in London, and Maghull in Liverpool.
The deals come on top of Serco’s existing services, which include operating London’s Docklands Light Railway, running the Northern Rail and Merseyrail train networks, providing intelligence to the UK Border Agency, running an Immigration Removal Centre, and being the world’s largest air traffic controller.
Serco also has a six-year contract with Ofsted to run inspections in the Midlands at schools and colleges. In defence, the company is also battling to win the rights to run the Army’s recruitment programme and already helps to train armed forces about using Britain’s fleet of aircraft, such as the Chinook and Apache helicopters.
In fact, without Serco, Britain would struggle to go to war — its tug boats are needed to pull the Royal Navy’s fleet to sea from the three main UK naval bases and it controls the military’s communication system. Serco also, in partnership with Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering, manages the Atomic Weapons Establishment — so its staff also look after the UK’s nuclear warheads.
The breadth and scale of Serco’s work is daunting. It employs 70,000 people, 35,000 in the UK, 85pc-90pc of whom are former civil servants.
However, Hyman insists the public should not be concerned at the private company’s power.
“The state sets policy, we only do implementation and management,” he explains.
“If we started setting policy, I would be worried, my kids would be worried. I don’t know about that, it’s not what I do.
“Power is always controlled by a level playing field of contracts. One’s egos is controlled very nicely because sadly we are not the only people who do this. Competition is a good thing.
“Unlike governments, we have contracts. If we don’t perform, we are fired. That’s the leveller.”
Hyman is very passionate about Serco’s potential in improving the taxpayer’s value for money, as well as the logic behind the company’s growing role in the country, and his responsibilities as it increases in size.
Serco’s success, he claims, can be seen by the improvement they bring to services. Northern Rail, for example, has improved its punctuality rate from 84pc to 90pc under the Serco-NedRailways consortium.
“If people in the public are looking at their tax dollars and saying: ‘Are these guys costing me money or saving me money?’ I think that will be very easy to see, which is why we get the contract. I hope then the public will be comfortable.”
Despite his belief in the quality Serco brings to the public, Hyman is happy to avoid the limelight. “We had a dilemma — what do we do with the Serco name. We are proud of it. We thought we needed billboards at airports and places like that, to be seen with Tiger Woods on. But we worked out very quickly that is not what we are meant to do.
“We are meant to be known by the 5,000 not the 5bn. The people who serve the people need to choose who supplies the service. We are delighted when the public knows who we are, but really, we need to be known by the people who make decisions.”
Hyman and Serco may have anonymity among the public, but its investors certainly recognise it. The interim dividend was raised 25pc to 1.85p yesterday and the shares rose 6pc in response.
Hyman is running the country and making money in the process. Quite a contrast to Gordon Brown and the UK’s mounting net debt of £800bn.