Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 22, 2018

The Serco Goose

The goose that laid golden eggs is a fable about greed and unintended consequences and here  we have a fine example of it. 

I was reading what the head of British outsourcer Serco said about better communication as ways to fix the public sector contracting market following the collapse of its rival Carillion. Rupert Soames, who was brought in after Serco became mired in profit warnings and mismanagement scandals in 2014, said “contractors should also keep taxpayers up to date on how major contracts were performing to prevent shareholders and the public being in the dark about projects that had gone wrong”.

Well, never mind major contracts, what about any and all contracts? Why should smaller contracts, as in the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill scandal, which has gone wrong for Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, be exempt from public scrutiny? Hiding the truth about landfill income, and where it is, behind the “commercial in confidence” defence isn’t what Mr Soames said above.

After publication of the last set of accounts for West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited this month I wrote to the Auditors to ask a) Was the Trust in receipt of any income described as “Royalties” from the landfill of parts of the Beacon Park Golf Course undertaken on behalf of the Trust by Serco Leisure Operation Ltd or Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd? b) What portion of the Trust “operation of leisure facilities” funds relate to the Beacon Park Golf Course? c) What, if any, cash was generated from the Trust’s operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course? d) What, if any, cash or cash equivalents at the end of the reporting periods were generated from the Trust’s operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course?

The reply “I thank you for your letter of 8th August 2018. I feel that your queries should be directed to the trustees/directors rather than myself, particularly in the view of the latest data protection regulations. Their e-mail address is and they can answer your queries”. But they never do, and it makes a mockery of what Mr Soames said.

For 2017, Serco’s revenues fell 2 per cent to £3bn. Pre-tax profits declined to £19m from £30m the year before. Profits, Mr Soames said, were expected to grow this year and next. Mr Soames also said that the group’s trading profit, at £70m from £82.1m last year, was “at the top end” of expectations he had set out 15 months ago. He added that the company also ended last year with “net debt lower than we expected, fully funded pension schemes, and strong order intake”.

In that case we must feel confident the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill issue will be amicably resolved with the excess moved off site at Serco’s expense? Are we?

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