In the wake of the collapse of Carillion in January 2018, the role of the private sector in delivering public services and infrastructure came under fierce scrutiny. Because public-private partnerships involve taxpayers’ money, the consequences of failure are greater and, rightly, the expectations of fair conduct are far higher.
The CBI has taken time to reflect on what went wrong, and identify the lessons businesses need to learn from the collapse, acknowledging that Carillion’s failure and other high-profile issues have also hit the public’s confidence in business. It’s absolutely right that business now works hard to rebuild that trust and confidence.
But being missed in the debate was the positive case for public-private partnerships. CBI members provide countless examples of where business works hand-in-hand with the public sector to deliver high-quality, innovative services for citizens. When these partnerships work well, the rewards can be huge and provide vital benefits to communities: from finding new ways to care for elderly people to building new schools and upgrading physical and digital infrastructure fit for the modern world.
We’ve set out why government should continue to support business in driving the UK’s prosperity through effective relationships between the public and private sector. Policy intervention should be developed alongside business, aiming to balance progressive measures that inspire improvement, and transparency that leaves poor behaviours nowhere to hide. Businesses, for their part, must show they are up for the challenge and continue to strive to display best-in-class practices for their employees and customers.
The CBI landed some of our key messages in an article for Politico Europe, from our deputy director-general Josh Hardie.