This week I was appalled to learn that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Care business has not paid a penny of corporation tax, despite receiving over £2 billion through NHS and other local authority contracts.
This only shows to highlight the dangers of outsourcing vital public service contracts to earning-per-share companies.
I’ve been aware of Virgin Care leeching off of public service contracts for a while, but it was credit to Dr John Lister and the team from Keep our NHS Public that really brought home to me the true impact of what they have taken from taxpayers and the British economy over the last decade.
The only answer is for public services to be delivered by social enterprises, and that is something we are campaigning for strongly at Digital Anthropology. Outsourcing these contracts to a social enterprise means you avoid the pitfalls of nationalisation – budget, capacity etc. whilst securing all the benefits of going to a private company – knowledge, experience and expertise. And, rather than decisions been made for maximum financial gain, profits are reinvested back in to provide a higher quality service and experience for the community.
The annoying thing in this instance is that with so many other successful, profit-making ventures in his group of businesses, what is Branson trying to achieve here? This would be the perfect opportunity to really make a difference and run Virgin Care as a social enterprise.