After decades of cross-party consensus about outsourcing the delivery of public services to the private sector, the viability of this model is now under question.

There is a growing debate on the extent to which the state should rely on private providers for providing public services, particularly when they make a huge difference the public. This is fuelled by the collapse of Carillion, wider questions about government’s management of the supplier market, and concerns about the degree of competition for some major contracts.

This programme of work looks at the record of government outsourcing in the UK. Our first report analysed the scale and nature of government procurement, and mapped out the landscape of what the UK government is buying from whom, and for how much, to provide clarity and a basis for wider discussion.

We published a second report in September 2019 analysing government contracting over the last 30 years, and highlighting what has worked and what hasn't, what problems have emerged, and what government should do to tackle them.

Our next report, to be released in 2020, will look into the circumstances in which government should consider bringing outsourced services back in-house and how they should go about doing so.

This work builds on the Institute’s past research on Choice, competition and public service markets.

Project contacts

Director of Research
Senior Researcher