That was until last week when secretary of state for education Estelle Morris said she was a ‘very dissatisfied customer’ of Capita, the company awarded the £400m contract to run the Criminal Records Bureau.
In 2000 Capita won the ten-year contract to provide a central system of checks on those wanting to work with children. Delays mounted at Capita and Morris announced last Wednesday that the enhanced checking process would not be ready before the start of the school term.
In a statement, Capita said it would not profit from the delays. ‘Capita is not seeking to gain additional payment from the agency relating to backlogs,’ it stressed.
Despite Morris’ expressions of anger at Capita for the delays, she is urging those already anti- public-private contracts not to use the fiasco as evidence against private sector involvement in public services.
But the issue is a highly emotive one in the wake of the Soham murders, and concerns around the company’s ability to perform have now risen to the surface.
Capita’s tentacles stretch yet further.
The company was awarded a ten-year contract by the BBC worth at least half a billion to collect the licence fee.
Even without this latest contract, Capita, and its services, already touches the lives of an estimated 33 million UK residents.
All this for a company that only reached the FTSE-100 in March 2000.
The £50bn worth of work central and local government and their agencies could outsource, according to Capita, now looks less likely to fall into the hands of the company.
According to media reports Aldridge always makes a big deal about his public sector experience. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with his background.
‘My background is a working-class family, my father was a union secretary for 35 years. I believe a lot in education and addressing social exclusion.
My feelings are much more towards a New Labour agenda than anything else, although I’m not a party donor,’ he recently told a leading newspaper.
‘My father was made redundant at 50 and it taught me a lot about what happens to a family when the breadwinner has no job. A lot of my determination comes from him, because he then went about building a business.’
After qualifying as a public sector accountant Aldridge went on to work for nine years at CIPFA, the public sector accountancy body, where he became managing director of its computer services arm. That later formed the building blocks for what is now Capita.
In 1987, Aldridge successfully led a £350,000 management buyout of the institute arm. The sale still rankles some members, who believe the institute sold out all the family silver too cheaply. It has grown into a £3.5bn business with an average annual profit growth of 42%.
Not bad for the unassuming Aldridge who began his career in the postroom at East Sussex council. He now ranks 337th in the Sunday Times rich list with a personal wealth of £80m.
Aldridge is a trustee of the Prince’s Trust.
Of which he said: ‘The trust opened my eyes enormously. I chair a programme called xL, a programme of clubs introduced into 430 schools for young people who have dropped out of school.’
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