A COMPANY that runs the country's "four-minute warning" air defence system and the developer of Britain's first major private road are among firms being lined up to bail out failing local authorities.
Serco, the defence and transport services firm which runs the system based at RAF Fylingdales in Yorkshire, and engineering consultants WS Atkins were this week named by the Government as approved bidders to run education services for local authorities.
Joining them is security giant Group 4. It is linking with school management and training consultants, the Tribal Group, to bid for education services contracts.
The inclusion of the three corporate giants, all with turnovers of hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of staff, underlines the Government's determination to open up the sector to private contractors.
Telve authorities have either had private consultants brought in or seen services privatised since the Office for Standards in Education started inspecting local authorities in 1997. With 90 still to be inspected, more are expected to follow.
Capital Strategies, the corporate finance house which specialises in education, this week estimated the size of the privatised education market at pound;1 billion.
Seven new consortia - including the northnLondon borough of Camden - were this week added to the Government's approved list of contractors for authorities which are forced or volunteer to privatise services.
The Department for Education and Employment has also doubled the size of the lists of approved consultants who can advise failing local authorities.
Both lists can be found on The TES website at www.tes.co.uk