Voters want Serco gone – poll

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The latest 3 News/Reid Research poll shows a clear majority of voters want private provider Serco out of New Zealand prisons and control returned to the Government.

Despite Mt Eden Prison descending into chaos under Serco, Prime Minister John Key doesn't think giving control to a private operator was a mistake.

"You have to be careful what you wish for because we've had publicly run prisons that have had issues as well," says Mr Key. "Mt Eden Remand Prison isn't the easiest prison in the world to run."

But voters disagree.

When asked should private operators run prisons, 70 percent said no, the Government should run them.

Just 13 percent said Serco should run prisons, while another 13 percent said private providers are OK – but not Serco. The rest didn't know. 

"The private sector provides a tension between keeping both the public and private sector honest," says Mr Key.

The Government is locked into a 10-year $300 million contract with Serco to run Mt Eden and Wiri prisons.

But it can use what's known as a "break clause", which would end the contract.

However, the Government can only do that within the first five years, so it has until August next year to use it.

The Government is on a privatisation push and plans to sell social housing and use what's called "social bonds" to outsource some mental health services.

Mr Key is convinced there's a place for the private sector because a public sector would be "fat and happy, and that wouldn't deliver the services Kiwis want".

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