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Serco wins fresh Covid testing contract worth up to £322m

Serco wins fresh contract worth up to £322m to keep Covid-19 testing centres running

Serco has won a fresh contract to keep Covid-19 testing centres running.

The Government has hired the outsourcing giant to provide some test and trace services for another 12 months, with an option to extend it for six more.

Overall, the service has cost around £37billion and Serco’s deal is worth as much as £322million.

Covid contract: The Government has hired outsourcing giant Serco to provide some test and trace services for another 12 months, with an option to extend it for six more

But the company cautioned the actual amount could be less, as it depends on demand for testing in the months ahead.

Serco is running around one fifth of testing centres in England and Northern Ireland, including walk-ins, drive-throughs and mobile centres. It is not responsible for laboratories where tests are processed.

The latest contract is another boost to the company, which last year was awarded NHS Test and Trace contracts worth £350million. 

Rupert Soames, Serco’s boss, said the testing network was now delivering an average of 51,000 a day despite a ‘standing start’ in March last year.

The scheme, which has been overseen by former Talk Talk boss Baroness Harding, has been criticised, however, for a raft of problems since its inception. 

Soames said: ‘We are proud of the part we have played in building and operating the UK’s highly successful Covid-19 testing infrastructure.’

Earlier this month, Serco predicted underlying profits of £200million this year – £15million more than previously forecast due to the extension of Covid-19 restrictions. 

The firm has faced criticism over the large profits it has made from the pandemic and its decision to start paying a dividend to shareholders.

Bosses previously revealed they banked £400million in extra revenues from Covid-19-related services, although profits from the pandemic were minimal – at only £2million. 

Despite this, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in February it was ‘outrageous’ that dividends would be reintroduced this year.

‘Taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be given to Serco’s shareholders via dividends,’ he tweeted.