Archives for posts with tag: Privatisation

Comments on an FT article by Philip Stephens 

No policies? Every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

“Who can worry about housing, schools or transport, let alone the mundane aspirations of Middle England, ahead of the great liberation struggles.” I don’t know where Philip Stephens has been but every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

I would suggest he and the Labour party have lost the working-class vote thanks to the previous Blair government being non representative of them.  Remember Mandelson talking about being: ” Intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes…?” Corbyn has also suffered very badly by the press.  Mrs May has profited by Cameron’s mistake and badly handled Remain campaign and we are now at the mercy of this unelected PM and her party… (see also JC policy docs here)

Philip Stephens creates a narrative that doesn’t fit the facts. Corbyn has delivered effective attacks on the Government on welfare, the NHS and housing, some producing small U-turns.

He also travelled up and down the country campaigning to Remain. The problem was he and the Labour Party failed to breakthrough the media ignoring their campaign and focussing (in terms of the Remain argument) exclusively on the pathetic and useless official Remain campaign. Jeremy has been democratically elected twice to be leader. His record should in no way be considered dismal. He has consistently delivered his honestly and long-held beliefs.

Rubbish analysis as per usual although the historical throwback is well put.

Corbyn does care about housing, education, schools, middle england, under invested regions (it was Corbyn who was talking about a migrant impact fund), transition to Green energy.

Corbyn far-left? Inaccurate and “un-FT”. Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards.

Far-left policies include abolishing private healthcare, private education, the monarchy, making all third-level education free, nationalising banks and railways and a number of other things, some of which would probably be quite good for the country.

As it is, Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards. Far-left European politicians would include Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxembourg, Alexander Lukashenko and any number of dictatorial 1980s Communist party secretaries in Warsaw Pact-era eastern Europe. Jeremy Corbyn is quite clearly not in that zone unless one is a swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader.

A question: When Brexit is done and May is left standing there blinking vaguely and surrounded by the wreckage of the economy where will the Conservative Party be in the eyes of the electorate?

Its reputation for sound economic management will have been trashed along with the economic damage it has just imposed on the country so who wins?

Philip you are doing the FT (and its readers) a signal disservice by misunderstanding Corbyn and the Labour left.

Copeland was never likely to vote for an anti nuclear Labour Party – and well you know that. The wonder is that the Labour Party nearly won the seat despite being clearly antagonistic to the existence of the region’s biggest employer. WE, the subscribers to the FT, expect objective reporting that enables good decision making.

Corbyn and labour can’t win at the moment, if they go to the middle and ignore the democratisation of their party they will lose, if they stay a democratic left party the boomers and those with assets won’t vote for them as they fear socialism

Meanwhile the millennials and future generations bear the brunt of public debt created privately, and shareholder capitalism which is a race to the bottom, generation rent, and the absurd 40% of income rent costs in areas where there are plentiful jobs and opportunity epitomises the modern day surplus extraction and misery of those who have not lived among the golden age of capitalism, add tuition fees, stagnating public services (NHS), erosion of employment rights and you can see why Corbyn is confident among that 20% (of which I’m a part, ha ha ha, how funny he’s so inept ha ha ha lets all laugh at corbyn because there are so many other alternatives out there that are SO much better).

The Tories will continue their irrational, economically illiterate policy that is not running the country into the ground but causing growing social issues, and new social actors will emerge from the post 2008 age eventually tipping the balance towards something more corbyn-esque. Until then it will be the same old, same old.

Corbyn’s crackpot policies are simply outrageous! Spending a little more on the NHS and primary school education?  Providing a bit more affordable housing in the midst of a housing crisis? 

Failing to asset strip the public infrastructure? Rowing back a bit on the vast, exploitative Sports Direct-ification of the British economy?  Why, this is simply unpatriotic! How “radical” – somebody stop this crazed moderate, centre-left European-style social democrat Corbyn before my taxes end up a little bit higher and the proles end up with a slightly better quality of life!

God forbid that poorer people should ever have slightly better quality of life. Who knows where that might end? It’s better not to give people hope. It just encourages them to think. 

I agree.  Britain’s low wage, low skill, low investment, low productivity economy would be severely jeopardised by the dangerous, radical policies of Jeremy Corbyn. Sure, he’s languishing in the polls now, but the proles are a fickle lot and cannot be trusted to consistently vote for their own impoverishment. What if Corbyn dons a Union Jack leotard and starts leaping up to belt out a few verses of ‘God Save The Queen’ with gusto on the next campaign trail, waving a couple of flags about like the dickens.  Why, the proles might even be duped by this charade into voting him into office! This would leave us all at the mercy of an outbreak of half-decent working and housing conditions for the proles at any time.  This simply would not do, too much has already been invested by the Conservatives in their cooption of UKIP’s policy platform!

There was no money left. The Tories have just borrowed billions. The crash will be spectacular.

This article is high in the running for one of the worst I have read in the FT in years.  We are in the end times of Neo-Liberalism, an experiment where maybe 20% did very well, and 80% were massively left behind.

Corbyn, Trump, Brexit are consequences of a system that has failed, and a financial system that collapsed in 2008, never a crisis always a collapse.  Stevens has no understanding of the why’s of brexit or the rise of Corbyn.  The left-right paradigm is dead.  I could not find one sentence in this article that is not total ideological nonsense.

If Jeremy has got under the skin of Philip Stephens so badly he must be doing something right.

Most Labour MPs and most journalists hate Corbyn as if he were the devil.  He represents the one pole of the process of polarisation caused by the 2007-9 Great Recession and the continuing crisis of world capitalism.

Let there be no mistake. The reason Philip Stephens is so horrified is because if his buddies amongst the old Labour MPs who are career politicians, were instead people of principle and socialists, then the Labour Party would be challenging for power.

The lesson of our era is the fluidity and rapidity of change. If Corbyn is right, (and I think there is lots of evidence to back him up), if he can be seen to be a leader of masses on protests and demonstrations, this will sharply polarise politics and this may match a simultaneous collapse in Tory support.  The Labour MPs who are resigning and trying to oust Corbyn again with their endless press briefings against him are part of a deliberate coup attempt. This time a sort of coup by water torture. They will fail again. The only major criticism one can make of Corbyn is he is too soft on these saboteurs. There are times when a sword must be wielded.

The worrying thing about this analysis is, his policies weren’t even that far left, they were definitely more central than Thatcher’s. Yet the FT reports this as if he’s Lenin/Kim Jung Un etc. His biggest failing for the press is he wants a meritocracy and for companies which require state support (through the use of tax credits to prop up salaries and increase profits and bonuses) to not pay dividends, which is effectively the Government paying the rich in an indirect way. Yes he has his failings, as does everyone, but generally speaking a lot of his economic policies would work fairly well at creating a long term balanced economy.

Corbyn, and his anointed heir, need to show there is an alternative to the Conservative Creed. Perhaps he needs to lose an election to clear out the MPs who are undermining him.

Perhaps this will result in his own political demise. But if he has a suitable succession plan in place then his success will come after he is gone. With the LabouraTory MPs planked off the sinking ship, seats will be freed for real Labour candidates for the subsequent election.

Facetious commentary. Corbyn has inherited a mess of a party with crumbling membership and totally out of touch MPs.

Time and time again polls have shown that the public want a ring fenced NHS, working railways and better care for the elderly, sick and disabled. To finance that he has stated that he will increase funding to the HMRC so that it can go after companies that are not paying their taxes (last year’s estimated unpaid tax was £34 Billion) which is probably why this article has been written in the style it has.

People want the state to intervene if something isn’t working. The current level of income disparity is something that is directly affecting the world by creating the perfect soil for fascism. Yet no other political leader wants to do anything about it (since it will affect their careers after being an MP). 

Versus the CIA and capitalism he is the best chance we have of having a fair society

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Seven Combined Authorities have already been established and a further seven proposed – read in detail here.

Why government – and employers – want a directly-elected mayor

A directly-elected mayor is a presidential form of local government, accountable only in direct elections every four years with no right of removal.  It means the government can deal with a single leader and one not tied to local political parties as a council leader is – an arrangement that suits the private sector too. Directly-elected mayors offer the possibility of a Tory mayor, or at least an independent, being elected in Labour-dominated urban areas. And they are ideally suited to the media’s fondness for reducing politics to personalities.

Democratise the Combined Authorities: London has an elected Assembly – why not the West Midlands?

 

batc

 

Richard Hatcher points out on BATC’s website that there is a precedent, the scrutiny arrangements in London: “There ongoing public accountability of the directly elected mayor and the Greater London Authority is ensured by a directly elected London Assembly.  The London Assembly has 25 elected members. They are not just existing councillors drafted onto a Scrutiny Committee, they are elected by citizens who vote for them specifically because they are going to fight for their interests. And they aren’t just reactive to policy, they act as champions for Londoners proactively investigating concerns through not just one but 15 issue-based committees and raising their findings and their policy demands with the Mayor and with the government itself”.

The Constitution of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) does not exclude the option of an elected Assembly, Hatcher asks “If it’s right for London why isn’t it right for the West Midlands?”. Three principles are laid down and seven positive steps – read on here.

Scrutiny?

His article written earlier this month describes the WMCA Scrutiny Committee as being ‘seriously incapable’ of carrying out that responsibility: “The Scrutiny Committee only has 12 councillor members. It is scheduled to have only four meetings during the year, for two hours each.  It is inconceivable that the Committee can engage with the huge range of activities of the WMCA, select issues to scrutinise and carry out a serious process of scrutiny in that time. (Each set of documentation for the monthly CA Board meetings typically amounts to a hundred pages or more, let alone those from the other dozen or more committees.)”

Be aware of conflicts of interest

The Scrutiny Committee allocates 3 places to representatives of the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the employer-led bodies representing business interests. Hatcher comments: “This is an extraordinary decision which seems unique among Combined Authorities”. For example, there are no LEP representatives on the Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny Committee. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into devolution and Combined Authorities, published in June 2016 said:

“It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities”.

So far two of the three LEP places have been taken up by named representatives. One is Sarah Windrum, founder and CEO of Warwickshire technology company The Emerald Group, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The other is Black Country LEP Board Member Paul Brown, Director of Government Services for Ernst & Young, a global accountancy company.

Ernst and Young serves as auditor and tax adviser to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the businesses which have come under the most fire for avoiding taxes. As its website says, it is closely involved in the formulation and delivery of policy “across a wide range of central Government departments”.  Given the controlling role of government in the WMCA, Hatcher thinks it inevitable that Paul Brown, as Director of Government Services, would be exercising scrutiny on behalf of the CA over policies which his employer, Ernst and Young, would have been involved in formulating and delivering.

Other members of the Black Country LEP have a direct interest in investment in land for construction. The Chair of the BC LEP is Simon Eastwood, Managing Director of Carillion Developments, Carillion Plc. Carillion plc is a British multinational facilities management and construction services company with its headquarters in Wolverhampton. It is one of the largest construction companies operating in the UK. Among its projects in the West Midlands is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus in Birmingham city centre. Read on here.

Hatcher concludes: “In the absence of an elected Assembly, the Scrutiny Committee is the only instrument of public accountability of the WMCA. Its credibility depends on there being no suspicion in the public mind that there are actual or potential conflicts of interest. For that reason we believe there should be no representatives of LEPs on the Scrutiny Committee”.

 

 

 

 Impressive image and political/corporate rhetoric but fearful reality

winson-green-prison

After a series of violent incidents in recent months at HMP Lewes and HMP Bedford, four wings at high-security prison Winson Green had to be sealed after disturbances broke out. About 260 prisoners were involved.

Despite the record of G4S, which now runs five prisons in the UK, management of this prison was handed over to the private sector company in 2011. Unions opposed the deal which reduced staff numbers and pay rates.

So many public sector officers had to be drafted to ‘manage’ the Winson Green ‘dispute’ that control had to be transferred to the (public sector) HM Prison Service.

There have been sharp cuts to prison staff numbers as part of the 2010-15 coalition’s austerity drive even though the prison population has doubled since 1993 to more than 85,000. There are now 65 assaults behind bars every day and in the year to June, assaults on staff jumped 43% to 5,954, with 697 recorded as serious.

gove

Yesterday former Conservative Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove appeared to have a welcome change of heart. His words, reported in a recent speech, were: “I am convinced that we cannot provide the effective level of rehabilitation we need for offenders without either increasing expenditure significantly or reducing prisoner numbers overall, because overcrowded prisons are more likely to be academies of crime, brutalisers of the innocent and incubators of addiction rather than engines of self-improvement.”

 

 

 

junior doctors strike

A link in the Brummie aggregator, in a notice from Birmingham Against the Cuts, gives notice that there will be a rally to support the junior doctors on Saturday 20th, at 2pm, outside Waterstones by the Bull Ring, because the government’s decision to impose a new contract on them will see them working longer for less and will drive down morale in the profession.

Middlesbrough consultant oncologist and National Health Action Party member Dr Clive Peedell said: “”There are real fears that Jeremy Hunt’s response to this week’s strike will be to go ahead and impose the unsafe and unfair ’24/7′ contract. The numbers of doctors leaving the service will grow as a consequence, leaving even more specialities at critical staffing levels. No Secretary of State for Health with a real concern for the people and an ability to use evidence-based policy could possibly make that choice at this point.” More on his thinking here.

Concerns that the health service is being sold off to private providers

Junior doctor Sophie Herbert, who works in A&E, said the dispute was not just about the new contract: “This is a much bigger issue which the government is intentionally hiding from the media. It’s about the privatisation of the NHS. In 2012 the Health and Social Care Act provided a legal route for the privatisation of the NHS. This has already resulted in contracts being sold off to private providers. But the majority of voters do not want the health service sold off and cherish the NHS.”

NHS Providers

Searching on the term ‘private providers’ found that the Foundation Trust Network has been renamed NHS Providers and its website now highlights its work with NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services, relegating its support as the ‘trade body’ for the semi-autonomous foundation trusts to less prominent web pages.

NHS Providers has more than 90% of all trusts in membership, collectively accounting for £65 billion of annual expenditure and employing more than 928,000 staff. Its Chair is a medic, Dame Gill Morgan and its chief executive is Chris Hopson, a former civil servant, working for the HMRC after working at Grenada TV and a charity for young homeless people.

NHS Providers are said to be facing significant challenges on both finance and operational performance against key national standards.

A series of new hourly price caps will limit the amount of money various types of agency staff working in the NHS can earn and controls on management consultancy expenditure were expected to have an impact by the end of 2015. News of these and other problems may be seen on this government website.

Professor Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting, (Business School, University of Essex earlier spoke on “Tax Avoidance: The challenges posed by corporate elites” at the Birmingham and Midland Institute in Birmingham – and on 2nd February at Queens in Edgbaston, his colleague Richard Murphy will speak about tax ‘dodgers’ and the HMRC’s problems.

Following a reference to Birmingham minister Donald Eadie on this site, his book Grain in Winter (1999) was brought to the writer’s attention. One of his observations have sadly been borne out: “The new social machinery is giving birth to a monster that divides society into two tiers within education, health, welfare and housing . . .there is a chill wind blowing through our times”.

prem sikka 4Thinking rather of economic and financial ‘machinery’, Professor Sikka has reflected on the gathering of the rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum in Davos “often far removed from the concerns of ordinary people”.

He sees economic policies “increasingly formed to appease financial markets where vast amounts are gambled everyday though they produce little tangible economic activity”.

There is little sign that this summit will signal a change of direction. Oxfam’s latest report states that soon 1% of the world’s adult population will own more than the rest. In the UK, the richest 1,000 people have doubled their wealth over the past five years to £519 billion. At the same time, millions of people have seen a real decrease in their income and lack the resources to stimulate the economy.

Corporations are frequently able to hold governments to ransom: “give us what we want or we are off” has become a familiar call from companies to discipline governments.

davos

The top 500 transnational corporations control 70% of the worldwide trade, 80% of the foreign investments, one-third of all manufacturing exports, 75% of all commodities trade and 80% of the trade in management and technical services. Making these ‘global behemoths’ accountable to the public is not on the Davos agenda.

Political leaders will talk about tackling public debt, a cue for more austerity, reduction in public expenditure and further privatisation of state-owned enterprises, often at knock-down prices resulting in huge wealth transfers.

He concludes: “International forums are increasingly essential to solve global problems, but they can’t be addressed by pursuing the interests of the 1%. A radical shift is needed to develop policies that place the interests of the 99% at the heart of the debate”

Read his article here: https://theconversation.com/davos-delegates-dont-care-about-inequality-or-your-debt-36511

Last week, the Financial Times noted that British outsourcing companies have ‘strengthened their grip on public sector contracts’ over the past decade, and that -according to the National Audit Office – Capita is one of the UK’s biggest beneficiaries.

service birmingham logo

Service Birmingham chief executive Stewart Wren has said: “Service Birmingham is one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the UK and we remain committed to delivering quality services.”

Quality services?

As a reader who has recently moved to Birmingham informs us that on the contact form sent, presumably, by Capita/Service Birmingham her name was mis-spelt and her postcode was wrong – other ‘rumblings’ come to mind.

In January, the Mail reported that Service Birmingham took two payments instead of one from 3,447 householders and business ratepayers.

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston Business School has received a large amount of correspondence from distraught and seriously ill constituents who have been waiting months for Capita to carry out an assessment for their claim for disability benefits, many of whom are now facing serious financial problems because of these delays.

Value for money?

birmingham city council header

Concerns are being raised in parliament over whether outsourcing deals represent best value for taxpayers. Birmingham City Council handed over its council tax collection department to Capita Service Birmingham in 2011 with a commitment to raise collection rates, but in July the Post reported that Council tax arrears in Birmingham have risen by 15% in the last year with the local authority owed more than £105 million.

In October, the Post reported – after a reference to uncompetitive practice – that a total of £23 million was paid to the private firm last year by City Council, up from £8 million in 2012 – a 187% rise. Dividends for 2013 rose as the city council announced it would be cutting 6,000 further jobs in the next four years.

MP Roger Godsiff, who has questioned Capita closely about its costs and profit margins (a taxpayers’ subsidy) said the contract for IT, call centre and pay roll services is an “egregious misuse of Birmingham citizens’ public funds”.

Professor Bailey has repeatedly called for the contract to be market-tested, and said: “If the contract had been cancelled in 2012, at my estimated cancellation cost of £25 million, then there would actually have been a net in-year financial benefit for the council given the £28 million saved.”

As the Serious Fraud Office investigates Serco and G4S, the National Audit Office has called for tighter scrutiny of government contracts.

public accounts committee

MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee (above), has called the privatisation of public services – with around half the government’s £187bn annual spending going to private contractors – “the most important public policy issue of our time”.

Would the council be well advised to return to in-house administration?

News from a reader in her seventies with income from pensions and savings below the national average after tax has been deducted, prompted a search of collected data and online reports.

hmrc pensioners

Her equally baffled MP put this case  to the Treasury Committee; the chairman’s assistant replied: “The issue you describe does seem confusing” and undertook to draw it to the attention of the committee before taking evidence from HMRC in autumn.

In marked contrast to their cosy agreements & accommodations with big business, the HMRC compels her to continue, despite having all the information in their departments, which are said to be unable to share it, one officer saying angrily: “Why don’t you employ an accountant?”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Independent reported that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have caught only five of thirty people, some owing hundreds of thousands of pounds – and many owing millions – identified as costing the UK more than £844m.

Strangely, the government has been reducing staff and budget from this revenue-collecting department, despite concerns ant the shortfall in income due. A few examples follow:

hmrc staff shortfall poster2004: 15,000 jobs cut since March 2004 with 165 offices earmarked for closure or in the process of closing.

2008: closure of a further 95 offices across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland affecting up to 12,300 staff

2010: the Public and Commercial Services Union warn that a decision by Revenue & Customs to close 130 offices would cause job losses, undermine tax collection and hit advice and support to taxpayers.

2014: the end for all 281 walk-in tax enquiry centres, with a further 23 large sites across the UK facing imminent closure. More than 2,000 fixed-term workers compulsorily redundant despite its own business plan revealing a staffing shortfall (page 16).

HMRC staffing levels chart
The Public and Commercial Services Union criticises HMRC’s intention to privatise more of its debt collection and post handling, reporting huge backlogs of post and private debt collectors already being brought in to chase up tax credits overpayments.

Perhaps this apparent inefficiency and inconsistency is not political madness, but the outworking of a hidden agenda, with privatisation as the objective.

People with no idea what the role of police commissioner entails and who have not received the leaflets about candidates are unlikely to vote. At the last moment, information sent by a subscriber to the 38 degrees social action group focussed on one potential consequence. Its message says:

“In a few hours private security companies like G4S could be on their way to controlling big parts of West Midlands police. The new police and crime commissioner elections are today and there’s a big danger that pro-privatisation candidates could get in with just a few votes  . . .

“Experts reckon less than one in five people could vote. That means there’s a huge danger that we could end up with commissioners that few people even voted for privatising our police forces.

The message cited the response of West Midlands candidates:

Mike Rumble (Independent):

I have promised from the start of my campaign, that I support in-sourcing not out-sourcing. To make it clear, NO, I do not support privatization of any of the West Midlands Police services. I have also stated my support for the federation and unions and have completed the Unison questionnaire to that effect. My pledges are costed and deliverable, not vote catching sound bites.

I will not allow any privatization, G4S, Serco, Amey or whoever. I do not have any connection with any company that might be interested in police contracts.

Ayoub Khan (LibDems):

No response forwarded to the office

Bill Etheridge (UKIP):

I will never privatise West Midlands Police. That’s a definite promise. I will not allow private companies to have involvement in running the police. I have no involvement or links to any private companies like G4S

Bob Jones (Labour):

1 ) I have consistently voted against the Business partnership for the Police Privatisation process & have committed myself from the start that BPP will end and core policing services will be accountable to the community not to private shareholders.

2) I will totally review procurement arrangements to bring in ethical/international law compliance criteria plus support for local economy re local suppliers & apprentices

3) My only shareholdings are in the Severn Valley railway which has no plans to get involved in Police privatisation. I have no other connections with any business enterprise.

 Cath Hannon (Independent):

Thank you for your e-mail, as your West Midlands PCC I will review processes & procedures across the force area to increase efficiency and provide the public a better standard of service. You can see issues I have raised regarding privatisation at http://www.cathhannon4pcc.com/hot-topics.html. With regard connections to companies that might be interested in West Midlands Police contracts I have none.

Derek Webley (Independent):

I believe a visit to my webpage www.derekwebley.co.uk would help to address the issues raised below and give a more indepth view of my manifesto

Matt Bennett (Conservatives):

No response forwarded to office.