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Only one political party is attempting to find a mature way through the Brexit morass and heal a deeply divided nation
Relevant to visitors to this website: reproduced from ‘Watershed’:
A report, Government outsourcing: what has worked and what needs reform? was released on Sunday night by an independent think tank, the Institute for Government (IFG).
Lamiat Sabin reports its finding that the cost savings outsourcing is supposed to deliver have been heavily exaggerated and that public support for renationalising services will increase as a result of “repeated failures”.
In the words of General union GMB national secretary Rehana Azam: “All too often the apparent ‘savings’ from outsourcing take the form of cutting wages, terms and conditions and pensions . . . We need to rebuild our public services and return them to public and democratic ownership, serving citizens and their communities not the shareholders of big business”.
But under the headline: Labour plan to reverse outsourcing criticised by think-tank, Valentina Romei (below right) puts a very different emphasis on the report’s findings, quoting the words of Tom Sasse, senior researcher, Institute for Government:
Noting that the government spends about £292bn, more than a third of all public spending, on goods and services from external suppliers and that a series of failures has brought the system under intense scrutiny, Valentina points out that these often stem from recurring issues and failures, including:
- an excessive focus on the lowest prices . . .
- the finding that some of the people most in need in society — jobseekers, benefits claimants, ex-offenders — have been let down by government outsourcing services. . .
- the outsourcing of probation services which have failed on every measure, harming ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives . . .
- setting the cost ceiling to provide services in Cornwall in 2011 too low for many GP services providers and
- the repeated failure of the company finally selected to meet both its performance and quality targets.
Valentina concluded that: “Opening up prisons to competition has led to innovations that have improved the lives of prisoners . . . Contracting out waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance in the 1980s and 1990s led to significant savings”.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, also scrutinised this “40-year failed experiment”. He focussed on several points made in the report, including:
- the fact that politicians regularly cite headline savings of up to 30% but recent evidence shows any savings are more typically around 5 to 10%.
- 28% higher rates of MRSA infection were found in hospitals which had outsourced cleaning to companies that often employ fewer staff.
- Private prisons also tend to pay prison officers and support staff considerably less than in public prisons (by 15 and 22% respectively) while paying managers and directors more.
- The fact that NHS will have spent £80bn by the time all the PFI contracts for buildings such as schools and hospitals are paid off, in return for just £13bn of initial investment (IPPR think tank).
The website of public ownership campaign group We Own It, set up in 2013, is well worth visiting. Its founder and director Cat Hobbs (right) said:
“It doesn’t make sense to hand over crucial services to companies that are motivated to make a profit rather than serve the communities.”
(Ed) A statistician could objectively assess the findings of this report which may be downloaded here. Until that is done the public will continue to regard privatisation as an abysmal failure and a gross misuse of tax income by government.
Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.
Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.
The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.
Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.
A few recent accidents:
The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.
M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.
The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.
The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.
Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.
An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.
There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.
There is an alternative:
A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.
The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.
The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:
The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.
DSEI arms exhibition protestors call for government spending on peace, adequate public services and addressing climate change
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators, who used a signature XR boat to block access to the DSEI arms fair to be held in the Excel Centre in Royal Albert Way said that war creates devastating environmental damage and with a warming climate leading to more extreme weather and causing more failed harvests and droughts, as food and water runs out, we can expect more conflict and a much bigger refugee crisis. They added:
“The UK has to own up to its part in creating these global problems, take real leadership in reducing warming and conflict, and create deliberative democracies which can solve this emergency.”
West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “The DSEI arms fair causes a massive inconvenience for local residents every two years, from the added traffic and security it always requires. Added to the inconvenience to local people, the arms fair also piles an unwanted and unneeded burden on our local public services, like our police, ambulances, hospitals and transport, all already massively overstretched due to nine long years of Tory austerity cuts. Despite asking questions in Parliament for months, the Government haven’t been able to reassure me that we won’t be seeking to sell weapons to regimes that abuse human rights or are killing innocents in places like Yemen. I’m proud to stand with the Newham residents who are raising their voices against the arms fair this year, and I hope that together we can stop the DSEI from returning to our borough in 2021.”
Demonstrators advocated that instead of helping to promote and subsidise the sales of armaments, government should be creating an emergency budget:
- to bring down emissions and increase biodiversity,
- to transfer jobs from the arms industry into the sustainable economy now
- to stop fuelling conflict around the world
- and instead support ‘peace diplomacy’.
Extinction Rebellion’s Liam Geary Baulch said: “We envision a world where people have a right to a future and a right to live in peace with a home, food, and water – all things that are put at risk by fuelling conflict and the climate and ecological emergency around the world.
An earlier post – the first in a series ‘The Corbyn Revolution: How Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s economic agenda would impact Britain’s economy’ – was a fairly dispassionate overview of the proposed policies ‘breathtaking in scope’, but the other titles in the series indicated that they would fall well below the standards of ‘fairness and impartiality’ which the FT’s new owners had undertaken to maintain.
The writer cravenly decided to avoid them, but Judith Martin (below, right) had more spirit and took the FT – ‘One of the business world’s most-respected platforms’ – to task for its article, UK’s Labour would seize £300bn of company shares.
Though the FT edited or removed many sentences and gave it an anodyne and misleading title: Rewarding your workers makes sound economic sense, we can now present the full text, sent by the writer.
“Raid”, “stealth tax”, “expropriation” – I don’t recall the FT using these inflammatory terms when discussing the John Lewis Partnership, which has always given annual bonuses to the staff instead of to shareholders.
Your front page headline “Labour would cost UK companies £300bn by shifting shares to staff” (2nd September 2019) is one of the most partisan I have ever seen in the FT, and more like something I would expect from the tabloid press that I don’t choose to buy.
Only later does it become clear that the suggestion is for a gradual transfer of a mere 10%. The fact that the top 20% of income earners received 6 times the disposable household income of the bottom 20% (according to the government’s own figures (Income inequality in the UK, House of Commons Library, May 2019)) doesn’t get a look-in.
Henry Ford understood that it made sound economic sense to pay workers enough to allow them to buy the company’s products. Impoverishing your workers – even if, like Deliveroo, Uber and the rest of the gig economy crew, you claim they’re not actually employees – is not good for society, as numerous FT articles have noted in recent years. Most of our current worker protection has come from the EU.
As for the rights of tenants, I am agnostic on whether or not they should be given the right to buy but they certainly need a fair rent structure and decent protection. Not long ago there were headlines saying that a new generation of middle-aged renters was likely to face extreme poverty in old age, with resulting stresses on the health service and elsewhere. Compare this country’s attitudes to housing and landlords with Germany, where Berlin has just acquired nearly 700 flats from a private landlord, with plans for more. In March this year the FT noted approvingly that the start-up culture in Berlin was thriving. A city that protects its residents frees up initiative.
Is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement? The FT has spent the last three years insisting that the EU gives a better deal than the economic isolation that faces the country in November.
When Jeremy Corbyn (left, FT) has finally been dragged into co-operation with other anti-brexiters, and Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is looking increasingly unstable, is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement just because it comes from the Labour party? Do you really want more of Johnson and his stated approach of “fuck business?”
(Ed) Is Jim Pickard’s language in this article – seize, confiscate, state raid, expropriate – actually adding to Project Fear, which is becoming Project Cold Hard Reality according to the Scotsman – no doubt thinking of the number of jobs and assets moving to continental Europe?
In a letter today signed by over eighty economists, including Richard Wilkinson, Guy Standing, Prem Sikka, Kate Raworth, Richard Murphy, Steve Keen, Joseph Huber, John Christensen, Dani Rodrik, Thomas Piketty and lead signatory, David Blanchflower, the FT is charged with failing to appreciate the severity of the UK’s current economic condition. The indications include:
- the country’s ‘meagre recovery’ from the 2008 banking crisis, fuelled by rising household debt,
- stagnating earnings,
- a housing market crisis,
- the wealthiest disproportionately benefiting from growth since the 1980s and
- a failure to take adequate action to prevent climate and environmental breakdown and prepare for their effects.
They point out that all political parties in the UK are proposing increases in public spending to meet these challenges – and charge the FT with reproducing a number of misconceptions:
Labour’s proposals are affordable: the FT’s source, an Office for Budget Responsibility analysis, “ignored the impact of public spending on growth, and thus on tax receipts” – a critical relationship noted by senior IMF economists in their critique of austerity.
The economists pointed out that government can borrow at negative real interest rates to fund pressing infrastructure, education and environment projects, many of which offer returns well above zero, generating higher future tax receipts to spend on social and environmental needs such as those listed above. At present, they observe, taxation levels in the UK remain lower than in most well-provided European countries.
They corrected the implication that a mechanism such as an Inclusive Ownership Fund (p.42) would require companies to pay out cash out; companies would issue new shares to be placed in a mutual fund – just as shares are now issued for executive compensation.
After being reminded that in the 1940s and 1980s, major policy changes were made in response to a failed economic model – at first seen as overly radical but later accepted across the political spectrum – the FT editor might heed the advice of the critical reader whom he invited to write a letter:
“There needs to be a revolution in the FT — not the communist type of revolution, but a revolution that turns the mindset to see the world beyond a white middle-class neo-liberal tinted lens.”
Poles apart from Murdoch’s exultant Sun, which calls it a ‘masterstroke’, the FT’s editorial team describes the decision as ‘an affront to democracy’: “Boris Johnson has detonated a bomb under the constitutional apparatus of the United Kingdom . . . Proroguing parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech is established procedure, but for one or two weeks, not five. Mr Johnson is using constitutional chicanery to thwart a parliament that he knows has a majority against his chosen policy”.
An intolerable attempt to silence parliament
The decision, without modern precedent, is described as “an intolerable attempt to silence parliament until it can no longer halt a disastrous crash-out from EU by the UK”. British democracy is being denied a say on the most important issue facing the country for more than four decades.
The FT’s editorial team recommends parliamentarians to bring down Johnson’s government in a no-confidence vote, paving the way for an election in which the people can express their will.
Charlatans, demagogues and would-be dictators
Pointing out that history has shown that charlatans, demagogues and would-be dictators have little time for representative government, they comment: “Mr Johnson may not be a tyrant, but he has set a dangerous precedent. He and the cabal around him who have chosen this revolutionary path should be careful what they wish for. No premier who has assumed power outside a general election has ever deviated so radically from his party’s previous platform”, and end:
“Mr Johnson is framing the current battle as one between parliament and the people . . . he should be ready to test this with voters in an election — rather than making a cavalier attempt to frustrate the parliamentary democracy that has been the foundation of Britain’s prosperity and stability”.