A reader from Jamaica, an investigative journalist, the Jamaica Observer, the Guardian and the Metro shed light on the subject for those, like the writer, who only heard a brief radio broadcast reference to David Cameron’s reply/non reply to the Jamaican request for reparations – planning and reconstruction, not cash as reported.
The Metro reports that Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission, wrote a gracious open letter (full text in the Jamaica Observer) telling David Cameron that he has benefited from slavery on the island through his ancestral links to General Sir James Duff:
‘You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors. Successive governments in this land, a place still groaning under the weight of this injustice, have done well during the 53 years of sovereignty, but the burden of inherited mess from slavery and colonialism has overwhelmed many of our best efforts.’
David Cameron failed to reply directly to this call for Britain to help with the planning of economic reconstruction and to that made by Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (above). Downing Street stepped in, saying that the prime minister does not believe reparations or apologies for slavery are the right approach.
The right approach?
One of Jamaica’s citizen bloggers comments: “If Cameron was in Jamaica to make some postive announcements like the development of IT academies or the major redevelopment of the Jamaican Railway etc I would have said ‘wise move’. But a bleeding prison? China assists Ethiopia to build a state of the art light rail network and Jamaica gets a new prison from Blighty”.
They wanted bread but you offered a stone:
‘Expertise’ in prison services is the latest British export to hit the headlines, though far from being as rewarding as its arms trade. In the news recently, Just Solutions International, the commercial wing of the Ministry of Justice, has offered the Saudi regime its services.
David Hencke reports, on his blog, that Jeremy Corbyn (about whom our Jamaican correspondent has written perceptively) has challenged David Cameron to explain why the British government can’t cancel this contract with the Saudis to provide training for their prison system, just as it is about to execute a teenage dissident and crucify his body.
Will a resurrected, renamed Ministry of Justice spin-off be assisting in the £25m prison proposed for Jamaica?
As our blogger quotes from the BBC News, more than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails but cannot be deported because of Jamaica’s poor prison conditions. – BBC News, he asks:
“Should the current & former Jamaican government ministers feel embarrassed at the poor archaic prison conditions that they have overseen since 1962? If there is one set of people that the British establishment enjoys disrespecting it is definitely Jamaicans. Whether through law/order, education, immigration/visas, trade and now this . . .
“The real reason behind Cameron’s £25 million gift is no doubt to cut the prison capital and running cost to the UK Treasury”.
“David Cameron did announce a £300 million fund for infrastructure development across 8 English speaking Caribbean nations. I just hope the Caribbean leaders and their civil servants double check the small print on such pledges. Refer to Number 10 website . . .
“This is a moment for Jamaica’s opposition leader Andrew Holness to take the initiative and say hell no DC. But given Holness was a guest at the last Tory Party annual conference I wonder. . .
“October is black history month in the UK and in Jamaica October has national heritage week. Cameron’s handout is not the kind of bilateral collaboration worth appreciating. Peace”.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who sees himself as a ‘moderniser’, lauding the government’s IT prowess, has faced several less-than-creditable charges according to his Wikileaks entry. After recruiting Tony Caplin, who recently resigned as head of the Treasury’s Public Works Loans Board, Maude has made a far more serious mistake.
Despite David Cameron’s Davos commitment to ‘reshoring’ British jobs, Francis Maude has appointed an offshore and outsourcing expert, Peter Swann, to supervise the export of jobs of civil servants who provide back-up facilities such as pay roll and contract details to Whitehall offices.
David Hencke records in the Tribune that these jobs handling sensitive personal pay roll details, and possibly criminal and police records, are to be moved offshore by private companies under a Cabinet Office initiative to save money.
A rising star
Under Swann’s leadership, Steria, a French international company with a presence in India, has a joint venture with the Cabinet Office: Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) – its slogan: ‘a Trusted Transformation partner’.
The latest news on Steria’s website is that the Council of the European Union’s General Secretariat has chosen the company to secure its internal communications networks.
SSCL has already taken over back offices across the country for the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Environment Agency. It is now looking at taking over work at the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office.
Within a year, it started a closure programme of sites affecting more than 500 jobs in Sheffield, Cardiff, Newport and Leeds and is looking to relocate the work to India. Other centres such as Blackpool, Newcastle, Peterborough and York will also lose staff.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “It will be a major blow for local economies losing hundreds more jobs . . . The Government should act now to keep these jobs in the UK, rather than attempt to cynically exploit the inferior pay and employment conditions that workers abroad face.”
“The government has always claimed that the main reason it is holding down pay in Whitehall, schools and the NHS is because the taxpayer can’t afford it and we need to cut the deficit”.
In 2011, ex-banker living wage, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for Whitehall’s industrial relations, claimed to have safeguarded the very lowest paid and attacked perks given to richer civil servants – at a time when Exaro News revealed that Ed Lester, head of the Student Loans Company, had secured a lucrative – but short-lived – payment ‘package’ where he avoided paying tax or national insurance at source, before he moved to head the Land Registry with a regular tax-paying commitment.
Hencke: “Now in the same organisation a new drama is being played out . . .”
An interesting negotiating ploy by the Public and Commercial Services Union
Hencke related that the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Whitehall’s lowest paid, suggested that Ed Lester’s successor, Mike Laverty, could forgo a £25,000 a year bonus and redistribute it to the staff, benefiting the lowest paid. He explains:
“The union had calculated that, if all the money available, including a below inflation rise and one off £265 payment (worth £595) for those earning less than £21,000 a year, and a one-off £560 payment to those over £21,000, all 2400 staff could get an increase of more than £600 incorporated into their salaries. The few very lowest paid would get a £960 pay rise to take them up to the nationally-recognised living wage. It would benefit people working in Glasgow, Darlington and Colwyn Bay”.
Mike Laverty is unusual in that he returned some £80,000 to the Treasury last year from a previous redundancy deal when he got his new job, but his reaction to the PCS proposal is not on record.
However, David Hencke understands that the Cabinet Office blocked this move and is insisting that the bonus be paid to one person instead. His verdict will surprise few people:
“This indicates that the government has no intention of protecting the lowest paid and curb bonuses for the rich”.
His blog mentions – amongst other coverage – the Guardian and Channel Four “mea culpa” interviews with Chris Huhne – one given according to the Standard to the journalist best man at his wedding, adding:
“What next? The creation of a Huhne concerto by piano playing Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to commemorate the event or an Anna Wintour fashion show to raise cash for Vicky Pryce’s convalescence . . .”.
“No matter. My main point is that this is a distraction.
“While all this goes on thousands of people are being forced to move house because of cruel government policies, there is an epidemic of unsolved child abuse cases and the NHS appears to have let patients die unnecessarily on an epic scale.
“Literally While Huhne fiddles Britain burns”.
Before referring to the decision of Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles to scrap the Audit Commission, protector of the ‘public purse’ which pays for local government, health, housing, police, fire and rescue and other public services, David Hencke questions the wisdom of doing this.
Will its work be done more effectively by private companies which are part of that corporate-political nexus (‘cosy relationships’) deplored by the Vested Interest in Politics people and the public in general?
“Basically Pickles wants to leave it to local councils, health trusts and the new NHS commissioning bodies to police themselves by appointing their own auditors, taking away a whistleblower hot line to the Audit Commission, and allowing big accountancy firms free rein to up their charges by picking off individual councils. It also allows even more cosy relationships to be built between the auditor and the local council and leaves whistleblowers nowhere to go”.
The Commission has already had to start outsourcing
In March last year it awarded the following contracts to:
- Grant Thornton (UK) LLP, a total notional value of £41.3 million a year covering four contract areas in the North West, West Midlands, London (South) Surrey & Kent, and South West;
- KPMG LLP a total notional value of £23.1 million a year covering three contract areas in Humberside & Yorkshire, East Midlands, and London (North);
- Ernst & Young LLP a total notional value of £20 million a year covering two contract areas in Eastern and South East; and
- DA Partnership Ltd a total notional value of £5 million a year covering one contract area in the North East & North Yorkshire.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee has come to some damning conclusions on what the government is about to do – see Hansard. Points include:
- The government claims it will save £137m a year but the MPs say the figure is more likely to be £2.4m.
- The audit regime will be fragmented and more complex.
- The proposals for self-appointment of local auditors risk compromising the independence of audit.
- There are risks of duplicating governance structures, losing economies of scale in audit fees, diminished quality of audit and increased tendering costs
It also stresses that there must be provision to enable auditor removal, whistleblowing and public interest reporting.
There is a full report by Hencke on the Exaro News website.