As Paul Halas writes (Western Daily Press, 7 December 2019, p. 30):
“Over the past few decades privatisations have included Royal Mail, British Gas, electricity, water and sewage treatment, the 999 calls service, much of the ambulance service, the NHS appointments service, British Steel, large parts of the education service, the Coal Board (as was), the probation service, many prisons and detention centres, large chunks of the care services, British Airways, British Rail… ad infinitum”).
Martin Rudland draws attention to the ‘we own it’ website which focusses on privatisation of public services which wastes billions each year on shareholder dividends and high borrowing costs, giving links to research into costs in several sectors including water, energy, transport, broadband, Royal Mail and NHS.
Transnational Engie is on the list of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital’s suppliers of domestic, catering and cleaning services. Unison and GMB are calling for these services to be brought back in-house once Engie’s contract ends next year.
UNISON, the union representing workers at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, points out that staff who were transferred from the NHS in 2015 are being paid NHS rates of £9.02 an hour but anyone who started since is paid the legal minimum of £8.21 an hour.
New starters are paid at least £1,400 less than colleagues who were at the hospital before cleaning services were sold off. Engie employees have also told UNISON that they are being denied leave and being made to take the blame when the contractor is pulled up by the Trust for any shortcomings in service.
UNISON’s Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said, “Engie has confused and demoralised its staff further with a third set of pay and conditions brought in last year to squeeze a bit more cash out of the taxpayer. This firm is making its profits off the backs of some of the lowest-paid workers in our NHS”.
GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara agrees that the workers “deserve to be treated fairly by their employer” and points out that last year, housekeepers’ working hours and wages were cut, yet they were still expected to do the same amount of work. This has had a knock-on effect on the patients, their families and visitors.
Hospital chiefs are offering Engie a new 10-year contract to provide the services, proposing to outsource a number or employees currently working for the NHS but UNISON is calling on the Trust not to renew Engie’s contract next year and bring cleaning, catering and housekeeping back in-house.
This week an IPPR study revealed the cost of private finance initiatives (PFI) contracts in the NHS.
These contracts brought £13 billion of initial investment capital into the health system but by the time they have ended the NHS will have spent £80 billion on them.
This is money which could have been spent on doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, on improving treatments, or on making sure young mental health inpatients don’t have to stay in hospitals hundreds of miles away from their family and friends.
The IPPR report reveals that £55 billion of this debt is still outstanding – representing a huge burden on tight NHS resources if the government does not take action. It recommends that bad deals be brought back into public ownership.
After wondering whether what’s left of the NHS is really going to remain in the public domain under the Tories, Paul Halas adds: “What they (private companies) all have in common is poorer service, higher prices, worse wages and conditions for employees, and a haemorrhaging of money to highly paid executives and shareholders, many of them based overseas and avoiding tax in this country”, ending:
“The Tories’ long-term goal has always been to shrink the public sector to the size of a walnut and until the NHS, the last of the public service dominoes, is toppled it’ll remain a thorn in their ideological flesh”.
Corbyn is a true socialist, and a strong anti-poverty advocate. His words about Greece apply to Britain as well
He is and has always been against:
- NHS privatisation
- lighter banking regulation,
- the Iraq war
- introducing tuition fees in England,
- private finance initiatives
- Gaza–Israel conflict
- corporate tax loopholes
He is and has been for:
- the release of the Guildford Four
- the release of Nelson Mandela
- the release of Birmingham Six
- renationalisation of railways
- a higher minimum wage
- a higher rate of tax for the wealthiest
- an increased corporate tax rate to fund public services
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- the rights of the forcibly-removed Chagossians to return to their territory
He has the spirit of the postwar Labour government and, after speaking about his own beliefs, records their achievements on television, here:
At hustings up and down the country Jeremy Corbyn is being cheered on. See a brief clip on education from the contenders’ evening in Birmingham. It was interesting to see Andy Burnham applauding Corbyn whilst the other contenders looked askance. According to the Telegraph, the MP for Islington North ‘wows’ audience .
Readers who feel so moved may donate to his campaign costs and wish him well on September 12:
People laughed when MP Neil Hamilton was found to have accepted money in a brown envelope – this is not the British way. But the bestowal of directorships and employment for family and friends is acceptable – ‘good form’ – lucrative and legal.
George Monbiot points out that many poor nations are plagued by the kind of corruption that involves paying bribes in that way, but adds that the British system already belongs to the elite.
He notes that Transparency International’s corruption index ranks Britain 14th – why not lower? His explanation: “the definitions of corruption on which the index draws are narrow and selective. Common practices in the rich nations that could reasonably be labelled corrupt are excluded; common practices in the poor nations are emphasised”.
A former minister ran HSBC while it engaged in systematic tax evasion, money laundering for drugs gangs and the provision of services to Saudi and Bangladeshi banks linked to the financing of terrorists. Instead of prosecuting the bank, the head of the UK’s tax office went to work for it when he retired.
The Private Finance Initiative has been used by our governments to deceive us about the extent of their borrowing while channelling public money into the hands of corporations. Shrouded in secrecy, stuffed with hidden sweeteners, it has landed hospitals and schools with unpayable debts, while hiding public services from public scrutiny.
Monbiot reminds us that state police forces are alleged to have protected prolific paedophiles, including Jimmy Savile, and – it is now reported – a ring of senior politicians. The BBC has sacked many of those who sought to expose him while promoting people who tried to perpetuate the cover-up. He cites other forms of corruption:
- our unreformed political funding system which permits the very rich to buy political parties;
- the phone-hacking scandal and the payment of police by newspapers;
- the underselling of Royal Mail;
- the revolving door allowing corporate executives to draft the laws affecting their businesses;
- the robbing of the welfare and prison services by private contractors;
- price-fixing by energy companies;
- daylight robbery by pharmaceutical firms and dozens more such cases.
Monbiot asks, “Is none of this corruption? Or is it too sophisticated to qualify?”
The power of global finance and the immense wealth of the global elite are founded on corruption, and the beneficiaries have an interest in framing the question to excuse themselves.
A ground-changing book called How Corrupt is Britain?, edited by David Whyte, was recently published. It argues that narrow conceptions of corruption are part of a long tradition of portraying the problem as something confined to weak nations, which must be rescued by “reforms” imposed by colonial powers and, more recently, bodies such as the World Bank and the IMF. These “reforms” mean austerity, privatisation, outsourcing and deregulation and tend to suck money out of the hands of the poor and into the hands of national and global oligarchs.
Monbiot believes that How Corrupt is Britain? should be read by anyone who believes this country merits its position on the Transparency International’s corruption index.
Recently Lesley Docksey sent this heartfelt reflection:
“The trouble is we know the problem, and it’s all very well George and Seamas saying we have to ban this, get rid of that and set up something else.
“But how do we actually do it, how do we the people force a break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Despite the poor record of service by the private sector in prisons, transport, energy and water, British schools and hospitals are loudly threatened with takeover, a slavish imitation of our special friend’s policies for schools and hospitals.
Anne sent this link to an article by Jon Stone about the fire hazard and other structural failings of Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, first opened in 2000 under the “private finance initiative”, under which the NHS pays a private company rent-like payments to make use of facilities. The UK now owes more than £222bn to banks and corporations for these Private Finance Initiatives, conceived by Conservatives in the 1990s and ‘embraced’ by New Labour.
Will this hospital be handed over to ‘the state’? In other words, farmed out to Capita, G4S or Serco?
In the FT, Gill Plimmer reported that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector. About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capia, Mitie and Carillion. This continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon. Monbiot’s devastating, fully referenced account of such failures may be read here and others have been written by Gill Plimmer in the Financial Times.
As all these services are transferred via the state into corporate care, the cities themselves are being coerced to follow the mayoral route – which, as Steve Beauchampé notes in the Birmingham Press -was soundly rejected by voters in Birmingham, Coventry and seven other cities.
Did Liverpool – which held no referendum – make the right choice?
Chancellor Osborne is insisting that powers must be devolved through the office of a regional mayor – so much easier to induce or threaten than a whole council – a puppet?
As economic geographer, Professor Michael Chisholm summarised the position more politely, “One could cynically say that the proposal for elected mayors is yet another structural diversion while the steady centralisation of power continues”.
Beauchampé proposes consigning this ‘mayoral hokum’ to its rightful place in the dustbin of history, rejecting the notion that in a democracy just one person can understand, represent and address people’s priorities, needs and hopes, creating and implementing a vision for our fast changing region and its youthful population. He sets out a ‘radical’ – because truly democratic – alternative as a draft proposal.
But, as Lesley asks, “how do we the people force the break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Proportional representation could be the first step.
Applause for the concept of a small parties’ coalition: SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Greens – could NHAP work with this?
Underlining the need for the NHS, Colchester Hospital has declared a “major incident” following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which found staff struggling to cope with “unprecedented demand” and raised “safeguarding concerns”
On BBC1’s Question Time this week, Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, put forward this scenario; looking at the latest National Health Action campaigns, the NHAP seems to be a worthy candidate to work with the other parties.
Co-leader Dr Clive Peedell has contacted the newly appointed NHS advisor, Sir Stuart Rose, and the current and future NHS Chief Executives, Sir David Nicholson and Simon Stevens. His open letter, published in the Health Service Journal, ends:
- “There will never be effective NHS clinical leadership and followership, and successful NHS reform until the failed market based policies of the last 25 years are abandoned and the medical and nursing professions are brought back into the policy making process”.
He finished with a quote from Arnold Relman, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and former editor of the New England Journal Medicine, which sums up the situation: “Medical professionalism cannot survive in the current commercialised healthcare market. The continued privatisation of healthcare and the continued prevalence and intrusion of market forces in the practice of medicine will not only bankrupt the healthcare system, but also will inevitably undermine the ethical foundations of medical practice and dissolve the moral precepts that have historically defined the medical profession.”
- Leading members of NHAP are calling for the ATOS assessments to be scrapped – and a new system be introduced that ensures doctors are properly consulted.
Cambridgeshire representative, John Hully condemns the possible merger of world-famous Papworth Hospital with a failing hospital 30 miles away.
- He says it’s disgraceful that the distinguished & profitable Papworth heart and lung transplant hospital may be forced by the Treasury into a partnership with Peterborough City Hospital, 30 miles away, in order to balance the books of failing Peterborough City Hospital which is saddled with PFI debts, adding:
“Such a move defies all advice and the needs of patients, and is based purely on short-term financial considerations. This situation underlines the need for decisive government action to lift the burden of the unaffordable PFI scheme from Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust to allow it to concentrate on delivering care to local patients . . .“
- London GP and Euro-candidate Dr Louise Irvine has launched a strong attack on the planned closures of A&E departments in North West London.
The soundness of the estimates in plans to close four A&Es in north west London, outlined in “Shaping a Healthier Future” are inconsistent with research figures from the Department of Health. They underestimate how many people will have to go to A&Es in other hospitals by tens of thousands a year and Dr Irvine fears that this can only lead to chaos in other hospitals in the capital. She also examines the DoH claim that they are not closing the A&E at Charing Cross Hospital but making it into a “local A&E”:
“That “local A&E” will be run by GPs and not by Emergency Department doctors, it will not accept patients who are arriving by blue-light ambulance and it will not be able to admit seriously ill patients”.
Would the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Greens agree?
Javelin Park 2: Gloucestershire County Council’s PFI incinerator deal with Urbaser Balfour Beatty: case officer removed & consultants brought in
PCU has recorded Gloucestershire County Council’s desire to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield. It is reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010, that in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies and that a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.
Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, . . . to read on click here.
Opposition to this plan by residents, opposition groups and local authorities has been well documented in the Stroud News & Journal by journalist Chris Warne.
Update: the council removes the case officer from the Javelin Park application and brings in a team of consultants – at taxpayers’ expense
GCG says that this – done without informing a lead member of its planning committee – is perfectly normal practice, but the SNJ’s editorial comment is: “There is a school of management that keeps on asking the same question until the right answer appears”.
Geoff Wheeler, the leader of Stroud District Council, has now instructed officers to write to Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the plans as he did with the Kings Lynn incinerator application in August.
GCG’s Lib-Dems, supported by the Labour Group, have separately called in the bid for extra scrutiny but the County Council hopes to determine the application in the New Year.
SouthWest Business reported last Friday that planning experts at Stroud District Council have warned that the £500million scheme to build a waste-to-energy plant at Javelin Park, supported by Gloucestershire County Council and incinerator firm Urbaser Balfour Beatty, could be thrown out by a Government inspector because of the impact it could have on the environment.
Irregularities in procedure
Stroud’s Councillor Marjoram points out irregularities in procedure: the council selected a contractor for the construction before planning permission had been granted, signing a contract with a penalty clause which will charge them £15 million if they renege on the agreement or don’t get planning permission.
Apply the precautionary principle
Ian Richens, spokesman for the campaigning group GlosVAIN, grimly reminds all that in the 1970s asbestos was similarly presented as posing no danger to health and adds:
“Let us not make the same mistake again”.#
United Kingdom Without Incineration Network
UKWIN has nearly 100 groups campaigning for sustainable waste management and against waste incineration. They say that the incineration of household waste:
- depresses recycling and wastes resources,
- releases greenhouse gases, and is
- often forced through against strong public opposition.
- create toxic emissions and hazardous ash, and therefore pose significant health risks.
Electoral reaction: in Kings Lynn, Labour’s Alex Kempe won a county council seat from the Conservatives. Their majority of 272 at the last election was transformed into a 400 majority for Labour. Ms Kemp said that the issue of the proposed incinerator had a major bearing on the outcome. The County Council’s decision to award a contract for the construction of an incinerator has been ‘called in’ – there will be a full public inquiry in January 2013.
On Panorama at 8.30 tonight, John Ware investigates Private Finance Initiatives, where companies build new schools and hospitals and lease them back to the Government. He uncovers evidence that their value for money to taxpayers may have been misrepresented and asks why the coalition has signed so many PFI deals when David Cameron and Nick Clegg questioned the practice while in opposition.