Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

two short pieces

In A.Graham, R.Richardson on April 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm

1. IT’S WIN, WIN FOR SOME!

RUTH RICHARDSON looks at who’s making big money out of those privatisation deals

The departure of Emma Harrison, the Prime Minister’s former “family tsar”, amidst allegations of fraud, focused attention on the huge contracts being handed out to companies carrying out public works.

Emma Harrison’s firm A4E was responsible for implementing the now infamous “welfare-to-work” programme. The company headed by Emma and James Harrison earned around £11 million last year wholly from the provision of public services.

PRIVATE… BETTER?

The mindset that private profit-making firms perform better than the public sector in many areas is one that both New Labour and Conservative governments have adopted in recent years. Last year Oliver Letwin told a think tank that the public sector needed “fear and discipline” instilled into it.

Meanwhile, an article in the Observer last month focused on who were the big earners in five areas of public provision; welfare being one of them. Other areas were prisons, health, schools and higher education.

PRISONS:

The UK has a greater proportion of prisoners in private hands than anywhere else in the world. It will be no surprise to Clarion readers to learn that the firm G4S (formerly Group 4) leads the way, with its CEO, Nick Buckles, earning £1.4 million in 2010. Twelve prisons have been transferred to private hands in recent years, and a further nine are out to tender.

HEALTH:

The creeping privatisation of the health services has been the subject of a number of articles in the Clarion. The Observer article highlighted the transfer of Hinchinbrooke Hospital to a company called Circle Healthcare in February, making it the first private firm to deliver a full range of NHS hospital services. The deal was worth one billion pounds, and the company’s CEO, John Griffiths-Jones, took home £2.62 million in 2010.

EDUCATION:

In education, private firms routinely provide many services such as supply teachers, ICT, grounds maintenance and “enrichment courses”, often in music or the arts, where teachers lack the necessary expertise. Breckland Free School, opening in September, will be run by IES – a Swedish company. Parents are quickly realising that managing free schools needs a measure of professional input, and a number of companies are ready to jump aboard. One such company, Wey Education, is quoted as saying that it saw an opportunity created by “the deconstruction of the education function within local authorities”. Pearsons, publishers of the Financial Times also provides educational services including the exam board Edexel. Pearsons’ CEO, Marjorie Scardino, was paid a salary of £969,000 in 2010, plus a bonus of £1.6 million.

UNIVERSITIES:

In higher education, provision through the private sector is perceived as a very real threat. At present there are two private universities in the UK. One of them, BPP University College gained almost £2 million in Government loans. BPP is owned by an American company, Apollo Inc., and its CEO, Carl Lygo takes home a modest salary of £500,000. Meanwhile, our public universities have suffered an eighty per cent cut to teaching grants and have to look increasingly to the private sector for funding. Some academics fear that this may compromise their independence to run the courses they choose.

POLICE..??

At the beginning of March, the Guardian led with a worrying story that there were secret plans to privatise the police force. Already private security companies are taking on many duties once performed by the police. We await developments.

Of course Tory ideology says that private is good whilst public is bad. Is that because of principle or is it because it provides rich pickings for the “haves”, including the Government’s cronies? With private firms, of course, the bottom line is always profit. And never mind the quality. After all, where’s the profit in public service service provision?
RR

2.

This sporting life: THE OLYMPICS: A TARNISHED IMAGE?

When the Olympic Games were revived, towards the end of the 19th Century, the founders had a vision. The Olympics were to demonstrate that peace and fellowship could grow through sporting contests embracing athletes from across the globe.

So where did we go wrong? Why has nationalism, and big business, become embedded so deeply in the very soul of the movement?

It may well have started with the Berlin Olympics in the 1930s – which was staged as a showpiece for Nazi ideology. In 1948, in a war-battered London, the Games put on a very different face. They were labelled “the Austerity Olympics”. Once again, the original ideals of the movement was forced to the fore. Britain won few medals on that occasion – but that wasn’t the point. Those who flocked to the sporting events, or followed the occasion through newsreels, newspapers or the wireless, enjoyed every minute of it.

Now the Olympics are back in Britain again. We’re all being exhorted to support “TeamGB”. After all, it’s our patriotic duty. Sponsorships from inappropriate business corporations multiply – and the whole event will take place in conditions of top security. Demonstrations are to be banned, and precautions include talk of a possible missile intercepter.

A site in East London was chosen, on the grounds that it was an area of urban decay – and, it was claimed, the games would bring regeneration and prosperity to all. Never mind the fact that there was already a community there. The community fought back – but housing and local amenities that were seen as irrelevant were swept aside, to make way for the glitzy Olympics infrastructure.  425 tenants of a local housing co-op found their homes being compulsorarily purchased, and they were dispersed into alternative accomodation across London.

Just to share out the pickings, contracts and sponsorships have been dealt out to many who surely must have friends in high places. Otherwise why would the contract for printing tickets go to a company in the deep south of the USA? Don’t we have printshops of our own?

Other dubious sponsorships include those given to BP and Dow Chemicals. Dow Chemicals bought the firm Union Carbide in 2001 – the company responsible for a toxic gas leak at its plant in Bhopal, India, which led to massive contamination and the death of thousands. Whilst no-one is suggesting that Dow, the present company, was directly responsible, it still has a responsibility. As Amnesty International says “when Dow bought Union Carbide, it bought liability for the Bhopal disaster.”

Gimmicks such as the decision to have the Olympic torch carried across the country by a motley team drawn from across the country won’t save these tarnished games. Big business and politics have taken over, all neatly packaged in the Union Jack.

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