Posts Tagged ‘Public-Private Parnerships’

Starmer’s 11,500 Word Vision: Blairism Rehashed

September 24, 2021

Last week people were commenting on an 11,500 word piece Starmer had written laying out his vision for the Labour party. There was a rumour going round that it was going to 14,000 words, but mercifully we’ve been spared that. I think Novara Media put up a piece suggesting that it would be 14,000 words in which Starmer says nothing. This would be the same nothing that he says to voters and with which he criticises the Tories. He has precious little to say to them. When questioned a while ago on whether Labour had a particular policy in one specific area, the Labour person questioned replied that they did, but that it was secret. Now it seems Starmer does have policies of his own. He has written that he is not in favour of nationalisation, but that government should be ‘a partner to industry’.

This is Blairism. Blair had Clause IV, the clause in the Labour party’s constitution committing it to nationalisation, removed in the 1990s. Instead, Blair promoted various public-private partnerships with business in public works projects, the building and management of hospitals and health centres and so on. This was Tony’s big idea. The result was the corporatism that mars public administration in America and Britain. Government functions were outsourced to companies like Serco, G4S and Maximus, managers and chief officers from private companies were appointed to government bodies, often those that regulated the very industries from which these officials were drawn. NHS privatisation moved into a higher gear and expanded further than the Tories had pushed it, and schools were handed over to private academy chains.

This has been a massive failure. Tens of schools have had to be taken back into public administration thanks to the failure of the private companies running them. Academies are no better educating their charges than state schools once the far greater expenditure on academies is accounted for. Hospital, GP and other medical services are being cut so the private firms providing them can make a profit. The construction companies with whom Blair5’s government went into partnership to build the country’s infrastructure, like bridges and so on, have gone so regularly over budget that the entire PFI scheme under which they are given contracts has been criticised by the Office of National Statistics as a colossal waste of money. And at a local level, ordinary communities saw their traditional shops closed down by local authorities in favour of the big supermarkets despite the opposition of ordinary people.

The private firms running the utilities are not providing the investment these sectors need. Several of the railway companies have had to be removed from running the trains in their areas and the service taken back into public administration, for example.

Thatcherism is, as one Australian economist described it, ‘zombie politics’. It’s dead and should have been buried years ago, but still lurches on, supported by a neoliberal elite, including the Blairites in the Labour party.

Starmer has nothing to offer but more of this unappetising stuff warmed up. It’s yesterday’s economic left-overs, which were foul and indigestible then, and even worse now.

The only alternative is the socialism Corbyn championed – nationalisation of the utilities, a strong welfare state and the restoration of power to the unions. Everything Starmer hates.

Which is why Starmer must go. He’s an ideologically bankrupt, dictatorial non-entity, who has nothing to offer but more Toryism and Blairite despair and exploitation.

Three Reforms for the Outsourcing Industry

April 2, 2016

Earlier today I put up a piece about how the members of the Nazis’ industrial advisory had to swear an oath of eternal loyalty to Adolf Hitler, and to use their industries and its profits to building up the Volksgemeinschaft, and so serving the whole community, rather than their own private interests. Well, the Nazis had a kind of outsourcing, in that they appointed the head Allianz, the biggest of the German insurance companies, to head the economics ministry. Hitler also sought the active co-operation of big business, deliberately toning down the anti-capitalist rhetoric and moving to stop the SA and the Nazi ‘left’ wing from doing anything radical like socialising industry.

I do wonder, however, how popular outsourcing would be if the heads of the industries involved had to swear a democratic version of the oath, in which they vowed to serve the democratically elected prime minister and parliament, and to devote their profits and energies to the whole of the British people, conceived on a non-racist basis, rather than on their own corporate profit. To some it probably wouldn’t matter, but I can others complaining at the presumption of having to swear such an oath. Florence in her comment to the post also made the point that, more importantly, the Freedom of Information Act should also be extended to cover them. It’s a good idea, and one many others have made before. It would allow the British public to know what they’re doing, and also allow the firms and sectors we wish to keep nationalised to continue to compete against them. At present the system works in the privatisers’ favour. They can use the FOI to see what the nationalised industries intend, and then try to undercut them. It doesn’t work the other way, of course. If you try to get a peek at what they intend to do, you find it’s prohibited on the grounds of company confidentiality. It’s commercially sensitive information, and so not to be divulged to the public. Even though the nationalised industries have to release it, and the private industries are competing for state business. But nevertheless, that’s how the Tories give work to their paymasters in big business.

I’ve thought about three reforms which might bring about a much needed change in the predatory and exploitative culture of the outsourcing sector.

1. Introduce worker’s representation in the boardroom.

A company’s workforce also have a solid interest in the performance of their company, and can introduce much needed financial stability. Han-Joon Chang points out that businesses in those European countries, Germany and Austria, which have such a system of workers’ representation, are much more stable and profitable financially, than industries which are run exclusively for the profit of the shareholders. Furthermore, for sometime employees in the civil servants had something like this in the Whitley Councils. These were set up during the First World War to compensate workers for the lost of the right to strike. They were dismantled in favour of a less authoritarian system in the rest of British industry after the war, so that they trade unions could carry on bargaining for the workers. Such a system should be revived, and introduced into the outsourcing sector as these have replaced the traditional civil service organs.

2. Boardroom representation of the unemployed ‘clients’ on the boards of workfare companies.

Welfare to work providers exist by exploiting the unemployed as cheap labour, under the guise of retraining workers to help them back into the labour market. However, in order to prevent the gross exploitation of such cheap labour by profiteering companies like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and charities like the Salvation Army, the actual people taken on by these companies to be retrained should also have their interests represented at the management level. This would stop abuses like that Mike covered in Scotland, where one council started a system of fining the people sent to them on the welfare to work course for such trivial offences as tutting, talking back or walking around with your hands in your pockets. Failure to pay the fines could lead you to being thrown off the course, and consequently off benefit. See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/01/jobseekers-on-council-run-course-face-cash-fines-for-tutting-or-answering-phones/.

3. Part nationalise these companies. As these companies are working on government business, it is right that the state should also have a hand in them to make sure they are properly regulated and managed. Han-Joon Chang has also pointed out that this also has beneficial effect in providing financial stability, as shown by some of the part-nationalised firms in France. Of course, this would also mean streamlining some of the management structure, as private enterprise has many tiers of bureaucracy that is redundant under state management.

Or we could scrap outsourcing altogether.

As an alternative to all the above, we could just get rid of the ludicrously expensive, bureaucratic and profiteering Private Finance Initiative and Public-Private Partnerships, to renationalise those industries and services that should never have been put out to private tender in the first place, like schools, prisons and hospitals. And then we could set up unemployment retraining schemes that would work for the unemployed, not the overpaid heads of the outsourcing companies, like G4S, Serco, Maximus and the other wasters.

From 2012: Private Eye on Incompetence, Profiteering Bureaucracy and Racism in G4S

April 12, 2014

This is also from the Eye for the 20th April – 3rd of May 2012.

Outsaucing News

G4S, which earns most of its money from the taxpayer, has docked its chief executive Nick Buckle’s bonus over a messed-up bid to take over a Danish cleaning company that cost his firm £55m last year. But never fear: he still get his basic £1.9m salary.

G4s will also still have plenty of cash to pay for the cock-up, plus Buckles’ inflated pay7, since it keeps winning major public service contracts here in the UK.

Last month the UK Border Agency awarded it “prime” contracts worth around £300m to run asylum transport and accommodation in two of the five national regions. In true Big Society fashion, G4S will itself outsource much of this work to local charities and companies (much as workfare schemes are farmed out by A4E).

Despite the extra layers of management and contracting, not to mention the bumper executive pay and the profits demanded by shareholders that such deals entail, UKBA still thinks it will save £150m through the £620m contracts without services suffering.

In January, the home affairs select committee concluded, after a string of scandals including the death in G4S custody of Jimmy Mubenga and racist behaviour among guards, that the government must not “wash its hands of responsibility for detainees just because the service is contracted out”. But by outsourcing prime contracts to bungling Buckles and co a few weeks later, and for his firm to then subcontract the work in return for a decent fee, this seems precisely what the government is doing.

This shows what such Public-Private Partnerships entail: layers of bureaucracy, in which different companies and their shareholders expect a profit, which would be unacceptable in a state-owned enterprise; inflated salaries for chief officers, and massive cuts and savings for the funding allocated for the service, resulting in poor performance. But then, the actual quality of service seems to be very much a secondary consideration. The real reason for such partnerships is to give state contracts to private enterprises run by Tory donors and providing jobs for Tory politicians and apparatchiks.