Monday, December 01, 2008

The private sector stays King

Morning all,

Tis Kate here from - have been invited to join you here at stroppyblog, which is a great honour, so many thanks!

Thought I'd start off by putting the boot into the service-assassins at Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet councils. There are protest meetings planned about service cuts at both those councils this week - have been writing about this a lot at my blog and also

The creepy ruling cadres of Hammersmith and Fulham and Barnet Tory councils meet this week to try and push through more abhorrent and unpopular service-cutting plans. Joint union protests are planned for both places. (The details for both are at the end of this post).

Hammersmith and Fulham is proposing to move its contact centre (and everyone in it) to Rochdale, and to radically reduce the terms and conditions of all its staff. Barnet (best known, btw, for the Fremantle careworkers' dispute and banking an appalling amount of money with Icesave) wants to outsource every service the council provides to the private sector (Barnet has paid a shedload to PricewaterhouseCoopers, apparently, to tell them outsourcing was great).


It remains unbelievable that even now the private sector keeps such a grip on government imagination: even a council that was led down the dark Icesave path comes bollocking back for more. The private sector is useless at service delivery, famously rash with your money, and brilliant only at getting more of it.

That's why tis hard not to keep reaching the conclusion that the privatising of public services is just a good, old-fashioned, arsey class war: it's not about saving money, or getting better value for it. It's about removing state-funded housing, health and education services from the picture, as well as the people who need and provide them (although Rochdale is probably still too close for the Hammersmith Tories).

Of course - you knew that. Everybody does. I've been writing about this crap for so long that I can hardly write anything else. I remember Public not Private running a survey a year or two back that demonstrated only 17% of people liked the idea of privatising public services. Everyone else thought putting public services into private hands was garbage, and only had to look at Jarvis, Capita and a very long list of failed PFIs for proof.

I remember also talking to an older guy called Patrick Clifford from Queens Park - he'd been a welder for British Rail for 25 years, and he'd also been member of the Labour party. He'd left because of Tony Blair. He put the problem most succintly. 'Everything that was for the working class has been taken away. Health, education, even water. Those things were for us.' Exactly.

Certainly, those things were never for the dysfunctional, and now famously failed, private sector. People see a shifty turd like Richard Branson and know instinctively that they don't want him owning a maternity ward, or getting his sticky hands on a preschool. That instinct is good.

The instinct at Hammersmith and Barnet, alas, is elitist, sexist, and racist. Hammersmith council now charges for services like recycling, homecare and meals on wheels (you don't have to know much to know that these last two will now need to be provided by the women of the home), even as it brags about cutting council tax. Last year, it launched an almighty attack on voluntary sector groups, cutting all funding to immigrant support groups like the Horn of Africa, and whipping more than £100,000 from the local law centre that specialised in immigration law.

Barnet, meanwhile, has distinguished itself by overseeing - and failing utterly to resolve - the Fremantle careworkers' dispute. The careworkers are mostly women and from a variety of ethnic groups. They've been in dispute with the Fremantle Trust - to whom they were outsourced - for nearly two years, ever since Fremantle cut their leave and sickness allowances, and abolished the weekend payrates which made their wages liveable. Fremantle's private partner Catalyst Housing, meanwhile, pursues the council for an extra financial settlement in the millions. The service suffers, the women suffer and the council doesn't save a penny.

But as I say, you knew that. We all know that.

Can't stand it.

Anyway - the Hammersmith and Fulham protest rally and council cabinet meeting is tonight. The protest starts as 6pm outside the Town Hall on King Street, W6 9JU.

The Barnet protest rally is on Wednesday 3 December at 6 pm in the Committee Room,
Barnet House, 1255 High Road, Whetstone N20 0EJ.