Tag Archives: costs

The great water privatisation disaster: Tory scheme means England could run out of drinking water

There’s a line in one of the Horatio Hornblower books in which the Admiral of the Fleet tells the young hero it’s every officer’s duty to leave the navy in better condition than when he found it.

That’s a good philosophy for any organisation.

What a shame the Conservatives don’t have the same philosophy – about anything at all.

In particular, we see their actual philosophy – “sell it off and ruin it” – in action in the UK’s water industry, which was privatised by the Thatcher government in 1989.

A new report by Parliament’s public accounts committee states that privatisation has been such an catastrophe that there is a serious risk that parts of England will run out of water altogether within the next 20 years.

The report says that “ponderous” water companies – 70 per cent of which are now owned by foreign businesses – have made “no progress” in reducing leakage meaning that more than three billion litres of water leaks out of the system every single day.

That’s one-fifth of the UK’s daily supply!

The committee says the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has failed to provide enough leadership in telling the private companies how to balance investment in infrastructure and reducing customer bills, but This Writer thinks that is nonsense.

The private companies are neither investing in infrastructure nor cutting costs – they are literally draining us dry.

We pay too much for the water we get and the lack of investment in the UK system by its foreign owners means soon we won’t even get it!

This is a problem entirely created by the Conservatives with their ridiculous lie that private firms are more efficient, more economical, and cost the consumer less. They aren’t, they aren’t and they don’t.

And by letting these firms fall into the hands of foreign business people, it seems our money is being invested into the systems in their own countries, rather than in ours. It’s certainly boosting the treasuries of the countries where these firms are based in tax – rather than our own.

This is an English problem.

Scotland receives its supply from the publicly-owned company Scottish Water, which is the most trusted public utility in the UK. It constantly invests in its system, keeps customers happy – and paying less, and is even reducing its carbon footprint.

In Wales, three million people get their supply from the not-for-profit firm Glas Cymru/Welsh Water which, according to surveys, has sector-leading levels of customer satisfaction.

Customers in Northern Ireland do not pay water charges to their publicly-owned water supplier, Northern Ireland Water.

England is less lucky.

Anglian Water is owned by a consortium consisting of Canada Pension Plan Investment BoardColonial First State Global Asset ManagementIFM Investors and 3i.

Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Southern Water is owned by a consortium called Greensands Holdings Limited, comprising  JP Morgan Asset Management (40%), UBS Asset Management (22%), Hermes Infrastructure Funds (21%) and Whitehelm Capital (8%).

Wessex Water is owned by a Malaysian firm, YTL Corporation.

Affinity Water is part-owned by US firm Morgan Stanley.

Bristol Water is part-owned by Japanese Itochu corporation.

South East Water is part-owned by Utilities Trust of Australia.

And Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by the Japanese Sumitomo Corporation.

Other water firms are still UK-based – and some are only part foreign-owned.

Across the board, bills have increased by 40 per cent on average. Considering the efforts made by the publicly-owned/not-for-profit firms, it’s likely that some English customers have suffered much higher hikes.

Shareholders have received at least £56 billion since privatisation in 1989.

Six water companies have been found to be avoiding millions in tax.

Water makes big money.

But you can see that most of it has been going abroad.

It certainly hasn’t been used to plug any leaks!

The message is clear: public ownership is cheaper, more efficient, and guarantees that customers’ taps won’t run dry.

It seems the private shareholders are swimming in cash while ensuring that, in a very short time, you die of thirst.

Source: England faces “serious risk of running out of water within 20 years” – Committees – UK Parliament

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Westferry development scandal grows as Jenrick admits he knew he was saving tycoon millions

Robert Jenrick: while he was presenting press conferences about Covid-19, he has also been mired in an apparent corruption scandal.

Calls for Robert Jenrick to be removed from his role as a housing minister are escalated after he admitted he knew he was saving tycoon Richard Desmond between £30m and £50m by approving plans for a £1 billion development at Westferry, London – in defiance of planning rules.

Desmond subsequently gave the Conservative Party a £12,000 donation, raising questions about this being a “cash-for-favours” scandal.

According to the Mail:

He insisted ‘all the rules were followed’ over the 1,500-home development in east London.

But he told MPs he knew that the timing of his decision would save the businessman a fortune.

Steve Reed, Labour’s housing spokesman, urged Mr Jenrick to make a full Commons statement, publish all correspondence and ‘disclose all conversations with all Government ministers and officials’.

In response, the Cabinet minister said information relating to the decision has now been passed to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

So he knew he was breaking planning regulations – in fact Jenrick had to quash the planning permission he had granted, as a result of the scandal, and he knew that doing this would benefit the developer, who subsequently rewarded the Tories with a donation. And he isn’t publishing anything.

He still says he’s innocent of wrongdoing, but Jenrick must know how suspicious his behaviour looks.

Indeed, anti-corruption expert Elizabeth David-Barrett, a professor of governance and integrity who is also the director of the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex, has already said he should have resigned:

“In most previous governments, Robert Jenrick would have resigned well before now.

“The questionable conduct that is tolerated and defended in this current government is creating a dangerous new world in which standards in public life are seen as a concept from the past, and personal patronage and loyalty are now prized higher than combatting corruption.

“Although Robert Jenrick eventually reversed the decision on the Westferry scheme, under threat of legal action, this should not be the end of the matter.

“If there is no subsequent investigation into alleged misconduct, then the message that sends is that ministers can do whatever they like and just reverse the decision if their actions are questioned. The system needs to be preventive and act as a deterrent.”

Fat chance of that, under Boris Johnson!

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Housing minister Jenrick faces ‘resign’ demands after approving donor’s £1bn scheme

Robert Jenrick: while he was presenting press conferences about Covid-19, he was also mired in an apparent corruption scandal.

The news seems to be full of stories alleging corruption by Tory minister. Does the Covid crisis mean they have nothing better to do?

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick is facing calls to resign after he admitted “unlawfully” signing off a 1,500-home development that saved a Tory Party donor millions of pounds.

The £1bn project on the former Westferry Printworks site on London’s Isle of Dogs was approved in January by Jenrick – a last-minute reprieve after the council and then the independent Planning Inspectorate both deciding it should be refused. They had said it lacked enough affordable housing and conflicted with local conservation policy.

But the housing secretary’s decision came just a day before Tower Hamlets Council approved a new rate for its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a move that would have increased the property owner’s financial liability to the local authority by between £30m and £50m.

That money would have been spent mitigating the impact of the development on the local area, and improving local services. Instead, thanks to Jenrick’s timing, it stayed in the pocket of the developer.

So this was a development proposal that did not meet planning conditions.

It did not provide enough affordable housing.

It conflicted with conservation policy.

It should not have been approved.

But Jenrick stepped in to do just that – and on the day before a new rule was imposed that would have compelled the developer to pay between £30-50 million that would have minimised any harmful impact on the Isle of Dogs.

The money would also have improved local services. All lost, due to this Tory minister’s intervention.

We need to ask who benefits from this decision?

The local authority? No.

People who need affordable housing? No.

The public? Certainly not!

The environment? Don’t make me laugh!

But the developer did.

The land is owned by publisher and former Tory donor Richard Desmond.

The local council – Tower Hamlets – began legal action in March, alleging that the timing of the decision appeared to show bias. It asked the High Court to order the government to disclose documents that, it argued, would show Jenrick was influenced by a desire to help Desmond save money by avoiding the charges.

Faced with the prospect of having to publicly release documents relating to the case, Jenrick accepted his decision letter was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias” and confirmed it was deliberately issued before the new CIL policy could be adopted. He agreed planning permission should be quashed and decided by a different minister.

So the minister admitted interfering in the planning process to grant planning permission to a development that should not have been allowed, and to save a developer connected with a Tory donor from paying extra costs.

This is not the standard of service the public should expect from a government minister.

Should he step down? Should he face disciplinary or legal proceedings for corruption?

Source: Robert Jenrick Faces Calls To Resign After ‘Unlawfully’ Approving Tory Donor’s £1bn Housing Project

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Williamson launches fund to help Labour members who were wrongly expelled

Unity is strength: Chris Williamson, announcing the new fighting fund.

This is damning – for the Labour bureaucracy and the news media that lied about what it has been doing.

Chris Williamson, the former MP who left the party after being wrongly accused of anti-Semitism and subsequently took Labour to court, has been awarded all of the costs associated with that case after he won it.

He will use the money to start a fighting fund for other wronged ex-party members to fight back against the slurs on their names.

But why don’t I let him explain for himself? Here he is:

This is the right time for an overhaul of Labour’s policies – after an election in which that party fell disastrously short of what the public expected of it.

The nightmarish mistreatment of members falsely accused of anti-Semitism is just one area in which the party got it wrong, pandering to pressure groups when the leadership should have been questioning the motives of those involved.

It is one reason This Writer will not be supporting Rebecca Long-Bailey’s bid to be party leader:

Yes we do, Matt Kennard.

Would anybody strong enough like to step forward?

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Great Labour election promises: they’ll scrap fees for dental check-ups

This is great news, for all the reasons below.

Now, if Labour could make it possible for everybody to have access to a National Health Service dentist, that would be great.

I haven’t been able to see one since June 2018. Fortunately I have good dental hygiene, but I’d still like access to an expert.

Oh, and you know the reason I don’t have an NHS dentist any more? The company providing the service here in Mid Wales is privately-run.

Health service privatisation – it will always leave us short-changed.

Labour will bring back free dental check-ups if they win the election.

The £22.70 fee to see an NHS dentist will be axed and leader Jeremy Corbyn yesterday said the ultimate ambition is to scrap ALL dental fees.

The £450 million-a-year plan will free up resources long-term by focusing on prevention. Fees were introduced in 1951 to pay for UK involvement in the Korean War.

But one in five adults puts off seeing a dentist because of the £22.70 charge for a basic visit. Under the first stage of Labour ’s plans, check-ups, oral cancer examinations, X-rays, clinical scaling and polishing and emergency treatment won’t cost a penny.

Worrying numbers [have] turned to internet kits for scaling and makeshift fillings which can cause major problems.

And 515,000 patients a year with toothache go to GPs or A&E – costing the NHS more than £38 million.

More than 100 children a day have rotting teeth removed in hospital and 90 per cent of cases could have been prevented by early treatment. And decay is the leading cause of admissions among kids aged five to nine.

Source: Labour to scrap dental check-ups costs in election policy with some real bite – Mirror Online

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Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

The pretext: These are the figures showing the amount of working time lost to companies in the UK because of illness. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The pretext: These are the figures showing the estimated amount of long-term illness in the UK per year. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.

The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.

No reference is made to improving people’s health.

It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.

The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.

The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the way Universal Jobmatch was introduced to jobseekers as a “non-compulsory” service – which many thousands of people have been bullied and harassed into joining.

The scheme will allow employers or GPs to refer employees for a “work-focused occupational health assessment”, according to the BBC report. So this means the employee has no say in whether to go on the scheme – it is down to bosses and doctors. You are invited to consider whether this represents another great step forward in the Conservative Party’s claims to be crusading for patient choice.

The story says workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or to follow any course of action that is recommended but, again, we have the example of Universal Jobmatch.

The “assessment” is meant to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer, showing how that person can be “helped” back more quickly.

One is forced to question the efficacy of such a system, if faced with illnesses or diseases that must receive medical treatment.

You don’t talk someone better – the huge number of people who have died while going through the DWP’s Employment and Support Allowance sickness denial machine has proved that.

The government has made its aim in setting up the new scheme perfectly clear, saying employers will “save money” by having fewer staff off sick – possibly saving companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.

The DWP says people will return to work earlier. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, as illness does not go away in accordance with a timetable. This means the Department’s other claims – that there will be a reduction in lost working days and increased economic output – are also pipe dreams.

It is far more likely that sick people will be forced back to work before they are better – leading to an increased chance that illnesses will spread among workforces, there will be more lost working days and lowered economic output.

The Trades Union Congress, while supporting schemes that could help people back into work, agreed (with me) that this one creates a danger that people will be forced back to work before they are well.

Finally, any company involved in the scheme should be aware that it is unlikely to make a profit from it. Look at the effect on other firms of involvement with DWP schemes: Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.

So now we can say very clearly to all private companies:

Working for the Coalition government doesn’t pay.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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