Tag Archives: private

If this is how Boris Johnsons’s test and trace system works, no wonder he’s self-isolating

Test: wouldn’t it be nice of the Randox operation – if it can be called that – had been found to have been running in a professional way? It wasn’t.

If you still think the Johnson government is doing a good job fighting Covid-19, you need to watch Channel 4’s Lockdown Chaos now.

The programme by the channels Dispatches team went behind the scenes at Randox, one of the private companies selected by Boris Johnson’s privatisation-crazy cronies.

You’d think this place must be the best testing facility in the world, after Johnson’s insistence that his government would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace system, earlier in the year.

Not a bit of it!

According to Channel 4’s report on the programme, its undercover footage includes:

  • The Dispatches reporter being told that used tests sent to to Randox for analysis are sometimes not unpacked properly and accidentally discarded with cardboard packaging waste. An expert who viewed the footage and has run an NHS pathology lab for 10 year said that not only does this mean people not getting their test results, it would present a contamination risk to waste handlers. He added, “We would be shut down if we performed that way.” Randox responded to Dispatches, saying there has “never been an issue of samples being mistakenly disposed of”. Staff are adequately supervised and instructed on the need to ensure “samples are correctly processed”.

  • Evidence that one particular type of red-lidded test sent to Randox frequently leaks and has to be voided meaning no results are available. Randox is aware the red lidded tubes are “more likely to leak” but say they do not manufacture them.  They say they “raised this concern” with the Test and Trace programme coordinators in August. The DHSC told Dispatches on Saturday that they have “started UK-based tube manufacturing with these tubes designed to minimise leakage.” These “will be in place across all Lighthouse labs and will mitigate against void results.”

  • During the undercover operation, the Dispatches reporter discovers that although leaking samples are often spotted whilst still in their plastic bag, this is not always the case. He finds that leaks from  tests can spill over the gloves of employees and is told by one staff member that his gloves aren’t always thrown away but sprayed down with disinfectant. During his time in the lab, he was told to place leaking samples – whether loose or still inside their bags – into a cardboard box.  Randox says a leaking tube “is not removed” from its bagging “under any circumstances,” so claim there is “no cross contamination.” An expert told Dispatches that this way of dealing with leaking tubes shows a “cavalier approach to safety” and could lead to cross contamination and potentially wrong test results. Randox say the boxes are disposed of as “clinical waste” and there is “no cavalier approach to safety.”

    • Once used tests are received by Randox and unpacked, they are wiped with a cloth which is occasionally sprayed with disinfectant. Undercover footage shows the tubes being freely mixed together with other test tubes in a cardboard tray. Experts who have viewed this footage believe this process risks cross-contamination of test samples. Randox denies this, telling Dispatches there is “no cross contamination.” Samples are “not mixed together” but “immediately placed in an upward position on a rack”
    • The Dispatches reporter is told that Randox’s high-paying “VIP” clients, some of whom are from the rugby and travel sectors, are being given “priority” over some other tests. Randox denies VIP tests are given priority, saying it “does not prioritise private clients” under any circumstances and denies that “VIP” tests delay the processing of other tests.
    • Samples from England may take twelve hours or more to arrive at the Randox laboratory in Northern Ireland.  Unpacking of large shipments may take more than a working day, and sometimes more than 24 hours. Randox, which has no control over travel times to the laboratory, says it consistently “meets the agreed turnaround times,” and processes samples mostly within 24 hours from receipt.
    • The Dispatches reporter is told that samples are colour coded according to a traffic light system based on how long it is since the sample was taken. Randox told us green is up to 38 hours, amber up to 77 and red up to 114 hours – nearly five days.

There’s a lot more information in the C4 News article (link below). The effect on the public who use the social media has been galvanising:

This last tweet leads us to ask why the work was outsourced to cowboys.

Ah yes – that will be the answer.

The backlash has been overwhelming, the condemnation universal.

And what is the Tory government doing about it?

Source: Dispatches uncovers serious failings at one of UK’s largest COVID-Testing Labs | Channel 4

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Reinventing the wheel: after replacing civil servants with expensive private consultants, Cummings wants to replace them with… a civil service

Caught out: Dominic Cummings and his puppet Boris Johnson are pretending to be creating a shiny new way to stop spiralling consultancy and private contractor costs for the government – but in fact they are simply trying to revive the civil service after successive Tory governments spent the last 10 years running it into the ground.

Dominic Cummings – what an absolute, utter, dunderheaded nincompoop.

After months in which the Tory government under his puppet Boris Johnson has been doling out cash hand over fist to expensive private consultants for help on Covid-19 – and getting nothing in return…

… and years in which the Tories have been disparaging the expertise of the civil service, pushing leading public servants to quit forever…

Cummings has decided that private consultants are just too expensive and the government should consider creating an in-house organisation for service provision instead.

He has given it a snazzy new name: the Crown Consultancy. The concept will be more familiar to you as the Civil Service.

The plan was presented to the public via the Financial Times – which is behind a paywall, so I’ve been referring to a report in The London Economic instead:

“There’s a lot of reliance on consultancies,” one source close to the plan told the paper. “It would be sensible to look at what we can do internally, rather than externally.”

Isn’t that a description of what the Civil Service does?

This is a story about government spin.

The real headline is that the Conservatives have wasted billions – perhaps hundreds of billions – on private rip-off merchants since they came back into office in 2010, because of their well-professed distrust of so-called “experts”.

Between 2016 and 2020, Britain spent £2.6 billion on just eight consultancies – including KPMG, McKinsey, Deloitte and EY.

The coronavirus crisis has seen the government’s reliance on private-sector consultancies spiral, with at least £56 million spent for help with issues as wide-ranging as data analysis and supplying PPE.

Only £56 million? I make it £100 million – and all because neither Boris Johnson nor Dominic Cummings could be bothered to think for themselves.

But of course these figures do not include the sums spent on private companies recommended to provide services by these consultants.

Look at the privatisation of the probation service: £2.5 billion went down the drain in that disaster.

Related to that, what about the scandal of privately-run prisons, in which G4S was fined £2.7 million for more than 100 breaches of its contract with the government. Considering the size of the fines, how much was that contract worth?

Or we could consider the fiasco that is Universal Credit. How many billions has that cost by now? I reported on this in 2013 and costs have spiralled upwards exponentially since then.

My report on Universal Credit also mentions that “Michael Gove’s Education Department is now in a terrible mess because he brought in a gang of “advisors” to operate “above” his officials – who have meanwhile faced huge cuts in their workforce and a disastrous fall in morale” and refers to a report on This Site in June of that year.

Who took the blame for the private enterprise failures in the DWP and Education? The Civil Service.

In my June 2013 report, I described the policy as: “Blame the Civil Service for everything, cut it back, and leave the actual mechanics of government unusable by anybody who follows them.

Well, it seems I was right.

And now the Tories are reaping what they have sowed. Their scorched-earth civil service policy has cost them billions and they are still in office to take the blame for it.

Except, of course, that their client journalists in papers like the FT are happy to spin it into a story about a shiny new organisation to save the day, rather than admit it’s just an attempt to revive an old service they ran into the ground.

Well, we’ve all seen through it:

Source: Johnson wants a ‘Crown Consultancy’ to stem private sector spending spree

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Johnson’s government has spent £100 million on consultants because he can’t think for himself

Spaffer: Boris Johnson has thrown so much money at private consultants and contractors that the UK’s financial stability is in peril.

The cost of privatisation: faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, Boris Johnson has paid consultants more than £100 million to do his thinking for him – and the cash has been wasted.

Clearly it’s money for old rope, considering the failure of every policy announced by Johnson and his cronies including Matt Hancock, Gavin Williamson and Dominic Raab.

And the waste is very clearly a result of privatisation; before Tory neoliberalism demanded that even ideas should be outsourced, governments used to rely on people called civil servants who spent their entire careers in public service and could therefore be relied on to know how things worked.

Those people have been largely ostracised, retired or otherwise cast out by know-nothings like David Cameron, Theresa May and now Johnson, in favour of their know-nothing friends in the private sector. Here’s the gist from the Financial Times:

The UK’s largest consulting firms have been paid more than £100m to advise the government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a string of delayed disclosures from Whitehall in recent weeks. A total of 106 contracts worth £109m have been agreed between various government departments and consulting firms such as PwC, Deloitte and McKinsey since March, as civil servants scrambled for support to source personal protective equipment, set up test and trace programmes and acquire thousands of new ventilators as the pandemic gathered pace.

The UK’s public finances are now in a terrible state after Johnson and his people awarded huge contracts to firms that were incapable of honouring them – some of which even turned out to be dormant companies – on the advice of firms like PwC, Deloitte and McKinsey. Weren’t these people supposed to be cheaper than doing the work in-house?

The government has been mired in scandal because it adopted a biased algorithm to award ‘A’ level results, on the advice of an outsourced consultancy firm.

It’s a well known adage that the definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.

And yet we see Johnson going back to these private consultants for more advice.

Why aren’t we all drawing the obvious conclusion?

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Covid test waiting time soars as IT failure hits private ‘lighthouse’ testing lab

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Matt Hancock: this is the brain-dead nincompoop who thought it would be a good idea to let private companies try to make a profit from a deadly pandemic virus. Nothing works properly and we all remain in deadly danger six months after Covid-19 arrived in the UK.

Once again private profiteers have failed the people of the UK.

An “IT systems failure” at a ‘Lighthouse’ mega-laboratory in Cheshire “resulted in a delay to the processing of results,” the government said.

“In addition, the increase of tests across all routes has resulted in backlogs in some laboratories.”

The labs were built in April, in a partnership between the Department of Health and Social Care, Medicines Discovery Catapult, UK Biocentre and the University of Glasgow, supported by pharma companies GSK and AstraZeneca.

It means just seven per cent of people who took a test at a “satellite centre” got their results within 48 hours in the week to August 12 – down from 75 per cent two weeks earlier.

And only 28 per cent of people who were posted home testing kits got the result within 48 hours – down from 72 per cent.

This is what happens when you commit the health of the nation to the hands of people who want to make a profit from it: nothing works.

Source: New coronavirus chaos as test result waiting times soar due to IT malfunction – Mirror Online

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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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Expert legal advice supports law graduate in crowdfunded private prosecution of Dominic Cummings

Mahsa Taliefar: there is a case against Dominic Cummings and she needs your help to take it to court.

Dominic Cummings could find himself facing an unlimited fine for breaching the Covid-19 lockdown after expert lawyers said there is a case against him.

Law graduate Mahsa Taliefar launched a funding campaign to help her bring a private prosecution against Cummings over his now-notorious trip to Durham at the end of March this year.

She sought legal advice from Benjamin Douglas-Jones QC and Nathaniel Rudolf on the practicalities of bringing a prosecution.

Their opinion is that he could indeed be prosecuted under Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
Prosecutions.

These state that “during the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse”.

The lawyers’ advice states: “The published guidance… in our view reinforces the conclusion that there is a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to this conduct.”

The penalty, if such a conviction is won, would be an unlimited fine.

Concerns had been raised that Regulation 11 of the same law prevents private prosecution. It states: “Proceedings for an offence under these Regulations may be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service and any person designated by the Secretary of State.

The advice states: “At first blush this may be seen as preventing a prosecution by anyone other than the CPS or a person designated by the Secretary of State. In other words preventing a private prosecution.

“The regulation is not drafted with any precision: a literal (and absurd) reading would be in that in the absence of anyone designated by the Secretary of State the CPS may not prosecute.

“It seems to us that… permitting the Secretary of State to designate people who can prosecute the section simply clarifies that this does not oust the ability of the CPS to do the same. It does not go further.

“If Regulation 11 were to be read as excluding private prosecutors, it would also exclude the police from prosecuting, unless the police were designated by the Secretary of State as persons who can prosecute. As far as we can tell no such designation has taken place.

“Our view is that the Regulation 11 is sufficiently clear so as not to warrant, at this stage, our consideration of whether the right to bring a private prosecution had been prevented by its language. A private prosecution may be classed as a ‘constitutional’ right founded in statute (or common law). It would require the most explicit language to extinguish that right.”

So not only could Cummings face a large fine if found guilty of breaching the regulations, but it seems entirely possible that a private prosecution may be launched against him, in order to ensure that he does so.

As This Site has already reported, Ms Taliefar is already crowdfunding for this purpose and her site may be found here.

If you agree that Cummings should be brought to book, feel free to contribute to the fund.

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Law graduate launches private prosecution bid against Dominic Cummings. Will you help fund it?

Mahsa Taliefar: she has already received abuse from supporters of Dominic Cummings. Have a guess at their reasons – then scroll down through the article to see if you’re right.

How will the populist, propagandist supporters of our far-right government de-legitimise Mahsa Taliefar, the 25-year-old law graduate who wants to take Dominic Cummings to court?

Well, for a start she has a foreign-sounding name (her background is Iranian), so obviously she’ll be trying to harm all good, right(-wing)-thinking British people, right?

And from the photograph she’s physically attractive, so she’ll be talked down as a know-nothing bimbo (qualifications notwithstanding).

Undoubtedly Gina Miller will be able to provide advice on some of the other ways.

Oh hey! It’s already happening:

She has … been targeted by abuse and misogynistic comments from Dominic Cummings’ supporters on social media.

“I have been subjected to nasty comments about my facial features and hairstyle,” she said.

“There have also been many Cummings supporters who have suggested that the money may be going towards aesthetic lip fillers and hair maintenance.

“I find this totally unacceptable. This campaign has nothing to do with my gender or looks. Many people supporting Dominic Cummings have also aggressively told me to ‘move on’ – but we should not until he does.”

Ms Taliefar – like those of us who know right from wrong – was incensed by Cummings’s decision to ignore lockdown rules and drive off to Durham with his wife and son.

These feelings were undoubtedly aggravated by his decision to (again) ignore rules – this time relating to government advisers – to hold a press conference in which he defended his behaviour.

So she has launched a funding campaign to help her launch a private prosecution against Cummings.

“It was like Dominic Cummings was spitting in the face of everyone who adhered to the lockdown,” she said.

“People were not able to see their families and friends and were not even able to bury their loved ones and grieve properly.

“This is because we were all following the laws that were put into place to protect the public.

“Dominic Cummings had a direct hand in the making of those Covid laws and I was extremely offended when he didn’t even apologise for breaking the rules – he seemed very arrogant and there were people in government standing by him.”

She makes good points about the insult Cummings’s behaviour represents to people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds:

Mahsa, who is from an Iranian background, says Dominic Cummings’ behaviour is also a kick in the teeth for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who have been harder hit by coronavirus and are more likely to die of it.

“People from ethnic minority backgrounds are affected more by this virus and have less money and resources and are less likely to have powerful friends and connections,” she said. “Everything Dominic Cummings has, most people from ethnic minorities don’t.

“That makes me angry as when people from ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, why should someone well off and more powerful put other people’s lives at risk by breaking his own laws?

“People from ethnic minority backgrounds also tend to have more people in our households and a lot of families have grandparents living with them. So it is really difficult for these communities to understand why someone like Dominic Cummings would travel so far and potentially put his parents at risk.”

Ms Taliefar reckons it will cost £300,000 to take a lawsuit all the way – and any funds not used for the private prosecution will be donated to Vision Aid Overseas – a charity dedicated to helping those with eyesight problems.

Here’s that GoFundMe campaign address again. With no interest in justice from the government, it seems this is the best way to get it.

Source: Law Graduate Pursues Private Prosecution Of ‘Arrogant’ Dominic Cummings | HuffPost UK

What kind of government lets a private firm run its PPE stockpile – and sell it?

PPE: The UK’s is on the bottom right. Now you know why it has been so diabolically awful.

The UK’s Tory government.

The UK’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) for use in a pandemic…  has been outsourced to a private company, Movianto, which was sold two weeks ago for $133m (£107m) by its owner, a large US healthcare group.

Lunacy.

No wonder NHS staffers were reduced to wearing bin bags and re-using single-use items.

We need an independent inquiry into the government’s decisions before and during the pandemic – and how private enterprise contributed to the calamity.

Source: Revealed: Private firm running UK PPE stockpile was sold in middle of pandemic | World news | The Guardian

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There may be fewer private landlords – but they are fleecing us more than ever

The number of private landlords in the UK has shrunk to a seven-year low, according to The Independent.

But that just means that the millions of privately-rented properties are in fewer hands – so those who are left can charge more, it seems to me.

The evidence seems to prove this assumption correct, as private rents have risen to £998 per month.

That’s a lot of money, considering most of us only earn around £12-13,000 a year.

Oh, and do you get more for your money, in terms of repairs and upgrades to the quality of the property?

No. 

Figures from the English Housing Survey in 2017 showed that private landlords letting homes that contain a serious hazard or have fallen into a poor state of repair trouser £2.3 billion in housing benefit annually.

Repeated attempts to pass legislation forcing such landlords to honour their responsibilities have failed – and it has been suggested that this is because many Conservative MPs are themselves private landlords.

Source: Number of private landlords ‘shrinks to seven-year low’ | The Independent

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Private employment agencies are making a killing by paying nurses a pittance

What do you think of this little racket?

Remember when the Conservative government introduced privatisation into NHS procurement? It means the health service in England can hire nurses from private agencies.

There is a shortage of nurses, meaning that agencies like Thornbury Nursing can pretty much ask whatever price they fancy, and NHS England will have to pay.

The agency then pays its nurses less than half of what it charged the NHS – making the work unattractive to all but those who are most desperate for cash, and perpetuating the staffing crisis.

Here’s the punchline: Thornbury Nursing is run by a private equity fund owned by a major donor to the Conservative Party.

I’m not saying this person pulled strings to ensure that a situation developed from which they could profit.

I don’t have any information either way.

But if that isn’t what’s happening, why doesn’t this company either lower its charge, or increase the amount it pays its nurses?

Source: Private agencies paying workers less than half what they charge NHS to hire – Mirror Online

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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