Sunday, September 27, 2009

Public Ownership Quote of the Week: Roland Hulme

In response to this post on CPO co-founder Neil Clark's blog, which highlighted how, despite 70% of the public being in favour of renationalisation of the railways, none of Britain's main three political parties supported such a move, Tory blogger Roland Hulme commented:

Hey, I'm a shameless Tory bastard, but even I have to admit that this is a joke. There's no longer a democracy in Britain - just a ruling elite deciding what's best for the plebs.

And shameless Tory bastard that I am, I freakin' LOVE the SNCF of France. I'm all for the free market, but train networks in countries as small as the UK should be owned by one company (and let's be realistic, that's probably a state-owned one.)

I live in New York now (well, New Jersey) and NJ Transit is state owned. If the bloody yanks can get their heads around it, why can't Britain?

Why indeed?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Privatisation of prisons 'morally repugnant'

Report by Paddy McGuffin in the Morning Star.

The privatisation of the country's prisons would amount to incarceration for profit, the head of the Prison Officers Association has said.

Colin Moses of the POA made an impassioned speech decrying the proposed privatisation of the nation's jails as "morally repugnant," to strong backing by the Trades Union Congress.

Mr Moses stated: "We have spent the last two years looking at public-sector workers being under attack. As a member of the Prison Service I have felt that attack first hand. I have heard people baulk at the idea that they could privatise water but when you talk about privatising prisons you go even further."

He insisted that those prisons currently under private ownership were failing miserably.
"Private-sector prisons are at the bottom of their own league tables. Privatisation has failed throughout western Europe.
"It is touted as being a panacea but there have been no fewer suicides and as many if not more assaults. The goal of private prisons is to smash public-sector unions," Mr Moses stated.

The proposed privatisation would be akin to stepping back in time, he said. "It is about making profit from incarceration and if that is the case we are going back to Victorian times and locking people up for profit and putting debtors in prison. Is that what we are going back to?"

In a direct challenge to the government and Prime Minister, Mr Moses reminded Congress of a comment made by Jack Straw in 1997 in which he described privatisation of the prison system as "morally repugnant."

"What was morally repugnant in 1997 should be morally repugnant today," he argued. "I would like to hear Gordon Brown say stop privatisation now."
The motion was backed by the Civil Service Union PCS. PCS representative Austin Harney said that the privatisation of prisons had been "a catalogue of failure and mismanagement."

He pointed out that the very first example of privatisation in the criminal justice system was transportation to Australia, adding that that had been a disaster.
"Privatisation has been a flawed experiment and nowhere more so than in the criminal justice system."

He concluded by calling on all trade unions in the justice sector to join forces to oppose privatisation - not only of the prison system but also of the courts system, in which many of his members worked.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NM Rothschild pitches motorway privatisation plan

First they came for heavy industry. Then the energy sector. Then bus and train transport. Then water and air traffic control.

Now capital is pushing for the privatisation of Britain's motorway network.

From Business Times:

A radical plan to raise £100 billion by privatising the motorway network has been presented to the three main political parties by NM Rothschild, the influential investment bank.

Rothschild, an architect of several privatisations, made its pitch in the weeks running up to the summer recess on July 21, Whitehall sources said. Bankers told leading politicians that the sale of the roads overseen by the Highways Agency — all motorways and most big trunk roads — could help revive battered public finances.

Toll-road companies and infrastructure funds would compete to operate and maintain stretches of the network.

In one version of the scheme, the government would pay for upkeep through a system of “shadow” tolls. A more radical, and less politically palatable, option would be for companies to charge motorists directly through toll booths or electronic card readers. The RAC Foundation, a motorists’ group, advocated privatisation in a report last week.

The Rothschild plan has already won the support of Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader and Treasury spokesman.

“This is an attractive, positive idea which could release considerable resources to the public finances and may have real environmental merits,” Cable said. “The scale of it is vast — it makes rail privatisation look like small beer.”