From iNews: Staff working for Network Rail have been told to fly around the UK for business when it works out cheaper than taking the train.
From The Guardian: Two G4S ambulance crew members have been suspended after leaving a voicemail message for a vulnerable patient in which they suggested they could “beat the fuck” out of him and then claim self-defence.
The driver of the two-man non-emergency ambulance crew could be heard telling his colleague that “beating a patient to a pulp” was preferable to “being beaten to a pulp”, even if they were prosecuted. His colleague suggested that to do so would simply result in a six-month suspension while they were investigated.
The patient, who does not want to be named, told the Guardian he was sent the ambulance on 8 May to take him for an MRI scan on his lower abdomen after a stomach rupture. He has mental health problems and had been rehoused in temporary emergency council accommodation in Kent the previous week.
The driver of the G4S vehicle left a message saying the crew would be a few minutes late to take him to William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent. “He’s homeless, he’s aggressive, he’s suicidal, so he ain’t gonna be the best, is he?” the driver can be heard to say. “You don’t need to take him if you don’t feel safe with him. That’s why we’ve got the fire extinguisher. Take it off the hook now and you’ve got something to hit him with. You’d rather be prosecuted, wouldn’t you, for beating a patient to a pulp than that patient beating you to a pulp, wouldn’t you, as a choice of the two?”
After his colleague agrees, the driver continues: “D’you want a broken arm, a broken jaw, black eyes, or do you want to beat the fuck out of someone and then get prosecuted? You could still say it was self-defence.” His colleague then adds: “And get suspended for six months while they check up on it.”
From The Guardian: Train punctuality has slumped to a 13-year low after a series of significant issues plagued Britain’s railway in 2018.
One in seven trains (14.6%) missed the industry’s public performance measure (PPM) of punctuality in the 12 months to 8 December, according to Office of Rail and Road figures.
This annual rolling average has not been worse since September 2005. PPM measures whether a train arrives at its final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time, or 10 minutes for a long-distance service.
Over the past 12 months, punctuality has been affected by extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures. Snow and ice crippled parts of the network when the “beast from the east” hit Britain in February and March, while rails buckled during a summer heatwave just three months later.
Passengers in the north and south-east of England endured weeks of chaos when new timetables were introduced on 20 May. Several operators have experienced disruption throughout the year owing to a long-running industrial dispute over guards on trains.
Punctuality has also been affected by infrastructure failures, with London Waterloo services hit by signalling faults.
The cost of many rail season tickets will increase by more than £100 next week as average fares go up 3.1%. There have been calls for prices to be frozen due to the poor performance of the industry.
Labour blasts Tory response to tax-dodging private firms locking up people with learning disabilities
From the Morning Star: People with learning disabilities are having to put up with Bedlam-like conditions in institutions that should have been shut down years ago, shadow health minister Barbara Keeley said today.
The current situation was “nothing short of a national scandal” with patients being treated in a way that has “no place in the 21st century,” while private operators of the institutions profit and squirrel millions of pounds in offshore tax havens, she added.
She made the demand after reports emerged last month that an autistic teenager called Bethany was locked for almost two years in solitary confinement and fed through a hatch, which reignited calls for immediate closure of such institutions.
The news led Sir Stephen Bubb to claim the government had “ignored” his independent report into the 2011 abuse scandal at Winterbourne View, which recommended a dramatic reduction in the use of institutions for people with learning disabilities.
Asking an urgent question on the issue in the Commons seven years after the original scandal, Ms Keeley called for immediate action to “rid the country” of these institutions.
She said: “Can the minister tell us why the NHS is still sanctioning the use of settings which expose thousands of vulnerable people to abuse at a cost of half a billion pounds despite the government pledging to close them?
From The Independent: The ‘catastrophic’ privatisation of Britain’s railways has cost the taxpayer £5bn per year and driven up fares by 20 per cent, Labour has claimed.
From Morning Star: The gains of decades of anti-poverty campaigning to put people before profit are under threat if the Tory government’s “wrong-headed privatisation” of the aid budget is allowed to proceed, campaign group Global Justice Now has warned.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has set the stage for full-scale privatisation of Britain’s aid spending, announcing a drastic reduction of public money from the aid budget and saying she would continue to press for changes to the rules on international aid to “incentivise” private investment abroad.
Working with the City of London to develop new “investment vehicles” for developing countries would provide opportunities for British savers struggling to find a return on their investments, she claimed.
“When British investors are struggling to find good returns, these markets offer good opportunities. Doing good while making money,” she said.
Global Justice Now’s aid policy manager Ed Lewis said: “Not content with using public money to fund private schools in the developing world, the government now plans to outsource its obligations to tackle poverty to the private sector.
“This is a betrayal of our country’s responsibility for ending global poverty and inequality and instead turns other people’s poverty into a money-making opportunity.”
From The Times: A government business that was sold off by the Tories for only £2m has delivered annual profits of £7.1m for its American owner.
[Read article on The Times website…] (paywalled, but free registration allows access to two articles per week)
From Daily Mirror: Calamity-prone Tory Chris Grayling has refused to resign despite a damning report into this summer’s rail chaos finding “nobody took charge”.
From Private Eye:
From We Own It: “G4S has failed to run Birmingham prison – and the consequences have been disastrous. Let’s stop pretending that we need to have a market for everything. Public services should be in public ownership.”
G4S has failed to run Birmingham prison – and the consequences have been disastrous. Let's stop pretending that we need to have a market for everything. Public services should be in public ownership.
Posted by We Own It on Tuesday, August 21, 2018
From The Independent: Private probation companies are being bailed out for a second time as the Tory government prepares to scrap “catastrophic” contracts two years early.
“Tell Sid the Tories have shafted us with failing privatised services on railways, energy, water and telecoms”
Jason Beattie writes in the Daily Mirror: It was not supposed to be this way. In 1986, the Government launched the “Tell Sid” campaign to encourage people to buy shares in British Gas. There were wall-to-wall TV ads promoting Thatcher’s dream of a share-owning democracy. One by one, our public utilities, described by Harold Macmillan as the family silver, were sold off.
From Morning Star: Bosses of England’s nine private water companies have pocketed £175 million in pay and benefits in the last five years, general union GMB disclosed today.
GMB, which has thousands of members working in the water industry, revealed the pay packages as part of its “Take Back the Tap” campaign, calling for the water industry to be returned to public ownership.
Since water privatisation in 1989, customers’ bills have increased by 40 per cent in real terms.
The union says the industry’s top 54 executives pocketed an enormous £40.3 million in 2017 alone. Executive directors and senior management received an average of £746,296 each in salaries, pension contributions, bonuses and benefits.
From The Independent: The government must overhaul its “mess” of a botched programme to privatise probation that is failing against every measure and may threaten public safety, MPs have said.
From Evolve Politics: Despite their shares plummeting by almost 50% and having more than £1bn being wiped off the share price after issuing a profit warning last week, a multi-million pound contract to redesign the House of Commons and the House of Lords has been co-awarded to the financially precarious private contractor, Capita.
Government documents reveal that the £43m contract was issued on January 30th, and seems to have been pushed through by the Conservatives despite huge questions being asked about whether Capita might be the next private government contractor to collapse after the disastrous plight of Carillion.
Capita have been awarded the work to redesign the two Parliament chambers alongside 3 other private companies, BDP, Pick Everard, and Purcell.
The news comes just weeks after Theresa May’s Conservative government came in for huge criticism after it was revealed that they awarded more than £1.3bn of contracts to Carillion even after the now-liquidated company had issued the infamous profit warning which led to its eventual downfall.
From Private Eye: Lifting the lid on links between outsourcing company executives and the Tory Party.
From Private Eye: The Ministry of Justice gave a huge £277m bailout to the eight firms running Britain’s failing private probation companies in late July, without announcing the massive deal to either MPs or the public. This big reward for failure is over ten times the £22m bailout already given to the firms in May.
Inspectors have found poor services at the private firms, which have slashed staff and provision. In many cases ex-offenders are interviewed by probation staff over the phone rather than in person.
From Evolve Politics: Newly liquidated government contractor Carillion changed their own rules to protect the multi-million pound bonuses paid to bosses from being clawed back by investors and the British taxpayer, should the company enter financial difficulties.
The rule change happened just weeks before the company suffered an ‘accounting crisis’ that wiped £600m off of its share price.
The construction company, who hold a significant amount of outsourced government contracts, changed the wording of their own rules to make it much harder for the government or investors to force bonuses handed to company chiefs to be paid back in circumstances of ‘corporate failure’.
Under the previous rules, Carillion bosses and executives could have been forced to pay back their bonuses should the company enter into financial difficulties – but the rule change meant bosses could only be made to return bonuses in the event that they were found guilty of fraudulent behaviour.
The stark revelation casts huge suspicion on exactly how much foresight the Carillion board had about the impending financial crisis within the company.
From the Guardian: Labour has called on the Tory government to explain why it awarded contracts worth nearly £2bn to Carillion even after it became clear the company was in financial distress.
The construction and outsourcing group, which has just gone into liquidation, issued the first of three warnings about its financial health in July.
The shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, pointed to regulations showing Carillion could have been designated “high risk” at that point, and he called on the government to explain what measures it had taken to check the firm was ready for more taxpayer-funded work.
Trickett said: “Alarm bells have been ringing for over six months about the state of Carillion’s finances, so the government must come forward and answer questions on exactly what due diligence measures were undertaken before awarding contracts to Carillion worth billions of taxpayers’ money.”
Carillion issued its first profit warning on 10 July. A week later a joint venture between Carillion, its construction rival Kier and the French civil engineer Eiffage won a £1.4bn contract to work on the HS2 high-speed rail link.
The day after that, on 18 July, Carillion won a £158m contract from the Ministry of Defence to provide “catering, retail and leisure, together with hotel and mess services” at 233 military facilities.15
A second profit warning in September was followed five weeks later by the award from Network Rail of a contract to electrify the London-to-Corby rail line. A week afterwards the company put out a third profit warning, only to be awarded a £12m schools building contract three days later.
From The Independent: NHS spending on care provided by private companies has jumped by £700m to £3.1bn with non-NHS firms winning almost 70% of tendered contracts in England last year.