The Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance

Soon there will be war. Millions will burn. Millions will perish in sickness and misery. Why does one death matter against so many? Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this.
- Rorschach, Watchmen

A few days ago, we were contacted by The Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance, whose agenda is fairly self-explanatory. Here's the correspondence:


The Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance is just getting starting and it needs as many people as possible to be involved to make it as broad and strong as possible (and not just the usual suspects - including me!)


I'm certainly not in favour of all the measures proposed thus far, but bearing in mind that we know national funding is being cut and Lewisham Council Tax rates are already relatively high compared with many other London boroughs, please could you explain what level (if any) of cuts you think is appropriate and where you think those cuts should come, if at all.


Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance believe that cuts to public services and jobs are not necesary. The deficit that so many politicians (disgracefully including many in the Labour party) seem to think justifies these ideologically motivated cuts is moderate by historical standards and is easily manageable. The government should start by actually collecting the approximately £40bn in unpaid taxes or taxing the companies and people that are still making huge profits and bonuses, even despite the financial crisis and recession that their actions caused. Corporate tax before the election was 28% on profits above £1.5m, compared to the 32.8% G7 average. The new government is planning on lowering it to 24%, (indicating that we are really not 'all in this together')

So there we have it.

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Paddyom said...


drakefell debaser said...

I think this is doomed. Cuts are inevitable so the debate should be where they are cut.

Also, I keep reading about this £40 billion in unpaid taxes yet can never find any evidence to support it. Does anyone have a link to a credible source?

Brockley Nick said...

If you set out your stall to fight any and all cuts then you are setting out to fail.

That's why I was trying to find out what battles they had chosen to fight. It turns out they have opted for Global Thermonuclear War.

Reg said...

Not 'necessary'? Please wake up and smell the coffee.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that Lewisham Council has joined their Facebook group. Presumably by somebody at the council with a sense of humour and shortly expecting a P45.

lb said...

"Not 'necessary'? Please wake up and smell the coffee"

But it's far to say that the deficit is moderate by historical standards. Many Keynesians have pointed out that we're in the throes of a sort of 'deficit hysteria' right now.

Brockley Nick said...

I agree that the scale of the deficit problem is exaggerated and that it is right and proper that we should run deficits during recessions. However, it isn't true to say that the deficit is moderate by historical standards - it's been bigger, but that's not quite the same thing.

Also, whatever the scale, some cuts are clearly "necessary" and even "desirable" in a few cases. As DD says, the argument needs to be about when, where, how and how much.

lb said...

" As DD says, the argument needs to be about when, where, how and how much"

My concern at the moment is that there is no argument. We've already had radical proposals for reorganising the NHS that were never presented in any manifesto, and the current Government has shown great skill in selectively briefing in order to mobilise public opinion behind things they wish to target.

Tamsin said...

The Lewisham Pensioners Forum has a sub-group (open to all ages) set up several years ago for NHS issues. If anyone wants to go on that e-mailing list to receive information on London-wide action to try to preserve the principles of the NHS in face of measures that amount to piece-meal privatisation do get in touch.

I don't seem to have been able to post this with my google account that would mean you could communicate direct, but I hope Nick might be good enough to foward anything.

There are cuts and cuts. To be very simplistic, wholesale redundancies in the public sector would just put more people into receipt of benefits - a greater burden on the state. Shuffling stuff off onto the private sector makes cost and quality harder to control - and adds in a tier of private profit (often either individuals on the make or ultimately foreign owned inter-national companies, and neither of which help the local economy).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
david said...

@DD - the £40b in unpaid taxes is a figure HMRC came up with. I can't be bothered to track down their justification of this figuer at the moment (sorry). Suffice it to say that it is somewhat "ropey".

For example, it includes a large wodge (about 30% from memory) attributable "differences in interpretation of law". Not differences from just the taxpayer mind you but differences from the courts - i.e. where HMRC decided that they wanted to tax someone and teh taxpayer argued it through the courts and won with teh court telling HMRC to sod off (in nicer language) HMRC still see this a "unpaid tax".

Anonymous said...

Even if there less than noble and fair reasons for the current UK crisis, deficit and debt I think that a house cleaning was due for sometime.

According to National statistics Lewisham is one of the most deprived areas, with one of the highest council tax and one of the lowest ratio of Council tax payers/benefit claimers.

It seems that change is inevitable.

Lou Baker said...


Seriously, do these people have a clue?

It is absurd that a quarter of our taxes go to fund interest payments. Absurd. I'd never let my personal finances get in that state and it's a disgrace the country's have too.

In any case, I thoroughly resent paying half of my income to the government. Much of it goes to fund unnecessary projects, shoddy services and useless bureaucrats. Then there's the huge benefits bill we pay out to society's scroungers.

We all pay too much tax. Someone who earns one million pounds per year will pay almost half a million of that in tax. Outrageous. Someone who earns average salary - 24,000 or so - pays over 10k to the government. Equally outrageous.

I know far better how to spend my money than a bunch of pen pushing bureaucrats in Whitehall, Catford or anywhere else.

Absolutely we should support - and properly support - those people who really need it. The rest should get a job, the wasteful services should all be scrapped, the number of bureaucrats should be more than halved, anything that's a quango - bin it.

And as for these ultra lefty morons - the anti-cuts alliance - what a bunch of wasters. Seriously. Go and do a proper days work for a wealth creating company and suddenly you'll realise what a fool you are.

Wake up said...

Lou, thanks for the usual brilliant analysis. Just been taken to dinner by a"wealth creating company". Your paying, they are commissioned by a local authority. Things are a little more complex than the pirivate=good public=bad world you live in.

Lou Baker said...

I don't live in that world at all. There are plenty of bad private companies - Virgin Media, T Mobile, Ryanair, Asda.

So I don't use them - I use better alternatives because I can.

When it comes to state services I don't have that choice - I am forced to pay for the bad ones anyway. That's why they never get any better, any cheaper, any more efficient.

Missed the point said...

But they make wealth so therefore are, by your criteria, BRILLIANT

dumbo said...

What types of companies create wealth, because I want to go into that industry, I don't want to be a ponce on society.

lb said...

"Absurd. I'd never let my personal finances get in that state and it's a disgrace the country's have too"

What is absurd is the ridiculously overleveraged nature of the economy. It's absurd that interest rates are kept low, punishing savers, at all costs to protect buy-to-let portfolios and the property investments of people who've vastly overextended themselves. This is one thing even I'll admit that the previous government got very wrong, but I strongly doubt the present one will do anything different.

The actions of the British public in obtaining cheap credit, and banks in lending it with insufficient guarantees, make Government spending look positively moderate.

Brockley Nick said...

The BoE has been widely criticised for keeping interest rates too high for too long as the UK went in to recession in 2008 / 09.

Brockley Nick said...

Bearing in mind that there is fiscal tightening, it would be crackers to raise interest rates at the same time. Sure fire recipe for another recession.

Danja said...

From page 3 of this it appears that interest is currently a tenth of tax receipts, not a quarter.

I pay more way more than 10% of my income in interest every year.

But facts do not matter in a world of deficit hysteria.

Anonymous said...

Companies the produce something or provide a service for which there is market demand.

Of course, it helps if there is not much competition and they are able to manipulate the market to their own advantage. Maybe create a cosy cartel with other companies or the star prize: a private monopoly like a government own public monopoly.

Big companies use all their legal and lobbying resources to contrive this sort of position and when it happens that part of the economy siezes up or goes into a crisis. They spent their ill gotten gains on vast bloated bureaucracies that can put the most wasteful government departments to shame.

A middle sized company that is well adjusted in a competative market is often the most efficient and creates wealth.

Small companies often don't have enough money to establish themselves sustainably and often fail.

A proper circulation of large companies breaking up and smaller ones forming and growing makes for a health economy.

This country tends to have a fondness for big organisations with good marketing and PR.

Our very own council finds it so much easier to deal with big developers, big supermarkets and big government departments. It is, itself a large public corporation.

Like all large concerns, they treat small and medium sized businesses with condescension and over regulation.

Look around Brockley and you can see the results. It is hardly a healthy place to start or grow an business. It is shackled to the fate of corporate salaries and central government budgets, both, of which are under stress. So all they can do is whinge that it is not their fault and make ill thought out cuts in services.

lb said...

"Bearing in mind that there is fiscal tightening, it would be crackers to raise interest rates at the same time. Sure fire recipe for another recession"

I might agree if the BoE was simultanously keeping inflation to its target figure. Instead it's been repeatedly stating that the target has been missed due to "temporary" factors - and this is before the assumed rise in VAT we're getting kicks in.

Brockley Nick said...

@Lb - I think a 2% inflation targeting monetary policy is fairly sensible.

However, during times of extraordinary recession, it makes sense to take a more relaxed attitude towards inflation, particularly given that all the evidence suggests that the inflation we're seeing isn't driven by consumer spending or wage-bargaining pressures, but by the devaluation of the pound, which is benefiting the export sector but pushing up the cost of imports.

In that context, 3%, which was predicted and is still fairly low and is on a downward trend according to this morning's figures, seems little to worry about.

Monkeyboy said...

On a purley seflish note, I'm as happy as a clam regarding intrest rates (as DD, the ace mortgage expert, knows well)

Knocking lumps off my mortgage every month fairly painlessly.

Ed said...

I am worried at how much of Lou's stuff I agree with, well the underlying principles rather than the agreesive rhetoric sometimes deployed.

We spend too much; Simple.

Our personal debt is the worst in Europe and with such an arrogant and irresponsible attitude to personal, local and national finances we are not looking to the future.

Important services would not be facing cuts had we been more careful but Labour's big government (which I supported for the first half) spent our taxes on certain things that seem shocking in hindsight. Will we learn?

History suggests probably not.

Monkeyboy said...

....and the thatcherite/reganite lazie faire, light touch regulation. After all the market is best placed to regulate itself (!)

That was one area where MORE government, not less, was required. Labour and the electorate bought that hook, line and sinker.

lb said...

"Important services would not be facing cuts had we been more careful but Labour's big government (which I supported for the first half) spent our taxes on certain things that seem shocking in hindsight. Will we learn?"

Not sure. Much of the 'extra' money ploughed into the public sector went to renew schools and hospitals that had been systematically run down from 1979 to 1996 (the majority of public sector jobs created in this period were front-line ones in healthcare and education). It was in my opinion a necessary investment and hadly "shocking".

The deficit currently the subject of so much discussion shot up only in the past couple of years, mainly due to decreased tax revenues and the cost of bailing out financial institutions (as a result of the intemperance of banks and lenders alike). The problem is that no-one had any other ideas (certainly not the Tories, at the time): the only alternative would have been to let some banks go under, and a whole cycle of events commence which probably would have led to large-scale property repossessions a la early 1990s, or worse. As it was, Brown and Darling chose the course of protecting people's private assets, but at vast national cost. Not a great choice to have to make either way.

Labour's great mistake overall was to not act to cool the housing market by raising interest rates. The housing boom was always in reality a credit boom; people had been saying so for years.

Ed said...

I supported the early new labour years as they had solutions to the problems they inherited that I agreed with but it seems to me they went power and spending crazy later and whilst some of the defecit would have been a problem for any government I think they went too far. Compare that with the Tories not going far enough. I doubted we'd ever have a balance I agreed with in our party/electoral system but I am surprisingly please with most of the coalition's policies (I doubt many will share that view).

Ed said...

Oh and back on topic I think objecting to all cuts is moronic and irresponsible and it is these organisations that make me feel less socialist and more conservative every day.

lb said...

"whilst some of the defecit would have been a problem for any government I think they went too far"

But as I said, there was nothing especially unusual about the levels of deficit until around 2007, when a contraction in tax receipts and a subsequent near-collapse of the banking system caused it to rise.

I think the issue is not so much that Labour were "spending crazy" as that our banks were too lightly regulated, and among the most highly leveraged in the world. It was the latter factor that caused us to be so severely exposed to the banking crisis. Don't kid yourself, however, that the Conservatives would have been much (if any) different with regard to regulation.

It's notable there was much discussion of banking regulation before the election, whereas it's now conspicuous by its absence: even the baking 'levy' was in many cases handsomely offset by a reduction in corporation tax.

lb said...

Erm, banking levy. Not sure what a levy on tasty home-baked goods would achieve.

Dumbo said...

Money is there to be spent.

Headhunter said...

"Not sure. Much of the 'extra' money ploughed into the public sector went to renew schools and hospitals that had been systematically run down from 1979 to 1996 (the majority of public sector jobs created in this period were front-line ones in healthcare and education). It was in my opinion a necessary investment and hadly "shocking"."

I think a lot of the construction of new schools and hospitals under Labour was carried out under PFI and PPP schemes funded by the private sector and leased back to the state at high cost. These are costs we are left to fund for decades to come and did not appear on Labour's "balance sheet".

Lou Baker said...


Don't be disturbed at agreeing with Lou - most people secretly do!

The 'anti-cuts campaigners' inhabit the same ground as climate change deniers, Trident proponents, anti-Europeans and Spurs fans. They are stuck in the 70's and 80's and out of touch with the modern world.

I am not against public services. But I think the government tries to do way too much. Much of what it does it does badly - and even more of what it does it doesn't really need to do at all.

The anti-cuts twerps will lie and tell you that all these 'free' services are at risk. Be clear - public services are not free. They are, by far, your biggest expense. More than your mortgage. More than your car loan. Way more than your holidays. More, much more, than you will ever spend on your kids.

I think it's important that this money is spent well. Questions should be asked about whether middle class families should receive child benefit; whether the more affluent elderly should get a fuel payment; whether it is right for anyone ever to have a subsidised council house for life; whether commuters should pay more for their rail journeys; whether you should be charged for missing a doctors appointment; whether people should pay for hospital treatment they need because of drunken injuries; whether Lewisham really needs 11 libraries; whether we really need a potato council; or 'free' swimming; or milk for under 5's or whether we should spend so much keeping prisoners locked up when the cash would be better spent getting them cleaned up and educated.

I think all these questions - and many more - need answering. The anti-cuts twerps don't even think they should be asked.

Monkeyboy said...

Jesus. A lot of verbage there. Is Lou the right wing love detective?

Brockley Kiwi said...

Lou Baker... The next prime minister?

Ed said...

I agree that too much was spent badly. A majority of PFIs provide a great example. I want value for money and there are some things I am simply not prepared to pay for on another's behalf. I am paying for cuddly social services (most are not cuddly I know) yet I still feel threatened at times outside my own front door and have my car repeatedly vandalised outside the station.

lb said...

"think all these questions - and many more - need answering"

Perhaps. However instead of "questions", what we get is a torrent of divisive bilge via the Murdoch press, the Tory party's favoured briefing outlet. Honestly, if they have to rope in the likes of Lorraine Kelly to get across their "war on scroungers" message, what hope is there of any measured discussion? Furthermore, some of the most potantially disastrous "restructuring" - Lansley's plans for the NHS - was simply announced with no consultation whatsoever, or manifesto detail, come to think of it.

For all the stridency of the "Anti-Cuts Alliance", they perform an incredibly useful function in at least encouraging people to think, about what's being done, and to resist it if necessary, before the government actually goes ahead and does it anyway. It's a healthy antidote to the resigned "cuts are inevitable" mentality displayed by much of the electorate, something encouraged by the Tories' relentless talking-down of the economy in the past couple of months.

"I am not against public services. But I think the government tries to do way too much. Much of what it does it does badly - and even more of what it does it doesn't really need to do at all."

The question is ultimately whether services can be provided more efficiently and cheaply by the government. Yet in the case of rail privatisation, the resulting companies absorbed far more subsidy than BR did in the years leading up to privatisation. A recent study of the NHS concluded it was the most efficient health service in Europe, including many examples of the part-private model the Tories and Liberal Democrats seem to have their eyes on. Why be dogmatic about this? I appreciate your point that these things need to be debated, or scrutinised, but it looks very much like a debate is exactly the one thing we won't get. This is why dissenting voices are important.

lb said...

"I agree that too much was spent badly. A majority of PFIs provide a great example"

Please explain, with examples, how "a majority" of PFIs represent money spent badly. Over 100 new hsopitals were built in the first 10 years of PFI, and though it had its critics (and I admit to being uncomfortable about the idea myself) many people in the industry reckoned it represented good value compared to the public funding alternative. If it wasn't for PFI, we'd still be being treated in hospitals built 50 years ago. I know the Tories like to present the ideal NHS as a world of cottage hospitals and friendly nurses but things have moved on a little, technologically speaking, since then.

"I am paying for cuddly social services (most are not cuddly I know) yet I still feel threatened at times outside my own front door and have my car repeatedly vandalised outside the station"

The link between social services and your own experience of having your car vandalised is a spurious one. There is no way even the 'cuddliest' social services could completely stop that happening.

Ed said...

lb I do not post here to argue or for you to find issue with my every comment. I have seen the financial details of many PFIs, not just NHS, and they are shockingly bad value in general. My point about cuddlies was that instead of funding the likes of one legged lesbian theatre groups (a quote from the late 80s I believe, not intending to offend anyone) I would like to see the odd bobby and cctv in my local area where drugs are openly sold on the street and we have children shooting each other. Issue?

Anonymous said...

Ed if you post glib statements on a public forum, you can safely expect to be taken to task.

LB is actually providing an informed & useful contribution to the thread as opposed to your unspecified seemingly headline-spliced together remarks.

Time gentlemen please said...

No LB is doing what LB normally does: take issue with somebody's opinion and demand they produce facts figures and surveys to back up their point. I think everyone understands Ed's point. Only recently the Brockley PFI was found to be incredibly bad value for money, as reported on this website.

LB needs to learn to put their opinion forward without always attacking the opposing opinion in an aggressive way.

max said...

Hold on!
"many people in the industry reckoned it represented good value compared to the public funding alternative"
Do you mean those that made good money out it reckoned that it was good value? Well I'm not surprised.

Anyway, a point about NHS hospitals,they weren't just built on private finance, they also have various degrees of supply contracts attached to them, isn't that part-privatization anyway?
The new building at Lewisham Hospital for example came together with a 30 years contract for the supply of the entirety of its needs.

lb said...

"instead of funding the likes of one legged lesbian theatre groups (a quote from the late 80s I believe, not intending to offend anyone)"

Why quote it then?

Look, I'm just trying to indicate that the debate isn't a simple one - at least, not as simple as our political masters would have use believe. I also expect people to argue with me: no problem.

PFIs are generally used because they may be better value than simply raising the money as a state capital project (this is why Norman Lamont first announced PFI as a policy). However, "a lot of money" doesn't necessarily equate to "poor value". It may be the case that leasing a facility built under PFI would work out cheaper than the state borrowing the money to build it. These things also have to be considered. Note that I'm no friend of the private sector in these matters, but am willing to understand why people might have argued for bringing it in.

One assumes that the underlying Tory conviction is that the state should somehow remove itself from the equation, so that the private company would simply provide the service directly. However, this doesn't necessarily equate to good news for the end-user, as the railways, utilities and various other half-cocked privatisation projects demonstrate.

Too much of this debate is run in incredibly un-nuanced terms, pitched to a public frightened by comparisons of our economy to that of Greece (it isn't comparable). I'm not saying that the Anti-Cuts Alliance are entirely right either, but if we're to have a debate at all, there actually has to be an opposing view.

lb said...

[TJP]"take issue with somebody's opinion and demand they produce facts figures and surveys to back up their point"

If Ed makes a statement that "a majority of PFIs provide poor value" he is stating a fact, not putting forward an opinion.

lb said...

"The new building at Lewisham Hospital for example came together with a 30 years contract for the supply of the entirety of its needs"

This is precisely how the maths of PFI is supposed to work. Generally the contracts are more expensive than the government borrowing the money (via bond issues) to build the hospital. However, because they also include the management costs, they are supposed to work out cheaper overall.

The NAO, which wholeheartedly supported PFI at the start, still thinks the majority of PFI contracts "are achieving the value for money originally envisaged"

Headhunter said...

I think the problem with PFI and PPP schemes is that they're open to the vagueries of negotiation. Public sector employees whose main function isn't to negotiate complex legal and business contracts seem to end up thrown into discussions with well paid financiers and business people who do 7 and 8 figure deals over breafast and the public sector often seems to end up screwed over.

I'm sure some major PFI and PPP schemes have been good value and it doesn't seem a bad idea to work with business to build public facilities, but other contracts, like the PFI to manage Lewisham/brockley's public housing stock seem to have been very badly put together.

lb said...

"I think the problem with PFI and PPP schemes is that they're open to the vagueries of negotiation"

I agree this is the main shortcoming with PFI and PFI-type schemes: many public sector lawyers don't have the attention to detail necessary when drawing up contracts. One of the main factors that has made PFI projects go off the rails, as identified by the NAO, is when the original contract needed to be varied, or additional services included; it inevitably ends up being expensive.

In the case of the local Brockley housing PFI, it appears this is exactly what happened. Local government has had particular problems dealing with PFI, as its officers haven't necessarily had the experience required. I also strongly suspect Lewisham had carried out very minimal repairs to these properties over the years and it therefore needed much more work than anticipated to achieve Decent Homes Standard.

None of the above, of course, means that PFI is poor value for money, as the NAO still seems to think it works well, with the caveat that scrutiny needs to be kept up. I'm not sure it's a great tool to place in the hands of local government, though.

oryx said...

Time gentlemen please said: 'No LB is doing what LB normally does: take issue with somebody's opinion and demand they produce facts figures and surveys to back up their point.'

For the life of me, I cannot see anything wrong with wanting to see views backed up with facts and figures, especially when people try to conflate the role of social services with vandalism to cars....

Tamsin said...

It's the grab and use now and pay later mentality writ large. A new sofa before Christmas and nothing to pay until 2012. The political kudos and pesonal career enhancement of the new hospital now, so what if it is still being paid for five-fold in a couple of decades. The people concerned be retired or moved on - no longer their problem.

And there is something morally reprehensible about screwing over the public sector. To my mind GPs as a body certainly lost the moral high ground in the contract fiasco a few years back. Which is unfortunate given what is now happening to the NHS.

And it's everywhere. Ofsted is just about to unload it's inspection duties to a couple of private companies. Accountability and quality being lost to the name of efficiency. The public sector should undergo deep reform rather than just abdicating all responsibility.

Lou Baker said...

@ Tamsin

The notion that something loses quality and accountability when it's not run by the state is, frankly, absurd.

An organisation which is responsible to shareholders is far more accountable than one which is run by unelected, uncontrollable bureaucrats.

Take the airline industry. If I wanted to fly somewhere and my choice of carrier was limited to, say, Virgin Atlantic and Aeroflot I'd take the private company everyday of the week.

Or take postal services. If I wanted to guarantee a package would arrive in Paris tomorrow I'd use Fed Ex or UPS rather than the Royal Mail.

Or schools. If I wanted to ensure my kids get the best possible A level results I'd send them private rather than to the state comp.

Or health services. My direct experience of private hospitals is that they are excellent. My direct experience of the NHS is that it is most definitely not.

So you're absolutely wrong, Tamsin. The problem with public services is that, too often, they are just not good enough. The quality is not there AND they are not accountable. Nobody cares when the service isn't good enough because they have nothing to loose.

Lou Baker said...

@ me

Lose even.

Anonymous said...

Lou, you are as dogmatic as the anti cut lobby, private can be better, it can also be worse. I've worked in both and see it every day. No, the state is not best placed to run an airline, civil servants are a damn sight more accountable than most shareholders. Oh, it's politicians who legislate. They ARE accountable.

Dogger on the ci said...

Fiscal tightening, mmmmm

Paul Bell said...

It should be the job of the public sector to provide services and the private sector to create wealth. It is not right that the private sector make money out of need, poverty or inequality. These cuts have to happen, we have no choice. But there are many things that can be cut which add no value, e.g. such as private consultants in Community Education. Lewisham Council has no control over what the government does. The council does have the right to see where the cuts fall. It is vital that everyone who believes in the public sector lobbies their councillors and Steve Bullock. The next few weeks are going to be bitter...don't let your politicians off the hook.

HappyBrockers said...

I've worked in a wide range of roles supporting vulnerable people. I have been employed directly by employers in both the public and private sector.

I believe there is far more real accountability towards the end user in public sector organisations, whereas in my experience private sector run organisations are often more about securing new contracts, making more money, and ticking boxes.

There is less emphasis on the client, and more focus on ensuring the organisation's end goals are met. I understand this is not necessarily the case for all private organisations, but generally the bigger the private organisation, the worse this is. Smaller private companies/ organisations are often more focused, and person centred.

The funding will always come from the state in some shape or form, and services will often be contracted out to big private organisations because they can offer the support at a cheaper price. The funders (state) will then set outcomes to be met by the private company for them to prove they are doing a good job. This can mean the private company are likely to then focus primarily on meeting these outcomes in order to gain more contracts and expand, than they are on ensuring the vulnerable people have the best support possible.
Of course this is based on my personal experience, and is not the case for all services. But I personally believe that, wherever possible, support to the most vulnerable people, and often most marginalised people in our society is best coming directly from the state, or when possible from smaller private organisations/ enterprises.

Tamsin said...

Beautifully put.

As well as the anti-cuts group (who I agree are too blunderbus in their approach to be fully credible) there is all sorts of lobbying going on about similar issues in the NHS. Public services should stay just that - public because they serve either the people or the infrastructure.

Brockley Nick said...

@Paul - I hate this false distinction between private sector "wealth creators" and public sector "service providers".

It doesn't make sense in either case.

If the concept of "wealth creation" is to have any meaning, it must surely include incredibly useful things that most of us place a lot of value on, like providing health care or education.

If the concept of "service provision" means anything, it is embraced at least as much by the private sector as by the public. Who provides food and clothes to the British people? The private sector. The private sector also delivers many of the public services which we value.

Which brings us back round to the false dichotomy.

According to the "private wealth creator" idea, if a bin man is employed by the public sector, he is nothing but a drain on hard working tax payers. But sub-contract these services and suddenly the same bloke is a heroic wealth creator.

It's a nonsense. Wealth is the result of people doing valuable jobs - whether in the public, private or the charity sector.

Service is a concept that both the public and the private sector sometimes forget, usually because organisations and employees are not incentivised by the profit motive enough, or too much!

The key questions are always:

1. Does the public gets value for money for the money they spend, either through taxation or the market?

2. Does society incentivise the right kinds of activities, that provide long-term prosperity for all?

Public or private doesn't matter - these things are just a means to an end.

Monkeyboy said...

I concur with Nick and happybrockers. I've worked in both sectors, these kinds of distinctions are not useful. Was brockley common screwed up by the private contractor or the public body who commissioned them? More likely people not doing their job properly on both sides. I deal with the 'wealth creators' who do work for LU, some are great and want to help you get a great result. Some see a contract as an opportunity to claim at every opportunity, while some at LU genuinely love the railway and some are just empire building.

Paul Bell said...

I take your point but by wealth creation I mean making profit not wealth measured in other terms such as contribution to society or the health of our communities.

However, I do believe firmly that it does matter who provides services to the public. For example, if we take providing meals to children in our schools, Lewisham Council has a contract with a private company called Chartwells which is a subsidiary of a multinational called Compass. Last year this company made £773m of pre-tax profits but yet will not pay sick pay to workers in our schools or in our hospitals, where they hold many contracts under the name Medirest. This company does not value the contribution of its workers because its sole goal is to make money. The reality is that low paid workers, many of them women are forced to make a choice between coming into work sick or losing a days pay. When you are living on a low income that is not a choice and so people come into our schools to serve our children when they are sick; they come into wards and special care units with viral and bacterial infections not because they want to, but because they are forced.

Then we wonder why hospital infections are spreading; then we wonder why so many of our children come home ill, passing it onto their parents who then infect others on public transport and in their workplace.

So it does matter who provides the service and the private sector should not be in the public sector as their goal is to make money. They do that by reducing staff numbers, reducing wages, making everyone work harder and not paying sick pay.

Red wedge said...

Sometimes a thread requires the honesty of Hugh. What most people here are really saying

"It's not going to affect me. I don't use public services. So I don't care"

Mb said...

Well unless you don't send your kids to a state school or go to see your GP or use the police to protect you or drive on the road or work for a private company who supply services to the public sector..... I suspect that a lot of people who feel insulated are in for a nasty shock.

Tamsin said...

Or never need the results of a hospital blood test quickly and effectively - King's are planning to contract out their Pathology department.

Anonymous said...


When the NHS was more state run nurses were consistly on the lowest rung of the pay scale, weren't there regular strikes by health workers over pay and conditions.

I believe the Fire Service pays far more in pensions than it does to provide a fire service.

To imply worse conditions at hospitals is down to private companies is a nonsense.

Go back and look at the horror stories eminating from our hospiatls when they were fully state run.

The division of 'service providers' and 'wealth creators' sounds like an old divide and rule stance.

The state will exploit people as much as private companies.

Anonymous said...

What evidence have you infection rates in hospitals have risen due to ill auxillary staff being forced to work?

Similarly at schools how many cases of pupil illnesses caused by catering staff have been reported and when can those figures be obtained?

Anonymous said...

^^^ 'When' should be 'where'

Tamsin said...

But at least they had unions and professional bodies with teeth to speak up on their behalf. Hence the strikes and publicity. The workers for the contract cleaners, care providers etc., have no such voice and have to put up or shut up, hardly condusive to reasonable staff morale and low turnover and, what follows from that, good service.

Anyone remember the Dispatches programme about care services by contracted companies? Even with the teaspoon of salt needed with such journalism it was a tale of inadequate training and impossible schedules.

Anonymous said...

It was a monopoly of service, that's how the unions weald so much power in smoke filled rooms.

There were all sorts of petty strikes because it was known there was no other provider.

Some strikes were manufactured by union reps to show who was top dog within a union's executive.

How often did these service providers go on strike to improve the service through efficiency rather than increased income?

Recall the 'winter of discontent' what a glorious struggle not against the private sector but the state.

Anonymous said...

Re debt,
Isn't it the case because of PFI's much of this is now off the books?

That councils have replaced debt with 30 year committments to paying operational costs to providers?

How come the service providers could see the birth rate rising over the years and then at the last moment urgently have to apply to create 'bulge' classrooms.

Tansin said...

I absolutely agree - and the refusal of many Unions chiefs to accept reality is just another way in which their members, the ordinary workers, are let down.

Danja said...

Re debt,
Isn't it the case because of PFI's much of this is now off the books?

Yes, in much the same way a landlord's mortgage is kept "off the books" of his tenant.

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