This page is best viewed at 80% zoom

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

Private Provision – The Mistakes

In by Kit on July 12, 2012 at 22:01


The reported shambles surrounding G4S’s security contract with LOCOG has highlighted, I think, a key problem in the multi-billion pound industry of private provision: the government’s inability to effectively manage public contracts.

Private provision (of public goods) enables the government to function. It is undeniable that the government cannot fully provide the demands on the state without help from the private sector.

Modern private providers are often so enmeshed in our lives that people often mistake them for public services. This is the ultimate aim of private providers. Profit-making private companies’ ultimate aim is to be seen as a public company (and enjoy the benefit that brings) whilst still taking a cheque at the end of the day.

However, unfortunately, this cannot last. However mutually beneficial the public/private relationship is, in many cases the profit-making motivations of private providers have negative impacts on the public purse and the public itself.

There are countless examples, such as A4e where former CEO Emma Harrison awarded herself £8.6m in dividends whilst her company was being investigated over fraudulent welfare-to-work claims. This was on top of a £365,000 pay packet.

Whilst working for a private training and employment provider – hiding under the smokescreen of being a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation – I saw money squandered on overpaid directors, people forced in to work for short term gains and a company so willing to please its Work Programme overlords, it entered into unrealistic contracts which it failed to deliver many times over.

This latter point has been witnessed in The G4S debacle. Competition amongst private providers has caused irrational behaviour. Another training provider I worked for promised, through desperation to survive, that they could deliver impracticable contracts.

It is obvious to purely private companies who do not operate in this sphere (there are a few left). Promising a client too much will not pay off in the long run. Not delivering a contract has far worse ramifications than renegotiation or rejection.

Companies like A4e and G4S have given in to peer pressure and bitten off more than they can chew. Some of this fault however must lie with government as the client in the relationship. It is a failure of both the Coalition and New Labour to effectively manage private provision. The last government especially, gorged on PFI schemes, valuing legacy over sustainability. Highlighted recently, with the pending bankruptcy of two South London NHS Trusts, New Labour’s seduction of public institutions into unsustainable PFI schemes was a case of too much carrot and not enough stick.

For the public/private relationship to work, government must be more robust in their scrutiny of contract tendering. This must happen before GP commissioning takes hold and the concept of ‘any willing provider’ (competitive tendering) is realised. The government must be responsible for its contracts and not be afraid to usher in a new era of government intervention.


The real reason we don’t have a Warsi-religious state

In by Kit, Pope my ride, Zeitgeist on February 19, 2012 at 13:16

A lot of the back-and-forth this week between secularists, religious fear mongerers and non-denominational commentators has missed the point. The reason that religion is not a big issue in this country is that that is the way people like it.

The vomit inducing speech Baroness Warsi gave this week (followed by an equally putrid pat on the back by the Pope), which was somehow perfectly timed to coincide by the High Court’s ruling regarding prayer in council meetings, has taken what is an undeniably latent, yet unimportant, issue and blown it out of all proportions. Some of the rhetoric this week following this stomach-turning has made the Republican primary God-off sound more like the battle to be crowned Radio 2s Folk Artist of the Year.

It is easy to charge straight in and attack the hypocritical nature of Warsi’s and other’s arguments that modern British secularism is both militant and intolerant. However I think this misses the point. It is impossible to have a rationale debate with religious fundamentalists. That is why I think the research released by the Richard Dawkins Foundation this week is so important.

Dawkins has been relentlessly jeered at and ridiculed by the anti-thinking press this week for his failure to immediately recall the full title of ‘The Origin of Species’. In fact he did, admittedly after a few stutterings, recount the full title of the book.

Instead of focussing on an obnoxious attempt to undermine the secularist movement, by portraying one man as its ultimate defender, and challenging him in the way Dale Winton would challenge someone to recount what was in their shopping trolley, we should be acknowledging the research and allowing the research to do what proper research should do: catalyse a period of self-reflection. I believe we should analyse why we are so het-up about being a Christian nation when in fact beneath the surface we are not.

We are not a Christian nation not because of militant secularism or because a nurse is not allowed to wear a cross on rounds, it is because we are a forward thinking free country which has evolved on its own, without help from secularists, from the stranglehold of religion.

I feel it is this fact which irritates and annoys religious protagonists most. The majority of people in this country have found and developed their own way to live and run their lives without religious interference. Furthermore people have found that they have managed to avoid raping, murdering and stealing from their neighbour without an espousal of so-called religious virtues every Sunday. Those wishing to portray secularists as hostile brainwashers should consider the fact that the driving force behind secularism in this country has not been secularists or scientists or a single man who wanted to ban prayer in council meetings (not because he was selfish and intolerant but for the fact that he holds a public office and therefore rightly believes that the principle of neutrality should underpin all public meetings, not for the benefit of him but for the benefit of all). Secularism has been championed in this country not by the aforementioned accused parties but by the free democratic principles that British society is based upon. No single person or group can change that whether they are religious or not.