Posts Tagged ‘G4s’
At long last the growing season is underway. In our case the delay caused by months of rain and ice is merely a setback for our hobby, but for British farmers the situation is a grave one. Unless the government finds a way to offer temporary support many will go to the wall. Crop failure, combined with supermarkets paying below cost for milk, will soon see us reliant on imported products. The stakes here are even higher than the prices we will soon be paying for steaks, if ministers continue to waffle.
On the allotments we are at last able to plant our early, already late, potatoes and onions. Cabbage and lettuce seedlings are appearing in the greenhouses, so all is now well in our little world. Not really. We realise that one species has enjoyed the surfeit of wet stuff, our old adversary the slug is almost certainly preparing gleefully for an all out assault. Little Albert and his big bucket filled with salty water, will soon be in action!
We can at least be sure of one thing. If come the autumn our green crops have a skeletal appearance our pal will not be blaming it on someone, or something, else. When it comes to dealing with the slimy ones the buck stops here.
We codgers are in danger of becoming a unique, and ultimately extinct, species for the old concept of accepting responsibility for one’s own failings seems to be passing into history. At the highest level we now see constant examples of passing the buck. Ministers such as Jeremy Hunt fire aides who foul up without even remotely considering the idea that they carry the ultimate responsibility. At the other end of the social scale we regualrly meet able-bodied people who make no effort to help themselves and, without so much as a blush, see their problems as belonging to those that do.
Nowhere is this new malaise more evident than in the much lauded private sector. The security giant G4S is a classic example. Its abysmal performance at the Olympic Games forced the government to draft in the military at the eleventh hour, and chief executive Nick Buckles appeared before MPs to tell them that he regretted ever signing the contract. As foul-ups go this was up there with the charge of the Light Brigade.
But far from losing his job Mr Buckles is set to receive a pay package of £4.5 million. John Connolly, the chairman of G4S brought in after the ill-fated ISS bid – an attempt at taking over a major rival – and the Olympics fiasco, yesterday announced that the board had decided Buckles should remain in his role. “There has been no significant shortcoming in his performance, nor any serious failures directly attributable to him” he said in the annual report.
It leaves us wondering how the new national modus operandi would work in the event that we still had a navy. In days past the ship’s captain would automatically face court martial should his ship run aground, or suffer any other man-made failure. Presumably unless his hands were actually on the tiller, he would now be excused all blame.
This may all seem a quibble by old guys dreaming of a rosier past. But we believe that once you take away the concept of absolute responsibilty you destroy the sense if it. When we were taken by surprise by the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands Defence Minister Nott resigned even though he clearly wasn’t directly to blame. Fast forward to now and you have the spectacle of Tony Blair telling Ed Miliband how to behave. Iraq? Not me Guv!
Football is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but it does get one thing right. Team fails, manager goes!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” He’s passed from rising star to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever!”…Michael Foot on David Steel 28/3/1979 (Hanzard)
My obsession with TV programmes covering the natural world is, I suspect, down to the constant evidence that many animals are a good deal cleverer than man. It provides a sound rebuttal of my inclination to believe that they are all as dim as motorway lights on a foggy night, a conviction based solely on my daily experience of chickens. Intelligent they are not. Every day they enact the same ritual when Albert heaves out the coop-trays containing enough hens-muck to fertilise a field. As if on cue up to a dozen hens leap up on to the tray and proceed to frantically scratch off the contents on to the wee man’s head, at which point he hurls the tray and its passengers to the ground. Day after day, year after year, the creatures enact the same ritual. Stupiod they may be, but at least they are not boring.
Which is more than can be said for Ian Duncan Smith. Watching TV coverage of the Commons has taught me that he can empty the house faster than the hens empty Albert’s trays. Yesterday he was at the despatch box banging on about the plan to cap rises in most benefits. The gist of the argument was “It’s all your fault”. The Tories blamed Labour for leaving the deficit. Labour blamed the Tories for neglecting growth. That was just about all I gleaned for when IDS performs I find myself switching off faster that our electric kettle.
He is obsessed with detail, he is awash with statistics. He reminds me of a friend who knows far too much about his chosen topic so you avoid raising it. If he was a trainspotter one would be ill advised to welcome him by asking if he had enjoyed a pleasant journey. By the time he had told you that he travelled on an EMU, Class 378 Electrostar of Capital Connect, adding that it was a three-car rather than a four-car configuration, you would tear your head off in boredom. The only thing of substance I gleaned was that the minister with the polished head believes that Gorgeous George has dropped the party in the brown stuff with his stuff about people sleeping all day behind drawn curtains.
We shouldn’t be surprised given that politicians at large seemed to have descended into the Brian Rix school of comedy. Today the Telegraph devotes half of its front page – the other half is of course devoted to Clare Balding’s sexuality – to the revelation that a report revealing that the coalition has missed 70 of its election pledges was witheld by our dear leader for fear of blunting the appeal of his latest double act with Nick Clegg.
But even higher up the lunacy scale comes this morning’s announcement that the probation service is to be privatised. It seems that from 2015 the rehabilitation of offenders is to be placed in the hands of the private sector. The arrangement is likely to be based on the current arrangement in London where G4S, the heroes of the Olympics, deliver a ‘community payback’ scheme.
But how can this possibly work? It is a classic example of a conflict of interest. The service provider earns its profit from the amount of work undertaken, yet is charged with recommending just how long any individual should continue to receive it. That apart one has to ask how it can be that costs are reduced by contracting a service out given that the contractor marks up the cost to provide an attactive profit margin.
The answer currently being given by ministers is that contractors pay lower wages. The may be reasonable in the case of parking, or routine security, but in the case of probation work it sounds extremely dangerous. As we saw at the Olympics companies such as G4S tend to recruit late in the day to minimise costs and regard a full day’s training as extravagent. Will someone hired in a mass recruitment on a Thursday be ready by the following Monday to carefully oversee the rehabilitation of someone probably a good deal more streetwise that him or her? Will someone thankful for employment on the minimum wage be of the calibre required to train others in the art of law abiding behaviour?
The previous government set the ball rolling on privatisation, this one seems to regard it as the solution to very problem. Any day now expect to hear that G4S is taking over what remains of the armed forces. Battles to be fought will be subject to an attendance bonus for those regularly turning up.
Of course advocates of a shrinking state will point to the benefits we have gained from the privatisation of water, gas and electricity. I dare not ask what these are for fear that IDS will undertake the explanation!
THOUGHTS FOR DRIVERS; “The quickest way to make a red light turn green is to try to find something in the glove compartment”….Billy Connolly “What about those cars with red balls on the aerials so you can spot your car in a car park. I think all cars should have them!”….Homer Simpson “I was pulled over by a cop for running a stop sign. He said; ‘Didn’t you see the stop sign?’ I said; “Sure, but I don’t believe everything I read”……Steven Wright “I heard that most accidents happen with five miles of home, so I’ve moved ten miles away”…….Jenny Abrams ” The slowest drivers in the world are those who are getting out of the parking space you want to get into”…..Miles Kington “A motorist is a person who after seeing a serious wreck, drives carefully for several blocks”…..Jane Pickens “Sods Law; the guy you just beat out of a prime parking spot is the one you have to see when you arrive early for a job interview”……Cal Robinson “What do I think of Volkswagens? I’ve been in bigger women”…Harry Kurnitz
Miracles do happen! We did our hen-cleaning in bright autumn sunshine this morning. The allotments paths were carpeted with golden leaves and the Schizostylis (Kaffir Lilies) provided a background of massed red flowers. Even the hens seemed content to wander the site rather than attempt to stage the great escape. So all is well in our little world.
Not quite. We have become increasingly bothered by the approaching elections for police commissioners, and this morning our concern at the prospect of the service becoming politicised was replaced by a far greater worry. There are reasons to believe that what is happening may be rather more sinister than that. A miniscule turn-out could enable people bent on privatising the police to achieve their dream.
Take Lincolnshire as an example. The dreaded G4S has recently taken over key functions at the force, including its custody suites, central control room and firearms licensing. G4S also plans a new central police station in a village outside Lincoln, withe the existing city centre station closed and sold for housing. Those who recognise the danger to justice of any private concern, employing unqualified or vetted staff, taking over policing have tended to comfort themselves with the thought that a police commissioner would at least put a stop to the rapidly escalating transfer of social control and security reaching the hands of incompetent and, possibly, corrupt hands.
They have probably based this hope on the emergence of a high-profile candidate who describes himself as an “independent”, opposed to “party politics” in policing. Mervyn Barrett has flooded Lincolnshire with expensive leaflets, free DVDs and full-page newspaper ads. He has employed professional campaign staff, commissioned weekly opinion polls, opened “field offices” and is driven around in a chauffered Mercedes. He has spoken out in support of G4S saying that the existing deal is “working well” and attacking opponents who, he argues, are “playing politics”.
Mr Barret has declined to say who is funding his extraordinarily expensive campaign. We now know that it has been run by a US-based neo-conservative think-tank, the Fund for the New American Century. It has been funded to a large degree by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in public-private sector privatisation. Under a loophole in Electoral Commission rules independent candidates do not have to publish details of their donors until after the election. By that time Mr Barrett expects to have spent £100,000.
When the story broke the entire campaign team mysteriously resigned. So what happens next is anyone’s guess but David Bowles, one of Mr Barret’s opponents, claims that he was approached by people with “an interest in police privatisation” to discuss a deal with the reward of his becoming Mr Barrett’s deputy. He declined, and warns that his contacts said that the organisation backing Mr Barrett is also backing other Police Commissioner candidates supportive of private ownership of the police.
There are enough indisputable facts here to create grave misgivings. Yes we all know that the police have not performed well in recent times. But incompetence is one thing, private owners with police powers another. Maybe we are paranoid in reflecting on stories of US forces acting for gangsters, but you know what they say about paranoia. Just because you are paranoid it doesn’t follow that no one is out to get you!
Sadly the much-lauded scheme has all the makings of yet another coalition cock-up. Few will bother to vote, the majority of those that do may well be acting for, or misled by, vested interests with a very sinister agenda.
The revelation has at least achieved one thing. The thought of bothering to vote hadn’t entered our ancient heads given our distrust of all politicians. We now realise that the so-called “independent” candidates are even less desirable than bumbling local councillors. We will vote.
Expect little attention to this greatest ever threat to the British justice system by our MPs. They will be busy this morning reflecting on the latest press revelations about their abuse of first-class rail and air tickets!
Corruption rules. We prefer that the police still offer hope that it doesn’t embrace the whole establishment!
It is time for a rethink on the allotments. We codgers have to do what football mangers constantly talk about, we have to ‘regroup’. To be more precise we have to find an alternative to gravel, mountains of which we have heaped on muddy hen-runs. If we carry on as we are the hens will soon be looking down on us, an unfortunate development since they provide the last example of creatures physically inferior to eighty-year-olds. Perhaps the threatened drought will save us, then again it came from Michael Fish.
But we are not the only ones being obliged to rethink strategy. Yesterday the leader of Cornwall council was ousted by his fellow Conservatives when he tried to push through a £300m sell-off of all council services to the private sector. The revolt was triggered by an independent councillor, Bob Egerton, who said that handing over public services to a private company results in “decisions not being made for the local tax-payer but for the company”. He added;”Look at the rail franchises. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that the private sector doesn’t necessarily do things better than the public sector. It wasn’t the council that caused the financial crisis, it was the bankers, and the councils are having to bail them out”.
Other councillors pointed to the toxic mix of public service and private profit. Many admitted that they have no plan B but stressed that “if we are heading toward a cliff edge it is not our job to reprogramme the GPS with a new route, but “to stop the car”. And stop it they did, Conservative councillors toppled their leader.
Without doubt the G4S Olympics debacle and the growing privatisation of the NHS are causing many lifelong advocates of privatisation to change their view. The private sector excels in areas such as retailing where customers have an alternative and have to be wooed via good service and competitive pricing. It is a disaster when granted control of a monopoly whose users have Hobson’s Choice. It inevitably exploits this by employing the minimum of staff, paid at the lowest possible rates. The Cornish plan was for a 10 to 15 year contract, it would have been a secure monopoly.
A government spokesman admitted yesterday that there is now a “certain amount of scepticism around”, in regard to hiving off essential services which leave elected representatives impotent. The idea of transferring all services to one private provider has already been put forward in Southampton, Bury and Brighton and the result was disaster for the Conservatives. Voters dumped them at the first opportunity, favouring Labour or, in the case of Brighton, the Green Party.
Arguably the biggest worry of all is the near inevitability of any profitable private company being taken over by an even bigger, and therefore more remote, one. An easy example is the M6 toll road. This is owned by Midland Expressway Ltd (MEL). This in turn is owned by the Macquarie Motorways Group Ltd. Now that is owned by Macquarie Atlas Roads International Ltd of Bermuda. The identity of its investors, and therefore of the owners of MEL, remain a mystery. We only know that over six yers the ultimate owners made a return on investment of 150% per year.
Another example is Arqiva, a private sector monopoly which runs all the transmission services for all UK terrestrial TV broadcasts and for BBC radio, owns two of the four digital multiplexes, supplies the government with mobile and wireless communications, and supplies 75% of all police forces. It receives over £1 billion per year but has paid no corporation tax for four years. It too is based in Bermuda.
The list goes on and on. In effect public monopolistic servces are being contracted to unknown owners, who receive large amounts of public money and pay no taxes. Even worse the task of actually complaining to those who really pull the strings is near impossible.
Small wonder that people like Simon Hughes are crying enough is enough. To date the government has tended to ignore Lib Dems such as him and Labour leaders, whose party under Blair created many of these giant rip-offs. But now Conservatives at the sharp end are crying foul and the political momentum for change is growing.
The day is fast approaching when the idea of privatising services that the public have to buy, or rely on, will be seen as wasteful and inefficient. Cornwall yesterday said no, they will be the first of many, for we cannot go on pouring public money into remote private pockets for uncaring and incompetent services!
Meantime, we still don’t know what to do about our gravel!
A beautiful morning on the allotments. Blue skies, sunshine lighting up the late-flowering ‘Kaffa Lilies’, the swans and their rapidly maturing signets sailing silkily across the pond – of such rare days are dreams made. The chickens appeared to be having a mass meeting, we retired unhurriedly to the shed to have ours. Lots of praise for the series of BBC2 programmes by Huw Edwards on the turbulent history of Wales, a place never far from our thoughts when blue skies induce a spell of nostalgia.
One aspect of the series that struck me was the sense of historical passage and unending change. Things that seemed crucial at one point slowly faded and were replaced by something new. As with all history, one is left wondering why people worry given that some years down the line the issue will no longer matter one jot. But clearly some developments matter more than others given their power to change the course of destiny.
All of which led us to identify current activities unlikely to change anything, but which occupy great angst and effort. The favourite that emerged was the series of annual party conferences. Each year the various political parties expend a great deal of cash and time on staging extravagent events at which the leaders preach to the converted, whilst the rest of the nation yawns. This year has been no different from any other.
The Lib Dems kicked off the series. Nick Clegg abused the Labour Party and used all his showbiz talent to demonstrate that he also abhors the Tories. Then came Labour. Ed Miliband surprised everyone with his personal performance, but the gist of it was that you can’t trust the Tories. Now our dear leader is about to round it all off by arguing, as only posh boys can, that Labour cannot be trusted. In a way they are all spot-on since most of us trust none of them!
But nothing ever comes of any of it for there is only one aim, power at any cost. We need less yap and more action. Honesty? Nah! We decided this morning to make our dear leader an offer. We will take as read his loquacious attack on Ed Miliband, thus leaving him time to say what he intends to do about issues that, if left unresolved, could indeed be history-changers.
Clearly the economy is number one. No point in giving us the usual guff about the present Osborne policy being right, results tell us that it is anything but. No point either in speaking in strident tones of no turning back. As we have seen even in the past week, the government regularly gets things wrong, and regularly turns turtle. Ask Richard Branson!
But we will leave such mighty matters to the financial wizards who, to judge by their demeanour, do not include Gorgeous George as one of their own. We venture to point to a couple of typical ‘smaller’ issues that would seem to justify our dear leader taking time off from competing with mad Boris or yearning for a Rebekah Brooks shindig.
Something has to be done to end the Human Rights farce. The latest in a long list of outrages centres on a Romanian woman jailed for her role in a multi-million-pound benefits fraud. Lovinia Olmazu helped a gang funnel £2.9 million in false benefits claims to 170 Romanian gypsies. She was jailed for two years, meaning she should have been deported automatically. The Home Office believed it was appropriate or her 12-year-old son to return with her because he is Romanian-born. However, once again the courts have decided that deportation would infringe huamn rights and she is to stay. Tory MPs have yet again demanded a new UK Borders Act.
The other ‘minor’ issue we would like to see addressed is overseas aid. Everyone surely supports the concept of helping the needy wherever they may be, but our ever increasing budget is not being used in such a way. This blog has regularly given chapter and verse on fortunes poured into projects already awash with cash. Today we have further examples of large amounts of taxpayer’s money being presented to China, Iran and India.
Britian is the fourth biggest world wide donor to the World Bank, an organisation set up to lend money to poorer countries on interest-free terms. That is not what it actually does. This week it has advanced £30 million to China for a Confucius culteral heritage project. It has advanced £50 million to Iran for a road safety campaign, and £122,000 to India for the development of ‘reality radio’.
We would also like to hear an explanation for the continued refusal to allow the people a voice in the matter of Europe. Clegg and Miliband conveniently forgot to mention it and our dear leader will talk of the next election being a referendum. As a fob-off that is down in Division Two.
Short of Boris being caught in a compromising situation with Theresa May we shall not return to the subject of party conferences again. Next year, when the whole pointless circus begins all over again, we will doubtless again ask about the economy, overseas aid and human rights.
Membership of all three parties is plumbing new depths so it may by then be necessary for the spin-doctors to rent a crowd from G4S. Meantime we can only quote from the late, great, Eric Morecambe.