Monday, 22 December 2014

The cost of a privatised Christmas

Dear Jim

Private companies have so much more access to power and influence than you, me and everyone else who relies on public services. It doesn't make it easy to fight for public services for people not profit.

Despite this, 2014 has been a great year in many ways – so let's take a moment to celebrate some of the things we've achieved together:

  • Our Public Service Users Bill – which would push back privatisation and outsourcing – was introduced in parliament with a cross-party Private Members Bill.
  • The Early Day Motion in support of the Bill was signed by 83 MPs and the first council signed up to support the Bill.
  • We revealed new polling to show what the public thinks of outsourcing companies, and held a 'Sick of Serco' demonstration at the company's AGM
  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats both committed to our idea of a right to recall bad private companies
  • Our scorecard 'Privatisation: People vs Politicians' compared public opinion to party policies
  • We drew attention to the 'cost of privatised living' – households spend £250 more on train tickets, water and energy bills because of privatisation
  • We appeared in the media including the Mirror, the FT, the Independent and Sky News, and spoke at numerous events (Labour Party conference, Cooperative Party conference, Children England annual debate and many others)
  • We joined with other campaigns to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and to take a stand against the outrageous government move to privatise child protection (both battles continue..)
Thank you for everything you've done this year. Your actions are what has made this progress possible. Next year, we're going to build on it, taking forward the campaign for a Public Service Users Bill as a first step towards public services for people not profit.

We Own It is a new organisation which has just one part-time member of staff and a team of volunteers. We are too political to be a charity, which makes it hard to get funding. We need your help to make the organisation sustainable. If you believe in what we're doing, can you spare £5 a month to support us?

Thanks again, and we hope you enjoy and might want to share our one minute Christmas video. 
Have a very happy holiday and best wishes for 2015.

Cat and the We Own It team


  1. Like the video. Organisations like this and NHA are the way forward. You can forget about getting real news out of the BBC or real change out of "Blue Labour". My new year resolution will be signing up to the likes of We Own It.

  2. And of course an early xmas present to Serco was the SFO giving them the all clear!
    But on costs? The MoJ don't come out very well.

    1. MINISTERS and civil servants have spent £50million on high-end travel since the Coalition came to power — despite a supposed ban on luxury flights and tickets.

      The bill to the taxpayer includes first-class train tickets, business-class flights and taxis for just 13 of the 21 Whitehall departments.

      The overall cost of luxury travel could be more than £100million.

      In May 2010, when the Coalition came into power, Chancellor George Osborne told mandarins that any department using first-class travel in less than exceptional circumstances would have its budget cut.

      A year later David Cameron also decreed that all air travel should be in economy seats.

      The Prime Minister and his deputy Nick Clegg have made a great show of travelling in standard class.

      But the Sunday Express has learnt that, despite making £81billion of cuts over the past four years, some Whitehall departments are still spending millions of pounds a year on luxury travel.

      Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, condemned the practice last night.

      “The UK has an ever-increasing £1.4trillion credit card bill to pay off,” he said.

      “Those at the top must understand that they have to play their part too.”

      Of the departments that provided figures, the Ministry of Justice has spent the most on luxury travel since 2010.

      Overall, it spent more than £29million on taxis, first-class train fares and business-class flights in the past five years, including £3.6million this year, down from £4.6million last year.

      Its largest bill of £3.1million was for taxis.

      This included the cost of taking prisoners to medical appointments and funerals.

      Justice Minister Mike Penning said the total bill for taxis had been “significantly reduced” over the past five years.

      Overall, the amount spent on luxury travel by the Whitehall departments has fallen by £1million from £8.3million in 2012-13 to £7.3million in 2013-14.

      The information was released in response to a series of Parliamentary questions by Labour MP Lucy Powell.

  3. How do you calculate Sedoxos impact on reducing offending in order to pay them when schemes such as this are in operation?

    1. CRIMINALS will be given the chance to dodge court as part of a "world first" initiative by Durham Constabulary.

      The Checkpoint scheme will offer those charged with offences usually dealt with by magistrates - including shoplifting, theft, low-level assault and fraud - to avoid a criminal conviction by making amends to the community and their victims.

      The restorative justice approach is at the heart of Checkpoint - due to be launched across County Durham and Darlington in April 2015.

      Advocates say the pioneering scheme will cut reoffending rates, save taxpayers £135m over ten years and free-up meagre police resources.

      Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg predicts it will face "pockets of resistance" from the public and some police officers but insists it is not "soft justice".

      “This is about preventing crime – it’s the right thing to do as it benefits the individual and the wider community," he said.

      "At the heart of this is the individual and a lot of individuals commit crime because of the situation they find themselves in.

      “If we can take them away from crime, make their lives better and have them contribute to society, that’s reason enough to do it.”

      However, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, who is also shadow minister for prisons and probation, warned: “Initiatives such as this must be introduced with extreme caution. Low level crimes still have victims and victims must not be left feeling that justice has not been done.

      "The police need to be careful that use of Checkpoint doesn't grow to include inappropriate crimes, that they can't be accused of using the scheme to enhance statistics and that victims are properly consulted."

      The initiative, developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, will see those committing 'low-level' crimes given the chance to swap a conviction for a four-month long Checkpoint contract.

      In what Mr Hogg calls a "world-first", offenders will be graded into three 'risk' categories - red, amber and green - and a contract drawn up to reflect their individual circumstances.

      In it offenders will agree:

      * Not to re-offend

      * To interact with victims and the community to help them understand the impact of their crimes

      * Tackle the reasons behind their criminal activity and work with services to overcome such issues as substance misuse, domestic abuse, homelessness and relationship problems

      * Engage in work to give something back, develop skills and boost self-esteem

      Each offender will be supervised by a skilled 'navigator' during the four-month period and they face prosecution if the contract is broken.

      A similar, smaller scale project in the West Midlands saw around 75 per cent of offenders comply, the majority of which did not re-offend.

      Finer details of the multi-agency programme – including its cost and confirmed partners – remain under negotiation but supporters believe Checkpoint will alleviate pressure on the criminal justice system.


    1. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has missionary zeal in his promotion of employee-owned companies and mutuals as the way to run future public services.

      It is a tenet of Maude’s faith that mutual or joint venture companies – run by their staff – save money, produce better results and provide more flexible public services than “red-blooded commercial for-profit” companies.

      Maude said recently that almost all public services, including hospitals and fire services, could be handed over to mutual companies owned by employers and other non-state bodies. This is part of government plans to cut public services by a further £20bn and shrink the state back to the size it was in the 1930s.

      Back in 2010, Maude forecast that by 2015, one million staff would have moved from the public sector into mutuals. In fact, fewer than 35,000 people work in 100 public service mutuals. Maybe on 1 January 2015 the remaining 965,000 public servants will switch. It seems unlikely.

      But this isn’t just a numbers game. Maude’s belief that mutuals are not just cheaper, but better than the state at delivering services is undermined by what has happened to the payment of civil service pensions since September. That’s when MyCSP, the flagship project for mutualisation and the biggest single mutual so far spun out of government, took over paying pensions to former civil servants.

      There were problems almost immediately but it took a while for them to surface. By November, though, many former civil servants were furious at their inability to find out what was happening, as payments were delayed and they could get no adequate explanation.

      Many pensioners, in both the UK and abroad, have since contacted Guardian Public Leaders in frustration at what they describe as a nonchalant attitude and the failure of MyCSP to provide explanations for delays in payments. Almost all of them express sympathy for the frontline staff at the company, who are generally seen as committed and caring, but without the tools or information they need to do their jobs properly.

      Others are less generous. One online commenter on the French expatriate website where overseas pensioners have been talking about MyCSP says replacing traditional civil servants – who had training, commitment and honesty – with private sector staff was a disgrace.

      This debate isn’t just about central government. In the wake of savage cuts to local government funding, many councils are desperate to find different ways to deliver services. Northamptonshire has said that all its services, including child protection, and those for the elderly will be hived off into staff-run mutual companies, social enterprises or private firms. An authority that now employs 4,000 staff would, by 2020, employ just 150.

      Many will be watching this “right-sourcing” carefully. Mutuals may offer many benefits, but the case of MyCSP proves that they are no magic answer to the problem of downsizing public services.

  5. Run by their staff for the profits of the shareholders and the CEO aint a mutual. Run by their staff for the benefit of their staff and their community, that's a mutual.