Living off the state

No, I’ve not joined the long list of politicians taking a pot shot, for party political advantage, at those who need welfare support to get by. Indeed, as regular readers of this bogsite will know, I’m very much in favour of universal basic income (UBI) to tackle poverty and reliance on benefits once and for all.

This post is actually about companies who get government/public sector money to run public services or provide goods and services which the public sector requires.

That our government is mired in all sorts of controversy regarding contracts being handed out to companies, sometimes without a proper tendering process, seems sadly to be an everyday thing these days. The connections between some MP’s and companies is often rather obvious yet it keeps on happening and there’s no proper/effective scrutiny/remedy to it.

The irony of all this for me is that often the politicians with worrying connections to benefiting companies will stomp about, at elections times in particular, calling for more openness and efficiency in what the UK Government, its agencies and local councils are doing when it comes to spending public money.

My view is that as a country we have lost our way with regard to who gets to do government/public work and how they’re selected to do it. Interestingly, there have been contracts where informed observers have said that the work could well have been done more cost effectively by the civil service/NHS/councils etc. However, huge sums of money get thrown at consultants and companies some of whom don’t have any prior expertise in the work they’re getting contracts to carry out!

The present approach flows from a dislike of ‘big government’ yet often it seems that by reducing the capacity of the public sector the work which can no longer be done ‘in house’ then costs a huge amount more to buy in. Frankly, it makes little sense to me. Surely governments of all colours should want the functions of the public sector to be carried out in the most cost effective way not the most expensive way!

There must be many companies across the UK who significantly rely on public sector contracts to stay afloat, pay their staff and give dividends to their shareholders. My fear is that we have governance by consultants who can always find a way to screw more money out the public sector and the pockets of taxpayers.

I’ve never been a fan of privatisation as I’ve seen too many failures by councils and government. A better way to encourage innovation and efficiency in the public sector would be to limit outsourcing to mutuals, cooperatives and not for profit companies so that the greed to feed off the public purse is very much reduced and hopefully eliminated.

The control of what MP’s and senior public sector employees can be involved in in terms of company directorships and their connections with others who control companies needs to be much tighter too. Anyone who works for the public sector or who is elected to run it needs to be clearly unconnected with suppliers to the public sector. As soon as such connections are established and verified, by a powerful and independent watchdog, the person/s involved should be removed from office. No ifs, no buts, no 2nd chances and no power to veto the outcome by political leaders.

We need to have confidence that our public services are being run efficiently and by people with the expertise to deliver top quality outcomes. Whilst we feel that politician A’s brother/sister or best mate got the contract to do the work we won’t have such confidence and we could well be getting inefficient and costly services which don’t serve our needs. This is not rocket science, it’s about openness and transparency in all that is done with taxpayers money.

And just as I finished this posting what pops up on my Twitter feed but Layla Moran MP saing this – ‘One of the basic pillars of democracy is that taxpayers can see how their money is spent. As private firms continue to land public contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds behind closed doors, people’s trust in Govt is reaching an all-time low.’

Bootle and its debt crisis

Bootle Crest. This version is fixed to the wall of the Council Chamber in Bootle Town Hall.

Bootle Crest. This version is fixed to the wall of the Council Chamber in Bootle Town Hall.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/revealed-true-scale-bootles-debt-12372291

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

Quote from the Echo article – ‘More people are struggling to pay their debts in Bootle than anywhere else in the north west.

New research reveals the scale of the debt crisis facing the town, which has the fifth highest levels of insolvency in Britain’.

Debt must be up there with poor health (indeed it is a significant cause of ill health) as being a blight on the lives of people. Many politicians have tried to fix the position of the poor, because debt and poverty go hand in hand, but still our society has a significant proportion of it where poverty is an everyday thing.

Our welfare system designed by William Beveridge (and tinkered with by government after government) forms the basis of the safety net to assist those with little yet problems of poverty still persist. Maybe it’s time for a new war on poverty as it will always fuel debt.

Here’s what Beveridge was trying to do, all be it in the first half of the last century:-

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Beveridge

Surely poverty is the greatest social challenge to the UK yet no prominent politician has obviously led a campaign to address it in recent times. Indeed, it was not so long ago that senior politicians in the Labour Party were all but falling in behind the Tories in attacking the poor in an attempt to gain votes from the middle classes. And of course even some Liberals (what would Beveridge have thought of them?) were sucked into what almost became a shameful mainstream political movement against those on welfare.

The longer that poverty and causes and consequences of it are political no go areas for major party politicians the more the poor will be exploited by UKIP and the the far right for their own purposes. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee all you supposedly progressive politicians, especially those of you who take far too much notice of the rabid right wing press.

Cameron’s Government is destroying all the good in the UK

I increasingly despair about the present Tory Government. Just look at all the massive down sides of Cameron gaining an overall majority:-

* Social housing to be sold off when there is a huge shortage of affordable rented housing.
* Cutting back on sustainable green initiatives and putting future generations at risk from even greater climate change problems.
* Attacking trade unions who brought about many social advances that we all (including Tories) now take for granted.
* Trying to reduce your and my rights and in doing so making the state less accountable to us all.
* Hitting the most vulnerable in society with massive welfare cuts whilst the official Labour opposition stood back and abstained!.
* Taking food from children in our schools who otherwise may not get a decent meal at home.
* All but ignoring the appalling refugee crisis across Europe

This is an appallingly selfish Tory Government.

Labour – Looks like they will train crash the economy again if they get back in the driving seat!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/general-election-2015-steve-rotheram-9034382

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

The big problem with Labour’s manifesto launch is that it reminds me of New Labour’s days under Blair and Brown – spending up but how’s it going to be paid for with all the guarantees of no tax rises? If people like Rachel Reeves and Harriet Harman are to be listened to could it be on the backs of the poor via huge welfare cuts? Both seem to me to be advocating bigger welfare cuts than the Tories have made so far.

And what about the NHS? Labour have still not guaranteed the £8b that it needs and which the Lib Dems and even, somewhat belatedly, the Tories have put on the table. Having said that the Tories pledge is uncosted so only the Lib Dems have a genuine response to the NHS needs.

Sadly, Labour are looking like the masters of spin that they were when last in government; little substance but a lot of spin. Trouble is they could well crash the economy with uncosted spending and they have already had a go at that hence the mess that we are in now.

Austerity under Labour will be worse than under this Government

One thing I have noticed in recent times is that Labour don’t have the heart to go in for many shouting sessions about the Coalition Government and these days, the odd mumbled derogatory remark about the cuts is about all you hear.

Why is this? Well it’s because Labour councillors know that if Labour wins the next General election it will impose greater cuts in public expenditure than the present Government. It’s hard to rant and rave knowing this.

But only a couple of years ago Labour were condemning all the austerity measures (caused by their mismanagement of the economy and the recession I would add) and saying at a local level how Labour would reverse all the cuts and there would be money left over for just about any cause you could mention. Ed Balls effectively stopped such ludicrous commentary by saying how hard Labour would be in reducing the national deficit that they had done more than their fair share to create.

And I say this now why? Well on Thursday 2nd October I attended a meeting of Merseyside Fire Authority where some very significant savings have to be made involving merging/closing some fire stations to balance the books.

Yes, Labour had their little digs about the Coalition but frankly I got the distinct impression they were going through the motions and their heart was simply not in it. Not once did a Labour member say that come a Labour Government being elected more money would be handed out to stop the savings having to be made.

On the other hand the Fire Brigade Union was singing from the same hymn sheet that Labour lost a while ago. But then again they are genuine socialists who believe in common ownership and the kind of socialist governance of the UK that Labour ditched a couple of generations ago.

You get the impression that Labour still likes to pretend it is a socialist organisation despite it being more capitalist by the day. They like the comradely trappings of the Red Flag but their policies are very much wrapped in a free market flag.

Sefton’s Labour Leader barracked by anti-cuts campaigners

One thing the Labour party can’t be accused of these days is being Socialist, the speeches of Shadow Cabinet members Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves prove that. Labour is openly talking about bigger and deeper welfare cuts if Labour gets re-elected and them sticking to Coalition spending limits etc.

Yet on Council’s such as Sefton the Labour members, or at least a significant number of them, are Socialists and they say they stand for a very different set of values to those the Labour Party very clearly now stands for. The obvious question is how can Labour move forward with such fundamentally opposing views within it? But also, why do true Socialists who are Labour members want to get their party elected when it is openly saying it will do what they abhor?

The Sefton budget meeting last Thursday saw all this in the raw as the Council’s Labour Leader was barracked by Socialists in the public gallery, who have left or maybe were never in the Labour Party and cries of ‘Tories’ were heard ringing out as Peter Dowd proposed the Labour Budget.

I know that Labour is said to be a broad church but frankly how can Labour politicians who propose bigger and deeper welfare cuts sit side by side in the same Party as those who still espouse the the testaments of Militant? Answers on a post card…………………….