Friday 25 September 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
When is a scam not a scam? When it’s government privatisation, silly. George Osborne sells us the idea that privatisation is more efficient, cheaper and provides better service, he might even believe it, but if so he does so because he wilfully avoids anything that might upset his rather touching belief.
The point of universal public services is that they are provided regardless of whether they are cost effective in a business sense or not, this applies particularly to rural communities. Utilities like water, gas, electricity, postal, phone and internet services and especially transport services are inevitably more costly (or less likely to pay for themselves) to provide in remote areas than in densely populated areas and that is right and as it should be, there’s just no way round it unless one wilfully chooses to abandon such areas, as private companies do.
But there is another reason why privatisation in a scam. Much of our privatised rail network is, in reality state owned, it’s just that those states are foreign states and they are making a tidy profit at our expense. Holland, Germany and France each draw substantial profits from Britain’s rail network into their state coffers.
Water, the stuff of life, is now widely privatised in England and yet Scottish Water, wholly publicly owned, provides cheaper water than any and all the privatised companies in England and Wales, despite have invested heavily to improve it, which private companies are extremely reluctant to do unless compelled.
In 2014, the Public Services Research Unit reviewed public and private sector efficiencies and found “The results are remarkably consistent across all sectors and all forms of privatisation: there is no empirical evidence that the private sector is intrinsically more efficient.”
Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) remain, probably, the biggest scam of all, haemorrhaging public money into private hands and a major factor in what is crippling our NHS. About the only way we could be worse off is if we’d gone to Wonga. This national swindle was started by John Major, but has been pursued be every government since, putting every man, woman and child in in the UK in debt to the grand tune of £3,400. On a capital value of £54.7bn, we’re ultimately paying back £301bn, a mere 550% in extortion charges. That is, by any sane or insane standard imaginable, a rip off.
There is just no good reason for privatisation of the state other than an ideological one to put our public money and the state into private hands. It’s a grand scam, but then that’s the Tory way.