Sunday, 17 October 2010

Does Green realise he's arguing against privatisation?

UNISONActive readers will not have missed the irony of Sir Phillip Green advising the government how to save money while quite legally depriving it of the very millions in taxes that could avoid cuts in the first place.

Even Vince Cable and the Daily Mail have spotted this. As Vince told parliament last week, ‘I think he should pay his taxes in the UK.'

But more interesting is the irony in an exchange of views in the Guardian, where the very policies of privatisation, internal markets and failed business models being pursued by the Coalition are exposed as having created the alleged ‘waste’ in the first place.

Ex-civil servants point out that Tory governments (Thatcher then Major) privatised and fragmented the “heavy-hitting centralised buyers, Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) and the Property Services Agency (PSA).”

Now, you do have to guard against Government misusing purchasing power, pushing down contracts unrealistically and forcing poverty pay in the private sector but ex-civil servants Mary Pimm and Nik Wood do have a point in their letter about HMSO and the PSA....

“They had huge contracts to let and knew what they were doing. They got seriously good value. But the suppliers squealed with pain and protest into the receptive ears of governments from Thatcher to Brown and, despite the resistance of the unions, the result was the destruction of exactly the purchasing power and expertise that Philip Green has just discovered to be a good thing”.

The fragmentation of the PSA began in 1988 through to 1993 with individual government departments taking on their own estates management, often duplicating roles.

After steering through the shambles that rail privatisation became, Tory Roger Freeman MP moved on to the HMSO. He told the Commons in 1995, “… the Government plan to privatise HMSO by means of a competitive tender offer. The business will benefit from access to wider markets. Its staff will benefit from the increased security of a thriving business. Customers such as Parliament will benefit from an accountable, commercially enforceable relationship with a supplier well positioned to reduce costs.”

They never learn, do they?

The late Labour MP John Garrett warned Freeman in the Commons, “Does the Minister realise that the proposed privatisation of that successful and profitable public enterprise is pure dogma? It is merely an item of ideology.”

Plus ca change…….

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