Monday, 15 November 2010

Asset sales, privatisation and the Tory agenda

The Coalition government is a coalition in name only, it is pursuing a Tory agenda. That agenda is the same as it has been for 30 years: an attempt to roll back the post-war settlement - removing welfare rights and cutting public services.

While most of the attention and opprobrium has rightly been aimed at the £80 billion of cuts announced by George Osborne in the Comprehensive Spending Review, there has not been enough attention and analysis of the privatisation agenda.

The level of privatisation already announced are mind-boggling, both in their scale and economic ineptitude. The CSR announced the intention privatise the Royal Mail, the Tote, Royal Mint, Ordnance Survey and air traffic control. Of course this agenda is not new, and in fact is most a regurgitation of what New Labour announced in the 2009 Budget (which LEAP rightly condemned).

These aren't referred to as privatisations, but as "asset sales", but why would a country in debt, according to Osborne on the "brink of bankruptcy", sell off revenue generating assets? Each of the Royal Mail, the Tote, Royal Mint and Ordnance Survey generate income for the Exchequer - vital in closing the deficit and paying off the debt.

But, as Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket used to say, "c'mere, there's more": under the radar there's a huge swathe of privatisation planned for the NHS (as this wonderful video shows), for education (through 'free schools') and in welfare delivery where nearly 10,000 Jobcentre workers are set to lose their jobs and more jobcentres close to fund the private sector to deliver workfare programmes.

The Morning Star also features on its front page this morning a new report from the influential ResPublica think-tank which calls for "the government to privatise swathes of hospitals, schools and libraries". It is, as the Star titles it, "The Ultimate sell-off"

As I told the Star, the Tories plan is "to relieve the state of the burden of providing high-quality services". But that is only one side of the story - the other is that they wish to transfer publicly funded assets to the private sector.

We should never forget, privatisation is the redistribution of wealth from the public to the private; from communities to shareholders. It increases inequality by removing access to services from the poorest and by increasing the wealth of the richest.

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