A system run for fat cats

July 31, 2008

Yesterday, British Gas announced the biggest ever increase in domestic gas prices – a staggering 35% hike. Electricity bills are set to rise by 9%.

Phil Bentley, Managing Director of British Gas, is reported as saying, ‘We very much regret that we have had to make this decision at a time when many household budgets are already under pressure’.

Maybe he doesn’t regret it quite as much as he suggests. Centrica, parent company of British Gas, announced its profits today. Centrica is already making £5 million a day – over £1 billion a year. The price hike will send profits soaring even higher. The maths around this are quite simple. Around 16 million gas customers pay a load more money; British Gas share holders get to be a whole load richer.

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$217 million an hour

July 30, 2008

Last year Health Secretary Alan Johnson approved 14 private companies to advise primary care trusts on local health needs. The approved list includes the US ‘big four’ health care companies Aetna, Health Dialog Services, Humana and United Health. After the National Policy Forum’s commitment to continue with privatising the commissioning of NHS services, it’s worth looking at what the future might be if Johnson, Miliband, and Brown get their way.

Americans pay $217 million per hour for their healthcare. That’s almost $2,000 billion a year, 16% of the United States’ GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Much of that money passes through the ‘big four’.

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Business leaders confirm Brown made no concessions to Unions

July 29, 2008

An article in today’s Financial Times confirms that the Unions got virtually no concessions from Brown at last weekend’s Labour Party Policy Forum in Warwick. The article points out the the Union leaderships’ 130 demands were virtually ignored. Big business was happy with the outcome:

Gordon Brown was on Monday praised by business for resisting “the worst” union demands on policy, but urged to stand his ground in the run-up to this autumn’s politically charged party conference season. Read the rest of this entry »

Union leaders capitulate on NHS privatisation

July 28, 2008

A couple of days ago I wrote that the Labour Party’s Policy Forum in Warwick last weekend should be the opportunity for our unions to demand that the Government changed direction. What better time – after Brown’s defeat in Glasgow East and given that unions now provide 90% of the Labour Party’s finance – to get a commitment that Government will deliver on our members’ aspirations?

The unions went in with something like 130 demands. The Guardian published some of them. I don’t have much more detail, because the list of policy issues to be raised at the Forum were not fully presented to the Unite Executive. But what the demands represented was the absolute bare minimum one might have expected from a Labour Government, given a Labour Party that is so dependent on union money.

What did we get? We’re now seeing the spin, of course. The Tory press is claiming that “Weakened Gordon Brown gives in to union demands”. The truth seems very, very different.

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Re-branding the NHS

July 27, 2008

An interesting story appeared in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. It appears that Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, has ordered a ‘re-branding of the NHS’. Advertising agencies will be able to bid for the work this Autumn according to the report.

Why re-brand? The NHS is probably the best loved institution in the country, despite Labour’s frantic drive to dismantle it.

The challenge posed by Johnson, though, is that the NHS brand needs to ‘better reflect the diversity of its services’.  My guess is that this is ‘New Labour speak’ meaning ‘to better reflect the diversity of service providers’.

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The CBI says ‘Jump’; Brown says ‘How high?’

July 27, 2008

This story is a bit complicated, but worth following. I worked this one out while doing some reading around Lord Darzi’s proposals for the NHS, in preparation for a union meeting. Thanks also to Dr Rant for pointers to the Hollick-Alliance Boots connection.

During the course of Darzi’s review, he met with the CBI, and with an enormous number of private sector companies hoping to make a load of money out of the NHS. One of the companies he met was Alliance Boots (popularly known still as ‘Boots the Chemists’).

The involvement of both the CBI and Alliance Boots is significant, and highlights the role of the private sector in making healthcare policy.

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Brown’s defeat – our opportunity

July 26, 2008

The Glasgow East by-election result was a disaster for Gordon Brown. Thousands of ordinary people decided that they had enough of a Government that told them the solution to soaring food prices was to ‘not waste food’. How many of those thousands were NHS or other public sector workers facing pay cuts forced through by this Government? One commentator accurately described the ‘hatred’ of Labour. Voters in Glasgow East were no longer willing to accept a Government that seems to be in bed with the bosses, but couldn’t care less about the rest of us.

It’s bizarre, but Brown just doesn’t get it.  Immediately after the humiliating Glasgow defeat, in his speech to the Labour Party Policy Forum in Warwick, Brown boasted there would be no return to ‘Old Labour’ policies and values. You start to wonder if Gordon Brown’s in the pay of the Tories. There’s never been much difference policy-wise, but he’s now doing everything he possibly can to make sure Labour loses the next general election.

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