Letters: Doubts over Whitehall sell-off

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, May 2nd, 2013

Share

The drive to move public services off the Treasury books and into the private sector might help the private sector employment statistics, but where is the evidence that it will improve public services?

To take one example from your article “The great Civil Service sell-off” (1 May), the Land Registry has cut fees to the public consistently over the past 20 years, returned a profit to the Treasury and maintains a 97 per cent customer satisfaction level. How many privatised services – gas, rail, electricity etc – can point to such a record?

The FDA, the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, believes there is a strong case for reforming the Civil Service – this is why the FDA launched a plan for Civil Service reform in Parliament last week – but reform should not mean the incremental transfer of public services to the private sector with little or no future public accountability.

As government services is one of the few sectors of the economy that actually generates positive GDP results, while UK economic growth remains in a parlous state, employees and the public alike will look for a compelling justification for mutualising, privatising or otherwise transferring government services out of the Civil Service.

Naomi Cooke, FDA Assistant General Secretary, London SE1

 

We welcome the Government’s interest in mutualisation and the possible benefits it might bring to parts of the public sector and the Civil Service. The “nudge unit” will understand the motivational power of staff owning their own enterprise. It is the right place to start.

We are clear though, that the current proposals – if they only require 25 per cent staff ownership – will not necessarily result in true mutuals. Mutuals need to set be up as having a controlling stake held by the members – whether staff or users – rather than outside investors, alongside the values and principles that will be shared with the best public services.

Our hope, if these proposals do go ahead, is that the new mutuals will follow a path that eventually makes them more mutual and gives the employees a greater stake in the business. Evidence shows that bottom-up rather than top-down structures often work better in the long run.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General,  Co-operatives UK, Manchester

 

A vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour

The only result of thousands of Tories voting for a Ukip candidate, in the county elections, or at a general election, will be the return of a Labour candidate, and a Labour-controlled county council, or a Labour government.

My standard of living is still suffering from what Gordon Brown did to it, and I don’t want to see him, or his like, returned to power ever again. However, if that is what those so-called Tories want, then why not have the courage to vote Labour, instead of making Ukip the scapegoat, and still ruin life for the rest of us?

No amount of voting Ukip is going to give them the boost that they badly want, an MP at Westminster. Nigel Farage is only an MEP because of the ridiculous PR system wished on us by the EU.

Alan Carcas, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

 

Ukip proposes to put major planning applications to local vote (“Selling Points: Ukip’s manifesto”, 1 May). Since most communities can be expected to reject large housing developments, let alone waste disposal sites, prisons or power stations, perhaps Ukip could explain by what mechanism they will be able to ensure we have the infrastructure we need.

Jonathan Wallace, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

Twisted minds of the bombers

Looking at the pictures of the six men who plotted to bomb an English Defence League rally (1 May) I find it incomprehensible how these British-born Islamists could reconcile themselves any longer with living under the reign of the Queen they denounce as infidel. Their rightful home is obviously in the desert of Arabia, where they would find the inspiration to slaughter fellow Muslims in Muslim lands, as is happening in Mesopotamia, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

These British youth were not born with such a dead look in their eyes and murderous hatred of their fellow citizens in their hearts. It is imperative that the leadership of mosques in Britain is held accountable for their ideological and financial links with the heart of darkness that rules over the two holy sites in Arabia. Only then will we be safe from the atrocities of these twisted minds.

M A Qavi, London SE3

 

Means-tested pensioner ‘perks’

Is it possible that one of the politicians, from any party, proposing to withdraw, reduce or means-test so-called pensioner perks could come clean and be more specific as to how they would do this?

Are they suggesting that the benefits be withdrawn from pensioners with an income above a particular figure, or will they be fully means-tested? In the latter case, I would imagine that this means that those with savings above a specified threshold would lose their perks even if they have low incomes – that would mean a penalty for those who have been prudent enough to put a little money by in anticipation of their retirement.

If savings are to be taken into account, then those who will be affected should be told now, so that they can make suitable arrangements to dispose of their ill-gotten gains before it’s too late.

R P Wallen, Nottingham

 

Although I am a pensioner I am unimpressed by the hysterical and groundless attempts to label Iain Duncan Smith as my enemy following his comments on bus passes.

The suggestion that better-off pensioners should voluntarily give up their free bus travel is simply another expression of the logical and ethical idea that entitlement does not equal need and therefore benefits should not automatically be taken.

However, that is not to say that the complicated web of age-related benefits does not need reform. It is insane that the Government takes a slice of my pension in tax and recycles a small portion to me in winter fuel payments.

Roger Earp, Bexhill, East Sussex

 

Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Bichard are not going far enough in their attempts to make pensioners do something extra, over and above a lifetime of work and contributions, in return for their lavish state pension of £110 a week. Surely, after cremation, dead pensioners, finished off by this government’s policies, could be declared fit to work by Atos, and encouraged by the Coalition to do a short stint in an egg-timer? Purely voluntarily, of course.

Steve Rudd, Huddersfield

 

Scotland’s quixotic colony

Two of your correspondents (30 April) object to Dominic Lawson’s description of the role of the Darien Scheme in the 1707 Act of Union, stating that “the English American colonies refused to help Scots at Darien when the latter were dying” and “Scotland’s attempts to set up a trading colony were thwarted by the English and I believe Spain”.

The scheme was almost certainly doomed to failure from the beginning. It was never supported by the King of Scotland, William II (William III of England), declaring himself “ill-served” by his northern kingdom’s decision. The colony was established in land which William recognised as being part of the Spanish Empire.

William was understandably opposed to any action which could alienate Spain, given the delicate European diplomatic situation between the Nine Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession. The location chosen for the colony was spectacularly ill-suited to European settlement, with Fort Saint Andrew sited in a malarial swamp in what to this day is one of the least densely populated regions of Panama.

The high loss of life among the Darien settlers was unfortunate, but hardly unprecedented for a late 17th-century colonial settlement; and peace with Spain was understandably a much higher priority for William’s English and Dutch governments than supporting a quixotic colony which could have sparked a European war had he given it his full backing.

That the Spanish expelled the surviving Scots two years after the foundation of Fort Saint Andrew can have surprised few people.

Dr Alasdair Brooks, Teaching Fellow in Historical Archaeology, University of Leicester

 

Don’t blame Primark

Much of the coverage of the Rana Plaza collapse has focused on clothing chains who purchased from companies located there. It would be good to see more focus on the main factor underlying this disaster – how was it possible to build or extend a structurally unsound eight-storey complex with the approval, acquiescence or connivance of the authorities in Dhaka?

Some deeper investigative journalism should lead to pressure on the government of Bangladesh to tackle the root causes of disasters of this type. Shots at Primark miss the target.

Paul Rex, South Warnborough, Hampshire

 

Thatcher’s image

Now that Thatcher, in name and image, has virtually disappeared from your pages, may I offer my heartfelt thanks to your cartoonists, Dave Brown and Grizelda, who have kept me sane throughout these past weeks. Dave Brown, as ever the deflator of huge egos, but especially Grizelda managed to put her finger precisely on the pulse. The depiction of a sorrowful nurse offering a patient a bag containing Margaret Thatcher’s heart kept me chuckling for the rest of the day.  

John Scase, Andover, Hampshire

 

My homework

You asked a student and a headteacher for their views on homework (25 April). Not surprisingly the student was against, the headteacher for. But if you had asked a teacher, like myself, you would have realised that homework is not a burden on some students as they copy and not a burden on headteachers because they don’t teach much. I personally think homework is good, but wish I didn’t have to mark it!

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

 

Flower sanctuary

May I join the snakeshead fritillary competition? We have over 120 blooms in our orchard from 12 bulbs planted some years ago. Anyone with a bit of meadow or orchard can help to increase the stock of these beautiful flowers – just remember to mow after the seed has set.

Faith Davis, Roydon, Essex

 

Irritation

Tautology and split infinitives litter the pages of the press. I tell myself that if the content is clear they are unimportant,  but I don’t hear myself, and continue to be irritated.

Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home