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A privatised shambles

Employment Minister Mark Hoban can manipulate his figures for as long as he wants to portray his Work Programme as a glowing success, but he's wasting his and our time.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban can manipulate his figures for as long as he wants to portray his Work Programme as a glowing success, but he's wasting his and our time.

A programme that delivers a proper job to a measly 4 per cent of participants after a year on the scheme is a failure and does not merit ministerial praise as "significantly improving."

The Work Programme has in year two of the scheme found sustained employment for just 17 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds even though the Department for Work and Pensions estimated that, left to their own devices, 30 per cent would be able to do so.

Similar negative results apply for workers aged 25 and over, those coming off employment support allowance and, worst of all, disabled workers.

The cruel, short-sighted policy of shutting down Remploy factories - imposed by both Con-Dem and new Labour governments - has prevented growing numbers of disabled people from earning their own living.

Further, the disproportionate effect of the bedroom tax on the disabled exposes the bogus claims made during last year's successful Paralympic games in London.

By any standards, the government's flagship employment policy is a failure in terms of finding people proper jobs.

But it can be adjudged a rip-roaring success for its capacity to channel public funds to the Tories and Liberal Democrats' corporate pals who are making a financial killing as private providers of a more expensive and less effective service than public jobcentres.

It is shameful that the government can find £5 billion to fund this privatised shambles that owes more to private-is-best dogma than any sober assessment of the scheme's merits.

PCS union leader Mark Serwotka's call for the Work Programme's immediate scrapping and for this vital service to be taken back in-house to the jobcentres is incontrovertible.

The unemployed, especially our million jobless young people, deserve better than to be hapless pawns on a privateer's balance sheet.


Superfast scandal

Advocates of privatisation, especially the sell-off of public monopolies, justify their preference by the need for consumer choice.

How much choice is involved in the tender process to provide a rural superfast broadband programme when every single contract is awarded to BT?

The scandal unveiled by the Commons public accounts committee (PAC), which privileges the private company formerly known as state provider British Telecom, confirms that such natural monopolies ought to remain in the public sector - otherwise they simply exchange public monopoly status for private.

Public monopolies can, without rigorous democratic accountability, develop an element of inefficiency because of an absence of competition, but dangers associated with private monopolies are much more serious.

The bottom line of private companies is corporate profit, linked to managerial bonuses and shareholder dividends.

This is not due to individual wickedness of those running these companies. It is simply the nature of the beast.

The PAC has a track record of rooting out data and drawing credible conclusions. For government and BT to declare that the committee has got its facts completely wrong takes some believing.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey's assertion that the government only hands over cash to BT towards its planned £1.2bn investment subsidy when the company sends an invoice does not provide real oversight.

BT must be compelled to come clean over its real costs before it receives any more public money.


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