TONY BLAIR claims the government will protect the jobs and conditions of workers in PFI privatisation schemes. He should tell that to the health workers at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. They are to be axed even before the flagship PFI hospital opens.
Tony Blair visited the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary less than a fortnight ago. He toured the new building and posed for photographs. Days later news leaked out that over 200 staff at the new hospital are to lose their jobs before a single patient has even moved in.
Some 19 top doctors and 17 specialist nurses are to go, and a host of other vital jobs from cleaning to catering. The hospital was built under a private finance deal involving the Bank of Scotland, BICC and Morrison Construction. They will lease the £210 million hospital to the NHS for 25 years, making a profit of at least £30 million a year.
But the building plan ran over budget. The private firms won't have to carry the can for that. Instead health chiefs and the New Labour dominated Scottish Executive have now demanded £5.2 million in cuts.
The cuts will also hit other hospitals in the Lothian NHS Trust. Operations at the trust's Princess Margaret Rose Hospital in Edinburgh were cancelled last week because of a lack of clean scalpels. The sterilisation unit is short of eight staff. Tom Waterson, branch secretary of the trust's UNISON union branch, says, 'We are over 100 domestics down across the trust at the moment. Staff are working at the full limit. We can't take any more.' The PFI madness Blair praises will mean more scandals like that in Edinburgh, and threatens to wreck the health service.
Education white paper
'THE government has declared war on the idea that all our children should get the best education we can offer.' That is how the Guardian's respected journalist Francis Beckett summed up the education white paper.
The paper published last week outlines a shocking drive to turn the clock back to the days of grammar schools and secondary moderns in all but name. It also opens the door to greater privatisation of schools. The government plans to push more secondary schools to become 'specialist schools'.
These schools will be allowed to select a percentage of their pupils on the basis of 'aptitude'. These schools will get more funds than others. Leaving aside the absurd notion that a child's 'aptitude' can be determined at the age of 11, the plan is a recipe for a return to the 11-plus. The government plans are explicit that only a minority, less than 40 percent, of children will go to such specialist schools.
The rest, the majority, will be dumped in the underfunded 60 percent of schools outside this elite layer. The result will be simple, says Beckett. 'When you select, you reject the poor.' New Labour also wants to allow an increase in 'faith' schools. This encourages religious and racial segregation of the kind that has occurred in places like Oldham, and which at its worst is the start of the road which leads to Holy Cross in Belfast.
Spending less than Tories did
NEW LABOUR is planning to spend a smaller proportion of Britain's national income on public services than all the Tory governments did over the 18 years they were in office from 1979.
Analysis of the government's own spending figures, carried out for the Independent, found Labour will spend 40.5 percent of national income on public services between now and 2006. That is below the 44.1 percent of national income that Tory governments managed over the 18 years from 1979 to 1997.