Socialist Worker

Smart contractors line up for £12 billion gas meter bonanza

Issue No. 2359

Going up, going down graphic

Notorious security firm G4S could soon be brought into every home in Britain, thanks to a new government mega-contract.

Bidding is underway for the mass rollout of “smart” gas meters, due to begin in 2015. Ministers expect this to take five years and cost £12 billion, but it’s exactly the kind of project that always ends up making a mockery of budgets and deadlines.

And, of course, it’s started a feeding frenzy for the juicy government fees. G4S is up against Capita to take over managing the project. After they did such a good job of security at the Olympics, we just know that’ll end well.

There are other contracts for IT and telecoms firms to work themselves into a bidding frenzy over. It’s been described as “the largest technology project in Europe, bar none”.

Why is it such a mammoth task to do something as simple as measure how much energy we use?

Well, it isn’t—in any other country. Britain’s energy network has been so intensively privatised and deregulated that it’s hideously complicated. Too bad the Tories’ only solution is to give more public money to private firms.


Drug companies have been caught plotting to rip off the NHS.

Sales reps from firms including Temag, Quantum and Pharmarama International were recorded by journalists posing as investors in a fake new high street chemist.

They planned to double the charges on 20,000 “special” drugs that are not covered by NHS price rules, and split the extra profit with chemists. 

Tory health minister Jeremy Hunt said the apparent racket was “deeply concerning”.

But the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act has put big chunks of the NHS in the hands of private companies like United Health and Hospital Corporation of America.

They know a thing or two about fraud—having fraudulently claimed billions from the US government.


Football fans united

Fans of rival football teams are not generally known for getting over their differences. But a new TV deal has seen them turning their chants against a common enemy—the owners.

Fans of 40 teams, including well known friends, Liverpool and Man Utd, marched on the Premier League last week. Bosses got £5.5 billion from a deal with Sky Sports but are still hiking up ticket prices.


Rough sleeping in London rises under Boris

More than twice as many people are sleeping rough on the streets of London than when Tory Boris Johnson first became mayor and pledged to end the crisis.

The official count reached 6,437 last year. 

That’s up 13 percent from the year before. Charities blame benefit cuts, soaring rents and hostel closures. 


The racist rumour that fooled the net

Whoever let the truth get in the way of “going viral”?

An “attack” on 12 year old Phoebe Gibbons in Bolton last week led to a report in the local paper, a police investigation—and posts on the English Defence League’s pages online.

It was fuelled by reports blaming a gang of immigrants.

But no attack ever happened. Phoebe had simply fallen off her bike.

Her mum said the take up of the attack story was “scary”.

“I am utterly shocked at how wrong these people were,” she said. “They’ve taken rumours and spun it into fact and others have swallowed it hook, line and sinker”.


The Labour Party has convinced itself that voters hate immigration.

But a poll by YouGov showed how easy it is to change minds.

One person in six opposed to immigration was swayed when shown a set of figures on how migrants help the economy.

Just imagine the effect if Labour stopped pandering to racism.

Bored at work? You’re not alone

Seven workers in ten are “not engaged” in their work according to US pollsters Gallup.

Millions are “actively disengaged”—in other words, they positively despise their job.

And three out of four workers in Britain wish they’d chosen different careers.

As more people work longer, on worse conditions and for less money, this seems easy enough to explain.

But who are the other three who don’t hate their jobs?


Try a little happiness

Remember David Cameron’s plan to measure “the nation’s happiness”?

Well the results are in—and the years of our working lives are the most miserable.

The Office for National Statistics says most of us are on a “downward trend” from our teens to late middle age, only to bounce back when it’s time to retire.

Maybe Tory plans to keep pushing back the retirement age will turn off that light at the end of the tunnel.


Bored at work? You’re not alone

Seven workers in ten are “not engaged” in their work according to US pollsters Gallup.

Millions are “actively disengaged”—in other words, they positively despise their job.

And three out of four workers in Britain wish they’d chosen different careers.

As more people work longer, on worse conditions and for less money, this seems easy enough to explain.

But who are the other three who don’t hate their jobs?


Cut in half! Pay cuts for the poorest

  • The lowest paid public sector workers will have lost more than half their income between the last election and the next
  • Frozen pay, higher VAT, benefit cuts and higher prices all add up according to research by Unison
  • Thousands of families with children will have lost 20 or 30 percent by 2015
  • But average pay for big bosses went up more than 10 percent last year alone

Hypocrisy is just the job

We agree with Labour MP Hazel Blears that unpaid internships are a “modern day scandal” to campaign against.

Maybe she could start by campaigning against herself.

Blears runs Kids With Connections—a “speed dating” scheme to match unemployed youngsters with unpaid placements.

She said one event was so “fantastic” that firms such as Fujitsu went away with more unpaid workers than they’d come for.

Yep, Hazel. Fantastic!


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The Troublemaker
Tue 25 Jun 2013, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2359
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