The Private Sector Shows How it’s Done

The emerging scandal of Edinburgh schools built under a PPP contract shines a light on the workings of the private sector. For years we have been told about the inefficiency of the public sector and how the private sector can get things done. It was far better to have things like schools and hospitals built and managed by businesses rather than local authorities.

Now with 7000 pupils put out of schools for an ‘indefinite period’ we can see just how business works. The schools are fine until it gets really windy then all bets are off. The wall collapse at Oxgangs primary school not only opened the school to the elements but opened business practice to full public view.

Businesses are all about making money, as much as possible. If that means cutting corners and putting children’s education and future prospects at risk, well that’s a small price to pay, especially as it’s not the businesses that pay it.

I wonder if the contracts allow the local authority, the ones left with the mess to clear up, to sue the businesses involved. Who is going to pay for the remedial work required? Who is going to pay the costs of providing alternative arrangements for the seven thousand pupils displaced?

If it comes back to bite the business involved then I suppose they can always go bankrupt and leave the mess to someone else – the public sector.

Housing Crisis?


Wow! That’s what I call a housing crisis

There has been much said about the current housing crisis in the UK. We are not building enough houses for the people who need a place to live. I know it is difficult to find a decent house and even more difficult to find one at an affordable price. I was amazed to read about the flat in London that sold for £140,000,000 last week. Ah, London, how absurd I thought.

Today as I was returning to the car park in Glasgow I spotted a property for rent. As you can see from the picture it is a little down. It is, in fact, underground. It is a disused gentleman’s urinal and toilet. I had noticed that this public convenience was closed some time ago. I wondered why. Is there a glut of public conveniences in Glasgow? Have they been crowding the betting shops out of the main thoroughfares? Now the place is up to let (although it is down in the ground).

Who is going to rent an old toilet? It is convenient (pardon the pun) for all amenities, shops, stations, churches and pubs.Do we really expect someone to go down and live there? I’ve heard of people living in the gutter but this is lower even than that. No doubt the estate agents will point out the amenities like running water, plumbing and no long stairway to climb up at the end of a long, tiring day. You could literally fall into it.

Perhaps it could be converted into a Bijoux betting shop or theme pub? Where more appropriate for P###ing away your hard earned cash?

In Praise of League Tables

When I was a teacher I despised League Tables. I thought they distorted the curriculum and moved focus away from the needs of the children to the fetishes of the politicians. Today I have to reconsider.

I still think that school league tables are, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a disaster. A recent article in the Independent, however, has shown me that they can have real value in highlighting real problems.

This article

UK most unequal country in the West

shows us that we ar sliding down the league table of equality.  According to Geoffrey Lean and Graham Ball the gap between rich and poor in the Uk is as great as that in Nigeria. The poor in the UK have an overall better income than the poor in Nigeria but the gap is similar.

We come below Jamaca, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and are twice as bad as Sri Lanka or Ethiopia. That’s a depressing picture, but does it constitute a problem?

Well Michael Bruno of the World Bank believes that inequality hinders growth. Reducing inequality would boost growth. We have a government that claims to be trying to boost growth. They are simultaneously increasing inequality.

Now, either the government do not know what thy are doing and our growth is being restricted by incompetence or they are perfectly aware of the consequences and still plough ahead with policies that boost the rich and depress the poor.

Which do you think it is?

Loyalty Melts Away – Both Ways?

English: Cadbury Wharf, Knighton, Staffordshir...

English: Cadbury Wharf, Knighton, Staffordshire This building and the wharf were operated by Cadbury’s between 1911 and 1961 to process locally collected milk and produce “chocolate crumb” which was transported to Cadbury’s in Bourneville (Birmingham) along the Shropshire Union Canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an interesting article on the Telegraph Website by Rosa Silverman about Cadbury cutting out a traditional Christmas gift to members of its Pension scheme. For years the pensioners have recieved a Christmas gift of a small parcel of chocolate. The company says it has to stop to plug a hole in the pension fund.

The cost of the gifts is about £210,000 and the gap is thought to be £320,000,000. By my calculation that will take 1524 years to plug. The UK President of the holding company Mondelez, Maurizio Brusadelli says they have to cut costs. Interestingly, Maurizio has had a pay increase from £14,400,000 to £18,900,000 a 31.5% rise.

When the company was simply Cadbury there was a sense of tradition and loyalty between company and workers. The company had built a model town for the workers, Bourneville, and was a fine example of Victorian philanthropy.

The loyalty extended to the customers who tended to stick with Cadbury despite the rising competition. I remember my uncle Matt who, late in life, emigrated to California. He had regular parcells sent out from Scotland containing unobtainables such as ‘Cherry Blossom’ shoe polish and Cadbury’s chocolate.

Loyalty seems to have hit the skids with the takeover by Mondelez. The chocolate bare are changing. As a long time consumer I noticed a change in the taste and constituency of the old brand. I contacted the company who assured me that nothing had changed.

Now I am not one to protest at change. Change can be a good thing. Companies can change their products to cope with changing markets. The danger coes when your customer base is tied to the traditions and history of the company. Customers may see change as a good thing. Ther are other brands of chocolate out there and once customers feel that something new is the order of the day they may just find that new taste somewhere else.

When the company makes it plain that they want shot of the oldies then the oldie customers mught just shuffle off to anothe brand. I’m sure Mondelez would agree that’s a good thing too.