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PRIVATE EFFICIENCY?

The present government like others before them present a case for the privatisation of the public services, (usually implying that the private sector is more efficient). Another tactic is to tell workers they only need to get on their bikes and find an employer out there who can't find the local necessary labour.

This item from the Building Workers' summer magazine illustrates that the contractual nature of privately run capitalist society has its inefficiencies.

Privatisation gone mad in the Probation Service

Millions of pounds are being wasted by the National Probation Service (NPS) because of incompetent building maintenance contracts, says a report published in January by Napo, the probation officers' union.

Two years ago NPS's National Offender Management Service maintenance contracts were centralised and privatised. The union's report cites numerous examples of contractors travelling hundreds of miles to fulfil simple tasks where previously the job would have been done locally. Among the examples are:

·        A hostel in Norwich needed a toilet seat repairing and a plumber travelled from Birmingham to do the job. This was a round trip of 320 miles.

·        Staff in Winchester needed strip lighting changing. The electrician came from Wembley which was a round trip of over 15O miles.

·        A hostel needed an electrical switch mending and a new cover to an entrance light and an electrician travelled to the West Midlands from Newmarket, a two-and-a-half hour drive each way and a round trip of over 200 miles.

·        Workers travelled from London to Wrexham to fit a new bathroom in a hostel.

·        Electricians from Manchester travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to change light fittings.

·        Other staff report that the window cleaners in Leicester came from Preston and were involved in an overnight stay before going on to Lincoln for the next job. This involved over seven hours of travelling.

Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo, said it was clear that millions were being wasted on incompetent maintenance contracts. "It is now costing four to five times more than it did when contractors were hired from round the corner. This is the price of centralisation and privatisation."

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