Privatisation feature

no more sell offs

More money for worse services

* Privatisation means huge amounts of money wasted on consultants' fees.

In the case of Lisburn library the fees that were charged were more than what it cost to build the new library.

* Privatisation means higher prices for consumers.

Take the case of the sale of Northern Ireland's power stations in the 1990s. At that time the new owners were given a purchase guarantee, basically that what they produced would be bought at a minimum guaranteed price. The market price of electricity then fell so a "competition transition" charge was brought in. Consumers today are still paying this surcharge which amounts to an extra 50 million per year in profit for the private companies, paid for out of all our pockets.

* Privatisation often means companies suing the Government Departments for breach of contract on quite spurious grounds.

Take the case of the Ministry of Defence who were sued by one company over a contract to build military bases. The company's case was that the ceasefires here meant that they were no longer being asked to supply mortar proof walls as originally agreed. They won 15 million in compensation.

* Privatisation also leads to corners being cut and shoddy work.

The 30 million Laganside courthouse in Belfast, which opened in January 2002, was a prestigious PFI project. Among the companies involved in the consortium which built it was Jarvis, of British Rail infamy, who are now bidding to take over schools and who have a finger in many privatisation pies. The consortium is paid 3.6 million a year for building and maintaining the premises. There have been problems with the provision of services in the new building and so far, in its short life, it has sprung 11 leaks, including one which was described in a National Audit Office report as "major".

Car park profiteers The scandal of the Royal Victoria car park is a very clear example of the rip off that is privatisation. This was one of Northern Ireland's first Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes and has resulted in the private company concerned making a killing at the expense of the health service.

The 20 year contract to run the car park was given to Car Park Services, a local company set up in 1986. In 1997 it spent 2 million to develop the car park. Over the next five years the RVH paid it back 2.2 million out of health funds in subsidies. On top of this it got the money from direct charges.

In 2002 it made an annual surplus of 574,000. Of this it paid a mere 15,000 back to the Royal. It is now estimated that the company will make around 7 million profit over the term of the contract, while the RVH will get just 195,000.

There is no justification for this profiteering at the expense of the health service. Car Park Services should be booted out and any money earned from the hospital car park should go directly into RVH funds.

Campaigning to Stop water charges

THERE IS no justification for the introduction of water charges. Despite earlier denials, the Government has been forced to admit that we already pay for our water through the regional rate. A new charge would mean that we would have to pay for it .

By Terry McDonagh

Yet, despite the fact that the charge is opposed by the vast majority of people here the Government are still intent on bringing it in from April 2006.

New Labour says we should be paying the same taxes as people in Britain where there is a water charge and the Council tax. They forget that wages here are substantially lower and prices of essentials are much higher. A quarter of N.I. households live on less than 97 per week while more than 50% live on less than 250 per week. 37.4% of children are growing up in households which fall below the poverty threshold. Having said that, working class people in Britain shouldn't have to pay for water either! People here cannot afford to pay an additional 400, possibly 600, for water. We need a massive campaign to defeat this charge.

Many political parties and pressure groups have pledged their opposition to the water tax. A Coalition Against Water Charges has been set up by the trade unions and the Socialist Party is affiliated to this body.

But a propaganda campaign alone will not be enough to force the government to withdraw this proposal. The way to defeat it is to build a mass non-payment campaign. If tens of thousands of people make clear that they will refuse to pay this tax, and if non-payment is put into effect if and when it comes in, it can go the way of Thatcher's Poll Tax and be dropped.

The Socialist Party have launched the "We Won't Pay Campaign" to prepare for and organise non-payment. Already successful meetings have been held in a number of areas and regular street stalls are now being organised in the communities. As the clock ticks towards the implementation date this activity will be stepped up. To get involved in building the "We Won't Pay Campaign" in your area, phone: 90232962.

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This article is from the March 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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