Even Conservatives are admitting that private is not always better than public when it comes to running things. As William Waldergrave, who was one of Thatcher’s ministers told the Times, people who believe “private companies are always more efficient than the public service have never worked in real private enterprise”.
Yesterday I saw an example for myself. This huge truck (seen from my bedroom window) was parked for more than two hours and I went out to find the reason.
Reason is perhaps not the right word. What was happening was completely unreasonable, and that is not because it was parked on a double yellow line.
This is the story I heard: A driver misjudged parking a car and made a small scratch on the car of a local businessman. As the car was fairly new he decided he should treat it as an insurance claim.
The insurance company said it would deliver a hire car, collect the damaged vehicle, return it when repaired and then collect the hire car.
The truck was there simply to deliver the hire car, a badly scratched Astra. The businessman was fretting that the driver who clipped his car would face a huge bill, not what he intended.
The insurance business that set all this in train was Barclays, who like to sell expensive add-ons to their banking services.
The argument for Ispwich retaining is council-owned bus company (one of only 11 remaining in the country) is well put by Alasdair Ross in his blog today. He cites Hartlepool which sold its municipal bus company and now has no buses after 6pm in the week and no weekend services.
It sounds like an admission that boardroom bonuses cost lives. Network Rail announced today that directors would forego this year’s bonus pool of £20 million and allocated the money to safety improvements at level crossings (Telegraph).
Everyone living in East Anglia, where there is a seemingly constant stream of accidents at crossings, knows that the campaign for safety improvements has been going on for years.
I trust none of the bonus money will be used to pay the fines of up to £1m expected after network rail admitted breaches of the Health and Safety Act for an incident in which two teenage girls died.
Basildon magistrates heard last week (Daily Mirror) that deficiencies in the way Network Rail had gone about risk assessment resulted in the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton (14) and Charlotte Thompson (13) at Elsingham in 2005. A risk assessment from four years before the deaths had been lost, the court heard.
A few days before the case was heard another teenage girl, Katie Littlewood (15) died at a level crossing at Bishop’s Stortford (BBC), less than six miles from Elsingham.
If the directors of Network Rail had put safety before bonuses earlier, Katie might still be alive.
Maybe, company directors are coming to realise the public revulsion at bonuses for simply doing their jobs.
More than 30 Suffolk bus services are to be axed in April as part of the planned halving of the £4.3million public transport subsides. More than 50 routes will have unspecified timetable/route changes and about 15 services will not longer run on evenings and/or Sundays.
The announcement appears as a list published on Friday on the Suffolk on Board website. There is no press release on the subject on the county council website, but on that evidence no press releases have been issued this month.
It is difficult to assess the effect of the cuts without a lot of local knowledge and more information on the timetable/route changes. About 120 routes, mostly run without subsidy, are not affected.
The council seems to have been drip-feeding information in what looks very much like a media management exercise.
On January 3, the East Anglian Daily Times reported “Fears as bus routes face axe“. It said:
Some fairly large market towns like Eye could be left with no buses at all and Halesworth faces being left with just one service.
Then on February 2, the EADT quoted, Guy McGregor, the councillor for transport saying:
This has been a very difficult process and we have tried to be as transparent as possible, but I can say core services will remain and rural areas will be served.
And on February 15, under the headline “Bus services saved in countywide deal” the paper said the service to from Diss to Ipswich, via Eye and Debenham, had been save. It reported:
Bus services to communities across Suffolk are looking more secure after operators were persuaded to run them on a commercial basis.
The list at Suffolk on Board says that, in fact, the service through Eye and Debenham will continue to be subsidised but there will be changes.
Woodbridge, a town of 7,500 people, is to loose all its evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday buses, according to Caroline Page. You can read about that on her blog which led me to explore the website of Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s “minister” — I am fed-up with the term “portfolio holder” which makes people sound like art students — for transport.
His “Suffolk reports” sounded interesting but it was last updated in June last year. At least, the bus services are much more reliable — until they are cut.