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Friday, 12 July 2013 00:00

Rotten to the core

On Wednesday Lib Dem viper Vince Cable was pontificating about the mystical properties of the private-sector leeches that he claimed would deliver Royal Mail to the promised land.

Today his threadbare defence of the privatisation of one of the last, effective bastions of common ownership was torn to shreds by two stories that give the lie to the sickening grovelling to big business and finance capital by our current political class.

Serco and G4S, outsourcing firms feted by conservatives and their Blairite bedfollows, both stand accused of corrupt practices of the kind that would be condemned from the rooftops by this ideologically blinkered government had they been perpetrated by the public sector.

In Cornwall health privatiser Serco - one sector among the many which helped it boost profits by 27 per cent last year - was caught red-handed cooking the books to mask dangerous staff shortages in its creaky, cut-price out-of-hours GP service.

And not just once. It lied 252 times.

But not content with stealing our cash for a sub-standard health service in the south-west, it also stands accused of leeching tens of millions by lying again - this time charging us to tag and "monitor" imaginary prisoners.

Predictably, returning like a dog to vomit, Olympic failure G4S joined Serco as a contender for gold medal in shafting the people through this rotten stitch-up.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, whose members face wholesale privatisation by such sterling examples of failure, rightly stated that it "beggars belief" that despite all the evidence for the prosecution, our politicians persist in hacking off chunks of the public sector and handing them over to these vultures.

Or perhaps this is being a little too mean-spirited.

After all, these penny-pinching firms probably literally didn't know whether the prisoners they were "monitoring" were dead, non-existent or had even left the country.

And why should they care, so long as we keep on signing the cheques?

But it would be wrong to single out Serco and G4S as a pair of bad apples.

They represent a tinpot philosophy that is rotten to the core.

Like crazed cocaine addicts, outsourcing firms snort up taxpayer-funded contracts with promises of efficiency, then proceed to ramp up costs to generate profits while slashing staffing to the bone and cutting corners wherever they can.

What's more they hide, Wizard-of-Oz-like, behind the curtain of commercial confidentiality and a sprinkle of gagging clauses slapped on ex-employees.

They may be emptying our pockets, but Britain's wholly inadequate freedom of information laws allow them to do so in complete secrecy.

As a result they're protected from from the kind of snarling Daily Mail-style assaults inflicted on all that remains commonly owned.

These most recent scandals only came to light through whistleblowers and a costly audit.

How many other tales of abuse, corruption and outright theft of public money lurk behind this curtain?

It's high time the mask of secrecy was ripped off and the ugly face of this outsourcing con was revealed.

Then we can get to work creating the decent public services and decent public-sector jobs that Britain so desperately needs.

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