Tuesday 24 July 2012

Letter 76: Anonymous commanding officer writes to Phil Hammond about G4S and Armed Forces strategy.

'Dear Dave, 
Three days to go and it was good to hear Jeremy Hunt says that the standard of the G4S security operation has improved markedly over the last week - though not so much that he feels he can leave them without the support of a further 1200 of our Armed Forces. He's right when he says it's important not to take any chances with security, but I wonder how it makes those soldiers and parents feel holding protests today against your cuts to the Army. They were staging small, dignified protests in Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff and Southampton, I heard. I couldn't begin to imagine how they feel, but I bet the officer who wrote this anonymously to Phillip Hammond (read out on The World This Weekend 14.07.12) probably does:

"Dear Secretary of State,
As a commanding officer, one week ago I had to explain to my people the cuts introduced by the Army 2020 and a future with 30,000 reservists that everyone knows will not work. In my tenure as commander, I have also had to explain redundancy tranches and an accelerated drawdown from Afghanistan that everyone thinks is a recipe for disaster. 
This week my people will learn that they must give up leave to cover the Olympics. They all know they won't get it back regardless of what you may tell the press. They will be living on camp beds without proper washing facilities, because wholly predictably G4S didn't get it's act together. So my question is this: will we ever see real strategy for the Armed Forces, rather than continuous cost cutting dressed up for the press as strategy? Our people deserve more than hollow platitudes."

What do you think?

With best wishes, etc'

Thursday 19 July 2012

Letter 75: On the wrong track about rail, employment & infrastructure

"Dear Dave,
Yippee!" I thought. Listening to the news has been such hard going recently, I was relieved hear about your plans for our transport system. How brilliant - a £9 billion package of spending, involving extensive electrification, creating a world class rail network. Nearly enough to distract me from the IMF downgrading the forecast for UK growth. Nearly - but not quite. To be fair, it was quite hard to feel upbeat when I realised that we've been downgraded more than any other developed nation. What does it mean exactly, the IMF forecasting growth at just 0.2%? That Ed Balls is telling the truth? Your economic plan has failed and the cuts are too much, too fast? Or that he's right when he says the recession means that borrowing is now going up? 
I consoled myself with the promise of the "electric spine" you unveiled on Monday, but began to feel quite shortchanged when it became obvious that:
a) Half the package is new schemes, many of which will not start until at least 2014.
b) Passengers get to pay for the overhaul. 
Have you thought it through? By increasing ticket costs won't you be pricing poorer people off the railways and shouldn't you really be making the shareholders pay for infrastructure? 

I decided to keep on looking till I found a good news story and then, along it came: the announcement that this morning employment has risen by one hundred and eighty one thousand - marvellous! But hold on, I spoke too soon; by noon I'd read an article in The Telegraph which leads me to believe that those figures are skewed. They include people on Government supported training schemes, newly (desperately) self-employed and those doing unpaid work. No boom, just figures massaged and I'm left feeling cross and shortchanged all over again. So, I've decided to give George and Danny's launch of their infrastructure plan a miss, as I'm not sure I can cope with the disappointment.
Yours, with best wishes, etc"

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Letter 74: G4S and A4e, private sector profit over professionalism?

"Dear Dave,
When a story is in the news every day it's got to be mentioned, however much Jeremy Hunt thinks we should move on, don't you think? I'm sorry there's no picture, but I was concerned that were I to draw anything relating to the biggest sporting event in the UK, (nay the world!) this year, L---- might come after me and have my hamstrings for garters.
So, cutting corners it is. And isn't that exactly why this story exists in the first place? A classic example of profit over professionalism. You might have missed Channel 4 News on Monday, but the copy of a G4S memo to managers dated 29 June talking of "just in time phasing of recruitment" is pretty damning. Remember when we were told market disciplines would make public services better? Firstly A4e and now G4S, seem to have put a lie to that, wouldn't you say? Did see William Waldegrave's opinion in The Times? Here's just a snippet: "Quite a lot of people who believe it is a given that private companies are always more efficient than the public services have never worked in real private enterprise. .... Private good, public bad just is not true. It is at best, a draw. What matters is the way that organisation is run"

With best wishes, etc

P.S. Just before you go, check out the G4S website. I kid you not, in May, G4S won the most coveted corporate employer award at this year's Recruiter's Awards for Excellence!"

Thursday 5 July 2012

Letter 73: LIBOR 2012: Casino Banking 1 Treasury Select Committee 0 (1-0)

"Dear Dave,
So. Rigging LIBOR, what a mess, hey? I'm shocked that you are still resisting the best way to investigate. Do you really understand the depth of public concern and anger? This isn't about one man, chairman or bank. I've heard this scandal described as a global issue, so how can a parliamentary inquiry be satisfactory? There's a widely held feeling, not just amongst Labour politicians and the public but also within financial services sector, that any inquiry has to be beyond reproach, so it seems better to expose matters to proper scrutiny in a judge led inquiry. Just watching George's partisan behaviour over the past few days has been enough to undermine any confidence in the ability of MPs to rise above the Chancellor's playing politics. It was bizarre to see him attempting to spin that Labour has more than you to lose by a public inquiry. I had no idea he cared about the Opposition so much! Maybe he should be more concerned about voters realising how much the Tory party regularly receives in donations from the City, or that people may have seen the story in the Independent on Sunday about top Tories being dragged into the scandal? Surely you both understand that it's become even more important to have absolute transparency, now we see that all political parties and many banks (including the Bank of England) might be implicated

I understand. It's hard for you that Ed Miliband could be right, but his request for a two part inquiry seems really sensible. After all, when Mr Diamond came before the Treasury Select committee today, what did we learn? That unless politicians are able to work as a team, very little. The MPs arrived with their own agendas and nothing seemed to touch Bob; despite a thin apology, he accepted neither complicity nor incompetence. And what of Barclay's Board? You need to hold them to better account than we witnessed this afternoon, or Ed's words at PMQs today might come to haunt you. Voters might well think that you are more interested in Party rather than National interests.And for the second time Ed will be remembered as the politician most willing to challenge corruption in an industry we all need to trust.
With best wishes, etc"