Whilst the media is all consumed with whether Gordon Brown is about to risk a Labour Government with an unnecessary election, government policy rolls on as usual.For those who supported Brown because they thought that there would be a change in direction two largely unnoticed stories of the policy roll out under Brown remind us that the business of New Labour neo liberal politics goes on as normal.
Yesterday RMT published an analysis of the tax avoidance being used to boost the profits of the privatised railway companies. The research exposed that the private rail industry profits from £1.3 billion in unpaid tax and that these companies are using deferred-tax loopholes to fund a leap in dividends to their shareholders. RMT revealed that nearly half of the £1.5 billion in dividends paid out in the last five years by nine private train operators and rolling-stock companies has been funded by unpaid tax, according to a detailed analysis for RMT by tax expert Richard Murphy of Tax Research.
Richard Murphy confirmed that almost £1.3 billion of deferred tax is owed by the biggest six train-operating companies (Tocs) and the three rolling-stock leasing companies (Roscos) - but this is tax that will most likely never be paid, and is effectively a hidden subsidy that dramatically increases cash profit levels.The report shows that the nine companies declared profits almost doubled from £435 million in 2002 to £810 million in 2006, but their declared tax charges remained almost constant at about £190 million a year throughout the period. The declared percentage rate fell from 43 per cent in 2002 to 24 per cent in 2006.
If people were also looking forward to Brown pulling back on the privatisation agenda they will also be disappointed to hear that Alan Johnson has announced this week that £70 billion worth of new contracts for the management and commissioning of NHS services are to be put out to the private sector.What this means in my area is that BUPA is being given half a million pound contract to vet whether a patient really needs the operation at the local hospital that their consultant has recommended. If BUPA says no they get a cut of the money saved from the operation not going ahead. And oh yes, if the patient is unhappy, then there is always a BUPA hospital on hand to offer the operation at a price. UNISON has expresed the union's concerns at this latest round of privatisation and profiteering from the NHS.
Who did the UNISON leadership insist on backing for Labour leader?
Of course, Gordon Brown, the architect of this policy. As someone once said "It's a funny old world." Not so funny though for the patients who will not receive their treatment and the UNISON members whose jobs are being privatised by this latest round of sell offs under Brown.