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ARE Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling really so ignorant of why more trains were cancelled or late earlier this year that they need an “independent” review?
Failing Grayling’s announcement today has nothing to do with a fact-finding exercise.
It is an effort to postpone serious action to tackle the chaos into which Britain’s railways were thrown by the disastrous decision taken in 1995 by unlamented Tory prime minister John Major’s government to break up and privatise the network.
His initiative was born of two motivations — being in the vanguard of European Union plans to split national rail networks and introduce compulsory tendering for services and identifying an opportunity to enrich the Tories’ friends in the City.
The EU Commission has pressed ahead with its competition-based plans in the Fourth Railway Package to complete a single market for rail services across all EU countries, but public opinion in Britain has moved decisively against privatisation.
Britain’s voters have seen the EU future and they know it doesn’t work in the interests of passengers or rail workers.
Grayling and other rail privatisation zealots pretend that this year’s problems on Britain’s railways centred on how franchises were awarded, their length and assorted other minutiae.
But, as Labour now agrees, after years under New Labour leadership of falling in behind the private-is-best spell, the system itself is at fault.
Labour has caught up with public opinion in recognising that the rail network should be a public service, not a means of self-enrichment for a relatively small number of institutional and individual shareholders, including national rail companies based on other EU states.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash’s declaration that the £50 billion of public finance filched by the privateers could have been used for more broadly beneficial investment in modernised infrastructure and fleet, safe staffing, reliability and affordable fares is unanswerable.
No credibility should be given to Grayling’s tinpot review. His department’s blinkered view is clear from its statement that privatisation has transformed the railways, doubled passenger numbers and delivered more services, extra investment and new trains.
None of this was achieved by private investment. It was dependent on record state subsidies.
Enough of government lies, excuses and jam-tomorrow fairy stories. End privatisation and bring the entire network back into public ownership.
Local government’s woes are no accident
ENFORCED cuts in local authority spending by slashing the government block grant were dressed up as encouraging greater efficiency by council leaders.
The reality, however, has been a continuous reduction in provision of essential services to the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
The Local Government Association prediction that councils across Britain will have lost about 77 per cent of their budget by the 2020 local elections lays bare the savagery of the Tory onslaught against those least able to withstand it.
Council housing, social care, pensioners’ lunch clubs, libraries, parks and gardens, street cleaning — services that either serve as a safety net or help make daily life more civilised — have been choked out of existence.
This is no accident. The Tories resent public funds being spent to mitigate the effects of their policies.
The main problem with the Councils Against Austerity letter urging the government to “recognise the catastrophic impact” austerity has had on local councils is the absence of any spirit of resistance.
How long will it be before a Labour council takes up Chris Williamson’s proposal to use its power to vary council tax rise percentages by placing a greater burden on the most valuable properties?
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