Shock, horror, as private company screws over those in need
From the time that the first photo was posted on Twitter yesterday, a storm has erupted across much of the media — both social and mainstream — about the miserly portions sent in a food parcel as part of the free school meals programme. The picture was, indeed, shocking and confirmation was soon pouring in from other households that this was what was being sent out by the private — of course — company handling the distribution of the food. In a great irony, some of this confirmation came from furloughed staff of the company who had received one of the parcels.
The response from the usual suspects on the right to this appalling example of something that combined both greed and heartlessness in a particularly British way was informative. The extreme free-market ideologues saw the company behind the outrage — after exhausting all avenues trying to prove it was poor administration rather than deliberate and planned graft — fell back to the usual position when privatisation of any sort shows its true face. In other words, this was an unfortunate case of one bad apple — or, as many of the recipients of the parcels commented, just two bad apples — and was a rare example of poor oversight. It was, in short, a mistake.
Those on the left, of course, were less inclined to accept that this was something rare, unexpected, or accidental. These inadequate food parcels — and I assume this is not some undeclared war by the Tories on childhood obesity — illustrate what happens when the private sector performs public service. It is almost too perfect an example, with all the right players and the right callous ideological motives. And wonderful visuals and with children as the victims. If anything could put a dent in the mantra that private is best, this could be it. But don’t hold your breath.
It was a simple enough problem to solve. It was decided — no doubt by someone who has never had to feed children for a week on such a sum — that £30 was the amount to be given to parents. The easiest way to deliver this would be to send a voucher, which could be used only for a range of goods. But no, apparently vouchers were open to abuse. Drugs and alcohol — and no doubt porn and televisions and football season tickets — would be sought and acquired by these nefarious poor people. Putting money straight into bank accounts would be even worse. Let’s face it, you can’t trust someone earning less than a living wage to make sure their children have enough to eat.
So, with the recipients properly demonised, neoliberal ideology came to the rescue. Privatisation was the answer. Let’s take the £500 million — say — we have set aside for this programme and, instead of spending it all on getting food to those in need, we’ll spend the same amount and make sure some of our friends running private companies can get some of the action. Who shall we pick? What about someone who has been a loyal donor to the Tory party for a long time.
This is how privatisation works. Nothing is made more efficient. Nothing is about better value for money. It is about ensuring that money targeted for the rest of us is diluted, siphoned off, and used to fill the cash reservoirs of those already rich enough.
The company running this little food delivery scam were no doubt paid their £30 per parcel and told to take their profits out of that. (This, after all, is how companies rejecting benefits claims make their money.) There might have been some talk of savings through bulk buying, for instance, but everyone involved in that deal — both on the government side and on the Tory donors side — knew that this was code for skimming off the top. That the result was so brazen, so indifferent to the suffering of those in receipt of their joke bags of food, says a lot about Britain, the companies that fleece us on a daily basis, and the Tories and their ideology that takes us all for fools and treats us as either fools or accomplices.
Will there be much comeback on this for either the company or the corrupt team that chose them? I doubt it. Not enough, that’s for sure. The parent company of the shit-show running this insult to those struggling to survive after a decade of Tory austerity is a global catering brand. In the latest post on their site, Compass Group’s CEO talks about how proud they are to support HRH The Prince of Wales’s Sustainable Markets Initiative. This is something called the Terra Carta Charter. The CEO writes:
Our strategy to reduce environmental impact focuses on minimising food waste
I suspect that the charter focus on food waste is not really about providing minimum food in the first place.
The post just before this on the Compass Group blog — do you really want to visit? Oh, well, here you go — is about Chartwells, the very company at the heart of this national rage. And what is the post about? Well, the headline probably tells you all you need to know: Chartwells supports children across the UK during Christmas
“Chartwells, the leading provider of catering and support services to schools in the UK, delivered 11,500 nutritious food hampers to children across the UK this Christmas.”
I wonder who defined ‘nutritious’ for them.
And so privatisation will remain the route to socialism for the rich, where transnational corporations continue to loot the treasuries of the nations in which they operate. To each according to their greed, from each nothing in return.
[this post first appeared on grahamdstewart.com]