This is an edited version of a blog post on the 999 Call for the NHS website.
There’s a double standard when it comes to government spending: it’s ok to spend pots of public money on corporate welfare – but not on public services.
While public services are taking the hit – which is exactly the purpose of so-called “austerity” – massive corporate welfare payments amount to around £93bn/year, according to an audit carried out by Kevin Farnsworth, social policy lecturer at York University.
Our NHS is being run down and sold for want of adequate funding – but the UK government gives £6bn/year subsidies to fossil fuel industries operating in the UK and over a five year period to 2014 it gave further £billions to fossil fuel production overseas in countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.
New tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas production announced by the chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015 will cost taxpayers a further £1.7bn by 2020, according to government figures.
Before the G20 summit in 2014, Kevin Watkins, director of the British think tank the Overseas Development Institute, said:
“The evidence points to a publicly financed bail-out for carbon-intensive companies, and support for uneconomic investments that could drive the planet far beyond the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2C.”
“This is real money which could be put into schools or hospitals. It is simply not economic to invest like this. This is the insanity of the situation. They are diverting investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power and they are undermining the prospects for an ambitious UN climate deal in 2015.”
And why is all this corporate welfare going to corporations whose short term drive for profit is destroying people and planet?
A 2013 World Development Movement briefing, Web of Power, found that one third of UK government ministers had connections with the fossil fuel industry and the finance sector which bankrolls it.
This is the corruption of public life that hides behind the austerity lie.
It extends to the privatising NHS. Fast-revolving doors between key public organisations and private health sector companies create a shadow NHS, where decisions are made in the interests of profit not patients.
The organisation at the heart of the corporate rip off of the NHS
The organisation at the heart of the corporate rip off of the NHS is the NHS Partners Network. This powerful and influential lobby group of private healthcare companies
is a trustee on the board of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations working in the NHS.
The NHS Partners’ Network is chaired by Jim Easton, head of Care UK – one of the biggest private health companies operating in the NHS. Its investment portfolio covers hospitals, GP surgeries and mental health centres, as well as £104m in NHS contracts since 2013 – including many of the 111 services that are going badly wrong.
Jim Eastman is also on the Board of the NHS Improvement Faculty, alongside Dr Ruth Friel, the Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust clinical director and business partner of Alan Milburn in AM Strategy Ltd. Alan Milburn, the former New Labour Health Secretary, is chair of Bridgepoint Capital’s European Advisory Board. Bridgepoint Capital’s investments include Care UK.
Here is Jim Easton speechifying at the NHS Confederation shindig the other week.