This isn’t Dickens, it’s Today: Winter’s Cold, Homeless and Hungry

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As we approach winter, the shops are hoping for a seasonal retail spree and begin the ultimate display of commercialization. Whether people are celebrating a religious festival or a more secular affair, or perhaps just a get-together with the family, some will look to the Christmas period with excited anticipation.

There will be others with a dread of the loneliness and others with fear of cold and hunger, not just being unable to afford the fripperies, those oh-so-unwanted wasteful things, often manufactured in their millions by workers who work for a pittance, while those hidden and tax-evading profiteers’ obscene piles of plenty grow and grow forever tall like skyscrapers high above the real world.

No, beyond all that, many look to Christmas without a sustaining meal, adequate heating or a decent home. Deprived of these by government cuts to welfare payments, by escalating prices by energy companies, wages frozen, jobs lost, it is no exaggeration to predict unprecedented suicides this winter – and next.

Dickensian pictures emerge in our minds. Thoughts of the Victorian poor, a glimpse into history, denying today’s reality.

please-sir

These pictures will continue to haunt us until we break the self-perpetuating neoliberalism. It is in our hands to change. Brave politicians must rid us of the neoliberalism has destroyed society, and finally reject this flawed argument, and reclaim democracy.

Welcomed in the eighties as Thatcher’s bribe to the workers, neoliberalism, many now realize the dangers of policies which have led to:

HOMELESSNESS : There’s no place like home

George Young, recently appointed government chief whip famously once said “The homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera.” I wonder if he is aware of the drastic reduction in life expectancy of people living with no home? Has he considered which policies add to the crisis?

Homelessness Kills is an analysis by the University of Sheffield of the mortality of homeless people in 21st Century England

Homeless people under 45 have four times the chance of dying than their housed contemporaries, the under 55s three and a half times, and the under 65s two and three-quarter times.

Homeless people are three and a half times 
more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Shelter’s examination of the reasons for homelessness cites personal causes, structural causes and the reasons given by homeless people. Personal causes for homelessness could be tackled by intervention, counselling services and support from Local Authorities. Statistics look to rise further due to cuts to these services by the Coalition government.

Structural causes for homelessness can be directly traced back to previous conservative governments. In contrast to the policies of the post-war Labour government which built tens of thousands of homes, Margaret Thatcher began to deplete the housing stock by selling off council houses. Councils were not permitted to replace the homes sold, so there was no return. Householders took on the debts of mortgages and bankers are the winners. New house-owners now, with mortgages around their necks, dared not strike against workplace injustices, so Thatcher’s grasp on trade unionists tightened further.

Today we see land destined for homes,and with plans in place, unworked for years because the market won’t deliver a profit, regardless of people’s needs. There are people in need of homes, yet houses are unaffordable. The construction industry is profit-driven. Houses were built and bought, not for homes for people but for profits for building companies, or as a source of investment, people living lives without meaningful jobs, just buying and selling houses, so forcing house prices out of people’s reach. As a result, a working person’s wage is insufficient and Housing benefit is claimed, but it is landlords who benefit. A sensible policy would be to build the homes people need.The immorality of buy-to-let mortgages is clear. TV programmes focus on how to make a killing out of house speculation, never quite realising the stark and haunting truth.

ENERGY: Privatisation – Pumps up the Power ?

The power which was derived from privatised companies was more than could be generated from coal or oil, it is their ultimate power by which they seek to control us – a plutocracy over governments and nations alike, and this is not power which will be easily relinquished.

The Big Six reap profits from immoral earnings as many people cannot afford to pay their ever bills.

Caroline Flint , Labour

“Since this Government came to power, energy bills have gone up by more than £200, and last week three of the big energy companies announced another round of price hikes, adding a further £100 to people’s energy bills this winter. People worried about how they will afford to keep the lights on, heat their homes or have a hot meal deserve a Government who understand their challenges and have the ideas to provide the change that Britain needs and the strength to see them through.”

Last winter the Independent reported that fuel poverty deaths were three times the government estimates.

Some 7,800 people die during winter because they can’t afford to heat their homes properly, says fuel poverty expert Professor Christine Liddell of the University of Ulster. That works out at 65 deaths a day.

Fuel poverty is defined as when someone needs to spend 10 per cent or more on heating their home.

The new total – calculated using World Health Organisation guidance and official excess winter death figures – is four times as many fatalities as happen in road accidents each year.

The previous government estimate put the total of deaths relating to fuel poverty at just 2,700 a year. That was included in a report last year by Professor John Hills, who is expected to produce his final recommendations on fuel poverty next month.

Yet the latest Office of National Statistics figures show that there were 25,700 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in winter 2010.

Meanwhile the latest WHO research suggests that 30 to 40 per cent of the excess winter deaths can be attributed to fuel poverty.

Cuts to welfare benefits for the vulnerable and disabled have already been attributed to be responsible for 73 deaths per week.

Reclaiming our energy sources and a renationalisation of Energy and utility companies must be on Labour’s agenda. Ed MIliband is acutely aware that the Energy companies’ political grasp in global power can be loosened. His policy of introduction of Feed-in-Tarriffs for micro-generation projects such as solar energy has already made a difference to fuel bills for many. Even this wet summer, solar panels can meet 80% of energy needs on some homes. Community projects can generate electricity to benefit local communities, and more research directed to renewable energy sources. Public buildings such as schools and hospitals could be self sufficient.

But the Coalition are tied-in to the lobbyists’ agendas, and their own self-interest. Rather than pursuing green policies, investment in jobs and lower energy costs for all, they opt for the short-sighted to “invest” public money into fossil fuels, fracking and nuclear energy. As many shiver this winter, it is the Big Six Energy Companies and their backers who benefit, yet again.

HUNGER

Like property, and energy, even food is now a commodity for financiers to gamble with. Shameful Food speculation has led to hunger around the world.

There is sufficient food to feed a world, yet so many go hungry, children born with no chance in life.

In the UK today, the number of people going hungry is escalating, the demand for food banks escalating. In Coventry out of 306,000 people, according to the city council, 59,000 are living on the breadline. (BBC Report) And with the UK economy in double-dip recession, the word breadline is starting to mean something literal. The callous withdrawal of welfare support by this government, removal of the safety net intended to provide help for the vulnerable is literally leaving people with a choice of starvation or suicide.

Welfare cuts will mean 350,000 children will lose free school meals. In desperation, many are driven to steal to feed their children.

Meanwhile, globalisation is putting an end to our high streets. As with the Big Six energy firms, supermarket giants are increasing their power, diversifying into non-food such as banking and insurance. Supermarkets control food prices and exert buying power, closing down local shops, and are then able to maximise profits on own brands.

I wonder, where are initiatives for home-grown food? Land, left idle unused and fertile should be made available for allotments, for community groups and co-operatives.

The stranglehold of neoliberalism sees no limits, yet the inevitable end to the insatiable greed of unbridled capitalism, is a disastrous chaos.

Dickens’ Oliver said, Please Sir, “Can I have some more?” We demand it.

http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness%20kills%20-%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

Download pdf Homelessness kills – Executive Summary

Shelter: The causes of Homelessness

Independent: ( February 2012) Fuel poverty three times government estimates

Morning Star: How the Big Six Energy Firms are holding us to ransom

Tribune Magazine: The Families on their knees in Breadline Britain

BBC: The growing demand for food banks in breadline Britain.

Think Left:

Why Barclays and Co “can’t get no satisfaction from food speculation”

This government is killing people, Think Left

The Keystone for Society is Democratic Ownership and Control of Energy Supply

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THE KEYSTONE FOR SOCIETY IS DEMOCRATIC OWNERSHIP OF…

PRIVATISATION – PROFITS PRIORITISED

It is no accident that the asset stripping of public services was initiated by immorally gaining control of the basic needs of life; that is our need for water, for energy, and the means for our communication. This has allowed and encouraged abuse of the majority of the world’s population and has resulted in corruption such that there is now such imbalance of access to all resources that we face ultimate extinction as a species sooner than many people realise or contemplate.

Consider that suppliers of our energy control everything we do. For energy it is the spark which ignites the bonfire, the energy bound within the glucose which allows our hearts to beat, and indeed energy is exchanged in some way in every chemical reaction.

So then, it is no surprise that is was the foresight of a research chemist, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher who realised that privatisation , and hence control the supply of energy would allow ultimate control of societies, and so it has been proven, and has ensured massive profits for the Energy Companies.

Those who held ownership of the energy companies profited increasingly more as vast quantities of energy were consumed exponentially, seemingly providing justification for wars to be fought in pursuit of yet more oil, more oil-thirsty products which were so very quickly discarded.

This very act not only facilitated the massive acquisition of wealth for the very few, but instilled them with influence and power beyond reason. Where profit is the stimulus beyond efficiency, where it is pursued without consideration of the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change or without reference to sustainability, it is inevitable that chaos will result. Not only has this resulted in the greatest gap between rich and poor and widespread poverty, but it has added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere so resulting in Climate Change. We must reduce our carbon production, vastly reduce our energy consumption and use alternative energy sources which do not release carbon into the atmosphere. (Carbon Footprint)  This is a direct consequence of Margaret Thatcher’s policies of privatisation, the free market and neo-liberalism. We need to redress the balance so that the interests of people and the planet are again the priorities.

We need to reprogram our thinking. These energy companies have power only because we allow it. If we can produce our own energy, or a large proportion of it, we gain control of our destiny. If we can employ people locally, we not only provide them with jobs we re-instil  self respect.  How preferable is this than soaring unemployment? We waste our most precious resource – ourselves.  It is our labour, skills, and knowledge, which create the wealth, not mouse-clicks in some Tax Haven. That is what cannot be sustained. It is that which has no real meaning.

TIME TO PULL THE PLUG

The evidence is clear; the government’s policy of heavy dependence on nuclear energy is unaffordable, as Michael Meacher (MP) writes,

 “ On the cost of new nuclear plants, all the available evidence shows that it is realistically 2-3 times the Government’s forecast.”

Real danger is yet to be faced resulting  from entrusting basic human needs such as energy, water or indeed health (NHS) to privatised companies. If ever the companies feel there are no longer profits to be made, the companies can pull out, take their winnings to gamble elsewhere. We would then be left to provide those services having lost the assets we paid for.

“Now that the electricity sector is privatised and open to competition, any company whose power is too expensive will simply go out of business. This is precisely what happened in 2002 when the privatised nuclear generation company British Energy collapsed, and the Government had to rescue it at a cost to the taxpayers of more than £10bn. If that is the cost of nuclear energy, is it viable, and do we want it? ” Michael Meacher “The Government’s energy policy is in deep trouble.”

Despite, this the Big Six Energy Companies who sit on massive profits, increased tariffs further and pushed more and more people into fuel poverty,  leaving us to question morality. ndeed, evidence from Which (  as reported in the Independent ) has recently come to light  describing dubious sales techniques and mis-selling.

The Independent reports:

The Big Six energy firms are set to announce bumper profits of £15bn in the next few weeks.

The figures for 2011 will be £2bn higher than the previous year’s profits, according to forecasts from financial analysts. Meanwhile, with the Met Office predicting more freezing weather, Britain’s estimated 5.5 million households struggling in fuel poverty will be forced to decide whether they can afford to turn on their heating.

They may be unelected, but it seems The Big Six can influence policy nevertheless, ensuring that energy policy favours them, for example Michael Meacher expresses concern that the Big Six energy companies are free to influence the Department of Energy and Climate Change. (DECC)

 “In the 18 months since the election there have been no less than 195 meetings between DECC ministers and the energy industry.   Even more telling, over 50 personnel from oil, gas and nuclear companies such as EDF, npower and Centrica have been working on energy issues within government over the last 4 years.    Companies only second their senior staff to government if they are likely to get a good return in terms of insider knowledge, preferential treatment and the general benefits of influence.”

“It is highly disturbing that at a time of sharply rising energy prices, steadily falling real incomes, and risks to the elderly from a lengthy cold freeze and hypothermia, it is the energy companies regularly reporting quarterly profits in billions which now increasingly have their finger on the DECC windpipe.

Is DECC, is the government indeed, the regulator of the big corporations or their facilitator?”

Michael Meacher (MP) Is the DECC run by The Big Six Energy Companies?

Cameron’s “most green government ever” claim would be laughable, were it not so deadly not only for those elderly people unable to meet this winter’s fuel costs while their pensions shrink, but for the planet as a whole, and the prospect of meeting the government targets for Zero Carbon Britain 2030 is wildly off target.

It is ominous that manipulation of the media ensures that the reality about Climate Change is not universally understood. There is no doubt that there are even measures to control the curriculum in UK schools

We have witnessed stubborn refusal for reconsideration of an expensive nuclear policy.  Ed Miliband’s Feed–in-Tariffs was more far-sighted policy and should be extended. Green initiatives such as this provide employment, in addition to making some impact in carbon reduction. With unemployment figures rising yet again, we should be setting up more schemes such as this.  However, there is no long- sightedness from this Coalition government, no serious concern for the prospect of Climate Change, and a despicable lack of concern for the welfare of the vulnerable in fuel poverty.

Margaret Thatcher’s policies were flawed. Quite clearly there is a conflict of interests. Privatised companies  are motivated by profit; that is how markets work. It is a government’s responsibility to ensure their citizens are secure and that their basic needs are met, otherwise I can see no purpose having a government at all. It is not acceptable for the rich and powerful who have profited from neoliberism to hold governments and people to ransom, as they have, quite literally our life in their hands. Such inappropriate use of power leads to predatory governments  which simply facilitate the parasitic activities of the global markets.

Margaret Thatcher’s experiment is over. It has failed.

An incoming Labour Government’s priority must be to ensure our Energy supply is democratically owned and controlled once again. Labour must begin to build again, a caring, sharing and sustainable society, something such as Richard Murphy describes in “The Courageous State.”

BUILDING THE NEW SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

A national, coherent energy policy, which a future Labour/Left government must pursue, is outlined here:

1. Energy Jobs will be created from government supported  green energy schemes  e.g. (Feed-in-Tariffs )

2. Policies, which rejuvenate local manufacturing industries and trade must be encouraged, so providing local employment.  ”Fair Trade” information should be displayed on every item – in addition to transparency providing information about the energy used to produce and  to transport a product, as well as consideration of ethics and “clean planet’ guarantees.

3. Investment in energy must be redirected from fossil fuels and towards the production of energy by sustainable means, including solar, geothermal, biofuel,  HEP, wind, wave and tidal power.  This can be achieved and it is affordable without use of damaging, polluting, expensive-to-maintain nuclear power,  or fossil fuels such as coal, which have a limited supply.

4. Public buildings should be energy-sustainable or near-sustainable, and solar and other renewable energy sources retrospectively installed into every public building.

5. Government policy should ensure that new homes are energy-efficient, purpose-built sustainable homes, using materials designed to capture energy, such as photovoltaic roof-tiles. They should be well insulated using high insulating materials and designed to consume as little energy as possible.

6. Products should display information not only about energy efficiency, but it is not acceptable that they are prematurely discarded. Users need information about how to repair them too. Companies should train technicians to repair items at affordable prices. It is unacceptable to be told that an item is cheaper to replace than repair. Companies must also take responsibility for recycling.

7. More investment in recycling for products, which are beyond repair, and the inclusion of materials, which are recyclable, should always be the aim.

8. It is not acceptable that we have a North/South geographical divide and that we waste energy in transporting people and products unnecessarily. A policy which prioritises and puts people first dictates that there should be investment for jobs where they are needed, not where it is convenient for profits or targeting cheap labour at the cost of lives.

9. Transport policy should aim to minimise travel as a priority, because much travel is unnecessary and undesirable.  Furthermore, we should Invest in public transport and make it free at point of use. A transport policy must be introduced which addresses this, ensures energy efficiency, and use of non carbon producing sustainable fuels such as biofuels, and electricity. 

10. Research is essential for real progress. It is no accident that fewer new initiatives and inventions come from the UK than in the past – when it becomes so costly to study. Investment in Scientific research, and encouragement and financial support for students providing free education is essential. Learning, like Health and Utilities should not be for profit.

11. Multinationals’ ownership of energy supplies must end.  The owners’ true identity remains secretive, as does the whereabouts of this funds accrued without fair taxes having being paid. They profit from us but pay no tax to us. This is a one-way street. Transparency of world trade must be introduced internationally.  Rather than allowing the profits of our labour to be siphoned off to multi-national companies, democratic ownership and control must be restored. Workers co-operatives could be set up for industries following the government’s green policy. Workers and local communities should reap benefits not predatory financiers.

Margaret Thatcher once famously said, “There’s no such thing as society.” One wonders what a lonely sad existence anyone must have had to believe that – perhaps she did. Her legacy is the impersonal world we now have, the everyone-out–for themselves world which began in the 80s and carried on shamefully by New Labour.

Society needs to be rebuilt – not Cameron’s Big Society but a real society, one where the welfare and well-being of people are the priority and  not binary digits on some remote computer.

In the rebuilding of our new society, energy will be the keystone which will provide the foundation for further sustainable development. If we consider that the alternative is a society without hope, then we must recognise that the values of Mrs Thatcher and those who followed must be pushed aside, and rejected. For as neo-liberalism came, altruism left. Why do the young no longer aspire to teach, to learn Science, to nurse the sick or study medicine? Why are careers which  put something back into society no longer respected as they should be? What message do we teach our children by bringing them into a society where a footballer is rewarded above a surgeon, an X-Factor contestant’s skills admired over a teacher’s, and more pleasure is derived from a computer game rather than observing Science or “making a difference to people’s lives? Why should we be surprised and critical if the younger generation appear to be apathetic or disillusioned about politics as they are resigned to the inevitable lack of influence or power of the ballot box? I think they deserve better.

It is their future. But first we all need to start to build again, together.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Michael Meacher: The Government’s Energy Policy is in Deep Trouble:

The Independent “Big Six accused in costly tariffs row. Which report 

Rebecca Willis What is energy for?

The Era of Oil Wars, Michael Meacher

Guardian: C-iF Michael  Clare  Energy The New Thirty years War

Michael Meacher  Is the DECC run By Energy Companies? 

The Privatisation Scam 21st Century Socialism 

The Privatisation of Electricity

Nicholas Shaxton: Treasure Islands Tax Havens The Men who stole the World

Tax Havens: How Globalization Really Works: Ronen Palan, Richard Murphy, Christian Chavagneaux

The Courageous State – Richard  Murphy

Thatcher and Energy Privatisation

Zero Carbon Britain 2030

Carbon Footprint

The New Economics Framework:  Global Transition Initiative 

Ed Miliband Speech on The Economy : February 2012

Ed Miliband Blasts Short-Sighted F-i-T review

New Statesman: Ed Miliband’s Energy Policy could be a Vote winner

 Think Left: Renationalise the Railways 

Think Left  Renationalisation of Utilities -Water 

Think Left: Some of the Evidence for Climate Change

Think Left: Energy for Somerset: Nuclear or Tidal? 

Think Left: Renewable Energy, Specifically HVDC Power Grids 

Think Left: Soaking up the Sun: Ed Miliband, the Coalition and Climate Change

Think Left: Clean Coal (Another Financial Device for the City?)

Think Left: Coal is our Heritage not our Future! 

Think Left: There is no superman to save us from Peak Oil

Dreamstime Credits:

Re-Nationalise our Water!

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Morality of Profiteering from Thirst, Warmth and Shelter

By Pam

WHAT DO WE NEED?

All people need shelter, food, warmth and water.

Most would want also comfort and love – friendship and peace, to have a mate, love perhaps and a family. Add to that a job, or a purpose in life in which to build self worth and life is in balance.

If all of that were shared around equally, most of us would live happily.

But it’s not, is it? So many don’t have access to basic human needs or rights. There is a nasty taste left behind by making massive profits from water and energy. How does the world discern the haves and the have-nots, the greedy and the needy or the parasites and their hosts? Profiteering from the basics which are denied to others is immoral – whatever your philosophy.

To know that there are people hungry, without clean water – cold and in poverty quite avoidably and yet, to continue to pursue actions which target financial profits which have a direct effect on the welfare of others seems beyond morality – whatever that means to you.

The whole point of a country having a government at all is to protect the safety, the security and the health of its citizens. During the last thirty years there has been a fundamental change from governments protecting citizens and ensuring they are provided with life’s essentials, to regarding those citizens as a source of profit and like a parasite which eats away at its host and deprives it of sustenance, so too the profiteers take all they can and leave decay behind.

WATER FACTS

(See: Lib Com: Water Privatisation)

Private water companies supply England and Wales with water. Some also supply both water and sewage services. In Northern Ireland and Scotland state owned companies act as the major providers of water and sewage services. Northern Ireland Water is the sole water and sewage provider in Northern Ireland while Scottish Water carries out similar functions in Scotland. A comparison shows that the privatised companies of England and Wales charge roughly twice as much as the public sector water authorities of Scotland.

During the late 19th Century water services were taken over by local authorities in England and Wales. Individual authorities ran some of these, inter-municipal authorities ran others and a few private companies remained. A simple cap of a maximum return of 5% strictly regulated their profits.

While Labour were in power in 1974, there was a Control of Pollution Act. Water supplies were reorganised into ten unitary regional water authorities and each responsible for quality, supply and sanitation. The government appointed these.

Board meetings from these, which had previously been public, were made secret by the Thatcher government in 1983. Clearly the plan for privatisation had been hatched. During this time the number of employees was cut from 80,000 to 50,000.

Various arguments were used in favour of privatization, including claims that

1. the private sector would be more efficient;

2. private companies would be better able to finance the large investments needed; and

3. privatization would create competition.

These claims were not supported by evidence from comparative studies or international reviews of the actual performance of public and private sector water companies.

The more fundamental motive was Margaret Thatcher’s government’s neo-liberal economic policy. The aim of this was to reduce the size of the state and minimize public borrowing. All of this was used as a further justification for privatization. The plan was to privatize water in 1983, but so unpopular was the policy that it was shelved until after the next General Election.

By 1988, the Regional Water Authorities in England and Wales were ripe for privatization. The sell-off was almost unquestioned as the submission of the public was achieved as they were lured by offerings of the shares in newly privatized companies.

There was a feeling of “something for nothing”, a sign of the times you could say – with little attention given to the consequences and even less of the morality. This is nothing less than sheer greed. The privatization was a give-away. The resulting companies were protected from needing to compete for business at all – not even once – they held monopolies in their regions for 25 years.

What followed were more lies. The expected expenditure was deliberately over–estimated in order to maximize profits. OFWAT was asked to set a price formula for investments that were never made.

One example of this included Southern water submitting plans for a series of sewage treatment plants which were not installed. Another example was Yorkshire Water expecting to avoid £50m expenditure on sewage treatment because the Conservative government promised to redefine coastal waters near the city of Hull as sea – where untreated sewage could be dumped – instead of estuary – where sewage would have to have been treated.

A number of companies deliberately cut their investment programmes and used the ‘savings’ to maintain or increase their dividends. The companies, which did this, include Thames Water, North West water, and Yorkshire Water.

The capital expenditure and maintenance of sewers was been a particular cause for concern. Underinvestment led to neglect of the sewerage network, with obvious negative effects on public health. All this was to boost profits. Following privatization there was a sharp rise in disconnections.

“The water companies say that they disconnect only the “won’t payers”–those who can afford to pay, but refuse to do so. I shall bring to the attention of the House some recent examples of people I know who have been disconnected : in Southampton a lady with seven children, one aged three who suffers from a heart condition ; a family of five, in which the mother suffers from a medical condition which requires a constant supply of water and whose neighbours provided that water via a hose pipe ;and a severely disabled elderly lady, whose neighbours brought her water in a variety of containers.

In south Staffordshire, a single parent on unemployment benefit was threatened with disconnection for arrears of £60.73. When the local citizens advice bureau contacted the water company to say that there was a child in the house, the company said, “So what? –We’ll still disconnect.”

Bristol Water sold to Capstone Corporation 5/10/11

Water has ceased become a local resource, monitored and controlled locally. Owners of companies are no longer regional; they are unknown investors from unknown localities somewhere around the world. How can it be moral to risk the life of people, by turning the essence of life into a commodity? Why have we allowed corporations to buy and sell and profit from the basic fundamental needs of our people?

Do any of us really know who owns the water which comes from our taps. How confident can we be that our health is in safe hands?

Today, as I write , I have discovered that the water coming from my tap has changed ownership to a Canadian Company.

  • On October 5th 2011 Capstone Infrastructure Corporation CSE have announced it has acquired a 70% interest in Bristol water. Numerous North American, European and Australian pension funds and other institutional investors have emerged in recent years as significant investors in the water infrastructure sector, seeking the stable, long-term cash flow and growth potential offered by water utilities.

Capstone states the deal:

  • Transforms Capstone into a diversified infrastructure company, adding a growing business in a new core infrastructure category and geographic region to the portfolio
  • Rate-regulated, inflation-linked business featuring sustainable cash flow and a strong growth profile
  • Purchase price represents an attractive value and return profile for a regulated water utility
  • Creates a strong partnership for Capstone in the water infrastructure sector where there are significant investment opportunities globally

With the assumption of Bristol Water’s approximately $440 million in long-term debt and reflecting the impact of the transaction financing, the Capstone Corporation’s debt to capitalization ratio is expected to increase from 39.3% as at June 30, 2011 to approximately 60%, an amount consistent with the low risk profile of the Corporation’s business.

In 2012, approximately 18% of the Corporation’s Adjusted Funds from Operations (“AFFO”) is anticipated to be generated by Bristol Water. This acquisition will significantly increase the size, value and diversity of the Corporation’s portfolio and is expected to deliver stable cash flow to shareholders:

Can we be certain that they will maintain the infra-structure, ensure safe quality water supplies and invest for the future? Of course not!

HOME COMFORTS

If we consider the consequences of Thatcher’s Housing Policy, of the ‘Right to Buy” policy of council houses, it is easy to see why the UK is in the midst of a housing crisis. Of course, the nation fell for the love affair with home-ownership. No longer was it about nest-building, of home comforts. It was about house-owning, selling and mortgages. The belief that house-prices would go forever upwards, that they could be a source of income, of funding an old age or children’s education. The truth is that owning a home is speculative as is doing the lottery, playing the stock market or playing poker. Maybe the odds look good one day, but one bad day, and you might find yourself in negative equity, unable to pay the mortgage, and fearing repossession and homelessness.

Tax subsidies were given to people to take out mortgages as “Buy-to-Let” because they were regarded as businesses. But for the young couple struggling to afford a home there was no subsidy, and the prices shooting upwards caused by the competition from aspiring “Buy-to-Letters” who priced their prospective tenants out of buying their own homes themselves. All this served to profit the bankers. Where there had been mutual building societies who would reinvest, there were now demutualised banks and mortgage repayments haemorrhaged from our country into off shore centres and hedge funds.

BRIGHT SPARKS

And what of the bright, clever idea to privatize our energy? The urgency of break up of the coal mining industry, the rush to gas, and privatization of electricity resources. The beginning of privatization from 1990 broke up the CEGB into three new companies. The justification was, – that like other utilities they just were not making money.

Why anyone should ever consider that provision for citizen’s fundamental needs should ever be about profit making is incomprehensible to me, yet the public fell again for the promise of a share or two, believing they would be better off.

In the event, most savings to the government came from job losses. Unemployment soared. And it was the ordinary people who the ones suffered financially. A study by the World Bank showed that it was the ordinary consumers who were the real losers in privatization, no matter how it had been sold to them. At the end of the 1990s, consumers had lost between £1.3 and £4.4 billion, a staggering figure, largely due to costs falling much faster than prices. Utility Charges: Privatisation of Utilities

By contrast, the government gained up to £1.2 billion, and those who had shares in electricity companies saw profits ranging up to £9.7 billion. There were examples of price-rigging in the past, and there are still frequent accusations of energy prices being set too high.

Ofgem: UK cannot trust energy companies to keep the lights on

Rhod on Public Affairs Thatcher: Energy Privatisation

Regulator says free market approach will leave UK short of energy supplies by 2015

The regulator’s most radical proposal was to set up a central energy buyer, on similar lines to the old Central Electricity Generating Board, which was abolished after privatisation. At present, the “Big Six” energy companies – Centrica, E.ON, npower, Scottish and Southern, Scottish Power and EDF – own most of the UK’s power plants, which they use to supply most of the country’s consumers.

Critics have argued that the current system is not transparent and guarantees the companies excessive profits. A central government-controlled body would smash this dominance, by requiring power plants to sell it electricity at fixed rates, which it would sell on to customers.

The main concern against privatization of utilities is about the priorities of the companies. The secrecy surrounding these companies is significant. What is the price of silence? It is the vehicle for corruption; it is the potential for a lack of investment. Decisions can be made which increase risks to service quality. Priorities are to the shareholders. Decisions are made in order to maximize profits. Justification given by Margaret Thatcher for the privatization of the utilities is exposed as a sham. The taxpayer has to dig deeper, the consumers struggle pay bills, while the rich continue to profit at our expense. We must say, “No More!” Furthermore we are not facing up to the imminent Oil Crunch, having under invested in renewables as it was not a priority for the financial institutions.

Reflecting on all of this, and to contemplate on Thatcher’s statement, “There’s no such thing as society”, only deserves the response that in her Neo-Liberal politics there was no morality, no sense of right or wrong, and how that is still true today.

Why did the Labour Party not reverse privatization policies when given the opportunity? Why was there not a renationalization of utilities. The media had branded socialism and public ownership unpopular and politically dangerous. Tackling the press became insurmountable. There was further fear of more defeat. All this pressed Labour to desert their roots, to turn their back on socialism.

It is a shameful history, which Labour must now take on board, which Ed Miliband has offered apologies for. But there can be no forgiveness for the resultant poverty, hypothermia, homelessness, deaths, and disease. Labour must finally turn its back on neo-liberalism, and reject selfishness and greed.

The time is well overdue. Our Labour Party must protect the people of this country and sweep aside the greedy immoral profiteers. These utilities are not luxuries, they are needs fundamental to life, and we must ensure that the organizations who provide them are accountable, that clean water and sewage, energy and homes are affordable and available to all. There must be controls over further scientific developments, assurances for public safety and pollution control.

Labour must take back into public control and public ownership providers of the basics of life.

  • Water Authorities
  • Electricity Companies
  • Energy Producers
  • Public Transport

Labour must develop, monitor and control:

  • Food Production
  • Green Energy Production
  • Socially Owned and Shared-Ownership Housing

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING:

Re-Municipalisation -Putting Water Back in Public Hands : Richard Murphy

PUBLIC SERVICE OR PRIVATE PROFIT, Think Left

Renationalise the Railways, Think Left

Clean Coal: Another Financial Device for The City, Think Left

Red Labour must address the elephant in the room , Think Left

WATER

The Environment Agency: Privatisation of Water Industry

Lib Com: Water Privatisation

Uk Rivers Network

Dustin van Overbeke Water conflicts

Red Pepper Blog: The Last Drop

Stockhouse: Canadian News Capstone Acquires Bristol Water 5th Oct 2011

ENERGY

21st Century Socialism The Privatisation Scam

Utility Charges: Privatisation of Utilities

Rhod on Public Affairs Thatcher: Energy Privatisation

HOUSING

Politics : The Right to Buy

Guardian Oct 2011: Why reviving Right to buy won’t work