Previous Tory governments in the UK have always been fans of privatisation. De-regulation has carried both pros and cons. The biggest pro seems to be less expenditure for tax payers and money to be made from any market flotation. The cons have been many including a poor service, a more costlier service, a postcode lottery as far as service and cost went in the long run and in some cases chaos.
Personally this blogger was thinking of British Railways as far as chaos went. We now have the track owned by one company and many regional companies operating their own passenger services. Whilst there are now some bargain tickets to be had for many rail users in the UK prices have gone through the roof. Booking tickets can also be a nightmare and a relatively short journey the length of the UK may involve the use of various train companies and multiple changes.
Today, David Cameron had announced that the UK coalition is looking at privatising our road system. This important infrastructure would seem too important to hand over to any old Tom, Dick or Harry. Of course when State owned services are privatised there are always big winners. These may be the CEOs of various companies plus shareholders. They are more often than not rank and file Tories.
Cameron has been at pains to say that the planned reform of the NHS is not privatisation. Many people in the UK believe that it is but in the case of the NHS that it is by "the back door". It would seem that as fr as the roads go the Coalition is at least being upfront.
Cameron announced the government plans during a speech saying, "We need to look at innovative approaches to the funding of our national roads - to increase investment to reduce congestion. "Road tolling is one option - but we are only considering this for new, not existing, capacity. For example, we're looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part-funded through tolling." Downing Street went on to insist it is not about tolls but most Brits will be saying "yeah, yeah, heard that one before".
According to Sky News Cameron went on, "The Government wants to explore the option of contracting out the maintenance and running of motorways and major A-roads to sovereign wealth funds, pension funds or other investors. In return, vehicle excise duty could be reduced and a new charge introduced that would be paid to the private companies who would take control of the roads on long leases" The new charge would be set by an independent regulator which would also monitor the companies.
His question though that, "Why is it that other infrastructure - for example water - is funded by private sector capital through privately-owned, independently regulated, utilities... but roads in Britain call on the public finances for funding?", left this blogger close to hysteria.
Want to know Mr Cameron? Because the UK saw sense and finally removed the Tories from office before they sold the whole country to the highest bidder. Now you are back in office, albeit as part of a coalition you re up to your old tricks. Choosing the Water Board was if I may point out a bad example. Water Rates have gone through the roof since privatisation, regional boards offer a great deal of variation in service and management of that precious commodity water is a disgrace. It is not simply weather changes that have depleted our water stocks but poor management of supplies.
Perhaps the final thought should be, will the privatisation of UK roads create jobs and wealth for the UK? Then again will the job be given to a French Company, for example, which it seems we are good at doing these days? Watch this space. The new charge would be set by an independent regulator which would also monitor the companies.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog