News in brief – October 2009

Electricity price rip-off – More pay rises for the rich – £106 million wasted on consultants – Bosses spell out attacks on third level education – Scrap Invest NI By Owen McCracken, Socialist Party NIE’s decision to cut electricity bills by a mere 5% from October will mean little to those currently living in fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. After electricity prices rocketed by 52% between July 2008 and January 2009, NIE has now reduced bills by a mere 15.8% over a period when wholesale fuels costs have fallen by 40%. This situation is a direct result of privatisation. As householders are being ripped off this company is exploiting its monopoly position to make huge profits. The only way to provide affordable energy is to bring NIE back into public ownership and run it democratically in the interests of ordinary working people.

Electricity price rip-off

More pay rises for the rich
As working class people are forced to struggle with the effects of the worst economic crisis in living memory, The Guardian newspaper’s annual survey of executive pay has revealed boardroom pay at Britain’s top FTSE 100 corporations has shot up more than 9% in the past 12 months. £170 million was shared by the10 most highly paid executives alone with almost a quarter of chief executives surveyed receiving packages above £5 million. Having been bailed out with massive amounts of public money by their political backers it is now business as usual for the corporate elite. The real burden of the recession is being placed on ordinary workers who are forced to contend with rising job losses, wage cuts and continuing attacks on working conditions.

£106 million wasted on consultants
New figures reveal that in the past 5 years the NI Assembly has spent £106 million of tax-payers money on consultancy fees to private firms. The worst culprit was the Department of Regional Development (DRD), who spent £32 million in 3 years between 2004 and 2007, mostly for “specialist advice” on how water charges should be introduced. This highlights the way Stormont departments often rely upon private consultancy firms for support when they intend to privatise public assets or implement other anti-working class measures. When consultation is genuinely required it should be kept within the public sector to secure jobs and end this massive waste of public funds.

Bosses spell out attacks on third level education

By Kevin Henry, 13 October 2009

The bosses’ union Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) recent Further Education Taskforce proposals should act as a strong warning to students, parents and education workers on the direction in which vice chancellors and big business wish to drag our education system. The proposals include raising student fees to £5,000 a year, fewer grants being made available, higher loan interest rates and the government dropping its “target” of having 50% of young people in education – meaning in reality more restrictions on university places.

The proposals rely heavily on the evidence from vice-chancellors including one retired vice-chancellor, who is reported to have described domestic students as “nothing but a drain” and they are “the charity end of the business.” The report also states that “heavy cuts” would negatively affect Britain’s competitiveness. The reality is massive cuts are already being introduced in many universities. such as the proposal to cut crèche facilities at University of Ulster, and the cutting of 104 jobs in Queens University Belfast.

The timid response by the leadership of the National Union of Students is not enough. Their strategy of lobbying political parties which all support tuition fees is completely ineffective. These same parties listen more to the likes of the CBI than to students. Instead they should seriously mobilise students and link up with the trade union movement to fight for the scrapping of tuition fees and campaign for a fully funded education system that is run in the interest of the public rather than the big business and profit.

Previous Article

Stop the cuts, bring down the government

Next Article

Tommy Sheridan - a socialist fighter on a worker's wage

Related Posts

WELB ‘efficiency’ cuts target primary school children

Like most other Governmental bodies, the WELB have placed a moratorium on the recruitment of staff as a means to met the stringent efficiency gains agreed by the Stormont parties in their three-year Comprehensive Spending Review (May 2008- April 2011). The impact of this has been to place an ever greater burden on those staff remaining on to provide front-line services.


Belgium – Halle train crash

Stop the policies of liberalisation - invest in safety and services

Article on the based on a discussion with Belgian railway workers.

On Monday, two trains collided near Halle, south of Brussels. The accident led to 18 deaths and 162 people being wounded, including 11 seriously injured. The drama has led to a discussion on safety measures in place for Belgian trains. This also raises the discussion on which services need to be provided by the railways. In the past few years, the train company has been split into three parts and investment was largely limited to prestige projects. The management is continuing its liberalisation policies in cargo transport. This policy will lead to new disasters.


US – Fight for Full LGBT Equality!

Being an LGBT person means facing discrimination in the workplace, bullying at school and in many cases from family members, not being able to marry your loved one legally, and being faced with higher rates of suicide and homelessness (between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT).

BNP are no alternative for working people

In response to the announcement that the BNP are to contest the upcoming elections in Northern Ireland, Socialist Party representatives have stated that the far-right group has nothing to offer working-class people.

Paddy Meehan – the Socialist Party’s South Belfast candidate and a key organiser of protests against attacks on Roma families in the area in 2009 – said:-

“The BNP attempt to scapegoat immigrants for the lack of jobs, homes and access to services- the blame for which should be laid squarely at the feet of the main parties in Stormont and Westminster. Where the BNP grow, so do attacks on ethnic minorities. The thugs who attacked Roma families in South Belfast in 2009 chanted BNP slogans.”