Monday 11 January 2021

The Tory Food Parcel Scam

It says everything about the awfulness of 21st century Britain when hungry children are never far from the spotlight. The contents of food packages the government are providing poor families were revealed on social media this afternoon. The link above is supposed to show five days worth of food. Here is an itemised list. Instead of £30 worth of food, this banquet taps out at £5.22. Thin gruel for the families on the receiving end, overgenerous portions for the parcel provider, a company with form in this regard.

Some people have asked why/how this can happen, and the answer to that is a very simple: because the Tories are in power. There are a couple of things going on here. Readers will recall late last year how the Marcus Rashford-led school meals campaign forced the government's hand. At first, they set their face against the public mood, and it provoked a torrent of vintage Tory divide-and-rule. We heard about how the state shouldn't nationalise children, how feckless parents would trade food vouchers for drugs, and the usual rubbish about self-responsibility. Caught in the headlights, the Tories backpedalled faster than a seven-mile Prime Ministerial bike ride. Not only were the Tories going to make sure no child went hungry during the Christmas holidays, money was found to support these families for the next year. Overnight, the demon poor emerged into worthy objects of charity with Tories falling over themselves about how compassionate they were. Well, here are the fruits of their largesse: two bruised bananas and trio of sorry-looking apples.

This is not by accident; it is entirely a matter of design. Consistent with all governments going back to the blessed Thatcher, the default preference for state action is handing it over to the private sector to do it. Supposedly business is more efficient because they have to make a profit. For Thatcher, this was her common sense, and all of her successors have ran with it. Each and every Prime Minister, including the two Labour politicians to have occupied Downing Street in the last 40 years, have prostrated themselves before this shibboleth and, entirely not coincidentally, the sorts of interests they've tried cultivating have taken full advantage of the cash waterfall gushing forth from the Treasury. Hence stripping down a £30 food shop to a fiver's worth of grub isn't an aberration. In a system set up to shovel public money into private pockets, it's working perfectly. Just like Test and Trace. Just like PPE procurement. Just like the government's schools' laptops scheme. The service is the after thought, the bottom line is the top line.

And then we have the cynicism of the company concerned. Chartwell's is the kind of parasitic excresence that has flourished since Tony Blair went out his way to extend the outsourcing of public provision. Some head of strategic solutions has sat on a Teams meeting thinking through how much pure profit they could get away with by slashing the contents of each parcel. And because they think the recipients are unworthy and undeserving, are powerless so can't kick up a fuss, and believe the public are as unsympathetic as they, literally snatching the food out of the hands of our most vulnerable children is a fine and dandy way of securing their managerial bonuses.

As with everything about the mismanagement of the pandemic, including our current lockdown, the Tories are prioritising their class, the relationships sustaining them, and the material interests of their base above all else. This is part of a consistent and predictable pattern of behaviour, albeit the most blatantly sickening so far.

Image Credit


Majik said...

This is awful - as is everything about this rotten, corrupt government - but what can we actually do about it? Signing petitions, writing to MPs feels like not nearly enough

Blissex said...

The overall tone here is moral outrage, instead of political insight. As to moral outrage, many voters will instead be outraged that as much as £30 of their tax money is being "frittered away" to "pamper" the poor :-(, even if some will be wringing their hands and tut-tutting about the poor children.

The political insight is always the same: that voters have one vote and thus one vote moving issues, and outrages usually don't move it, especially when the vote moving issue is the £30,000-£40,000 per year (and often much larger) gains from property they have been getting since Thatcher and Blair. "Paris is well worth a mass" and for many tory/whig that size of property gains is well worth food for children spivvery. test and trace fails, etc. etc. etc. etc.

So the political task is to persuade at least some of the Conservative voters to switch their vote moving issue, because they are those not getting the huge property gains and Labour is not going to confiscate their precious, or because their property gains are worth less than the gains from better wages, pensions, public services, social insurance.

Anonymous said...

Disgusting. Great Britain today.

Blissex said...

«the default preference for state action is handing it over to the private sector to do it. Supposedly business is more efficient because they have to make a profit. For Thatcher, this was her common sense»

That is however obviously and actually true as a principle, and denying that is not just silly, but pointless with public opinion.

But the better and valid criticism is that in reality the principle matters little as people running businesses, private or otherwise, will try everything else before attempting to improve efficiency to maximize their profit/advantages, because for example bribery, cheating, exploiting workers are far easier ways to maximize profit/advantage than the hard and difficult work to improve efficiency. Even Adam Smith recognized that when writing “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public”.

The employees of many businesses, whether private or public, can easily relate to that: they see every day how their "management" are cranks or idiots or merely mediocre, but the business regardless succeeds because they are skilled at cheating and exploiting,

Outsourcing to private businesses can work pretty well if it is managed well, even if that is difficult: even "The Economist" warned that the effort and skills to manage well an outsourcing contract are almost as large as those needed to run the same activity directly. Dealing with contractors is hard, as everyday experience shows, and it is an age-old problem, which is known to some business people and political economists as the "share-cropper problem".

One critical insight is that there is a big difference between the value of collectively purchased solutions to collective problems, which is quite large usually, and the question of the value of having them executed by public or private businesses, because both public or private businesses can be rife with self-dealing in the form of cheating or exploiting.

The concept that is relevant here is that of "disciplining": what disciplines "management" to improve efficiency rather than cheat and exploit? The right-wing disingenuous answers are that the management of private businesses are disciplined:

* By the goal to maximize profit, but that can be achieved by cheating and exploiting.
* By the "free markets", but that only works if they are actually quite competitive.

My personal guess is that broadly speaking it is a well working bankruptcy system that does that, because *creditors* are the the best source of discipline, but that is a complicate discussion.

The question that "leftoids" as a rule fail to consider, never mind answer, is what disciplines the management of public businesses. Relying on the selfless dedication of the leaders of the proletariat does not quite seem persuasive, and relying on the watchful eye of the voters is better but not entirely persuasive either, as voting suffers from the "one vote moving issue" problem.

So our blogger is plenty right to point out the "successes" of the Conservatives at helping their sponsors/mates cheat and exploit, but assuming that public services are necessarily better provided by public businesses is the wrong message, because the important detail is "public services", and public businesses can do as much cheating and exploiting as private ones, what matters in both cases is effective "disciplining".

In my opinion the case for public services is too important to attach to it the much more dubious case for providing them with public businesses, which is a different case.

BCFG said...

It isn’t really a distinction between public and private but effective coordination and control.

Everything could be public but some tasks could be ‘sub contracted’, for example, councils were expected to deliver shard services, IT departments were expected to use the private cloud, because cloud means you need fewer IT departments and that frees up resources.

This is correct and is a more efficient form of organisation, but none of it needs to be private, it can all be public. It can’t all be private but that is another story.

Maybe if the TV stations start teaching the curriculum then we don’t need as many teachers because a pupil in Manchester will have the same teacher as a pupil in Maidstone. Maybe then teachers can retrain as nurses or something.

Again this is not about public/private. But these changes can be better facilitated via planning rather than the market.

It should be noted that hardly any councils adopted shared services (if any), which shows the utter bankruptcy of a market based system and the existence of a private sphere. In a communist system they would have already been well developed shared services, which in turn would have freed up many resources.

This brings me to the ‘Tory food scam’, at least this delivers actual goods and not money. What we need are universal basic necessities and not universal basic income. So from that view it is at least a step forward.

Dipper said...

The reason why it is better to outsource this stuff rather than get the local council to do it, is because right now the company doing this is about to get a colossal bollocking. The people doing out are having panic meetings to work out how they get to remedy this and avoid going bust because no-one will work with them. If the local council did this it would just be lots of moaning about under-funding, cuts blah blah and nothing would get done.

Blissex said...

«What we need are universal basic necessities and not universal basic income.»

Oh, am I now going to talk about property? But of course. The most basic necessity that most people have is to be able to have a house near where jobs are. Even for quite poor people the biggest problem they have is not hunger, but to pay rent. Lower housing costs would do much more for most low-income people (and even for a significant minority of pensioners) than higher wages, or higher social security payments or (even well stocked) food parcels.

Anonymous said...

You can't actually argue with an ideology which is that extreme. The same politicians who enjoy subsidised everything on top of their ever rising salaries believe withholding cash from poor families with hungry kids is good for them.

Do they think these rations are fine? Look after the future of our country by really looking after its citizens not this. Great Britain.

Anonymous said...

You said it. Great Britain indeed. Hungry kids and such a very high Covid death rate. Why?

BCFG said...

"if the local council did this it would just be lots of moaning about under-funding, cuts blah blah and nothing would get done."

I used to work for a local council and now work in the private sector and I can tell you compliance and accountability are far higher in the public sector than in the private. Councils are also very sensitive to local opinion, its the one thing Blair got right, he ensured councils really listen to the feedback.

As an employee it was quite liberating to leave the council and all that very necessary red tape behind.

Speaking of red tape, doesn't dipshit, sorry dipper, prattle on about public sector red tape when it suits and when it doesn't suit he spouts bollocks like the above?

BCFG said...

"The most basic necessity that most people have is to be able to have a house near where jobs are. "

Who said any different? But the topic was food not your hobby horse housing.

Mobile phones, computers and internet access are all basic necessities in this day and age. More and more is being done online and you need 2 factor authentication to get access bank details etc.

A market based system gets more and more irrational by the second.

The end of exchange is nigh!