Home / Dave Brockington / Observations on Privatizing Britain and its Trees

Observations on Privatizing Britain and its Trees

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The United Kingdom is clearly running out of things to privatize. Thus far, in a few short months, the following has been passed or is under serious consideration:

The university system has been effectively privatized by eliminating funding, though oddly without ceding control.  Students face tuition increases of 200% from 2012.  This will only partially offset the loss in funding from the state, thus universities will likely make entire departments (and the associated academic positions within) redundant.  Here at Plymouth, we recently went through a rough period in 2008 where over 200 positions were eliminated (as I’ve written about before).  Yet, our Vice Chancellor (and “Chief Executive”, a title that prior to the incumbent did not exist) has made national news with a 20% pay rise in the last year alone: the largest percentage increase in the UK.  This led one national paper to coin “The Plymouth Model” : slash jobs and costs (in our case, the wage bill decreased from 59% to 53% of expenses) and be richly rewarded by your Board of Governors.  While commenters in the nationals decry our VC’s £283K salary, a writer over at Labour Left writes in measured anger about it, and bemused students label it insensitive, the University, of course, must justify it somehow.  Granted, it’s not the fault of the VC that she received a massive raise; it’s the Board of Governors (and hell, I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a 20% pay rise either —   beats the virtually unmeasurable increase I did somehow wander into this year).  So when the Board argues that the VC deserved the raise because “the University has hit stretching strategic targets and is now on a sound financial footing and is thriving” in a release to the local paper also distributed in email to all staff, I relaxed, safe in the knowledge that we won’t have another massive round of staff redundancies due to this “sound financial footing / thriving” malarkey.

At least my institution of higher learning tops one league table.

The NHS.  While the suggested reforms are not explicitly selling off the Health Service, many correctly suspect that this is the direction this government would like to proceed.  See an overview here at Left Foot Forward on how virtually everybody disagrees with the Government’s reasoning and justification.

The BBC.  Not an explicit privatization, not even in a creeping form, by freezing the license fee in name of austerity for five years (yes, I happily paid my £145 for the year this December), the BBC has had to make significant cuts to both its on line presence and to the world service.

Since they’ve taken case of higher education and are working on the Health Service, what could possibly be left to sell off?

Trees. That’s right, the Government is selling off the (quaintly named) New Forest, Forest of Dean, sites in the Lake District, etc.; the goal is to sell off 100% of the publicly owned “English forest estate”.  Ideally, the “heritage” sites will go to charities.  This plan was originally mooted, as everything is now, in the name of austerity in order to reduce the deficit, but it turns out that over 20 years this scheme will lose money for the state.  An on line petition has been circulating in opposition to this plan here.

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