Remember the scandalous disposal of Royal Mail? Both Michael Heseltine and Peter Mandelson had tried and failed to sell it off in 1994 and 2009 respectively, both driven by the Treasury’s need for cash. Vince Cable’s handling of the sale was disastrous.
This time around a new chief executive was hired and by May 2013 Royal Mail delivered a 60 per cent surge in profits. Park that fact for a moment.
Then firms known for their unethical and insatiable greed approach to business, the likes of Goldman Sachs, Lazard and Barclays and a few others were paid nearly £13 million simply for placing shares with clients – but not before setting the share-price at £3.30 which was a clear under valuation. As it turns out, Royal Mail was 24 times over subscribed and on day one 38 per cent under valued. There was a 72 per cent increase in the share value in five months accompanied by a 30 per cent increase in the first class stamp price. This was a proper scandal.
The valuation of £3.3 billion should have been £5.5 billion, the austerity ridden tax-payer the big loser. The banks, hedge funds and financial institutions walked away scot-free. This was nothing short of a corporate heist facilitated by incompetent (at best) or criminal (more likely) politicians.
The National Audit Office was not complimentary in its aftermath; “The sale process used by the Department did not identify the market price of the shares and this is not an isolated example.”
Deloitte Touche were appointed as ‘financial accountants’ earning £750k for their efforts – park that as well.
In the meantime, George Osborne has fallen short on every target he has set when it comes to the deficit and national debt. Not one year has he come close. In an attempt to close the gap, he is set to become the chancellor that sold the silver. His state sell-off of assets built up over generations will reach £100 billion by the end of this parliament. More than all chancellors since Thatcher combined. Privatisation is the route. Park that.
One privatisation that the establishment press has not reported is the sell-off of NHS Professionals. This is a state owned recruitment agency for medical professionals. NHS Professionals is a limited company wholly owned by the Department of Health. Not for long though.
The concept of NHS Professionals, an NHS owned solution to the growing issue of temporary workforce requirements, was first introduced in 2001 by the Minister of State for Health Alan Milburn (Labour). NHS Professionals was established as a Special Health Authority (SpHA) on 1 April 2004, a nationally branded managed service for temporary staff in the NHS. In 2010 NHS Professionals was dissolved as a Special Health Authority and became NHS Professionals Ltd, a company wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health in April 2010.
By coincidence, that same year (the Tories came to power), NHS professionals also declared a profit and has proudly done so every year since. It contributes to the treasury and therefore society more widely. It places more than 1,000 medical professionals a month and does so professionally with the interests of the NHS at heart, with 60,000 medical professionals registered on its books.
The revenue it generates is approaching £350million. In 2015, profits soared 43%. Deloitte Touche have turned up again, this time advising the government on financial matters relating to the sale of NHS professionals. They were challenged by a investigative journalists from RT, the response; “Our work with Deloitte is ongoing and no decision has been made.”
RT says differently. Their sources say the government is lying and that the decision to sell has already been made.
It appears from the RT report that the company to be appointed to successfully bid, own and manage NHS Professionals has a chairman who happens to be the cousin of Jeremy Hunt, no less than Virginia Bottomley. She happens to be chair of Odgers Berndtson.
This from their website: “Virginia Bottomley chairs the Odgers Berndtson Board & CEO Practice. The practice conducts searches (recruits) for Chairmen, CEOs and non-executive directors for plcs and private companies. Virginia has a wealth of experience from her responsibilities of over 30 years with a number of organisations in the commercial, voluntary and public sectors. Virginia is a member of the Supervisory Board of Akzo Nobel NV and as Non Exec Director on BUPA. Virginia was a member of the House of Commons from 1984 to 2005 serving successively as Secretary of State for Health and was appointed a Life Peer in 2005.”
It would appear that the government set up NHS Professionals as a limited company and therefore a going concern specifically to be privatised. In 2010, they went from Special Health Authority department to limited company. Then they miraculously turned in a profit the same year and become a privatisation target for a relative of the man who is systematically going about privatising the NHS to a person with insider information on the target itself.
Meanwhile, back in the land of morality, Caroline Molloy, Editor of OurNHS and a freelance writer was part of a successful campaign which reversed one of the largest planned NHS privatisations in the country, involving 9 Gloucestershire hospitals a couple of years back, that you didn’t hear about.
Molley wrote about the sheer scale the government was spending on NHS ‘administration’. The truth was that these costs had doubled and then nearly trebled. The Select Committee report at the time added that they were “appalled” that the Department of Health “was unable to give accurate figures for staffing levels and costs dedicated to commissioning and billing.”
In essence, Molley’s piece highlights the scale of government waste concentrated on the process of privatising NHS services. The NHS is being sold off bit by bit on the one hand and the profitable bits not sold are then given out as contracts to private health care companies on the other – all at colossal adminstrative cost to the tax-payer. How much – almost impossible to calculate as the government does not publish the numbers but it has been calculated at between £10 billion to £30 billion a year.
Back to Royal Mail’s sudden profit surge a year before it was disposed of. NHS Professionals announced a change of business arrangement and became a limited company. One year later, it replaced its CEO, a few years after that it announces its first profit. How likely is it that this company will be put up for sale to achieve best price for the tax-payer? Given the Royal mail experience, not likely at all. The buyer is already known.
If it turns out that NHS Professionals is privatised and that Odgers Berndtson or a related corporate arm acquires it, then it’s reasonable to assume that a crime has taken place.
Let’s not forget the cost of agency staff to the embattled NHS each year, a not inconsiderable sum of £3.3 billion each year.