Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/573/7112
Another fine mess
THE TAKEOVER of failed Dunfermline building society by Nationwide has landed the public with a whacking £1.6 billion bill.
The Dunfermline - Scotland's largest building society - went belly-up after investing in £648 million of commercial property loans and £274 million of buy-to-let and self-certified mortgages from collapsed US bank Lehman Brothers and GMAC.
Under a government enforced deal the Treasury made a cash payment to Nationwide which now owns the Dunfermline's retail and wholesale deposits, branches, head office and most of its residential mortgage book. The remainder of the business - risky assets worth more than £1 billion - is left with the public.
This brings to six the number of UK deposit takers rescued by government bailout. The others are Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley, Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS and Lloyds TSB, now merged into Lloyds Banking Group.
Keep our NHS public
LAST WEEK Unison members protested outside Grantham hospital about the threat of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust becoming 'Foundation' status. There was a constant tooting of car horns as passers-by showed their support for the protest. The union believes that it would lead to cuts in services. Maternity services at Grantham, for example, are already under review.
Foundation status would increase the domination of business methods in the NHS which put money before patients. According to a recent report by the Healthcare Commission for example, the obsession with finance-driven targets led to 400 more deaths at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 than would be expected.
Just over two years ago thousands marched in Grantham against threats to the hospital.
Helen Black, Regional Secretary, Unison East Midlands said: "There has been no meaningful consultation with the community let alone the staff. People care about their hospital a great deal; it is a very popular well loved local hospital."
Need not profit
THE ENVIRONMENT Agency is calling for "near universal" water metering, starting in areas that are the most prone to water shortages.
If successful, this will yet again victimise the poorest the most, while the agency suggests that water companies should be rewarded for supplying less water. Ofwat has already predicted a 4.1% rise in water bills over the next year - while around three billion litres of water are currently lost though leakage every day.
Perhaps it might be more environmentally sustainable for the water industry to be renationalised under democratic control and management, with compensation to small shareholders only on proven need? Then, the billions of pounds of profits made since industry privatisation could be put into a crash programme to drastically improve water pipes, collection, storage and desalination with water distributed for free on a basis of need, not wealth.
In The Socialist 31 March 2009:
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