News in brief

Taking liberties

THERE HAS been a huge rise in the number of stop and searches by police – mainly in London, Birmingham and Liverpool since 2007 – using section 44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that stop and searches under counter-terrorist legislation rocketed from 37,197 in 2006-07 to 117,278 in 2007-08. And according to the civil liberties organisation Liberty, only six in 10,000 people stopped were arrested for terrorism, let alone charged or convicted.

Included in the stop and searches have been tourists reading an A-Z street map, office workers commuting home, and Labour MP John McDonnell!

These figures also reveal that black and Asian people were disproportionately targeted within the use of stop and search operations in the aftermath of the failed London bombing in the Haymarket.

The number of black people stopped went up by 322%, compared with an increase of 277% for Asian and 185% for white people.

Robbing the NHS

AT LEAST £350 million of the NHS budget in 2008/09 – the equivalent of funding 9,160 experienced staff nurses – was spent not on front line health care but on paying for management consultants, according to figures obtained by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The RCN reckons that 39% of the £350 million was allocated to ‘market testing’, 23% was used to support applications for foundation status, 13% to achieve “provider separation”, and 12% to buy advice on the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

PFI schemes are a license to print money for big business at the expense of publicly funded services. And a report earlier this year into up to 1,200 deaths in Mid-Staffordshire criticised the NHS Trust for being more interested in gaining foundation status than caring for patients.

Mail sell-off

WITH LABOUR determined to part-privatise Royal Mail in the teeth of widespread opposition, Gordon Brown’s government is running out of limbs in which to shoot itself.

Despite the collapse of private banks, the disastrous failure of PFI schemes and the privatised utilities, government ministers continue to sing the praises of selling off one-third (to start with) of the postal business.

But even the business select committee of MPs voiced concern about the government’s plans, arguing that the case for selling off a stake in the business had not been made.

Brown claims privatisation is the only way to save Royal Mail. In fact privatisation is the biggest threat, as profit hungry vultures vie over the profitable postal routes. Outlying and rural services would be most at risk as private firms drive to cut costs.

The CWU postal workers’ union promise, to ballot members on withdrawing funds from Labour if privatisation goes ahead, should now be implemented. The CWU should disaffiliate from Labour and join the campaign for a new workers’ party.