Rail firm’s secret plan for penalty fare cash

June 23, 2007

Britain’s biggest train company has told its guards that they will be disciplined and possibly dismissed if they show discretion to passengers who are unable to buy tickets before boarding because of long queues at stations.

It is the latest example of the lengths to which operators are going in order to pay the billion-pound premiums demanded by the Government for rail franchises.

A confidential memo, obtained by The Times, reveals that South West Trains is introducing a system under which guards are judged according to the amount they collect in penalties. The memo, headed “commercially sensitive, please do not circulate”, instructs guards to treat passengers as fare dodgers even if they come up to the guard on the train and ask to buy a ticket.

The guards must sell the most expensive peak ticket and give no railcard discounts, meaning that passengers will usually pay more than double the normal price. Those travelling between London and Weymouth are being charged £82 on board for a ticket which would have cost £35 at the station.

Rail firm’s secret plan for penalty fare cash-News-UK-TimesOnline

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‘Funding cut’ for young addicts

April 3, 2007

Drug and alcohol treatment courses for children have had their budgets slashed by the Government, a charity has claimed.DrugScope said a Government grant for schemes which treat young addicts and prevent others getting ensnared in abuse has suffered a 10% cut for 2007/08.

Spending in England will fall from £61.8 million to £55.2 million under the Young People’s Substance Misuse Grant, which is managed by the Home Office, the charity said.

It claimed the move contradicted Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pledge last week to concentrate on preventing addiction among children by increasing early intervention schemes.

DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes said: “This is disastrous for local services, many working with vulnerable children and young people with drug and alcohol problems or at risk of becoming problem drug users.

Channel 4 – News – ‘Funding cut’ for young addicts


PFI buyout costs taxpayers £20m

April 3, 2007

USING private finance deals to pay for major public projects was questioned yesterday, after more than £20 million of taxpayers’ money was spent returning a troubled college into public ownership.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) approved the £27.5 million buy-out of West Lothian College’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract.

Six years ago, the college became the first in Scotland, and just the second in the UK, to be built using PFI.

But in 2005, the Scottish Parliament’s audit committee warned that the college faced an £11 million budget shortfall as it tried to meet its PFI payments over the next 20 years.

Late last year, the Scottish Executive backed the SFC’s recommendation that the college’s PFI contract be bought out.

Scotsman.com News – Scotland – PFI buyout costs taxpayers £20m as Scots college cuts its losses


The Farepak scandal lays bare a gross inequality

November 16, 2006

Occasionally the stage curtain is twitched back to expose the way things are. The £40m Farepak collapse has just shone a spotlight into a dark corner behind the bright scenery of affluence and wealth.Here are families from the 30% who own nothing, scrimping and saving to provide a Christmas for children that feels like other people’s Christmases, as advertised on TV. The rest of the year, they have their noses pressed up against a consumer society they don’t belong to.They will never own a home like the 70% majority – though they can watch some 15 programmes a week celebrating property, from Location, Location, Location to Changing Rooms, garden make-overs, house hunting in the Dordogne and property speculation shows. If ever the have-nothings are themselves represented on the small screen, it’s usually as bad parents of hoodies or spectacularly dysfunctional families to be gawped at with sanctimonious disdain. Or there are the class-swap programmes, where usually bizarre examples of “working class” women are swapped with middle-class aspiring mothers.

Airbrushed out of the national picture are the great majority of have-nots, the cleaners, security guards, caterers, call-centre staff, care assistants, cashiers and all the lowest paid on whose cheap labour everything else depends. But now here they are, the Farepak victims – the thriftiest from among the one-in-three people who have no formal savings of any kind, no buffer against even minor disaster. If they had other savings, they would never have trusted their money with this bunch.

The director Nick Gilodi-Johnson, the son of Farepak’s owner, had an estimated share dividend from the parent company EHR of £445,000, on top of his pay, and stands to inherit £75m. If he’s as gutted as he says, the family has the money to repay savers.

So could the Farepak chairman, Sir Clive Thompson, who took £100,000 for this part-time job while earning £894,000 as deputy chairman of an investment company. As chair, he was a famous CBI hardman, denouncing the minimum wage. I interviewed him when he was earning £1.4m a year from Rentokil while his workers were on rock-bottom pay on outsourced contracts.

If ever there was a moment for Labour ministers to open the debate on gross inequality, Farepak is it. Instead, silence from them all – again.

The Farepak scandal lays bare a gross inequality | Columnists | Guardian Unlimited