Monday, 27 February 2012

Catching up

Through the day it seems that Liam Byrne's intervention has paid off, in that it has forced an admission from the DWP, according to the Telegraph, that "No. 10 was not told about A4e fraud allegations".  A spokesman for the PM is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we were aware. But it’s a police investigation. If the police are investigating private sector companies, I don’t think necessarily they report regularly to the government on how their investigations are going.”
Richard Kay in the Mail asks, "Is David Cameron’s former ‘back-to-work tsar’ Emma Harrison already plotting her return?"  He tells us that Emma Harrison "has been approached by maintenance firm to advise on a boot camp for jobless youths. Boss Nick Bizley says he is fed up with a deluge of job applications from foreigners but very few from young British candidates, and wants to change attitudes towards work."  Sadly, I can find nothing more on this.  
The most interesting article of the day is by John Harris in the Guardian.  It's always gratifying when the press catches up with what we've been going on about for ages.  He says that Emma Harrison's biggest mistake was "not keeping her head down".  He points out that she is not facing any reduction in her income and "may well be in line for a rather nice future: less heat and less work, but potentially even greater takings".  Then Harris contrasts Harrison's high profile with that of Chris Hyman, CEO of Serco, a company which has much more outsourcing business than A4e.  And he makes the leap which nobody on the supposed left of politics (certainly not Liam Byrne) has yet been willing to make.  "For decades now, the introduction of the profit motive into public services has been held to be synonymous with dynamism, innovation and increased responsiveness to the 'customer'. There is, of course, plenty of evidence to the contrary, but the more zealous minds one associates with the rule of New Labour still believe it, and most Conservatives hold it as an article of faith."  Quite.  And he concludes: "Do not rely on senior figures in the Labour party to make the running on this issue: after all, it built a huge share of the shadow state in which these people make their money. There again, if the progress of the Emma Harrison story – as with the recent controversy about workfare – is anything to go by, these things no longer need the involvement of front-rank politicians to build unstoppable momentum. One thing is certain: though long buried, the tension between public services and profit is back – and this story is only just starting."
I'm currently reading a book called The Verdict by Polly Toynbee and David Walker, summing up the Labour years from 1997 to 2010 from a Labour-supporting but critical point of view.  They manage to cover New Deal and the various measures to help the unemployed while totally ignoring the privatisation in 2006.  John Harris is right.  But I fear it may be too late.


  1. Tesco Value Slave #385827 February 2012 at 09:23

    Looks to me as if A4e and Emma Harrison are effectively off the hook now. The story has been through the news cycle, and future coverage will get less and less prominence. The Telegraph did A4e and Harrison a great favour by running a series of articles that dis ingeniously framed the debate around a series of strawmen (ie: all our critics are trots) that seemed to win over a lot of people.

    How this ends? I guarantee a few weeks from now and this story will be history, nothing will have changed, and A4e will probably win further contracts. Both sides of our phoney democracy are up to their necks in workfare, neither side has much appeite for a significant change of direction.

  2. I don't agree.

    If Margaret Hodge persists, as she will, I think the can of worms hasn't even started to be opened.

    And this isn't counting the expanding Police investigation.

    As for the story subsiding, the massive coverage of the last week has indelibly set the A4e brand as equating to shoddy. It has done its job well.

    This story is far from over.

  3. Once the FND performance figures are published it should re-ignite any dormant flames.

    I for one will be going through the A4e data with a fine toothcomb.

  4. It's sad to think that this might be knocked out of the spotlight as this is very much the tip of the iceberg. Social Media may have its critics but the anger directed at Harrison through Twitter shows at least how many of the public are seriously unhappy about this situation.

  5. I hope this story keeps running, A4E are a company that wants to look good on the surface but they are rotten inside, they are so busy patting themselves on the back about what a marvelous job they are doing that they do not notice what is going on on the ground, they are so obsessed by targets they will trample over anyone to meet them. They do not care if someone is in a proper job they just want to tick a box. middle management are aggressive and bullying.they are dreadful.

  6. I know this company of old. I also got to know Emma Harrison quite well too. For her to call herself a philanthropic entrepreneur is an insult to all of those pioneering industrial philanthropists from history. She has not generated wealth through innovation and industry, rather she has exploited generous, tax funded, welfare schemes. From this substantial fortune, what part of her personal income has been used in truly philanthropic acts rather than ones that massage her ego or present a good pr opportunity? I would wager it is a very small percentage. Whilst Emma may present a somewhat hippy vibe, be under no illusion, she is a hard nosed and calculating and surrounded by a few close associates who are worthy of closer scrutiny in their own right. A4e is a machine to handsomely line a few people's pockets with tax revenues intended to help people in need of real support. It is unfortunate that whatever may happen to Enma or her senior team, they will retain their acquired wealth, property and lifestyles. The workforce of the company will be the ones who will bear the unfortunate consequences of this episode. If you really want to investigate A4e go back to the very start and dig very deeply, you will be amazed at the difference between the truth you may find and that which is presented in the media.


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