Is privatisation about to leave London without fire engines?

There’s a fascinating, horrifying story which has been widely reported in blogs but has been ignored by the mainstream media.  It concerns the provision of London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines by a private company, the risks to that provision from the apparent problems of that company, and in its own way it’s an indicative parable of life in the Britain that the neocons in all three main parties have handed over to their friends.

London and Lincolnshire’s fire tenders are provided by AssetCo, a private sector provider which, by all accounts, is facing serious problems.  Writer Francis Beckett takes up the story on his blog:

AssetCo is a company with multi million pound contracts to own and maintain all London’s and Lincolshire’s fire engines.  It owes millions of pounds in unpaid tax, it has had to raise £26 million long term from a share offer and another emergency £3.5 million from the bank just to avoid liquidation.  It’s trying to get rid of its chairman, chief executive and financial officer.  It had to take its chief executive and founder to the high court to get him to vote for the financial bailout, otherwise it would already have gone under.

It’s a company in meltdown – and it owns all the fire engines for London and Lincolnshire.  If it goes under, we could lose all our fire engines to the company’s creditors.  The London Fire Brigade says there’s a clause in the contract which protects the fire engines – but it won’t show us the clause.  When it eventually, unwillingly, released the contract, the relevant clause was “redacted.”

AssetCo is also recruiting British firefighter instructors to train the military in the United Arab Emirates, and help put down pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain.

That last comment needs some expanding – here is some background provided by blogger and journalist David Hencke:

The company that owns  and maintains London’s fire engines  is recruiting British firefighter instructors to train the military in the United Arab Emirates.

They are offering tax-free salaries of £46,812 a year  for  British recruits just as Abu Dhabi has joined the Saudis to help Bahrain’s  rulers  put down dissent among pro democracy demonstrators in Bahrain in the most brutal way. Reports have included torture of nurses, removal of people from intensive care units so they can be left to die and intimidation and possible murder of hospital surgeons. See this Sunday Telegraph report

UAE jet fighters are  also preparing to join the coalition of the willing against Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. They are planning to send 12 fighters and are blaming their civil unrest on the Iranians.

AssetCo, the  troubled fire privatisation company, is hoping to get £40m out of a £120m deal with the  Gulf State’s armed forces to boost its profitability. It has been facing severe problems in Britain, including having to raise £26m from investors and through a  share placing. Revenue and Customs has issued a winding up order against AssetCo seeking at least £4m and they have to pay off a debt to the state-owned Lloyds TSB.

The deal was one of the last negotiated by former chief executive, John Shannon, before he resigned after a huge row  with the rest of directors over the share placing.

Now they are  desperate to recruit  trained staff so they can fulfill it. The advertisement promises a company car, free medical cover and flights home to Britain. See here.

The Telegraph report on Bahrain atrocities, the AssetCo contract and job advertisement can be seen together here.

It seems extraordinary to me that a  foundering British company is poised to make millions out of Middle East  misery and recruit desperate British people to do it.

So, let’s just recap. There is a risk that all London and Lincolnshire’s fire tenders could end up being taken off the road as the private company that owns them is in financial difficulty, and the London Fire Brigade, while giving assurances that this won’t happen, refuses to publish the clause in its contract that apparently provides the guarantee.

And AssetCo is at the same time recruiting firefighters to help train the militaries involved in the recent repression in Bahrain.

It’s a state of affairs that sums up so much about the state of Con Dem Britain. The possibility that our capital city could be left without fire cover would be on every front page in the country if, for example, it was caused by Union activity. But, as Beckett points out, the media simply aren’t covering it. Nobody is calling London’s part-time mayor to account, or asking the right questions. Nobody appears to be discussing how inconceivable such a situation would be if London’s firefighting assets were held in the public sector.

And, above all, it’s a story about how ideology trumps sense and rationality at every stage in a neocon society.


One thought on “Is privatisation about to leave London without fire engines?

  1. delighted to see you have picked this up. More interesting is this story is getting over 1000 hits on websites where it appears – and the running story i have done on AssetCo has attracted over 2100. What is starting to happen is that blogs are replacing newspaper coverage -because papers are giving up reporting some issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s