Nick Herbert is an idiot

Taxpayers are footing a £50 million bill for the biggest series of rail strikes in a generation, while the company in charge of the train line stands to save money, it has emerged.

The walkout by drivers and conductors on the Southern Rail line led to trains being cancelled for 300,000 commuters in the South East on Tuesday, prompting ministers to indicate that they are prepared to strengthen anti-strike laws.

It has emerged that, because of a deal struck with Southern by the Government, the cost of the disruption will be borne by the taxpayer.

Yes, this is so. Revenue flows to the government, the train operator, Govia, is on a (not quite) fixed price management contract.

Nick Herbert, the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs and a former minister, said: “Because of the way the franchise is structured, there isn’t proper accountability. It should be the company bearing the cost of compensation and failure to meet targets.

“Whilst I am certain it is the unions that are currently causing most of the problems, there are separate underlying issues with the franchise.”

It’s not a franchise, it’s a management contract. Why I know not but that is what it is.

And thus Nick Herbert is an idiot.

23 thoughts on “Nick Herbert is an idiot”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    The government doesn’t let the train company crush the dumbest union in Britain. How is that the management’s fault?

    They work with the idiocies the government foists on them. The government should shoulder the cost. But they won’t. We will.

  2. It’s a management contract, not a franchise like the rest of the network, precisely because of state incompetence. The planned changes / improvements at London Bridge by Network Rail were so great and disruptive that no private company was prepared to take the risk of a franchise arrangement while they were carried out, hence the use of a management contract.

    It is because of the existence of a management contract here, with government rather than operating company bearing the revenue risk, that the government has chosen the here and now to make its stand against obsolete union practices. Again, there is no way a private company would do this, since the fixed term franchises mean they would take all the pain of the union disruption, but not the benefit into perpetuity of establishing new, sensible, flexible practices.

  3. I’ve been getting copied in on the DfT->MP letters about this.

    One thing that stuck out was a mention of a doubling of reported train faults that couldn’t be replicated in the depot.

    Which sounds a lot to me like trains being cancelled because the operational staff report a fault, yet said fault mysteriously disappears when someone technical looks for it.

    The equivalent used to happen to me in IT support, particularly at sites it took a while to get to. Gave the staff member in question a good excuse for having done no work for a while.

  4. And despite the problems being caused by the staff, the unions, TUPE and good old state-run Notwork Fail, you still get the calls for nationalisation.

    Because that’ll fix it because… something… Tories… Thatcher.

  5. Off Topic but worth it as (believe it or not) the Murphatolla gets close to a truth….

    “…hopeless poverty. It may be relative poverty, but that does not matter: perception is key here. And that’s the condition that too many think they face. It’s the condition that must be addressed if democracy is to survive. It’s the condition to which the left needs an answer.”

    So close, Spud, to the answer……

    If the left stop telling people that they are poor when by any reasonable standard they are well off, then those people will stop perceiving that they are poor.

    So close and yet he’ll miss by a mile when he comes up with his answer……

  6. He is certainly lying. If the company merely collect revenue for the government, why should they also be responsible for losses?

    It’s like blaming publicans for lost excise duty because people don’t drink so much in pubs any more.

  7. If a contract is written properly, there are be penalties and credits for failure by the supplier.

    But in this case it’s hard to see how the government isn’t at fault.

    I’ve seen many contracts where industrial action is counted as Force Majeure; it’s standard stuff. The government wrote the rules that allow the strike action (and TUPE of staff that failed to run a decent service last time).

    Likewise when the new Class 700 trains have genuine faults: DfT bought them.

    And when Network Rail screws up: state run.

    I wish there were some way that customers could be fairly compensated without the taxpayer taking the hit – like deducting the cost out of future DfT pension payouts.

    But there is one thing: that funny business about Govia apparently not having enough staff – particularly drivers – at the start of the contract, a situation that hasn’t been resolved in 2 years. How that came to pass I’m not sure. Perhaps the FCC franchise didn’t replace leavers because “why bother if you’re losing the franchise?”

  8. “I wish there were some way that customers could be fairly compensated without the taxpayer taking the hit – like deducting the cost out of future DfT pension payouts.”

    Bollocks. If the taxpayer owns it then the taxpayer bears the cost. Just like the shareholders do when a private company fucks up. Not the employees.

    If the taxpayer doesn’t want to cop for it when the government runs something badly, or contracts with someone else to run it badly, then the taxpayer should elect a batter government.

    People who moan about taxpayers footing the bill in the same breath they demand nationalisation are idiots.

  9. The taxpayer doesn’t really own it. The state does. I don’t accept they are the same thing. We aren’t the state and the state isn’t us.

    When a private company fucks up enough, the employees do pay – with their jobs. How do we make that apply to the public sector?

    “People who moan about taxpayers footing the bill in the same breath they demand nationalisation are idiots.”

    Agreed.

    “People who… …demand nationalisation are idiots.”

    Also works.

  10. With thanks to Andrew C:

    Tim – this is surely ripe for fisking?

    ‘Put it in three words: hopeless, powerless, poverty. It may be relative poverty, but that does not matter: perception is key here. And that’s the condition that too many think they face. It’s the condition that must be addressed if democracy is to survive. It’s the condition to which the left needs an answer.

    I will be working on it.’

    Jesus H. Christ – I’m still only halfway through ‘The Joy of Tax’ and I know a particularly mischievous acquaintance who also knows Murphy will be getting me a signed copy of the latest instalment ‘Dirty Secrets’! I’m running out of space on the bookshelf if he comes up with another book!

  11. > And despite […], you still get the calls for nationalisation

    The government should propose to nationalise the Southern area, on the condition that the RMT accept DOO (driver-only operation, the sticking point in the current strikes). If the RMT accept, they’ll be exposed as unreconstructed communists.

  12. Would be an interesting offer to make.

    One of the (many) problems with nationalisation as a solution is it wouldn’t end these disputes, as more often that not we have a Tory government. So they’d just go on politically-motivated strikes because of “Thatcher Thatcher Milk Snatcher” anyway. We had those ones in 2011, then we had the junior doctors threatening recently.

    I often think the railways are unfixable.

  13. > I often think the railways are unfixable.

    Just ban strikes on the railway, same as we do for the police.

    Across the pond, public-sector workers weren’t allowed to strike until 1962, when JFK issued an executive order “allowing public-sector workers to engage in collective bargaining”. So there’s precedent for an across-the-board ban on public-sector strikes.

  14. It’s worth a try. I wonder if the government is working toward that this time, now they’ve been given the justification.

    I don’t think the public sector should be allowed to strike. They’ve chosen a job where the customers have no choice but to pay, under threat of violence. Why should they have the choice not to work? Don’t like it, get a private sector job.

    There’s also the “essential service” argument. Is that what is in place for the police and military? And if it ain’t essential, why is the public sector involved? Kinda puts them on the spot about whether their tax-funded job is needed or not.

    I suppose we’d still be left with low-level sabotage, doing a shoddy job, the unreplicatable train errors I mentioned earlier.

    It’s a toughie. I often think the only way to “fix” the railways is to avoid them altogether! (WFH, drive)

  15. And yes, before someone goes all pendantic, I know that Govia is officially a private company – but its employees suckle at the taxpayer teat. I’d include pseudo-public sector work in that no-strike rule.

  16. Bloke who was Thornavis

    One way to fix the railways is to implement an Ecksian purge and then put Thornavis in charge.

    Blimey Tim that’s a good way to finish the railways off for good, not the Ecks bit ( I could supply him with a few names ) but putting me in charge, My first action would be to resign.

  17. “I don’t think the public sector should be allowed to strike.”

    Anyone should be allowed to withdraw their labour. Free trade has to be by mutual agreement.

    But the employers should then be allowed to replace them with non-union employees, if they can recruit them. The proper solution to any monopoly is competition.

  18. “Anyone should be allowed to withdraw their labour.”

    Yes, sure, nothing to stop them resigning. That’s what happens in reality in the private sector when between a rock and a hard place.

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Yes, sure, nothing to stop them resigning. That’s what happens in reality in the private sector when between a rock and a hard place.”

    I’ve always thought that and its what I’ve done. However I’m not so sure its that easy for low skilled people in areas of high unemployment who have little or no agency and shit and incompetent bosses who treat them badly. Some collective bargaining and limited strike action may be needed as a last resort to help them raise awareness. I don’t use Sports Direct because they are a shit employer and I have choice, for example.

    I wouldn’t extend that to public sector because we they are highly organised and in transparent jobs and we don’t have the opportunity to shop elsewhere. That said, I have seen some pretty appalling managers in the public sector who if they’d spoken to me like the way I’ve seen them speak to others I’d have decked them, and I told one that.

  20. Unions should be responsible for their actions: if they, directly by their actions, cause losses for a third party then the unions should be liable for those losses.

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