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Colin Johnson’s blog

Archive for the ‘Public Services’ Category

Levels of Indirection (1)

Friday, April 19th, 2013

So, let me get this right. The company that sent this letter used a private mail provider, which have been encouraged because it is assumed that they would be able to undercut the publicly run mail service due to “private sector efficiencies”. Then, having taken its admin costs and profit from that service, they were able to subcontract this out to the publicly-run Royal Mail, who were able to do the work at break-even or better for whatever money was left. Who’s efficient now?

This has somewhat of the same flavour as James Meek’s piece for the London Review of Books, in which he points out that one of the completely unexpected consequences of electricity privatisation was that the privatised industries would, to a large extent, be bought up by nationalised companies elsewhere in Europe: “Why was it that we had to lose our nationalised industries in order to hand them over to nationalised industries from other countries?”

The Unbelievable Effectiveness of Public Services (1)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Imagine first-class mail being pitched as a new idea on Dragon’s Den.

You pick up letters locally for delivery across the country; sensible, something a lot of customers need. And you deliver them the next day; a good, if potentially expensive, service. How does collection get arranged: do you book a slot online for it to be collected, or take it to a central location in your local city or market town? No, you just put it in a box, and we will make one of these available in every settlement of significant size in the country. Okay…but what about the staff needed to collect and charge for the letters? How do you pay for them to be near to the boxes? Or perhaps people need to pay online and then they print-out an e-ticket that they attach to the letter? No, what, you just sell stamps in small shops around the country. Good idea, but getting but-in from lots of small businesses could be challenging.

Sounds like a good idea, well thought through. What is your price point? Ten pounds per letter? Five pounds? Two pounds; but what about the infrastructure costs? What…41p…? That’s ludicrous. I’m out.