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Camden New Journal - COMMENT
Published: 21 February 2008
‘Stealing from dead’ and getting away with murder

THE most extraordinary practices have been allowed to take place over a long period of time by some council workmen with the apparent blessing of their managers.
Employed to clear the homes of tenants who had died, transferred to another property, or been evicted, council staff had simply helped themselves to the most valuable goods, and thrown the rest into skips.
Imagine how the ­relatives of those who had died would have felt when they discovered that ­irreplaceable items of great sentimental value had ­simply vanished.
This scandal brings to mind the practices of the grave-robbers Burke and Hare in the 19th century!
Councillor Chris Philp made a similar comparison (see page 2) when he said on Tuesday that staff had behaved “outrageously ... systematically stealing from the dead”.
None of this, we ­maintain, would have come to light had it not been for an investigation by the New Journal more than a year ago.
It was only when we threw light on the ghoulish antics of the workmen, that the councillors themselves were alerted. As usual, one or two councillors and some officials have turned their guns on the messenger. They accuse the New Journal for “damaging” a “pre-existing investigation”.
How long had that investigation been taking place? How widespread was it? Which sections of the Town Hall were under suspicion?
These are sound questions. But typically, a report by officials remains silent on them.
For far too long, a question has hung over the Town Hall: Who runs the council, officials or councillors?
This week, the brittle exchanges at the scrutiny committee meeting between councillors and officials suggests a new breeze may be blowing through the council chamber.

THIS week newspapers have groaned over the nationalisation of Northern Rock.
However, a tide of thought among economists and academics – in the face of the current recession – now suggests the days of neo-liberal policies that spawned the privatisation of the public sector may be slowly coming to an end.
That may be so, but Gordon Brown isn’t aware of it. When it comes to Britain’s biggest nationalised industry, the National Health Service, the government continues to chip away at privatising it.
Hence, present moves to allow a multi-billion corporation to take over GP surgeries in Bloomsbury.
A lone patient is challenging one of the corporations, United Health, in the High Court (see page 1).
Ranged against her will be big money lawyers and supine NHS officials. But, we suspect, there will be a solid weight of public support behind her.

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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