It's companies like G4S that really embody the "something for nothing" culture

After Workfare, the Olympics fiasco is another rocket fired into the side of the HMS Private Sector Efficiency.

Occasionally, reality has an aggressive way of bringing government rhetoric down to earth, like a malicious Tour de France spectator with a handful of tacks, watching Cameron approach on his Barclays bike.

For most of last week, talk has been of Olympic Security and the failings of G4S. The Government are making tough noises about penalties for failure to perform on the contract. G4S, in reply, not-so-subtly hints at the sudden rise last December in the number of security personnel required by LOCOG, from 2,000 to 10,000. The notion being, presumably, that thorough bag searches are a close substitute for non-incendiary social and foreign policies.

Another interesting debate, however, is to be had on the potential link between G4S’s failure and the scandal surrounding the deployment of "workfare" staff around the Queen’s Jubilee. The news of unpaid jobless being sent by coach from Bristol and made to spend the night under London Bridge was met with outcry. It is almost impossible to dismiss the collapse of such schemes under the weight of public opinion and the sudden G4S realisation that they will not be able to have the numbers promised, as mere coincidence.

Many folks misunderstand these schemes. They appear to believe that the employer will pay a participant’s Job Seekers' Allowance for a number of weeks while they work for them. This is incorrect. As can be easily gleaned from the literature on this, it is the state which continues to pay:

Participants will remain on benefit throughout the period of the sector-based work academy and Jobcentre Plus will pay any travel and childcare costs whilst they are on the work experience placement.

We know that G4S is one of the participants in the DWP’s Work Programme from Freedom of Information request 3238/2011. We know that Close Protection UK – the company at the centre of the Jubilee fiasco – are themselves sub-contracted to G4S for Olympic fire safety stewards. We know that workfare placements for the Jubilee were offered as training with the possibility of lucrative Olympics jobs on completion. We know that G4S defended Close Protection UK as an approved contractor who required no further vetting. We know that back in February G4S were advertising Olympic Recruitment with the words “not a job vacancy but you might find it interesting”.

How many thousands of jobless were G4S planning to deploy, either directly or through sub-contractors, before workfare schemes became PR-toxic? Here is a company getting paid an average of £28,000 for each of the 10,000 employees required. With unemployment standing at 2.6m, it is incredible to suggest that staff could not be found and trained for such a well paid seventeen-day engagement.

Much more likely is that the company miscalculated in its attempts to maximise its profit, over-estimated its ability to do things “on the cheap” and the availability of free labour, and spectacularly failed. Another rocket fired into the side of the HMS Private Sector Efficiency from atop a London council block.

The Olympic Security scandal reveals the issues behind workfare schemes with crystal clarity. There was plenty of money available. There are no permanent jobs beckoning at the end of the Olympiad. The demand side is fixed – 10,000 is the requirement; no extra jobs will be created by deploying training schemes.

It is a mystery that while traditional right-wing commentators like the TaxPayers Alliance and the Mail object to funding an individual’s benefits, they appear quite happy to cross-subsidise huge conglomerates. Such programmes do not end the “something for nothing” culture. They elevate it to the corporate level. They allow companies like G4S to get something for nothing on a grand scale. We might be paying for these security staff twice – by paying for their training through direct contract fees to G4S and again through these schemes.

Another, seemingly unrelated, story also captured the headlines last week: the first convictions under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 for “holding a person in servitude” and “forced or compulsory labour”. (We were also told – every hour on the hour – that the guilty parties were a family of Travellers. In combination with the recent child grooming trial and a Mail story about a “refugee rapist”, this proves that the provenance of a criminal is especially newsworthy if it is a minority.)

I studied the sentencing remarks of Judge Michael Kay QC with interest. "The promise of pay was a monstrous and callous deceit”, he said. “The conditions were squalid and at times they were starving. The way in which these defendants, for their own financial benefit, brutally manipulated and exploited men who are already plumbing the depths of despair is pure evil.”

And I think to myself, what is the difference, really, between the victims of that case and a group of jobless people being herded on to a coach from Bristol, under threat of losing their benefits, dumped underneath London Bridge to spend the night, with no food or toilet facilities, made to strip in public to change into their uniform, until having to stand there in the lashing rain the next day to steward a celebration of privilege?

Can you spot it? I can’t.

Security checks at the Olympic site. Photo: Getty Images

Greek-born, Alex Andreou has a background in law and economics. He runs the Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company and blogs here You can find him on twitter @sturdyalex

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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism