Taking Climate Change Protests in London to the extreme wont tackle the real problem, but it will push sympathizers even further away

April 18, 2019 Leave a comment

img_2996Anyone watching the news programmes in the West Country last night could have easily mistaken the coverage of the Climate Change Protests, flagging its origins in Stroud as being flown as some kind of Regional badge of honour.

Questions over media bias aside and quickly swept away into the overflowing pile where it now belongs, the strange-but-true reality of the Climate Question is that there are much greater levels of sympathy for the points that are generally being made than is generally realised. It is simply the case that for most people, the practicalities of life get in the way.

There is an unwritten rule beating away like a heart in the background of all this that says its ok to be as idealistic as much as you like, just don’t get in the way of other peoples lives in a way that suggests that you (the idealist) are right, and that everyone else (the pragmatic) are wrong.

The upshot and punishment of doing so, as the Extinction Rebellion are unwittingly pursuing so rigorously in London right now, is to lose friends and alienate people. The same people that they should not only be looking to win support from, but to work with collectively if not only the Climate Change Question but a great many others are ever, within a sensible timeline, to be properly resolved.

As an end result, aim or destination target, the creation of a fully carbon neutral economy is in itself a worthy aim. But attempting to push Government and yes, the People of this Country into the changes and knock-on effects that would be both necessary and unavoidable to achieve this unilateral target across the UK by 2025 would have impacts that even the most pessimistic of us would not dare to imagine.

There are pages, chapters and probably an entire book covering the family tree of consequences that would follow the implementation of such de facto demands.

When it boils down to it, even the lives of these apparently most idealistic and green-motivated of people would be turned completely on their head by public policy borne within an echo chamber where real world considerations and the question of such things as how the human experience is different for us all are excluded and don’t operate in any meaningful form.

Many Climate Change activists passionately believe that theirs is the only real game in town. But the game they really should be playing isn’t the one they think it is. It is actually the same one underpinning pretty much all of the problems that we as a society, a Country, a Continent and a World have at the base of all political problems.

Yes, it all boils down to pretty much the same cause.

Money, material wealth, self-interest and just about every shade of the same that you can roll out into what appears to be an infinite number of infinitesimally small to gargantuan forms.

Whether its think of ourselves or the accumulation of corporate and fat-cat wealth, it’s all relative and the root cause of it all is fundamentally the same.

Climate Change, like so many other things, will not become the cause célèbre that it needs to be, for as long as the alternative to money being the real power in the world is neither recognised, embraced and therefore not found.

To even begin the journey to that place – which will not be brought into existence by throwing the toys out of the pram, will take a change in thinking that will simply not happen that fast, no matter how desperate the change required may actually be.

Man is by nature a selfish beast. And the argument for addressing Climate Change will not be a priority for everyone until every excuse – whether financial or otherwise – has been dealt with meaningfully and removed, or the whole problem has simply been tested to to destruction and yes – gone far too far.

The genuine, meaningful opportunity that exists today for activists and people up and down this land, is to observe and be open to the reality that removing the sickness we now have in our Politics, our Parliament and all of our public bodies is the first major step to making our own society more mindful of the wider issues at work.

When we achieve the goal of having people in high office and positions of responsibility that consider the consequences of all that they do in terms of everyone and not only themselves, we will be one giant leap nearer the point where the Climate Change Question, whether perceived in isolation or as part of the malaise which faces us all collectively can finally be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Yes – Taxi Driver Qualification could be tighter, but further centralisation of the rules will discriminate against good driver applicants as well as bad

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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One of the most tragic ways that MPs and Politicians fail the Electorate, is by giving excessive weight to the advice and input from membership organisations that sell and portray themselves as representative of entire demographics or communities. For they are susceptible to the very same biases, tunnel vision and levels of self interest on the part of their representatives and leaders that the MP would be expected to consider if they were just talking to any one person alone.

All too often, Ministers who have little or no real-world experience of their brief or the wherewithal to understand at an intrinsic level, what someone is telling them who has, respond in knee-jerk fashion to what these organisations tell them. They are under the misapprehension that the words of such representatives genuinely reflect the will and desires of whole swathes of the Electorate, when reality is that they seldom do any such thing.

With four years experience as a Licensing Chair which ended in 2015, I was intrigued to hear the news that the Government is now to Consult on changing the qualification rules for Taxi, Hackney and Private Hire Drivers. The direction of travel suggested being to emphasise that the rules governing their Regulation should become more uniform, and therefore centralised so that an applicant or driver dealing with one Licensing Authority would now be effectively dealing with them all as one.

In principle this sounds good. There is definitely a disconnect between the reality that Drivers are often only Registered or ‘Licensed’ by one Local Authority, but in almost every case other than a large Licensing Area such as London, they will cross into the jurisdiction of at least one and possible many others perhaps as often as every day.

This does indeed leave grey areas over infringements in the regulatory sense. But more importantly where existing Taxi Drivers and their Operating Companies are concerned, there is a big issue over outsiders treading on toes. Vehicles from other areas are perceived to be stealing business from ‘local firms’ with the subsequent suggestion that the Authority Licensing that ‘outsider driver’, employs a policy where anything goes.

Because Taxi Licensing Policy is open to localised tweaks, additions and therefore non-adoption of policies which might have been adopted elsewhere too, it is easy to give fictitious credence to the arguments that roll away from myth that every Authority is run differently.

The reality is that the rules governing all forms of Licensing are already heavily centralised, have been set in London and in the main part with basic issues like qualification, are pretty much consistent wherever you might go.

Unfortunately, the Taxi Lobby has form when it comes to influencing Politicians to change rules for their own ends.

A decade ago, changes to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 closed a loop-hole preventing private drivers from gaining a fee for transporting Special Educational Needs Students between their homes, schools and colleges. Sold as a way to raise safety standards, the outcome of this ring-fencing of local authority contracts to a the closed audience which lobbied for it landed Local Educational Authorities with an average additional annual bill of at least £1 Million, without any indication that the benefit to the end user at larger was in any way improved.

Yes, there is always a need to make sure that the rules are tight. But rules can also be twisted to benefit those with the most to gain whilst there is a significant cost to others.

We should all be very concerned about the potential for further regulation which is being sold as being in the best interests of the Public, that may actually only favour particular types of operators, has the potential to price others out of the marketplace and put up prices for all customers.

All this at a time when Taxis themselves are increasingly the only lifeline available for people disadvantaged by the remote nature of their communities, where commercialisation of public services has failed them more than perhaps most.

Like Planning Law, which is often perceived mistakenly as being set locally by District Level Authorities, Licensing is predominantly set centrally already. It is just interpreted in the main part by Local Licensing Authorities.

In what is a typically quasi-judicial setting that some would recognise as not being massively dissimilar to the Magistrates Court, applications and reviews that cannot be determined by Officers under delegated powers are heard by a panel or bench of three of the Council’s Licensing Committee Members.

Within such a setting, there is regrettably always a chance that because of the inconsistency in the quality, approach and motivation of local Politicians – as with Parliament – that you will get a different outcome from a hearing. It is very much dependent upon who is sitting, who is chairing and facilitating, how they interpret the evidence given, how they are advised by Licensing Officers and yes – just because it’s the way that it all went that day.

It is here that there is real inconsistency within the Licensing system.

But this inconsistency needs to be tackled with measures put in place to ensure that there is consistency in determinations, that impartiality is the guiding factor in all outcomes and that nobody sitting in ‘judgment’ is allowed to influence a decision because of personal bias, experience or because they are on a power trip and want to get their own way that day.

The risk in moving towards a national form of Licensing administration is that it will remove what little flexibility is left within the system. Flexibility that needs to be monitored and improved, but not overlooked, forgotten or ignored.

Not everyone wants to be a Taxi Driver. Many people take on the role as an in-between to keep themselves working whilst the move between other things. Some take on the work because they do not like being employed but do not want the responsibility of being self-employed in the generally accepted sense and are as such making the very best of things that they can.

Yes, there have been some very serious cases of Taxi Drivers abusing the responsibility and the trust that they have been given. But whilst what those individuals have done is wrong, the cases that are now being used as a reference point for changing the whole industry are statistically very few, and like in many areas where Government Policy is being used to pursue the passions of the few, there is an inherent danger to this of the tail being used to wag the whole dog.

The signifiant danger is that by appearing to tighten up rules which are already working well – when you consider that you will never create the perfect system, there are many would-be Taxi Drivers who could be assets to an industry which itself is facing challenging times, which will be denied entry to these roles at an incalculable cost.

People who could now, through the further synchronisation of rules be excluded because of the already overzealous nature of decision making in the public sphere, where risk of any kind – which includes giving people the benefit of the doubt when they are turning their lives around or are leaving mistakes made in their youth a long way behind – would be in much shorter supply.

Dehumanising the system might be reflective of the world at large, but the disadvantage and cost of such steps will be much more far-reaching than what will only ever be a perceived and tangible benefit to very few.

image thanks to unknown

Rethinking the Railways: no Public Service should be in private hands, nor should it be under union influence either

January 3, 2019 Leave a comment

It’s January and once again, we are witnessing inflation-busting rises in Rail Fares with the same old media coverage, the same old political responses from all sides and the same old reality that it is the same people being financially worked-over as a result of the ineptitude of the Politicians who were Elected to help them.

As usual, the blame game is well and truly afoot, providing ever useful cover for those choosing not to be responsible as we focus on the beneficial myths which are privatisation of public services, public ownership, building completely new railways and the inherent suggestion that people can always afford to pay more.

Whilst championed by the various sides as Westminster takes a momentary breath from Brexit, the reality is that none of these approaches can solve the fundamental problems that exist within the railways, public transport or wider public sector services.

Switching from one of these methods to another to solve just one problem, will simply create many more.

As with most issues that now surround the ineptitude and incompetency of Government, the real solutions to these problems – that’s the one that tackle the actual causes – are simply too unpalatable for the spin doctors and marketing whizzes to contemplate on behalf of the Politicians who would have us believe that they are in control.

The Politicians themselves do not have the foresight to see that by taking the tough and difficult decisions that they are supposed to, the results and impact of that action will soon speak much louder than any sound bite, as the reality of doing things properly becomes manifest and finds a very loud voice of its own.

The problem with the options that we are told are available

It’s very important to understand that one of the key principles of the Public Sector and the way that it operates is involuntarily and often deliberately overlooked:

Public Services are not and never will be a commercial business.

The purpose of Public Services is to provide uniformity of service and/or access to the wider community, which is simply contradictory to the motivation for running private business.

The simple reason being that the universal nature of the requirement for Public Services necessitates that unless you cherry pick and introduce different levels or tiers of service or remove the provision of that service from some areas altogether, the guarantee of profitability from all those parts operated, if not all of the service itself would always be denied.

This is why even in private hands, the Railways are heavily subsidised by the Government.

The Railways today

Today the Railways are effectively operated by profit-making private sector contractors or operating companies. Contractors who are often large PLC’s that make substantial sums of money by operating large-scale services and employing the economies of scale to reduce costs, usually on an ongoing basis.

Operating under the auspices of being a regulated public service as the nature of the public ownership of the railway infrastructure itself dictates, the contractors do not have the flexibility to raise prices and change service structures at will.

This effectively means that to increase profits, the contractors have to reverse engineer the profit-making-process by reducing overheads and making more money from the cost centres which have been accounted for in their Contract with the Government.

In effect, they are adhering to the terms of their agreement with the Government in principle rather than spirit. The outcome being the shitty end of the stick that we all experience each and every time we get on a sweaty train and realise that we have to stand for at least significant chunks of a very long journey, unless we want to get out and run.

Because the margins the operating companies accept to gain a contract or franchise are often very tight, expectation versus the ability to back engineer those all-important profit margins can easily prove impossible to align. And when they do, this is when we experience ‘franchises’ being passed back to public hands.

No private company will pay for the privilege of operating a Public Service, and nor should  the Government expect them to do so. But on the same count, neither should they be able to milk profit by taking all the value out.

The only thing that literally keeps the train wheels spinning is the RPI linked rise in Rail Fares which comes into operation each January.

It’s a dubious way of calculating an annual rise to say the least. But without it, the current operating model simply wouldn’t work.

Return to Public Ownership

Jeremy Corbyn and his shotgun John McDonnell advocate a wholesale return of Public Services to Public Ownership. For obvious reasons which only a fool would overlook or dismiss, this is a principle that the Public would all too easily embrace.

What it doesn’t do is answer the big questions surrounding why the idea of privatisation gained momentum in the first place. Perhaps the biggest reason being one of the left’s own making; the power of the Unions and Employment Rights too.

The simple question for anyone who understands the reasons why Public Services are put out to contract and therefore placed in profit-making hands is this: ‘Why is it more cost effective to employ a profit making company to run an identical service to the one we could or have provided ourselves?

The answer isn’t one that the left likes.

But it is also the reason that wholesale return of public services to public ownership without reform would cripple this Country in no uncertain terms: The Public Sector wage and benefits bill is out of control, as are the regulations and rights that support them, and the Union’s will bring everything to a standstill under the guidance of their barons who will employ the very same self-interest employed by big bankers and pension funds who milk public services today, simply served up in a different and even more malevolent form.

Building new Railways

Building new Railways will not solve the problems of franchising to profit-led contractors or operating them in unreformed Public hands.

It will cost money that the Country doesn’t have and would be unnecessary for us to spend too, if the Government was prepared to make the decisions that it should do.

The existing Infrastructure

One of the biggest errors of Government in ‘recent’ times, was the dismantling of the Railways undertaken by Dr Beeching in the 1960’s.

There was a complete lack of foresight and understanding by yet another Government which was reacting to the effects of problems it was facing, rather than getting on and tackling the causes as any good government should.

The result was that much of the indirect capacity which had until that time existed, was removed and with it, a ticking time bomb created for the effectiveness of the reformed railway network which would soon be as restricted as the diminished number of lines.

Today, there are simply not enough platforms at key and terminus or hub stations to increase capacity on the network in the most simple and effective way:

Increase the number of trains.

Using the Public as a cash cow

Whilst the Government heads off a simmering crisis each year by putting up the Rail Fares in what can only be argued as an unrealistic form, it relies on what is in effect taxing the same people over and over again for using a substandard service. One that only appears sustainable because over many commuters the Rail Operators hold a monopoly – something public services were NEVER created for.

Solving the problem and not creating others instead

It occurred to me as I was thinking about writing this blog, that the whole idea of public-private sector partnerships is actually oxymoronic.

Man can only have one master, and if that master is money, the service will not be about providing a good experience to the public.

Whilst I like the idea of public services being fully in public hands, this idea itself is no longer possible.

The standing influence that institutional and regulatory bias towards employees and unions has, has already priced out this operating model in many ways. It is itself the elephant in the room that it remains dangerous to identify when the collapse of public services – particularly at local level – is ever discussed.

In respect of these two options alone, the complexity of solving the Rail Fare crisis is identified and as part of the wider cost-of-public-services is concerned, certainly comes into its own.

The only way that railways and all forms of public transport can be returned to a format of universal, uniform quality and experience is to do away with the current and previous forms of operation and accept that there has to be a new operating model, focused on public service but adapted to deliver for all against the flow of self-interested times.

We need more platforms and if necessary stations in key locations, but we don’t need to build completely new lines.

The technology now exists to run and manage many more Trains on the same lines at the same times and we should be both embracing and furthering this massive opportunity for the benefits to the public, rather than just the profitability that it was developed for.

Existing line-beds and heritage Railways should be put back into commercial use and we should be making the very best of the infrastructure that we already have.

The cost of doing so and the time it will take to deliver will be substantially less and with much less disruption than any white elephant project like HS2 would ever have.

 

image thanks to unknown

 

 

 

 

Boots Corner closed for 6 Months and the consequences for Cheltenham appear very much ‘out of sight, out of mind’

December 28, 2018 2 comments

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Yes, that’s right. The Boots Corner debacle, the traffic problems It has created for everyone beyond the Planners masterpiece and the now ghost-like roads just a stones throw from the Town Centre have been an evolving problem facing local People and Businesses for 6 Months.

The glad-handing and self-congratulation that we see pouring out in response to every legitimate concern that is tabled, wouldn’t be a problem for anyone outside the Council and the ‘project’ itself, if it weren’t absolutely clear to everyone else that the passage of time and every new thing being added is making the problems worse and worse.

Be in no doubt, the quantitative data that will be used to legitimise this train wreck of a Town Traffic Plan will inevitably support everything that Officers and Councillors say.

What it won’t do is consider any of the qualitative or experiential impacts which are the real consequence for local People, Businesses and frequent visitors or commuters to the Town. Simply because that was never what this vanity project was about.

Out in the real world, Cheltenham’s many passionate Small Business Owners know what does and doesn’t work in the Town Centre. They’ve done the trial and error already, many times over and know intrinsically how footfall and the number of customers who enter through their doors is directly affected and proportional to the cars and traffic that travel past and have direct access and line-of-sight knowledge of who they are and what they are offering to customers.

They possessed this knowledge long before the Boots Corner project got underway and have since increased their level of knowledge and understanding in a very practical way. Information which the arrogance and ‘we know best’ attitude of the controlling Councillors and the Planners both before and since the Scheme was launched has been overlooked.

The only figures and data which now matters to the Council are the number of feet on the High Street. And the answer to the question which should automatically follow this reality simply raises many more questions and a justifiably significant level of concern about what the priorities of Cheltenham’s District Authority now are as opposed to what they should actually be.

Take a walk in the streets behind boots, M&S and John Lewis and only the most unaware of people could walk away from the experience without recognising the physical and atmospheric change to what is still a part of Cheltenham Town Centre.

Whilst the confusing mish-mash of changes to what used to be a straightforward and accessible road system may seem much safer to some faceless bureaucrat in an office somewhere, the strange silence of these roads doesn’t foretell a beneficial change taking place for any of the businesses that cannot afford the significant rents and mortgages of the revamped High Street, forcing them to go beyond.

No, it tells us that the priority in Cheltenham is only big retail business, and that the lifeblood of the town which will always be it’s plethora of Small Businesses is being condemned by both the actions and words of both elected and appointed Public Representatives.

Unpalatable as it may be to idealistic Councillors and influential Officers who have been culturally conditioned to believe that they have no other way to respond, people notice and remember the places that they want to go when they are travelling through the Town in their cars.

Yes we may have a wider, cultural problem with the dependency upon four wheels that there is.

But there is nothing practical in trying to pretend there are not natural laws at work and that human behaviour itself dictates that the lack of foresight and absence of intuitive consideration of what these changes to the Town Centre have already and are set to do, confirms that this Council will only ever deliver on its own ideas, whilst paying scant regard to the consequences of its actions upon others. Namely the very people it exists for and is there to serve.

What is effectively the closure of what used to be the inner ring road is an avoidable blight on a large swathe of Cheltenham Town Centre which will mean existing businesses will fail, new ones will never get the footfall that they need to keep going, and instead of being a destination of business opportunity for the many, this idealistic approach to managing a Town Centre will instead only really be of benefit yet again to the deep pocketed few.

For the people who know and love Cheltenham for the great Town that it already is and has been for a considerably long time, John Lewis and The Brewery are great enhancements for the Town to have. But they should never be interpreted by anybody as being all that Cheltenham is now about.

Changing this Council may be the only way that Cheltenham can now overturn this injustice, as political action is the only way that self-serving Councillors are likely to be pushed to respond to any thoughts, feelings or ideas other than their own.

Tube Drivers earning £100K+ is outrageous. But privatising the Underground would reduce value, redirect that money to deep pockets and cost the Public much more besides

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

The stranglehold that the Unions have on Transport for London has long since been questionable. But questionable and acceptable are two very different things.

With some Tube Drivers now reportedly earning six figures and potentially more, the point has definitely been reached where it has become clear that their ability to command salaries that completely dwarf comparative roles on other networks has simply gone too far.

There is no need to list roles and the salaries of other ‘public’ occupations that show how disproportionate this giveaway is.

Roles that in some cases require many years of academic study and then on-the-job experience to reach a level of employment and positions which encapsulate significantly more responsibility, comparatively unlimited hours and are even then paid perhaps some 25% less.

There is no question that there is specific value to a Tube Driver’s role.

But the financial value placed upon it must be proportionate and reflective of the industry as a whole. Not open to suggestion at any time at the whim of Unions, simply because of the near monopoly status that the Underground in London has. A monopoly status that is clearly being used as a weapon against the Public that own the service, by those the Public have only ever employed to serve it.

Yet running away from the cause of the problem will only cause many more problems in itself.

Privatisation is now being voiced as a solution because it appears to be a quick-fix solution to all the challenges that the Public Sector has.

The problem is that private interests will always prioritise profit above public service.

So when a system there to benefit the Public like the Tube should be thriving, in private hands you would inevitably see it go into serious decline.

The cold, hard, unpopular and politically unpalatable reality is that the unspoken solution to solving problems like these are buried within employment and industrial laws. Laws which were put in place to benefit some without thought for the consequences for others, often so that some politician at some point some where has been able to guarantee that they would gain re-lection once more.

Much of the damaging legislation that has allowed this travesty to unfold, falls at the door of the influence and drip-drip-drip of legislation from Europe.

It has been embraced by previous Prime Ministers thinking only about their own positions whilst selling out efficiency and the realistic end-user costing of services directed at the Public, whilst propagating the myth that ideas have more value than practical reality to the People they were elected to represent.

Legislation brought into being and implemented under the pretence that it will improve some lives, is through its indirect but nonetheless disproportionately massive impact upon all others, one of the biggest contributors to the struggle that many people on low incomes now face, as well as a whole lot more.

To solve wholly avoidable problems like these and many more besides, we need the ability to set our own rules completely and have politicians in power who are prepared to use the responsibility they have been given to take decisions which may appear wrong to a noisy few, but address genuine need as a part of the many wider issues that the UK has. The purpose most rational people believe that Representatives of the People are elected for.

Whilst there is no justification for Parliamentary bullying, a career politics culture at Westminster may hold the real key

November 6, 2018 Leave a comment

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Right now, we are all feeling the fallout from an indefinite bout of issue fatigue. The cause being the endless blame game which has taken over news channels at every turn, making us question and in many cases overlook so much of what we now hear.

In amongst the continual barrage of Brexit-esque mischief making currently absorbing everything and highlighted with the ever-present shout-out for Remain, there lies a developing story about another abuse of political power, which yet again should be deeply concerning for us all.

Right at the heart of British Politics, stories of bullying, poor people management and abuse of responsibility are growing, as is yet another tale of the Parliamentary Establishment failing us all by failing to act.

Horrible as it is, bullying can exist within any workplace.

But whether bullying is deliberate and enacted through malevolent intent, is unconscious and reflective more of poor management and social skills on the part of the bully themselves, or more a reflection of how direct management instruction can now be misinterpreted by people who want to brush the realities and requirements of a job description to one side, its presence or the perception of it being so should never go unquestioned. And particularly so when it is our legislators themselves who are intimately involved.

Events that have taken place already are one thing, and there is no doubt that The Speaker should facilitate proper scrutiny of all that has taken place immediately and ensure appropriate responses and transparency throughout.

But work must also be carried out to address the potential for bullying in the future, and to do this it really is important that the impact of the career politics gravy train is made clear openly and the dark realities which influence behaviour in Parliament spelled out.

Regrettably, the evolution of the Political Party System to what it is today has not only made, but actively encourages politics to be an aggressively ambitious place.

However, before running away with the immediate impression that I am focusing just on the behaviour of MP’s and Politicians themselves, it is also important to recognise the roles that they will have played before their own election. Roles which are often subordinate to MP’s, which form the basis and lifeblood of Parliamentary Staff, Jobs that are filled with a plethora of political aspirants who are just as focused on the end game and what is in it for them, albeit at a much earlier developmental stage.

Politics has become all about the job and not about the responsibility. In such an environment, it is inevitable that the aggressiveness which accompanies people on this pathway will win-out, no matter what the stage.

What is not inevitable however, and what is just a sign of the times, is the reliance which has fallen into place, on there being some kind of quasi-dependence on there being a career pathway to a job being an MP at all.

And whilst for the various reasons and for the interpretations of bullying outlined above which make it likely that it will always in some form in the workplace always continue to exist, the return of politicians to the Parliamentary Estate who see their role as a gifted responsibility from and on behalf of the Electorate, rather than a job, a career and therefore a right, will go a considerable way to heading off even the chance of behaviour which has little to do with the impact of decisions and of actions in sight.

 

 

 

 

The travesty of Tuition Fees was the commercialisation of education, the myth of qualification-related Social Mobility and the creation of lifetime debt for those who can least afford it

November 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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Somewhere, there was a cheer last week. Quieter that the Government was expecting. Bringing noises that didn’t sound quite as expected.

Yes, the dropping of Tuition Fees does sound good. But the question we should all be asking – just as we should have when they were first brought into being is ‘at what cost?’.

Living in the age of political idealism made manifest as we all currently do, it is too easy to get distracted by the noise from the media as new policies are launched.

We fail to look beyond and see the true consequences of what the Government of the day is doing with our money, and what the legacy – and yes, what the fallout will actually be from everything they do.

The creation of Tuition Fees was one of the biggest travesties of them all, simply because it all sounded so good, whilst the negative impact and knock on effects across so many different areas of policy were simply too-far reaching to justify anything about it which was tangibly good.

The UK’s Education System has been failing us all for a long while anyway. But the impact from Tuition Fees was never going to deliver much that really helped anyone in the way that the genuine concept of equality in education for all really should.

That so many former, existing and future students are now destined to have a lifetime of debt must surely now be a given.

Yet it is through the accompanying shift of emphasis from quality of teaching to fee-generation and profit alone within the Further and Higher Education Sectors which has secured the Blair era one of its darkest, yet most unrecognisable legacies as the true cost of ‘degrees for everyone’ becomes manifest and begins to become widely known.

It should come as little surprise that the leaders of the Institutions in these Sectors are now worried that a restriction on Fees may begin a process where ‘struggling’ universities are set to close.

That is the true price of making education a business, when money should never have been the target of a reprioritisation of direction Certainly not where the benefit of both the student, our industries and the National interest itself are so very closely entwined.

Beware the siren calls and suggestion of this being an attack on Social Mobilty too. Academic qualifications have only ever been a very small part of what it takes to get any one person through the perceptual barriers which hold so many people back. Whether they be school-age students, young people, graduates, career changers, returners or retirees, we all have a part to play in everyone else’s future too.

The reality is that the State should pay for everyone’s education. But in doing so, we must be practical and realistic about how access to education is applied and how much benefit is derived to us all from the provision of each and every course.

We must recognise that there is just as much value to be gained by opening up truly vocational opportunities for the less-academically-inclined at the age of 14.

And that as a result of doing so, not only would we release many young people from the painful and unnecessary realities of being in debt, we can also exploit the opportunity to create a parallel track of time-served and experienced trainees to support all of our businesses in a way that the obsession with degree level education has all but denied.

It would be far more sensible to begin this process of change now, accepting that neither the student nor the Nation itself can afford the process of awarding superfluous and non-beneficial degrees. And help the Sector to change through reform, rather than through a process brought on by necessity, which is what is currently sure to happen, if Politicians continue to think that money is the only benchmark by which the future of education can and should be defined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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