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Archive for December, 2013

Building on the Greenbelt could be avoided if Politicians were prepared to tackle the causes of Housing Crisis head on. Their failure to do so may leave many of these new homes empty and not just immigrants living in modern-day slums which are currently known as ‘beds in sheds’…

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

On a day that the reality of modern day, back-garden ‘beds-in-sheds’ or rather the slums springing up across the UK to house immigrants hit the pages, we also see the news that more than half of Councils plan to build on our green belt.

You may be forgiven for thinking that there is an obvious link. But the only real relationship between these two issues, neither of which should arguably have ever have become fact, is that they provide a very telling story not only about the excessive cost of housing, but also the very painful reality that members of our communities from one end to the other are being overlooked by Government Policy.

In a recent blog, I discussed the issues that sit rather uncomfortably behind the incessant drive on the part of Politicians to build more and more houses as a method of stimulating the economy and solving the UK’s housing crisis, whilst actually doing anything but.

As they do so, they are overlooking the permanent damage that will be inflicted upon Towns and Villages up and down the Country, whilst failing to demonstrate either an understanding of the factors which are causing the problems for so many people, or indeed how many more issues that this form of recklessness sold to us as responsibility will cause.

why_do_we_behave_like_lemmings_4677351My own concerns about the foolishness which is leading the development of these Policies throughout the Local Authority Network and specifically at local level – where many Councillors behaviour can most politely be described as being very similar to that of Lemmings going off a cliff, is well known.

My inbox regularly has mail which has been written by local people from right across the area that Tewkesbury Borough Council covers who are rightly and quite simply horrified by the Plans which are now well on the way to being put in place. In many cases these very Plans are being very effectively picked apart by these impassioned members of the public who have very little experience of how the Planning System actually works. Will it make any difference? Probably not.

I recognise the value in the arguments they make. Somehow things really don’t add up when questions about the impact on such essential matters as future infrastructure, the merging of historically separate Towns and both fluvial AND pluvial flooding issues seem to go unanswered.

I also appreciate that I may be doing a disservice to the multitude of other very localised issues which face other communities across the Country which are just as important to the people that live there, but which I have overlooked just because I don’t have first-hand knowledge of them and most respectfully have no reason to do so.

The problem is that the Policy frameworks and guidance on which all local ‘Strategies’ are being set have been stewarded into being by Westminster-based Politicians who should not only know and understand these things, they seem oblivious to the fact that their own knowledge and outlook is actually so limited and are just as immune to hearing or seeing the very clear messages that are out there to tell them all about it.

With Politicians drunk and dependent upon the power and retention of their own positions, and whilst they bound around oblivious to the issues that are facing everyone else, there are sadly no forms of breathalyser out there which will demonstrate just how out of control the drivers of this vehicle may be for the unknown period it will take before it crashes and causes us all some significant damage.

The one thing that is certain is that concreting over the green belt to build houses that nobody can actually be sure we will need won’t solve the housing crisis on its own.

In fact, without dealing with the real issues that sit behind the housing problem and tackling them head on, many more people will find themselves unable to afford to live in them anyway and may have to face the unenviable horror of joining those who are living in what should by now have been consigned to long-term history in the form of anachronistic slums.

Image thanks to unknown source

Council Spending Cuts: Savings must be the objective, not simply the means to reducing Local Authority expenditure and without providing the tools to affect real reforming change, it’s beginning to look like Eric Pickles is wielding a lot of stick without even a hint of any carrot…

December 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Local government conference

I don’t envy the position that any Government Minister has in respect of either the Deficit – which the Government are all too happy to talk about; or the escalating mountain of Debt – which they are apparently not.

Cuts in public spending are and have been inevitable since way before the last General Election. But it always seems to be the same ‘soft’ targets that get picked, rather than the controversial policy areas that make most MP’s go green, even if they are just asked to talk about them. Therefore, the announcement of a 2.9% cut in the Local Government settlement in 2014-15 is surely one of the most obvious cases of ‘passing the buck’ that there ever could be.

As both a sitting Councillor and past Local Authority Officer, I have no doubt that considerable opportunities to make savings continue to exist within most Council administrative, executive and operational functions. However, I also realise that making such savings is far from a straightforward exercise and particularly so when some areas of service provision simply cannot be cut, or in some cases will even require greater funding in the future.

Whilst cutting spending to reduce the National Deficit and hopefully at some point, start tackling the National Debt is a sensible aim, it should arguably be used as the objective rather than the means itself, and the failure of Central Government to support Local Authorities by providing the machinery of reform – whilst restricting the tax-raising ability that Councils have, is doing little more than necessitating the removal of structural security from within.

Councils are after all left with little choice but to consider and engage in the sharing of services not only between departments, but also within other Authorities as well. Whilst local politicians can already speculate about a hidden agenda moving us all towards Unitary status, there is no question that any service shared, or even Officers being given cross-disciplinary responsibility is just another step away from the end user, in the level of quality of the service being delivered if nothing else.

That’s hardly Localism now is it Mr Cameron?

The reality of the situation is that the savings that will be required to sort out the mess that the UK actually is in may well necessitate a restructure of the way that all Local Government operates.

But we are not at that point yet and it would be far better that we be able to instigate the real processes of change right now in the hope of retaining as much in terms of local services delivered locally for local people, rather than waiting for a point where financial collapse makes even these possibilities we have right now unviable, simply because a Westminster Government decided that it would be easiest inflicting budget cuts on others in the wild hope that somebody else would be responsible enough to bring about change.

Image thanks to http://www.guardian.com 

Using Drones operated in the UK to attack on ‘battlefields’ far away may be putting a safe distance between those doing the fighting. But it is also a major step away from achieving any kind of meaningful solution to extremist-led 21st Century Terrorism

December 18, 2013 Leave a comment

An RAF Reaper drone

News Reports demonstrating the RAF piloting Drone Aircraft from behind computer screens in the UK will of course upset many.

It will also frighten others who will realise that in the eyes of Terrorists, this very fact will potentially make RAF Waddington some kind of ‘legitimate’ target and focus for the attention of what perhaps may be home-grown, radicalised young Muslims whose desire for retaliation will be borne from what they understand to be happening at the other end of a satellite signal in Afghanistan.

There is some irony in the fact that the UK is now using the distance which remote technology affords us to protect our military personnel, when the results are ultimately creating even greater distance between us and the militant groups and their potential converts who we as a society have now come to fear so greatly.

If cultural misunderstandings are the basis of the problems between the Western World and extremists, violent acts of any kind are surely the quickest route to polarising those feelings even further. Especially so when those acts are perceived to be random and without regard to innocent human life, just as with 9/11 for the USA, 7/7 and Woolwich for us, and now these markedly remote-operated drone strikes for those living in Afghanistan.

The most frightening truth in all of this is the very real scenario that allows a violent act against just one person can be used as such an extremely effective marketing tool by those who perceive themselves as being the same as those injured – perhaps just for as outwardly simple a reason as sharing a Religion – to provide that essential hint of a genuine truth which is needed to legitimise the sharing of obscure views against the ‘perpetrators’ which might otherwise carry so little weight.

Those who preach to the young and vulnerable on our streets know this all too well. When teaching that the injustice of innocent deaths in a faraway land can be closely identified with the day-to-day injustices of living in and experiencing a money-obsessed Western world, we soon find brainwashing being carried out on a level that only our worst nightmares could ever possibly allow.

The regrettable reality of all this is that it necessitates the use of force by those who would protect us, simply because those who have learned that their own life has no value, will seldom hesitate in taking away the lives of others who appear to disagree with their ‘doctrine’ – perhaps just as simply as being because they do not share the same Faith.

However, using violence against terrorism is itself just a means of dealing with the effects of a massive problem which whilst manifested as violence, must be dealt with both intelligently and considerately at its root cause if any lasting understanding is ever really to be achieved.

It is this fact alone that Government must now face if there is any deep desire to genuinely future proof us against militant terrorism in the years to come, and talk of the mission being accomplished in Afghanistan by the Prime Minister is positive window dressing heaped upon one pyrrhic victory indeed.

Image  – thanks to http://www.theguardian.com  

Self-serving politicians and the whiff of ‘fingers in the till’ remind us regularly how little credibility they actually have. But we are creatures of habit and nothing will change until we all agree that we have reached a place called stop…

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

downloadCredibility or rather the lack of it forms part of one of today’s greatest paradoxes. Many politicians simply seem to have none, but still they keep on getting elected.

No matter what the level of Government; no matter what they all do, we are still stuck with a majority of politicians who identify and remain sitting within a Party Political system which seems utterly immune from the harm that any form of self-serving action can visit upon it.

Even Members of the Lords have apparently now been rumbled taking full advantage of the current Allowances system and whilst this may be Legal, we really must begin to ask if anyone who can be considered to be ‘on the take’ in public office should really be there in the first place.

Actually, we do ask this question and probably often too. But the lack of any real will to consider anything other than the default political options that we have now had for so long, has so far rendered useless any meaningful opportunity for change. Meanwhile, we all continue to bitch and grow even more angry with what we have given ourselves, despite knowing that the gap between our realities and those of the people who we elect to represent us in Westminster is a very wide one indeed.

So what is it going to take to really bring about the change that we so badly need in British Politics; The change that will see us all taking the steps that we must for something better?

Like many others, I sat and watched the Paxman – Brand Interview a few weeks ago, well knowing that Russell Brand speaks many truths about the injustices within the ‘system’. He should indeed be applauded for using the platforms that he currently has to give a voice to the so-far silent discontent that grows each day.

But with this form of dialogue should also come a word of warning that voting none of the above in its most literal form is a choice for us all just the same. A choice that places even more emphasis on the views of the diminishing number of voters who will no doubt be those more inclined to vote for more of the same, come rain or shine.

Equally foolish would be the act of putting any real hope on alternative political philosophies as being the key to a better future. It is after all the constant and continuing battle between one set of political ideologies with those of others which keep leaving the needs and genuine consideration for the majority of Voters ignored.

It is quite certain that nothing good will come from adopting even more severe forms of socialist theory like the concept of wealth redistribution in its purest form as a practical way forward for us all. Real change does after all not manifest itself through the process of coercion – as has already been well proven by the rise and fall of Communism.

Genuine change will only come about by changing the way that we approach things and if Politics has to change so that we can all have something better; it is all of us who will have to change the way that we approach Politics as a necessary step to realising that change. The question of course is how?

To be fair, if any politician possessed such an ability to change our minds through speaking alone, the political landscape would not even look remotely as diverse as it does today, and it is perhaps in that fact that the greatest truth about change does lie.

The surety is that whether seen or unseen, political change will dictate its arrival at a time of its own choosing. It is likely to be a process of change that will itself begin with an event or events that will either be or have the potential to be life-changing for enough people, that a critical mass is achieved and enough of the right politicians are elected and in place to drive forward and see all the necessary changes in to being that we know will be needed right the way through to completion.

In terms of where we are right now, we should recognise that our current political options represent a status quo or a decision not to embrace change.

Both as humans and as a population, we have an inherent dislike and mistrust of conscious change, and this is why new fashions and trends may continually leave us with the feeling that they were somehow always there. Basically, because we didn’t realise that we were making a choice.

Change of the kind that will place us on the road to delivering something better for us all wont however be something that sneaks up on us in the same way that changes for worse often seem to do. It will take a conscious choice on the part of many after they have first recognised that need for change itself. It will require a leap of faith which will go way beyond the call of fashion, popularity or personal gain and one where as a majority, we have realised that in terms of how things already work, we have come to a place called stop.

Many of us are of course desperate for change right now, as Mr Brand has recognised. But somehow;

  • Extortionate rises in the prices of everything that are essential to live are still at a stage where they are considered sustainable.
  • Convoluted supply chains that add ridiculous and unnecessary margins to the cost of food go unchecked, but we are left with no choice but to buy.
  • Psychopathic bankers wreak worldwide havoc with little more than profit margins in mind, but go unpunished because of the stranglehold they have on the lives of everyone else.
  • Ministers treat the spiralling national debt like a subject not worthy of debate, but sing like songbirds when they predict a zero deficit or point where we will ‘break even’ in just a few years time.
  • Overstretched, but already overfunded public services collapse, because nobody who can be, is being responsible about driving reform.
  • And somehow, just about every decision is made on the basis of ‘what’s in it for me’, rather than what will be the benefits of us doing this for everyone else.

And so we are not there yet and it would be a good guess that stories like those of the metaphorical pigs with their heads in the troughs are here to stay, for at least a whiney bit longer. But when change does come, we can be sure that popularity will not be the driver. It won’t be those who obsess about themselves who will be in the best situation to lead, guide and drive. And it won’t be led by politicians who fear nothing more than the date of the next election.

Change will come, and it’s pretty certain that if you have read this far, you will recognise it when it does. However, it might not look how you currently think.

Image thanks to http://www.theguardian.com

Education is currently failing the UK because the system we have in place today is based on the flawed idea that Equality is about sameness. True Equality comes with acceptance of the real differences that exist between us and in giving each and every one of us the best shot possible…

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

images (2)Equality is one of the greatest aims for any Country to have, whilst perhaps one of the most misinterpreted and therefore destructive concepts that that the UK has embraced.

Negative forms of discrimination have made many thinkers believe that the solution comes in the form of their positive counterparts. Yet the point has been severely missed that prejudicial forms of discrimination always relate to a form of favouritism or bias as a flipside on the other, and that this inevitable partnership necessarily follows wherever a form of positive discrimination may be used.

Just as racism and colour prejudice, sexism, discrimination against the elderly or disabled have and arguably in some cases continue to been a problem for many, giving special treatment or creating favourable circumstances for specific or what some prefer to call ‘underrepresented groups’ can be equally destructive and in some cases will actually affect many more, through little more than a legitimised form of disadvantage which many are simply too afraid to even talk about.

Social engineering is nothing new. But the silent subjugation which hides beneath the velvet glove of political correctness and an often misguided war for equalities is something entirely different. It now risks the identity of culture which has been at the heart of British life for many generations and which arguably kept us at the forefront of world industry, science and learning well in to the 20th Century.

Of all the parts of life where we should be getting the fight for the equality of opportunity ‘right’, Education is probably the most essential, because of the key role that it plays for individuals, communities, industries and therefore the evolution of our entire culture – en-masse.

But at some point, somebody somewhere confused practicality with idealism. They exchanged the reality that being fair to everyone by giving them the educational opportunities that most fit individual need will give us all the best start in life, with the idealist view that putting everyone in the same environment and using the same forms of education, would somehow lead to everyone turning out the same.

It doesn’t. And the reason it doesn’t is because the only difference that should matter when it comes to education is that whatever the circumstances or how we are physically perceived by others, we are all different and we all learn differently.

So no matter what background we come from; whether we are rich or poor; black or white; male or female; able bodied or disabled, we all accumulate knowledge in different ways and will only achieve the very best that we as individuals can, if diversity within educational opportunities matches the diversity that exists with learning ability and indeed counters the factors which are external to learning but upon which learning and the ability to learn have been for too long so foolishly placed.

Whilst ‘dumbing-down’ or developing an educational standard based upon little more than ‘the lowest common denominator’ fills those who abhor anything even perceptively elitist in nature with complete joy, lowering academic standards for the more-academically-inclined simply reduces the numbers of those who would otherwise excel and therefore contribute differently and arguably more greatly to our society as a whole.

However, the real tragedy in all this is based upon all those who are not academically attuned at school age. Many who are unequipped to rise to such theoretical standard, perhaps because of nothing more than circumstances in their lives. Many, who just need their learning to be more practically and vocationally inclined – perhaps only at that time.

We all lose from the approach that has been adopted, as what is in effect manifest ignorance of those whose ability lies not with their heads but with their hands, is or has created a lost generation which unwittingly and in most cases unwillingly lend themselves to many of the welfare, benefits and crime statistics that so many of us know to be so wrong, but have to accept as being just the way that it is.

The lack of foresight and basic understanding of our fellow man that has led these socialist agendas which have pursued this ideology of everyone being the same, are not only destroying the lives and future chances of individuals who could make a considerable contribution to our society – were they given the fullest opportunity to do so; they are contributing to the creation an entire sub-culture of socially disadvantaged, socially inept and socially immobile people who are blighted by the media propagated caricatures that have been landed upon them by the same libertarian and quixotic idealists who inadvertently put those same people there.

Glorification of celebrity, fame, sensationalism and money have led many of us to forget that the very basic forms of all occupations are about us; about life; about putting food on the table; about being healthy; about being happy; about getting us where we need to go. Our values have somehow gone wrong and we have forgotten that every job or occupation is important and that we should all value them as such for the contribution that they make in our lives and the value that they bring to our society.

The ironies of this saga do not stop there. If we continue to flat-line the contribution that we make to the opportunities we give to the up-and-coming generations in the form of free education, the best opportunities really will be left as the preserve of the financially rich who can arguably afford a tailored level of education for their children which simply becomes unavailable anywhere else. If you are of those who think that Politics is skewed in favour of a privately educated elite right now, look what could soon begin to follow in the not too distant future.

Both socialism and liberalism as they exist are flawed. They are little more than idealistic philosophies that make no allowance for the realities of cause and effect, and if we don’t address this failure to address the need for balance in every aspect of life and policy that Government touches soon, the results simply do not bear thinking about.

The role that education plays in all our lives and how it reaches and extends into all parts of our culture, make it probably the very best place to start in addressing what could easily be called the regressive steps that the drive for ill-considered forms of equality have so far engineered.

Every part of the education system needs reform, which will only be controversial for those who continue to put their own ideas first, above the needs and requirements of others. Perhaps we could:

Reintroduce Grammar Schools in every District: The pathway of education for children to which so many parents aspire, Grammar Schools offer a benchmark in education and discipline that it has become unfashionable to appreciate vocally. This social anathema should be dispelled for the foolishness that it is and the opportunity should exist for all academically able children to gain a place at a Grammar School if they can attain the examination standards required and do not have alternative means to access a like-for-like education.

Reintroduce the 11+: With Numeracy and Literacy Skills at a low point, we simply must return to an acceptable level of basic education at this key age so that children are equipped to engage fully during adolescence in our increasingly information-based age, and employers can be sure that young people can not only understand, but also be understood. (Please follow this link for an insight on the 11+.)

Reintroduce real and vocationally based Apprenticeships at 14: Probably the most vital step that needs to be taken is to recognise that not all children are academically inclined and that the system today is failing too many young people because it has not nurtured them in a way which fits their learning processes. In simple terms, children are usually ‘head or hands’ and therefore more theoretically or practically able in their learning processes. In isolation, neither of these qualities is a sign of intelligence, yet children who simply aren’t academically able to make the best of the school environment are all too often considered disruptive and can of course be an unnecessary distraction for those who are suited to school learning. As we grow older, we can all appreciate how little we knew but how much we thought we knew when we were in our teens and providing a stewarded environment from 14 for young people who are better suited to life outside the academic environment would give them the opportunity to take guided steps into the adult world, whilst earning an appropriate level of pay and giving a staffing option to commerce and industry that could make a significant difference to business. Either subsidising roles or supporting complimentary training courses at Tertiary Colleges could still deliver a saving in real terms, whilst providing an investment in the individual, taking them off the streets, whilst supporting British industry with a potentially parallel vocational route to age 21 that would more than adequately make up in time-served experience and the hands-on accumulation of skills for life what academically biased young people gain via a complete route of full-time education.

Reintroduce National Service: With a break or shorter form of Apprenticeship, those young people taking the vocational route could perhaps choose to finish their training in the Armed Services from 18-21, with the option being there as a requirement to attend for all young people not being in education or Apprenticed vocational training between those ages. Those ‘finishing’ training could bring skills from industry that the armed services need at a time that a pool of such experience could be highly beneficial. Either way and however those young people came to join, there is no question that a military grounding would provide a sense of value and self-worth for people who might otherwise never receive it. Such a pathway could open the door either to an extended military career or to the motivation and direction to move forward and make the best of the other opportunities that are on offer to those who value themselves and what they will inevitably gain to do it.

Return to more challenging forms of Exams at 16 and 18: The earlier part of this Coalition Government saw a series of attempts by Education Secretary Michael Gove to reform exams and return to the former O’ Level and A ‘Level or Baccalaureate standards. It’s a desperate shame that he was prevented from doing so as the realities of the flaws in our Education system would quickly become evident and would perhaps highlight just how severely our children are being failed by a system which is currently geared to treating everyone as if they were exactly the same; a system that is benchmarked for its quality not by aspiration, but by the rule of the lowest common denominator. Life is by its very nature challenging and the exams that we take at 16 and 18 should genuinely represent the milestones that they are, rather than just being something that we do. If degrees are to again have the meaning to industry that they once had, it necessarily follows that these checkpoints of the educational pathway should be high on expectation too.

Restructure the way that Higher Education is funded: The Government cannot afford to fund the number of places within Higher Education that the drive to give everyone a degree has required. The fallout from this has of course been the creation of Tuition Fees which in themselves are creating lifetimes of debt for students who may have been a great deal happier taking other routes to learning. The fragility of funding streams has driven many Higher Education establishments to behave more and more like businesses as their focus moves from providing the best education for students to ensuring the survival of the organisations – and the jobs that they provide. This does not contribute to society on a wider level and the focus needs to return to providing the best Degrees possible and not necessarily the ones that generate the best fees from providing them. Bringing the return of value to pre-University level and parallel vocational forms of education would counter much of this, but as with areas such as the NHS and Local Government, there has to be a recognition of the need for overall change as part of a new bigger and reforming picture. This could realistically mean the loss of University Status or even closure for some institutions. But what was really wrong with polytechnics anyway.

Refocus on exam-based scholarship entry opportunities to all private schools for children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford them: Whilst some would happily see the demise of private schools in much the same way as Grammars have all but disappeared, Private Schools should always have their place, if nothing more than to allow those who can afford to pay the choice to do so. However, such institutions should also be available to children who would thrive with the support of such an environment and the schools themselves should be required to make a certain number of places available through exam-based scholarships each year for children who have the academic ability to meet the standards of each specific school, but would otherwise be held back by lack of financial resources.

Stop bringing the blame-claim-culture into schools and let teachers get on with educating: Parents do have a role to play too and I will not be alone in remembering the absolute horror which our parents would experience upon learning that we had been in trouble or had been reprimanded for being disruptive in school. The balance has changed and there is now an unwritten expectation that all children are perfect and that they can never be at fault. The complaints culture and accompanying insinuation that a complaint is just a step away from a claim is paralysing disciplinary standards with the creation of fear on the part of Teachers to act against unruly children who only 30 years ago would have had a string of detentions or worse from the school, along with a right good rollocking from their parents just as soon as they returned home.

Introduce standard educational apps on all electronic devices which will be used by children: Technology and the influence that it has upon us all is marching ahead at a hellish pace. Children are already using tablet computers before they can do many other things. We are currently missing the opportunity to work with manufacturers and potential sponsors to utilise these devices which immediately make fascinated children a captive audience.  The development of standard apps which can be used to develop reading, language and other skills for the benefit of children and that of the education system which will very soon follow could be immeasurable. There is no doubt that Government should be working closely with manufacturers and Companies such as Google, to develop acclimatised software which is included within the operating platform of the machines at the point of sale and makes the very best of the learning opportunity which is literally presented for them there at hand.

Education by its very nature is supposed to assist the evolution of people, rather than becoming a tool which does little more than help a society to regress. Great ideas will not help all people if they are not developed with the needs of every single person in mind and education is currently failing in the UK because the system we have in place today is based on the flawed idea that Equality is about sameness.

It’s time that we stopped trying to force people to change in ways that they simply cannot be changed; accept the good that exists in the real differences between us, and start giving each and every one of our children and young people their very best shot.

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Source of top Image unknown

Food banks are here to stay for as long as Politicians keep acting as if poverty is someone else’s problem

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

download (18)Fill yourself with festive cheer, for the deficit should be defunct in just a few more years!

The Government does indeed seem to be peacock-proud of its fiscal management which has manifested itself in the form of great optimism during the recent Autumn Statement.

Strange then that little mention should be made or focus placed upon the spiralling debt mountain that as a Nation, we the UK currently sit upon, or what might happen if economic forces beyond Osborne and the Bank of England dictate that borrowing money can no longer remain so inordinately cheap.

However, insulated as we may seem from the realities of an economic meltdown bluffingly put on hold whilst politicians still have the ability to do nothing more than concentrate on the next election, the fact is that the only real difference between the debt that the Government ‘manages’ on our behalf and the financial problems facing so many of the Voters who unwittingly put them there is that people living in the real world have no elaborate schemes or devices to hide the problems that they currently face.

Being in touch with the painful realities of UK life for those who have the worry of meeting their monthly bottom line is a gift which seems to have eluded many of the Political Class.

Only this week, Lord Freud intimated that Local Authorities should pick up responsibility for funding food banks; an act which in itself demonstrates the severe lack of understanding that those in Government have of the problems which people genuinely face.

It is all too clear that they have no idea what steps really need to be taken simply to arrest the backward slide in living standards which is already stretching far beyond the realms of the financially poor. It is an unspoken truth that is changing the way that just about everyone without the joy of having a surplus income before pay day are having to cope with, each and every month.

Localism has of course given the lie to the idea that more and more services and methods of support will be provided at local level, by local organisations for local people.

What the Localism Agenda doesn’t contain within all the talk that has gone with it however, is that whilst Westminster politicians audibly pass the buck to their Local Authority counterparts with one hand, they are systematically stripping them of the resources and ability to maintain their existing responsibilities with the other.

Without cutting existing services, raising Council Tax beyond 5%, using savings, cashing in publically owned property or borrowing, there is simply no way that Local Authorities can take on a National problem locally without outside help to do it. And when the only politicians that have the ability to tackle the causes of the problems facing so many people head on are sat in London, it is at best disingenuous if not bordering on pure fantasy to even hint that the real cost of living crisis is something which confines itself to communities at a very local level.

People would be starving right now, were it not for the tremendous efforts of the organisations and individuals who are working so hard to help those many people who are already experiencing a regular sequence of hours in need.

Food banks are a treatment for a problem, but by no means a cure.

Ministers really must start recognising this now, rather than seeming to be content to do little more than pretend that the problem doesn’t exist; or worse still, to behave in such a way to suggest that the many people experiencing both the extremities and day-to-day realities of contemporary poverty have somehow knowingly chosen to be there.

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If you have found this article whilst researching food banks, further information about Tewkesbury Food bank can be found at www.tewkesbury.foodbank.org.uk or for those in other areas, please see this link on the Trussell Trust Website.

Top Image thanks to source unknown

Marine A: Battlefields are not today’s UK’s streets and we must accept that civilian rules and understanding inflicted upon the work and actions of military personnel will be little more than a pathway to disarmament, making us all the same

December 14, 2013 Leave a comment

download (16)Scant attention is being paid to the seismic consequences for UK Defence that may now follow the conviction and subsequent imprisonment of Royal Marine Sgt. Alexander Blackman.

Found guilty of Murder in a battlefield situation, there is little question that to all of us who have read the publicised details of this saga, it does indeed sound like a barbaric and cold blooded execution.

Indeed very few of us like to think of any situation where a human being is apparently dispatched in such a seemingly brutal way and certainly not by the hand of a Member of our Armed Services, whom we are still led to believe sit at the forefront of military professionalism, despite the continuing cuts which at some point will make such notions entirely mythical.

Very few of us have actually experienced the trauma of battle first hand and it would be my sincerest hope that this will always remain the case for as many of us as will ever be possible. But, one thing that is certain is that the environment created by warfare of any kind is very different to that which we as a majority have today ever experienced in our civilian lives.

We must therefore ask the question of whether we are now allowing the values and expectations of our peacetime, ‘civilised’ and liberally enlightened society to be projected and therefore inflicted upon the very environments in which our Service Personnel operate and who by the very nature of the warfare they are exposed to daily are experiencing something entirely different?

It is of course ironic that if the insurgents, terrorists or fighters that our troops are facing were themselves operating under a like-for-like code of conduct as we expect of those sent to the front line to protect us, this would in itself indicate the existence of a set of values and consideration for others on their part which would probably have meant there was never a need for violent conflict between any of us in the first place.

But this is what we and our ‘allies’ are up against; Itinerant warfare which recognises honour in killing, maiming and the installation of maximum fear in its enemies, whilst celebrating glory from martyrdom and death.

It is beyond foolish for any of us to expect that combat personnel will always ‘get it right’ when exposed to acts of violence and terror which run contrary to everything we have ourselves been taught. It is potentially disastrous when those making such a judgement are unlikely to have any meaningful appreciation of the very personal and specific way that individuals can be affected by these experiences and the effects that these emotional explosions will surely have.

Failure to recognise the steps that we have already taken on this slippery slope to considering combat or service related roles as being a normal or an everyday job are already seeing ambulance-chasing payouts to those who see the opportunity for personal gain. We can only wonder if the emergence of battlefield lawyers who judge whether every single act undertaken by troops are indeed righteous is just a matter of time away.

One thing is for certain and that is that if our armed service personnel are increasingly likely to be faced with criminal charges for actions which are taken completely out of context, it wont just be budget cuts and white elephant spending on the part of the Government and the Ministry of Defence that keep reducing the numbers of those who are willing to put their lives on the line and fight.

Image thanks to Reuters/www.dailymail.co.uk

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