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Archive for November, 2014

Bankrupt Britain: Is the death of Local Public Service provision avoidable and will it lead communities to provide their own not-for-profit services?

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Whilst it may not be generating the media frenzy or sensationalist prose that usually grabs everyone’s attention, recent days have seen a number of different stories emerge that confirm much about the state of Local Government and the services we contribute towards with our Council Tax.

The common theme is of course money – or rather the lack of it.

Those of us taking the collapse of local public services seriously may already be well aware of the perilous state of funding and how bleak the outlook actually is.

However, despite the many cuts and reductions in services that people have witnessed across the UK already, it is the continuing reliance that today’s politicians have placed in using yesterday’s methods to solve tomorrows problems should perhaps give us even greater cause for concern.

This week alone, one Police & Crime Commissioner covering a Conservative area has suggested that he will seek a referendum on raising the local Police Precept element of Council Tax by no less than 25%, whilst the Leader of Newcastle City Council is now on the record as suggesting that the reduction of funding may soon lead to social unrest, with an expectation that an incoming Labour Government will simply change the ‘settlement’ – and thereby solve the problem after May.

Whilst both of these Politicians are in unenviable positions, neither plan would work in the best interests of the electorate, even if they were to be seen to solve the problems in the immediate term. And by immediate term, we are probably talking just 12 months before the very same problem is there to be solved all over again.

Adding yet more to the Tax burden of individuals and households may be an easy decision for politicians, but isn’t sustainable for the people who are paying.

Meanwhile, more money coming from central Government when the Country is already effectively bankrupt spells disaster of another kind, as the accumulation of National Debt simply cannot continue with each successive Government that comes along attempting to shelve today’s problems for tomorrow by printing money like it was all some kind of game without any real cost.

The system of local public service delivery is broken not just because of a lack of funding today, but because of decades of mismanagement focused on targets, working conditions and the development of the protectionist culture which serves everyone’s interests but those of the very people who the services were initially created to serve.

These cultural and institutional problems have not been created locally, but they are certainly propagated locally.

One of the most serious ‘injustices’ served upon every Council Tax Payer, is the seismic amount of our contributions that actually go into the Local Government Pension Scheme. It has increasingly done so since the then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown raided Pension Funds in 1997 and left the general public to pick up the tab for the subsequent deficit which would otherwise have surely obliterated gold-plated Local Government Pensions.

It would certainly be advisable to have a look at your Local Council’s Annual Budget and see just how much of your money goes into this Scheme. A good guess would be that rather than being anywhere near the red, your local services would be well and truly in the black if you weren’t funding someone else’s retirement plan, just because of the last Labour Government’s fiscal free-for-all, which removed many of the regulations that actually helped a great many of the very people who supported them.

Solving the problem of how to afford what local public services cost us without losing services, reducing services or there being a need to dispose of assets which basically belong to us all, may have already reached a stage where it will seem impossible to do so without the measures already discussed.

But with such options not being real choices, we will all soon have to accept that the way local public services are delivered is going to change; and that the change that comes may not be in anyway better.

Service sharing between Authorities and even Police Forces is now well under way and is likely to accelerate significantly as the reality of the UK’s financial predicament continues to bite hard.

However, the distinct irony of this pathway is that sharing services does indeed take the management and handling of public services further away from the people themselves. And the point should not be lost on anyone that the real cause of much of today’s political disquiet – i.e. taking decisions further away from people will only be made worse by what is yet to come as a result of this.

The political and government infrastructure that could have solved problems like those raised by the Scottish Independence question has already existed for at least two generations in the forms of Parish & Town Councils, District Level Councils and County Councils.

The problem is that Westminster based politicians do not want to empower local representatives at any cost.

Whilst continually paying lip service through concepts such as ‘Localism’ – which has been such a big sound bite of the Coalition era, the reality has been that all changes within Local Government have simply been pushing more and more power back to London, rather than devolving local decisions to local people as any Government focused upon what is really best for the electorate surely would.

This reality may well give the lie to the ‘vow’ which we all awoke to on the morning after the Scottish Referendum. It almost certainly paints a picture which doesn’t look good for us all locally. But when local politics is itself arguably just as rotten and as focused on itself as Westminster is, what can we really expect?

The reality of what lies ahead should hit us hard, because much of what we today take for granted in terms of services supporting both communities and individuals may soon be simply unaffordable – even though we seem to be paying through the nose for it.

With Government Organisations and structures maintained by a culture which nobody is willing to reform, Local Authorities are likely to lean ever more heavily in the future upon contractors and trading companies.

This is a considerable leap in the direction of privatisation and one which could very quickly lead to the token ability of Local Council’s to affect change and decision making on the part of the communities that they represent to be seen for what it really is.

It is a very real prospect that the only services that many people perceive as being what they receive for their money will be handled by private contractors. Companies who are delivering services to the public whilst making a profit at a lower price than what it would cost the public to deliver itself.

With even fortnightly bin collections now at risk, it is not in any way hard to imagine paying for your rubbish to be collected by a company you pay directly – as you would do with electricity, gas or your phone. Indeed it may be little accident that ‘utility’ companies already run such services on behalf of Councils and many of us will quickly wonder what we are paying Council Tax for if we don’t see any Police on the streets and have our rubbish collected by someone else.

Without immediate and meaningful reform, it is a good guess that social enterprise will be the only way that we will be able to have local public services delivered, which are seen to be free at point of delivery or kept at a cost which is both affordable for users and sustainable for the organisations delivering them.

This is unlikely to be restricted to just local service delivery, and whilst utilities, transport and communications are currently little more than the cash cows of the City and its Pension Funds, keeping it real dictates that sooner or later the political classes will have to accept that allowing our society to function at its most basic level requires nothing less than that all services provided for the benefit of the wider community and the individuals within it must be provided on a not-for-profit basis and with best value to the end user firmly in mind.

Regrettably, with much of the infrastructure already disposed of which will facilitate this at National Level, and the same process now progressively happening through the back door at local level, it is communities themselves that may well have to raise the funds to create the new trading companies that will do this.

With crowd funding a good example of the options now available, it is certainly possible to do so.

But as we also wonder why we are paying more tax on everything but receive even less for what we give…won’t we all be asking the question why?

 

image: dailymail.co.uk 

 

Is progressive liberalism sleepwalking us backwards into an age of tyranny?

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

 

businessman was scared  person in his inner emotionsHow often do you find yourself in a situation when you hear that inner voice questioning whether you can do, say or act in a particular way, just in case it directly ‘offends’ someone, or perhaps ever more likely could inadvertently be seen to offend that someone – but only in the eyes of someone else?

Chances are that you will have this experience a whole lot more than you realise and if you are aware of the influence that ‘rights’ and the instances when something you say or do could offend someone else, you may just begin to understand how even our thoughts are beginning to be affected by political correctness to such a degree that it is influencing the way that we function as a society.

No right-minded person can question the validity of the principles of balance and fairness which accompany the right to be treated equally – irrespective of any difference which can be seen or perceived by others. But where does the just protection of that right for an individual or group end, and what has become the very real reflective prejudice against all others actually begin?

This past week has seen some worrying developments relating to the way that political correctness is changing and indeed threatening the fabric of our society in just the one area relating to religious and cultural background with Ofsted denying a School an ‘outstanding’ rating because it lacks diversity, and the latest news of radicalisation risk at 6 Muslim Schools in London.

On one hand, we are hearing the message that it is no longer right or correct to be as we are and as we have always been as the indigenous or historical population. On the other, we are seeing evidence that supports the view that not only are new cultures within our own most welcome to comprehensively retain their own identities and remain separate from a system which we are ourselves told must continue to be opened. We witness all of this taking place at potentially great cost to the very culture that opened its arms and warmly welcomed so many others to join us here.

The nature of the way we now ‘think’ as a society suggests that to even acknowledge the reality that many Governments have failed to encourage and maintain fully integrated communities, is to be prejudiced or indeed to have a right-wing outlook.

But the reality is that such statements are neither prejudiced nor judgemental in any way. A statement like this is observational.

As well as reflecting what is actually happening, it also demonstrates the cause of much fear and yes – misunderstanding, which could have been avoided if politicians had actually been thinking about the implications and consequences of everything they were doing all along.

Instead, the situation we face together, whatever the structure of our communities may be is very real; it threatens us all – no matter our background; and it is risking our future in ways that the liberalist elite will never have even considered as they philosophise and grandstand over what they think is right and should be seeking to inflict upon everyone else next.

What seems to have been missed by the idealists is the fact that freedom and liberation for one soon becomes the oppression of others if respect for that freedom is not then reciprocated.

It doesn’t matter whether the question concerns colour, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, education, background, wealth or other status. The dangers of focusing benefits for the few at the cost of the many should be only too apparent and we are together experiencing neither a fair nor balanced society at large.

Yet even given all of the other problems that the UK is currently facing, the self-righteous belief of the liberal elite to push for what is itself a system of legitimised privilege, created through the inappropriately named course of positive discrimination, seems to also leave them strangely unable or equipped to speak out and say enough is enough – or indeed, accept that we have reached a place called stop.

It might not be so bad if the very same people were not so quick to ridicule and encourage the isolation of those who do speak out. It is as if the principles behind what is in fact driving a tyranny which oppresses people from within by enslaving the way they actually think can still end in some place which will be happy for us all.

The growing acknowledgement of people that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the system works is well illustrated by the rise of UKIP, which now appears to be on a roll, despite every chance taken by the establishment to write them off as bigots, racists and loonies.

In time, they may well be proven to be little more than the focus of the protest vote of the Coalition era. But their popularity today says much about the fact that people want change and no longer want to feel like they have reason to be afraid of their own shadows.

It is political idealism which has been propagated by the established political parties which has led to this very situation, and irrespective of what philosophies we may be told exist as the backdrop of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat machines, it is the lack of real principle within them all which is allowing the real threats from the monster they have together created to manifest in forms such as the radicalisation of the young, and the risk that they now pose to the communities in which they have previously been encouraged and nurtured.

Through the personal prisons of the mind that progressive liberalism and the age of rights has created, a tyranny is manifesting of a kind that all of the worst characters of history could have only dreamed about for its power and ability to control; one which could soon make Orwell’s 1984 look like a standard entry in a daily diary.

Worst of all of it is the fact that those who have responsibility for it have now bought into it themselves and whilst nobody leads us who is prepared to take the risk of standing up and saying ‘no more’, the situation is only going to get a whole lot worse and may lead to tyranny of a fully totalitarian kind.

Whether they accept it or not, the liberalist project has long since passed its point of good and as we are led further and further into living an idealist and impractical nightmare, we must surely now ask, is progressive liberalism sleepwalking us backwards into an age of tyranny?

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image top – source unknown

 

Homes are not commodities and treating them as if they are shows the level of contempt that investors have for the lives of the people who live within them…

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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The obsession that the Nation has with property may be paying dividends for builders, mortgage companies and investors alike, but the cold hard reality is that we are on the road to making many people homeless.

With whole developments now being snapped up by private companies who are only interested in maximising the level of return, escalating prices will inevitably lead to increasing numbers of applicants for social housing, whilst pushing the next occupants ever closer to the circumstances which would have led to the last tenants having to leave in the first place.

Owners may not have anything to worry about now as they concentrate on the apparently lucrative areas of today such as London. But this problem will almost certainly fan-out across the country, and will become ever bigger for as long as house prices continue to grow and people cannot afford to buy the homes which we are continually told are being built to help them. When have you ever seen newly built houses sold at a lower price than other houses in the area with comparable value?

With local authorities potentially unable to afford to house people in the very near future, the idea that having a home is only a luxury could again soon become a reality for many people. Even the remotest prospect of the return of slums in Great Britain should be sending a shiver down the spines of us all, yet politicians have far from even acknowledged the true depth of the problem.

Like it or not, Government will soon have to accept that there must be controls over the way the property market operates.

This may at the very least require formal regulation to ensure that prices can no longer be inflated by the commission on sales for estate agents; an industry that almost certainly carries a high portion of the responsibility of pushing prices upwards at every opportunity since the time that Right to Buy arrived.

However, steps are also likely to be required to freeze prices and possibly even begin to reduce them so that owning or renting a home is affordable in all areas of the Country for those who are earning a basic wage.

The money men may not like it. But the irresponsible creation of the hollow money which is being used to effectively price people out of their own homes can no longer be countered by the continuing creation of money by Government. The National Debt of over £1 Trillion is accumulating at a rate of over £5000 per second in the interest payments alone – before we even begin to consider the Deficit.

The days when politicians could keep borrowing money today and by doing so defer problems for those who will be in power tomorrow are coming to an end.

The question is, how many more people have to experience their own personal hell before those in power realise that tomorrow was a when, not an if, and that it has already arrived?

image: source unknown 

Will the future of the British Monarchy be decided by the same motivations that have created today’s political crisis?

November 20, 2014 1 comment

video-undefined-1D052A3B00000578-679_636x358 Have a conversation about the Royal Family, and it will almost certainly conjure up a different set of thoughts for each person you speak to. For me, being brought up within what we might now quaintly call a Royalist household, the existence, role and history which led to the tenure of our current Monarch never really came into question. For many, it has no doubt been the same and for some of those will surely continue to be so.

The Queen is of course a figurehead for us all. One that we admire and respect. A non-political head whom we identify our whole culture with; a point of reference we share in common, no matter what our background or the differences between the rest of us that exist within the different lives that we all have.

The British Monarchy works today, primarily because the Queen is seen and experienced as being above politics, entrusting the decisions of Government to the people who have themselves been elected to represent the population on their behalf.

It is the impartiality that the Queen has which defines her as non-partisan and not affiliated to any kind of political calling or movement. To do otherwise would itself be an incredibly divisive act in terms of the way the Monarch is seen in the eyes of the whole population, and would in all likelihood be very reminiscent of the situation that existed at the time of the Civil War, when King Charles I effectively took sides against some of his own people as he fought to maintain the right of absolute monarchy.

One of the greatest threads to the argument of Britain’s republicans today, would no doubt be the injustices brought upon others by the privilege which hereditary elevation and therefore gifted responsibility bestows upon the few at what to some will be the perceived cost to the many. The current popularity of the Queen, complimented by the existence of a younger generation of Royals who people feel more able to identify with, has safely put the issue of reform of the Monarchy to one side for now.

But if the balance that the Queen has so effectively stewarded through during her reign – even through the very difficult period of the late nineties – were to be disrupted, the resultant change could see the role of the Royal Family becoming very different indeed. It therefore comes as some concern that Prince Charles has began making it known through his ‘contacts’, that he doesn’t intend to be quiet in the same way as his mother when he in time ascends the Throne.

In an article in today’s Guardian, the Prince is arguably portrayed by his supporters as having a unique and perhaps even cutting edge insight of the British People, and as such is suggested to be in the ideal position to inform Ministers and indeed Government on the issues of the day. There is no doubt that the Prince of Wales has made an invaluable contribution to our society through the Charity work that he has done. But to say that this in itself would be entitlement enough for a Monarch to resume a level of influence in Government which hasn’t been seen since around the time of the reigns of his namesakes could prove to be very dangerous indeed.

One such example of the areas where the Prince may want to bring influence to bear would perhaps be illustrated by the recent article he wrote for Country Life Magazine, in which the Prince said that people are losing their connection with the countryside and only have a ‘vague understanding’ of what farming is about. The Prince also highlighted the closure of Village Shops and Pubs and drew emphasis on it being perhaps three of four generations since a good number of people worked ‘on the land’, with the inference that it is the directly associated lack of understanding and affinity with rural life which may be the cause of the problem.

He is certainly right. But only in the sense that these are symptoms of a much broader issue, which in this case relates to a range of factors which include mechanisation in farming, improving access to transport and the reality that the world has moved on a long way from the time when people most often spoke to each other face to face; didn’t have the internet or Smartphones, and would travel to a shop or service based in their local village centre and communicate with everyone in their own worlds as they did so.

Good politicians and certainly good Ministers would know and relate to the issues which form the basis of a problem like this; would understand not only the impact on rural life and the inter-dependency of such a wide range of factors and influences. They would also most certainly be thinking about the ways of addressing it.

For a Monarch to even attempt to advise or influence a Government on any issue, however passionate they may personally feel about it, or however inept or incompetent that Government might seem to them to be, would arguably be to do nothing less than demonstrate that they have greater designs for their role than the status quo will allow.

The frustration that the Prince has had and clearly continues to have as he waits for his moment of destiny have been well documented over a long period of time. We have already been made aware of his meetings with Ministers and the debate over whether their content should be made public, and whilst in light of the questions already raised within this discussion, it should arguably be the case that nothing other than official meetings take place, we should remember that very few of us would not find at least some difficulty in the idea of turning down the request for a meeting by the first in line to the Throne.

To date, the details of these meetings have been kept quiet. But it is likely that the decision to keep the content from public view would only remain sound for as long as it only serves to protect the Prince from the potential of embarrassment or unnecessary and unhelpful media scrutiny. It would not continue to be so if he has indeed influenced the policy of any government at any time.

History and the news today would suggest that the Prince does indeed intend to be as good as his ‘contacts’ words. If he is, he could create a constitutional crisis of a kind which will not serve to do any of us any good at all, and at a time when the political classes are themselves demonstrating little more than a self-serving will to have their own voice and ideas considered first, whilst they ignore the greater realities and impacts of their own interpretations of life upon all of the people that they collectively represent.

In time, the British Monarchy will almost certainly have to change and become ever less aligned to the anachronistic system from which formal democracy was born in the 17th Century. There are plenty of people who would be happy for this to happen right now, without any real regard for the consequences for us all.

Let’s just hope that a future King Charles idea of what it will mean to be Monarch doesn’t give them the reason and the necessary public support to deliver that vision.

image: dailymail.co.uk 

Politicians and Political Parties should never automatically assume the respect of the people, nor that when they do, it equates to silence…

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

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Getting a true glimpse of the true nature of the respect that our politicians have for us isn’t an everyday event by any means. Yet recently, we have been treated to a series of insights in to the way we are all viewed by the people who either do, or soon hope to govern us. It doesn’t make particularly happy reading.

The fairytale halving of the £1.7 Billion bill from the EU and the Parliamentary vote on the European Arrest Warrant that never was, were both perhaps very telling of the way the current Coalition Government does its business. But it was the comments from the Labour Party following Ed Milliband’s workout with Myleene Klass on the ITV’s ‘The Agenda’ on Monday night which may have represented the lifting of a much bigger stone.

Watching the programme made good viewing. We rarely get the opportunity to see the kind of challenge which Myleene made, telling Ed why Labour’s Mansion Tax Policy isn’t going to work and effectively showing the whole idea up for the hollow, headline-grabbing and socially-divisive-pigeon-holing stunt that it is.

Apparently unable to deal with the broadside at the time, Tuesday morning not only saw a belated attempt by Ed to try and turn it around with a parody relating to Ms Klass’s time in the Band Hear’Say; it also brought comments from the Party suggesting that she had failed to show Mr Milliband respect, and also tweets from a Labour MP apparently suggesting that she should leave the Country.

All well and good to demand respect if you have actually earned it. But these guys all seem to think that being an MP is qualification in itself. Isn’t it right that we should have the right to question what they do?

The fact is that the UK is in the perilous state that it is right now, in no small part because of the inability of Party-affiliated MP’s to safely ask the kinds of questions or make points of this nature without fear of reprisal from their Political Parties.

Ed Milliband may well walk in to 10 Downing Street as the next Prime Minister in less than six months time. But if Labour will not accept the legitimacy of questions which show the lack of thought and consideration which has obviously gone into their policies now, what hope will there be for us all when they start to enact them?

image: itv.com

Royal Mail & Privatisation: Its called privatisation for a good reason and politicians need to wake up and realise that privately owned business will never have the general public as its point of primary concern…

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

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In July 2013 – before the privatisation of Royal Mail took place, I wrote a blog about the process and discussed why it was a bad idea and briefly, what the implications would most likely be for the future of the universal delivery service.

Sadly, the news today that the privatised Company has experienced a £74 Million fall in profits and that it is already pointing the finger of blame at competition in profitable areas comes as little surprise.

We will no doubt soon experience further questions over the viability of rural and unprofitable delivery routes.

Whether the Government likes it or not, the reality of surrendering public ownership of a service which was created to ensure parity of service for all in the way that only a not-for-profit operation can do so, is soon going to bite.

It is simply impossible for Government to dictate the operational structure of a private business when profit is at risk – unless they choose to subsidise the service. If that happens, the question will surely yet again be why did they dispose of Royal Mail in the first place?

Whatever our politicians may think, privatisation of services which are there for the benefit of everyone is never a good idea; however hard to run; however much they cost; however much can be earned from their sale.

These services are essential to deliver a basic standard of living for all, which Government is currently failing to do by not dealing with the profit-led management policies of all the privatised services which the public once owned. What is more, it is set to continue compounding the problem by having so recently disposed of Royal Mail and by taking very big steps in the direction of privatisation of the NHS through the Commissioning Process.

It stands to reason that the managers of privately owned firms are going to focus on the practices and methods of working which deliver a good bottom line.

Whereas Government and Social Enterprise will be very happy if they are simply covering their costs, private owners simply don’t get up each day and think about how they can remove all their profits from one area of their business to subsidise the services they offer in another – when they cost them money to do so.

Sooner or later, someone – certainly not this Government – is going to have to begin picking up the pieces from what has been the serial offloading of a whole range of public services which once gave all British people unhindered access to the tools of a modern life which were once the envy of all.

The Country may already be secretly bankrupt. But selling up everything that we own is not the answer.

Top to bottom reform is now inevitable. It’s just a question of when; not if – and what the cost will be to us all whilst we wait for the leadership of politicians who are big enough to get all of the jobs done in the best interests of everyone and not just themselves.

 

image: europeanceo.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politicians must acknowledge the problems within the NHS before any serious steps can be taken to save it…

November 13, 2014 Leave a comment

David Cameron And Jeremy Hunt Visit A Hospital To Mark The 65th Anniversary Of The NHS

It is because we can all identify or agree with the principles of our healthcare system – to meet the needs of everyone; to be free at the point of delivery; and that it be based on clinical need and not the ability to pay, that it has become such a focus and play thing for successive Governments and the politicians within.

It is also why the NHS now finds itself at a point in its history where these very Principles may have now placed it at the most significant risk.

In time, the size of the milestone which was the creation of the NHS, may be fully appreciated for the very rare moment in time that it was when the political classes delivered a set of policies and principals which were genuinely created to be in the best interests of all.

Such moments are extremely rare. Governments such as those led by Churchill and Thatcher created and determined legacies which still affect us now and which their successors may only ever hope to emulate.

But the arrival of the NHS, much like the formalisation of working democracy through the creation of our Parliament following the Civil War, has the power to touch us all – even if we don’t or won’t openly acknowledge it.

Sadly however, once the principles upon which the NHS was formed were agreed and indeed became cornerstones of both our culture and society; what were soon to become the long-term political arguments over how their processes should operate soon began.

Today, the NHS might be best described as a series of industries within industries; of silos within silos; business unit lapping up against business unit; as an entire ecosystem where ideas, concepts and yes – even Jeremy Hunt’s ‘innovation’ [aka ‘commissioning] are actively competing against and ultimately all working against each other with the regrettable endgame firmly in sight, when some future Government will have no choice but to admit to no longer being able to afford it. Funny perhaps that it’s never this particular one…

Generations of the political masters of the NHS do themselves carry much of the blame for the crisis which the Organisation is in, with it having become the ongoing vogue to stake ideological claim to ensuring the future of the service.

Ideologies are all well and good, but it is such a cultural reliance upon specialists for every function outside of medical practice itself that has bloated backroom functions and created an ideal climate for non-clinical managers to lay claim to the most important responsibilities within what should have always remained a predominantly clinical-led world.

Add the performance-choking and burdensome elements of protectionism which have been fuelled by European red-tape and employment legislation; litigation culture and the motivation of many to look for almost any reason to create blame, and you can soon see why temporary staff, commissioning and the recruitment of managers who can surely only manage if they have a degree or an MBA has become the norm.

The pseudo-sciences do indeed have a lot to answer for not only within the NHS. Somebody somewhere will soon need to realise that blue sky and out-of-the-box thinking are reflections upon the ability and understanding of an individual to apply what they know. It is something which itself can rarely be taught, and the way in which qualification is prioritised above experience is really quite perverse in the age of equal opportunities. The text book technocracy which is now populating all tiers of middle and upper management threatens whole industries, and not least of all the NHS.

As discussed in a previous blog about Government, the NHS is not a business and should not in any way be treated like it is one.

One of the greatest ironies of Jeremy Hunt’s plans for making savings by cutting the hire of temporary staff, is the fact that many of them have and are being employed to manage and grow the processes of commissioning which he himself is stewarding – attracting daily rates for self employed ‘consultants’ which can easily reach £400-500 per day; plus expenses; plus the fees which the Recruiters and Agents who facilitate their ‘employment’ will be charging themselves.

Whilst sold to us as the way to streamline and make healthcare more affordable, commissioning is not only an extremely expensive process to manage, drawing funds, staff and resources away from areas where they are needed most. It is also a major step in the direction of privatisation.

Health service providers – government, NGO, not-for-profit and privately owned alike – are invited to bid to provide services, and all of them will be primarily thinking about the bottom line, and not the holistic level of care they will be giving the end user – i.e. you and me, as they do so.

The Government itself usually recognises a bottom line from fee generation as profit, whatever the legal status of the organisation behind it. The biggest question about the future of the NHS must therefore be how it can possibly be so that other organisations can now provide better services at lower cost whilst they are also making a profit, when the Government itself cannot deliver the same directly and without the need to pay an additional premium fee?

The NHS, like Local Government and many of our NGO’s is in serious trouble, not just because the Country is now effectively bankrupt and cannot actually afford to continue providing the services that it already does. But because it is also incapable of addressing the fundamental need for transformation and use innovation in its real sense to enact top-to-bottom change in working practices and the legislative areas that support them.

Politicians are not prepared to talk about the real issues that the NHS faces, even when they are themselves cognizant of them, because they fear the electoral implications of actually being seen to do so.

Meanwhile, the default approach to making savings is being employed yet again, and whilst savings can almost certainly be made, the decisions which lead to them should be based on the knowledge and experience which comes from the clinical end of the scalpel, and not from the money-counters and political theorists that populate the very fat end of the other.

image: blogs.spectator.co.uk

 

Change is what we need; not revolution. And it’s all about getting the basics right…

November 13, 2014 2 comments

images-13For all politicians, the opportunity genuinely exists to revise and create new polices which will work for the benefit of all. It’s not an option which is restricted to Ed Milliband and Nigel Farage who both hope to have very different roles in power from May; but one which even the Coalition Government could begin to embrace right now.

Sounds quite a stretch when you think about it though. Tribal politics and the media chasing political circus that Westminster has become, has, after all created a cynical and disenfranchised electorate; one which in the majority experiences little each day, to make it feel that the system actually relates to any of us in any way.

Perhaps without even knowing they do it much of the time, even the most modest members of the political classes somehow succeed in exploiting this very real perception to their benefit, using the media and disingenuous rhetoric they employ to leave individuals and families feeling as if they are themselves alone in going through what for many has become a very trying experience.

It wouldn’t be so bad. But being left feeling guilty because you cannot afford to buy food; to pay bills; to buy clothes; to pay for transport or because you are having some other form of negative experience of life which you really shouldn’t be have in 21st Century democratic Britain is certainly in no way fair.

It is certainly not what you would call right in an age when equality has for a long time been sold to us as a given.

Its not what you expect when successive political generations have told us all that they, and only they, possess the holy grail to putting everyone first.

When you have Government after Government run by people whose only true priority is to gain or retain power, it stands to reason that many people do not see or feel that the electoral system is working for them.

Ignoring elections, or throwing support in the direction of a new Party which is at the very least attempting to sound like it is in touch with the issues that people are facing, then for many becomes an attractive proposition indeed.

Regrettably, such a political environment like the one we are experiencing today provides a wholly fertile seedbed for popular voices advocating seismic change of a kind that would be more akin to opening the Pandora’s box which accompanies public unrest, rather than heralding the arrival of some new and golden age. However well intended, Russell Brand’s recent political outbursts and the publication of his book Revolution are in reality little more than an aspirational touch paper of anarchy – based on the views and interpretations of many other Writers – promoting the release of one terrible genie that any sensible person – however frustrated with the system they might be – really does not want to see let out of it’s bottle.

images-12Overnight change – which is essentially what revolution is, doesn’t usually end well. It is more likely to lead to a situation far worse than most will have experienced before, and one which will probably be a lot harder to change.

We have to work to make what we have better, rather than breaking up the workable framework that already exists; throwing it all in the air and then leaving it all to pure chance to see – and then experience where the unconnected pieces will then all fall.

It is top to bottom reform and change that are essential across public services and all areas of Government Policy, before people are in any way likely to feel they are being treated fairly.

This will not come about by continuing to base arguments and disquiet on wealth or demographic class, and whilst advocates of wealth redistribution may find an audience which is very receptive to the idea that either taxing or simply stripping wealth from the rich, and sharing it out equally amongst the poor may give them all a much better life; this idea is indeed as illusory as the money is itself.

Non-earned wealth will in most cases disappear just as quickly as it arrives – if not through private spending, then through the exponential and inflationary economic changes which would almost certainly accompany the instantaneous arrival of so much personal wealth.

The aim of solving the problems of breadline Britain or the cost of living crisis will no better be served by penalising the potential of high earnings, than it will be by enacting an unsustainable rate for the Minimum or Living Wage.

Such solutions may provide a temporary fix, and give a moment of perceived justice to many. But those with money will soon move away or lose the incentive to keep earning – whether they are companies or individuals; whilst those who have found themselves with more money in the bank at the end of one month, will soon lose it the next when employers and the suppliers of all the goods and services that they think they can now afford put their prices up to support the rises in wages that they have themselves had to pay.

No. Dealing with problems in isolation simply does not and will not work, because by attempting to solve one problem in this way, the process soon leads to the creation of many more – if it doesn’t just make the original one a whole lot worse for those who are experiencing it.

To build a better life for all, getting the basics right is the very first step. It is about reviving, living and promoting a sense of ethical balance and consideration for all.

This will most likely be achieved by ensuring that at the most fundamental level, adults can afford to feed, clothe, and house themselves – and any dependents that they may have – to a minimum and workable standard. A benchmark level which cannot be subjected to the influence of any third party.

Working to address the many issues that require policy changes will not be simple. But Politicians are elected with the expectation that they can deal with complexities on behalf of the people they represent, and if they have taken their election that seriously, this is exactly what they should now do.

The possibilities for solutions are probably endless. But solutions are indeed possible if the needs, benefits and consequences for everyone are considered properly.

If politicians genuinely want to help and provide a level-playing field where there is opportunity for all, why are they not looking at policy areas that have the potential to make an immediate difference. Examples might be:

Releasing the restrictions placed on employers AND employees through Legislation such as the European Working Time Directive: The days when legitimate business thrived on the unbridled exploitation of the working classes have long since passed and we today have some of the most restrictive working practices on the planet. If everyone in the workplace was completely happy, furthering and maintaining the cause of such horrific levels of bureaucracy would make sense. But many people want the opportunity to work beyond the requirements of their contracts of employment, whilst employers would benefit greatly from increased input and flexibility from existing – and often more experienced staff. The real key to ensuring fairness is simply allow workers to do additional work when THEY want to, or just as they have formally agreed. Employers have to be trusted not to embrace unsafe working practices and the nanny state has gone too far in basing industry-wide restrictions on the behaviour of the unscrupulous few, or upon idealistic views of bureaucrats of how business actually works. Imposing business-breaking fines – and being seen to do so, would be a far more effective way of encouraging good working practices and management, rather than allowing officials with no business experience to attempt to direct industry professionals on how they can staff their business.

Stopping the escalation of property prices:The UK is culturally obsessed with property and its financial value in a way that few other Countries are. Prices have continued to inflate at dangerous levels which keeps borrowing artificially high, and makes rental prices equally excessive for entrants to the markets who have to rent, but desperately want the opportunity to own. Government could and arguably should step in to regulate the property industry and introduce policies which keep prices as they realistically can. The potential need for a resetting of property values is very real, and whilst Government behaves as if the answer to all problems is to build, build, build, while prices keep on going up (When do you ever see new developments come on to the market with prices that are lower than the local comparative market?), Politicians are never going to solve the housing problem or the massive drain that property prices has become for young people entering the market. Putting this problem off until tomorrow has long been the way; but tomorrow may already be here!

Working with Utility companies to keep prices manageable: The term ‘utility company’ has been a misnomer since privatisation, when the priority switched from the supply of services that are essentially supposed to be for the public good, to shareholders who will almost always be looking for a profit. No man can serve two masters, and the monopolistic strength of these companies has equipped them with the ability to write their own ticket, whilst ensuring their profits are secure. In the absence of Government regaining ownership, it should nonetheless step in to cap profits, or at the very least buy supplies direct for those who qualify at rates which reflect the wholesale purchasing power that the Government could and arguably should have on our behalf.

Buying services and goods direct from suppliers for those on benefits and low incomes or using smart card technology to deliver just the same: A massive opportunity exists for Government to step in and buy products and services on behalf of those on low-incomes and on benefits. Without the need to provide subsidies, Government could easily realise all the benefits of procuring food, fuel and essential goods as a significant bulk-buyer, just as big companies like supermarkets already do. The immediate concern that would be raised by the implementation processes such as administration, distribution and monitoring could be easily overcome through the use of IT, and whilst we hear horror stories about the stupendous cost of government-wide software implementation projects, the technology already exists to provide such a system through the use of personal smart cards, without big business profiteering, or the end user having to collect goods from anywhere other than the stores that they already use.

Creating a ‘retail’ arm to the Bank of England: Provide full current account services and not-for-profit based lending for pay-day-loans and to support small business – just seeking to return the operating costs for the benefit of everyone.

Lining up what are just a handful of suggestions makes it sound simple. But nobody would have unrealistic expectations for delivery from a Government that communicates with the public using openness, honesty and respect.

People do know that they deserve something better than what they currently have, and the time has come for a kind of Government which actually gets the basics right, rather than just talking about it before the usual grandstanding begins.

Whether income for those on low incomes comes from earnings or in-kind from benefits, there exists a cultural expectation for British Government to ensure a Basic Standard of Living.

Whatever the Political Party in Government might be, it is time for the philosophies, protectionist policies and ideas which benefit only the few to be binned and replaced with delivering something better as the priority for all.

When Government has these basics right, the many dominoes which stand beyond will very quickly begin to fall.

 

 top image – imgarcade.com

What the US row over the regulation of broadband provision can tell us about the privatisation of public services and why we must maintain the basic right to the same level of ‘public’ services for all…

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

images-10We have so much news available to us now that it has become very easy to miss the stories which may fail to catch the public eye.

Away from the headlines today, some of our news sources have been covering the growing row between US President Barrack Obama and the Industry Leaders controlling the supply of Broadband Services in the United States.

Obama appears to be pushing for a system of regulation which will ensure the same level of supply across the Net to all customers, whilst the Industry itself is apparently looking for its own kind of controls which will allow differing levels of supply – and ultimately a ‘fast lane’ or optimum service for those to be made available for those who will pay for it.

On the face of it, this could immediately sound like something and nothing. We do after all have a whole range of choices when we buy or arrange our own internet packages and right now, it now seems pretty normal to pay for every little thing that we have.

However, whilst the speed of the roll-out of superfast broadband leaves many of us knowing only too well that different levels of service currently exist and seem to leave us with little choice, this is in itself just an evolutionary or developmental stage of provision. It is much like the experience of the switch from analogue to digital has been for those of us who used the Web from the beginning, and can still remember the rattle and hum of the tones as we hogged the phone line and dialed-in.

We may not like it and in an age where we have been conditioned to expect everything at the touch of a button, slow internet is beyond frustrating. But right now, we are accepting of it, as we are culturally acclimatised to accept that there is a direction of travel at work, which will only see services improve. (Yes, 4G apparently will at some point exist, even if you have already been paying for it for many months…).

But what would it mean to you if the next generations of technology were simply kept from you, when you knew that they existed and other people or businesses had ready access to them?

Your immediate thought might be that you are pretty happy with your iphone 6, or perhaps a Galaxy Smartphone, and that will do you just fine. But technology is moving apace, and if you were to work on the basis of Moore’s Law, which indicates that the speed and capacity of technology doubles approximately every 18 months to 2 years – which affects functionality as well as speed, you can soon begin to imagine what you might be missing out on by the time you are thinking about the phone you will be able to buy AND operate fully in the year 2020. Apply this to the services you receive through broadband too, and there is perhaps no need to say anymore.

The speed of communication through information technology mediums has been and remains a game changer which has impacts upon us all, usually in ways that leave us feeling completely untouched.

However, it is this very speed, and the capacity to move significant amounts of data from one location to another – perhaps even across the world, in timescales that as humans we at present still remain cognizant of, which have for example equipped money markets and traders to create industries within industries which literally create money from nothing as stocks and shares change hands with the potential to do so again and again over the course of a minute, whilst speculators also ‘bet’ on the transactions and the way their vales will go over the same period of time.

Speed – and therefore time, is increasingly becoming worth money where communication is concerned.

Whilst this may not be a thought that drags many of us away from our phones and iplayer-streamed episodes of The Big Bang Theory today, it will surely stand to reason that those who supply much faster internet services will see the opportunity in being able to charge a considerable premium for the product they supply tomorrow; whilst those who have the most to gain from the almost guaranteed technological leaps that are coming, will already possess and indeed have the most to gain financially from paying what will to them be trivial sums.

Not a problem for many of us today. But if the supply of service did really become as diverse as it could, there is no reason to believe that like in many other areas of contemporary life, cost will not quickly price large numbers of people out of the latest technology marketplace, with repercussions that could easily lead to the imposition of a whole tier of barriers to entry to services, apps and anything else which has then become entwined with the internet age.

Look at the behavior of the Industry in the States, and it will suddenly become very clear why our own providers could be so resistant to Government led regulation, and the imposition of a level playing field which will never have the potential for the same levels of profitability as that of the alternative.

Regulation that ensures a basic level of service for all and which is not itself qualified by a premium is essential. It can only be offered by an impartial third-party organisation – ideally good government – which has no financial interest in the services provided.

Government is today painted as the bad guy for any industry that provides either a public-wide service, or one which can ultimately have that same effect on the population and is not currently regulated – or guided with a robust ethical code that prioritises access and consideration of the consequences of profit-making actions upon us all.

This applies to the inappropriately named utility companies; companies such as the telecom providers, and also to the companies within the financial and banking sectors, where perhaps the most clear example of what happens when the fee-earners are left to regulate themselves was demonstrated by the financial crash of 2008.

The relevance of the US example should not be lost on us, just as the importance and argument that now definitely exists for greater Government intervention to regulate what are and remain public services.

The core reasoning of keeping essential services in the public domain was lost to decision makers of that time, through prolonged periods of low productivity and the high cost of running industry sized monoliths which were inherently resistant to change.

Regrettably, the long-term gift of what are effectively now monopolies to the money markets was not considered in terms of the requirements of ethical or regulatory practice, and the escalating costs of heating and electricity are just a symptom of what happens when a service is provided to a captive market by companies that are allowed to focus on nothing but the bottom line.

Sooner or later, Government will have to address these issues which face and surround all of the public services which are now in public hands.

Ed Millliband has to date probably been the most outspoken of the Political leaders in acknowledging the need to tackle the impact of unbridled energy price rises. But as with almost everything else, inflicting price changes, freezes or any kind of formula without regard to the real implications of doing so is akin to madness – and certainly so if the Industries themselves are not given adequate opportunity to reform before doing so.

Existing problems will be very complex to address. But for services such as the NHS it is not too late for politicians to do the big thing and tackle the problems that exist with meaningful reform. With Internet Services, it is in no way too late to ensure that the market continues to serve the best interests of everyone, and not just the few who will otherwise stand to make the most money from manipulating its harnessed profitability to their best advantage.

There is much for Government to do. But before anything there must be a change of mindset to one that genuinely considers the impact of polices on other polices and ultimately upon the consequences for us all.

The Internet will only come close to achieving all that it can for good if access to it is essentially the same for all.

Government will need to address this, just as it will soon have to accept that the parallel world which the Net has created will require its very own set of rules.

The distance which the Internet has created between us is already removing the humanity from relationships. We now need to ensure that our ability to pay is not the system of qualification for improving our lives that we should now be able to take for more than granted.

image: thevoltreport.com

Free Childcare and The CBI: Big business itself has a lot more of a role to play than just identifying a need, just as Government does through the development of not-for-profit provision and Social Enterprise…

November 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The CBI has today said that Government must create more free childcare, and on the face of it they are certainly right.

But is it only the Government’s responsibility to provide the support mechanisms which enable parents to work when business will be one of the biggest beneficiaries too?

Childcare costs play a much bigger role in the earning potential, wellbeing and general happiness of families with very young children and low incomes than really ever seems to be fully acknowledged. Yet this, and the reality that the period of support and nurture before school for all children is just as important as the years between the ages of 4 and 18 seems to be treated as anything but.

Schemes such as nursery vouchers help, but are in many ways arguably little more than a gimmick for politicians, or a fire-and-forget incentive for some employers. The privately owned monopoly of early years care which currently provides this support to parents is after all significantly profit based, whilst providing services that like schools, are actually required for the benefit of the wider community as a whole.

Like it or not, the days have now long since passed when the average nuclear family could be maintained on one wage alone. The option for one parent to stay at home during the formative years of their young children is a luxury that for many is simply financially impossible. Yet the lack of genuinely affordable quality childcare provision can soon remove any real choice and the likelihood of both or of a single parent prioritising work when there is a real cost in quality of life to the child or children concerned, without any benefit elsewhere – is hardly any choice at all.

From this perspective, what the CBI is saying may well be fundamentally right, and when Government has long since provided free education as the basic right – and indeed requirement for every child, it does seem rather odd that the system so squarely favours the use of private care in the pre-school years.

However, there is a very large ‘but’ to all this.

Whilst business representatives may be correct in identifying a key barrier to entry for people seeking a return to the workplace, is it not very questionable to place the emphasis of responsibility squarely at the door of Government when it is not only the employees, but the businesses themselves which in many cases will ultimately benefit too?

Making the choice easy for parents to return to the workplace after the birth of a child should be a priority for any Government that considers its responsibilities to the people it represents in a wholly balanced and fair way. However, most problems like this have in the past been solved by writing a cheque, and the days when politicians could just solve problems by throwing money at them have long since gone.

To the CBI, the suggested cost of £300 Million might not sound like a great deal. But when you consider that this figure would equate to nearly £700K off the budget of every single principle Local Authority in the UK – and then give thought to what that would then mean in the terms of cuts to services that such a figure would in a shifting of priorities bring, you can quickly see how a sum of this kind could hardly come without any significant strings, wherever the money comes from.

Somebody somewhere is always losing out. Government doesn’t have the money to provide the services that it already does, and whilst borrowing sounds like a very attractive idea to politicians who are buried in the complexities of what will probably have been one of the longest General Election campaigns in history, it is the result of this approach time and again before, that sees the current UK debt at beyond £1 Trillion and accumulating at a rate of over £5K per second.

We do need either local authorities and social enterprise to provide a quality alternative to privately owned and operated nurseries. Especially so for parents working for small businesses or who are self employed themselves.

Like an increasing number of different areas within local government which are moving towards entrepreneurial projects in order to maintain existing services and potentially attract funds to support others, Education Authorities could, and arguably should be developing services such as day nurseries and crèche’s which charge fees, but keep the fee levels real and in keeping with what is affordable for those parents working in low paid jobs.

But for others, who experience these difficulties just the same, but work for much larger, perhaps corporate level companies, their employers have a role to play too. Bigger companies could arguably provide these services at a much lower cost than a third party organisation or independent not-for-profit organisation could ever do so, whilst providing on-site services that for many of the employees concerned could take their work experience into an entirely different league.

Yes, some employers do already offer such services on-site. But the benefits of offering on site nurseries and crèches within all businesses where it would be possible to do so could be untold; run completely at cost, and also potentially opened up to support other parents from the communities which surround large employment sites – where outreach could almost certainly always be improved.

Looking to others for the answer has regrettably become an all too familiar approach within a culture that inherently considers little more than profit, risk and the potential for blame.

So when it comes to the benefit that will no doubt come from the profitability of getting so many more of these parents back into work, the employers themselves should also have to pick up and carry more of the risks involved in providing the solutions that will make it attractive for parents to be happy to do so.

Government can and should do a whole lot more to support business growth and therefore increase the number of jobs available and the earning ability of the people within them. But business leaders also need to accept that they have a role to play in helping to support the lives of those they employ beyond work, and also recognise that there might be very positive results accepting that the two are not always mutually exclusive.

image: The Guardian

 

With the Chancellors story-telling now so apparent, does Cameron really think he is the David who will finally deal with the European Goliath?

November 8, 2014 Leave a comment

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However much the political elite might claim to consider the views of the electorate, if there were ever any evidence needed of the contempt with which they really do hold us, then the Chancellors statement dealing with the latest European bill will probably say it all.

Whilst Labour and UKIP will surely find great traction as they attack what has so much distortion about it, that it could easily outsell the house of mirrors attraction at the local fair, very few people will be taken in by the latest political ruse which more than adequately speaks for itself.

After all, with a bill of £1.7 Billion, split into two payments of £850 Million; dragged out one way by 8 months, and with 1 Billion Euro rebate brought forward a year by the other, most people will quickly see and understand the blatancy of this fudge of all fudges.

Even at a time when public attention wasn’t so firmly focussed on the relevance of Europe, the obvious nature of such tactics would surely lead to questions about the approach being taken by Government, and specifically about whether they genuinely have our best interests at heart.

But right now, when the UKIP really does seem unable to do a thing wrong, many will surely be asking why the Conservatives have once again failed to seize the initiative and use the opportunity to be at the very least seen to do the right thing.

However short are the memories of who does what and when in politics, the truth of the matter is that a whole series of Governments – Conservative, Labour and Coalition alike – all have responsibility for developing and nurturing the European monster, which has been given carte blanche to strangle industry and lives through the tyranny of political correctness gone wrong, and to inflict penalty charges on Member States – seemingly all at will.

Dealing with this beast – either upon the more reasoned but genuine journey of reform, or through the mechanics of withdrawal, will almost certainly prove itself in time to be akin to a tale of Biblical proportions.

Minded of this, we should perhaps ask why the Conservatives have not chosen to continue to question the right and legitimacy of this significant bill, when the very act of doing so would for many be reason enough to put the European ‘relationship’ firmly on the rack – all at a time when the Leadership are supposedly committed to an in/out Referendum – following what are hardly irrelevant renegotiations which will have to take place perhaps just s few months from now?

If messrs Cameron and Osborne were really respected by their European counterparts in the way which they would have us believe they are, it is very unlikely that the Europeans would themselves have been so very quick to pour scorn on the version of events that has been publicised in the UK, and that we are therefore far more isolated at the Union table, than our hot-coal-hopping Government will readily admit.

Great Britain has been successful in its isolation many times before. However, this has usually been more about the courage and conviction held by our leaders at the time, and on their willingness to see the right thing through to its end, rather the futility of playing politics with everyone, when the population of their own Nation and the leaders of the others involved want to hear of anything but.

Cameron may see himself as a Prime Minister who will leave a great legacy. But the nature of what that legacy will actually be will never be positively defined by actions that prove to be constructed out of little more than deceit and deception.

Options and alternatives might today seem very limited indeed, but with the Chancellors story-telling now so apparent, does Cameron really think he is the David who will finally deal with the European Goliath?

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images: top – thanks to source unknown, bottom imgarcade.com 

Britain’s Political Crisis: Politicians should remember that glory is little more than a temporary illusion which benefits no-one in the long term. It should be just the happy consequence that it is, rather than the reason for being and doing itself…

November 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Einstein-Quotes-1-2

If you could speak to any of today’s MP’s, back before they entered politics, and asked them why they got involved, would most of them honestly tell you that it was because they wanted to be an MP, or because they wanted to make a difference?

Sadly, we all probably know the answer to this question very well. In it lies much of the truth behind not only the problems that this Country now faces, but also the uncomfortable reality that sits behind Westminster’s façade. The British political establishment is morally inept, and there is nobody offering anything even remotely like the leadership that the Country needs in order to bring balance and to deliver a system of Government which genuinely is fair and fitting for all.

People are awakening to the complexities of our political system, albeit for many, they are simply on the receiving end or rather the effects of a comprehensive range of policies that have usually been cobbled together for no better reason than that of political expedience, usually because their precursor was failing to work just the same.

It was once said that the simplest solutions are the most intelligent. Indeed one of the most pertinent and indeed relevant quotes which relates to the way that Government operates would be Albert Einstein, when he said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’.

Some may question the validity of quotations from a world renowned scientist. But Government is and has been run by generations of politicians who are doing little more than testing out theories and face-saving solutions on an electorate that they have arguably treated little better than lab rats or guinea pigs.

People across the demographical boundaries of British society feel that this is exactly how they have and are being treated, and the reality is that political philosophy and the other tools used to progress the interests of one group of people over another, continually fails to deliver anything balanced, or which does not have negative implications for somebody, somewhere else.

We live in times when the disparity between the lifestyles of those on low incomes and those who might be considered to be financially rich, are almost permanently in the media spotlight, encouraging feelings of distance and difference which would probably best be summed up in the sense of the ‘them and us’ cultures you often find present between the tiers of managers and staff within different organisations.

But rather than seek and use the many opportunities available to work with the reality that perception is everything, a seemingly continual flow of politicians gain elevation to their seats and immediately forget that they were elected to be the channels of communication and influence on behalf of the areas they represent.

Often by default, they then become the slaves and ‘yes men’ to someone else’s set of political ideals – all of which usually represent very little that we would recognise as being akin to a way of working and the delivery of solutions which consider the implications and impact upon us all.

Those who have direct experience of operating within the political world will know only too well that democracy today only works for those who are in charge.

Hearing other politicians agree with what you say when you speak out and say something is wrong, is often followed by the contrary and white flagged acknowledgement that ‘you can’t change it as this is just the way things are’. This kind of statement certainly shouldn’t resonate with anyone who entered politics because they genuinely believe in delivering something better for all. However, the fact that so many MP’s are still seen to be sticking with the status quo says much about their motivations for being there.

Whilst change has to start somewhere and many will admire Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless for the steps they have taken, UKIP is so far untested beyond its ability to win by-elections for Westminster and seats within a European Institution which other than being little more than the glorified committee stage of a bureaucratic law making machine, would itself fail to exist for them if they were to ultimately achieve their publicised aims.

At a time when the UK is effectively bankrupt, cuts and economies are being ineptly focused upon the bottom line of expenditure, rather than the transformation and institutional change which would help us ensure the future of services such as the NHS, those provided by local government and many not-for-profit organisations, rather than on the continually increasing risk which will come to us all as a result of their destruction. We desperately need a new start in politics which reflects the responsibility to the public that politicians have, rather than the retention of their seats at the next election which they want.

Cynical as it may sound, we are now experiencing a form of government which begins its next election campaign the very next day after the votes were counted from the last, and you may well wonder what would have happened to us all since May 2010 if the modus operandi of having a whole 5 years to get reelected had been replaced with the battle cry ‘we have only 5 years to get something done’.

The argument and justification for change becomes flawed when personalities are brought into the mix, and however we might feel about the personal ideologies or backgrounds of David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage or anyone else who is in the political sphere, to simply concentrate on ‘playing the man, rather than the ball’ just takes us straight back into the problem that all of them – together – are continuing to create and maintain.

Likewise, jumping on the bandwagon of anarchy, propagated by probably well-meaning public figures like Russell Brand, will also yield very little long-term fruit for a population which is desperate for wholesale change for the better.

Change of the kind that will serve us all well can only come from transformation of the system that we already have.

Destruction of that system – however unfair it might seem to be right now – would lead to a level of uncertainty which would leave people grappling for any alternative which would quickly answer the many questions that widespread lawlessness would almost certainly bring.

If you need to gain some kind of perspective on this, it might be worth considering the situation in Syria and North Iraq which precipitated the arrival of Islamic State – the true impact of which we still as yet do not know.

Everything we do is now based upon mitigating the existence of fear. The most public and consequential proponents of this are the political classes themselves and until they all – as individuals – begin to acknowledge the personal fears that they have, and then rise above them and embrace the level of responsibility they have to us all; work with the risks, and then make decisions that are truly in the best interests of all, nothing is going to change.

Political parties offer a refuge for those who feel they have no choice but to work with others just to get things done. But political parties are now one of the biggest elements of the problem itself and political philosophies are little more than a trap for those who do not have faith in anyone’s ideas, other than their own.

Whoever you vote for in 2015, without change on the level that politicians all now need to embrace, we are simply heading for a lot more of the same, and probably in way which will be far worse and more painful than anything we have witnessed or experienced before.

Thinking about others and how our actions will impact upon them isn’t just some kind of selfless sport or charitable notion for those who have spare time and money on their hands. By considering others, we ultimately consider ourselves.

Politicians on all sides and at all levels would do well to bear this in mind and remember that by concentrating on the real issues that face them today, the electoral results for tomorrow will in turn take care of themselves.

Glory is little more than a temporary illusion which benefits no-one in the long term. It should be just the happy consequence that it is, rather than the reason for being and doing itself.

image: wonderfulengineering.com

Senates, Directly Elected Mayors, Referendums on Independence and UKIP’s ongoing tour-de-force are all highlighting the same message. The political classes are just missing the point

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

images-4Labour plans for a Senate to replace the House of Lords and the Conservative gift of a Directly Elected Mayor for Greater Manchester may outwardly look like serious attempts by the political elite to demonstrate how seriously they wish to reengage with the electorate. But do we really need even more elected politicians, when most of those in the system that we already have are not in touch with the people that they have the responsibility to represent?

Reform of the House of Lords is itself hardly original news. Whilst there are significant questions to be answered about the concept of hereditary peerages when it comes to the attribution of power and responsibility, adding yet another layer of what would essentially be no better, is not going to help anyone, when all that people need is for the political classes that are already in power, is to stop thinking about themselves; finally start to listen to the voters who elected them, and then start acting upon what they have heard.

As seems to have become the tragic and regrettable norm with many politicians, the messages that continue to come from the ascendency of UKIP; from the Scottish Independence Referendum, and from voter disquiet in general are at best – quite literally being missed.

The establishment-shaking popularity of UKIP portrays the current feelings of desperation from up and down the Country, of a population which longs for its political representatives to speak with voices that sound like their own. A genuine desire and practical need for a government that makes us all feel like we are ‘in it together’, rather than being patronised and simply told that we already are. It says very little for the idea of respect when it comes to the status quo.

The Scottish Referendum demonstrated to us in basic terms how the population of just one area of the UK so desperately wants to feel engaged with politicians in a way which leaves the decisions that matter in day-to-day life, in the hands of decision makers who are not only geographically local, but are both seen and felt to be in touch with the needs of the people whom their decisions will ultimately effect.

Scotland’s great advantage in making its voice heard has been the geographical boundary and demographic history which as an identifiable group, has allowed it to become as tribal as the political parties are in Westminster. However, the realities of what our fellow countrymen and women living in Scotland want from British politics is no different to people living in any other area of the UK. We want politicians and leaders who really do put what is best for all before anything else.

Voter disquiet and apathy will not be solved by developing or strengthening a political apparatus that is already perceived by the silent majority, as being rotten from the bottom to the top.

People are not stupid. They know that today’s political system exists to keep the same kinds of people in power – many of whom have no real idea how the people they were elected to serve actually live and survive.

As is the case with the NHS, it is neither the concept nor the physical structure of the institution that is broken.

It is the impractical ideologies, the self-serving motivations and the elect-me-focused policies borne of the people that lead from within the political system that are at fault and fail to serve with objectivity and balance. Misinformed and misguided concepts and ideas that are used to manage and maintain; not for the better interests of the people that the services and systems of government exist to serve; but to prioritise the interests of the people who benefit most from being ‘within’ them.

The five tiers of Government that already exist were not created by accident. The tools are in place to make all the changes which we need, without creating ever more ‘jobs for the boys’, or by installing yet more ways to take power even further away from the very people who want it back the most.

Whether it’s a Parish, Town, Borough, District, County or Unitary Authority that represents us where we live, the only way that people will become interested, supportive and reengaged en-masse, will be when power is returned from Westminster and Brussels, and decisions which always should be made locally, are made locally.

Politicians can come up with as many inadvertently deceitful devices as they like and roll them out through a media which flourishes on the idiocy of it all. But if they really want people to start respecting them again, they are the ones who will have to start respecting the people who elected them first.

 

image: quotespoem.com 

 

 

 

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