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

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image thanks to unknown

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

December 28, 2018 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to get Elected – and be a good Representative of the People both before AND after you win

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

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With Christmas and the New Year now very much upon us, Brexit overtaking just about everything and a general disillusionment with our Politicians and everything they do, you might spend a moment over the Holidays wondering if there is something that you could do.

Many people do think about entering Politics but don’t know where to begin. Either that, or they know that they will be hamstrung by having to join on one of the main Political Parties. In times like these, this may simply be something that you do not want to do.

Getting involved and doing it properly is a big commitment, especially if you are going to work as an independent and alone.

To help you decide if you would like to get involved in Politics for the right reasons and then provide some advice, tips and guidance of what do expect and what you should do if you do, I have written How to get Elected – and be a good Representative of the People before AND after you win.

Normally, the Book for Kindle is on sale on Amazon for £2.99. But as its Christmas, it will be available to download FREE for a limited time only on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day.

Please get yourself a copy and enjoy!

Best wishes for Christmas & the New Year.

Adam

 

How to get Elected, the Book for Kindle is available to download FREE from Amazon on 24th – 26th December 2018 and 31st December 2018 – 1st January 2019.

Cheltenham & Boots Corner: When things don’t add up, questions need to be asked

November 2, 2018 1 comment

BCWith the Boots corner closure remaining firmly in local minds, the Council attempts to write the concern off as nothing more than the views of a ‘vociferous minority’.

Regrettably, this is how Local Government glosses over disquiet in the UK today and hitting the spot when it comes to overturning undemocratic decisions is a very hard thing to do, as the whole culture has evolved to protect itself.

In reality, even elected Councillors that do have their local communities and constituents at the heart of what they do, can find it an almost impossible task to get the right questions answered, as the system is geared to allow the close-down of unwelcome debate.

That said, persistence is the greatest ally in achieving worthy aims in Government, and if you keep asking questions, and then the questions which then follow any answers that you might get, the right result is far from being impossible – even if it doesn’t arrive within a timescale that you might find comfortable or like.

If I were representing people in Cheltenham right now, there are a number of questions that I would immediately ask. I would anticipate having many more, depending upon the answers I received or found. They would be as follows:-

Why has Boots Corner been closed?

Whilst it sounds like the answer should be obvious, it isn’t. BUT it is in the interests of the Council and/or whoever benefits from the closure for members of the Public to think that it is. Be sure not to fall into the trap of reading or listening to opinion, such as the article in last Sunday’s Observer, which framed the whole issue as being about pollution. That is just a useful excuse that takes the debate in a very different direction and is designed to make the real issues subservient to those that are in vogue.

Who or what is the driving force behind the change?

Is it the whole Council? Is it one of the Political Groups? Is it Officers? Were there Consultants involved? If there were Consultants involved, who paid the bill and what was the Brief?

What is their reasoning and motivation for the change?

Why now? What do the changes to Boots Corner really achieve? Is the reasoning given the full story, or is there more that we should know?

Who are the real beneficiaries?

Who stands to benefit from the changes at Boots Corner? What will those benefits be? What evidence was used to suggest that these results would be achieved? What modeling was used? What real-life examples were used and how do they relate to the very idiosyncratic nature of Cheltenham’s Road Plan?

What else is happening which is related?

There’s no such thing as coincidence. What else is happening on the same timeline as the changes to Boots Corner? What bigger Strategy is at work?

How did the Council reach the conclusion that the change was necessary?

What was the process within the Council that led to the decision to make the changes at Boots Corner? What is the chronology and timeline of the events that led to it? Who was involved in the process? What influence did each of the Parties involved have?

What evidence or tests being met will confirm the change as permanent?

The changes have been portrayed as being temporary or as a trial. What evidence will be used to decide if the changes at Boots Corner should become permanent? How have those levels been defined? Who has defined them? Who will write up the final Report, Conclusions and table the Proposal for the Council to decide?

What has been used as the basis of those tests?

Where did the ideas or methods come from which have been used to define these tests?

What has changed?

What has changed since the last time the Council and/or other Local Authorities considered closing Boots Corner and decided not to?

What is the long term Strategy?

 Is the closure of Boots Corner part of a much bigger plan? Does the Council intend to pedestrianise the whole of the High Street and Centre of Cheltenham? Is there something on the horizon that isn’t Publicly known?

What consultation with the Public has taken place?

Did a Public Consultation take place? If so, how was it carried out? What questions were asked? Who took part? How many people took part? What were their responses? What questions were raised? How were those questions answered?

What consultation with local businesses has taken place?

Did a Consultation with businesses take part? If so, how was it carried out? What questions were asked? Who took part? How many businesses took part? What were their responses? What questions were raised? How were these questions answered?

What consultation with Developers and Landlords has taken place?

Were Developers and Landlords consulted? What role did they play? What influence did hey have?

What influence has the arrival of the John Lewis store had on Boots Corner and other changes to the Town Centre Traffic system?

Has the arrival of the John Lewis store and its opening this Autumn had any influence on the Council’s decision making? If so, how?

Who designed the current plan?

Who designed the revised traffic and/or road plan to facilitate the Boots Corner closure? What modeling did they use? Why was that modeling considered appropriate as the basis for the changes?

What work was undertaken on traffic displacement modeling?

What work was undertaken on traffic displacement modeling? (Literally, what were the recognisable alternatives for drivers?) Where are the plans and figures showing where the traffic would go when Boots Corner was closed? How do the Council know what alternatives people who used to drive through Boots Corner to access the North of the Town Centre and beyond would use?

What steps were taken in response to the traffic displacement modeling before Boots Corner was closed on 28th June 2018?

What steps were taken to address the impact of the traffic re-routing which was going to take place after the Boots Corner closure BEFORE it actually took place in late June?

All of this information should be available in the Public Realm, but it is far from an exhaustive list of questions, and I am sure that many more would arise as you go along.

The primary sources of information should be the Minutes of the Meetings of the Full Council and also any of the Council’s Committees which have been working on or ‘overseeing’ the Boots Corner changes.

This is where all of the decision making, the reasoning and the evidence that supported it should be open to Public view.

If not, Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) should enable access to anything else that isn’t disclosed because it has taken place outside of Public Meetings.

Please Remember: The Boots Corner Closure is a matter of everyday Public concern. As such, legitimate questions should always be answered when asked or presented appropriately. If the Council and any party involved has been fair, balanced and done everything properly to ensure that the best interests of local people, businesses and anyone it has a duty of care to are served, they will have nothing to hide and everyone working on their behalf will be as open and helpful as they can be. They certainly wouldn’t need to rely on or have reason to resort to ridicule or any other form of personal attack as part of their response – whatever the medium.

Mutual Aims:- The basis upon which a real people’s party would have to operate, function and aspire to genuinely succeed in UK Politics today

October 24, 2018 1 comment

MA3There has been much talk of a new Political Party being established in recent Months.

The idea has been branded ‘The People’s Party by the media. But whatever it might turn out to be, coming from the same old, same old world of British Politics as it is today, this name would be at best misleading, because the Public would simply be getting more of those same old things.

To be a genuine people’s party or party of and for the people, any new or reformed political grouping wishing to live up to the expectations of this title, will have to consider, address and deliver on a number of very difficult, but nonetheless key things.

For a genuine people’s party to be successful, their work will not just be about policy alone.

A real people’s party will be all about direction, principles, adaptability and always being mindful and accommodating of the real needs of all of those who form the entirety of the UK population. The place from which all UK Politicians draw their responsibility through the Vote.

Here follows an overview of the key areas where a real people’s party would have to focus its efforts if it has the genuine intention of rein-franchising not just the people that any one party would focus its call for support from, but for every one and every part of our entire population. Each and every Member of the UK Community – one and all.

Politics in the UK today isn’t working for anyone but the Politicians themselves

As I write in mid October 2018, UK Politics has been taken over by Brexit.

Everyone in politics is obsessed with their own ideas and plans, and their interpretation of what ‘Brexit’ actually means.

Many of the political class are simply too busy to see how they have become completely detached from their responsibilities to the Electorate – that’s doing what is right for people like you and me.

We, the normal people outside of the Westminster, media and the political bubbles, feel completely disenfranchised by everything going on around us.

We feel detached from what is going on not only at National level, where we continually find the news and social media out of touch with how we feel. But at local level too, where we are increasingly seeing public services slashed and decisions made by local councils and public service providers that are completely out of step with how we know things should really be.

We have a Conservative Party in Government, but not ruling.

We are led by a Prime Minister who has no idea how to lead.

The Prime Minister is surrounded by a Cabinet of ambitious Ministers who will not put the Country before their own desires to put off governing properly until a ‘safe’ opportunity comes for each of them to launch a campaign to succeed her.

We have an Opposition led by a dangerously idealistic Marxist, who gained the Labour Leadership on little more than a whim.

An anachronism of a time gone by, this is a protest politician who by doing little more than romanticising the values of a philosophy that talks the talk but only delivers pain, has changed the face of the political possibilities. We witness complete incompetence given credibility, and by some very unfortunate mix of luck versus misfortune, a career-backbencher has found himself in perhaps a once-in-many-generations position where the failures of others could see him make the once ridiculous reality and achieve an electoral win.

The answers coming from within the political sphere and the Establishment itself, raise even more questions than they answer.

On the one hand, there is the call for a Referendum on the result of a Referendum which was very clear in what it means. A new Referendum seeks to overturn that result. It’s not sold as that, but that’s exactly what it means.

And then there’s talk of a new ‘people’s party’, being born from the ‘centre ground’. The current or portrayed realities of a self-centred collective, constructed of all of the Political Party’s disgruntled Remainers. A place where the arrogance of a noisy few, set against the genuine will of the people, is manifested in the belief that all they need to do is rebrand themselves to be perceived as being different – yet a process which they are likely to pursue.

Politicians have completely lost sight of why they were Elected, and what the role of being a Representative of the People actually means.

The British Political System is completely broken. It is filled with people who only understand their own words and meaning.

The System is currently incapable of responding to the change that we all need from politics, so that its not just the Politicians, or the Political Parties, but all of us who are experiencing a real ‘win-win’.

Change has never been needed so much, whilst seeming so very far away

The Remainers or ‘centrists’ considering that break away from the Political Parties that only serve their own needs when they are themselves winning, are certainly correct about one thing.

They are right that there needs to be a new political movement. What makes them wrong, is that a new political movement needs to be all about change.

A new political movement needs to be very different and not just something else based on the kind of politics that we are all so very fed up of. Rehashed and rebranded, with the same value set and basically the creation of self serving politicians, in their own image, and created only for the purposes of allowing them to win.

Whilst we are seeing lots of arguments, gestures and words about being different, the people in power now have lost credibility.

They need to rethink the way that they see the worlds of the people they represent from a very different vantage point.

They must accept that the ambitious but necessary task of changing the British Political System is now very unlikely to be the kind of change which can come from within.

The kind of ‘change’ that we do not need in the British Political System

We don’t need any more of the same.

We don’t need the same politicians doing what they have been doing all along, rebranding their ‘new look’ as being different, when its all about them, the people who support them and gearing every decision towards winning the next election. There is already so much work to be done to address all the mess they have made since the last one without stopping for breath in between.

We certainly don’t need the creation of a new ‘people’s party’, only constructed from the Politicians and ideas that already exist. Yet another ‘club’ for the select few, created only to convince the majority of the British People through subterfuge, that when they Voted for a clean Brexit, they were wrong.

The kind of change that we do need from a political party which is going to do the right things

We need a new political movement that cuts across all of the political divides. That crosses the perceptual barriers of politicians who have become bogged down with political philosophy, with tribalism and forgetting what working for the people is actually supposed to be about.

When Politicians are thinking about everyone, there is no left. There is no right. There is no centre. There are no extremes.

There are just a great many different people, experiencing very different lives, with the genuine expectation that Politicians will rule and create policies for the benefit of everyone, rather than getting bogged down with ideas and focusing only on each and every divide.

We need leadership that understands the people that it seeks to lead. Decisions made which are respectful of all the realities which underpin the diversity of all our life experiences. The creation of thoughtful and intelligent policies that consider the overlap with all others. Recognition that addressing the causes of issues as well as the effects of them is the way to ensure fairness and success in public policy – The just aim upon which all political priorities should be founded and underpinned.

We need Politicians to get real. To get with a completely new script. To embrace a change which is not of their own making. Change that is not top-down in its thinking. Change that looks at reality from the grassroots up as the basis of affecting a real positive and cross-demographic transformation.

Above all, we need a model of being, which moves away from the obsessiveness of the political classes to be in control of absolutely everything. An agenda that identifies a direction of travel, a set of aspirations, standards and responsible guidelines to apply to all policy making, rather than getting stuck on every small detail.

We require a political system that will inspire and empower public servants to be all that they can be. To do their jobs properly and to not be obstructed by the fear of falling foul of a rights and political correctness. To be mindful that serving the public is not about personal gain, what looks good, or by avoiding any form of real responsibility, and that by deviating into the realms or protectionism and self-service, they will always be disadvantaging the people they serve.

How a real people’s party will get us all there

To get there, we must be practical about how a real people’s party would have to work and what approach it would need employ to achieve this.

To begin with, we must recognise what is wrong, what the fix will look like overall, and what steps must be taken in Politics for us all to succeed.

The reset requirement – It’s recognising that almost of the problems we have as a Society are about the way that we all think

Everything is relative to our experience.

Some of us feel like things are good.

Some of us feel like things are bad.

Some of us look beyond our own experiences; beyond our own bubbles to the experiences of others and to the realities of lifetimes around us, that we ourselves have never had.

Whether good or bad, everything we do is connected. It is easy to overlook or be unaware that when we ourselves gain a benefit from something, someone else might be losing out as a result.

It’s all a question of distance, whether we perceive that there is a human impact as a result of anything that we do, and whether there has been an impact upon somebody we have time and care about as a result.

Relationships are at the root of everything

The interconnectivity of the world today has already introduced significant distance between people, whatever the relationship between them might be.

Communication and the rise of the Internet is dehumanising relationships, putting reference numbers and categorisations in the place where simple humanity, care and thought for others and the impact of our decisions up until very recently would have been.

When we interact with our friends, families and the people know, we think and behave differently.

These relationships are based on interaction. They are real, they are tangible and above all they are human. They require us to employ the code for the people who are familiar to us and that we care about, that each and every one of us has developed as the way to live.

But once this familiarity is removed, we overlook the presence of this very same reality for everyone else outside this bubble of our own too.

We forget that the need for care and consideration doesn’t just disappear into the ether, as soon as knowing someone personally is one or more steps removed.

When we don’t recognise the value of others as being human, we place no value on the impact of the decisions or actions we take that have consequences for them.

Whilst modern technology and the diminishment of our communities is accelerating this process, it is nonetheless an age-old mistake to make.

A World around us that doesn’t care

Today, this behaviour is being acted out on a grand scale.

It has led to the world around us behaving very differently.

Far too many people are unaware of how making unnecessary profit or higher wages for themselves personally, is likely to result in making things harder for others, particularly where government or a third party interest like a business is perceived to be a middle man, making it very easy to forget that ‘real people’ are still involved.

Many of these self-focused people don’t see the impact or their actions played out around them – so their decisions are only made on the benefit of what is perceived as good or beneficial to them.

In life there are examples of this type of behaviour all around us, and it is regrettably all too easy for us to overlook it when it is behaviour of the people we consider close to us, or behaviour of our own.

To understand the impact of the unnecessary harvest of benefiting from the plight of others, or profiting without adding value to a product or service, we can cast our minds to one example, where things look different, but are relative and very much result in the same things.

The bankers and union bosses who take but don’t add value

Bankers and people working in the financial sector make money by creating debt.

They profit from someone else’s misery, and legally too. But they do so because the distance between them and the people they are exploiting means they have no concept or idea that the instruments or tools they create are pushing up prices for everyone else everywhere, causing distress, pain and misery.

Yet at the other end of the spectrum, Union leaders push for strikes, pay rises and action, framed as ‘it’s them against us’, whilst the impact of wage rises on employers, the frustration and worry caused by delays, the cost of living for others and price rises on the high streets are too easy for them to forget

These two seeming extremes may look different. But the thoughts which drive these actions are relative to the individuals and are very much the same thing.

Aims and principles, not just policies

Becoming an electable force is all about creating a manifesto for change.

A plan which is real because it has direction and cannot be tripped up simply by mistakes or misinterpretation in the way it implemented or rolled out.

Policies themselves must therefore be steps. Not the anchors upon which change itself is rested upon.

Policies must be open to change when they don’t work, further development when they do, and be receptive to all forms of criticism too.

Policies must also be interactive and made consultatively and with consideration for their impact upon other policy areas, without isolation and being collective in consideration and at every thought.

Aims, principles and therefore a genuine constitution are what a real party of the people will need to be secure in its direction, to be certain it knows what it is working to deliver and to be robust and adaptable enough to negotiate whatever terrain and environmental changes it might encounter as it seeks to evolve experiences as seamlessly as possible.

Fundamentally, the priorities of a real people’s party must be about the people, being committed to delivering something better for all. Being aspirational whilst also being practical and recognising that in a world built with free will, you cannot jump from where we are to where we want to be without taking many steps, some of which may resemble very different forms and directions on the roadway in between.

Aims and Principles are therefore the guiding lights that a real people’s party must use, choosing not to be misled by the devil in the detail, allowing through many forms of misinterpretation and interference for genuine direction to be overlooked.

 Law for Law’s sake

A legitimate people’s party that wants to deliver positive and far reaching change which will achieve real balance and true equality for all, will have no option but to tackle the rights lobby and the infliction of political correctness on almost everything that we now do, see and understand.

A real people’s party will also have to strike a balance between the forms of regulation and legal intervention that is required for the greater good, whilst removing the mass of bureaucracy which has not only changed the business landscape, but has been a constituent part of the modification of our culture and behaviours throughout.

A genuinely civilised society must have a framework of law to ensure that people are safe and able to thrive.

But beyond the basic requirement of ensuring that the right of any one individual or small group should never come before that of the wider community, that freedom should only exist as long as it does not come at involuntary cost to others, either in thought or material deed. However they may be applied, rules should only ever be used when there is practical need.

Everything else should be left to common sense, to people taking responsibility for themselves and their own actions, and the real time judgement of an impartial judiciary rather than using case history to create precedents upon which completely different circumstances can be viewed on a basis which is both inappropriate and wrong.

Increasing regulation and over regulation leads to decreasing levels of responsibility.

There exists a growing cultural phenomenon where regulating everything provides the perfect excuse for participants to see themselves as devoid of personal responsibility for anything they do that isn’t already regulated for. They do so on the basis that anything which isn’t covered isn’t regulated, and therefore isn’t covered by the Law.

At a time that so much distance exists between people who are interacting and engaging in relationships of all kinds all of the time, the need has never been greater to encourage and reengage people with the idea that they are personally responsible. That their actions cause reactions and have consequences. That whatever they do or whatever action they might take, just because a law or regulation doesn’t exist to cover a particular act or behaviour, the absence of a rule is not a get out of jail free card and certainly doesn’t make it right.

The saturation of regulation that we have in settings ranging from academia to the workplace, covering everything from how we must treat people during recruitment to the rules covering what bankers can lend as opposed to what they must have access to has allowed far to may people in positions of influence to behave irresponsibly, and to do so with impunity, well knowing that they can be seen to be doing what is expected of them by the rules – and that as such, what they are doing is actually right.

For a real people’s party to deliver on the aim of creating the kind of environment where people can live on a basic wage and do so without having to resort to getting into debt, or progress in their lives, being socially mobile and cross barriers without interference from people who have their own agendas but work around the rules, it is the responsibility of that party to create the environment where prejudice and greed are voluntarily extinguished, rather than a continuation of coercive attempts to do the same.

Brexit offers a significant opportunity to achieve the delivery of an environment where a belief in the good of everyone as part of the wider community exists. Where prejudice is reduced to nothing more than misplaced thought as a reaction to the perception of difference – which in truth is all that it is.

Many of the regulations which have created so many of the cultural problems that we are now experiencing in the UK have been introduced as either a direct or indirect result of EU legislation.

Nobody should be under any illusion that overturning rules which have been sold as being beneficial because they sound like they improve people’s lives will be easy.

Without manipulation or coercion, and by simply doing what is right, people will soon conclude for themselves and understand that no form of positive discrimination is delivered without there being negative consequences, often for many others, on the other side.

The role of Money

If rules and regulations are one of the key challenges which will face any truly legitimate people’s party working for the benefit of all people, the other will be addressing the impact, influence, role and perception of money which at one time or another, we all get completely wrong.

Within just a generation, virtually every profession you could name has lost its pure focus upon ethics and quality of delivery. The lines have instead been blurred for many operating within them by a juggling act between what is expected or what is considered ethically good, and how much money can be justified for doing what they do.

This is part of a fundamental problem for our wider Society which is closely aligned to the issue of the meaning and application of ethics itself.

However, it is also influenced by the lack of control and regulation on profit making from Government. Inaction which has also resulted in the growing presence of agents or brokers introducing themselves needlessly into supply lines, raising profits but adding no value as they do so.

This whole sorry affair, based on an obsession with money is having a significant effect on the cost of living for us all and is making it virtually impossible to create an environment where a genuine living wage could be identified and then maintained.

The freedom of markets from control and responsible capitalism are not mutually exclusive things

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well. To have a good life and have the money necessary to allow that to happen.

But seeking far more than you could ever need for your own comfort only contributes to sucking money out of the system.

It raises all costs for everyone else who instead of hoarding, are no longer in the position to pay for what they have been used to having already, let alone being in the position to enjoy any more.

It is the prices at the top of the chain which set the financial values on life at all levels below and there is more than enough to go around.

Ethically, the drive to earn ridiculous amounts of money has been facilitated by the lack of regulation on a financial sector which is legitimately allowed to print its own money, creating profit from misery as it would be known if it were viewed directly in a non-monetary form.

Lenders and the sectors or industries they support push many normal people into debt by taking value out of transactions where it doesn’t exist, whilst using money that they never themselves ever had, and then push the same people into other forms of debt just so that they can service, or obtain whatever their diminishing salaries now fail to provide.

The financial industry and the sectors which are aligned with and support it are now farming people for debt.

This is a legitimate racket which must be closed down and de-sanitised by a party which is really working for the people, which respects the benefits of capitalism and growth, but in legitimised forms and not are simple forms of one person making profit by exploiting and riding off another persons back.

The role of Political Philosophy must change to one where ideas are a guide or reference tool, rather than being seen as a way of being

As soon as the word ‘politics’ is mentioned, you will have surely experienced that internal jolt that reminds you where your political loyalties lie.

Many of us are conditioned in our political biases by our upbringing. By the people we mix with and ultimately by the environment that we work in. These are all influences that help us to decide which political direction we are likely to target our votes in.

But how much do we really understand about the political philosophies which underpin key Political Parties like the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats?

How much do these ideas really influence the Parties and the way that they are run and what they do every day, rather than being just forms of words that they can use as a backdrop, or more cynically just as a message they can role out at Election time in a blurb which is designed to help them win?

The reality is that the philosophies which underpin, Conservatism, Capitalism, Liberalism, Socialism and regrettably Marxism too, are not practical plans for running a Country or putting problems right.

These ‘Philosophies’ are simply ideas which are based upon the outlooks of very academically inclined or theoretic people, created within very different periods of history and circumstances that are nothing like our own, and in almost every case were idealistic prose which had no understanding of the practical outcomes of applying or imposing them by law in real life.

A good example of how a very basic situation can be completely skewed and effectively rewritten as something completely different comes in the form of the European Referendum Vote, which by a majority gave the instruction to Government, that the UK was to leave.

Within a matter of days, and after the coining of the term ‘Brexit’, what was a direct and simple instruction had morphed into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ forms, as the Establishment, the opinionators and the thinkers attempted to create meanings which had never before existed, simply because they were motivated to find another route which would suit their own aims. One which they could sell as being that of others, well knowing that their own plan had never been meant by those others as any such thing.

We can learn much from reading and understanding the works of people like Adam Smith, Keynes, Marx and John Stuart Mill.

But their writings were just a snapshot, and not a blue print for implementation in another era and time.

Like all academic work used responsibly, these writers inform, guide and help with practical application.

But these writings are teaching tools. They are very much open to very different forms of interpretation in how they might or could be used in practical plans and should not be considered as either a blueprint or process. They are a resource, nothing more, and there is no benefit beyond.

As we look across the political platforms, and consider what ideas and motivations lie within them all, we can soon start to see that there is much commonality in the depth and background of thought.

It is just the language used and differing communication, wrapped in tribal dress which can encourage us to love a certain perspective of an idea or a policy, which presented differently by others would provide us with nothing to which we wish to respond.

The Political Party System in the UK today has driven wedges between all of us, because Electoral success is derived from the politics of difference, not in working together and using what we actually have in common between all of us, which could in turn be used to deliver something meaningful for all.

What is common between all of us together, can always be used to bring us together as one

To be successful, a new Party of the People would recognise and embrace the true forms of commonality between all of us.

By establishing itself on the basis of what has already been identified as the difference between the ideas that drive it and other existing Political Parties, no matter where in the political spectrum they are perceived to exist – whether left, right, somewhere in the middle or out on the extremes, they will immediately fail, because the priority is not about people, but the gaps and thin air which sits in-between.

Taking ambition out of politics

Passion and ambition are not the same thing. Yet ambition can be misinterpreted as passion and being passionate in your ambition is essential when its all about getting a win.

Politics today has lost its way.

Not because the idea of government and public service is any less valid that it ever has been.

But because the politicians within politics have forgotten what public service is meant for and what being an elected representative really means.

It is regrettably the case that we have reached a point in time where people rarely enter politics to do something beneficial for their communities or the people who elected them.

People don’t seek election to a public decision-making body because they are motivated to deliver something better for all.

And that’s the way that politics should be, with the only ambition being that everyone should be able to feel that they can win.

Politics has become a career pathway, and a system has been created in which the participants are only subservient to the Political Parties which nominate them to represent Seats.

Members and the Seats that they should represent are seen as little more than pieces in a jigsaw to the Leaders of that Party, in a game of arithmetic in which the highest sum of seats, rather than the will of the people is the figure that wins.

To reconnect people with politics, create engagement and policies which really consider what should be, how it could be and what happens to those not directly involved if it is made to be so, a real people’s party must overturn the current view of politics.

A real people’s party must exist on the premise that the politicians that represent it cannot be in politics purely for themselves. They cannot be interested in only making decisions which are beneficial to them, to their careers, or in winning the favour of anyone else they believe will help their ‘career’ and support them to win.

Being a representative of the people is not a right and it is not a job.

Being a representative of the people is a responsibility and a privilege. One that should only be available to those who can see that responsibility to the people who elected them for all that it really is.

A genuine people’s party will be conscious of what it really is.

A real people’s party will be a framework to support the work of politicians who are focusing their efforts on working together, not for personal glory or the next electoral win.

It will be a support network, there to help committed representatives of the people to deliver hard decisions. It will recognise what it takes to win on behalf of everyone at the end when the objective is reached, rather than losing sight of the big picture and becoming obsessed with the small details in policy battles, which litter the roadway in between.

Great politicians and representatives of the people offer the greatest benefit to their constituencies through the accumulation of their other experiences. Through the time they have spent accumulating knowledge of the wider issues around life. In developing the communication and interpretation skills which enable them to explore, to understand and to interpret the experiences of others which they themselves cannot have, and to make reasoned analysis of the many grey areas that sit in between.

A genuine people’s party must select candidates for elected offices based on what they can genuinely offer and bring to the party and its way of being, which is to improve the lives of all people and be beneficial to all.

Selection should never be made simply upon how applicants present themselves or what they can show on paper as a currency which the shallow minds within the Political Parties of today see as qualification in their own image.

A real party of the people will never overlook the true needs of Voters and what it takes a good politician to be representative at all levels. Whether that’s dealing with a constituent who doesn’t know who collects their Council Tax, or managing a fraught relationship with the foreign minister of another country who is demanding that all of us surrender our culture and sense of being, placing our heritage and history in the bin.

A true party of the people, must cast aside any process of diminishing the responsibility of new entrants and be mindful of the responsibilities which each politician has to their own respective seat, rather than demanding a level of loyalty which gives the lie to the idea of democracy itself.

Compromise is not necessary when motivation and delivery are about what’s in the best interests of everyone, rather than just of those directly involved.

 Yes, politicians must group together for the purposes of getting things done. But if decisions are made mindfully on the basis of what’s best for everybody, all will be supportive.

 A new world – Respecting rather than surrendering to technology

One of the areas that a real People’s party must quickly come to populate with ethics and guidelines is the online world.

Today we live our lives in parallel universes with two totally different sets of rules. But there exists a dangerous imbalance of influence which sees the dehumanised rules of relationships created in the space of distance, back-flowing into real life from the online world.

Chaos is the natural state of everything. And when a world of chaos exists in overlap with one which was seemingly ordered, without safeguards being put in place, and through an increasing state of entropy, it is the chaos coming from the other unordered side that will overrule and win.

The aims of a real people’s party must respect the way that the world has changed and is changing, but must also shift the cultural perception that the online world has no barriers, because if it does not do so, then no barriers will exist in between.

Such an approach would be catastrophic with the ever increasing rate of rise in new technologies which are making contact with everyone and anything very simple. But with currently very little in the form of governance to ensure the safety of all, whilst encouraging developments and growth, we desperately need safeguards and devices which create balance.

The EU – Having friends and trading partners is one thing. Losing control quite another. We can only deliver true power locally, if we bring it back properly to its true source and where it begins

Very few of the Politicians who currently represent us genuinely understand the relationship that we have with the EU, and what Membership of the EU actually means.

There is a complete disconnect with both the history and detail underpinning events right from when and how the idea of a United Europe was created, to how EU Policy and its legislation is created and then implemented right across the Block of once independent Countries that now make up its Membership.

Power is steadily being taken away from the people, and centralised not in our capital cities such as Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London. But beyond the reach of us all in the European Centre of Brussels where democracy doesn’t exist.

However, it is not enough simply to rely on Brexit to deliver the level of change which the no vote against EU Membership instigated.

It wont.

Not because its not the right thing to do. It is, but it is little more than just a policy step and there is much more that a party of the people could realistically do.

Power must be brought back to as close to the people as it is possible to do so. Not through the creation of additional and meaningless additional political structures such as police and crime commissioners and regional mayors which have already had too much time and must go.

But by bringing real power back to County Councils, Boroughs and Districts and to the Towns and Parishes at the most local level, where people can be involved most closely in day-to-day decision making on behalf of our communities, instead of leaving decisions to be made under the umbrellas of polices made in London by people who will never experience the fall out from their ideas, which without practical understanding should be back for determination in our localities instead.

Those who argue that the EU is about democracy and people do not understand the affront to real democracy that it really is. Sold as being about peace standards and equality, its true aim is little more than centralised control. Yet the rise of political parties has done much of the same thing too, and this is why Brexit should only be seen as a step in the right direction and that direction must be bringing real decisions that will effect us on a day to day basis back to the level where those decisions can be made by me and by you.

The Electoral system

If the focus is shifted back to representation of the people, rather than selecting a party machine selling a raft of policies which are only relevant for a brief snapshot of time, First Past The Post (FPTP) will once again demonstrate how it is best suited to the needs of a real democracy.

Proportional Representation will only ever suit the needs of people who are only obsessed with getting elected so that they can impose ideologies on us all, and wherever possible without ever having to come to us for a meaningful Vote.

Proportional Representation is a travesty and a tool created to work the Political System. Popular only because Politicians are failing us all with policies and ideas that we don’t relate to and which are completely out of touch.

A real people’s party will bring power back to the people through genuine representation. Through power being given back through decision making at the correct level and as close to the people as it is practical for it to be. And by ensuring that the best people are elected to represent other people and communities by prioritising the needs of the whole community on an ongoing basis and not by being what appears to be the best choice on one day and behaving like you can do what the hell you like and call it in the best interests of everyone on the other eighteen-hundred-and-twenty-five.

The Executive

A real People’s party will accept that one of the greatest but most meaningful challenges that they will have to face will be the reform public services from top to bottom.

A genuine people’s party will need to do this in order to ensure that government always working for the benefit of everyone is not simply another aspiration which can quickly be written off or denied.

The executive parts of Government, that’s the Civil Service, the Offices of Local Government and the roles which exist throughout the massive number of QUANGOs* must be refocused, reformed and re-tasked in order for a People focused Party to succeed.

Public servants must work within a non-protectionist culture that like the elected offices of this way of being encourages responsibility for others to be accepted as a privilege, not one where public service is treated as a myth, and roles exist as fiefdoms where blame for anything can be passed on to others with no worry about costs, which right now have escalated up into the sky.

*QUANGOs = Quasi-non-government organisations. These are the grey-area organisations like the Highways Agency, The Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency which are jam packed with civil servants undertaking key work on public things, but effectively run without being answerable to anyone democratically elected.

The role of Media

One of the key elements of making politics what it should be for a real Party of the People, will be restoring the role of the traditional and main stream media (MSM) to carrying wholly factual news, rather than the overproduction of quasi-news programming which presents unqualified opinion and bias as qualified fact.

The assent of fake news as an issue has much to do with the role of the MSM being blurred with the developing role of social media channels where pretty much anything goes.

Well known stations have done this to chase headlines and clicks, which itself is more of a reflection of what commercialism is all about.

But it is not the responsibility of politicians to play up to this, and any collaboration in news sensationalism must be removed as a key part of the communication platform of a real People’s party so that the definitive line between factual transmission and fake news can be restored.

A system where an embargo system allow news channels to consider and even comment on speeches before they have even been delivered and have reached the public domain gives the lie to the legitimacy of the whole thing.

The cosiness has to stop, so that full public trust can be restored, and decision making on behalf of the public no longer viewed as a celebrity game.

From the Grassroots up

Above everything, a people’s party in government will remember and be mindful of one key thing. That every single person in this country has the same value and is as important as the next.

It is easy to become distracted by success, wealth, celebrity and popularity. But these states of experience or being are all transient at best.

Their prioritisation leads to consequences for all. Instead of judging the state of society by how people live and therefore influence at the top, a real People’s party will use the benchmark at which those who are experiencing their most difficult times in life, have had their lives defined.

Quality of life must be defined from the grassroots up.

It’s the metaphorical process of growing from seed to fruit and doing everything to nurture and provide the ideal environment for all who are so inclined.

A Real People’s Party will succeed by understanding and embracing the true reality of Mutual Aims

Ultimately, the priority of any genuine people’s party, should be to fulfil the expectations of the responsibility that they have been given, within the timescale which the electoral system has defined.

Put simply, if a People’s party Government has a five years term their priority should be the fullest commitment on the delivery of priorities, not the next election and the manipulation of public opinion in relation to everything that happens in between.

No matter what difficulties or challenges that a Government might encounter during the period of its elected term, if it is doing everything that it can to meet its responsibilities, its electability at the next election should be a happy consequence as a result of their actions, rather than just being a prioritised and all-absorbing future outcome.

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Dear Cheltenham, a Petition to stop the Borough’s ridiculous changes at Boots Corner is a great start. But if you really want to make the Council think again, start HERE

October 13, 2018 Leave a comment

 

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For me, one of the most challenging and frustrating experiences of being a Local Councillor, was talking to people I represented who had genuine grievances and reasons for stopping a poor policy from going ahead, who couldn’t understand why the Council wasn’t listening and basically didn’t care either.

Please believe me when I say that the only way to really have any chance of understanding what is wrong with Government and the Public Sector, is to experience it from within.

Even then, it is essential not be taken in by anyone who tells you that ‘this is just the way that things work’. It isn’t.

But most people who enter as Officers or newly elected Councillors with high ideals and aspirations for doing something good, simply accept everything that they are told and quickly become part of the problem too.

Over the Summer, talking to people whose lives have Cheltenham at their very centre, I again saw one of those massive issues coming into view. A completely unnecessary ‘created’ problem that makes sense to nobody who exists in the ‘real world’ outside of our own version of the Local Government system.

I’ve experienced the Boots Corner travesty first hand. I have had to make the same detours as you probably have done yourself and know that this whole project is benefiting nobody or nothing other than the ego’s of the people who dreamed this foolishness up.

I’ve already given my view on the whole thing here a couple of weeks ago. And whilst it is great to see Cheltenham’s MP Alex Chalk talking openly about how unwanted the Scheme is and a Change.org Petition now in place, we should all be under no illusion about how entrenched the mentality of those responsible for the Boots Corner fiasco is now likely to be.

If you want the Boots Corner plan overturned, the road reopened to all traffic and no more ridiculous schemes like this one to simply arrive without genuine consultation, there is only one thing that you can now really do.

You have to work to change the whole Council and replace them with people who have the same interest in what’s truly beneficial for the people in Cheltenham. That’s getting people elected as Councillors,  who put Cheltenham before themselves and any Political Party they might represent. People who have the same real-world view as you.

If one person is prepared to stand in the next Local Elections within each Cheltenham Borough Council Ward, take Party Politics out of the equation and then start working as a representative for something better for the People and Businesses of Cheltenham, we might all be surprised just how quickly the Campaign to overturn this stupidity will start to gain results.

Don’t be fooled by thinking that the Elections don’t matter in Cheltenham because they are a long way off. It doesn’t matter because it’s the cumulative effect of the work and effort talking to people, knocking on doors and getting real people engaged that will grow the very best fruit.

It is important that you or anyone prepared to do the work necessary to represent a Ward as a Councillor are committed enough to be ‘in it to win it’.

You must also be prepared to do everything that it will take to see this Campaign through until Boots Corner is fully reopened, normal traffic is flowing and the target result is achieved.

Being told that the Borough Council is prepared to change its mind will not be enough. Like politicians generally, Councils have a habit of quietly changing their mind as soon as any noise goes quiet.

To be sure of success, Boots Corner must be fully open before you can think about whether you then want to stop campaigning for what’s best for Cheltenham.

Being a Councillor or even taking on the responsibility of working to get elected as a Local Councillor isn’t for everyone. There’s a lot to think about before anyone can decide.

If you want to run a successful Campaign and then be a good Councillor too, it is essential that you know, understand and are fully committed to what you are getting yourself into.

I’m not making the suggestion lightly. I’ve been an Officer within a Local Authority, a Councillor and Senior Member of another.

I’m putting this on the table for people who live and run Businesses within the Boundary of Cheltenham Borough itself. Local people who are eligible to become a Candidate and are motivated to represent the real views of the people and businesses of this great Town.

What I can do to help you is offer you the benefit of my experience, through advice and suggestions.

I can provide you with direction and a guide to what you need to think about. An outline of the reality of what it takes to get elected and everything that you will find when you are successful – which you can be if you are ready to do all that it will take.

How to get Elected is available to read FREE on a guide-to-area Website, and a page-list-based Blogsite which is also FREE for you to use.

If you want to read How to get Elected on your Kindle, it is available from Amazon too.

 

 

 

 

Cheltenham BC and Boots Corner: Like local government across the UK, officers and councillors aren’t listening to the real boss, and change is well overdue

September 29, 2018 2 comments

Boots Corner

I’ve been out of local government for nearly three and a half years. But I have continued to watch the continuing chain of messes being created within our Gloucestershire Boroughs and Districts. Usually because someone or a very few people with power and with influence have personal ownership of and therefore investment in some ‘great’ idea. Ideas which are nearly always in some way about them, their career, their legacy or future. Wholly impractical ideas which are then misrepresented as being beneficial to the people they are actually responsible to. The people that they all represent.

There is some rich irony in the fact that lessons are never learned by these same people who have responsibilities not only to themselves, their jobs or their Political Parties.

Lessons are there to be taught through everything these public organisations do. They may appear to arrive in different form, but the same mistakes are being made time after time, over and over again.

Planning, for all the questions which surround it’s often arbitrary processes, has regrettably become the most day-to-day example of all that’s wrong in local government.

The Local Planning Process continually demonstrates all that is wrong with the wider system itself. But the problem is only in small part due to laws and regulations, and actually more about the people who manage and implement government processes, their ideas, motives and yes, the ties that bind them to their ‘interpretations’ within the protectionist culture and environment in which they work.

Watching the Boots Corner fiasco unfold over recent months has been like reading a text-book example of what happens when Planners and their Political Masters get things wrong. What people experience when Councils come up with a ‘great idea’ to improve things, but overlook the most important consideration in the room: What the impact and consequences will be for the people and businesses whose interests they are actually paid and elected to look after.

It doesn’t take many conversations with local business people, residents, employees and regular visitors from local feeder Towns to know that these changes at Boots Corner are idealistic at best, but practically awful.

The changes are having an impact not only on the Centre of Cheltenham itself, but are loading traffic onto the already congested main roads around the Town at rush hour, and now jamming back streets and almost certainly creating rat-runs unseen at every opportunity in between.

The change at Boots Corner is unnecessary. It’s not improving the Town Centre and nobody apart from the Planners and whoever on the Council they have convinced of the validity of this Scheme really has any idea what the real benefit of these changes are to anyone using Cheltenham Town Centre.

And that’s right now. Just wait until the long-awaited John Lewis Store opens its doors and visitor numbers really do burst through the lid.

Now don’t let anyone tell you that the Council is not aware of how people feel. If you follow local news, you cannot miss the disquiet that the changes in late June have raised. This is not Nimby-ism. It’s real people voicing genuine concern over the impact of poor decision making which is now having meaningful impact on their everyday lives.

The travesty is that instead of listening, and for fear of admitting being ‘wrong’, the Council is doubling down and now adding oversized flowerpots, cycle racks, benches, a lot of unhelpful white lines and yes, some artificial grass sat on the lump in between.

And there’s unlikely to be any mistake about the drawn-out nature of the timing of additions either.

Why? Well it’s all to give a repetitive sense to us all that this change is permanent. That when they tell us all that the trial was a success, that with hindsight it will feel like its permanence was always inevitable. That there was no option or reason to change their minds at any point in between.

But this simply isn’t true. And any tales you are told about decisions taking a long time to reverse in Council, or that a trial period must be seen through to its end to be valid are disingenuous at best.

There is no inevitability of confirmation for these changes at Boots Corner or indeed permanence of this change. It simply hinges on what the Officers and therefore the Councillors ultimately decide and however they choose to harvest and then interpret their ‘data’.

The fact is the Council could reinstate the pre-June road system within a few days if they really had doing what’s right for Cheltenham, in mind.

However, it is only fair that no Officer or Councillor be singled out and in some way blamed for what is happening in the Centre of Cheltenham right now.

The whole Government system is rotten with a protectionist and self-serving culture, only made worse by the quasi-bankrupt state of the Government and Public Sector, with austerity being a big part of the problem, but a significant way from being the cause.

But this in itself doesn’t mean that Cheltenham and indeed any of our Local Authorities cannot choose to be different.

The Council has the choice to be big about it. To listen. To gain respect from local people and businesses for trying something new but recognising it doesn’t work, for listening AND HEARING what is being said and quickly responding. To be adaptable to changing things that aren’t right and not get hung up at a personal level about what appearing to take a step back might look like.

Decisions are being made big and small within local authorities up and down the Country which have very little to do with with the people. And in case anyone isn’t sure, that’s the boss that Officers and Politicians ALL ultimately work for.

Locally the latest one is Boots Corner. In terms of direction, this one is definitely going the wrong way, and poor decisions which are having a real impact on daily life in Cheltenham are not the kind of change in local government that we all so badly need.

How about surprising us all and doing what’s actually right, rather telling us that’s what you are doing?

 

You can read some more of Adam’s writing about the realities of Local Government and the wider Public Sector here and here.

 

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