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The Makeshift Manifesto

December 6, 2019 Leave a comment

MM2We are hearing promise after promise and commitment after commitment based upon what our current crop of politicians and aspiring MPs will do for us if we give them our vote.

The problem is that if any of them do get elected with a majority this week – and therefore attain the ability to actually deliver on any of the things they have promised – the promises they have made will look and sound very different when they come to fruition for many reasons, not least of all because so little thought and consideration has gone into how those promises were actually formed and made.

The UK is desperate for change

If we were able to elect the right politicians, we would not need manifestos at all.

Good politicians would do the right things and would be committed to doing whatever is necessary to get the job done – all without any consideration for what the impact of their actions may or may not be for them themselves, the Political Party they represent or anyone else who has influence upon the way that they think.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the option to choose the right politicians in the 2019 General Election.

The system that we have has ensured that different names, different people and the different things they all say won’t deliver anything different to the outcome or result. Anything and everything they do will always end up being exactly the same.

That isn’t to say there isn’t any value to the things that politicians are currently talking about.

Any good salesman knows that no matter how small it might be, selling anything has to be anchored on the basis of at least one truth.

The politicians we have are savvy enough to be able to focus in on topics that people will identify with and talk about them or make offers to the Public that suggest the politicians will address them. Promises that will be calculated as being just enough to get them elected – which is the only real job or purpose that any and all of these politicians genuinely want to get done.

We don’t know what the outcome of the Election on Thursday 12th December will actually be.

But whatever the outcome of the 2019 General Election is, the fact that we have such poor, self-serving politicians as the majority of Candidates to become MPs means it is pretty likely that even greater chaos than what we have seen in the past two years is well on its way. That chaos may really begin to hit us all very hard in our everyday lives if there really is no change in politics and politicians continue to believe that they can continue to behave just the same as they are.

So what could politicians be doing differently now if they were focused on the right things?

Actually there is an awful lot.

But successful outcomes for us all means having new politicians who are big enough and confident enough in their own abilities, knowledge and understanding to know that the biggest thing they have to think differently about is the desire to always in someway feel like they are in control.

No, not the kind of control we think of like driving a car or riding a bike.

This is the idea that politicians can control future events by the decisions they take now or at a certain time.

They can’t and never will.

It just looks like that – some of the time.

So when I say that good politicians wouldn’t need manifestos, what I mean is that they wouldn’t need to try and bribe us with whatever they can dream up to convince us.

We would just elect good politicians because we could trust them to get on and do what’s best for all of us whenever they make a decision.

We could trust good politicians to do the right thing.

Real Change

Because we don’t have good politicians, it’s worth having a think about the kinds of things they would actually be doing with the power that we have given them as part of that journey of doing the right things on our behalf.

Below is a list of the kinds of new policy ideas and changes that good politicians might be already acting upon, thinking about, questioning, discussing, researching and developing right now, if they were already in government.

It is not an exhaustive list by any means and I will apologise to any reader now who immediately finds the absence of a topic or suggestion in keeping with this document that I have for some reason or none left out.

There is, in reality today a never ending list of things that really need to be done and these are just a beginning or a start.

This is a Makeshift Manifesto

The points are deliberately short to bring focus and attention to the areas that need work in Public Policy if things in this Country were really to be changed and there was a genuine, wide-ranging commitment on the part of politicians to really get things done.

Some of the points will seem controversial, like withdrawing or rescinding the Legislation on Employment Rights that came from the EU.

I have raised them not with the intention of upsetting anyone or winding anyone up. They are there to serve as a gateway to the reality that there are much bigger and usually very negative consequences sitting beyond the mantras and sound bites that are deceptively used to draw voters in. The sweetest sounding lies and partial truths that often hurt the very people that they are supposed to help as they appear to positively impact the people they were designed for, but then negatively impact the world around them and then come back to haunt those same people too.

The way politics and the media operates today doesn’t foster genuine learning, discussion and debate. It focuses on fear and encouraging instant reactions and doesn’t allow anyone to take the time to sit down, go through ideas in the right way. It certainly doesn’t explain.

For example, when talking about subjects like hourly wages and rates of pay with young people and students, they will most often only be focused on what the value of pay to them is actually worth.

Yet when you take the time to discuss and explain how the businesses that employ them operate and what wage rises will actually mean as a result of the knock-on effects to the employer, the customers and the employees just like if not them, they are typically far more interested in what has been said. Indeed, they are genuinely receptive to the steps that would need to be taken to make the money they earn and already have in their pocket have better value. They want to see the changes come into being that would change not only theirs but everyone’s lives for the better – again, getting done what really needs to be done.

So no matter how the following points might immediately make the reader feel, they are offered up as no more than the equivalent of a light being shone on the areas of Public Policy that need to be changed; in some cases removed and in others completely transformed, simply to ensure that the battle to deliver something better for ALL People in the UK – that MPs are not yet fighting – is ultimately won.

‘You can’t do the right thing because it’s too complicated’

This isn’t costed. It can’t be done. Things don’t work like that. It’s not practical. It’s idealist.

These are all reactions that can be expected at the end of reading what follows below.

During conversations with many people about public policy generally and particularly with people who voted to Remain in the Referendum on Leaving the EU, I have become increasingly aware that the majority of us agree with all the kinds of suggestions I am making and with it the principle of ‘doing the right thing’. But they also believe this kind of change is impossible because it’s either too complicated or we will never have the right people in politics to do what it takes to get these things even considered, let alone started, completed or ‘done’.

Whilst this view is completely understandable when considering the mess that British politics is now in, it’s because politicians have not been prepared to look difficult policy decisions and challenges in the eye and deal with them properly as they should that the UK is now in the trouble that it is and so many people are suffering across our communities.

Brexit is a symptom of the very problem where the politicians who have been elected and given the responsibility to lead us and make decisions on our behalf always take the easy option. Do decision making in isolation without care for consequence. And give us government that is always thinking about the next election and is therefore on the run.

The reality is that if politics was done properly in the UK, manifestos and the false promises within them would be redundant.

Issues would be addressed and considered by Government as they need to be, rather than being wrapped up in shiny paper at election time and sold to us as part of some grand but nonetheless hollow strategic plan.

Cost, practicality, how the system works and all those things may be very relevant in considering what is only list of suggestions for consideration that follows here.

Any one of the suggestions made, when considered or even enacted in isolation might be appear impossible simply because of all the other existing policies that already interact with that area of policy, which in the immediacy of that apparently broader sense might make it seem impossible for that one thing to be done.

But none of this is impossible.

In fact, we all deserve an approach to public policy which is not fearful of even considering changes to public policy just like these.

This means that we need to change the way that we think as well as the people we elect to think on our behalf.

Only when we have political leaders who think differently will we all see and then understand how different and how better things in this Country can be if our politicians are prepared to break away from the idea that achievement only comes from compromise when repeated compromise itself means we continually end up with all the same things.

We must have real leaders in Government before we can actually be led.

A small caveat

Everything that follows is basically a starting point or a means to reaching or finding a way to an end. The overriding principle is that we should make better and more effective use of all that we have already got, rather than falling into the trap of thinking that the problems that we have can only be solved by throwing money around or by replacing whatever the problem is with something new.

This kind of thinking might be representative of ‘the way that things have always been done’. But in the long term, it helps no one.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no specific or intended order. As a result of an attempt to avoid duplication (which may have failed here and there…), some points or suggestions may appear to be located under headings which are different to where you might automatically assume they should be. It does however illustrate the point rather well that no public policy decisions should ever be made in isolation as all public policy is joined up!

Thanks for reading!

 

Best wishes to all,

Adam Tugwell

7 December 2019

The Makeshift Manifesto – December 2019

 

1 – Taxation

  • Reform of HMRC to make it ‘customer friendly’
  • Tax the ownership of land, property and wealth rather than personal income
  • Tax Internet transactions at the location of the customer or the device they were using, not at the location of the company base
  • Simplify the taxation system, providing transparency and remove confusion
  • Aim for flat tax or limited tier system which is not based on the level of earnings, but where all earners pay proportionally the same
  • Aim to reduce and then remove VAT once all other parts of the Tax system have been changed and are working appropriately
  • New ethical ‘in the spirit of’ legislation to prohibit Tax Evasion or Avoidance where no preventative Law is deemed to exist or cover the abusive act, but where Tax Evasion or Avoidance has taken place nonetheless

2 – Industrial Relations

  • Reform union legislation to prevent and make illegal any strike that will or has the potential to effect transport and public service provision
  • Remove right of unions to have paid shop stewards or other union representatives on organisational or company payroll
  • Legislate to prohibit unions making donations to political parties, third party organisations or outside causes

3 – Defence

  • Reinstate National Service to ensure that all eligible young people qualify academically, complete parallel apprenticeships or undertake military training as a key part of their professional development and steps towards the workplace
  • Aim to bring all military hardware and software development and manufacturing into the UK or UK hands, outsourcing only where no other options are available
  • International Military Policy to be non-interventionist and non-aggressive unless directly attacked or there is a requirement to maintain an appropriate military presence overseas either to support UK Foreign Aid activities or as part of Partnership commitments with other Countries (NATO, UN etc)
  • Outlaw civil prosecution against any alleged military ‘crime’ – whether current, recent or historic
  • Continue with the Renewal of Trident
  • New Naval Ship Building programme to include adequate ‘at sea’ Fisheries Protection for all UK Waters
  • Rearm and finance the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army to ensure that combined forces are able to cover all domestic and possible/likely overseas requirements at all times

4 – Communication

  • Support the telecoms industry to provide 100% Broadband coverage across the UK within 5 years
  • Ensure that all critical infrastructure and software is provided by UK Companies, managed and manufactured in the UK

5 – Education

  • Apprenticeships at 14 for non-academic young people as part of a change to ‘heads’ vs. ‘hands’ parallel routes to age 21 where education is based on experience, academic attainment or both, rather than just exam results and educational level reached.
  • Prohibit bogus or ‘worthless’ degrees
  • Remove commercialism from all places of learning to ensure that the focus is on teaching, not running as a business
  • Cap the salaries of senior academic and management staff in all publicly funded educational establishments
  • Remove ‘private’ interest in any publicly funded educational establishment or vehicle
  • Legislate to support Teachers first and foremost in the parent-teacher relationship
  • Add critical thinking to become a required part of all curriculums
  • Means tested paid tuition fees for further and higher education students for first time applicants of all ages
  • Means tested maintenance grants for further and higher education students for first time applicants of all ages

6 – Foreign Policy

  • Reform overseas aid to provide direct and meaningful support, rather than just funds or contracts to private companies
  • Contracts awarded to private companies as part of Foreign Aid should be given to business indigenous to that specific Country, with the focus that profits and employment end up in the pockets of local people and businesses – not simply back in the UK
  • Create a non-military foreign aid logistics and development service

7 – Brexit

  • Immediate rejection of any of the existing ‘Withdrawal’ Agreements made with the EU
  • A completely Clean Exit from the European Union on WTO Terms – as directed by the UK Electorate in the European Referendum Vote on 23rd June 2016
  • No negotiations on trade until the UK has formally Left the EU and is functioning with trade on WTO Terms
  • No further payments to be made to the EU after the UK Leaves the EU
  • No balloon payments made as part of the process of the UK Leaving the EU
  • Immediate start on the alternative Borders option for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to include the establishment of the Open Border Service
  • Immediate protection orders to safeguard British Farming, Fisheries and all areas of production at risk from foreign imports
  • Immediate implementation of a temporary protectionist policy on all trade with the EU where the products, goods, foods and services are already available in the UK, to stay in place until those industries can self-sustain
  • Immediate ban on the import of all EU derived products, goods, foods and services that are subsidised and therefore underwritten by the EU, unless they are not already available in the UK

8 – Business & Finance

  • Readopt an unashamedly protectionist, UK first approach to all industries and services
  • Adopt a non-global approach to supply chains and production
  • Require all UK Business to adhere to new Covenant of UK Environmental Standards covering all production, operations and purchasing within 2 years
  • Focus new trade deals on Foods, Products, Goods and Services that the UK has not historically provided itself or for the period it remains unable to do so
  • Reform and limitation of financial services and banking to restrict or where necessary prohibit the use of speculative (betting), futures and non-transparent financial devices in any form
  • Restrict the power of privately owned credit scoring agencies
  • Regulate and restrict current system whereby banks and financial institutions can effectively create money through system of leverage
  • Confiscation of all material assets law for all Bankers and Financiers who are convicted of financial exploitation of others
  • Sell here, produce here requirement for products and services in mass Public or consumer use
  • Anti profiteering laws to be introduced
  • Restriction of intervention and right of agency in any supply chain where no value has been added via the transfer
  • services
  • Punitive fines to be introduced for unethical business practices
  • Fiscal prudence law outlawing policy decisions based only on cost and/or spending
  • Reverse changes made by Gordon Brown and the 1997 Labour Government to Pension Funds
  • Legislate to restrict or stop Planned Obsolescence consumerism
  • Legislate to prevent private companies issuing fines for parking offences
  • Create new Parking Court
  • Legislate to remove the grey area where gig economy companies can employ people on sub-contract or self-employed basis without being a full franchisee to be banned

9 – The Internet & Social Media

  • Legislate to ensure that identities of all social media account holders/users to be known to publisher and anonymity of public user identity (usernames) only given for legitimate reasons

10 – Public Services

  • Create Public Interest Companies (Trusts) to provide all municipal services and services across multiple Authorities covering traditional County areas or similar
  • Create new standard or charter for public servants
  • End the role of ‘created’ and unnecessary add-on management, back-room and administrative roles
  • End policies which facilitate and allow redundancy and rehire
  • Reform Local Government & Civil Service Pension Scheme
  • Rescind independence in decision making of all QUANGOs making them answerable Nationally to Parliament and locally to the most appropriate Local Authority or tier of Government
  • Remove EU Tender & Procurement Legislation
  • Prioritise new, small and local business over corporate business for any outsourcing requirement that remains
  • New non-financial or indirect corruption laws for all tiers of government and public services

11 – The Courts & Legal System

  • Reform and reinstatement of legal aid with appropriate fixed fee format, legal professional sector pay and enforcement body to administer and clear penalties for any abuse of the system
  • Reform of legal profession standards monitoring and regulation
  • Divorce Laws to be reformed with first point of call becoming mediation in all civil cases where no Criminal Laws have been broken
  • Mediation to become licensed
  • Create Legislation to impede influence of obstructive and unreasonable Divorce cases not settled by mediation
  • Volunteer Magistrates to be excluded from all Family Law cases
  • Reform Magistrates Service to remove innate prejudice and political correctness from recruitment processes
  • Legislation against ‘ambulance chasing’ or ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ approach to litigation on basis of blame attribution
  • Dissolution of the Supreme Court and return to Law Lords or system that sits outside of political influence
  • Reform of litigation Laws to support David vs Goliath cases where small businesses could not afford to take on big business when in breech of contract

12. Law & Order

  • All convicted Terrorists to receive whole-life tariffs
  • Referendum on Capital Punishment
  • End to Police Community Support Officers
  • End requirement for Police Officers to be educated to degree level
  • End to direct entry for senior officers who have not come through the ranks
  • Resume system of Police Prosecutions
  • Aim for all minor offences to be prosecuted within 24 hours of arrest and before offender release
  • All young people from age 14 to 21 years convicted of criminal offences other than murder, manslaughter or terrorism to be immediately enrolled for National Service
  • Decentralisation of Police Stations and return to locality Policing
  • Remove all targets and statistical monitoring of Police work that incentivises behaviour or quality of work

13 – Freedom of Speech

  • Protection of the tolerant against spurious intolerance
  • Right to be forgotten to become automatic after 3 years
  • New law to support freedom of speech and right to speak with removal of right to inflict views on others verbally, in writing or through intimidation or threatening behaviour of any kind

14 – Animal Welfare

  • Rescind EU Laws on Abattoirs
  • Support construction of new local Abattoir network and mobile abattoir service for the most remote areas
  • No animal to travel more than 50 miles from farm to slaughter
  • Revise Hunting with Dogs Legislation to outlaw illegal or disruptive intervention by non-hunters, remove any right to prosecute for accidental Fox hunting, whilst tightening Law on prosecution against those seeking to flout Ban using birds of prey or other by-pass devices
  • RSPCA to lose charity status, be taken into public management and given evolved role to support work of DEFRA and all other Public Services and Agencies dealing with Animal Health & Welfare

15 – Nationalisation / Public ‘management’ of Everyday Essential Services & Utilities

  • Place all utilities and services essential for everyday public use into non-profit making status and/or create alternative public managed business providing alternative provider to all customers

16 – Transport

  • Scrap HS2
  • Remove Crossrail Company and replace with non-profit making commercial trust with reformed management structure
  • Build new terminus stations in London and expand number of platforms at existing terminus stations across UK
  • Reopen lines closed by Beaching Act
  • Public sponsorship or loans to new shipbuilding enterprises
  • Create new system of Bicycle & Rider Licensing
  • Focus technological development on Hydrogen and Battery Powered Vehicles
  • Rescind EU Legislation requiring Professional Drivers to do stepped tests for different vehicle sizes in same class (e.g HGV 3 and then HGV1 only afterwards following a qualification period)
  • Rescind Driver CPC Course requirement replacing current system with short online course and tests as part of first Licensing, then regular refresher courses and tests online thereafter to be provided and managed by DVLA for all UK ONLY commercial drivers
  • Professional Foreign Drivers required to undertake same short online courses and tests to drive in UK in ALL circumstances
  • Investment in new road surface technology research to extend lifetime
  • Fines for utility companies leaving temporary roadworks without work taking place at weekends and during daylight hours
  • Utility companies to be made liable for all road repairs where they have devalued the structural integrity of a road surface

17 – Welfare & Benefits

  • Institute a universally applicable basic standard of living rate for all persons
  • Create a people’s bank
  • All Benefits to be paid into a cashless bank account with restrictions on payments tailored to the recipient
  • Removal of assumed right to benefits for any foreign economic migrant
  • Return to common sense approach to disability payments
  • End the use of profit making back to work training contractors

18 – Poverty

  • Introduce a Basic Standard of Living level based upon what it costs to feed, cloth, house and transport a person or persons living in a household at a minimum realistic level
  • Base all benefits on the Basic Standard of Living Level
  • Base all future plans for minimum wage on the Basic Standard of Living Level
  • Explore validity of Universal Income set at Basic Standard of Living Level for the short term unemployed to restrict unnecessary exposure to benefits system and culture
  • Creation of blanket provision of hostels and services for the homeless with tailored approach to individuals and arms-length care and support for those who choose not to use any accommodation offered
  • All supermarkets and food retailers with 3000’ floor space of more to be required to provide and openly promote food bank donation bins

19 – Food & Farming

  • Unashamedly prioritise British Produce
  • Require that all publicly funded meal providers buy British
  • Incentivise local and ethical food supply chains to create a producer to retail industry able to compete directly with National Retailer supply chains with food travelling no more than 50 miles from farm to fork
  • Replace CAP with short term UK Farm Subsidies
  • Remove all EU-derived quotas and restrictions

20 – Politics and Government

  • Reform of electoral system
  • Reform of political Party system
  • Minimum age of Town & Parish Councillors set at 21 years
  • Minimum Age of District Level Councillors set at 25
  • Minimum Age of MPs set at 30
  • Removal of Allowances System for Councillors
  • Introduction of time-served, time-attended, effort-made ‘end of term handshake’ for Councillors
  • De-politicisation of lower tiers of Government
  • MPs barred from holding second jobs whilst in Office
  • MPs barred from holding non-executive directorships whilst in Office
  • MPs barred from holding consultant or sub-contract roles whilst in Office
  • MPs barred from holding any company ownership role with a shareholding of 51% or less whilst in Office
  • Politicians barred from holding more than 1 Elected Office at any time
  • End the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) system
  • Local Authorities to be barred from using fines from parking and road offences as revenue or as a source of income
  • Lords to either be dissolved or be reformed
  • Reform of the Honours List
  • Reform of Commissions system
  • ‘Cronyism’ in Public Office to become a Criminal Offence

21 – Devolution & Localism

  • All powers that can be more effectively governed and implemented at local level to be devolved to the appropriate tier of Government from Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast
  • Create Parish or Town, District or Borough and County Level independent local authorities where none currently exist
  • Dissolve Unitary Authorities
  • Dissolve Mayor-led Authority Areas

22 – Climate Change

  • Create a Covenant of UK Environmental Standards for all foods, products, goods, services, manufacturing and other items to be published within 12 months and implemented within 24 months
  • Ban on all non-UK based Companies moving into UK Marketplace which do not meet UK Environmental Standards
  • Return public transport to ‘public’ ownership
  • Improve public transport to levels that improve passenger participation
  • Provide 50 free journeys on one form of public transport per commuter per year
  • Prioritise carbon capture technology both for industrial and domestic use
  • Stop pretending that House building is the only solution to the Housing Crisis
  • Invest in water capture, desalinisation and storage technologies, where possible ensuring a crossover with green energy production
  • Introduce Packaging Tax to be applied to all disposable or non-recyclable packaging on a per-unit basis
  • Rescind decision on 3rd Runway at Heathrow until expansion will be at least carbon neutral in current terms
  • Legislate to make better use of existing transport systems and infrastructure prioritising improvement over new construction
  • Tax commuter journeys taken by car
  • Incentivise reduction of car-to-school journeys for children of secondary school age and where adequate and appropriate educational transport or public transport provision exists
  • Legislate to restrict or stop Planned Obsolescence consumerism
  • Subsidise network of community car sharing pools
  • Tax ownership of fossil fuel resources on an annual basis
  • Ban imports of all products not manufactured to UK environmental standards

23 – Planning

  • Dissolve Local Planning Committee structure and remove politicisation
  • Legislate to create Local Planning Courts
  • Create new Government Planning Investigation Unit with remit to investigate historic consent, overturn decisions not made in the Public Interest and given the right to seize land and property where corruption of any kind has been found or to instruct the immediate return of land or infrastructure to the previous state it was in before the Application(s) was/were made at the cost of the Applicant.
  • Reform Planning Policy to remove anchors for interpretation and focus decision making on real-life effects and locality
  • Create National Framework of Planning Policies to be adopted and tailored locally and left as stand-alone except in times of National Emergency or need

24 – Environment

  • All flood plain building and restructuring to be immediately banned
  • Revision of Flooding policy to include equal weighting being given to Fluvial and Pluvial flooding
  • Return to regular dredging and clearance of all river systems

25 – Housing

  • Tax all multiple home ownership at increasing levels per unit and/or depending upon size and unused capacity
  • Introduce staggered and increasing stamp duty upon all multiple house purchases
  • Regulate profit margin per new house for house builders
  • Introduce Tax breaks and incentives for unused room letting
  • All local authorities to prioritise local applicants for social housing

26 – Employment Rights

  • Step away from all EU derived Employment Legislation and end Working Time Directive
  • Regulate to ensure minimum hourly wage in line with agreed contractual hours, overtime rates (minimum 1 x 1.25 minimum wage for all zero hours contract workers) and holiday pay on per hour basis
  • Legislate to ensure that all gig-economy-type roles pay ‘employee’ on basis of zero hours contract AFTER realistic costs have been deducted, whether technically employed or self-employed

27 – Licensing (Gambling & Sale of Alcohol)

  • Gambling industry to have new system of governance mirroring alcohol licensing where ‘point of transaction’ must be managed by a responsible, appropriately qualified and upstanding person who will be held accountable for the safety of all customers on the basis of legally backed right to refuse
  • Internet and/or app gambling to be regulated to reflect the above or banned if the industry cannot present workable solutions to support gambling supervision on remote basis
  • System of Alcohol Taxation to be introduced to encourage use of Pubs, Restaurants and Social Clubs for drinking

28 – Health & the NHS

  • Top to bottom reform
  • Removal of unnecessary or created backroom management functions
  • Ban on consultancy buy-in for management purposes
  • Devolution of management to ward level
  • Supply purchasing to be returned to strategic, cross-NHS level
  • Dissolution of all remaining PFI Contracts
  • Social Care to be managed by NHS
  • Regulation of damages payouts to cover legal costs
  • Creation of Damages Court to filter spurious complaints
  • Legalisation of ‘Right to Die’ under 3x ‘unknown’ doctor sign-off system
  • Sex Industry to be legalised, Regulated and managed as a Public Health concern

29 – Science & Technology

  • UK First Policy
  • Regulate ownership to restrict foreign influence and call upon new technologies
  • Subsidise development of real technology
  • New public managed pharmaceutical development company
  • Incentivise scientific development, automation and artificial intelligence only to improve production, output and quality – not purely for financial purposes
  • Revise policy on foreign investment to ensure that Companies and Technologies critical to the UK remain in UK hands

30 – The Monarchy

  • Immediate scaling down to preclude ‘shirt tail’ and no longer relevant Royals
  • Remove any obstacle to prosecution under all UK Laws for any Member of the Royal Family, whether perceived or otherwise.
  • Further Royal Palaces to be given over to Public use as museums and tourist attractions
  • Crown Properties to be returned fully to Public hands with no income paid to Members of the Royal Family from profits

31 – Voluntary Sector, Charities & Charitable Giving

  • Review of Charities and fundraising to remove unnecessary and unhelpful duplication of services
  • Create a centralised charity giving system or personal account, possibly managed by HMRC where money is deducted at source and then allocated according to the choice of the individual with gift aid automatically added

 

The list above is not exhaustive by any means. There is plenty more.

If you would like to download the pdf version of this Blog, please click here: Makeshift Manifesto PDF: Makeshift Manifesto PDF2

Adam’s Book for Kindle ‘How to get Elected – doing politics the right way’ can be purchased and downloaded now from Amazon by clicking HERE.

 

 

If supporters of democracy and Leaving the EU are ready to donate, let’s skip any protest that will fall on deaf ears and go straight to being the change that the UK needs

October 10, 2019 Leave a comment

img_4318As we look at the days and weeks ahead, no one can be sure what further twists and turns we will experience in the events that surround the Brexit process.

What we can be sure of however, is that nothing in British Politics is ever going to be the same again.

Unbelievable as it might seem to the many millions of us who have become captive spectators of the ridiculous shitshow that our Parliamentarians have been acting out now for some 40 months, the majority of our elected MPs continue to believe that contrary to all the principles of democracy, Brexit can be stopped and forgotten, and that they have some kind of mandate that justifies any action that they take to get this done.

The events that have led to a situation where we have a wilful majority of MPs squatting in Parliament that contradicts the will of the People and the instruction that they have democratically been given is pretty much the perfect political storm. One that has been created by inept self-serving politicians looking to preserve their own power; taken forward to the point of destroying British Democracy whilst they disloyally sell out their own Country to a Foreign Power under the auspices of Remain.

We may never know if David Cameron and Nick Clegg would have dealt with their need to create the Fixed Term Parliaments Act differently, had they known exactly what was to come.

Reality is that with the exquisite mix that is a hung parliament, filled with politicians who have no integrity or responsibility towards the People who elected them, all puffed up like a gargantuan peacock using the FTPA like a life-preserving crutch – we have what we can only hope will be an historically unique situation. One where resolving and clearing up all of this dreadful mess will only be achieved when we have politicians running this Country who can and will always do the right thing.

Sadly and most regrettably, politicians of this calibre and nature do not exist en masse in this Parliament today. If they did, we would never have found ourselves in the circumstances that we are currently in right now.

Whether the MP that you would normally Vote for or aim to see elected in the Constituency where you live would be Conservative, DUP, Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid or even from the Brexit Party, none of the Parties that they are loyal to are equipped, have the intention or have the policies in place (or the will to create them) to look at everyone and everything across this Country and then behave not as if they are acting out their own fantasies in a parallel universe, but are in touch with what we all need to see, feel and experience. Basically making clear that they are with us all in exactly the same room.

With all of this madness going on since the European Referendum Vote in 2016, it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later the discussion amongst those who support Leaving the EU – even if just to respect the concept of democracy – would move to suggestions of protest and even civil disorder. All in the hope that action of this kind would change the minds of those who are misusing their power and the responsibilities of their Office to coercively overturn Brexit and bolt us into a permanent form of Remain.

It won’t.

Not because the argument that we have and share isn’t justified, right and legitimate. But because the people who have their hands on the levers of power and are therefore at the controls of this chaos are not.

Events are not under anyones control. Once each and every decision has been made, the consequences and the events that will subsequently follow are always out of the hands of the decision makers – no matter what they might have us believe or what we have already been told.

As such it remains possible something that Boris Johnson is doing already or is about to do will end up having the required result.

However, I like many others cannot say that I feel hopeful.

With this Remain-collective-Opposition running the Country, behaving like some giant snake attached to the tail of a very small dog, there is as much chance if not more that we could have this same zombie Parliament until the early Summer of 2022 as there is that we will have the General Election that we are all waiting for anytime soon.

When the next General Election does come – whether its this Autumn or in around 30 months time – without having change in the kind of politicians that we have and are able to elect, nothing will really change for any of us who are on the receiving end of all that they do.

Whilst the faces might look different, the way that broken politics has failed to represent us properly in this Country for decades, will simply continue onwards just the same.

At the time of a National crisis – which is precisely what we are now in, it is difficult to imagine engaging in any process that does not appear to offer an instant solution and a remedy for all those involved.

Yet if we don not start to think differently about the cause of all these problems we are having and how all these issues would actually be resolved today, as we look forward when we get to that place tomorrow, we will only be regretful when we get there and realise that nothing in our relationship with government will have actually changed.

The change we want and the change we need is not a change that will resemble anything that any of these Political Parties are telling us that they will do.

Yes, we must Leave the EU cleanly. But Brexit – in terms of our future – is just the symbolic act of opening the door.

So if we now back any of these proponents of the old politics, which is all about them and not about us – no matter what it is that they now say, all we will be doing is endorsing candidates and politicians who once elected will still resemble the politicians that we have got already in every meaningful way.

If there is the money, support and the will to do everything that is now necessary in order that the UK can take control of its own future and destiny AND do all that is best for our People whilst bringing democracy back in from the cold, we should together be seeking to create a new movement for change and with it a political party that reaches across all parts of the political divide.

Whether Left or Right, Leave or Remain, it’s what we have in common between all of us that should be dictating the public policies and the choices we make to create our future.

We must do everything necessary to remove bias and any form of manipulative behaviour from politics that prevents equanimity of government. We need leadership and power that values each and every one of us the same.

Together we have the power that can achieve this change if we can discover the collective will to do it.

But it will not happen if we sit back and believe that someone else is going to step in and make the difference.

If we as individuals, together as communities and being one as a Country want things to really be different in the UK now and for the future, each of us must step up and be the change.

 

 

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

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image thanks to unknown

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

January 3, 2019 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem with the options that we are told are available

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

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

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

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

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

The Railways today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return to Public Ownership

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

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

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

The answer isn’t one that the left likes.

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

Building new Railways

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

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

The existing Infrastructure

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

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

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

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

Increase the number of trains.

Using the Public as a cash cow

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

Solving the problem and not creating others instead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

image thanks to unknown

 

 

 

 

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.

 

What the Carillion collapse tells us about the unspoken truths governing public sector contracts

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Carillion

Carillion is the big news this week, and is likely to remain on the media radar for some time, given the impact that the collapse of a Company of this size is almost certain to have on commercial relationships that are now an integral part of the public sector.

Moments like this are important for reasons which go way beyond the impact that Monday’s announcement is already having on jobs and the potential closures of many small businesses.

It is providing one of those very rare opportunities to glance inside the incestuous workings of contract delivery on behalf of government and gain an invaluable insight into why private interests working at any level within the public sector is in clear conflict with very ideals of what public service delivery is fundamentally about.

Regrettably, the clear focus of the media and political classes has already fallen upon the question and avoidance of blame. Yet if they were to begin to look just a little further and be open with what have for too long been the unpalatable truths, there would be just the merest hope that questions such as whether there can be a future for the NHS when it remains in a perpetual state of financial crisis could perhaps be genuinely answered.

So why are contracts going to private companies outside the public sector?

The best place to begin thinking about the contracting or privatisation problem is to look at why private business is really even involved in the delivery of government services of any kind, when government exists to operate for, on behalf of and for the benefit of only the public.

Man can only ever have one true master after all, and if money is the true motivator, then public service will at best become an oversight – the unwelcome relative left trailing way behind.

Whilst it may feel counter-intuitive to believe or accept it for many of us, the ‘privatisation solution’ has been in the main part created by Conservative governments in response to the consequences of policies created typically by Labour in order to enhance the rights, working conditions and influence of public sector employees.

Positive discrimination and rights, enhanced working conditions, gold-plated pensions and union indulgence within public sector organisations all cost an ever evolving sum of money in an increasing number of different ways, which usually create even more roles and dilute responsibility further and further still.

The cost of employing people within the public sector on conditions which exceed those of the private sector outside – even when salaries appear to be less, has simply made the delivery of services too expensive for government itself to provide.

Against this backdrop, all areas of he public sector have had to go in search of more cost effective ways to deliver services, and have had to do so in ways which also meet the rigorous requirements of providing services and employing staff as a government based organisations.

This has made the ‘marketplace’ fertile for the entry of private contractors who don’t have the same considerations as these former public sector based service providers.

When you consider that private contractors are providing arguably the same level of service, just without the same levels of bureaucracy – whilst making what in some cases is an outrageous level of profit besides, you can soon begin to see that something is inherently wrong with the way that the government system is now designed.

So how does public sector contracting by private contractors become a problem?

Business loves a contract. Contracts give surety. Contracts themselves can be used as a solid-gold guarantee – and particularly so when they are agreed and signed with government. This gives business confidence which can be misplaced, misused, abused and is almost certain to breed a feeling of complacency.

After completing what should be a rigorous ‘tender process’ – the company will sign a contract with the government organisation which agrees what, when and how the ‘contractor’ will provide a service, whether that just be 1 person to sweep a street or 32 bin lorries to collect your rubbish every fortnight for 5 years. On signing this contract, the company will know exactly what it will be paid, know what it will in turn have to spend, will have worked out its costs and borrowing, should have kept back a little for a rainy day and then know what it will make in profit – from which it will pay bonuses to staff and dividends to shareholders after it has paid any tax requirement.

Good managers know that some things change during the lifetime of a contract – such as fuel prices going up, which would be a real concern for a bus service provider or a private ambulance services. But contractual devices or clauses that allow for some variation in charges are usually built in to any contract to allow for this.

As such, genuinely unforeseen events or those which could not have been predicted by anyone within the contracting company itself are very rare to find.

What government contracts don’t allow for however, are lack of knowledge or understanding of the service delivery area on the part of those designing and agreeing a contract. They don’t make allowance for unmitigated trust on the part of either party. They certainly don’t consider the potential greed or indeed malpractice of a contractor or its decision making staff, which cannot be planned for or predictably defined even within the scope of a government contract process.

When a contractor has only a single contract, transparency is bizarrely much clearer and for the management, much more important and kept clearly in mind.

But when you have many more and perhaps and ever increasing number of contracts, the potential for complacency and overconfidence can lead to otherwise unrealistic opportunities, which in more focused circumstances would have been denied.

It may be as simple as paying senior executives massive, over-inflated salaries. But it has the potential to be much much more in terms of investment, questionable projects and big payouts for shareholders when little in terms of adequate checks and balances has allowed an adequate safety blanket to be retained from payouts and quietly put aside.

The overriding problem with a company which has grown to the size, reach and responsibility of Carillion is there is so much in terms of questionable financial activity that it has the ability to very easily hide.

The responsibility for contract design and management doesn’t just fall on contractors themselves however.

In the background to all this and within the protectionist culture in which contemporary public sector commissioning is currently enshrined, purchasing officers simply don’t have the motivation or willingness to do their jobs as effectively as they should. When the money you are allocating isn’t yours, public service and best value isn’t always the overriding priority. Sometimes it’s all about doing anything which proves to be easier, and who gets what doesn’t always work out exactly as it should.

Whether its building maintenance, bin collections, public transport, prison management, forensic services or interim and temporary staff services that contractors provide, contractors are all making unnecessary profit at the ultimate cost to us as taxpayers.

So what can be done to solve the problem and when will anything happen?

What has been outlined here provides little more than a simple snapshot of a very big and complex problem, which those in power are through their actions are continuing to deny.

For these problems to be addressed, it would first be necessary for politicians to accept that the whole system of government delivery is broken, riddled with management focused upon self interest, making decisions based on theoretical premise, and that there are simply too many people operating within the system who are ultimately being allowed to take us all for a ride.

The ‘too big to fail’ mindset has now permeated through political thinking to a level where contracts are being awarded despite very clear warning signals which would tell even very junior civil service staff that something is not right.

This is no longer a question of let’s bail them out so that they don’t fail like Labour did with the Banks in 2008; this is all about awarding contracts because there is a view that they never will.

Solving this problem is far from simple. It is not just about political thinking. It’s about getting the market’s to think differently. But just as much, it’s about getting employees to see their roles differently; to accept that they have a part to play too.

In simple terms, the free for all has to stop.

This bonanza based on self-interest is no longer sustainable.

The perpetuation of the lie that government genuinely works selflessly for everyone has got to be stopped.

No business can perform effectively on the basis that it prioritises the working conditions and needs of its staff before the priorities upon which it was created to deliver. Yet this is how liberalism and rights culture has manifested itself within all parts of government and the public sector.

Not only has the NHS become hamstrung by lack of staff and inefficiency, it is being cut up by the cost of the staff it hires through contracts – thereby being destroyed by the supposed solution itself; by the very respite that additional money is supposed to provide.

Meanwhile local government has its own substantive bogeyman too, finding itself tied up in knots by the cost of the local government pension scheme – the destination of the better part of our council tax, in many of the Boroughs, Cities and Districts where most of us reside.

Then there are the PFI contracts upon which the last Labour Government so heavily relied. A coarse, deceptive instrument designed to hide public spending, whilst fire hosing cash at private contractors over 30 year terms. Just another financial time bomb legacy like the raid on pension funds by Gordon Brown which we overlook daily on the basis that out of sight is very much out of our minds.

The power rests with government to change all of this, if only they would try.

Regrettably, the will doesn’t even exist to even begin doing so today, even if the Government could begin doing so – something that a hung parliament which could last until 2022 will simply deny.

With a good chance that the next Government will be based upon or built around a militant form of Labour, the chances are that politicians will only continue to try and hide the truth thereafter, because action which doesn’t just look responsible is not a pathway to which they are inclined.

As Jeremy Corbyn made clear in his questioning of Theresa May at Wednesday’s PMQ’s, the answer is just to do everything to return everyone to employment in government jobs. No doubt based upon further borrowing, which to those who don’t understand business or economics is a perceived as a policy which when sold looks bullet proof.

images thanks to independent.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, wiltshiretimes.co.uk

Public outcry over Grenfell may ensure prosecutions, but the root causes of public sector indifference are cultural and injustices are destined to continue

July 24, 2017 1 comment

Residents of Kensington and Chelsea are right to be very concerned about the conduct of the local Council in their handling of events leading up to, during and after the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Yet we should all be concerned with the reality sitting beyond and concerning the state of the whole Public Sector, which leaves Grenfell unique only because of the size and obvious impact of this horrific event, which has captured the public imagination for all the wrong reasons.

It would be difficult for anyone not to picture the horror of the event and to at very least attempt to consider just how significant the impact of an experience of this nature would be. But the race to apportion blame and the politicisation of this disaster for purposes which reach way beyond those of helping or supporting the people directly involved are diversionary at best, and belie the indirect culpability which lies at the feet of politicians of all backgrounds and officers alike, who are operating and making decisions within a system which might appear fine beyond without the presence of Austerity, but is otherwise quietly failing us all miserably.

Yes, the criminal inquiry which the Police are now working on may well identify individuals who will be charged and subsequently found guilty of having some kind or level of criminal liability. Just as the Judge-led inquiry into the technical aspects of the event, construction and renovation of Grenfell Tower may identify problems with wider policy which will then be used to inform changes which will be intended to make structural development safer for users.

But as I have written before when then Prime Minister David Cameron was talking up Jail-terms for the individuals responsible for the failures of the Local Council and Public Sector in Rotherham, there are cultural issues present right the way through local government and the public sector which make incidents that continue to disadvantage the public all but inevitable at all levels, and in many ways that people outside of Government may never become aware of.

Did anyone get jailed over Rotherham? Has anything changed since then? Have any of the parliamentary political parties demonstrated even the slightest hint that they are in touch with the greater problems caused not by Austerity alone, which persist far more significantly in the background and way beyond?

No being the answer to these questions is of course a travesty in itself. Yet even worse is the misleading direction that this whole debate will be taken if sound bites and labels such as ‘social murder’ continue to be taken literally by followers of the media who rely on news mediums – rightly or wrongly as it may be – to provide them with an accurate view of what is really going on, when all they are really getting is very little fact and one hell of a distorted view.

If the complexity of the issues which make our public services arguably unfit for purpose in all but name are not understood by the very people who hold the responsibility to lead us at all levels of Government, how can anyone who does not even have the slightest experience of the inner workings of the public sector be expected to have even a remote idea of what is really going on?

If they did, we would surely be now looking for names for a whole range of crimes either carried out or instigated without intent otherwise known criminally as corruption, embezzlement and fraud, to name just a few.

Some might like that idea greatly. But the very regrettable reality is that the problem spanning the public sector is culturally embedded and the result of many issues which to address will take political leadership of a kind that we have long since seen on offer.

Ultimately, an embedded problem of this kind must be addressed by action taken at the very top and this is why I previously asked if the last Prime Minister should himself be the one facing the jail term.

Until there is an acceptance and willingness on the part of politicians from all political parties to address the greater problems which sit behind not only events with the level of notoriety of the Grenfell Tower disaster and Rotherham, but also the ‘unintended’ injustices of all kinds which are visited upon taxpayers daily, we remain destined to have future events of this kind continuing to unfold.

This is at best unjust and it is a very long way from what we should all be able to expect from any form of government which actually works for the people it is supposed to serve.

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