Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gambling companies soon stop betting that puts their profits at risk. They can surely do the same when it comes to the risk to customers

August 12, 2019 Leave a comment

DqLbANEU0AAAE3aJust like there will always be those who drink too much, eat too much or find themselves addicted to just about any number of things in this life that we could all find ourselves hooked to, it is the same with gambling. So before I roll out some thoughts on the problem that the Betting Industry has, it is important to add the caveat that no matter what Companies do voluntarily or as the result of legislation to make them do so, there will always be those who will somehow fall through the net and the perfect solution to any of these problems is not one that will be easy to find.

Like most things we are experiencing within our culture today, gambling and the upsurge of problem betting is a frustrating, but nonetheless horrid illustration of everything wrong with these times. Whether it’s the ease of online betting where temptation is ever present on your phone, or the seeming market saturation of our dying high streets by Bookies appearing on ever corner, we have perhaps never had so many warning flags flying in the face of us all, telling us that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the world around us is working, and that government not only could, but should be doing a hell of a lot more.

We are an unhappy culture. An unhappy society. And much of that unhappiness is based on the idea of want, and that we must always be looking for ways to get more.

People are unhappy with what they have and this situation is one that is relative. It doesn’t matter whether others would class you as being rich, poor or somewhere in the middle. In this material and money-led world, everything going on around us tells us that we must do everything that we can to obtain and yes secure much more.

There are no easy rides, no matter what anyone actually says. The odds of winning the National Lottery are apparently 1 in 45,057,474 and even if you were to find yourself an overnight millionaire, the problems that you once had are just swapped for many more and there are very few of us who can temper such change with realism and practicality once we have been there and looked it in the eye.

Nonetheless the temptation is always there. And once we have that buzz from a win – no matter how small, it is easy for anyone to fall into the trap of thinking that winning is actually easy, and that by simply throwing a few quid (which is never is on this pathway) at it, we are on a sure way to accumulate much more.

Yes, there are those who gamble and are very good at it. But they are actually few and far, or rather fewer and farther between, because Bookies and Gambling Companies don’t wont to take the risk of large bets from people who have been around in the gambling game long enough that they know how to play the games properly or bet strategically so they have covered themselves in everything they actually do.

The cynicism of the Betting Co’s is mind bogging really, as they are more than ready, able and equipped to rid themselves of gamblers who statistically are going to take more money from them than they will actually ever lose. Yet when it comes to those who have lost any realistic form of control or discipline over their own actions, they can speak many different words and tell us stories that suggest that they are stewarding responsible gambling. Yet their level of inaction at actually stopping the risk to others as opposed to building a wall to protect any risk to themselves is simply wrong.

Whilst you will hear mixed opinion on the validity and impact of the 2003 Licensing Act on the Sale of Alcohol and the impact it has had on bars, pubs and clubs, the upshot was that it created a much more responsible approach to bar management and the drink-place management of alcohol addiction that would have perhaps been much more evident had successive governments done more to protect drinkers and in so doing, protect community assets and the pubs that many of us still love.

Requiring staff that manage Bookmakers Retail Premises and online gaming to demonstrate competence in managing gambling and then compelling them to intervene should long ago have been the way that things are done. But it is the self-governance of the betting industry itself where the changes that would make a real difference should surely be made.

All the government needs to do is give them the option of either removing restrictions to any level of gambling down to an individual bet level, or require that the Companies refuse to take bets from anyone whos actions are creating a risk – whether that be to Company Profits or to themselves, their health or indeed anything that they own.

Categories: Uncategorized

Boots Corner: Let Cheltenham decide

August 12, 2019 Leave a comment

img_3811Over 13 months has now passed since the closure of Boots Corner took place in Cheltenham, and the trickle-down impacts on the Town began.

Cheltenham BID recently released the results of a petition that echoed the many comments that have entered the public domain before, telling us that the changes have effectively screwed local businesses and that for business people and entrepreneurs that rely solely on their location and passing trade to keep their offering in customers minds, a retail future in Cheltenham Town Centre is looking rosey no more.

As has now become normal, the arguments against the Borough Councils’ scheme have been rebuffed on the basis of discrediting the data offered, rather than suggesting they accept any questions are justified.

Yet the most interesting development by far was the story circulating on Twitter from ITV News West Reporter Ken Goodwin that in a BBC Radio Gloucestershire interview, a prominent Cheltenham Borough Councillor has admitted that the Boots Corner closure formed part of an agreement between Councillors and Developers to secure the arrival of the Brewery Quarter in the Town.

If accurate, this admission potentially creates a whole new dimension to the Boots Corner story.

It could confirm that the so-called trial of the Boots Corner closure has always been phoney from the very beginning.

It would almost certainly raise questions over the money spent on monitoring traffic flow since the closure and whether it has been allocated only in some dubious hope that evidence could be gathered that could be presented to prove businesses and local people’s experience of the Boots Corner closure and the associated impact on lives and livelihoods is wrong.

It could very well suggest that above all, the Council is not working democratically and believes it has the right to impose whatever it wants on the local area, irrespective of what people and businesses based and around the Town actually want.

If the Town Centre has been sold out on the basis of a developer deal and without direct public consent, the whole project of which it appears the Boots Corner closure might only be a part, could well raise questions over legitimacy of the decisions behind it and point to illegitimate deals – even if no Councillor has personally accumulated any personal financial gain from the process.

Money doesn’t have to change hands for the behaviour of public servants to be ethically or morally corrupt.

There is simply no evidence available that shows it even likely there will ever be a tangible benefit to the community that will outweigh the negative impacts upon the area – whether it be local people, local businesses and even those who just visit or work in Cheltenham Town – simply from bringing a high profile but nonetheless solely commercial venture to the Town

Indeed, If this is how the Boots Corner closure genuinely came about, it is more than likely the case that by conducting all this post-Boots-Corner-closure analysis, this is the real-world reality for the community that those behind this vanity project are hoping they will be able to overturn.

Regrettably, we do not live in times when those with their hands on the levers of power are prepared to back down when they have been found out.

This means that the Council would have to be forced to rescind it’s decision in some other way. And if it should be found and proven to exist, responsibility for any back-room agreement that should never have been made should be lain solely at the feet of those who are responsible – rather than directed at the bottom of the pockets of local taxpayers who don’t even realise they are paying for the undemocratic ineptitude of the self-serving in many different ways, every single day.

A legal challenge on the basis of any questionable deal resting on the closure of Boots Corner might well be possible if all information were to be disclosed.

But the cost of such a challenge would need to be fundraised and there is no guarantee that the Council could not simply and yes, legitimately argue that the penalties they would incur and may well have contractually agreed to ultimately guarantee any closure would be too high to pay back to the other parties by doing an about-turn unilaterally at a time when  local government is under considerable financial strain.

No, there must be another way. And it’s not by filling out petitions that are rarely reliable enough to persuade anyone. They simply do not habitually engage enough of the people they should.

Nor is it to rely upon Public Consultations that inevitably always deliver the facts and arguments that those driving the change believe they should.

The only way to resolve the Boots Corner question properly and legitimately from here is to put the decision directly in the hands of Cheltenham People. To have a local referendum and make the question very simple: ‘Should Boots Corner be open or closed?’

If the Council genuinely believes the course it is taking by arguably doing little more than imposing a change to the Town of this size and impact as being justified, it will have nothing to fear from putting the decision Democratically in the hands of local people via a plebiscite. And yes, it really should.

Boots Corner: Who was it really closed for and why?

August 3, 2019 Leave a comment

img_3811Some months ago, I published a list of questions that Cheltenham Borough Council could be answering about the Boots Corner closure and what had really motivated them to do what they have done.

From first look, it would appear that one of the prominent Borough Councillors involved has voluntarily began to do just that.

In a BBC Radio Gloucestershire interview this week – flagged by ITV Journalist Ken Goodwin on Twitter, the Councillor has openly referred to the Boots Corner closure being a part of the agreement to secure the Brewery Quarter Development for the Town.

Whilst a public admission of this kind should immediately have alarms and red flags flying all over it, speculation alone won’t help anyone on either side of the Boots Corner debate.

But there is surely now a need for Cheltenham Borough Council to be fully and openly transparent about the meetings that have taken place between Councillors, Officers and Developers leading up to the Boots Corner closure; what has been agreed between them behind closed doors and what the real implications for the local taxpayer and public purse would be if the Council were to listen to the views and experiences of local people and businesses and scrap the Boots Corner closure and the changes to the Roads around the Town Centre as the impact of the ‘trial’ on the community suggests that it now should.

Data can be used to back any argument when people in positions of power and responsibility know how to do it. What is most important to clarify after a statement by a public representative like this has now been made is why and on what basis the commitment was made to close Boots Corner in the first place and to make clear whether or not Cheltenham Borough Council’s hands have in effect been undemocratically tied.

Beating the Backstop: How to make a hard Border in Ireland and with any of our EU Neighbours irrelevant when Brexit is delivered

August 1, 2019 Leave a comment

Beating the Backstop

A few days ago, I visited Gloucester Quays with my son. Not noticing the technology surrounding us as we drove into the multi-storey car park that sits above the shops, the speed of our exit – with the barrier lifting before we even had the chance to stop – reminded me of just how simple the solutions to the Irish Backstop issue should really now be.

Like Brexit itself, the Backstop is a complicated issue that should actually be very simple to resolve.

The problem is that there are so many different viewpoints in the mix that look upon the practicalities of a technical solution to the hard border problem from only their own perspective.

Whether they are a politician, a computer coder or a haulier – they are not open to the reality that there isn’t just one solution that they themselves will recognise or understand as immediately workable for the Border.

They do not appreciate that the whole issue is about weaving together a series of very different solutions in order to get the whole job done.

Regrettably, many of the decision makers – many of them in Government right now – do themselves share this particular view and understanding.

Whether this tunnel vision is borne of simple ignorance, lack of beyond-their-own-sector-understanding, or just the fact that they haven’t got the wherewithal or real-world savviness to recognise how different this opportunity for progress really is, they treat the whole thing like it is just another government project.

This is not the way that the battle for an Open Border Solution is going to be won – no matter what the final terms of Brexit will be.

It has been said that the wheels of government move incredibly slow. But in a time of national crisis, time is not something that is within a government’s gift.

Urgency must open up to agility. The government must not only set the new agenda, it must also keep the momentum of it going too.

In terms of tangible delivery, this means that delivering a practical and real-life solution like the Backstop cannot be left to rely on standing procedures, processes and the mentality in government that ‘this is the way that things have always been done’ – particularly when many of the processes that could hinder or delay the timely delivery of a working Open Border Solution have been created by the EU – the very entity that solving this problem will allow the UK to Leave.

There are a range of specialists from very different technical and service industries who can bring significant knowledge, expertise and yes – the very services and products that all Borders will need to keep everything flowing like it does now and then make the new UK-EU working relationship better than it has already been.

Yet the development and the implementation of the border solution cannot and must not be allowed to be allocated to any one government department to control or lead, other than DEXEU.

Otherwise, the right solution will not be found for everyone. Because whatever comes from the process will only be framed in terms of the wants and needs of the ideas and motives of the people at the top of those particular organisational trees, rather than being fully inclusive and considerate of everyone involved.

Equally, the Government cannot rely on the monolithic public sector contractors to offer up the right solution.

They are too big. Too self-focused. Too profit orientated. And above all, they are simply not agile enough to deliver the right solution on the right timeline to ensure that the Backstop job is properly done.

This is how the solution to returning to a hard Border in Ireland and keeping goods moving across all our EU Borders can be found:

Open Border ServiceThe Open Border Solution (abridged)

  • There will be no hard Border.
  • There will be no physical barriers or stops at the Border.
  • Vehicle movements will be monitored using ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) using cameras located at all Border road entry points.
  • Using existing vehicle Number Plate Recognition Software of the kind that we experience in most of the car parks that we now drive into, Hauliers and Companies that Export to and Import from the EU will be able to join a Trusted Trader & Transit Scheme – which we will call the Open Border Service.
  • As Members they will be able to access their own portal to a database/e-commerce/transaction system – that we will call the Open Border System.
  • Within the Open Border System, Members will be able to store the identity data – including registrations – of their Vehicles and Trailers.
  • Vehicles and Trailers entered on the Open Border System will have to correspond with the DVLA Database and Databases of any Vehicle Licensing Body in the EU or beyond that manages Vehicles and Trailers that will transit into or via the UK.
  • When Members have a load of goods to carry into or via a UK/EU Border (EU-UK, UK-EU or EU-EU), they will be able to register or notify the Open Border System of the manifests of their load, identifying correlation with the Taxation Groups provided by HMRC.
  • To secure the registered load for monitoring during transit, Members will be able to purchase ratchet-tie-tags that will affix to the rear doors of Vehicles and Trailers that carry a bar code, chip or data strip that can be read by any Government Officer, at pinch points such as the Ports, on Cross Channel Ferries, at the Channel Tunnel and by any other authorized representative equipped with mobile scanning equipment.
  • Tags will be available in different colours to immediately identify the nature of the journey from a distance (such as a following police car) and tags removed for inspection will be replaced with a unique colour that shows the vehicle has been stopped, with the data being updated in live time, so that the code of the new tag will correspond with the same load once the journey is complete or is being inspected again.
  • Scanning equipment or apps will automatically communicate with the central database and confirm the legitimacy of the load.
  • Taxes owed will be payable on terms and at rates to be confirmed by HMRC following negotiation with trading partner Countries.
  • Countries that do not sign up to the scheme will not be authorized to transit and any vehicle without a valid tag will be stopped and impounded.
  • Payment will be taken by Members at point of Registration via the Open Border System via Merchant Services integrated into the system, or via Invoice to Companies authorized by HMRC to pay by Invoice later.

Getting the Open Border Solution done…

So here is what the Government should do if it really wants to get a speedy and workable Backstop solution in place:

  • Forget what the EU wants
  • Forget all the political arguments
  • Put the right people in charge & remove all the barriers to progress
  • Hold a conference with all the companies who might be interested and would be able to provide one or more of the technical elements of the Backstop Solution, or would be prepared to work collaboratively with others to get the job done.
  • Set out the terms of a Tender for Development
  • Allow suppliers to qualify themselves
  • Commission no less than 3 separate solutions to be developed by a foxed date
  • Select the Solution
  • Implement
  • Brexit
  • Develop the service further allowing any inter-departmental integration to take place that was not possible before

1. Forget what the EU wants

The most simple thing the government needs to do in identifying, delivering and then implementing an open-border solution between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, is get on with it and do it without letting the EU or any of their Representatives becoming involved.

The EU is on a mission to stop Brexit at any cost, as it is aware and very fearful that anything that can be interpreted as a successful departure from the EU – and that includes the development of a post-departure working relationship that works – will encourage other Member Countries (what they call States) to Leave.

On past form alone, it appears very likely that the EU would deliberately and willingly expose itself and therefore the Irish Republic too, to difficulties over Brexit, just to ensure that they can present a picture of chaos and problems that could only be avoided by Remaining – to all other Parties involved.

2.Forget all the Political arguments

Left, Right, Leave or Remain; Conservative, Brexit Party, DUP, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat or whoever else they might be, the time for allowing anyone with any vested interests to reframe the Brexit and therefore the Backstop debate has already been and gone.

This is now about the doing. About delivering. About returning the UK to its sovereign, independent, self-governing status once more.

Nobody can add any value to the backstop by turning it into a political debate.

Nobody in the UK wants a hard border in Ireland. It’s time to get practical and get the job done.

3.Put the right people in charge and remove all the barriers to progress

Sounds simple I know. But it can be and it needs to be. Brexit simply will not happen meaningfully if those with responsibility for delivering it continue to try using tried and tested formulas and methods of working to get a completely new and significant task done.

It is unlikely that even the most senior civil servants have the wherewithal to get the Backstop Project working as it should. Equally, the Politicians appear to be no better and the solution is not to appoint expensive consultants or even worse, get friends and people within networks on board, just because you think they would be good at it or have a CV or work history that suggests they might be able to get something done.

The Project needs to be led by people who understand, have working experience or fluency of all the kinds of services and technologies that will be involved – or most importantly, have the skills and attributes necessary to step outside of what they do know whilst being credible to everyone they are dealing with, so that a culture of trust can be the first thing that is created.

To support them, all of the rules and regulations on buying or commissioning government services simply must be upheld. Lets face it, this is all about Leaving the EU, so none of the rules that just about every part of government has already become used to will be required because its all about Leaving!

4.Hold a conference with all the companies who might be interested and would be able to provide one or more of the technical elements of the Backstop Solution, or would be prepared to work collaboratively with others to get the job done.

Although this one sits at No.4 in the list, it’s actually as important as 1, 2 and 3 and they should all be happening simultaneously.

There’s a very big opportunity for the companies and providers that get involved with delivering the Backstop Solution.

One of the keys to managing the benefit of their input is not to allow them to take over and dictate the process.

Believe me when I say that it is the companies who are willing to play by the rules of the process who will actually deliver on time, on target and in a way that opens the right doorways to future working.

There should be a conference called within a couple of weeks with an open invite to all companies that can provide the services and technologies involved and can qualify themselves appropriately and immediately. They must also be prepared to sign up to an NDA that has financial penalties involved if they should leak information.

Within that there should be care to ensure that those who speak and input are bringing genuine, experiential thought and views, rather than opinion which has now too often become the case. It is easy to overlook the reality that people we culturally recognise as business leaders are often no such thing. They are managers without comprehensive understanding of their own businesses at a practical level. It is equally vital to value academic input in the same way.

Worst of any of the organisations that it would seem natural to involve those who sell themselves as being representative of an industry because they suggest that they are representing members.

Yes, many organisations and businesses join member networks and when it comes to bodies such as the FSB, small businesses gain access to many things which bring immediate value to what they do. Yet when it comes to lobbying or influencing decision makers upon policy that will affect whatever it is that their industry does, it is rare once again to find people in charge with the in-depth knowledge of the industry their represent from the bottom up and more often the case that the words they speak come from their own view of the world, rather than being anything even remotely akin to what it is that the businesses at the cutting edge of that industry does.

It is necessary to labour this point, because it is essential that good, productive representation from all the industries that have a stake in the success of the Irish Border Solution are involved in this process and given the opportunity to contribute and collaborate positively and proactively to ensure that from their own vantage point, they have genuine but nonetheless joint ownership of whatever it actually does.

Some will argue that such a meeting cannot be convened in such short a time as a couple of weeks and particularly so during the summer. Yet the opposite is true, because if Brexit is as important to these organisations and they either want influence or the opportunity to gain further business, being there, being agile and being ready to make it work under pressure is just something that they will be ready and equipped to do.

Set out the Terms of a Tender for Development

Sounds like that will take time – I hear you think. But it won’t.

The Border Solution requires a wholly different approach. One that encourages every business and organisation involved to step beyond their comfort zone and to see the Brexit opportunity for exactly what it is.

Leaving the EU cannot be held up by regulations that are only relevant if we are members.

So the solution will come by conducting a three stage process:

  • Tender for development
  • Date-critical development
  • Implementation, servicing and further development

5.1. Tender for development

The most critical and quickest part of the process is qualifying and selection the provider(s) who will develop Border Solution Options.

Options, because to ensure that the UK is ready to Leave the EU and keep the Border fully open at the same time, it is critical that this responsibility is left at the whim of a single private contractor or collaboration thereof, that can create delays and raise prices just to ensure that greater levels of additional profit will automatically be involved.

What needs to be recognised across the board is that the Border Solution already exists. The solution itself is therefore not one that needs to be invented. The solution itself is just a question of identifying the right elements or pieces of the jigsaw that will fit together to make that solution, and to then manage the contributions of all the different parties that will inevitably become involved.

The Suppliers will include:

  • Number Recognition Cameras & Software
  • Access & Integration with the DVLA Database and Databases of all International Vehicle Licensing Bodies likely to have vehicles transiting to or via the UK from the EU
  • Database Software (The Core of the Open Border System)
  • Merchant Services Solutions
  • Scanning Hardware & Software
  • App Development
  • Vehicle Tags
  • Access & Integration with the HMRC Database
  • Others that will inevitably become apparent

The Organisations will include:

  • HMRC
  • DVLA
  • Representatives of the Haulage Industry
  • Representatives from Businesses conducting UK-EU exports and imports
  • Representatives of the Farming Industry
  • Others that will inevitably become apparent

All of these organisations should be present, but a framework agreed and presented for what the Border Solution will look like, the functionality required and above all, what it should actually do. The adversary organisations will be present just to answer questions on practicalities such as what the volume or weight and the number of crates would be on a standard Euro-Pallet on a vehicle trailer and how many Euro-Pallets that vehicle might hold. They will not be there to influence anything other than the accuracy of the data input for the tender process.

Contrary to what the fearful tell us, a Border Solution is not rocket science or anything like it. A Border solution already exists. The Border Solution is simply about joining up the dots. The dot joiners and the creators of those dots are only there to execute the task.

5.1.1. Number Recognition Cameras & Software

The key to removing the need for a physical or hard border, border checks and the presence of a full time contingent of the UK Border Force is simply to monitor all the traffic that crosses the Irish Border – no matter how many times, and whatever the direction.

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) technology has been in use by the Police for many years and helps them to identify vehicles and drivers, along with any red flags that might be associated with those vehicles in live time, so that they can literally or rather automatically pull over vehicles in live time, as and when they see them.

Today ANPR technology is everywhere and nowhere less prominent than in car parks, where Companies such as NCP or the private overseers of car parks in places like out-of-town retail parks have cameras set up which record your number plate when you arrive and then when you leave. There is no need for attendants and limited requirement for staffing on site as administration can all be done remotely, often the other side of the Country – making the whole exercise very profitable.

The software in use commercially already links to the DVLA Database, and if you have any qualms about the speed that a camera can recognise a number plate or vehicle, why not try entering your car on the We Buy Any Car site to get a value and see how quick it comes. A current advertising campaign on Radio featuring Phillip Schofield as good as promises that the whole exercise takes less than a minute. A time that at its worst should reassure about how quickly a well-thought out and designed software system could manage seamless border crossings along the Irish Border.

I refer back to my own experience recently that I began with above and the reality that the system at Gloucester Quays was so good, it didn’t even need to read my paid-up ticket as the system identified the number plate with the ticket that had been paid a few minutes before as soon as it saw the plate.

Fundamentally this is off-the-shelf technology, which is only going to get better. Its use will be an essential part of the Border Solution and it’s the link with the Open Border Service that is the real task.

5.1.2. Access & Integration with the DVLA Database and Databases of all International Vehicle Licensing Bodies likely to have vehicles transiting to or via the UK from the EU

Essential to creating a fully collaborative UK/EU/International System is access to the Registration Data for all of the vehicles (tractors & powered chassis) that will be crossing UK/EU Borders – irrespective of the exact location.

All of the Countries and EU Member States will have these and the UK already has access to this information for the purposes of policing and enforcement of international traffic on the UK Roads.

Yes, it is possible that the EU will attempt to restrict access to this data in order to frustrate the development of what will otherwise be a very simple system. To restrict such data sharing post-Brexit would be bloody mindedness on the part of of the EU.

The way to address any potential problem with Vehicle Database access is to simply bar entry to UK roads for any Vehicle and the Owner that cannot be identified. Bearing in mind that the Open Border Solution is all as much about the EU and its Members and probably more so than UK Hauliers and Companies that Export, it is in their interests to cooperate fully. Especially as this whole system can and arguably should be mirrored, and potentially managed by a joint UK/EU Organisation.

5.1.3. Database Software (The core of the Open Border System)

Whilst IT specialists or ‘experts’ will happily and passionately tell you otherwise (I have already seen a Tweet on my own feed which says there’s no way a solution can be coded), the reality of the Open Border Solution is that it is nothing more than a database solution, integrated with scanning and e-commerce technology which has multiple administration points in addition to customer portals.

The companies that you want working on this project are not those that immediately tell you that this will take years; can’t be done; would have to be designed from scratch or that it is simply too complicated to be done.

It isn’t any of those things. And any company or so-called expert that suggests otherwise will not be one that you want at this conference when facing a piece of significant work which can only be delivered by people who have the mentality to do what is necessary to deliver on time.

Primarily, this is not a project and will not be a contract for one of the large Public Sector Contractors that will always place its own priorities first and is used to working with Officers and Civil Servants who will believe anything that they say.

No. This is not about precluding existing Contractors. But it is about making clear that this Brexit is an opportunity for all and not just those in a position to exploit it.

The companies that offer database development will already be able to demonstrate off-the-shelf or open-source-type technology that can work with the type of systems that the Government already uses.

Just bear in mind that there are already a series of commercially available accountancy packages that already integrate with HMRC – and it is on the basis of working with, adapting and integrating systems that are already known, that the Border Solution can be quickly and efficiently achieved – not by pretending that there must be a reinvention of the wheel in order to get all this done.

This process must be open to companies of all sizes, start-ups included. As it is only through experiencing the reality of the offering that is out there that would not necessarily qualify under EU Tender Rules, that it will become clear that there are much more effective ways to get jobs for the public sector legitimately done.

The key to getting the required result is presenting the companies with a detailed process map for the system. Coders are rarely unable to come up with all manner of effective ways to get software to work and complete a task as long as it is clear what you want it to do. This isn’t a task that you can expect a coder to complete cold.

5.1.4. Merchant Services Solutions

One of the simplest aspects of the software side of the solution. Many companies are already leading the way with multiple-medium payment entry. Some of them will be amongst the list of those interested in providing the database solution immediately above.

Either way, payment portals, whether online, by app or otherwise will be comparatively simple to introduce as the technology is already very successfully in use.

5.1.5. Scanning Hardware & Software

Effective enforcement of an Open Border Solution will be the key element to ensuring that a hard or physical border is not required again – irrespective of whatever the trade or tariff arrangement between the UK and the EU becomes.

Scanning software is now developed enough that it can work as an app on a Smartphone. Likewise, there is a complete range of specialist hand-held, mounted, 3G, Wi-Fi, networked and other scanning devices. And making them available at key pinch points such as at ports, on ferries, motorway services and for the Police and any Government Officer carrying out enforcement work will be essential.

Representatives of companies providing hardware and software solutions for the scanning requirement should all be invited, subject to appropriate qualification.

5.1.6. App Development

Many of the big Hauliers that transit the EU Border have specialist employees who will take care of the administration of loads and correct data entry. Some may even have direct portals involved.

However, many others will be smaller or even self-employed owner drivers. And where it is the case that the Company they are carrying for has not made direct submission of their own, it is essential that a low-cost, effective version of the portal be available as an app, simple enough that with the corresponding data that exporting or importing customers will be required to provide, a driver or small business operator can load the data themselves before mounting the corresponding tag on the vehicle or trailer.

Again, this is not an original task and integrating it with its own scanning function – as exists with many apps such as the National Lottery App – means that the process can be made very simple and as such, a very efficient task to get done.

5.1.7. Vehicle Tags

Yes, this sounds too good to be true. But companies such as the big supermarkets have been monitoring their loads and keeping them secure against theft and driver infidelity for decades.

The basic solution is a tie-ratchet-tag that fits to the back doors of rigid body vehicles and trailers and to a secure cable that runs through the length of the whole body on either side of a curtain side vehicle or trailer.

These would carry a barcode and/or chip that would provide a unique journey number that corresponds with the load that has been registered for transit on the system.

Any vehicle crossing the Border or transiting a recognised pinch point such as a port or registered ferry, would by law be required to have a tag fitted, protecting the exact load that has been notified to the Open Border Service.

Different Colour Tags would be used to identify types of journey. For example UK-UK = Blue, EU-EU = Red, UK-EU = Green, EU-UK = Orange, Load Checked and Passed = Silver etc.

There are a number of manufacturers of these tags and their input would be required simply to ensure the simplicity, durability and integration of the tags with the Open Border System.

The Tags themselves would only be available to Companies registered with the Service and either sold centrally or through registered sale points with the reseller themselves registered by the Scheme.

5.1.8. Access & Integration with the HMRC Database

As outlined above, there already exist a number of accountancy packages that interact with HMRC already such as Sage, QuickBooks and Xero.

HMRC have already had to undertake considerable work on integration with other systems to do this and this work would inform the development of the Open Border System – if only for an immediate way to ensure that the correct Taxation Codes are available, if a fully integrated system is not available in the first instance.

HMRC must be involved at the outset to ensure that the system is conversant with their taxation rules. However, like all suppliers, participants and stakeholders, they cannot be allowed to dictate anything other than the Taxation Rules – e.g. they must not be allowed to dictate the operational platform itself – so long as it is clear that the Open Border System will administer the taxation of transferring goods to their rules.

5.1.9. Others that will inevitably become apparent

Like any project, there are always unknowns and these must be allowed for.

It could be as simple as another way of monitoring vehicle movements across the border without the need for cameras – such as GPRS tracking.

Whatever might present itself as an option, there has to be an open door approach to anything that could make the Open Border Solution even more Open than this Solution suggests that it could be.

The Organisations will include:

5.1.10. HMRC

As discussed in 5.1.8. above, HMRC must be a key stakeholder/respondent in the Solution Development,

5.1.11. DVLA

Unhindered access to the DVLA Database is a must. DVLA will also have a clear understanding of the issues regarding access to all other relevant Vehicle Databases in the EU and beyond.

Like HMRC, it is essential that they are treated as a key stakeholder/respondent in the Development stages.

5.1.12. Representatives of the Haulage Industry

The default setting when it comes to speaking to industry, is for the Government to give priority to Member and Lobby Organisations that portray themselves as being the voice of the Industry. They should not.

Yes. In this case, organisations such as the RHA (Road Haulage Association) have a part to play. But not when it comes to opinion.

Getting the right views and feedback does include member organisations. But the best people to get involved are those actually doing the jobs, not the managers of or more often than not the mangers of the managers of the mangers of the people who do the jobs, who have never actually done the jobs themselves.

By making clear that the Industry needs to inform practically, but not try to influence the Brexit process itself, large companies that are responsible for significant numbers of journeys into the EU are much more likely to support the Government by making the right people available to inform the process, rather than those with a name or profile who are eager to push their own view.

Drivers are often the very best to give practical viewpoints about how an operation involving lorries will actually work, and like everyone, they will be more than happy to help by answering questions if they understand that we will appreciate their view.

5.1.13. Representatives from Businesses conducting UK-EU exports and imports

Again, for the purposes of designing a system that works operationally, businesses that import from and export to the EU must be involved and asked to inform on the development of the Open Border Solution, with reliance not being placed on Member Organisations like the CBI and FSB to inform accurately alone.

Whilst journalists are adept at soliciting the angry or negative side of business owners when it comes to Brexit, the priority of business people is for the Open Border Solution to be developed in the best way possible so that it helps them to get along.

From this point of view, handled appropriately, most businesses that will be affected by Brexit will be happy to discuss what they experience now, and what they believe to be necessary post-Brexit, in order to get a successful Open Border Solution done.

The important thing is recognising what the important and common goals between exporters/importers is, and how this rolls out in to the functionality of the Open Border System.

5.1.14. Representatives of the Farming Industry

Last but by no means least, farmers. Because of the nature and scope of moving animals and foodstuffs and the very different approach that will be required to monitor the movement of animals, it is vital that organisations like the NFU are again actively involved, but not allow to dominate the process with a wish to make it a political debate.

Like the involvement of any organisation and industry representative, this process is no longer about their opinion. It’s about facts, figures and the practicalities of getting the job done.

From this point of view, it remains essential that Member Organisations only form part of the pool of Farming and food producer representatives that are invited to consult and that producers and farmers and involved in this process in real time.

5.1.15. Others that will inevitably become apparent

5.2. Date-critical development

Taking a considerably more commercial, time, cost and value approach to the tendering process, Developers (or Teams thereof) will be asked to present a tender for the development of the Border Solution (or Parts thereof) rather than the delivery of the complete thing.

As the hardware required for the ‘Service’ already exists, this element of the bids will be comparatively easy for contractors to cost, even where installation is required.

It is the development time and steps proposed to be taken to adapt the software solution that connects hardware and what might be a multiple number of different, potentially government-run databases that will both need to be projected realistically for both time and cost, but also to ensure that any potential contractor is fully aware of the cross-organisational working that will be involved.

Nonetheless it is the assurance from all bodies involved that they will not hinder or hold up progress that will be a key element of the process. For this reason, the development of the Border Solution might need to be in 2 steps. The first only to develop a stand-alone solution which is only dependent upon reference data from Government Agencies (such as the DVLA Database or HRMC Tax Codes). The second, over time once running, to integrate fully with all departments involved.

To ensure that the development of the Border Solution is kept within schedule, a minimum of three bids will be accepted, with the most appropriate chosen for implementation once delivery has been assured, the product tested and it is clear that nothing will hinder delivery on time.

5.3. Implementation, servicing and further development

The reward for the successful contractor(s) would be a 5 or perhaps 10 year maintenance and development contract to support the early years of the Open Border Service

Overview

The reality is that the success of the Open Border Solution – and Brexit itself, is all about the people doing the jobs.

The Open Border Solution can be delivered quickly, economically and to the standards necessary to meet the needs and expectations of all stakeholders. As long as the focus is on and only on the job in hand.

The moment that opinion on the part of anyone within the process is allowed to overshadow fact and practicality, the Open Border Solution will be one step further away from being delivered.

It’s all about the people. And all of the people involved have got to put their own views, priorities and aims to one side, and commit to doing everything necessary to get the Open Border Solution delivered, working and done.

Download this Blog in PDF: Beating the Backstop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you change politics for good? – By changing the way Politicians think so they do the best for everyone, just as they always should

Politicians

24 Hours away from the European Elections that should never have been, the passion and enthusiasm of a wronged Electorate is not only tangible. It can be seen in open view at Meetings across the Country. It is popping up here, there and everywhere on television and radio, through the newspapers and just about all of our social media streams.

Polling at 37% this morning, the Brexit Party looks like it is about to clean up in these Elections. And the Party could be set to do even better than these figures today are suggesting, simply because of the latest disaster of a Speech and intervention from the outgoing lame-duck Prime Minister Mrs May.

The strap-line that accompanied Nigel Farage as a backdrop to his final Campaign Speech last night was ‘Changing Politics for Good’.

But as the reality dawns that the Brexit Party could be on its way to Westminster too, many of us are beginning to ask a real question about everything that underpins this seemingly unstoppable machine.

We are wondering how do you actually go about changing Politics. Because British Politics is clearly broken. But it also appears to be a system or way of doing things that has always been there, and in that sense wasn’t simply made?

As I was reading the brief but nonetheless very pertinent question ‘how do you change politics’ on my twitter feed this morning, I thought about asking some of the Brexiteers who are currently engaged in open warfare with all dissenters, if as a fellow Leaver, they could provide me with some detail to back up their very effective rhetoric. I wondered if it would then be obvious what formula the Brexit Party is going to use that is so different to that we have experienced as being ‘normal’ for far too long already and thereby give us all the type of Politics that good Politicians should.

Sadly, the answer already lies in the circumstances in which the question came to me.

To those who have become so emotionally entrenched with the direction of a political movement – no matter how valid and legitimate their quest may be, questions like this will always be seen as an attack or the suggestion that they are in some way wrong. They do not see it as being the perfect opportunity that it is to clarify and give weight to the Brexit Party’s statement of intent – as the detail behind any thought-out and considered political campaign really should be able to.

Now before you read this as a suggestion that I am going all out to attack the Brexit Party, this really isn’t where I am going. Because in terms of delivering the key issue of these times – that’s delivering a proper, No Deal Brexit – I am supportive of what they are doing. I wish them all well in tomorrow’s Elections and sincerely hope that the message their success will deliver to the current Parties of Government will be received and completely understood.

The problem for me with the Brexit Party as it stands today, is the same as it is with all the other Political Parties that have made themselves available to us as a choice to Vote for tomorrow. One that exists irrespective of political philosophy or despite the side they sit on the argument over Brexit, or even how they feel about the tenure of Mrs May.

I say this, because none of the Political Parties are today offering anything in response to what is both a political and democratic crisis.

None of the Political Parties are offering up a solution or any hint of one that is going to result in fundamental or long lasting change.

The problem to be solved isn’t all about Brexit. In fact Brexit was a symptom. It certainly was not the cause.

The political crisis and the attack of an out of touch political class upon our democracy, has been a long time in the making. It is the perfect storm of factors mixed together that have created the crisis itself. They have now made it so difficult to see a way forward and visualise a pathway that will result in real and meaningful change.

Yet Brexit is the key to creating the change that we are all seeking. Because the EU has been a big but unseen influence on the downward spiral of our democracy.

Removing outside influence is the only way that we can ultimately return the UK to the position of being a true, working democracy. One that is responsive to the needs of everyone, ambitious for the future without creating losers so that we can be seen to win. One that above all is fair and balanced in its approach to everyone, while being robust enough in approach to ensure that as a Country we are always forward looking and as individuals feel confident about who we are. Rather than having our focus always shifted backwards and conditioned to believe that being British is in some way a sin.

So how do we go about doing this?

How do we change politics for good?

How do we create a political environment where there is a genuine belief in something better for everyone or what some would frame as being a ‘win win’?

Well the reality of this change is very simple. But it is much more difficult than addressing the problem as if it sits outside of any of us.

Regrettably this is the default setting for those within the existing political class who are suggesting they have found a so-called Holy Grail to solving the whole problem. So-called solutions that to you and I in gobbledygook or unwritten code, are usually a way of presenting as change a different way of doing things which for them alone will improve their chances – if not actually guarantee that they always win.

Whether its an argument against First Past The Post Voting (FPTP), the ‘Two Party System’, Political Parties, The House of Lords, our Electoral System, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act or ‘None of the above’. Considering the merits or disadvantages of any or indeed all of these methods or issues in isolation will not result in a solution to the question of ‘How do you change Politics’.

These are all systems or methods of working that lie outside of the real problem. Changing any of them or all will just ensure that there is more of all the things we hate and find frustrating about what we have and are experiencing in Politics now, perhaps presented differently, but as sure as night follows day, they will definitely come.

The only way that Politics can be changed successfully for good, is to change the way that we all think about politics. That means changing the way that politicians think, right from the moment they first consider becoming involved.

Regrettably getting anyone to think differently is a process which can be long or it can be short.

It depends on the individual as well as the changes to the political and government environment which must also happen to get this done.

Reconditioning of the way politics is perceived will be a developing and repeated process over an open ended period of time. That is if fundamental change of the type that People really want – which they can only currently relate to in the form of sound bites – is ever to be achieved.

The first step in the process to changing Politics for good is to understand that Politics is a vocation and not simply a job.

Parliament is already filled up with too many MPs who believe that it is the latter. That means the focus is always on the benefits of any situation to the Politician his or herself, rather than to the Electorate or anyone else involved.

We must then reset, rejuvenate and restart the Party Political System, so that Party Politics is returned to being the means to get things done in Politics, not simply the end for anyone involved.

We only need look at what this ridiculous system now provides us with in the form of the tenure of Theresa May to know and understand that she and the politicians who are stuck like limpets around her are or were only in it for the job rather than the responsibility.

Political Parties are not a machine in which good leaders of Countries can be produced or are made.

No politician should gain a seat in Westminster if their reason for being there is their own career, for glory, monetary gain, publicity or just because since a child they had an aspiration to be the key holder at No.10.

Good Politicians are not purely idealists. They have practical understanding and experience of life, ideally from a variety of angles. They have knowledge that gives them an understanding of people and what it takes to see, interpret and translate life and the impact of government policy from a variety of standpoints in just one argument. Not simply the one that most closely fits their own.

Above all, it’s about realism; not only doing what’s going to be popular or what they believe is likely to secure the most votes.

The responsibility of being a politician, MP or leading a Government of any kind is about the best decision based on the facts of the moment being taken at that moment in time.

Political strategy is only a route plan. It is not a guarantee that events will ever turn out as anticipated or the way that they should, because there will always be unforeseen factors involved.

When we can genuinely fill the seats of our Councils and our Parliament with a majority of Politicians who see their role as a responsibility, a privilege and an unquestionable obligation to the wider community, it will no longer matter about political philosophy.

Politics will no longer be facilitated for the benefit and furtherance of a Political Party or a Politicians own cause.

That is the point when politics will have changed for good.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Many would like to be MPs and Politicians. Few are interested in doing what it takes to be any good

April 23, 2019 Leave a comment

Thinking Differently

What does it take to be a good politician?

Today, asking that question is likely to solicit a response such as ‘anything other than Theresa May’, or ‘anyone other than these selfish bastards that we have now’.

It is a question that I have thought about lots. When I wrote my book How to Get Elected, I chose to work backwards from the point of viewing what a good politicians does to reverse-engineer the points, rather than focusing simply on what observers too easily assume to be the things about a politician that makes them appear good. Characteristics that are usually snapshots in time but nonetheless form the basis of everything that those looking on perceive.

A good number of those people that have such perceptions are the people who are falling over themselves to become candidates for political parties of all kinds. Especially those parties that at this very odd moment in our political history look like they could deliver an unknown face a seat in our Parliament, within one of our many Councils or even as an MEP.

The thinking of many is that having different people in politics will be all that it takes to deliver change, when the truth is that change in politics will only be delivered by people who think differently.

And they aren’t thinking differently to the Politicians we’ve already got. They think their ideas are best. That they know better than everyone else. That the only thing that has stopped or prevented them from showing how to do it better is the fact that they haven’t yet had their chance.

If only it were so simple, or just about Brexit.

What they don’t realise is that many people have been in the exact same situation before. Some of them make up the very same majority of MPs incumbent within our Parliament today who have fallen foul of the rule that they are elected to represent the best interests of the majority of voters and not simply to do whatever it takes to further themselves.

People who seek public office to genuinely represent others will always seek out others to understand how they should best represent.

But it takes work, commitment and a preparedness to continually learn about, translate and make sense of everything that comes across the desk, as well as the ability – and courage to look, think and step outside of your own box (or comfort zone) and do what it takes to get things done.

When you get elected, gain responsibility or find yourself with a public platform without putting in any great level of effort to get there, the results are often predictable and whilst they will be presented (and attacked) differently depending on which party or movement you represent, the building blocks that would have put you there will be fundamentally the same. Like a lottery win which brings great riches, it is rare for the recipient to truly value what they have got and they will be all too eager to squander this new form of wealth on anything that works for their own cause.

Whilst UKIP is now a diminishing force, due in no small part to its recent lurch to the far right, but also because it had appeared in 2016 to have achieved all that it was originally set up for when the Vote to Leave the EU was ‘Won’, there is much for would-be politicians to look upon in the behaviour of those who were elevated or elected under the UKIP banner and then blundered and fell over their own words as they simply assumed that their new responsibilities made their own views of the world the same as those wanted by everyone.

They are not. And one of the key things absent from the skills base and approach of many of the MPs and those who would be MPs is the experience and willingness to relate to others and especially those with different views and to use this intelligence effectively to develop policies which are inclusive, considered and mindful of all consequence, rather than simply jumping on any fast moving bandwagon which looks like it will bring instant glory to all of those who throw in their lot and get involved.

I fear for what lies ahead. Not because there is an absence of people who want to get elected. But because there are far too many people with the wrong idea about what it means to be elected as a politician that do.

Regrettably people with the wrong ideas have been getting elected for such a long time, that they now even fill the top positions. In terms of the impact that it is now having upon all of us, what the political parties have ultimately thrust upon us with the resulting mismanagement and bad policies is in itself a crime.

We have a distinct absence of good leaders and political big beasts, because so few MPs are plugged into the real world outside Westminster and the reality underpinning what it takes for everyday British People to work, live and to survive.

A good politician must have that connection with the lives of the People they are in Office to represent.

It is only when politicians have that understanding of our different realities or the ability to step inside of them that they will be able to muster the passion to make the changes to our politics which are now necessary.

The changes needed to deliver Brexit, to bring us all together and to create a fairer system that demonstrates the belief that everyone in our society deserves more.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

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

April 18, 2019 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized
%d bloggers like this: