Archive

Posts Tagged ‘political correctness’

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

Trashing distasteful parts of history puts us at risk of repeating the same mistakes in the future, which only the same level of hypocrisy would allow us to then deny

January 12, 2018 Leave a comment

download (14)The debate over Virgin removing copies of the Daily Mail from sale on its Trains in the past week highlighted the worrying trend for people to attempt to remove anything from their sphere of influence which they find in some way unpalatable – doing so without any level of regard for the real cost or consequences of doing so.

Whilst this vogue appears new to many, it has been within our awareness for a good period of time. It hinges on blame culture and the overindulgence of the personal slight. It takes the self-righteous influence of the myopic ever nearer the creation and manifestation of a very twisted and unrealistic worldview.

One of the reasons why it is so unrealistic is because it is built upon the foundation of idealism; that of denying that which cannot be denied.

Even in politics now, we have reached a point where apparently well-educated people with significant responsibility placed upon them by many others, believe and apply the fallacious principle that “if I say it is so, then it will actually be so”.

An eye on the future is however one thing, but looking back turns the same coin on to its other side.

History is planned, created and experienced in the present moment by us all. Yet it is an infinite chain of perspectives or opinions, based upon what are almost always a very small number of facts – some of which even the very people who were present and involved may not themselves have actually known.

That we live in a world where opinion has a level of power which just tolerates the occasional fact should really be far more alarming to us all that it really has become.

That individuals have the power to blight the lives of others, simply because they hold a conflicting view, should be something that concerns everyone.

That others are now trying to rewrite history and remove our heritage is a risk and threat to the future of us all and once completed may never be undone.

Culturally, we indulge the notion that only bad news sells, in almost everything we do – almost to the point where is becomes only the bad news about anything itself that we remember, overlooking many more good-news-stories that are available to us as we do.

The most dangerous of steps now being taken – usually by people who believe that they have been in some way slighted by the actions of people that not one of us has or will ever know – is to apply this approach to history, focusing only upon the bad parts of his story, so that the good which may have come will automatically be overlooked and quietly denied.

The politically correct form of censorship manifesting itself through the attempted removal of historic names from buildings and even trusts, like those of Rhodes in Oxford and Colston in Bristol may look like the delivery of justice to the shallow depths of the egocentric. But in terms of what this action overlooks, it is to all of us as a culture and society – in no way any such thing.

Nobody can realistically refute the pain and suffering that colonialism and slavery visited upon many millions of innocent and powerless people over tens and hundreds of years.

Yet the industry and commerce that both were part of also brought prosperity, wealth and yes – learning to all corners of the globe.

It supercharged the path towards a more enlightened and civilised way of being which itself allows the same individuals the freedom and platform to influence the world around them – for better or worse today.

There is no escaping the dark parts of this Country’s historic chapters. But there are also many beneficial lessons to learn by looking them in the eye – not least of all for the purpose of ensuring that we have enough awareness of what can happen when the conditions for oppression and exploitation are right.

The irony of the drive to trash these parts of history, is that they are being repeated all around us in many ways, albeit wrapped differently today. They may not look the same, but they have very much the same effect emotionally on the oppressed within the quiet of their own minds.

Indeed it is a great shame that the energy and passion focused on the drive for political correctness is not itself redirected to help others who are alive and need real help – but in ways that this same lack of human awareness on the part of social justice warriors leaves them unable or unwittingly unable to define.

People are increasingly being enslaved and oppressed by the world around them, financially, by rights, quixotic ideas and by the bureaucratic systems that political correctness is slowly ratcheting around all of us, like a slow pull on a closing cable-tie.

To try to destroy the lessons of history, whilst overlooking live-time oppression is one of the most hideous forms of hypocrisy in action today.

Focusing on events to learn lessons and use them to help others going forward would be much better for us all than playing a disingenuous game of out of sight, out of mind.

image thanks to unknown

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

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

quote-there-is-no-greater-tyranny-than-that-which-is-perpetrated-under-the-shield-of-the-law-and-in-the-charles-de-montesquieu-166586

 

image top – source unknown

 

The 2013 Budget has created more perspiration than aspiration for those who keep on paying the Nations bills. It’s about time the Coalition Government started growing balls on their own Bench, rather than gifting their Opposition the opportunity to do it for them

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s Budget has been received differently by us all and in a manner which illustrates all too clearly how shallow Policy making has now become when imbalance and impact are considered.

Talk of support for working mothers with young families, tax free loans for first time home buyers and even a 1p drop in duty on a pint of beer have done little to disguise the fact that there are so-called  ‘winners’ and then real losers at every turn. The Chancellor has done little to give any credence to his ‘Budget for an aspiration Nation’, other than the complexity of the words he used to speak this statement.

As a culture which now thrives on the use of labels and stereotypes, we have happily painted ourselves into a set of social pigeon holes where many of us hide from the realities which we share with many others. Successive Governments have formed policies on this basis which has left very few of us with any immunity from the pros and cons of a Taxation and Benefits system where the only thing universal is its level of unfairness and the disparity that now fails us all through its application.

Getting to grips with economic problems which are continuing to grow at an alarming rate will not be achieved by tinkering around the edges. Nor will we as a Nation be insulated against the gathering storm of explosive financial issues within the European project, such as those in Cyprus, unless Government begins to consider all Policies in terms of how they will impact upon all others and not just in the isolationist manner that they have continued to do so up until now.

A truly balanced and fair approach to formulating Government Policy now seems to be the most alien of concepts to our Politicians, particularly when party politics has been the long accepted means by which to target benefits to those whom are considered to be your bread-and-butter support.

But until the time that Politicians accept the principle of fairness in a meaningful way as a guide to Policy making, and particularly where Taxation and Benefits are concerned, nothing for anyone else outside the Westminster Village is going to change.

Government will soon have no option but to use systems such as a Flat Tax and wholesale simplification of the Taxation System if they genuinely want to treat everyone fairly whilst encouraging growth, prosperity and ambition in a way which balances the books.

Benefits must be targeted and restricted for the use of those who genuinely need them using common sense as a guideline, rather than the culture of tick-boxes which allows so may to play the System within a politically correct and fearful age.

Above all, Politicians must now accept that Policies created on the basis of improving rights in the workplace have now gone so far beyond their point of good, that they have made some of the very jobs they were created to improve unaffordable to the employers who at one time provided them.

Whether Westminster likes this as a truth or not, each and every Government Policy in existence today interchanges with almost every other, through the impact it has upon the lives of us all. Policy implementation may have its benefits to some, but this has for far too long been at the unacceptable cost to the many. This has to change.

The sharp fall in number of young Police Officers: When Criminal Law once again begins to mean something through the interpretation of its results, then so will having a career in its enforcement

January 13, 2013 Leave a comment

As the son of a former Policeman who walked the beat on the streets of Gloucestershire in the 60’s and early 70’s, I count myself very fortunate to have heard those first hand stories of a time when the application of Law in the first hand had a profoundly different and positive impact within our Communities.

Whether you were an innocent member of the public, a testosterone and cheek-filled proponent of the misdemeanour, or a fully fledged member of a criminal fraternity, you would never have dared imagine how things would change within just 50 years and how little the Police and the careers behind it are respected as they once were. It is therefore hardly surprising that the number of frontline Officers under the age of 26 has dropped by 50% in the past two years.

But are budget cuts and a lack of diversity the real causes of this difference in public perception, or is there something far deeper and fundamental behind this change of understanding which leaves many wondering if the Police really want to do much more than target the law-abiding of middle England for trivial offences which often generate fines and leave the Nations bill-payers paying even more?

In a time when Police Officers were respected, the slightest fear or embarrassment generated by being stopped by a Constable would be enough to teach far-reaching lessons and probably halt the fall of many a young person, without any need of further recourse or entry to a Court system which at that time was frighteningly efficient in comparison to today.

Those who saw their role as a Police Officer as being a vocation were supported in their work by a system which worked on the basic practicalities that fear of an effective system of law create. They were confident in their actions, well knowing that when cases were taken before even a Magistrate, that very same system of Law would recognise that they had not taken up the time of the Bench or Judiciary without good reason.

But things have changed, and the actions of a few who abused that system, ultimately have made it impossible for the many who follow behind them today.

An obsessive drive by idealist reformers to eliminate even the slightest chance of conviction for anything less than 100% surety of guilt, followed swiftly by the heralding of the human rights of criminals who surrendered those very rights through their actions, have rendered the system sterile from one end to the other.

It is therefore little wonder that young people have as much interest in enforcing the Law as the rest of the Nation has in their contempt for it.

It doesn’t matter if a policeman is young, old; black, white; male, female: tall, short; fat or thin if the Law is feared which sits behind them.

It’s time that Politicians accepted that idealism in Law and Order simply doesn’t work when applied in practical form. When Criminal Law once again begins to mean something through the interpretation of its results, then so will having a career in its enforcement.

Toll Motorways: No Government can continue to charge the Taxpayer time and again for the same things and expect to be taken seriously.

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Latest headlines suggest that the DFT is now open to the idea of privatising new roads, and George Osborne is also now considering charging tolls for existing Motorway use too.

Perhaps many of us are mistaken, but don’t we already pay for this in ways such as Road Fund License, Fuel Tax, Vat on vehicle purchases, Vat on Fuel, Vat on vehicle repairs, Vat on Tyres, Corporation Tax on Companies providing the same etc, etc??? To be fair, the list probably goes on a great deal further; and that is about the only great deal that the Taxpayer and businesses seem to get when it comes to road use and transport.

One of the most significant tragedies and missed opportunities of this Coalition Government was the given acceptance on the part of so many of us that the Country’s finances are in a hell of a mess and that we had been fully accepting of the need to implement changes and policies which would have absolutely smashed the age of political correctness that is wrapped around and protects so many of the root causes of our problems. Changes and policies that if implemented, would easily have began to address the real problems which a post 2015 Government may well try to cover up with yet another return to profligate spending.

Few people or businesses can exist or move forward in the UK today without transport and therefore road use entering in to the mix at some point. The financial burden which accompanies road use is already arguably higher than is sustainable. So simply loading further charges on users who cannot earn more or charge more, when every other cost continues around them continues to rise, is simply outrageous.

Before anything else, existing Motorways require better management. Today’s technology may well allow for every vehicle to be ‘chipped’ and for road space to be allocated to keep overcrowded roads moving, whilst purpose-specific taxation is generated on a per mile basis. But such moves simply cannot be adopted as a method of raising additional fees and would have to replace or consolidate existing systems which do not fairly reflect levels of use and do not intelligently support the growth and competitivenness of British business.

Privately built and operated toll roads may themselves bring a timely solution to the hole in funds for new infrastructure, but will again ultimately allow profit to be made from essential services and functions for public use, where focus on the bottom line will only ever lead to even greater problems for the end user.

Top to bottom reform of all areas of Government, Benefits and Taxation are the only way that the true depth of this Country’s problems can ever be addressed and finding politically expedient ways of reducing the thin layer of jam between the bread in the Taxpayer’s sandwich may solve a problem today, but will leave the whole thing tasting rather sour tomorrow.

Politicians must now accept that you cannot charge the Taxpayer time and again for the same things and expect to be taken seriously.

%d bloggers like this: