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The Makeshift Manifesto

December 6, 2019 Leave a comment

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

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

The UK is desperate for change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually there is an awful lot.

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

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

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

They can’t and never will.

It just looks like that – some of the time.

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

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

We could trust good politicians to do the right thing.

Real Change

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

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

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

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

This is a Makeshift Manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But none of this is impossible.

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

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

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

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

A small caveat

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

 

Best wishes to all,

Adam Tugwell

7 December 2019

The Makeshift Manifesto – December 2019

 

1 – Taxation

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

2 – Industrial Relations

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

3 – Defence

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

4 – Communication

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

5 – Education

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

6 – Foreign Policy

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

7 – Brexit

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

8 – Business & Finance

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

9 – The Internet & Social Media

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

10 – Public Services

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

11 – The Courts & Legal System

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

12. Law & Order

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

13 – Freedom of Speech

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

14 – Animal Welfare

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

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

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

16 – Transport

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

17 – Welfare & Benefits

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

18 – Poverty

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

19 – Food & Farming

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

20 – Politics and Government

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

21 – Devolution & Localism

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

22 – Climate Change

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

23 – Planning

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

24 – Environment

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

25 – Housing

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

26 – Employment Rights

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

27 – Licensing (Gambling & Sale of Alcohol)

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

28 – Health & the NHS

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

29 – Science & Technology

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

30 – The Monarchy

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

31 – Voluntary Sector, Charities & Charitable Giving

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Labour’s Universal Basic Income is nothing but a temporary bridge across a black hole of a problem that none of the Parties understand or are prepared to deal with

November 10, 2019 Leave a comment

89447a1c-d5a9-4158-b167-d12c506c5774The headlines this morning make painful reading to anyone who can see the real costs of The Labour Party’s plans and what they will involve.

Actually, it’s not the suggested figure of £1.2 Trillion over five years spent on public services that the real problem.

It’s the reality that this child-in-a-sweet-shop-with-birthday-money approach to fixing public services involves nothing more original than throwing money at the problems with no investment for the future or genuine long-term returns involved.

All well and good you might say if your only priority is to get a government elected and indefinitely keep that power.

But for the millions of British People who are experiencing the arse end of all that’s wrong in this Country each and every day, any positive impact from Labour’s great giveaway will be short lived once the default causes of all these societal ills have quickly bubbled back up to the surface again through the pile of vaporising money that these cynical left-wing politicians tell us they have in store.

The hollow promise that comes with a Universal Basic Income is the suggestion that poverty can be addressed as simply as giving everyone the same amount of money each month before spending on everything that life demands of us begins.

It’s a nice idea. And for people caught in a poverty trap with little or nothing, the promise of a lump of no-strings-attached cash each month is an electoral vote winner that is likely to go far.

If only life were really that simple.

The biggest problem that people on or below the poverty line in this Country face is not what income they have. It’s keeping control of the cost of everything that is essential to live, get by and to enjoy a basic or acceptable standard of living or quality of life.

Identifying the amount of money, or the combination of a Universal Basic Income payment plus any benefits that might be payable that are involved right now, today, doesn’t address the issue of what they will cost thereafter. Nor does it address the issue of how the real cost of living got to where it is today.

The reason for this is one of the greatest cultural ills of business today.

It is the exploitation of every opportunity to make profit wherever and whenever possible. Not because that’s what makes businesses work and function. But simply becuase the circumstances exist where they choose to because they legally can.

Too many profit hungry business owners, managers, shareholders, agents, financiers and speculators are taking too much money out of a system where there would otherwise be plenty that was affordable for all. They interrupt and place themselves within supply chains, production chains and service chains without adding any value to the process themselves – and this process often happens more than once.

Gandhi once said that ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every mans need, but not every mans greed’. Our politicians clearly don’t read and if they did, they certainly don’t listen.

Whilst an argument can be made that Labours Election Manifesto includes a plan to re-nationalise essential public industries such as power, water and rail, the reality that they have no plans to address the institutional problems that exist within the Public Sector mean that the profits currently being sucked out of these industries by private shareholders will simply be redistributed to other destinations of a self-serving kind, whilst the service itself and cost to users will progressively get even worse whilst costing us all even more.

Addressing the cost and regulating the freedom of the private interests that you can never realistically remove from all manufacturing and production, services and supply, to charge whatever they want for goods and services that are essential to providing a basic quality of life for us all, should therefore be the primary aim of any political party that really wants to improve life.

It should be a simple task for politicians who genuinely care and intend to lift the poorest in society out of the circumstances that are a vicious circle that condemn them to want, debt and an experience of life that nobody in the 21st Century UK should ever have.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives – in fact none of the Political Parties we have on offer to us as Voters today, really have any idea nor understanding of how the monetary system works. Yet they are obsessed with monetary theory.

They don’t know how business operates. But they believe themselves qualified to regulate or deregulate at will.

They certainly have no appreciation of how technology is not only destroying and dehumanising relationships. But is also making the ability of the unscrupulous to exploit others and the vulnerable easier than it ever has been before.

The people or so-called politicians that we already have and that we are about to elect again in December are not fit to rule over us. They have no idea of what the problems facing this country really are and how they affect people of all demographics and backgrounds. They have no vision of how those problems can be addressed. And they certainly have no idea of what they really need to do to begin solving any of them.

Until we have politicians and leaders in this country who do see, understand and are prepared to do whatever it is that is necessary to deal with the issues that this Country faces, the fuckwits that we have in power will play around only with what they perceive to be the problems that others outside the Westminster bubble face, whilst what amounts to their tinkering makes everything everyone else is experiencing a whole lot worse.

 

The only genuine protection for the NHS is meaningful reform

November 9, 2019 Leave a comment

red-herringFive weeks until the General Election and there’s so many red herrings around, you could be fooled into thinking our MPs are trying to sell us a smokery.

The biggest pool of them all surrounds the Labour-led debate over privatisation of the NHS – a topic which is a continual source of dishonesty for the Labour Party, the Conservatives – now the SNP too, and very much a political ball.

The issue was in many ways fuelled by the recent Channel 4 Dispatches Documentary about big pharma and the USA’s probable attempt at assault on the way that the NHS buys drugs as part of a post-Brexit Trade Deal with them.

However, what Labour’s push of ‘we are the only Party who believes in the NHS’ fails to so spectacularly address is the real level of the problems that exist within our National Health Service, how those problems became manifest and have to be addressed, and how fire hosing money at this Public Service might keep the wheels turning, but in the long term it will not save the NHS and in fact could be making all of  the problems significantly worse.

The principle of the NHS is a very good one. We should ALL continue to have access to free healthcare at the point of access. But we cannot continue onwards thinking that its existence can be assured in the future simply on the basis of how much We spend.

Privatisation in its most literal sense is – on the face of it – a very big part of the problem of cost attribution within the NHS today. So for Labour to even suggest that they can stop privatisation when it is already present, is either disingenuous on their part, or demonstrative of their ignorance of how the service actually works.

Many of the problems with cost have come about because of deals that the Blair and Brown Labour Governments constructed under the guise of PFI. Others have snowballed because of the cultural steer towards the use of private contractors or consultants to undertake backroom management functions and the excessive use of temporary staffing agencies that were never required before all good sense in employment laws and conditions was excessively overstepped and the door was opened to unbridled levels of profit making which has gone on for so long now that it is simply the way rather than individual choice.

Fixing this problem so that the NHS once again becomes sustainable isn’t easy. And with politicians who don’t even understand how it all works, real or meaningful reform is not  even currently on the agenda, let alone being a political choice.

The MPs that we have had, their Parties and the People who lead them have no incentive to really get to grips with what is really going on. Their lack of knowledge and understanding is self evident each and every time they are interviewed – which during an Election Campaign is pretty much every time that we turn the radio or TV on.

Until this changes, none of the problems that we as People within this Country face will be dealt with.

Yet we don’t even have the option of Political Parties or Candidates on 12th December who even have an idea of what is really going on.

 

image thanks to unknown

Leaving the EU is now vital to secure the future of the UK and will positively impact the long term of everything that we do

October 8, 2019 Leave a comment

Today has been signifiant. Boris has already achieved significantly more than his predecessor Theresa May, and the chronology of events when we look back on the whole of the Brexit saga is likely to be seen to have pivoted on events that have happened today.

With Merkel saying her piece to Boris, followed by outbursts by Tusk and then Coveney on Twitter too, few of the objective people who are observing this saga unfold will have been left with any doubt about the content of the message that we have collectively been told.

The EU is and never was interested in compromise upon anything meaningful with the UK over Brexit, unless it resulted in a permanent state of Remain.

That they and the Irish Government thought that leaving Northern Ireland behind would ever be acceptable to the UK in order to secure mutually acceptable terms with the EU before Leaving is simply breathtaking in the extreme.

But the EU is an organisation that has form. And if our MPs had been fulfilling their roles as our representatives better – and arguably as they should – we would never have got to the place that we are, where the behaviour of the EU has had to be pushed to become so open and obvious, that many People across the Country are today wondering exactly what it was that we elected these MPs for.

What should now be clear to everyone, is the UK cannot thrive as it should, could and would do in the future, if we are tied to the EU and any of its Member States by even the most trivial policy devices – if they resemble anything that looks like Remain.

We must be able to set our own agenda in our relationships with the World outside. Set our own tariffs and border requirements. And most significantly write and implement all of the laws under which we are governed and required to observed as people and as businesses within.

We must do this because we the British People and the people from amongst us that we ask to represent us are the only people capable of knowing how to serve the interests of this Country best.

Only British People have the understanding of what our communities, businesses and public services need. And we need to have genuine localism working in our Cities, Towns, Parishes and Neighbourhoods in a way that centralising everything towards unelected bureaucrats in a European City never could deliver.

It is only if we do this, and are brave with the decisions that we make along the way and as we do so, that we can begin to address the real problems that are affecting our society. Knife crime, poverty, disenfranchisement, the housing shortage, the climate crisis and a whole lot more besides.

People have been suspicious of it, but might have never realised that many of the problems that we have in this Country have been created because of the way our law making has been exported to the EU. Rules have been changed and the responsibility for doing so given away to people with neither the interest nor understanding of what we all really need in this Country – the same basic responsibilities that UK politicians and MPs MUST be equipped with as a basic step in future, if their UK Lawmaking is to really do any good.

We cannot achieve anything genuinely good in and for this Country or indeed any of the other Countries and their Peoples around the World that we care for, if we Remain tied into the EU monolith in any way at all.

The EU has today proven that they are not interested in facilitating democracy. That they have no respect for it and that they are prepared to do anything and everything possible to keep what they clearly see as the UK cash cow, tied into the EU Project for good.

Its time that we all not only see but also accept that the UK’s best interests and the best interests of the EU are not, have never and will never be legitimately aligned or in any way the same.

We must Leave the EU as soon as possible and then reform our political system too so that neither Foreign Governments, the bureaucrats that represent them, or sell-out politicians of our own can prioritise outside interests.

The British People and our Industries are too important to be left to the whims of anyone who is on their own agenda and drunk on their sense of self importance and control.

 

Restoring Democracy Pt 7: Public Services should only have one master

September 6, 2019 Leave a comment

RD1Meddling with public services has become normal part of a politician’s life.

No matter whether its exerting direct deliberate influence or an indirect consequence of anything else that they have done, Public Services have become unsustainable – not just financially, but also in the way that they are run.
The key to solving the problems that the Public Sector faces is relatively simple. It’s already in the name.
Public Services are literally the provision of services to the Public. That should be the priority, the aim, the reason for doing and how any decisions affecting them should ultimately be informed.
The meddling and imposition of rules over employment, pensions and a variety of other targets which have redirected priorities in order to avoid what would otherwise be legally recognisable employee upset has switched the focus of what the NHS, Councils, Schools, Government Departments and what Quangos are there to do, and placed it instead upon avoiding any kind of problems with staff, who have also become too expensive with all the rights they now have for all of them to remain employed.
This itself is one of the key contributing reasons for the employment of commercial service providers and consultants to do jobs that public servants were previously employed to do. And what you rarely hear mentioned is that these private enterprises are often doing exactly the same job, paying their staff all that they are legally entitled to, whilst making a profit on top for the business owner, yet still cheaper than the not-for-profit public sector provider used to.
The problem with all of these different priorities and providing services using contractors is the master is never the Public itself. Yet they are the reason that all of these organisations exist and why the people doing the jobs are actually employed.
A Good Government MUST return the emphasis of public service to serving the public and take whatever steps necessary to ensure that We the Public are always the priority. Not staff. Not profit. In absolutely everything that they do.

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

Jail terms for public servants who overlook their safeguarding responsibilities sounds tough. But if the cause of the problem is actually government wide, should David Cameron be volunteering himself for 5 years in prison rather than another jolly in No. 10?

March 9, 2015 4 comments

Rotherham has already reached such levels of notoriety in local government that the place name has itself become synonymous with the darkest aspects of our society and the lack of responsibility taken by those who we all somehow know simply should have done much better.

At first account, David Cameron’s announcement that any public official – whether an officer or politician – who is shown to have overlooked child safety issues may soon face a jail term, sounds exactly like the kind of tough-minded policy making that we all really want to have coming out of Westminster.

Many of us will agree with the sentiment.

But then, what if those responsible didn’t actually see a problem? What if they didn’t ask questions, because they didn’t see it as their job to do so? What if those individuals were more sure of difficult consequences as a result of speaking out than they were of being any help to others by doing so?

Kangaroo-Court-e1379633717575

We do not know the specific circumstances and chronology of all the events and actions that contributed to Rotherham. But neither are we likely to do so, given that inquiries will reflect the often-accepted perception that all decisions are black and white in nature, and that the evidence will speak for itself.

On one level it will, and particularly so when there is a kneejerk response from Central Government to the idea that an individual can always be blamed.

However, the thought processes we all have are still thankfully just our own. Very few of us would willingly provide a word-by-word account of what we have ever at any one time thought – even if we could remember the exact detail for long enough to do so.

Regrettably, in terms of getting tough on those who neglect their responsibilities to the public is concerned, the PM’s plan is a measure which neither accounts for the inadequacies of the government system as it exists today, nor the people who are and who have been in the position to actually do something about it – even now.

Let us be in no doubt, child abuse is horrific however you consider it. Public officials failing to protect, safeguard and prevent the abuse of vulnerable people of any age within our communities is an inexcusable act in every sense.

But it has happened, and it is probably happening in places where we wouldn’t dream it to be even remotely possible, right now. And it may well have been missed because public servants were doing exactly what they understand their job requires them to do.

Whilst this one emotive subject has captured the public imagination and the vote-seeking cynicism of one political party as it thinks of the General Election in May, lack of responsibility on the part of public servants extends way beyond the realms of what government currently calls ‘safeguarding’.

There is an institutional failure at work, which permeates every part of the political, executive and administrative tiers of government, NGO’s and public services.

Decisions effecting the lives of you and I are in no way guaranteed to be made in our best interests by the very people we have elected and who have been employed to serve us.

Just as children have and may still be being abused when someone might have been able to stop it from happening, other people may actually be dying because people with responsibility for others at many different levels are not considering the real impacts of their decisions on the people in their care, when we all objectively know that they should.

Outrageous as this all may sound, tackling this problem, whether it is the way that a medical product is purchased within the NHS, a planning decision is made within a district council, or the action taken within social services means that a child is left exposed to the influence of someone who is considered as the member of an ethnic minority first and a pedophile second, may in no way be as simple as it may look.

Solving these many problems facing our public services is not as straightforward as punishing individuals for overlooking, or deliberately ignoring information or experiences that that public servants have had in their roles.

Before anything else, we have to understand at least some of the basic rules of the protectionist and ineffectual culture, which exists throughout our Public Services.

Only then might we begin to find solutions without automatically attacking those, whose actions would perhaps look very like many of our own, were we to find ourselves working and considering where our own responsibilities would stop in the very same circumstances.

Government is not a happy place. It stands to reason that if the people who are sat at the top of the tree behave in a certain way, the same kind of behavior will soon begin to manifest itself throughout the branches and departments of the organisation below, often with consequences that could never have been foreseen.

My own experience comes directly from working within a local authority, with a national charity, as a politician, and anecdotally through third hand contact throughout. Its real, its tested and I have experienced first hand how the whole system is failing us all, because it is fundamentally, institutionally and culturally sick.

What follows is an overview or perspective of Local Government alone. However, many of the points raised will be applicable to any government body or what we would call a public service.

Whilst I have attempted to focus my thoughts on specific areas, the reality is that there is significant overlap, and the behaviors, processes and methods discussed are very much interdependent, effecting and effected by many different factors and the input of Officers, Politicians and Central – or Westminster-based Government alike.

  • Managers are increasingly becoming qualification rich and experience poor, as part of a ‘textbook technocracy’. The system rewards those who dedicate themselves to playing the progression game, much as it does the politicians. Those climbing the career ladder are usually specialists in one area, rather than having had a grounding in a variety of operational areas where they will have gained a broader understanding not only of the technical aspects of other service areas, but of the life issues and behavior of the wide variety of people from different backgrounds that the staff they will soon manage are interacting with daily. This is not a problem that is exclusively attributable to the most senior levels of management. With an increasing push to share services and responsibilities both within and with other authorities, lower tier managers are now finding themselves with roles where frontline experience of service provision can be critical across many disciplines. The results are plain to see, and as experience is lost through natural wastage, redundancies and attractive jobs with private business, good management is increasingly becoming reliant upon luck, rather than good judgment. When you have deficient management, you then become reliant upon political leadership and that is often as inadequate, if not more so than the relevant officers within the executive itself.
  • Many people are unaware of how desperate the financial circumstances facing the Public Sector actually are. In local government, funding for services is not solely raised by Council Tax alone, and what we pay each month is itself shared out between our local parish, district, county and police authorities. Central government provides an annual settlement or grant to our councils which is being continually lowered and this process has been speeded up throughout the period of Austerity. Some of this is being given back in the form of incentives, such as the New Homes Bonus, which relates to the number of new homes built in the area of the Authority during the year. Unfortunately, payments like this are a two-edged sword and are effectively a way of coercing local authorities to implement government policy and keep doing so, simply to maintain income which is otherwise irreplaceable without cuts.
  • Current Government Policy is not normally to allow rises in Council Tax above 5% annually. But even with this, there is a tendency for many ruling Political Groups to keep this figure as near to zero% as possible, simply as voters are likely to respond to this form of taxation and the way it has been decided than any other. The downward side to this ‘crowd pleasing’ approach is that Council Tax income is often not increasing in line with normal price rises (inflation), whilst other forms of funding are also being cut. This means that authorities aren’t even financially ‘standing still’, and have no option but to cut services, reduce staff or share services with other authorities, which is a process which ultimately takes power further away from the people. Money is tight and decisions are being made that are effecting lives, based upon funding alone. It’s not necessarily because the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t care, but because they have to decide who gets the fixed amount of money (the budget) that they have available.
  • Politically speaking, ‘can do’ is actually ‘can’t, don’t’. As is the case nationally, local government is experiencing a critical shortage of politicians who are ‘in it for the right reasons’. Of those who are – or get first elected on the basis that they are, many are simply not equipped with the experience or leadership-related–confidence that ALL politicians, at every level of government need to effectively represent the people who elected them – within what is actually a leadership role. This functional naivety leaves party dinosaurs unchallenged from within their own ranks, and officers increasingly able to guide policy on the basis of what works most safely for them, or for the furtherance of their CV’s. The situation is growing progressively worse and is only becoming enhanced further by the policy coercion which comes either from Government, or from the National Party HQ’s.
  • Despite the perception that local government makes decisions, much of its responsibility lies in the form of interpreting law and legislation which has been created by MP’s and civil servants in Westminster. Central Government retains the right to overturn local decision making that doesn’t meet the rules that it has set. The reality of this is that decisions are increasingly made on the basis of strictly adhering to central legislation, rather than what local need may actually require. The most obvious manifestation of this can be seen within the Planning and Licensing functions, where decisions are made that are openly transparent within a process with which members of the public or business community interact. When even our local policies are made very much on the basis of frameworks which have been set in London, politicians and officers alike are becoming more and more inclined to defer reasoned judgment on real life decisions they are facing on behalf of the public, to a subservience to a ‘greater power’. The financial, cultural and institutional aspects of the problem play heavily into this process also, but the greatest irony of the controlling way in which Central Government runs every part of the government, is that the structure already exists which would allow power to be well and truly devolved to local people – were it able to work as it could. The legislative problem is reflected in the attitudes of politicians and officers alike and is becoming ever more obvious to observers. Policy making has become a truly questionable process, the machinations of which were once only thought of, or perhaps spoken about behind closed doors. It is now openly discussed in public in a way that simply beggars belief.
  • The bureaucratic structure within Government is continually tightening, despite the messages we hear in the media to the contrary. Common sense; being allowed to think on your feet; taking into consideration all that factors which are specific to each and every case. These are all no more than ideas in a heavily proscribed environment, which leaves officers and increasingly elected members also having to adopt a highly arbitrary approach to decision making. The Influence of the rights culture has come significantly in to play and the creation of increasingly detailed and instructive processes are removing the human touch from interaction between councils and their customers, all to ensure that risk is limited to the remotest degree. Put simply, decision-making has become increasingly black and white when real life is a very grey area. Managers report upwards through respective line management to their CEO, who in turn reports to the political leadership of the council. Less senior politicians have very limited means to address performance issues relating to officers, which have to be passed to department heads, or to a council’s delegated committee which deals with employee issues – one which is often assembled politically. When both the political and executive leadership are incompetent, there is no robust system in place which will enable anyone to do anything about it. For a complainant, speaking out to the media is a highly risky approach to take, and one which is seriously frowned upon, when you are effectively bringing in to question the actions of the Authority of which you are yourself a part.
  • Officers operate within a protectionist system where responsibility is the equivalent of risk and where risk is to be avoided at all costs. Staff are closed down to wider issues affecting the organisations they work for and operate often with a kind of tunnel vision which effectively thrives on passing the buck, or more often than not, simply assuming that someone else will pick the issue up departmentally or organisationally – either because the person who raised it will just assume they need to go elsewhere, or because they just don’t have to deal with anything that sits outside of their job description. The way that we see this manifested most clearly is by the way that consultants are often employed – at great cost – to write reports, giving conclusions or recommendations which departments and whole organisations already understand and will normally have had skilled staff employed to know very well before. The views of a third party are somehow and mistakenly perceived to give a level of legitimacy that nobody employed to actually do the job could provide. Decisions often become assignments for ‘contractors’ by being passed from one level of management to the next. Nobody wants to rock the boat and put at risk what has historically been one of the safest occupations to have, with gold-plated consequences at the end of a highly uneventful career, doing all that it takes to keep your nose clean.
  • Managers have a clear distrust, and in many cases open contempt for the members of the authorities that they work for. This is a situation which has been exacerbated by the lack of interest that many politicians actually show in the areas of responsibility that they have – if they understand them in the first place. Managers often forget that they are employed by the council itself – which is the body made up of the elected members. Indeed, even a CEO is technically the clerk to the council, a point which is well illustrated by the role and position they often take up in council meetings.
  • The business of government today is more autocratic in nature than it is democratic and could easily be compared with the feudal system. Democracy leaves the building almost as soon as the votes have been counted in elections and then decisions are nearly always made under the guidance of those politicians upon whom power has been centralised. Genuine debate is stifled by restrictive procedures and processes which effectively enable officers and politicians to duck drawn out examination processes which would allow real answers to be produced within public forums.
  • Scrutiny processes are generally very weak, ineffective and are failing to serve the public interest in any way. Scrutiny is often treated with distain by controlling political groups who believe that their elected majority gives them and specifically their leadership a level of legitimacy that should not be questioned. Scrutiny cannot be relied upon by opposition groups who are unlikely to successfully influence the decision of a majority using what is currently an arguably worthless ‘checks and balance’ process, unless there is a problem so clearly obvious with a policy, that it almost certainly wouldn’t have been adopted anyway.
  • The political system does not currently encourage strong leadership – usually based upon experience, which is often perceived as divisive in a system where it is normal for politicians to be working to an agenda of some kind. Ineffectual or ‘all things to all people’ styles of leadership are however in practice very weak, opening the door to poor guidance from officers which in such circumstances could be viewed as almost being coercive. When that executive leadership is itself weak, inadequately experienced or just as self-serving as many of the politicians, the results will speak for themselves.

The issues are different for each and every public service organisation, and will almost certainly cover areas that go way beyond what has been described here.

There are also many exceptions. There are some truly exceptional officers and politicians in local government who are doing what they can to ‘get it right’.

There are many more officers and politicians who could be just as exceptional. But the system simply doesn’t encourage them to give the public service that they are capable of giving, and that we, as taxpayers should reasonably be able to expect.

If you consider all of the points that have been made; allow for them to be adjusted, moved or even considered in a different place, you might begin to be able to visualise just how complex the institutional crisis facing all government or public sector organisations actually is, and how critical it has now become that meaningful reform be enacted throughout, for the best interests of all.

The required process of change can only begin from the top. The legislative levers that must be moved to instigate change, are more than ready to be pulled.

The change needed has to be undertaken with the level of understanding, impartiality and diligence that will be essential in ensuring that all forms of self-interest are not only removed, but no longer tolerated within an extremely complex system that exists and should only ever exist to serve the public.

Decisions are being made right now on the basis of ‘what if’ and ‘what will be the consequences for me’ throughout the system.

Officers and politicians are not working within a culture which equips, enables or encourages them to empathise with the people they are supposed to help, or to look beyond and consider the consequences of their decisions and actions for others in any sense.

This is itself highly reflective of the processes which successive Governments have inadvertently nurtured, maintained and developed, and there would be great difficulty in criticising officers within any authority operating at any level for taking this approach, when the example that they continue to be set by Westminster is simply telling them that this is an acceptable way to carry on.

Public servants who fail the people they are employed or elected to protect should be expected to take full responsibility for their actions.

But when the institutional culture of government and public services tells them to do everything but make reasoned decisions alone, it must logically follow that those responsible for the system itself must take responsibility for the faults that lie within it.

So before doling out 5-year jail terms for the people who may just be scapegoats and the easiest to blame, should David Cameron perhaps be volunteering for 5 years in Prison rather than another jolly in No. 10?

image thanks to unknown

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