Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Rights Culture’

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

The overreach of Libertarianism may deliver a dystopian future that even those who lead us greatly fear

August 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Pendulum of LibertyMany have suspected that TV, Films and Games can influence real-life behaviors and there are certainly studies that have been carried out which suggest a link. As we watch programming like Coronation Street, Eastenders and now the ‘reality TV’ gems like The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea and of course ‘Love Island’, the entertainment for some defiantly comes from the anticipation that anything deemed now acceptable on TV will soon find its way into ‘real life’.

As a rule, TV today has become prescient in a way which is surprisingly quick in its delivery and the mediums of social media running shotgun alongside, have only served to increase the speed with which ‘artistic license’ has become manifest as a reality from which none of us can hide.

Seldom however, does a programme like The Handmaid’s Tale come along, which has all the hallmarks of being exactly the same as a programme which creates real life out of thin air, but feels all the more possible, because it identifies the destination of a process in which our otherwise increasing ‘freedoms’ have been religiously denied.

That the story alludes to and carefully anchors itself in a picture and to experiences of life with which we can all already identify makes the whole possibility more terrifying as we realise within the surety of our own thoughts, how easily a way of life for us all which has been created from nothing more than fear and its bedfellow hate could eclipse the ‘never had it so good’ world that the establishment complacently equates with our own.

But how did we get here, and how could we really jump from a world so apparently full of freedoms into another where freedom could mean nothing at all?

Perhaps most surprisingly, it is the relationship between these ‘freedoms’ and rights that we now have; the way they have come into being, and the impact that they are quietly having on everyone, rather than just the few for whom they were genuinely, but nonetheless idealistically intended, where the real genesis of the problem may lie.

Uncomfortable to read as it may seem, this argument is not about attacking any form of equality, as equality should be the natural approach we intrinsically employ as individuals towards everyone else, one and all.

Regrettably, such levels of selflessness in our consideration have never been the default or conditioned form of all people, whether as individuals or as groups at any point in the history of the World.

This is the very reason that legislation and forms of positive discrimination have been employed in the coercive attempt to put this right and avoid the future wrongs that can and sadly sill continue to be committed.

What is being seriously overlooked and in many cases ignored, is that discrimination comes about not because of colour, gender, race, sexuality, disability, culture or indeed anything else which has now become the focus of rights.  Discrimination is present in almost every interaction in some way and at some level, because the self-interest and nucleus of fear which ultimately feeds it within every individual is and will continue to be present universally because it is delivered culturally and in conditioned form. It therefore becomes a default setting which can never be completely coerced into being under the control of others, unless it is given voluntarily, consciously and willingly so by each and every individual concerned.

Whilst the eradication of any form of prejudice is a laudable goal, human nature dictates that with the realities of what we call free will, freedom of thought will always prevail beyond the objectives of setting models of behaviour and can all too easily be manipulated by being overtly adhered to whilst the true intentions of those concerned are cleverly hidden, usually in plain sight.

It has been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and it is the reality of this statement which has driven the culture of transparency to a level where even Conservative Home Secretaries are now insisting on unworkable levels of bureaucracy for the Police to ensure that no rule or freedom for suspects, the convicted or prisoners has been denied. The imposition of rights, which in the minds of their architects should have precipitated an instant result simply did not do so. And so the culture of monitoring was created and continues to be unrealistically and impractically refined.

This whole process has played itself out in so many ways and in so many different directions, but the result has ultimately become the same.

The views of some individuals, their feelings, their opportunities, their ‘rights’ have now and are being openly paraded as being more important than those of the communities in which they live, work and in some cases even themselves would otherwise closely identify.

Somewhere in this process, a definitive line was crossed. A line where a genuine balance could have been established and set to evolve, where people really don’t see difference as a threat. A line where a genuine respect for every other individual and their place within the wider community could have thrived.

The obsession with rights has seen the point where balance could have been achieved, not only crossed, but to a point where the rights of minorities have been flipped and now supersede those of the majority, who have themselves by default and the process of positive discrimination, become those inadvertently discriminated against. Discrimination, however it is applied, always affects others with the opposite consequence.

Some would suggest that such a response or feeling of fear on the part of the majority, when any number of minorities have been repressed for such a long time would itself be fair. But this is certainly not so and whilst an understandable emotion on the part of those who have been victims of prejudice to the point that they might see things this way, to mirror an injustice in any way is to pick up and continue with the very same form of attack – just going in a different way.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Particularly not when prejudice against others is typically born out of the fear of difference between people and aspects of others that they simply don’t understand, or has come about simply because certain actions and views are understood as the way that we are culturally expected to do so. Indeed, the dehumanization of relationships which is steadily evolving on a minute by minute basis by the impact and assimilation of internet, smart phones and by response-at-the-push-of-a-button technology, is almost certain to make things much worse.

Rights have for a long time been costing Government and the Economy a lot of money. Nobody should delude themselves into thinking that there isn’t a price to be paid by us all – financially or otherwise – when business and the public sector becomes less productive as a direct result of rights being enhanced or government officers effectively refusing to take and execute their full responsibilities – passing them on to others such as highly paid consultants – simply because they are living in fear of what will happen if they should be accused of wrongdoing on behalf of someone who as a result of this whole corrupting process believes that their rights have in some way been denied.

The inaction and professional ineptitude which is now common throughout the public sector has far more to do with the insidious nature of the rights culture than it does either because of lack of skilled people or lack of money through the Government’s Policy of Austerity, which has become a very useful and much less risky scapegoat for political activism on all sides.

What has been achieved by this giant overstep and attempt to achieve coercive control is the emergence of two populations within one. The majority which falls increasingly silent as it witnesses attempts by others to even have its thought processes denied. The other, a hybrid minority of over-empowered victims who aggressively and successfully interpret the actions of others within what we used to know as normal life, as being insulting, inconsiderate and unquestionably set against their own ‘human rights’.

Some suggest the fear that this insidious culture has created as Britain having become a Nation without an identity. It isn’t that. The majority of people are just too afraid to openly identify with our National Identity for fear of what injustice towards others they might then be ridiculously accused.

The real harm to our democracy, is the unspoken and dangerously complacent conclusion on the part of those who Govern to conclude that silence itself is equal to acquiescence.

People are much savvier than their actions might otherwise deny, and whilst Westminster continues to misunderstand and misread the electoral actions of the public, it is little wonder that the European Referendum result came as such a surprise because such little account if any is being made for the fact that within the confines of a voting booth, there is a distinct level of anonymity and unhindered choice which even within friendships and families can otherwise be at the very least emotionally denied.

What also appears to be complacently overlooked by the establishment and in particular the liberal elites, is that Government, law, order and social cohesion is on every level dependent fully on the voluntary consent and support of the British People, who continue to respect the idea of democracy and the voluntary surrender of decision making responsibility for affairs affecting us all communally to our so-called elected representatives of the people.

The real problem with the ascendency of the ‘self’ culture and the empowerment of this hybrid mentality where minorities now look upon the majority who they are led to believe have intentionally scorned them, in a way that suggests they can now impose their own values and morality unequivocally upon us all.

For example criminals and prisoners alike are now able to deflect attention away from whatever they have done, simply by complaining that their own rights have been infringed. They do so knowing that they have blithely and wantonly done exactly the same to innocent others. Innocents who more often than not remain out of the spotlight for fear of what reprisal they will experience as a result of the application of law now being toothless, simply because the rights of the individual are placed before the best interests of the community and therefore openly denied.

People will not go on indefinitely allowing an unjust system to exist. The civil order which is voluntarily maintained on the part of the wider community is as fragile as that of those and their supporters who feel themselves to be justified in taking to the streets and rioting because they now feel it safe to assume that when an opportunity for blame arises, it will always be the party which represents authority which has committed the true crime.

However, whilst we have cause to be genuinely concerned that the good will of the majority of the British People could and does have the potential to snap, we are culturally a very patient People, even beyond that which fear would deny.

As such, the break down of civil order and rioting on the streets simply over the issue of overstretched rights, may in isolation thankfully remain a long way off.

But that isn’t to say that the resentment and true feeling against rights culture and the belief that the silent majority are obliged to play-court to the emperors new clothes which liberalism has made could not itself be the straw that breaks the camels back, should any one of a number of other pressing issues such as a financial meltdown or a consistent run of terrorist attacks increase the feeling that the genuine will of the people is being denied in such a way which precipitates people taking to the streets.

Revolution is a word which means many things to different people and the misguided romanticism with this idea of instantaneous change leaves the true meaning and impact of this type of societal transition completely denied.

Yet the feelings of mistrust and resentment against what is now widely considered to be an entitled political class and the interests of big business which rightly or wrongly are generally perceived to be behind it, could easily lead to circumstances where social behaviour lead those in power to believe that its genesis is progressively and proactively implied.

Fear leads even the leaders of people to do silly things. In such circumstances, with anarchy considered likely, or even if it is by then present on the streets, it is the immediate denial of the rights which will have previously been seen to promote any idea of complete freedom that would be quickly denied.

Whilst a model of governance like that of the Sons of Jacob may not appear to be on the cards, the power vacuum created as any voluntary form of democracy falls would indeed create an opportunity for any group which can organise itself where its own ideals for living can be implemented and then refined.

The building blocks are already in place for a fully functioning dystopian order and the predictive connotations of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four are playing themselves out daily within the technology that we are inviting into our homes, supported by the attempts of Government to remove anything which could be considered a safety net for our individual independence by paying lip service the idea that in this one instance, they will be protecting the greater interests of society as they do.

We haven’t got there yet. We must all hope that we do not.

But if we do, it will be clear that the price to be paid for the results of a liberalised society  which delivers equality for one by taking it away from many others will have proven to have been inhumanly high.

%d bloggers like this: