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Posts Tagged ‘Safeguarding’

Suing the Government over the Lockdown won’t solve the problems and end the crisis they have created for us all

May 3, 2020 2 comments

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Lone voices shout against the crowd, trying to stop everyone walking onto the beach to see the spectacle of a disappearing sea before the overwhelming horror and force of the tsunami returns, overwhelms and destroys everything whilst it kills or injures people indiscriminately and at will.

No, this is not the tragedy and disaster of Boxing Day 2004 in the Indian Ocean. This is what we are experiencing and living through right now. Albeit within what feels like a parallel universe where it has become necessary to attempt communication in metaphorical terms because it has become too difficult to communicate with people who have been taken in by the Government narrative in any other way.

You will either get it or you won’t. But just because you don’t get it doesn’t make it untrue.

Those that do understand the crisis that the UK is facing and has faced from the moment that the Lockdown began and are prepared to speak or act publicly even now, some 6 weeks in, remain very few in number. But that isn’t to say that a great many more don’t agree at least in part with what is being said.

Yes, the momentum appears to be completely behind the Government.

So successful has their media campaign been based on propaganda and the misuse of behavioural insights, that terms such as ‘social distancing’, ‘stay at home, save lives’ and ‘protect the NHS’ have turned the general population into a zombie nation . One that has become progressively more fearful of catching this virus since the COVID-19 Pandemic began.

Not only has the Government imposed an unnecessary and dubious Lockdown with physical distancing measures that has seen social distancing becoming common parlance and accepted terminology for the 2020 police state in the UK. They have failed spectacularly to mitigate and insulate our businesses and jobs against the fallout from their mistake. They are now consolidating the problems they have caused and are in the process of causing by doubling down on the steps they have already taken, using lie after lie in the form of hollow advice and directives to give credibility to the giant ones they issued to coerce the British Public to accept the Lockdown in the first place.

Of those speakers and lone voices I have already talked about, names such as Peter Hitchens who writes for The Mail on Sunday and Laura Perrins who is co-editor of the website Conservative Woman have consistently questioned the actions or motives of the Government over recent weeks, often receiving much vitriol and scorn from the usual suspects on platforms such as Twitter in response.

Such commentary appearing on my own Facebook feed via a friend who was commenting yesterday drew my attention to the Court Action and related crowd-funding request that is being initiated by businessman Simon Dolan.

Mr Dolan has instructed Solicitors Wedlake Bell and Barrister Francis Hoar to begin proceedings to sue the Government over the imposition of the Lockdown and already drawn much derision for doing so.

Having seen it suggested by the twitterati that Ms Perrins was experiencing a mental breakdown when she Tweeted that (as an experienced barrister herself) she might well initiate proceedings against the Government in the future on a similar if not the same basis, its not difficult to picture how the court of public opinion is feeling about anything that goes against the official narrative that still remains in place – no matter how wrong or how damaging it is or will soon turn out to be.

The difficulty for Mr Dolan, Laura Perrins or anyone else who wants to tackle the ineptitude and ignorance of the politicians our system tells us we must call a government, is that the tide of groupthink that is carrying the establishment will continue to convince everyone who is travelling with it that both the Government and they are right until the very moment of impact when it is too late to head off the disaster that is now destined to come.

Suing the Government and its abuse of its responsibilities and powers to impose the Lockdown upon us all is certainly justified.

But when you are dealing with a Government and an establishment that is drunk on its own power and obsessed with the sound of its own voice, doing the right thing and in this case attempting to use the very legal system against it that we know it controls is not going to achieve the result that those of us who are awake already want, even though it is precisely what all of us – including those who are currently blind the realities of the Government’s actions – so desperately need.

Every day that this Lockdown and any form of the complete injustice that is ‘social distancing’ continues will be another day too many that has added damage to real lives, our economy and our Country.

It was avoidable at the start, but has for many already become irreparable harm.

The false populism that the Government created with the Media’s help has ensured that too many people believe everything they say. The same people will regrettably not see it differently until the tsunami hits them personally.

In the same way, the majority of us will not hear the alternative message, reality and truth – that opposes the one the Government is foolishly doing everything that it can to reinforce and to repeat – until the physical impact of that message has actually arrived in our lives.

Using the Courts to tackle a Government that is failing in its job whilst legitimising stupidity is neither playing the same game, nor playing by the same rules.

Court action will regrettably fail in delivering any beneficial purpose – even if the action wins, simply because it will come too late to turn that tide. It will only succeed in making an already inept Government lie to us again and say they will do things differently if the same thing were to happen again. It will not change the people we have in power nor the way that they think in any way.

With the Lockdown now having been running for 6 weeks already, the options for anyone who arrives in power to clean up the mess that the Johnson Government has created are becoming fewer and harder by the day.

Domestic abuse, suicides, evictions, debt, job losses, unemployment, abuse, safeguarding issues, divorces, anxiety, depression, long-term mental health issues, deaths, reduced standards of living, poverty, hunger and much more besides are already inevitable. They will not be changed or headed off in ways that they could have been if we had good politicians and a responsible Government from the start – One that would not have opted for the Lockdown as the route out of the COVID emergency in the first place.

To limit the pain from the problems the Johnson Government and the political culture they are part of has created, we need different leadership right now.

Democracy will not solve the crisis. Democracy cannot repair the damage that has already been done. Democracy will not put the UK back together and rediscover our place in the World once the fight against Covid is won. Because democracy in this Country has become a lie.

We need a government that will literally impose all the changes and direction across all areas of public policy that will be in the best interests of all, rather than trying to court public opinion and that of a media that will only appreciate the steps that have genuinely been taken in the best interests of all once we have weathered the storm. That can only come when everything has been fixed and the changes made have had adequate time to run their course.

The regrettable reality is that it is too late for this Government and the Politicians that we have to get any of this right. They are not wired the right way. We need people taking the lead who will weather this storm for us and on our behalf who really are ‘in the same room’.

Whilst we should wish Mr Dolan and his legal team all the very best with what they plan to do, the reality is that we will need the money that we have and our time and our support will be better spent placing focus and effort elsewhere.

We will only see the end of this narcissistic Government and stop the process of damage and harm this political culture is doing to us all once they are removed from power. They and the kind they represent must never given the opportunity to return to pay lip service to responsibility in the way that they are doing now.

Rioting, violence and public unrest will serve no purpose in the fight for our freedom and justice for all.

That doesn’t mean we have to continue to maintain our consent for the politicians we have to continue to lead.

We have to recognise and then break the herd mentality that we have all unwittingly become part of that has given legitimacy to the Lockdown and everything wrong with what the Government has done and will continue to do.

Their words mean nothing. They have no value to us all.

It is only by embracing herd immunity and the process that it will take to get us there that we can together again become strong.

So when you see local businesses reopening in whatever form the might choose, or see people out and about walking or in their cars in whatever way or at whatever time of the day they choose, support them. Applaud them. Encourage them to do more. Even if you are not yet ready to do it yourself.

The only way that we can be rid of this Lockdown, the police state known as social distancing and begin to turn all the problems in the UK around, is to ignore the politicians who no longer have legitimacy in power to lead us and ignore all of the ridiculous messages, actions and rules that this out-of-touch establishment continues to impose.

We need leadership that respects the realities of public consent rather than abusing it to extend their own purposes and selfish cause.

There was a time when it didn’t feel like it really mattered who was in charge because everything would always stay the same.

Now we know different.

We must withdraw our consent for politicians, who through a process of self-gratification, are masquerading as our leaders whilst getting way with treating us all like fools.

Let’s focus all our energies on doing what needs to be done to limit the damage before the tsunami that has swallowed the sea that is the Covid emergency returns.

Some workers want this amount of money whilst others want more. But our needs are the same and government support is favoring some over others when we should all be getting exactly the same – not just in money but also support

April 12, 2020 1 comment

If you dare to look at the headlines or glance across the editorial of any of the national newspapers that might be worth reading, you will see today that there is talk within Government of there being Ministers who are doves and others that are hawks.

The growing argument between them is the subject of when the COVID-19 Lockdown should end. The so-called Hawks want the Lockdown to begin to end at the beginning of May, whilst the so-called doves want to wait until the Whitsun Bank Holiday at the end of May before even a loosening of the current restrictions can be allowed to begin.

When you have been writing about the massive holes and inadequacy of the financial support that the Government is providing since the Lockdown began like I have, as well as questioning the cost of the Lockdown vs. the benefit too, you might think it would be natural for me to be happy that at least some of our MPs are looking at all of this in the same way too.

I’m not. And the problem is that they are not even in the same room.

Whilst certain Ministers are clearly aware of some of the issues already being caused by the Lockdown – as they are being flagged by Civil Servants within their Ministries, they are not aware of others whilst many MPs are clearly unaware at any meaningful level of the real crisis that has been started by the Lockdown.

A personal and costly disaster is now starting to unfold in front of more and more of the people just like you and I and it is going to slowly but surely soon come into full view.

We have been conditioned to think and view certain behaviours as acceptable by the world around us. The behaviour of self-serving politicians, an Establishment that cares not for anyone other than its own, and a media that is so obsessed with the sound of its own voice have all contributed significantly to the selfish approach to life that we have which we don’t recognise as being wholly self serving – because right now its just the ways that life tells us things should be done.

As we look at the Locked-down COVID-19 UK, our thoughts will inevitably be about how the Lockdown is effecting us personally and the people around us, whether it is our jobs, source of income, the business we own and operate or any one of the large number of ways that each and every one of us has had our life affected or compromised in some way since life as we knew it changed in March and the Lockdown got under way.

No, it isn’t wrong to think about any of this chapter of our lives in this way. But as we fall over ourselves to shout about treating gig-economy workers the same as employees or to sign petitions to specifically tell the Government that we want directors of small limited companies to receive the same money as if they were an employee, we are collectively falling into the trap of thinking that different help and support for different people based purely on how differently they are employed will equate to the same thing. It won’t.

What we are overlooking is that all people share something very distinctive in common that makes us all the same. We all have regular bills that we need our incomes to pay and  the amount we pay is relative to what we normally earn.

It doesn’t matter what they are or how much those bills are for. Whether you are young, a Millennial, middle aged, retired or very old, there will be bills that you have to pay or have paid on your behalf.

Beyond the fact that we are human beings who live and die, what we all have in common is our shared reality that we always have to pay a bill each month and in some cases many of them. That’s how we are all the same.

If we were to genuinely be treated the same by the Government and a situation were to never to exist where any individual, social group of business sector were to fall through the gaps, the Government would by necessity be targeting the help they can give at us all in a way that was proportional to what we earn or the situation that we are in – but in a way that would actually treat us all fairly because it would support and help us in the very same way.

The very same rules apply for businesses and business owners whether they are limited companies or sole traders too.

For us all, the flow of money into and out of our bank accounts is what makes life turnover. And for business – who in this sense are exactly the same as people, cash flow is king – unless of course you are the bank or finance house which creates all the money and to where all the money we pay out in the form of each and every bill we pay will ultimately flow to and end up.

We pay our bills to a service provider or company that has provided us with goods or the finance to do it. It might be a mortgage, rent, for a car, our phone, TV, electricity and gas or many other things that we might either want or need.

The company, person or business to whom we pay that bill and the money we use to do it will be in exactly the same position as you and I are. What we pay them is their income, just like our job or business is ours. From all the combined income they receive, they too have to pay their bills.

In many cases, this payment of different bills and transfer of money happens over and over again at different levels in what might be a very long chain, until the flow of the money ends up in the same place: the banks and finance houses.

If the Government really desires to treat us ALL exactly the same as it should – that’s equitably and in a way that is completely fair – it would temporarily stop the need and requirement for that money to continue to flow where the chain is no longer complete or simply has no start, so that none of us have to earn anything at any level or any stage of that chain to keep paying bills to the people, businesses or companies that are in the next link of the chain above us.

With the need removed to pay our bills for items that we wouldn’t order or commit ourselves to having during a time that we couldn’t afford to or would be willing pay for because they are a luxury and not a necessity, the only problem for the Government would then be a question of how people pay for food and essential items that we simply need to meet our real everyday needs – not our ‘wants’.

If the Government did this, it would create a genuine level playing field in a time of National Crisis that would benefit us all.

Stopping the need for monetary flow would significantly reduce the chances that businesses will not reopen and that more and more people will lose their jobs and income permanently once the Lockdown actually comes to its end.

Be under no illusion. This action would prevent misery for many and save a significant number of lives.

Without a universal financial support solution of this depth and breadth in place to counter the effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown, the problems and very challenging life experiences that many people would not have been suffering before it began, are going to get much worse. The impact of what the Government hasn’t done will affect more and more of us as the length of the Lockdown rolls on.

The Government should End the Lockdown right now. But if it refuses to do so, it must at the very least change direction with the financial support that it is giving all of us and do it right away.

  • Job losses
  • Suicides
  • Hunger
  • Business Closures
  • Evictions from homes
  • Administrations
  • Domestic Violence
  • Abuse and safeguarding issues
  • Debt
  • Insolvencies
  • Repossessions
  • Loss of custom and business
  • Debt and borrowing
  • Bankruptcies
  • Mental Health issues
  • Depression

And the issues that are the cause of any or all of these horrific life experiences are already on the rise as a result of the COVID-19 Lockdown.

No considerate and caring person would ever wish any of these experiences upon another human being. But the Government’s decision to implement the Lockdown, then failing to treat us all in the same way will ensure that a rise in these real-life horror stories is exactly what the UK is going to get.

No matter what the Media messages tell you or how unpopular TV presenters and Journalists may insist that the alternative to what the Government is doing will be, the Government MUST change direction and handle COVID-19 differently by bringing the Lockdown to a decisive end as soon as it possibly can.

If the Lockdown continues for any further time at all or not, the current system of financial support that the Government has issued doesn’t work as it should. It is creating many problems for individuals that not only include those mentioned or referred to above, but will in time be known to have caused many more whilst creating a national financial crisis and the accompanying personal hardship that none of us alive today will consciously remember having ever seen.

These wholly inadequate measures MUST be removed and replaced with a system that ends the requirement to pay bills for anything that has not been ordered or committed to during the Lockdown – with the exception of things like car insurance if you are continuing to use your car.

Despite the complication of doing so, the system should also be backdated to the start of the Lockdown (at least 23rd March 2020) and those who have been paid some or all of the £2500 per month average wage equivalent excluded from any weekly essential goods and food payment scheme until the equivalent of what they have already been paid through the current payments system from the start has been reached.

A £100 per week payment per person is enough for food and essential items for those who have lost all their income, have been furloughed or are not being paid during or as a direct result of the Lockdown.

Everyone who has been able to continue to work is doing a great thing to keep the Country moving when everyone else cannot. For them, having their bills stopped would be a payment holiday nonetheless. It would therefore be a financial bonus for doing their bit that would be fair and acceptable both to them and to all.

The damage that the Lockdown has already done to lives and businesses is already on target to be very severe indeed. But the cost of the Government failing to treat us all equally and in the same way will be catastrophic for us all.

Beyond a financial depression that is likely to be worse than the Great Depression of nearly a Century ago, the patience upon which civil order sits is already painfully thin, and the moves by the Police and even Supermarkets to behave like we have already become a police state does not bode well for the future of the UK if the Lockdown continues or continues without meaningful change to the system of financial support that is currently in place.

The lack of care and consideration for the impact of this Lockdown that has been driven by the advice of medical specialists, and measures to counter the impact that have simply not been thought through tell us that there is already a vacuum or absence of leadership at the top of the Government. This absence will help even less if that wafer thin patience is broken and the leadership void could easily be filled by alternative leaders who would happily expand and assert that police state deliberately.

Please don’t allow this to happen whilst we still have influence and a choice.

Let’s join together and tell the Government that the measures they have been taking aren’t helping us all in the same way that they would if they were fair.

Let’s also join together and tell the Government that its time to End the Lockdown now and treat everyone like we have the same value, whether or not we get talked about a lot on TV!

 

 

 

 

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 6 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?

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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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