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

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councillors’ Pay: Throwing money at more of the same just increases the odds of things going from bad to even worse

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment

If you feel at all cynical about politicians and their motives for seeking power, you are unlikely to have been left feeling refreshed by the latest row over councillors’ pay which has surfaced this morning. After all, one set of politicians laying out the stall to put more money into the pockets of another is hardly the story that anyone outside of politics wants to hear. But is the promise of higher pay for councillors really the only answer to better local government?

The motives for becoming a politician at any level are not what many would hope or perhaps expect. Whilst the pathway to becoming a member of a local authority may be based upon an entirely different set of aspirations from those who become MP’s, the biggest difference between the two is the full-time and fully remunerated nature of all the roles in Westminster which have propagated and supported the rise of the ‘career politician’.

As a Local Councillor myself, I can look back on my own political history to date and know that it was not money which motivated me to contest my first Borough Election in 2003 and come 5th for a 2-seat Ward. It was not looking good and being seen by others as having responsibility in a public role which drove me to take part in the County Elections of 2005 and experience a recount to finish in 3rd place for a 2-seat Division. But it was a belief in something better for all and the sense of providing a voice for those who choose not or are unable to do so for themselves that did push me to go out each time and then win my first Borough Seat in 2007. Sadly it is not the same for all too many others.

The reality of local government, whether you are Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP or Independent, is that it is a place of frustration for the well-intended. A place where the power to influence decision making in its greatest sense simply doesn’t exist – much in the same way that the handful of our better-intentioned MP’s will have discovered to their absolute horror when they first arrived in Parliament.

It is a cold hard fact that within any system of government where so many of the would-be decision makers have arrived on the basis of personal gain and advancement, it is that very same emotional buy-in which propelled them there that prevents them and others from doing anything truly selfless when it has even the slightest risk of making those selfishly-based positions any less secure.

Such fear has propagated the growth of an insidious culture within local government where officers are often left leading the leaders with their own protectionist based views which put jobs, conditions and the limitation of all risks above any decision which actually may be the right one for the Taxpayers who fund them. It is a pathway which over many years has led to the unsustainable cost of direct services that should never have even been put at risk; coupled to a future which above all else is inextricably linked to such wonders as the bottomless pit which is the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Increasing councillors ‘pay’ to ‘realistic levels’, will only encourage more of those with the same self-interest to step forward and to then fight even harder to protect their own interests once elected. Part-time career politicians would quickly become as prevalent throughout the lower tiers of government as their full time counterparts are at Westminster, and it is the very term ‘career’ which in this sense says so very much about what is wrong with politics and where the true motives of many politicians lie today.

Reform at all levels of government should be an absolute priority, but should not be restricted to executive, administrative or technical functions.

The political party system is also failing people as much locally as it is nationally and throwing money at more of the same just increases the odds of things going from bad to even worse.

Labour’s ‘jobs guarantee’ for the unemployed: Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Tackling unemployment should be an issue for any Government. But Labour’s attempt at generating meaningful headlines with meaningless content will do little to reassure either business or the unemployed about what the post 2015 future may hold. It will also do little to enhance Labour’s kudos on matters of care for the elderly if they are planning even more ‘Brownite’ onslaughts upon the pension funds of those who are already working.

Subsidising low-paid jobs does little to incentivise those who have not already taken them, but does a great deal for companies who need and profit from a low-skilled workforce; staff who require minimum induction or ongoing training alongside next-to-no supervision; all packaged neatly within a low-risk environment.

People should not be fooled either by the idea that cash-strapped charities would immediately benefit from having unskilled staff delivering services which may currently be undertaken by experienced volunteers, when such staff themselves would in all likelihood require supervision at much greater cost.

Perhaps I will not be alone in seeing the irony that the only businesses which can therefore profitably gain from the implementation of these ideas are primarily the big retailers, who are already targeting such groups for their shop-floor staff pools and don’t actually need Government money to help them do so.

The retail fat-cats must surely be laughing themselves all the way to the bank as they thank the gods of democracy in anticipation of the delivery of such idiocy made manifest in political form.

Getting people of all ages into work isn’t just about job creation. It is about empowering business, education and developing skills based upon the strengths of the individual, rather than devaluing the future of a whole generation on the basis of the weaknesses of groups.

If Westminster politicians were to adopt a more reasoned and practical approach, they might conclude that tackling employment issues tomorrow might be better served by tackling the causes of unemployment today. They might also conclude that the unemployed and disenfranchised young people of today, may well become the long-term unemployed and unemployable of tomorrow. Can it really be that difficult to see how many of these issues actually roll into one when you think ahead?

As Education Secretary, Michael Gove has impressed many with his fervour to return a world-class British system of education for school-age children. But will that really go far enough if it actually happens?

Children are always different and will always react differently to education. Some work best with their heads, whilst some will always work better practically and ‘with their hands’. Any system of schooling which therefore doesn’t recognise that difference and more importantly cater for it, is going to fail many of those who might otherwise go on to succeed – especially when that difference may just have been a simple issue of age and time at individual level.

Returning to a fully parallel and universal system of academic and vocational education from the age of 14 would be akin to pushing the first domino in a whole run of social issues concerning us now and for the future – however ‘un-PC’ they may be.

Removing red tape and legislation that currently prevent businesses of all sizes from employing teenagers at realistic wages during realistic hours and within the real-world employment environment, could give non-academically inclined children the real hope of attaining like-for-like qualifications through the timed-served, rather than the academic route.

Creation of the ‘apprenticeship-degree’ would bolster the competitiveness of British Industry and business of all sizes which themselves would then be able to draw upon an affordable pool of trainees, making investment in their future entirely more feasible; whilst taking Young People off the streets, giving them value in themselves, money in their pockets and taking them away from crime which the Country can already ill-afford to tackle.

Savings to Government from no longer filling what are arguably wasted places in schools could be significant, even if some funds were then redirected to tertiary and higher education colleges which support the vocational route for many of what would be the mile-stoned route to that real and vocationally-based degree. And let’s face it, degrees need to regain the value that the one-size-fits-all mentality of the last Government did much to destroy, whilst giving all those who actually want to work the opportunity to do so.

Getting the unemployed who want to work into work will always be a job done better by employers. Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

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