Category Archives: Thinktanks

The Crucifixion Cycle

And so it has started.

In truth it probably started a year or two ago, but various distractions have kept our blinkers in place.

The Crucifixion Cycle

Stage 1

Slash Resources

Government slashes the resources of the public body in question.  Be it NHS, Armed Forces, Police, Education, Coastguard, Fire Service, Probation…..the list just goes on and on.  They have all had their resources slashed to the bone (and possibly deeper) by this failing coalition government in the name of Austerity. Be under NO illusions, more cuts are coming, Gideon says so.

Stage 2

Highlight The Failings

Next Step is to commission a report highlighting the failings of said public body. Policy Exchange (other Think Tanks are widely available) are normally good at issuing reports that seem to support government’s plan of action.

Stage 3

Get the Press to Crucify the Public Body for Their Failings

Certain sectors of the British Press seem only too willing to publish articles, splashed across their front pages, or 1st item on the 10 o’clock news etc, crucifying the public body for their failings. They never seem to mention slashed resources at this stage, just how serious and awful the failings have been, whip up some public backlash, and launch a “heads should roll” theme to move it forward.

Police and NHS are currently suffering at the hands of Stage 3.  Whose turn next?

Stage 4

Privatisation.

These public bodies can’t be trusted to organise a beer-drinking event in a brewery.  Just look at the headlines at Stage 3. I know how to sort this out, we’ll privatise them.  We’ve got some Lords with interests in suitable private companies, let’s give them a shot at sorting it all out, perfect solution.

Am I wrong?

Is this NOT how it happens?

Where are you on the Wheel of Fortune?

Have you been crucified yet?

Let’s All Pull Together

I am indebted to @Cate_a_Moore of Twitter fame for raising this issue today.  Thank you Cate.

There have been several marches, demonstrations, petitions and arguements at various conferences over the future of so many public services.  Police, NHS, Teachers, Coastguards, Armed Forces, Probation Officers, Lawyers, Firemen, Ambulance they are all under attack by this coalition government in the name of Reform.

Only today my old friends Policy Exchange seem to be promoting further privatisation of public services, although I must admit that I haven’t yet summoned up the enthusiasm to read beyond the synopsis.

What is needed, in my humble opinion, is ONE Campaign, similar to the #DoItRight campaign promoted by the Police Federation in tandem with one, co-ordinated campaign to raise public awareness of the threat to public services and the British way of life.  Once they are gone it would take a miracle to restore them.

Make no mistake this government doesn’t give one hoot what happens beyond 2015 because they will no longer be around, they are making themselves unelectable and they don’t care.  All of their (and Policy Exchange’s) ideas for Reform are being rushed through before 2015 with scant disregard for the consequences and long -term catastrophes.

Short term profits for shareholders is all they seem to be interested in together with feathering their own nests for their retirements.

I don’t really have an opinion on who heads up such a campaign and takes the ‘Lead’, but please Britain, why can’t we try it?  Can anyone think of something better? This arrogant ConDem coalition HAVE to be stopped before they disassemble Great Britain plc forever.

At the Big Picture we have blogged before on the various disasters that are being perpetrated by this government in the name of Reform, and it really is time to see The Big Picture. The future is out there and it really isn’t very bright.

Join in, do your bit, Retweet this blog far and wide, make suggestions as to how we can move forward, but above all Stop This Government before they destroy everything that we have worked hard for and can still be proud of.

Who The Hell Does Chris Grayling Think He Is?

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has issued instructions that Probation Officers face the risk of disciplinary action if they publicly criticise on Twitter or other social media his plans to outsource 70% of their work with offenders.  SO LET ME DO IT FOR THEM.

Who the hell does Chris Grayling think he is to tell a body of professionals that they must not criticise proposed plans for privatisation?  A huge chunk of the population are opposed to privatisation already, they won’t be affected one way or the other by Probation Officers speaking out.

We’ve already seen at least one of our number trampled underfoot by a sodding great elephant in the room, but this takes it to the next level, doesn’t it?  We know of at least one person who was previously gagged from engaging with anyone on Social Media, but at least that was by his own disciplinary body.  That was not instigated by a government minister, at least not overtly, who knows who was really behind it?

There seems to be plenty of opposition to the Ministry of Justice’s proposals, but it seems that the actual practitioners are prevented from voicing their disapproval.

Proposals to transfer the bulk of probation services to the private sector are “dangerously misguided” and threaten public safety, unions have warned.

Lower-risk offenders will be supervised by private firms and charities on a “payment by results” basis as part of a major shake-up of rehabilitation

Max Chambers, head of crime and justice at think-tank Policy Exchange, said there was no alternative to much greater use of the private sector.

He said: “Payment by results will mean the taxpayer only paying for what works – reducing reoffending and cutting crime, or your money back.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said payment by results in criminal justice was “untested” and the Government was taking a “reckless gamble” with public safety.

Mr Khan said every probation trust in the country was rated either good or exceptional by the Government in 2011 and warned that Mr Grayling’s proposals risked replacing them with private firms such as G4S.

And now we have the prospect of a Government Minister effectively bullying staff into staying quiet.

The wide-ranging gag includes “any comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary’s policy or actions“, and even warns that retweeting others’ comments will be taken as “incitement or approval“.

The ban was announced by Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the national offender management service, which runs prisons and probation, in a recent teleconference call with probation trust chief executives.

“He advised that the government are unhappy with CEOs and other senior managers being critical of government policy, regarding Transforming Rehabilitation on Twitter,” said one probation trust senior manager.

“He told them to behave like civil servants as they are being paid by the government. So much for free speech and democracy. It seems government policy cannot be questioned in public arenas. I am furious that staff and managers are effectively being gagged in asking questions and objecting to the direction of travel.”

Caroline Corby, the chair of the London Probation Trust says failure to comply with this rule may result in disciplinary action and for probation trust board members that could include suspension or removal from office if the justice secretary takes the view that there is a loss of confidence or a breakdown of trust involved. She adds that for the “avoidance of doubt, the following are non-exhaustive examples of unacceptable postings, endorsements tweets or retweets”. The list not only includes the usual ban on derogatory statements and offensive or abusive comments but also “comments that are made in criticism or designed to undermine the justice secretary’s policy or actions” and “political campaigning under the banner of the London probation trust”.

Call me old-fashioned but that seems like bullying to me.

A ministry of justice spokesperson confirmed that the new policy applied to all probation service staff and not just chief officers: “We have not gagged anyone. There are channels for people to express their views, but it has always been the case that public bodies and their staff are expected to act impartially to preserve their integrity,” he said. “The government has engaged with trusts every step of the way during the consultation on the proposed reforms and will continue to do so.”

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has also adopted an aggressive response to social media critics of his policies.

So there we have it, opposition to government policies on Social Media (NB It does not state Official Account, so one assumes ANY account) will be trampled on from on high.  I don’t condone public officials ranting on SM from an Official Account, but when did we lose the right to Free Speech.  Surely Human Rights are being usurped by this government AGAIN, no wonder they want to extract themselves from ECHR.  They want to abuse Human Rights too much to stay in.

Free Speech is gone, Human Rights under threat, Big Brother is alive and well, do what the government tells you to do or face the consequences. Democracy? I don’t think so. To me it seems more like a fascist regime abusing Human Rights, just like this hypocritaical government accuse other regimes of doing, but it doesn’t seem to matter when they’re doing it.  They may not lock people up,and torture them, Human Rights can be abused much more simply than that, and Freedom of Speech is one of them.

RIP Free Speech

The Green Deal – Is this the Government’s latest con?

Listening to good old BBC Radio 4 t’other day, I became aware of something called The Green Deal which the ConDem government are going to try to sell to us as the latest thing in economy and savings.

The Green Deal is designed to help householders and businesses increase the energy efficiency of properties across the UK.

You can make energy-saving improvements to your home or business without having to pay all the costs up front through the Green Deal.

Energy-saving improvements include:

  • insulation – eg loft or cavity wall insulation
  • heating
  • draught-proofing
  • double glazing
  • renewable energy technologies – eg solar panels or wind turbines

This is a 4 stage process outlined below, guaranteed not to confuse the elderly or infirm (my sarcasm, not theirs)

  1. Get an assessment of your property to see what improvements you can make and how much you could save on your energy bills.
  2. Choose a Green Deal provider to carry out the work. You discuss with them what work you want done and whether the Green Deal is right for you.
  3. If you go ahead with the improvements you must sign your Green Deal Plan – this is a contract between you and the provider stating what work will be done and how much it will cost. The provider will then arrange for a Green Deal installer to do the work.
  4. Once the work is done, you’ll pay off the money in instalments through your electricity bill.

Sounds simple?  Hmm, maybe not.

I am in no way financially qualified but most of the pitfalls of this scheme appear to fall within Stage 4, the Repayment Phase.

My own personal reservation with schemes such as this, and specifically Solar Panels, is that I have been told that the break-even point on a solar panel installation is longer than the life-expectancy of the panels themselves, meaning that they cease working and need replacing before you’ve finished paying for them.  If this is not true, please, please, please tell me the absolute facts so that I and others will know.

Another issue, which has brought to the fore locally around here, is the nature of the finance agreement.

According to ShropshireLive. com prospective purchasers should be aware that this is not a conventional loan.

“The borrowed money is paid back through energy bills over a period of time so the loan stays with the property where the savings are occurring and not with the bill payer,” said Diana Packwood,  who has over 20 years’ experience in conveyancing work and leads a team of legal experts in the homes department of Shrewsbury-based Wace Morgan.

“This also applies to people renting properties. So if you are moving into a home with a ‘Green Deal’ the owner or landlord must provide you with all the relevant information.

“As the new occupier of the home you’ll need to make repayments for the improvements through the electricity bill.”

Debby Gittins commented that as this initiative was only just being introduced many new home buyers may not be aware of its implications.

“Although the idea behind the scheme is a good one it is something which purchasers need to bear in mind as they could be burdened with repaying a loan of several hundred pounds,” she stressed.

It would appear that the majority of the British public either haven’t heard of the scheme or simply don’t understand it.  The Electrical Contractors’ Association has found that 98 per cent of Britons say they don’t fully understand the Green Deal.

After the debacle of last year’s PCC elections it seems to me that the government delight in making these schemes available but don’t want to invest any money in explaining it to the people that matter.

Finally, I can’t possibly leave this subject without mentioning the Policy Exchange think tank.  They believe that being able to snoop on our neighbours’ energy bills would lead us to cut our own by more than £75 a year, a think tank has suggested, in a classic case of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.

The psychological effect of knowing others are paying less than you stings use into changing our own habits, according to a report by Policy Exchange, with evidence from the UK and abroad showing households reduced energy use when their bills are compared with more energy efficient neighbours.

This may well be a good idea, I’m certainly not saying that it isn’t, but it does seem to me to come with potential pitfalls, so please be careful, and mind how you go.

Updating The Big Picture

Most of the blogs I read are Police-related.  The main reason for that is because that’s my background.

Earlier this year Steve and I decided that we’d give The Big Picture a try in an attempt to get some information out there about what else is going on in Public Sector Land.  We’ve featured articles on the NHS, Fire Service, Prison Service, Criminal Justice Sector, Interpreters, and I believe even HM Coastguard might have got a mention.

We have also included items on the con that is known as Privatisation and the effect that Think Tanks can have,

Most recently we have concentrated on a short series of articles on Government Wastage.  We have tried not to be party political, although this current ConDem coalition does just keep on giving (when they’re not taking away from us that is).  Waste by ANY Government on the scale that we have highlighted is extravagant, hypocritical, incompetent and bordering on the criminal.  The worst example that we have featured is the NHS IT debacle at £12 Billion.  I don’t need to point out that these wastages are cumulative and that their effects continue on and have made the cutbacks that we are suffering proportionately worse.

I am fully aware of the role that the global banking industry has played in the recession and austerity, but I do hold successive governments partly and directly responsible.  The Metropolitan Police for example are struggling to make £500 million of savings.  I’m quite sure that there will be job losses and overtime restrictions involved to a greater or lesser extent.  The last 2 governments have wasted 24 times that amount on the NHS IT farce alone.  Aircraft Carriers (avoidable) and Chinook Helicopters (avoidable) added together exceed the Met’s target savings.

To take things forward and evolve we’d like to involve you, our reader.  We’re quite happy to carry on doing what we’re doing.  What we’d like you to do is simply RT the blogs as much as you can, not because we like big numbers, but we want to spread the message as far as possible

Feel free to use the comments section at the bottom of this blog to give us any kind of feedback you think we deserve.  We’re both too old to need smoke blowing, but if you like it, let us know.  If you think we could do things a bit differently you can let us know that too.

If you have any suggestions for subject matters that you think we might like to look at by all means include those.  I’m not promising that we’ll feature them but I will promise that we’ll look into them.

Finally, much like the manyvoices blog that I’m sure you’re all aware of, if any of you wish to contribute an article anonymously that fits in with our ethos then let us have that too.

Nearly Took My Eye Off The Ball There

PCCs are nearly upon us. 15th November is the date, got your Polling Cards yet? Know where your Polling Station is? Know who you’re going to vote for? I know the answers to the 1st two, haven’t a clue about the third, although I strongly suspect it will be the Independent Candidate, I might get struck down by a thunderbolt if I vote Blue or Red.

But let us not forget that Police and Crime Commissioners are the invention of a Think Tank. Almost inevitably they were thought up by Policy Exchange and suggested to the government, that bunch of imbeciles who live near Westminster Bridge opposite the Tube Station, who immediately adopted them as government policy, and here we are, less than a month away from having them.

And then yesterday another Think Tank, Reform this time, got in on the act and added their 6 penn’orth into the mix in a report by Andrew Haldenby[1], Tara Majumdar and Will Tanner from the think tank Reform. The new report Doing it Justice is available at www.reform.co.uk

Reform claim that they are “An independent, charitable, non-party think tank whose mission is to set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity.”

There’s those two buzz words that I hate so much again; charitable and non-party. Do they really think that I will fall for that?

Getting back to the report, Police and Crime Commissioners will be elected with responsibility and budgetary control over just policing, only one of many agencies involved in the local fight against crime, and yet be accountable for crime outcomes as a whole. A separate Press article by Tara Majumdar says that Police and Crime Commissioners will be responsible for £13bn of funds annually and have democratic control over areas that are in some cases, three or four times bigger than the constituencies of local MPs. They will decide how much council tax will be spent on policing, how big the police budget should be, hire and fire chief constables and determine local strategies for reducing crime.

This is where my problems begin to creep in under the door. Chief Constables MUST NOT become the Football Managers of Justice. This is where politicisation has the potential to creep in. Chief Constables become nothing more than the puppet-master’s toy. Football club owners have a Board and Shareholders to keep happy, they need to show a profit. Policing is a Not For profit business. You can’t go round firing Chief Constables just because they didn’t make the finals or put enough silverware in a cabinet.

Then we come across the other bit that Reform are not-so-quietly whispering in the collective ear of the ConDem government. Police and Crime Commissioners cannot just react to crime when it happens. They need the power to prevent crime from happening and stop people from reoffending once they have served their sentences. To do this effectively commissioners need to be given responsibility for the whole justice system – including prisons, probation, courts and fire and ambulance services.

My immediate response is that the clue is in the title – Police and Crime Commissioners – Police and Crime, get it? Does it say Police, Crime, Prison, Probation, Fire and Ambulance Commissioner? No it does not. Nor should it. The only thing they’ve left out is the CPS, or is that next week’s bright idea?

Can you imagine it, one person with all that power and responsibility? Privatisation is on the agenda, what fool thinks that it’s a good idea to combine all of these functions under one roof? Communication and Partnership are the keys. Not partnership as in privatisation, but partnership as in organisations working together, but there must be limits. Is is a good idea for Police and Probation to work together? Is it a good idea for Police and Prison Services to work together? I’m old-fashioned and don’t subscribe to a lot of this modern ideology, but I don’t think so, such a liaison would be vulnerable to all sorts of suggestions and malpractices surely? Can you imagine, one person who thinks that privatisation is the way to go, all those services at one shop, brilliant.

Reform point out that in Gloucestershire Police and Fire share a common Control Centre. I don’t think I see a problem with that, it might even make sense, but that does not mean that the two services have to be under the sole command of one person, one service with the Right to Strike, and the other without. How would that work?

Integrating criminal justice budgets would provide Police and Crime Commissioners with a single, meaningful budget to bring down levels of crime. In London, the Mayor’s Office would have a budget of £4bn on a per capita basis if it was able to assume responsibility for the full range of services. It would also encourage a sharper focus on achieving value for money. Justice and police services have had their budgets reduced by nearly a quarter in this Spending Review and should expect further cuts in the next Parliament. With greater powers, Commissioners would be able to pass on savings directly to local communities through reductions in council tax. This would encourage local service leaders to consider how budgets are managed and how productively they are operating. Local autonomy would encourage smarter spending on preventative activity and drive down demand for expensive criminal justice services, such as the courts and prison. Is this all not jargon paving the way for more insidious privatisation? Is it too extreme to envisage a bout of megalomania at the helm?

[1] Andrew Haldenby is co-founder of REFORM together with Nick Herbert MP. Need I say more?

The ‘Hidden’ Curse of Privatisation

There have been two blogs already written which lay it on the line, what is happening out there.

These are The Green Benches and retiredandangry.  Both of them, in their own way, point out how large private companies have donated relatively modest (for them, not for us) amounts of money to to political parties or think tanks and miraculously some months or years later the companies and their shareholders benefit from windfall payments as the companies in question pick up £billion contracts which some may say are as a direct result of their ‘investment’.

Dr Éoin Clarke’s excellent blog, the Green Benches, outlines step-by-step so I don’t think that I need to replicate this here.  What is important is that you don’t think that this is a one-off, isolated incident.  We all have a view on G4S by now, and it’s probably not a very positive one.

Just so that you don’t think we’re fixated on the Police Service, I’ll move on to Care UK.

Until mid 2010 the Chairman of Care UK, one of the leading private healthcare providers in the UK , was John Nash, a British businessman with a background in private equity.  Caroline Nash, John’s wife, trained as a stockbroker before working in international merchant banking.

John Nash was appointed by George Osborne to sit on the Independent Challenge Group, who advised the government on their spending review, and also recommended, in a leaked report, that the NHS find further efficiency savings of £10bn

He also sits on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, a think-tank which aims to promote limiting the state and encouraging enterprise, and supports policies of privatisation and low taxes  This is the second think tank that John Nash is involved with, as he is seemingly involved with Policy Exchange as well.

Caroline has made the most significant donations, giving £172,500 to the Conservative Party between 2008 and 2010.  She has also made donations to Conservative MPs David Laurie Ruffley and Nick Herbert

John has donated £10,000 to the Conservatives and £40,000 to the No2AV campaign.  He also made a £21,000 donation to Andrew Lansley in the run up to the 2010 General Election.  That will be the Andrew Lansley that went on to become Health Secretary then.

The pair each donated £3,750 to Conservative candidate Philippa Stroud on the same date in October 2009.  I believe that she was unsuccessful in her campaign but is head of the Centre for Social Justice, the thinktank set up by the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, has heavily influenced David Cameron’s beliefs on subjects such as the family.  Yes, another think tank with connections to the Tories.

Private healthcare firm Care UK stands to profit from the Health and Social Care Act, which became law in April 2012 and will allow for greater private sector involvement.

The original Bill was first proposed in early 2011 by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who received a £21,000 donation from John Nash just over a year prior, whilst he was still Chairman of Care UK

Care UK was also awarded a £53m contract in January 2011 to provide health care services to prisons in the North-East

According to a report by Corporate Watch, Care UK is reducing how much tax it should pay by taking out loans through the tax haven of the Channel Islands

I also found this headline from August 2010 “Care UK’s former chairman joins Osborne spending panel”  George Osborne has recruited four City figures to join a “red team” of experts to puncture the Treasury consensus on the spending review, as he seeks inspiration for cuts that are causing mounting friction in Whitehall……

The four are Adrian Beecroft, one of the founders of Apax Partners, the private equity group; Douglas Flint, finance director of HSBC; Richard Sharp, the former head of the Goldman Sachs European private equity arm; and John Nash, a founder of the Sovereign Capital buy-out group and  chairman of Care UK, the nursing home group.

Mr Beecroft, Mr Sharp and Mr Nash are Tory donors, and some of them have been on good terms with Mr Osborne for some time.

Does this smack of ‘Jobs For The Boys’?  One commentator had this to say “It doesn’t surprise me that Osborne has plucked his advisers from the City, but I am worried that the former chairman of Care UK is one of his favoured few. Mind you, having observed the fortunes of Care UK over the past couple of years, if it is ideas for cuts that Osborne wants, Nash is brimming with them.”

Care UK’s website does not make it easy to establish who the board of directors may be, presumably they don’t want us to know that,  However, I eventually found that info here.

The website proudly proclaims “We are one of the UK’s leading independent providers of health and social care services”  and “We offer a range of services through our GP surgeries, hospitals, treatment centres and diagnostics facilities.”

I certainly can’t demonstrate that all of the correct procedures weren’t followed but if you look at this, look at the G4S scenario, look at Policy Exchange (other think tanks are available, and probably operate in the same manner) then you may be left with the same impression as me.  It stinks of Chumocracy and Thinktankocracy.

I always believed that the government were meant to represent the views of the public, not some non-elected think tank or a company who has paid a think to produce some recommendations for them.

What do you think?