Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jam & Jerusalem land that never existed.

The pleasant land of street parties, community spirit and Women’s Institute jamborees is a land that maybe existed in the rose-tinted glasses of our great grand parents but the reality has always been somewhat different.

We have a problem.

Rioting in London and other cities has brought us to a silly season debate that is important.

‘What do we do about it and why did it happen?’

Hug-a-hoodie Dave has been reined in effectively by his party and his own natural leaning.  The Right want to make the causes of the riots simple criminality and their response is equally simplistic – punish, punish, punish.

We have seen a variety of pronouncements from Dave and the gang.  ‘Evict them’ snorts piggy pickles, ‘take their benefits of them’ Invisible IDS purports, Theresa Tottie says ‘Lock them up.’ And little lou mensch wants to turn off twitter, mobile phones and facebook because they all cause riots obviously.  Wee Gove had a fizzy fit at Harriet Harman and showed himself for the fool he is. – enjoy pickles Theresa defending police while sending for Wyatt Earp (I think that’s his name or is it Robocop)

Starkey says the whites have become blacks, among much else of his racist ranting (Nick griffin wants him in the BNP).

Lets not even look at the extreme glee of some right wingers at the sentences being handed down.  Calls for Baton rounds and water cannons and national service all being bandied about like they will ‘sort out the little crims’.

And then Today Dave delivers his speech on where it all went wrong and what needs to be done about those feckless single parents and their brood of unruly tearaways.

I am biassed, I know that, but David Cameron is trying to sound tough and repromote his Jam & Jerusalem Big society as the only way forward, except that Gideon has slashed the funding that would be needed.

Apparently there is no causality of deprivation and poverty and civil unrest.  There is no link between excesses at the top and how angry those at the bottom feel.

Simplistic approaches to the causes and responses to these riots will just make things worse this time and every next time until we address the root causes.  An Americanisation of our justice and policing systems would be a disaster and should be resisted at all costs.  Our police, while poor this time, are actually not too bad at what they do.  Calls to arm the police with guns would lead to more death on our streets and do nothing to resolve the issues we face.

So much for the government and their silent partners who have been somewhat reticent to come forward and oppose the far right assaults on liberty and freedoms, let alone the injustices to follow.

Mind you Bullingdon Dave and Arson Clegg have got form on this front so don’t expect too much.

Labour leader Ed Miliband’s response today was measured (if a little too syrupy for my liking) and attacked the soundbite superficiality of the Government.  All good stuff, calling for a review rather than a pre written exercise is a good thing.

However, This problem was born decades ago and while Mrs T made it worse by her policies (unemployment a price worth paying etc) Messrs Blair and Brown did not tackle the problem either.  So much more should have been done and wasn’t.  Welfare reform has been needed for some time but the solution being touted will be disastrous for the weakest in our society.

Education and jobs are the twin pillars to resolve this time bomb both of which are in the process of being savaged by Gove and ‘No-growth’ Gideon.

Macho rhetoric will no doubt fill the airwaves for a while yet, and once that passes the cooler heads can start trying to create an integrated approach to address this mess.

Political point scoring and soundbites are not helping, but then again they never have.

Dave and Ed on the same page.


Riots. Social response or Criminal opportunism?

The link below is to a map of flashpoints and riot events in London.,-0.056305&spn=0.39294,0.630341&z=10&source=embed

As a Scotsman, I feel for those suffering under the riots and thank goodness that it isn’t happening here (but it could have).

What is a riot?

Defn ‘ A violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.’

A riot is an expression of displeasure, an expression of an underlying problem.  The notion that this serious string of rioting is a copycat or an outbreak of criminal behaviour is simplistic in the extreme.  Have we  learned nothing since Toxteth and Brixton in the 80’s.

The behaviour is the criminal element.  The Riot is symptomatic of  much deeper problems.

If people (mostly young) have no means to resolve the issues that blight their society or situation, at some point it will explode into behaviour that the rest of us abhor.  When the societal systems fail (metropolitan Police, Politicians, Media, welfare, housing, wealth distribution) then the powder keg is being primed.  We have had all of these very recently, but we have had a drift of these over many years.  The systems have being failing the people for years.  The prospects that many of these (young) people see ahead are bleak and have no sign of improving.  Lives of quiet desperation looming for many.  A paucity of hope and positive messages are having an impact.

In no way am I saying that wrecking the place and looting are acceptable.  They aren’t and it’s counter productive.  The riots will disguise the need to resolve the problems and will not lead to an addressing of the problem.  The causes of poverty and the impact of deprivation are wide-ranging.  Not all poor people riot, however.  It is the widening gaps between the have’s and have-nots that cause the growing dissatisfaction and resentment (it is a comparative issue).

When the spark comes then the keg explodes.  Young people (mostly) have collectively stuck two fingers up to the society that ignores and disadvantages them and the looting is an opportunity to profit from the chaos.  There is no understanding of the impact on their own communities and the further blight they are bringing on themselves.  The breakdown of many communities have reduced the feeling of belonging that prevents many from wrecking where they live.

The chance to confront authority and lash out at the embodiment of the policies that have contributed to their situation is why the Police are facing such violent opposition.  The police don’t always get it right (and often get it wrong) but they need to be supported by the rest of the community and families.

Opportunist looting is taking place (adults and kids at it) because the likelihood of getting caught is limited.  When we think (collectively) that there is no chance of getting caught then behaviours change and opportunity to profit is taken.  Looting is an attempt to redress the balance in terms of wealth distribution.  They can’t afford the big TV or newest phone and the opportunity to get one at the expense of the ‘faceless’ corporations presents itself, many will take it.

So Rioting, is it a social response?  Yes.

Is it Criminal opportunism? Yes.

Criminal behaviour has to be pursued through the courts and we all know that the first priority is to stem the lawlessness.  The more important action will be a longer term review of how we address the root causes of the problems.






£3.75bn Savings or Cuts?

This article on the BBC got on my wick.

Coalition government in an effort to look macho and efficient (and probably to deflect some heat with ‘good news’) has paraded Francis Maude to tell us that the wasteful previous Government and wasters in the public sector are being ‘sorted out’.

‘Staggering savings’ says mr Maude, But are they really?  How much is savings and how much are cuts?

I like efficiency so if there are savings to be made then by all means we should be making them.  Waste is the enemy of every organisation and government and public sector are no different.

However, efficiency becomes inefficiency when the service deteriorates as a function of a drive to save.  So lets look at the list that Macho man Maude has touted round the papers.

Savings list

  • 870m from cutting consultancy spending
  • Nearly £500m from reducing spend on temporary agency staff
  • £400m from cutting marketing spending
  • £360m from centralising spend on common goods and services
  • £800m from renegotiating deals with some of the largest suppliers to government, equivalent to 6% of a full year of spend with those suppliers
  • £150m from 2010-11 budgets for government’s major projects, by halting or curtailing spending
  • £300m by “applying greater scrutiny” to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) expenditure
  • £90m reduction on property expenses by “exerting better control” over lease renewal

So which do we applaud and which do we recognise as cuts.

Lease renewal is a bit wibblesome ‘exerting better control’? would that have occurred anyway? (Probably but we’ll let that go)

Centralised spend on common goods and services.  Looks good but as I (at work) use a centralised purchasing system I know how much the Public sector gets ripped off by private sector supplier.  However, first year savings usually good.  One to watch at any rate.  So will accept this saving.

‘Applying greater scrutiny’ to ICT. This will be a cut dressed as a saving.  ‘Greater Scrutiny’ too vague and should be occurring at all times so not inclined on this one. efficiency losses if equipment and ICT gets old / obsolete as costs also rise for maintenance.  As an aside, the support firms for ICT might as well have ‘stand and deliver’ on their invoices.

Renegotiated deals – ask yourself why we allow the Private sector chums of Maude & co to rob the Public purse?  they wouldn’t be giving up excess profits if it wasn’t coming back elsewhere.  Contract law not easy to change deals.

£500m cuts in temporary staff.  Cuts.  If the posts were needed, then they were needed.  who is taking up the slack.  Bigger burden on remaining staff and a deteriorating service.

£150m by cutting or halting projects – Cuts.

Cutting consultancy & cutting Marketing spending.  The clue is in the statement, cuts.  These have a wider impact on the economy and the service we receive.  Consultants are consulted to make savings and give advice to ensure better decision-making.  Easy to say waste but they are often massive savers of costs.

Marketing is a critical business function, but how much Government need to spend on Marketing I am not entirely sure.  Some I would expect, but it looks like an easy target but may not be any more effective if spending cut.

So from the above there are some savings but there are some that are cuts.

Less than half of the list are really savings (90m + 300m + 360m + 800m) and some of these are iffy at best.

The rest of the headline is based on cuts.

Not something to trumpet in my opinion.  Add to this

17,000 civil service posts were cut between May 2010 and March 2011 as part of measures to cut the UK deficit.

Maude ‘Is just scratching the surface’ which doesn’t bode well for public sector next year.  More so it shows his mindset that Public sector needs to be savaged to minimise its role in the country.

Also he wants to centralise control over spending decisions

‘Officials now have to get Mr Maude’s approval on a range of spending decisions, including any marketing proposals costing more than £20,000 and ICT projects costing more than £1m.’

So Frannie wants to turn the taps on and off as he decides.  Is this good governance or political interference.

Efficiency isn’t just cuts.  It’s about time that someone told Mr Maude.

£3.75bn Savings? my arse.