Posts Tagged ‘Council Chief’
Almost all the allotmenteers read Private Eye. We love it. Mind you, Mr Hislop may not love us since we only buy one copy which is passed around over the next fortnight before the next issue arrives. Today we gathered round to look at the cover of the special 50th anniversary edition. Good cover – they always are. Today features pictures of Harold Macmillan and David Cameron. The magazine asks itself if satire makes a difference. Under Super Mac’s picture the caption reads “Magazine pokes fun at Old Etonian Prime Minister surrounded by cronies making a hash of running the country”. Under Cameron it simply says “Er…”.
For half a century the magazine has beaten the dailies to every story and every scandal. There must be many a politician, both local and national, who opens the latest copy with trepidation. There must be many a council chief too, not to mention the press whose double standards the Eye delights in exposing.
Today the Daily Mail gets some stick. On September 15th the Mail attacked the BBC for its decision to show, with his permission, the death of a cancer-stricken soldier. The BBC had, pronounced the Mail, gone too far in a cynical attempt to boost ratings. The Eye goes on to show the Mail’s reaction to Gaddafi’s death. It cleared the width of its website’ s homepage to display no fewer than 17 pictures including his mutilated corpse and another of his son.
The Sun also earns attention. “Disgraced Liam Fox will get a £17,000 pay off despite breaking the ministerial code”, fumed the tabloid. The Eye says that clearly the case of the defence secretary is quite different to that of news International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who walked off with a mere £4 milliom pay off in July after “presiding so brilliantly over the phone-hacking disaster”.
Above all, the Eye does superb investigative journalism unequalled by any other. Be the government Labour or Conservative there is a real lashing when corruption is unearthed, and over the years there has been a great deal of that.
More people should buy Private Eye. Its revelations never cease to astonish, its humour never fails to delight.
By way of a postscript here is a paragraph supposedly written by George Osborne ; ” I welcome the latest monthly figures which show that inflation has leapt to 5.2 per cent as showing that plan A is working. City economists said a rise like this was simply impossible, but I have delivered an inflation figure far higher than anyone could possibly have predicted. I see no reason why, under my stewardship of the economy, inflation shouldn’t outstrip all predictions once again”.
Happy anniversary Private Eye, may you continue to spotlight the crooks and deflate the pompous for many years to come!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE WEEKEND GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ:
1. Which club joined the Football League in 1978 and made the Premiership in 2005? 2. Dove Cottage was home of which poet? 3. Which Pole was first reached in 1909? 4. Which Day replaced Empire Day in 1958? 5. Alfred the Great ruled which kingdom? 6. Estoril is a resort north east of which major city? 7. Which No 1 for Norman Greenbaum was reworked by Gareth Gates? 8. Who was the founder lead singer with Led Zeppelin in 1968? 9. Freddie Powell found fame as which crazy comic? 10. Which Britsh surgeon was a pioneer in improving surgery hygiene?
Our allotment association has always enjoyed a good relationship with the local Council and we were pleased to note that it is not one of those being fingered in this morning’s Telegraph. But many are and the latest revelations by the expenses whistle-blower would have turned our hair grey, if it wasn’t already that way inclined. As Albert reasonably remarked as we cleaned out the hens it is somewhat worrying that these are the very people taking decisions about local services. And it seems that some of them would rather close down care for the vulnerable than trim their own near-fraudulent use of taxpayer-funded credit cards.
Having been ordered to cut spending by almost 30 per cent, many council chiefs have clearly decided that they are not going to be the ones to suffer. The details revealed today show a situation every bit as bad as the MPs saga. Town hall chiefs have continued to indulge in dinners at Michelin-starred restuarants, trips abroad and expensive gifts including iPads and video games. Hospitality bills obtained under the Freedom of Information Act list dinners at Claridge’s, hog roasts and champagne receptions, as well as thousands of pounds on booking tables at award ceremonies. Over a half-million was blown on Tiffany jewellery, Gucci products and silk ties, while online shopping sprees racked up bills of more than £300,000 at Argos and £150,000 at Amazon.
The credit card spending of 186 councils over the past three years has been examined and their collective use of the taxpayer-funded cards amounted to an astonishing £40 million plus. The councils only agreed to release information disclosing exepnditure of over £500 so heaven alone knows what the grand total was. Small wonder that Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has described the spending as “wild”. Obscene might have been a better description!
Top of the list of villains is Cornwall council which spent almost £9 million. It used its cards to fund travel to India, Thailand and Japan and spent £81,000 on hospitality and restaurant meals. It bought home cinema systems, disco equipment, fish tanks and musical equipment. There are many more details of wild extravagence at both this and other councils. However, there are many examples of councils that spent virtually nothing. Crawley, for example, spent just £1,268 over the three years and that was for IT training. So we have a true scandal here for no one can argue that the expenditure is par for the course.
The more one examines the details of the high spenders the worse it becomes. Pembrokeshire caught my eye. They spent on tickets to see the musical ‘Blood Brothers’ and to see ‘We Will Rock You’ at the Millennium Centre. Who exactly enjoyed these and other similar treats?
It is unfair to blame the coalition for this. They have only recently realised that each council has been allowed to draw up its own guidelines, and Whitehall officials are understood to be increasingly concerned that there has for a long time been little oversight on exependiture. Indeed accounting at some councils appears to have been lax in the extreme, Cornwall was unable to even identify currency used and the information they provided contradicted receipts obtained by the newspaper.
Council tax has more than doubled over the past decade as local authorities have insisted that they have struggled to maintain services. Yet many of them were apparently involved in extremely dubious financial practices which quite probably was not even know to all elected members. Officials have treated themselves to iPads, Macbooks and iPhones and run up huge bills at John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer.
Meantime they are shedding more than 170,000 jobs, closing libraries and slashing spending on the elderly. Disgraceful is too mild a summary, the police should be called in. Perhaps whoever it was authorised tens of thousnads on Nintendo Wiis and Xboxes as well as on video games such as Guitar Hero would like to explain where those items are. Better still perhaps they should go along to one of the many protest meetings regarding care homes closures and tell the people there.
The Westminster expenses revelations proved that our politicial structure is rotten to the core. Sadly we can now add local government! Big Eric Pickles never seems afraid to throw his considerable weight about, he should start today by transferring the authority for credit card use to his central department. Unworkable? Not for the many who spend virtually nothing!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Richard 2. Five 3. Alexander Selkirk 4. US President 5. The Strand Magazine 6. The Verve 7. Chamonix, France 8. Albert Reynolds 9. A fusil 10. Only once
I must admit that after a couple of days away I invariably return to the allotment shed to the news that an argument has shattered the peace. And invariably Europe is the subject. Perhaps our group is typical of the country as a whole in being somewhat divided on the progressive takeover of our national self-determination. Some believe that our own government has proved so inept that it is high time its powers were ceded to another body. An equally large number rant on about unelected bureaucrats and endless inappropriate laws.
For my part I regret Blair’s trick in regard to the ratified Treaty by another name. He had promised in the Labour Party manifesto that any change would be subject to a referendum. Needless to say he used weasel words to avoid one and here we are at the mercy of people who have no fear of retribution from us. Perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies in that he pulled back from the Euro!
Anyway, the latest argument has been triggered by the ruling that our Nursing and Midwifery Council must not ‘discriminate’ against European nurses. Brussels officials have warned the Council that it faces huge lawsuits if EU nurses are barred. The Council chief Executive, Prof Dickon Weir-Hughes, has blasted the move. He says that while freedom of movement within the EU in general terms is positive, in this particular instance it definitely is not. The clash arises because the Council insists that nurses must have at least 450 hours of experience and pass rigorous tests including language. Now they will only need a nursing diploma from their own country.
The biggest issue is one of language. The NHS has already experienced major problems with nurses from Spain who proved to be excellent practitioners but whose English was poor and thus had major communication problems with patients. Indeed there have been instances of dangerous developments arising from misunderstandings. This point has not been missed by the Chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell. He is on record as saying that “a lot of MPs and the public are not happy where nurses who are inadequately trained and who can’t speak English to a certain standard can work in our NHS”. His Committee plans to investigate but in reality is powerless. This rule, like many others, is beyond the authority of the British parliament.
Of course there will be those who trot out the old case that the English spoken by Europeans is better than the Spanish or French spoken by Brits but this misses the point. The last thing that an ill elderly prson, or any other for that matter, is to be unable to understand what the nurse wishes to convey. It is simply unacceptable.
But there it is. Whether we like it or not we have been sold out to Brussels and many suspect that the surrender was part of the Blair-for-EU-President campaign that many of his friends conducted with vigour. He has gone and we are trapped. It is not being a ‘Little Englander’ or cricket devotee to suggest that language is a major barrier to things ever turning out for the better!
BREAKTHROUGH ON ALZHEIMER’S
Today’s press carries potentially exciting news of a possible breakthrough in the understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. Researchers have found that a protein triggered by rheumatoid arthritis can undo the ‘tangles’ in the brain believed to cause Alzheimer’s. In trials conducted in South Florida scientists have found that in some cases the memory impairment was completely reversed after treatment. The protein is commercially available and known as Leukine.
As people with rheumotoid arthritis suffer swollen joints, the protein stimulates scavenger cells in the body. In tests on mice , these cells removed deposits left by Alzheimer’s in the brain. Prof Huntingdon Potter said yesterday that he hoped the treatment would shortly be tested on humans. He added that “our findings provide a compelling explanation for why rheumatoid arthritis is a negative risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease. Better still the scientist who led the study, Dr Tim Boyd, reported being “amazed that the treatment reversed cognitive impairment within 20 days”
This could be news as if from God for the vast number of people who suffer so much from this deadful condition. It could equally be wonderful news for carers, both professional and domestic, who work so hard to cope, without the resources from government that they deserve, with what is arguably the worst affliction of all.
NEED A POLICEMAN? TRY TESCO!
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals plans to close hundreds more police stations. Tim Brain, who retired recently as chief constable of Gloucestershire, says that the 25 per cent cuts inposed by the coalition will oblige forces to consider all their options and station closures are bound to be amongst them”.
Some forces are already planning to set up desks in Tesco stores which tend to be open around the clock. The situation already is that 90 per cent of police stations open for shorter hours that the retailer.
One thing is for sure. The government will force the reduction of bobbies on the beat and a call to Tesco may be the only hope during the hours of darkness. Who will man the desk when the duty officer responds to calls is open to conjecture! Either way my self understanding tells me that I will never feel confident about law-enforcement emanating from the souce of my puddings.
If ever there was a time to take up a criminal career this is it. Especially since Ken Clarke’s right-hand man has announced that prison parties are to be allowed. Oh no, he has been sacked but his comments say a lot about the sentiments of the Justice Department!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ: 1. Peter Brook 2. Twiggy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. ELF was active in East Africa in the 70s. What do the initials stand for ? 2. Mozambique became independent in 1975. Which country ruled it before then ?