Posts Tagged ‘Red Tape’
It is some time since this Royal College of Old Codgers warned of the dangers of the new planning laws proposed by Big Eric Pickles and his mates. Ostensibly the idea of reducing the size of the existing laws is about cutting red tape, something the big fella has a justifiable aversion to. But the fact that the outside advisers were all development tycoons had us worried. Even more worrying was the announcement that local authorities must always judge planning applications in such a way that development must proceed, in effect an abolition of the right for local authorities and communities to object when someone decides to make a million by building on fields supposedly protected by the green-belt.
At the time of my blog, various people contacted me to suggest that the passing of the years have addled my grey matter. This, they assured me, was nothing more than a simplification of the planning restrictions imposed during the reign of King Grumpy Gordon. It will, they screamed – why do people always assume that codgers are deaf – encourage enterprise, which is exactly what is needed right now. We certainly received no support for our contention that the plan involved handing over to developers the right to steam-roller local opinions before bulldozing the little green space still available to them.
It was therefore something of a reassurance to learn that The Commons Environmental Audit Committee shares our misgivings. The committee has written to David Cameron urging him to reconsider the “unsatisfactory” wording of the framework. It will, says Joan Walley, chair of the committee, create a “free-for-all”. As written the bill creates a situation that is “a bit like playing football without having the rules of the FA”, she adds. The committee believes that the changes could spark “unsustainable building across the UK”.
So what has prompted MPs to jerk into life on this? We codgers are not so loopy as to imagine that it was anything to do with what we said. More likely influence is the petition organised by the National Trust which, unlike the developers and their lobbyists, has been denied regular access to Downing Street. Over 200,000 have already signed the protest and the majority of thses undoubtedly come from Tory heartlands.
Possibly they have also read the report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England which reveals that right now there is sufficient brownfield land to build 1.5 million new homes – equivalent to about six years supply of housing – without the need to use any green sites at all. Of course developers prefer the higher profits that result from the use of virgin land!
But whatever the reasons for the Audit Committee attacking the plan, it has to be good news for everyone who believes that there has to be a better reason for destroying our heritage than the lining of tycoon’s pockets within which the Prime Minister sits.
And another thing, as she-who-must-be-obeyed is wont to say when listing my misdemeanours -if MPs are really in the mood to take up awkward issues they might care to also take a look at the fiasco surrounding security for the Olympics. Here again we codgers dared to question whether simply hiring 10,000 private security guards from ‘G4S’ was sufficient to ensure that all the terrorists allowed to pass unhindered through our ports and airports recently were kept well away from what will be a potential target for madmen.
Today we learn that someone up there has suddenly decided that the actual number needed will be 21,000. The Army has been asked to fill the considerable gap but have only 2000 men and women available. So ’G4S’ has been asked to come up with another 10,000. Assuming that the other problem (of no budget) can be overcome, recruitment will begin next week and there will not be time for full security checks or training.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that someone up there is clueless. The planning revolt by MPs is hopefully but the first indication that our elected representatives are beginning to share our feeling of unease!
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE MIDWEEK QUIZ AND A VERY SPECIAL FEATURE!
This time last year we would have described this morning as cold. Everything is relative and, after the coldest December since Adam was a lad, we felt it to be quite mild. Just as well for today we were joined by Barry, who is new to the self-sufficiency lark, and so rare are new members that we have to hang on to them with might and main. Barry has been made redundant by the local authority and has decided to produce his own eggs. That sounds daft so I will rephrase it. He has decided to keep chickens. A few days ago his first self-assembly coop arrived.
Even those of us used to the perils of MFI kits tend to struggle for up to two hours with coops and we usually enlist the help of a friend. Not Barry. To our astonishment he had finished within 30 minutes. There was however a snag, he had several pieces left over and they happened to secure the floor section. Albert, not a candidate for the diplomatic service, was quick to rabbit on about more haste less speed. Bill poured oil on troubled waters by suggesting that Barry was no worse than the coalition.
When as a team we had eventually reassembled Barry’s prefab, we retired to the hut for the last of the Christmas sherry. Bill enlarged on the coalition bit. Unlike the rest of us he had read the front page of several of today’s papers and the unfortunate story of the much lauded ‘bonfire of the Quangos’ which warmed our anti-bureaucracy hearts soon after the election. You may remember the PR. Under Labour a zillion unelected Quangos had been created and the whole land was creaking under the weight of a million orders. Even worse the empire of the uneleceted was consuming billions of the national purse. They were all to be abolished within the first four months of the new Cameron/Clegg wonderworld. And before we read today’s reports of the Commons public admistration select committee that is exactly what we imagined had happened. The whole pile of red tape and waste had been hurled on to the bonfire, and good riddance.
But it seems that, as in many other things, the coalition acted with undue haste. The chairman of the committee which investigated the Clegg version of Guy Fawkes night is Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, and he had nothing good to say about what has happened. He says that “the whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the big society and save money at the same time”. The whole project says Mr Jenkins “has been botched”.
And he hadn’t finished at that. He added that “in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and needs to be much improved for future reviews”. Not surprisingly the Labour members were quick to join in the latest Clegg bashing. John Tricket talked of chaos and an irrational, unaccountable and expensive mish-mash of proposals which will do nothing to improve the quality of services.
Today’s report is profoundly critical of the Quango-vetting process used. It claims that the criteria used to test whether a Quango should survive were conflicting and inconsistently applied. An example quoted was the decision to make art funding independent of government yet film funding went the other way. This report won’t make good bedtime reading for the head muppets, the summary is best left until dawn. For it confirms the committee’s view that the project will not deliver savings or result in greater accountability.
At some stage of its work the committee called the head of the Civil Service, Gus O’Donnell, to clarify the supposed cost savings. Despite being given time to go way and organise an audit Mr O’Donnell was obliged to confirm that he coudn’t prdouce an analysis of any net savings which is probably Sir Humphfrey speak for ‘there ain’t any’.
Add this fiasco to the news that we are cutting up for scrap brand new ships and planes and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the deeds of government are straight from the script of Monty Python. And one cannot exclude the previous administration from that since they created the said Quangos, ships and planes in the first place. But we are now in a bigger mess than ever for we have work carried out by Quangos now lying unattended and we haven’t saved so much as a quid in the process.
The prime minister will probably respond to the select committee by ordering an Inquiry which wil take several years to reach a conclusion by which time the Miliband family will be ready to reinstate the Quangos. How else will they find jobs for their favourite uncles?
The next time there is talk on high of bonfires someone should perhaps suggest that they are checked for content before ministers strike a match!
ASHES TRIUMPH CHEERS THE NATION!
So excellent was the England performance down under that it is probably unfair to single out individuals. This was truly a team performance and bowlers and batsmen alike demonstrated just how far England have come under Flower and Strauss. Even the loss of Stuart Broad failed to derail the team and, by the end of the Sydney Test, the Aussies were lining up to describe the England standard as well above their own.
Sadly the series marked the end of Paul Colligwood’s Test career. And he went out on a characteristic note when he flung himself like a circus acrobat to snatch the edge that did for Ricky Ponting in Perth. Paul was a world-class fielder and a gritty performer with bat and ball. He is a man of great self understanding and has used his abilities to the fullest extent possible.
Of course we all realise that Australia are no longer the greatest, in fact they are way behind both South Africa and India. But we should relish the moment. England will surely never travel to those famous grounds again and come away so utterly triumphant.
FAMOUS CRICKET ‘SLEDGES’; Steve Waugh was arranging the field for Nasser Hussein who had just arrived at the crease. He placed Ponting at silly point and said “I want you right under his nose”. Ponting replied ” that would be anywhere inside a three mile radius”. Sadly Nassar laughed so much that he was dismissed the next ball.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Cruel Sea 2. 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British daily newspaper closed down in March 1971? 2. Of which country was General Yakubu Gowon head of state?
Two of tioday’s stories give me great pleasure. At long last someone up there has worked out that theNHS managers and red tape we hear so much about are not to be found in our hospitals but in the multi-tiered bureaucracy under which they suffer. And by way of a bonus ‘two Jags’ Prescott made his debut in the House of Lords. But we must turn to the NHS initially since its fortunes affect every family in the land whereas those of John Prescott touch only the members of a Hull working-mens club.
Apart from ferret-breeding the NHS is the only subject known to man on which I can claim to have hands-on experience and regular readers will know that I have regularly banged on about the the £1.5 billion being squandered on Strategic Health Authorites and Primary Care Trusts, neither of which makes any useful contribution to patient care and both of which cause great frustration at busy hospitals who have enough to do without filling in a zillion forms per day. I therefore raise my glass to Health Secretary Andrew Tilsley who has decided to abolish them. At a stroke he has saved a fortune and made it easier for clinicians to do what we want them to do.
However I must now put down my glass because Mr Tilsley has selected the wrong replacement. The theory of GPs running the NHS is fanciful and, in my view, will not work. I suspect that somewhere in this is the Conservative dream of privatising our health service. GPs are part of the private sector and many of them have vested interests in setting up services to be bought-in by the NHS. Governance could be a major problem here and for once George Osborne was right to flag up concern at handling £80 billion into their care. But there are other and more practical reasons for fearing failure.
The relationship between a family doctor and specialists/surgeons is a key part of a patients pathway. Placing one in the role of commissioner and the other as a mere provider will create huge tensions and will damage what even now can be a fragile realtionship particularly when the GP referral or preliminary diagnosis is inappropriate. Then there is the problem of ability and/or willingness to undertake such a role. Few GPs have any expertise in business accountancy and even fewer wish to spend their precious time coping with it.The result will be that a large number of practices will come together to float a professional commissioning body and they will recruit many of the people now facing redundancy in the Primary Care Trusts. And a complicated web of constant debate will ensue with the smaller practices continually complaining that their larger competitors are influencing things their way.
Worse still we will end up with post code lottery that will make the present system look fair by comparison. Decisions on form of treatment and affordability of special drugs cannot be left to local decision, there must be a nationwide ruling to ensure equity. And in my view the worst outcome of all will be the attempt by some ambitious GP entrepeneurs to take away the routine work form hospitals. There can only be one outcome from this-the hospitals close. The previous government tried this and had there not been a massive public reaction one of the hospitals that I chaired would now be closed. As it is it has the UK’s first Assessment and Treatment Centre. The attempt by Patricia Hewitt and her team was to hand outpatient services to a South African company. The loss of the ‘profitable’ and easy work would have left the hospital unable to subsidise the complex life-saving work.
The Tories have got it half right and have my applause for that. They now need to look again at the GP route which is fraught with danger. There is a simpler and safer solution. They should allow the Department of Health to set up a network of small regional offices and administer cash allocation from those. The existing Health Care Commission should be responsible for clinical inspections. They should add the Foundation Trust regulator, Monitor, to their list of closures.And they should stop perpetuating the ridiculous Labour habit of isolating, and thus alienating, the hospital Consultants. Our lives regularly depend on them!
Whatever the government believes it is quite impossible in the UK to privatise health services.They quote as an example the United States but that is quite different.The private health suppliers there provide a total service including all aspects of emergency medicine. The private ones here do not and even their care of minor ops patients rests on their ability to send any patient with complications tot he nearest NHS hospital.
Now with a sigh of relief and a hearty belly-laugh let us turn to the arrival of Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull in our county of East Yorkshire in the House of Lords. Letters from the Queen were read out, they explained in pitiless detail why she had picked her ‘right, trusty and well-beloved counsellor John Prescott’ for the job. If job it be. Any attempt to express all this in Prescottese would fail because it is written in just that. All the ‘grace of God, especial grace, certain knowledge and mere motion’ was so obtuse as to have been penned by the great man himself. But I for one begrudge him not.
Yes we are the world’s most class-conscious nation and yes our John has always banged on about the working class. But that is what he will continue to be and any Minister prepared to dive into the crowd to thump an egg-thrower has my vote. So long as this farcica,l class-ridden place continues it is only right to place a few real people in it. And he will liven the place up, especially if someone calls him an oik!
OTHER NEWS FOR TODAY; Education Minister Michael Gove established a new record for the number of errors made in a single day when he published a list of schools whose new buildings were to be axed and included over 30 errors. The resulting lawsuits may cancel out any savings hoped for. XX Harry Whittington who changed the way we understand the origin of animal diversity, has died at the age of 94. XX 12 women await execution in Iran on adultery charges XX The new Office for Budget Responsibility is under fresh attack for slashing its forecasts for expected job losses from Osborne’s budget just days before publication.
SOMETHING I LEARNED FOR THE FIRST TIME YESTERDAY; The number of players performing in the top Spanish League who are qualified to play for Spain is 77.1%. The number of players in our Premier League qualified to play for Englnad is below 40%. And Spain are in the World Cup Final!#