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Showing posts from December, 2004
Stealth Taxes and ID Cards
This is the ID Cards Bill

Anyone who thinks they support the legislation should read the bill. This is intended over time to apply to everyone over the age of 16 in the UK except:

a) Those who are in the country for less than 3 months
b) Those who have no right to stay in the UK

The government's argument for it is that:

"Ministers say the cards can help tackle terrorism, make national borders more secure, and prevent abuse of benefits and public services. "

On Terrorism:
Spain has compulsory ID cards, but that did not prevent the Madrid Bombing.

On Making Borders More Secure:
People don't have to have ID cards to pass through the borders and can always claim they have been here less than 3 months. Asylum Seekers generally won't have to register.

On preventing the abuse of benefits:
1 in 20 of cases of benefits fraud could be affected by this leaving 95% unaffected. More effective work on National Insurance could deal with this.

It …
Spending Review 2004
The government are not guaranteeing any of the figures in the spending review which
is available here.

There is no question, however, that Gershon is tightly bound into the assumptions of the Spending Review.

The irony is that the DFES requirements for schools to do an efficiency audit is likely to put up costs.

Gershon, Bezhti and the Piano
Today was another financial review looking toward the 2005/6 budget. Most worries lie out in the medium term. Something Birmingham has not concentrated on is the
Gershon Report into public sector efficiency.

Para 3.5 is the challenge for local government arguing that by 2007-8 savings of £6,450,000,000 per year can be found from local government. This is out of a total forecast figure of £21,480,000,000. (This is apparently an agreed figure. Noone asked me to agree it for Birmingham.) When you look at the appendix this is just a figure of 2.5% (per year) extrapolated to 2007-8.

40% of this is supposed to come from schools, 10% from policing and 35% from other procurement. Where the other 15% comes from (what's £967,500,000 between friends) is not clear.

Still I don't think anyone has told Mr Tony "Education, Education, Education" Blair that he is going to be looking for savings (cuts) of £2,580,000,000 per year by 2007-8 from schoo…
Strategies vs Results
Local and Central government is full of thoughts about strategies and a "strategic approach". Looking at dictionary.com we find:

A plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal. See Synonyms at plan.
or
The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.

Are probably valid.

Ignoring the military definitions a strategem is defined as:
A clever, often underhanded scheme for achieving an objective. See Synonyms at wile

Alternatively we have:
n 1: an elaborate and systematic plan of action

So assuming that strategies are not supposed to be underhanded. What we have is a big detailed plan.

The real problem is that what people try to do is to have big strategies that are long documents with lots of things in them.

Then it comes to implementation of the strategy and what happens is that the people doing things decide what they want to do and then work out how it fits to the strategy.

In other wor…
Lib Dem Watch 0 : Me 10
After weeks of trying Lib Dem watch have failed totally to demonstrate one example of the Birmingham Liberal Democrats being opportunistic.

Yes, the judge in a recent libel case did say we could not be sued because we did not exist in a legal sense (having no legal personage). However, I contend that although the party is a campaigning party it campaigns on the basis of principles rather than merely being opportunist.

Dictionary.com defines an opportunist as:

One who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences


In particular it implies someone who changes viewpoint with the wind. I accept that Lib Dem watch have allowed an edited right of reply for some of their allegations. However, they did encourage me to have another go at blogger which is now far more reliable than it used to be ... hence this blog.

Dealing directly with their points.

The party does campaign on the basis that the war in Iraq was …
resistance is futile,
Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Western Europe. It has a gross budget of about £2,400,000,000 and employs (including teachers and school staff) over 55,000 people.

When I became Deputy Leader of The Council in June 2004 I had already been a City Councillor since 1990. I had a reasonably wide experience of organisations including the company I founded in 1983 jhc plc (Aka John Hemming and Company) which now has around 100 staff (including partners) and turns over about £6 Million.

The organisational dynamic is quite interesting. For those people who liked "Yes minister" being a fly on the wall during some of the internal meetings in the City Council would be quite entertaining. The Standards Board for England prevents me from telling all the truth about the city council.

It is quite clear that the previous administration did not try to manage the authority. The leader Cllr Sir Albert Bore did manage to control some thing…
ZWAS
The "Zero Waste" Achievement Strategy
One of the changes implemented by the concordat has been for Birmingham City Council to aim for Zero Waste. Zero Waste is a concept initially developed in New Zealand that aims to see used resources as a resource rather than waste. After a tussle with the bureaucracy* Birmingham's Municipal Waste Management Strategy is now the Zero Waste Achievement Strategy. Birmingham has historically been an authority that is difficult to change. The new administration has now, however, got its hands on the levers of power and is starting to manipulate them.

Birmingham used to be quite good on dealing with rubbish. The department was called the "Salvage" department - which is the right attitude. However, after the Heath Government created the West Midlands County Council one of the County's first actions was to say "landfill is cheap - lets fill up the landfill sites". This undermined what was actually a reasonabl…
Geology vs Economics - the Match of the Century
I must admit, I put my money on the geologists.

There is an important debate between Geologists and Economists as to the importance of fossil fuel depletion. Geologists take the view that "once its gone its gone". Economists take the view that as the price goes up alternative sources will be found.

To some extent they are both right. The difficulty is that we need to get the starting Joules from somewhere which is what tips the balance to the geologists. Fossil fuels are a reserve of solar energy that has been hanging around for millions of years. People think that hydrogen or electricity will be a source of energy. However, you need energy to produce electricity or combustible hydrogen so that is a complete non-starter as a source of energy. It can be used for temporary storage, however.

One of the biggest ironies is that there is a perspective that there is insufficient fossil fuel to even fuel sufficient to meet the Kyot…
Tribes, Culture, Religion and Politics
One of the greatest problems faced by the world is that which results in a failure to understand the nature of the political anthropology of different societies and cultures across the world.
This demonstrates itself in the culture clash over the play Bezhti just as much as it demonstrates itself in inner city gang culture and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
The first challenge is to separate religion from culture. It is entirely possible for people to have the same religion, but an entirely different culture. At the same time people can have the same culture and a different religion.
From an anthropological sense most human cultures develop around the family and the extended family. This can build up a sense of "tribe" or "clan". In many countries this segmented structure for society is the key structure. Most tribal structures are based around patriarchy and frequently property is more held in common by the family …
Social Capital
I don't have a lot of time for governmental buzzwords as they often have little relevance on the ground. However, I make an exception for "social capital".

Social Capital is well described in Robert Puttnam's book Bowling Alone it is a measure of the values in society beyond those which are purely financial. The statistic used to measure Social Capital is generally that proportion of people who trust strangers in different circumstances. It is important as a society in which people can trust each other is one in which people don't have to spend too much time protecting their backs. That means that people can work for a good quality of life for a higher proportion of their time/effort.

It is the concept of Social Capital that exists behind civil renewal (one of ODPM's buzzwords). Like many things, however, ODPM then through organisations such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit often work against their defined objectives. The NRU has gone around th…
Bezhti

At the time of writing the matters relating to the play Bezhti which is Panjabi for Dishonour are still moving on.

The situation with Bezhti is, however, not in any way unique. JM Synge wrote a play called "The Playboy of the Western World" http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/curtainup/story/0,12830,937744,00.html
describes how the play broke up in the second act at the mention of the word "shift".

The situation with Bezhti had, in fact, moved on from demonstrations outside the play to a situation in which demonstrators had bought up the spare tickets at the point at which the play was curtailed. To that extent Bezhti never actually got to the state that "The Playboy of the Western World" got to - much that the representations in the media would indicate otherwise.

The only other thing I am saying publicly at the moment is the joint three leaders statement as follows:
Birmingham City Council has said in a joint statement from the 3 party leaders,
Council…
Labour's destruction of democracy

One thing that has not had much public comment is the way in which the Labour government have been whittling away at democracy. There are number of areas in which they have done this:
Corporatism One of Labour's Third Way Ideas is to bring in traditional Corporatism as part of their agenda of governmental reform. I think wikipedia's definition of this is actually quite good. To quote an element from wikipedia "certain unelected bodies take a critical role in the decision-making process"


The introduction of Local Strategic Partnerships is entirely this. Unless the LSP is clearly defined as having an advisory function it starts taking away the discretion primarily of the local authorities, but also starts interfering in parliamentary matters. I will post more about the problems with Birmingham's own citywide LSP which I happen to chair.
Constraining politicians Local Councillors have been disqualified from being elected for talk…