Archive for Bureaucrats

And that makes sixteen

With UN peacekeepers taking over from the French and African troops in Mali at the beginning of this month the UN is running sixteen peace-keeping missions around the world, which includes the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) covering Afghanistan, which is completely separate to ISAF.

And that makes sixteen

And that makes sixteen

With over 200 000 military personnel deployed on the ground with troops from well over a hundred countries, attempting to keep up with the acronyms in use is in itself a full time mission. The latest iteration being  Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Whilst programmes are in the main supported with personnel from a diverse range of countries there seems to be little cohesion above the line of individual programmes, which results in peacekeeping missions being sanctioned but then the scrabble to get the numbers begins.


MINUSMA is mandated for 11 200 service personnel and 1 440 police with the aim of supporting the election coming up on the 28th July the mission only has just over half the numbers required to carry out their mission.  African-led International Stabilisation Mission in Mali (AFISMA) which was folded to become part of MINUSMA – delivering 6 000 personnel, France – 1 000 and China – 500 and then nothing.

Whilst the aims of the various missions may be laudable, many of these programmes are running with fewer troops on the ground than mandated, resulting in failed missions which run far longer than necessary.

The UN must take control of their missions around the world with a far more coherent and effective approach.

 

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What is Sauce for the Goose

Well Mr Cameron and Osborne have provided me with some the tax break sauce – reducing the additional rate from 50% to 45%, though I think it is sleazy.

I don’t avoid tax and my tax bill hasn’t altered in % of  tax paid, other than the reduction I have on hand thanks to HMRC. To suggest that the only way to recoup tax is to reduce it for those on my tax-bracket whilst starving the poor is an affront. It is an insult to me and to the principals for which I stand.

It is very easy to tax people correctly, but the system is scared of people like me, whilst it screws over those with little fiscal muscle. We regularly hear the top 1% of earners pay 28% of taxable income – is that something to be proud of? No – it is an appalling indictment of the failure of Socio-capitalism and something I hang my head in shame over as I sign off my tax return. Why are so many of my fellow top earners such greedy fuckers?

The clue is in this image – am I the only one who thinks Osborne looks demented, any MP could be transposed here – they are all on the same kick of fantasy.

 

Osborne the demented

Osborne

 

Anyway I digress from the sauce and the real issue – VAT.

By adding some sauce to the gander there is a hope of moving forward the economy, but as long as Cameron and Osborne keep insinuating, we, the higher rate tax payers are fraudsters the less chance of the real issues coming to the fore.

Like you, I shop on-line and find my purchases and like you I find it is cheaper to buy from abroad than it is in the UK. This is almost in totality due to the punitive VAT rates in the UK.

This obsessive drive to insisting higher rate tax payers are fraudsters, conning the compliant that it is fine and dandy that 1% of tax payers pay 28% of tax and continuing to take the easy target of those who have no reply is an abomination.

Were the VAT rate to be reduced, along the same argument that my tax bill needs to be reduced, else I will go abroad, in the case of VAT and the average shopper – shop abroad, so we would find a coherent mind-set. But the ivory tower of Government doesn’t let them see the reality of the options.

In my view, the easing of the VAT rate over the easing of my tax bill would have been money far better spent. I will return to rampant tax evasion and Societal disconnect another day.

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Bloggers behind the rocks

I was a little upset, mildly speaking, when a twitter user @pickledpolitics, who appears to write for The Guardian posed the question,

How does blog hosting impact your legal situation?

and quoted a so called ‘important’ political blogger on UK politics, who goes by the name of Guido Fawkes.

These two people set themselves up as relevant and important bloggers in the UK. Pickledpolitics – Sunny – has, to his credit actually got off his arse and attended a climate camp demo. But as far as I am aware that consisted of the Greenwich, happy clap demo in September, where even the Police got bored.

Paul Staines- Guido Fawkes – who knows what he has done apart from set up a barrier against prosecution, apart from this possible relationship

I digress a little…..

Pickledpolitics posed the question, should bloggers be worried about legal consequence and he was impressed that Mr. Staines had a convoluted legal set-up which protects him from legal action.

Unfortunately the convoluted process is too difficult for Mr. Staines to follow.

retraction see comment One

…Factual correction: I am not legally the publisher. I also mispoke in that interview, the publisher is actually in Nevis, which is not that far from the Caymans. Got offshore entities muddled.

Nor am I “always mostly in the UK” as, so far, unsuccessful plaintiffs have discovered.

Incidentally, I have a mirror site on standby in a fourth jurisdiction. The URL itself is registered in a fifth jurisdiction after the Merrills / Northern Rock memorandum domain registrant based legal attack. I live and learn.

At the end of the day, you have to have the resources and be prepared to fight….

Mr. Staines has to retract, he isn’t even the publisher of his articles, so can be absolutely discredited as a blogger and he doesn’t quite understand Geography, but sees fit to pontificate on the UK.

Far beyond this, a genuine blogger stand by his/her posts, many have died or ended up in jail for their beliefs and comments. The whole post that Bloggers need legal protection stinks of tails up the arse, that is not blogging, that is a corporate gig.

They pretend they are important individuals, but eventually the truth comes out, they don’t publish their own articles, they don’t know where the website is based and they really are not too sure about anything, other than their arses are safe.

Anarchy in the UK is published in the UK, by a UK national who is prepared to take any libel action thrown at it.

With absolute disdain and contempt for bloggers on the corporate gig and more interested in their own tails than actually standing by what they write.

This post is filed under bureaucrats, as in arrogant tossers who are not spending their own money.

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Moving Windmills

Real inspiration and innovation isn’t driven by generating large profits as the story of William Kamkwamba demonstrates all too clearly.

The absolute drive to find a solution is a superb model it would be good to see applied more frequently in the UK.

We have quangos, development agencies, politicians, relief funds and who knows what else aiming to create ever more complex solutions to simple questions.

William took an old book and changed his life and that of his family and village. Not through massive infrastructure projects, but by identifying a need and developing a solution.

While I am sure many people involved in regeneration projects are keen to provide solutions, it does often appear as though many of those solutions come from blue sky thinking and are not driven from bottom up planning.

If there was less pontification and more conversation with those facing problems, then practical faster solutions may well be forthcoming.

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Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Independent Safeguarding Authority is yet another Quango set up by Government, this time with the remit:

Our role  is to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults.

Independent Safeguarding Authority

Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Quango was set up as a result of the Bishard enquiry in to the 2002 Soham murders, which recommended a single agency to vet all individuals who want to work or volunteer with vulnerable people.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) was formally vested on 2 January 2008 and commenced operations in March 2008. The ISA’s budget for 2009-10 is £12.9 million.

There really should be no great surprise that the Government should seek, fairly quickly ways to justify its existence and the introduction of legislation for the requirement for volunteers in contact with children, by the Vetting and Safeguarding Policy Unit who are the sponsors for the ISA, shouldn’t really come as a shock.

Once the Quango came in to force, there was a certain amount of inevitability that some form of new ligislation would be introduced. Once again however, something well intentioned is being introduced in a hurry, without proper consultation or debate, other than by those with a vested interest in justifying their remit.

This clumsy regulation is typical of Government Legislation. The scope is ill-defined the actual requirements are undisclosed and the effect has inevitably drawn enormous criticism.

The ISA itself has a strange stlye of operation to quote:

‘…The ISA’s Decision-Making Process Guidance is a living document subject to constant review and updating (as one would expect it to be) and that we reserve our right to change or update it without notice or consultation. We will make future versions available on our website at appropriate intervals….’ (source ISA website).

Iexpect that many people are in broad support of the idea of the legislation being introduced, the fact remains that the legislation is equally divisive as to what the impact of these rules will have on volunteers.

Due to the fact that yet another Quango will be responsible for safeguarding information, I expect many people will just not trust them to do this safely. Many people do not see the need for yet another arms length body to undertake the process of protection. Others just plainly object to the ever increasing levels of legislation which micro-manages our every day lives.

Unfortunately the debate has fallen already to ridiculous levels, with those opposing the scheme being told ‘they therefore don’t want paedophiles to be caught’ or ‘what else do you suggest is done’.

The argument put forward by some opposing the scheme, is that nothing more needs to be done, they do not accept the opening gambit that there needs to be a change in the law. Others agree that further legislation would be helpful, but that this scheme is a hammer to crack a nut.

The moment a Quango springs up, legislation will follow. The first question is to wonder whether an unelected, unaccountable Quango should be responsible for the protection of the vulnerable. As with all Quangos the tentacles of influence and control will grow, the accountability disappear and another enormous bureaucratic super-structure will evolve.

I also question, how when the legislation comes in to force, will the ISA actually keep up with applications.

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Conservative IT policies and Cloud Computing

Like dinosaurs slogging it out to the end, the two major political parties in the UK are determined to tear chunks out of each other, while the rest of the Country keeps evolving.

Having seen the debacle of Government being responsible for data security, the Conservative Party have managed to come up with a new wheeze, claiming that Google is a far more appropriate guardian of our data and in particular our medical data.

On the face of it, anyone other than a Government Department corralling data, ready to be left on some-ones lap top while it in turn is left in the boot of their car, may seem more appropriate.

The Tory Party are attempting to portray themselves as the denizens of IT probity, seeking to scratch some cheap political scar on the wheezing Labour Government. However their new sheepskin coats just hide another wolf, keen to reveal as much information about individuals as the Labour machine.

I wouldn’t like to suggest the Tories don’t know what they are talking about, so I can only assume they are well aware of Cloud Computing and the H.R. 3162, the ‘USA PATRIOT Act’ and subsequent amendments.

The Act, among a host of other issues provides for US agents to look at any computer record held on American soil, without need for any suspicion of criminal activity, it also enables data handlers, to be forced to hand over all the information held on file.

This isn’t some long-shot concern. Canadian government IT organizations are told not to use services which store or host the government’s data outside their sovereign territory. They especially are not to use services where data is stored in the United States because of fears over the Patriot Act.

The Tories appear to: not care; have some reason for wishing Data to be stored under the jurisdiction of foreign Governments; or are too busy warrign with Labour to look beyond the Wesminster parapet.

The US+EU’s Safe Harbor program allows US companies to certify that they are correctly handling the data of EU citizens. This is to comply with the EU data protection standards. The safe harbour programme is not of much reassurance and of no value if data is stored in Russia, for example.

Let’s assume that the data is stored not in the USA, rather in say, one of the Google data centres in Russia, or China. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Russia decides they too would like a ‘Patriot Act’ and go about checking the medical records of senior politicians, judiciary, Military and Intelligence services and manage to find some embarrassing trips to consultants. I wonder what joy they would have with that data.

Well Google can store all the data in the UK and all will be well, slight problem on that one. The UK is hardly awash with Google data centres and building another one isn’t a cheap proposition, each data centre project has an estimated cost of US$600 million.

Google world wide data centres

Google world wide data centres

Google world wide data centres

Google European data centres

The Google model of cloud computing is designed for far larger data storage and retrieval than the medical records of the UK population and choosing a provider which is ultimately regulated by a foreign Government seems absolutely ridiculous. In addition Google is working towards software layers that automatically move loads between data centres, thereby circumventing any ‘national boundary’.

I am amazed that the Labour Government didn’t jump aboard the cloud computing band wagon sometime ago, as they could have quietly asked the US Government to look up any file for any citizen in the UK, to which they would normally have to go through judicial process.

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Balancing Government Expenditure

The new mantra spouted by politicians is ‘we have to make difficult decisions’, the use of the term ‘difficult decisions’ is nothing more than PR speak and has already worn thin, it is a way that Politicians can act as though this is something being foisted on them, over which they have no control and if only they could, they would spend unlimited amounts of money on everything.

The fact is that expenditure in the UK is higher than income and this is always a distinct possibility as potential demands for expenditure will always exceed income. These so called ‘difficult decisions’ are being taken all the time. The British people are not idiots and are well aware that cuts need to be made.

For many years the, spend now – pay later culture has pervaded both in personal households and also by Government. The abrupt collapse in the financial system has brought this failure to balance the books to the fore.

To argue about what should have been done and how to get out of this mess are a separate debate and should not be confused with the essential aspect. Finances in the UK are limited and should be spent more efficiently and in a more targeted manner.

On a personal level, individuals are reluctant to see taxes rise and a governmental level; politicians are reluctant to cut spending, so we have an imbalance.

The discussion needs to centre around what drives people to be so self focussed when it comes to their taxes, but so socially conscious when it comes to government expenditure. Efficiencies should be made across Government Departments and public sector expenditure. I am sure many people in the UK can identify examples of wasted money, be it in grandiose buildings, PFI inefficiencies, Quangos, etc. but these are issues tinkering around the edges.

The discussion needs to focus on the core expenditure of this country.

The NHS eats vast chunks of money in all sorts of programmes. We perhaps need to revise our expectations about the NHS, what is it and what is it not.

There is a debate to open as to whether the NHS should be spending money on treatments such as IVF, Cosmetic Surgery, and leading edge research. Should the NHS provide palliative care, or only treatments? Should parts of the NHS treatment process become means tested. Is the NHS responsible for treatment of those with self imposed conditions, such as drinkers, the obese, smokers etc?

It is ridiculous for the users of the NHS to demand ever increasing ranges of treatment, yet at the same time expect to pay ever decreasing taxes.

The Defence budget is another huge expenditure area. The UK continues to seek to play a role as a major world power, on a budget which doesn’t cover the costs. Should we be seeking to have a Military which is able to respond to conflict around the world, or should we scale back to become a defence of the country? Should the UK seek to remain a nuclear force, or should it move away from this?

Having a world class fighting force, requires money, can the country afford it and should we strive to have a military which is able to respond in a meaningful way to world conflicts.

The education system is another area with a large budget. What are the aims of our education system and why. Do we need larger schools, do we need more schools? Should children be made to stay in state funded education until the age of 18? Should University education be funded by the tax payer, or the student?

Looking at climate change, how should the country focus on the issue? Should it even focus on the issue? Should fossil fuels be taxed at a higher rate and the money invested in alternative sources of energy or should alternative energy research and development be funded through indirect taxes. Is there any need to focus on alternative energy? Should people be incentivised to become ‘greener’, or penalised for not becoming ‘greener’? Should any money needed to be spent on the issue of climate change or is this a choice individuals should be making?

There are other big areas of expenditure, this is only a short list and not necessarily the most important, until the ‘sacrosanct’ are identified, trying to balance budgets is nothing more than hot air. Not only do Politicians need to look at this issue, but individuals must accept their own financial responsibility in the process. Demanding more services yet throwing hands up in horror at the idea of higher taxes is a ridiculous starting point.

This country needs to limit expenditure and individuals needs to consider whether the reluctance of people and business to pay higher taxes, means we are absolving Public Services from the responsibility for providing services.

The discussion needs to be open and those with free market attitudes who would prefer to head towards a system of limited centrally provided services, need to be honest with themselves, about the reality of that type of society. Those who would prefer a system in which all services are freely available to all and provided centrally again need to step up to the plate and accept the reality of their position.

Burying heads in the sand and expecting the state to provide all to everyone for free at point of delivery yet refusing to pay for it is a road to nowhere and in reality is unachievable. There is limited income and therefore there has to be limited expenditure. The questions are what money should be spent on and how much are we prepared to pay, at that point budgets can actually be balanced.

Politicians have a role in this debate by being honest about cost implications; people have a responsibility to accept their role in funding those costs.

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Learning skills council overspend

In the UK there are estimated to be 1162 Quango’s with an annual combined budget of £64 billion, with approximately 700,000 bureaucrats employed.

In 2003, the Government announced they would print the full list of Quango’s, but 6 years later, that list is still yet to be seen.

The Learning and skills council employs 3,700 staff and has an annual budget of over £10 billion.

In July 2003, the Select Committee on Public Administration found that only one in six Quango’s run by central government were subject to regulation. Very significantly, appointments to most local Quango’s are not regulated at all, other than those to NHS bodies, and these tend to be filled by word of mouth within business, political and other networks.

Gordon Brown promised a ‘…bonfire of the Quango’s…’ before Labour came to power, claiming that they were ‘..often government in secret, free from full public scrutiny…’. But 13 out of 16 Whitehall departments failed to reduce their spending on Quango’s and seven departments have created new ones, with more in the pipeline.

Let’s look specifically at why the Learning Skills Council is a good example of why Quango’s are rotten.

According to Sir Andrew Foster’s government-commissioned review:

LSC were responsible for running the Building Colleges for the Future programme. The LSC had approved £2.5billion of capital projects proposed by further education colleges, but then deferred final approval after realising it did not have the money for the projects.

As a result of the initial approval, some of the Colleges started to spend the money on their projects, with buildings being gutted or demolished prior to the LSC announcing their ‘mistake’. In total 144 colleges have been affected by this abject failure. As a further damning indictment, it has been suggested that these problems were known as long ago as February 2008, yet the LSC continued to approve projects.

John Denham Minister -the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

John Denham Minister -the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

A share of the blame sits squarely with John Denham, who is the Minister responsible for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. But of course as a Quango Denham insists it really is nothing to do with him.

The Government’s decision to abolish the LSC from next year, and to separate the Department for Education into two departments covering schools and universities, is partly to blame according to Foster, who added:

‘Preoccupation with organisational change distracted attention from core ongoing business…people took their eyes off the ball…’
Local LSC teams actively solicited projects from colleges and worked with college principals to turn more proposals into wholesale upgrading.

Mark Hayson former CEO of the LSC

Mark Hayson former CEO of the LSC

Mark Haysom has stepped down as chief executive of the LSC, Denham remains in office.

The TLA culture of Qango’s is quite overwhelming. The LSC BCF is expected to be transferred to the PSC BSF.

In real language this means:

In a wonderful Governmental twist the colleges affected by the failed BCF (Building Colleges for the future programme) could find themselves being transferred to yet another Quango: the Partnership for Schools, who run another building project budget called, Building Schools for the Future.

In another LSC failure

The LSC has also failed to calculate the numbers of students moving in to six forms colleges, which has led to chronic underfunding.

Ed Balls - The Department for Children, Schools and Families Minister

Ed Balls - The Department for Children, Schools and Families Minister

The Department for Children, Schools and Families, under Ed Balls, introduced legislation to raise the education leaving age from 16 to 18, yet failed to give schools and colleges the money they needed to make these reforms a reality.

Jim Knight Schools Minister

Jim Knight Schools Minister

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, was unable to explain why neither his department nor LSC managed to work out that pupil numbers would rise. It is expected that this shortfall will affect 35 000 students.

The LSC’s projections were that the numbers of 16 to 18 year olds in colleges in England (786,000) would be the same next year as this, and the numbers staying on in sixth forms would fall from 383,000 to 372,000.

A letter sent out by the LSC at the beginning of March had appeared to say that schools would be funded in line with their predicted rise in student numbers for next year. In a statement, the LSC said: ‘..It is clear that our letter of March 2 to schools has caused them confusion and concern, for which we apologise….’

We have Government departments making policy decisions and failing to understand the ramifications and Quango’s, for which there is no democratic accountability, wasting billions of pounds of money. Yet no Government Minister is going to take responsibility for the farrago of capital projects or under funding of sixth for colleges and schools.

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