Tendring Topics……on line
Is our economy safe in their hands?
One of the main points of the Conservative Party’s election campaign is that the country’s economy is safe in their hands. Vote for any party other than the Conservatives, they say, and you’ll have Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. Our economy – your money – is safe with David Cameron. Well, I’m not all that keen on Ed Miliband but I really don’t think his economic policies are materially different from those of David Cameron. It doesn’t seem to occur to either of them (or perhaps they’re both too scared of well-off voters to mention it) that cutting essential public services is neither the only nor the best way of reducing that deficit.
The deficit is the difference between the government’s income and its expenditure. Why not try increasing its income? A penny on income tax would hurt no-one (even with the skewed-in-favour-of-the-wealthy income tax system we have today) and would have an instant effect on the deficit. Instead David Cameron is talking about cutting income tax! Both he and the Liberal Democrats are convinced that they’re doing a tremendous service to the poor by raising the level at which income becomes liable, thereby taking some low-paid workers out of the income tax system altogether. Sometimes they say, ‘Out of the tax system altogether’, as though income tax were the only tax we all pay.
In fact, by raising the threshold at which income tax becomes payable, they are helping everyone who pays income tax – but they are not in the least helping those whose income is already too low to be subject to taxation.
One way in which the Government has wasted our money is in the maintenance of our Trident Nuclear Submarine ‘independent Nuclear Deterrent’. It is not independent (can you imagine us using it – or even threatening to use it – without the OK of
and it hasn’t deterred any of the many acts of aggression that have occurred in
the post-war years. When the Falklands
were invaded by Argentina
neither our ‘nuclear deterrent’ nor our ‘special relationship’ with the USA were the
least help to us. Nor does everyone
think that the lavish cost of an all-but-a-state-funeral of a politician who
deeply divided the country and whose flagship ‘right to buy’ legislation is
responsible for our current housing crisis, was money well spent.
Perhaps though the most absurd and obviously crazy way in which the Conservative dominated coalition government has frittered away our money has been the replacement of area Police Committees with directly elected ‘Police and Crime Commissioners’ with power to appoint and sack Chief Constables and to determine the general direction of police work though operational control remains, thank goodness, with the Chief Constables. The former Police Committees were, so the coalition claimed, ‘undemocratic’. How can one man or woman, elected by a tiny fragment of the total electorate, possibly be ‘more democratic’ than a committee, at least some members of which had been elected locally?
The obvious way to make the police answerable to the local public was to make them the responsibility of the local county or unitary authority council. They would elect some of their members to serve on a ‘Police and Crime Committee’ with the same responsibilities as those of Police and Crime Commissioners. These police committees would be more representative of their whole area than any single individual could hope to be. They’d also be much better able to co-ordinate police activities with those of other local or regional services such as education, social services, highways, and parks and gardens, for which the County Council or Unitary Authority is responsible. What’s more, they’d cost less, which I would have thought would have been a prime consideration of our Prime Minister and Chancellor.
You’ll recall that the public showed its contempt for the whole idea of directly elected Commissioners (an idea imported from the
USA) by failing to turn up at the
polling booths. Nationwide the
percentage of those bothering to register their vote was the lowest
recorded in any election – and Essex set a
splendid example by having the lowest turn-out of the lot!
Of course there has always been the possibility that those of us who were convinced that the appointment of Police and Crime Commissioners was a costly mistake were quite wrong. There could have been a dramatic fall in crime and rise in the detection rate, and we might have all been sleeping easier in our beds in the knowledge that we had a Commissioner looking after our interests.
Commissioner – Nick Alston - seemed a pleasant enough chap. Perhaps he could work miracles.
Headlines in the local Daily Gazette suggest that he can’t; It’s official……crime is rising in
Essex. In fact, that is only partly true. The number of domestic abuse cases rose from
9,222 to 10,825 in 2013 and there was 35 percent rise in prosecutions against
Class A drug dealers. The solved crime rate fell to 27.63 percent. On the other hand there was an 11.6 percent drop
in the number of burglaries and there were 900 fewer incidents of rural crime.
While the government exercises tight control of the purse strings there is little that either the Crime Commissioner or a Police Committee can do to reduce crime. Mark Smith, chairman of the Essex Police Federation is quite sure that the politicians are to blame:
It is quite clear that what we are being told by the politicians is not true. They say crime is down. It is not and we are not even recording new crimes like cyber crime and ‘grooming’.
We have already had cuts of £72.5 million and have heard that in the next five years we are going to have to save another £80 million. We will probably lose 200 officers this year, so we will have gone down from 3,600 to 3,000. In five years there will only be about 2,000 if the cuts go ahead.
I’m not a great Ed Miliband fan and intend to vote Green in the General Election. However I’d support Ed Miliband’s promise that a future Labour Government would put more coppers on the beat and pay for the change by scrapping those expensive and largely impotent Police and Crime Commissioners.
Yet another NHS reorganisation?
In this blog I have again and again criticised the action of successive governments – both Conservative and Labour – of stripping local authorities of the powers and responsibilities that were theirs in the 1930s. When in 1937 and aged sixteen, I stepped onto the very lowest rung of the staff ladder of Ipswich Corporation’s Public Health Department in 1937 the Department was responsible for a
(infectious diseases like diphtheria and scarlet fever were much more common,
and deadlier, in those days), a Maternity Home and a Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
The department was also responsible for the domiciliary midwives and district
nurses and the school medical service, as well as the environmental health
services for which it is responsible today.
There may well have been other services of which I was not aware. I was very young, on the very lowest staff level – and my
local government career was interrupted after just two years by the outbreak of
World War II! Isolation Hospital
After the war I was older and, I hope, wiser than I had been. I was one of the returning servicemen who voted for Clem Attlee’s Labour Government – but I was a little dismayed when all those local health and medical services were taken over by the NHS. However I thought that the advantages of a truly National Health Service outweighed the disadvantages, and – until the last year or so – I have had no reason to think otherwise. I wasn’t impressed with the Government’s last NHS reorganisation. It sounds wonderful to make GPs responsible for all their patients needs – seeing a consultant, getting a bed in a hospital and so on. But GPs are fully occupied examining patients, treating them and passing them on to consultants when necessary. They really didn’t have the time for administrative work. I wrote in this blog that they were getting rid of one layer of bureaucracy and replacing it with dozens of smaller layers as GP practices took on extra staff or formed consortiums to deal with this work. Now it seems the Government is really trying to localise the Health Service in at least one part of the
UK. They are making the local authorities that
comprise Greater Manchester a single comprehensive Health and Welfare
Authority, responsible for both Health and Social Services. It sounds a brilliant idea but there are several matters on which I’d like further clarification.
The government will fund this new authority. This government isn’t famous for its lavish support of public services. Will there be adequate funding?
He who pays the piper calls the tune. Are we quite sure that this new authority will not find itself directly under the thumb of bureaucrats in
Just now the new authority will be under democratic control by elected councillors. But I understand that within a few years the area will have an all-powerful ‘Mayor’. Will a Mancunian equivalent of Boris Johnson dictate Health Service policy?
Services inside the new authorities’ area will inevitably be different (not necessarily either better or worse) that those outside. What will happen when someone complains that ‘That woman over the road got into hospital immediately. I’ve been told I’ll have to wait two months – it’s just a post code lottery?'