The Great Big York Council Furniture Debate

Since it was made public that there would be an additional cost to the new Council West Offices for the purchase of furniture there seems to be a a rather wide difference of opinion.

The fact is a new office layout that has completely different use tot hat in which the furniture was intended can make the whole exercise a bit pointless. Anyone who has had the misfortune of having to relocate an office block or combine a couple of companies in a single office will tell you the same. You can spend ages trying to fit each individuals furniture that they previously had and then dummies get spat out “Why do they have a bigger filing cabinet/desk/etc”. You also have the situation of a layout. The installation needs to know what furniture is going where before they start fitting out, especially the electrics.

There is also the flip side to this with hundreds of offices across York being vacated. What is happening to all the old furniture? A lot of charities would very much welcome a donation of a new desk/filing cabinet/etc; or they could use the sale of the furniture to go into the kitty to fund the new furniture. Either way I am all for charities benefiting after a lot have struggled with the new Council funding arrangements.

The big faux pas in all of this is how the hell did the Liberal Democrats not know about this, after all they wrote the initial budget? So surely they must have known the initial budget contained funding for the furniture.

Either way is someone going to tell us what is happening with the furniture?


Negative Politics Is Damaging Democracy In The UK

Every single party pushing their negative message of opposite factions people have just ended up being stuck with tags. Take the Tory ‘Nasty Party’. since the 1980s people still hold this against any person who has shown the vaguest interest in conservative ideals due to any cuts that have been made. Then you have the Labour Party branded as spongers with due to their preference for large welfare payments and self funding attitude from Unions. The reality being nothing like for each. However the culture of sound bites and slogans has lead to this. Each side thinking if theirs can be the most popular slogan and widely used that it sticks in the publics mind. Which it does, so now we have the issue that everyone uses them. So all sides are tainted. This has been shown with the UKIP being branded racists due to their penchant for cutting public funding for non jobs highlighting multiculturalism and tougher immigration. It shows that a sound bite can taint to a greater level than the original message was intended by those who introduced it.

The Conservative Party struggles in several ex mining areas, yet if you speak to people they do not agree with Labour policies. It is down to the fact that the unions in the 1980s did so well on pushing a negative message that it has stuck. Most people to this day will still state ‘Maggie Maggie Milk Snatcher’. Ironic really as it is not something Margaret Thatcher she wanted to do and spoke out about it. It had already been started under Labours Harold Wilson for all Secondary School pupils and then finally cut fully under Tony Blair. Yet the branding has always remained. The fierce battle between the Coal Board, Unions and Government over the closure of mines left a bad taste in the mouth of the miners and their families. These families will never vote Conservative for that very reason, not really anything to do with any current Government decisions or policies.

Politicians have become so good at negative PR they struggle to get any positive messages across. The key part of modern UK politics is not to discuss and engage but to just say the opposite of whatever anyone says against your message and then give negative press about these issues. The whole media is full of these politicians stepping forward to have a dig and increase their popularity, look at Nadine Dorries. An MP who rarely says anything that could help, just likes to have a go at the Government as she has been shot down on several occasions. Not that I am saying should happen from MPs, but the reality should be more about the policies than the people. It ends up that everyone looks bad.

The situation in UK Politics is dire and all the time everyone wants to blame someone else so they can look better for their 15 minutes of fame (or 5 years of expenses). The turnouts in elections is appalling compare with other countries. There needs to be a focus on how to actually engage with the general public and stop all the infighting and back stabbing. As the ultimate result from that will be that no one will bother to vote, already we are down to such low turnouts it is only going to get worse. Then what is meant to happen? I am a passionate supporter of democracy and how best to push forward a more open democracy, maybe it is time politicians stepped up and stopped so much negative press and focussed on the good aspects before it gets too late.

York Council Waste £300,000 on Art

The new West Offices for City of York Council has commissioned £300,000 worth of art to be installed in the courtyard and the building.

At a time when cuts are being made to services is it right to focus spending on something as frivolous as public artwork?

This is just another long line of ways in which local councils are not thinking of how their residents money is spent, but how to make their environment glamorous. There could have been several other alternatives used such as using it to showcase new artists work. There are hundreds of artists who would relish an opportunity to have a public display of their works of art and used as an advertising billboard to build their career.

As part of a £42 million project some may say that this is just a small part of the budget. However it shows that the public spending is rife, but not on the facilities or services offered by the council, and the burden on York residents should be reduced. This is after all a council that wants to increase Council Tax yet again. York has begun to expect such wasteful spending without a care in the world of the consequences. The huge debt pile the council has does not seem to worry them, they can just blame someone else. Then pass it on to someone else. That’s modern politicians for you, only thinking in election cycles and not the long term good of the City.

I have no idea when the penny will finally drop that wasting our money on frivolous spending is not right when cutting services. They should be looking how to cut waste and spend the money on services rather than glamour.

Low Voter Turnout, But Don’t Be Fooled Into Thinking The PCC Isn’t Needed

The election turnout for the Police and Crime Commissioners throughout the country has been abysmal. The whole election has been doomed from the start with masses of negative press from every media outlet; doing their best to ‘spread’ the message with an added twist of highlighting that no one will turn out. The blame does not lie with them for the low voter turnout though. The blame lays squarely with the Government.

It was always going to be a doomed process when the very first election was to be held in November, historically a November election has a significantly lower turnout than any other time of year and significantly lower than May. Let’s be honest who wants to haul their ass down to the polling station on a cold, damp and dreary November day. Then you have the fact it is dark by 4.30pm.

We now have a situation where there is a distinct lack of trust in politicians throughout the country. After the expenses scandal and the very backward attitudes held by the Houses of Parliament on how their expenses should remain. Many who are being brought forward for massive scandal show no remorse and seem to think this as a minor error. I must remember that when I try to swindle a company out of thousands of pounds that the best defence should be that I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to claim for an organisation that didn’t exist. It was only a bit of fraud after all.

The combined effect of the timing and the lack of trust in politicians can be shown by the by-election turnout yesterday in Manchester Central with only 18% of people voting for their new MP.

This isn’t the only reason for the low turnout though. The fact is no one seems to know what the Police and Crime Commissioner is meant to be doing, the only role that is discussed is that of holding the Chief Constable to account. There hasn’t been much announced about what the Commissioner can and will be doing, there should have been an education campaign starting last year, rather than the pathetic leaflet from the Electoral Commission, that also didn’t tell you a great deal. Even some of the candidates didn’t know some of the roles they would have. The core role though was to replace the Police Authority.

For the past almost 50 years the Police Authorities have sat around a talking shop to make the decisions that the PCC will face. North Yorkshire was one of the worst. They have been blasted by the IPCC on several occasions and still they remained. Then again several of the members had such a low attendance record that they shouldn’t have been entrusted with the role. The Police Authority was made up of primarily councillors, so this ‘new’ aspect that has been discussed by the media of politicising the police has already been in place for the past 50 years. Many councillors have seen the police Authority as a nice little extra earner. At the very least this politico is elected and more importantly accountable. There will be a large number of spoilt ballots with most people stating that they do not want the Police Force being politicised, a message that is being pushed by those who like the status quo.

The comments of this being an extra layer of bureaucracy are not actually that correct. If you look at the bigger picture this is just a single person being elected to replace the appointed members of the Police Authority. They will have additional controls, the sensible option would have been to give the Police Authority the same powers as the Police & Crime Commissioner and then building up to an election ion 2015. When a majority of the country is voting.

The Lib Dems will be happy that they have managed to reduce this election to such a small minority of people turning out. It is a real shame that their has been a lack of information coming out from Government about the elections. Many voters annoyed that they have not been informed of the candidates, not realising that the local associations are having to foot the bill of this extra election. Let me tell you trying to campaign in an area the size of North Yorkshire is expensive.

I hope their will be a much greater turnout for the next election of the Police & Crime Commissioner in the future as this is an important role that needs more time for the message of the PCC and the roles they will play to sink in to people.

Accountability of the Police and Crime Commissioner is the key aspect

The ethos behind the Police and Crime Commissioner is to have a single person who is both elected and accountable. They will come forward with a plan for their time in office, in the form of a manifesto. This will be formalised when put to a panel that will oversee the PCC. They can then be held to their plan and scrutinised using the panels.

The whole point of this is to have a single elected person who comes forward with their police and crime plan and then held to it. However the act states that the police and crime commissioner can appoint a deputy who can hold the exact same power that the commissioner will have.

Imagine an MP being elected and appointing a deputy to go to parliament, attend gatherings and discuss important policy implementation. All the while taking their hefty salary for what? For winning an election and then putting their feet up. This is a role that will take home a £70k a year salary and they don’t even have to turn up for a single event.

It is a shameful part of the act and is a loophole to get failed MP candidates into a high power, high paying job that is secure for a 5 year term after a high profile person wins an election for them. I do hope Lord Prescott won’t be doing this to his failure of a political son as rumors have implied . He is vying to be elected to a very high profile with very high responsibility job and it would be a disgrace to use an existing character to get someone else a shoe in.

‘Inspire A Generation’ Let’s Inject Some Passion

The slogan of the London 2012 Olympic games has been ‘Inspire A Generation’. After 7 days it is quite clearly achieving this. I have never seen such a positive single voice coming from the UK, nothing has done this much to bring the nation together in decades. There are even rumours of people actually talking to each other on the tube, although this could be down to the number of Northerners riding around on it and working our influence.

Before the games started there was uproar from the media about who the IOC have used for sponsors and the draconian way in which their coverage has been enforced. Many have said the sponsorship money from McDonalds, Coca Cola and P & G is counter productive to tackling the problem of rising obesity levels in the UK. As someone who has struggled with my weight, eat too much and exercise too little, same as many people in the UK. I think this is complete and utter rubbish. The more money invested in sport the better.

It’s great to see the sports benefiting from the money of the junk food monkeys.

It is a bit of a vicious cycle that those who have the spare cash to throw about can invest in sport, and by investing in sport they are highlighting their brand to make more money from junk food. I would much rather have a private company pumping money in than having to raise taxes to fund it. The one thing that is missing from the investment into LOCOG is the further investment into the actual sports.

If we are to inspire a generation, the generation has to be able to afford to take part in sports. A huge hurdle to many sports is the cost; kit costs money and membership to clubs costs money. It is all well and good having millions of people prepared to step up and become the next Bradley Wiggins, Ben Ainslie, Peter Wilson or Tim Baillie; if they can’t afford to take part in these sports then it is pointless.

The best way to cut down on the huge costs of the rising obesity problem would be to invest in youth access to sports. Some schools are excellent, although many of these are public schools, access to sports in schools has been gradually eroded of the past decade with schools selling off fields for development. One of the advantages of having the free school system is that the Local authority can’t force the hands of this process. There can be direct investment into sports facilities if required.

The best way to cut down on the future generations becoming fatter and fatter is to bounce upwards from the London 2012 success and a whole different approach to sports from an early age. If compulsory sport was done through sports clubs and there was the variety there then the children would be taught by people with passion for the sports. Having to do sports by a teacher who doesn’t have the access to training, facilities or might have no interest in that particular sport is not positive, causing children to be put off taking sports further.

The other addition that any sports club can bring to teaching children is passion. A person who has a true passion for a sport can be worth thousands of ordinary people showing someone how to do something.

‘Cash In Hand’ Is Already Illegal…

The Daily Telegraph seems to have jumped onto this story about David Gauke. The problem seems to have arisen by a journalist who does not know what he is talking about.

“People who pay cash in hand to tradesmen are ‘morally wrong’, damaging the economy and helping tax evaders, a minister has warned.”

First of all cash in hand is indeed a morally wrong, it is also illegal. By this cash in hand is off the books payment for work by cash and then not declared as income. This doesn’t mean a customer can’t pay with cash at all, which seems to be what the article is targeted at. The online poll asks the question ‘Do you pay tradesman in cash?’; the journalist has clearly not understood the difference between cash in hand and cash payment and anyone who has answered that it is morally wrong to pay with cash then I hope they don’t pay with cash at shops, restaurants or anywhere else for that matter.

It is not down to the person who is paying the bill to check up to see if the tradesman has filed an appropriate tax return. It is entirely the responsibility to the tradesman. If you receive an invoice and pay that invoice you don’t go around chasing to find out if they paid the appropriate tax. David Gauke should take a step into the real world, a cashless society doesn’t exist and I for one wouldn’t want it to. That is different issue to a tradesman evading tax.

There is a problem in  the UK with people who will still ask if there is a discount for cash, implying off the books payment and therefore no tax to pay. It is accepted, but it is a worse problem than Jimmy Carr shuffling his money off to the Channel Islands. Mainly it is worse as it is tax evasion and illegal and also helps to prop up the benefit culture to allow some tradesmen to continue to claim benefits. However we are not just talking about tradesmen here, we also need to look at the following as well for a start.

  • Takeaways
  • eBay sellers
  • Taxi drivers
  • Shop keepers
  • Bars

The reality is in the UK it is not a big problem, if we were to look at the Greek or Spanish economies that are both struggling. Cash in Hand is the norm and tax is not a high priority on anyone’s list. There are so many scams in operation through the struggling countries it is unreal. It is no great surprise that they have no money, if none of their workers are willing to pay their way, but what do they care, they have the Germans to bail them out. They have been laughing all the way to the bank.