Posted tagged ‘david cameron’

The Local Government Chess Board

January 19, 2012

But where are the Knights?

‘Do you ever get the feeling that you’re just a pawn on a big chess board?’

So asked Sarah Norman during a discussion of public sector job losses and the attempts by the Government to move those jobs to the private sector; either by moving the service into the private sector or by losing public sector jobs and replacing them with a growing private sector.

However, the wider question Sarah asked is a profound one.

I think we expect our leaders to be something akin to chess players, making their small moves but always doing so with an overall plan and a view of exactly what is happening across the whole chess board.

So as we like to do with profound questions here is the We Love Local Government guide to how our leaders, and others in local government, play chess:

Eric Pickles: Mr Pickles is a chess player with just one strategy. He’s learnt it really well and is consistent and well drilled in its delivery. However, if people try to deviate from the ‘cuts’ strategy it can flummox him and make him make mistakes. However, those that underestimate him and dive straight him, not seeing the wider strategy, often end up with their king lying face down.

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Do they even care about us?

June 29, 2011

Did the PM betray attitudes towards Local Government?Yesterday the Prime Minister attended the LGG conference and spoke to the masses. He was apparently the first serving PM to do so in history, and began by quipping that perhaps afterwards he would know why none of his predecessors had done so.

He was due to talk about localism, so thanks to a timely heads-up from @dominiccampbell I tuned in to the live web stream and listened as he began outlining localism. It started well, with reference to what in effect used to be known as Total Place, and went on to mention the current deregulating of local government.

However, before long the conversation turned away from local government. Mr Cameron instead turned the focus of the discussion over to the current headline issue – public sector pensions – and in effect used his key note speech to speak directly to the media. He set out why he was doing what he was doing, and how important it was that his party’s plans were followed through.

The discussion around the rights and wrongs of this debate are not the topic for this post, and in any case are being picked apart by far brighter and more informed minds than mine. My interest in this is instead to be a little narked at the way local government appears to have been casually tossed aside here. (more…)

Trans-Atlantic (dis)agreements

April 27, 2011

Obama shows the way

Britain and America are apparently two nations divided by a common language but despite this we often share the same problems.

Exhibit A: the public sector worker.

Last month David Cameron got himself in a modicum of trouble for blaming civil servants for holding back his latest reforms (he called them the enemies of enterprise) and it seems that Barack Obama has also got himself into ‘public-servant bashing’ trouble describing some federal employees as ‘slugs’ who are not trying to do their job.

So, lazy public sector workers in both countries right?

Well, no.

What is striking about (the unedited version of) Mr Obama’s comments is that whilst he shares Mr Cameron’s concerns about the work of public servants his actual quote was taken out of context. So, whilst Mr Cameron, and our friend Mr Pickles, see public servants as part of the problem here is the rest of Mr Obama’s quote:

“What’s striking when you enter into the federal government is how generally smart and dedicated people are.” The president also noted that some federal employees “are slugs and not trying to do their job. But that’s true of any large institution.”

And later on, as the Washington Post reported;

During that private conversation, the president also praised feds saying, “Generally speaking, he would put up federal workers against any workers in the private sector.”

Public sector workers are, in Mr Obama’s conception, seen not as part of the problem but as part of the solution.

Refreshing isn’t it?

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A Royal Victory

April 12, 2011

Break out the bunting!

My mum talks about how much better things were in the olden days all the time.  Apparently kids could wander out of the house on a balmy Saturday morning and not be seen again until dusk, muddied but with a cheeky grin on their faces.  Cars didn’t drive too fast, everyone knew their neighbours and you could go out for an evening with 50p in your pocket and come back with change.

She also regularly reminisces about the grand street parties thrown to celebrate anything and everything British.  Union flag bunting would be strung from home to home, people would sweep their streets and bring out the trestle tables before laying on a spread of gargantuan proportions and having a good old time having a knees up around the Joanna (excuse the colloquialism there).

How times have changed.  In my life I don’t remember a single street party, or even so much as a communal picnic.  Streets are made for cars, public events need to be properly staged and run and the slightest problem will result in widespread litigation and a huddle of ‘no-win, no-fee’ lawyers/vultures/parasites on society.

All that looks set to change.

News has started coming out of Downing Street that the street party is set for a comeback.  With the Royal Wedding fast approaching, David Cameron has decided that there is nothing like a knees-up (sorry again) to get our chins up, and has gone to town to make sure that people know they are able to do whatever’s needed to bring back the feeling of the good old days. (more…)

Came-wrong or Camer-on-the-other-hand?

February 22, 2011

Seven!

At the risk of breaking the boundaries of anonymity, I can reveal that I’m too young to have experienced the Thatcher years.  I was alive through them, but was only aware of them as much as I now know of the Hadron Collider: it exists, it’s all pretty complicated and people either think it will give loads of answers or destroy the world.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the same words are starting to spring up around the latest incarnation of Tory government.  Privitisation, attacks on local services, greedy bankers: all of these are things which my parents talk all about but which I am just preparing to form a solid opinion of.  And you know what: I’m on the fence.

David Cameron’s recent announcement that businesses and charities will now have the ability to compete to deliver the services which in recent years have been coming solely from the public sector has been criticised from many corners for potentially destroying those services and opening the door for the private sector to bleed us all dry.  There is no way that any private company will do anything that doesn’t make them money, even if that means providing a sub-standard service and charging ever-increasing costs to do so.  Or does it?

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Just a little effort

December 1, 2010

Today I got a phone call.  Not in and of itself an exciting event admittedly; in fact it was nothing to do with my day job at all, and was someone who was trying to get through to the rent office to pay their bills.  I work nowhere near this team and have never even encountered them, so had to rely on the vagaries of our intranet and internal phone list to find a suitable person to put them through to, which I did.  I also gave them the number I was sending them to, just in case they got lost along the way.

Normally that would be that and I’d go about my day, forgetting about them as surely as a politician forgets a manifesto pledge.  However, today I decided to take a leaf out of my own book and do something a bit extra.  We have new fangled phones in the office which record the phone numbers of incoming calls, in case you miss them or want to call someone back easily.  So I did a little research, found out a few more rent-related numbers in the borough and called the person back in the afternoon to check whether or not they had got through to someone and sorted out their issue.

Okay, so I got through to an answerphone, but I left a message and my number along with a message to explain that I wasn’t stalking them.  All of this took an extra couple of minutes, but I’d like to think that it might have had the dual benefit of helping that person out and also giving them a good experience of calling the Council.  In the grand scheme of things it was no hassle, and had the added bonus of making me feel like I’d done at least one good turn for the day. (more…)

Pay the going rate or see the talent going

September 21, 2010

My Grandad was a man of few words, but he did once tell me a story which has stuck with me, and which came to mind when I was watching last night’s Panorama piece on public sector pay.  If you’ll bear with me I’ll relay that story here and hopefully it’ll help illustrate a point.

He had a car back in the day when people could still repair them without the aid of a degree in computer programming, but when it broke down once he was flummoxed.  In the end he called out a repair man, who duly turned up with toolbox in hand and took a look under the bonnet.  Without a word he reached into his toolbox, pulled out a screwdriver and tightened a screw – within seconds the engine roared into life.

He then handed my Grandad the bill – £30 (and that was in the day when £30 was a lot of money).  Incensed, good old Grandad demanded to know why on earth he should pay that amount of money when all he’d seen was a single screw turned.  The answer came back that he was only being charged £1 to have the screw turned; he was being charged £29 for the mechanic knowing which screw to turn.

What on earth has this to do with public spending and Panorama I can almost hear you ask?

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