What will the year of the snake 2013/14 bring us(more misery)

Quote of the day:

If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.

Over the Christmas period I had some reflecting time whilst speaking to friends and relatives whom was very intriguing to learn from them some worked in the NHS, Local Government and Private Sectors.

Most said they thought it was hard under a Labour Government but soon changed their minds since we (Labour) did not get back into power. Most of them said they take back what they said about Labour they are increasingly more frustrated by the coalition government.

One close friend of mine went as far to say that Local Government will not be the way how we recognise it as this coalition is hell-bent on driving through private, and third sectors by the back door or even through the front door by hitting between the legs and staving most Labour held Councils by the recent comments of Eric Fickles(Pickles) MP.

Another friend of mine does share Keith Vaz concerns and he did support the concept of a Royal Commission as a way to try to get a cross the board consensus on police accountability & policies prior to the introduction of PCCs and changes such as the Windsor report. Having imposed such radical changes which in my opinion have done nothing to increase the public’s confidence in policing & have produced a crisis in police morale i do not believe the Government will be willing to accept any review that could recommend reversing its policies.

When the Labour party call for a Commission was ignored they set up a commission Chaired by the ex Commissioner for the met Lord John Stevens with members from across the Political spectrum. He felt at the moment that the most likely chance of progress is taking forward proposals in this report probably imparity manifesto commitments in the next general election.

A friend of mine do support Keith Vaz call for more discussion at national level & would strongly support the reinstatement of the National policing board & the Lawrence Committee both of which brought key national partners together to try to agree a consensus way forward on key policing issues.

Whist reflecting I had the opportunity to a certain part of Birmingham and I counted no more than 8 Food Banks on my merry travels the first instinct was our country has come to this and many of our basic human right WILL be eroded very soon if we allow this coalition continue their attacks on the working poor and granted there must be a way for the unemployed to find work but not at the expense of attacking them to belittle them. Instead the coalition should continue to help the Unemployed gain employment instead it took the path of doing away with the very tools that Labour created to help the unemployed to gain employment well done coalition for making their lives a misery so will see more crimes on our streets.


This will be my prediction for the year of the snake. I enclose the two articles in concern:



Eric Fickles(Pickles) MP

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has launched a blistering attack on Birmingham City Council, accusing bosses of “screaming incompetence”.

Mr Pickles described Birmingham as the “biggest problem” in the whole country and said the city council has only itself to blame for spending cuts that could see services slashed and hundreds of jobs lost.

He condemned comments by council leader Sir Albert Bore that the city had been unfairly targeted for cuts as “absolutely ludicrous”.

Speaking to the Birmingham Post, Mr Pickles said councils should stop making cuts and start working more efficiently and raising their own funds.

Instead, they were choosing to “use the poor as a battering ram” by cutting services used by the least wealthy, he said.

The outspoken cabinet minister also condemned plans to make low-income families pay a share of council tax as “obscene” – and said he might block councils from imposing charges.

He accused Birmingham of “screaming incompetence” due to its failure to tackle the issue of equal pay, which has left it with a bill for £757 million in compensation for female former staff.

But Mr Pickles also dropped heavy hints that he was planning to make extra cash available to Birmingham to help it cope with the massive compensation payout.

He was speaking as Birmingham City Council continued a public consultation about spending cuts which it insists have been forced on it by the Government.

The authority says it will be forced to make savings of more than £600 million by 2016-17 and up to 1,100 jobs could go.

Sir Albert dramatically warned earlier this year that the scale of the cuts marked the “end of local government as we know it”.

And he also claimed earlier this month that the scale of the cuts was a result of the Government unfairly cutting Birmingham’s funding by more than other local authorities.

The council leader said: “If Birmingham’s grant had been cut by the same amount as the national average then it would have received an extra £80 million each year. Many cities in this country need a fair share and I intend to take this back to government.”

Asked for his response to that remark, Mr Pickles said: “I think it’s absolutely ludicrous.

“There is a reason why larger sums are coming out of some of the cities – and this is really important – because we are paying more to the cities. We are paying more to the cities by an enormous tune.

“If we were to take the same amount of money out of the budgets of other parts of the country, we’d actually have to send them a bill.

“In many ways, some of the cuts we’re expecting from Birmingham are bigger than the total grant we pay to many other authorities.”

To give one example of the point Mr Pickles is making, Birmingham in 2012-13 received a revenue support grant of £646 million. Divided between the city’s 1,050,654 residents, that comes to £615 per person.

By contrast, the unitary authority of Windsor and Maidenhead, serving a wealthier population, received £19.49 million shared between 147,004 residents – or £133 per person.

However, wealthier councils typically raise more funding from council taxes, and face less demand for their services.

Birmingham also faces financial ruin after the District Auditor ruled that it must find £757 million to compensate former female members of staff who were not paid at the same rate as men carrying out similar work.

The Government has already lent it £429 million, but Sir Albert has warned it could go bankrupt unless it receives more help.

Mr Pickles dropped a strong hint that he was preparing to make more money available, but also condemned the city council for failing to deal with the issue.

He said: “Birmingham is in a unique position because of the screaming incompetence of not dealing with equal pay.”

Recalling his days as leader of Bradford Council, he said: “Now, I haven’t been a councillor for 20 odd years. When I was a councillor I was putting away something to deal with this. Most authorities did. But Birmingham ploughed on regardless. So Birmingham has a particular problem due to its inability to wake up and smell the coffee.

“Now I have a choice. I can either say to Albert, ‘it’s your own fault, get out of it’, in which case the people of Birmingham suffer, or we could look at creating ways in which we could try to help Birmingham through the problem of this enormous sum of money, more than £700 million

“It’s an enormous sum of money. It’s so big that I’ve decided I can’t deal with it in the settlement. So we’re going to have to deal with Birmingham separately to be able to get them out of the mess that they are in. And we’re actively looking at ways we can achieve that.

“But it’s probably the biggest, most difficult problem that I have had to deal with, and it’s entirely self-inflicted.”
The Local Government Secretary attacked councils for cutting services – and suggested that some councils were deliberately cutting services used by the least wealthy in an attempt to make the Government look bad.

“It wouldn’t have mattered whether David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband or Mao Tse-tung was running the government, the level of public spending was going to come down.

“They were warned it was coming down, they were warned by Labour it was coming down.

“And some chose to ignore that and some have chosen to use the poor as a battering ram.

“And I think that’s a dereliction of duty.”

Councils could raise extra cash by putting up council taxes, he said, although they are now obliged to hold a referendum if they plan an increase above the level set by the Government.

“We do give them the possibility, if they say they can’t cope, they can put the council tax up. I’m not stopping them putting the council tax up. They can do what they want.

“The difference is they’ve got to go to the people, and say: ‘We’d like to increase the council tax, will you vote for it in a referendum?’

“And funnily enough, in all these cries and screams of we can’t cope, that’s the one option they are not prepared to go with.”

He condemned proposals to make low-income households pay a share of council tax as “disgusting” .

The possible change, which critics have compared to the introduction of the poll tax, will mean that some city residents who currently pay nothing could face bills of £244 a year or more. Many other authorities are taking similar steps.

It follows the Government’s announcement that it is cutting funding for council tax benefit in the city by £10.9 million.

Birmingham City Council will decide how to respond early next year. But in a consultation published in September, it said it was considering asking residents who currently pay nothing because they are unemployed or on a low income to pay 24 per cent of the standard bill.

This could mean £244 a year for a Band C property, up to £500 a year for a large property in Band H.

The council says it has to raise the money somehow, and the only other option would be to cut spending – which is already being cut by £62 million this year. Mr Pickles said: “What I thought was disgusting, objectionable, what I thought was irresponsible, was authorities who rather than helping people get into work, were going to tax them.

“That struck me as being obscene.”

Mr Pickles threatened to change the rules to stop councils charging council tax on poorer residents.

Councils wanted power but they hated taking responsibility for difficult decisions, he said.

“Everyone wants local power except when it’s a difficult thing. Then it’s ‘oh no, let the Government give us more grant.”

He added: “If I was a city boss now, there’s no way I’d think about charging people on benefits but I would think about making the system better.”


indexKeith Vaz MP

A Royal Commission should be established to reform the police in the wake of a series of scandals to hit the service, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said.

Public confidence in the police has been shaken after failures over the way officers responded to the Hillsborough disaster, and new disclosures over the “Plebgate” controversay, Keith Vaz said.

Mr Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the police faced a “defining moment” and called for a public inquiry to draft a new set of principles for how the police should operate.

“At the end of the day, what we do need is a Royal Commission, where the police service can tell us what they are doing and the public can explain what they want to do,” he told LBC radio.

The inquiry must provide “a firm set of ideas as to how we want to police”, he said.

Mr Vaz said the Home Affairs Select Committee would begin an inquiry into police accountability, integrity, internal corruption and malpractice next month.

He called on Prime Minister David Cameron to host annual summits with senior officers, and called for “a new Magna Carta” for policing.

In the Sunday Express, Mr Vaz said recent events had dented the public’s confidence in the police.

Writing about the alleged altercation between former chief whip Andrew Mitchell and police officers at the gates of Downing Street, dubbed “plebgate”, Mr Vaz said: “What appears to have happened to Andrew Mitchell could well have been a Christmas special script. The chief whip had to resign following a 60-second ‘incident’ in, of all places, Downing Street.

“Take a police officer apparently masquerading as a member of the public, a confidential log book finding its way into the public domain, add the results of the Hillsborough Inquiry, which have resulted in thousands of serving and former police officers being investigated, and the fact that 26 out of the 43 police forces do not have a permanent chief constable, and you have a dangerous cocktail.”

Mr Vaz also pointed out that morale among officers is even lower as they feel like they lack Government support.

He criticised Home Secretary Theresa May for trying to enforce radical changes on the police force without having a proper dialogue with officers.

He acknowledged existing police structures needed to be reformed, but said Mrs May’s changes were “too rapid and too far-reaching”.

In his article, Mr Vaz rounded on the Government for altering police officers’ pay and conditions while trying to implement reforms.

“One of the first rules of management is to ensure that during a period of radical change you carry your workforce with you. Unfortunately this has not happened,” he wrote.

“With these profound changes taking place the last thing you should do is start to alter the pay and conditions of those who will implement the reforms without entering into a proper dialogue with them. The Government was wrong to change police pension arrangements retrospectively. It was unfair and forced out a number of experienced officers,” he added.

Mr Vaz’s committee will next month launch an inquiry into issues of police training, accountability and integrity and into the effectiveness of the processes for dealing with internal corruption and malpractice in the force.

He intervened as figures showed that more than 23,000 police officers and staff were “moonlighting” in second jobs. The figure represented a rise of almost 20% in a year.

More than one in 10 officers in England and Wales earn a second income from non-police work, according to an investigation by the Mail on Sunday.

At the same time, the number of investigations into potential rule breaches has tripled, raising questions over conflicts of interest arising from second jobs.

It comes as the Home Office released provisional figures to the Sunday Times which show crime has fallen by 10% in 19 out of 43 force areas in England and Wales between June 2010 and June 2012 despite budget cuts of just under 10%.

Crime has risen only in Devon and Cornwall, however the full impact of the cuts will not been seen across forces until April.

Damian Green, the police minister, told the Sunday Times that the statistics prove police reform is working, but the Police Federation chairman Steve Williams said the figures are testament to the hard work and dedication of police officers.

It is purported that some officers may work in self-defence training, for example, therefore meaning police forces may be commissioning off-duty staff to carry out such work for them.

A total of 23 of England and Wales’s 44 forces did not check to see if they were paying companies run by their own officers for work.

Police staff are allowed to take second jobs or run companies if approved by their superiors. Unless there is a direct conflict of interest, permission is likely to be given.

Intriguingly the Mail on Sunday studied figures provided by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and found that at least 23,043 police staff had second jobs out of a workforce of 201,575 in May 2012.

That was up 19% from March 2011 figures, which showed 19,329 had second jobs.

The number of investigations into second jobs soared in the nine months to May, with 154 reviews carried out – more than 17 a month.

In the previous year, 82 – fewer than seven a month – were carried out.

Those investigations led to 10 officers leaving their jobs, either by being sacked or resigning, while 65 warnings were given. In 35 cases, the officers or staff were cleared of rule breaches and the other probes are ongoing.

A Home Office spokesman said: “It is the responsibility of chief constables to ensure that any secondary jobs held by officers do not harm the public’s perception of the police or result in any conflict of interest.

“The Home Secretary will put new proposals ensuring the highest standards of integrity in the police to Parliament in the new year.”






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