Friday, 11 July 2008

“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”

It seems the folks over at the Social Work Blog have just discovered the Hazel Blears white paper, and they aren’t happy at plans to give the proles any more of a say in community affairs.

Yelps Bronagh Miskelly:
Under the plans local authorities will have a duty to take petitions into account in service planning and other activities - even petitions with a couple of hundred signatures, according to reports. These could hold local officers to account forcing councils to hold public meetings to explain service provision.

They could also be used to trigger inspections in children's services. The Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills has announced that petitions will form part of a risk assessment that will determine the future the timing of inspections.
Oh noes! Inspections in children’s services! Yes, they’ve seen the future, and it scares them…

I’m tempted to say ‘If you’ve got nothing to hide….’, but it seems Ms Miskelly feels the main problem is that the proles just aren’t, well, educated enough to have this scary new power to hold people to account:
One of the problems is that people are rarely excited by local democracy - last time I voted in a council election I almost had to wake the two dusty-looking polling station officials….will it prove a tool for interest groups or even individuals with determination and an axe to grind….
Well, yes indeed, it might, as I thought to myself when I read the article the other day. But on the other hand, they’re taxpayers too, aren’t they?
…..A lot of thought must be given to what weight is given to the views expressed so that resources are not wasted on unnecessary reviews - when they could be used for improving services.
Ah, yes, we wouldn’t want ‘unnecessary reviews’, would we? Best if we just leave them to get on with the job and not ask too many questions. They’re experts, you see….

Suddenly, I think I like this white paper. It seems to be putting the wind up the right people.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"will it prove a tool for interest groups or even individuals with determination and an axe to grind…"

The horror, instead said interest groups are forced to capture institutions through entryism etc And of course certain groups are barred from that too.

Juliam said...

Yes, it's not fair when the rules of the game have to apply to both sides equally... :)

John M Ward said...

Although I am not against this idea in principle, there are a couple of warnings that need to be aired:

1. Opposition party groups on councils often conjure-up petitions left, right and centre for their own ends. Not only does this tend to clog up the works with the extra admin, it does mean that if these requests are prioritised, simply because they are petitions and not on merit, then other (perhaps more worthwhile) projects will be delayed or shelved, depending on budgets.

2. Inspections take senior staff away from their real jobs and are also charged to the body being inspected. Up to a point this is okey, but in a Socialist/Communist State this tends to escalate out of all proportion.

This has already happened in Britain during the past decade. I cite the official year-by-year costs of just the audit and inspection fees to my own local council, as given HERE.

As can be seen, costs have rocketed to over a third of a million pounds a year -- half a percent of Council Tax absorbed on just this one side activity. Schools have to pay their fees as well, so the true figure for a council area (such as mine) is quite a lot higher than these figures.

I don't like the idea of opening the doors to a further escalation of inspections. Or are people prepared to divert huge sums away from providing the services themselves, just to give the impression that something is being done? It's a difficult balance to strike; but I feel it should be in the direction of less inspection, not more.

JuliaM said...

"if these requests are prioritised, simply because they are petitions and not on merit, then other (perhaps more worthwhile) projects will be delayed or shelved, depending on budgets."

Oh, yes, absolutely. I get the feeling Blears hasn't thought this one through...

John M Ward said...

JuliaM wrote, in reply to me: "I get the feeling Blears hasn't thought this one through..."

The Labour Government rarely do, as I saw time after time with incomplete or inconsistent, and sometimes unworkable, legislation being rushed out of the Bill factory that is today's Civil Service.

Virtually everything that bombarded Local Authoities was of that nature, of which one glaring example was the shift of licensing functions but without having decided what fees we were required to charge, just when the application forms were originally going to be sent out. This was one of the reasons the implementation date was put back (I think that happened three times in the end).

I could cite numerous other such incompetencies, and shall no doubt detail them all in my memoirs...