Posts Tagged ‘local government’

Dems who Fib

August 5, 2010

The Local Government Chronicle reports from the recent Local Government Association Conference. LGC reporters overheard Liberal Democrat councillors discussing how to deal with expenditure reductions and suggesting the following tactics to each other:

“Blame it on the previous administration”

“Blame it on the government”

“Don’t call them cuts; call it service transformation!”

I would link to the LGC report but it’s subscribers only. You’ll just have to believe me. Don’t worry, I’m not a Lib Dem and am therefore trustworthy!

Gove versus Governors?

June 21, 2010

Our Government – which just lurves localism – hopes to fundamentally undermine the influence of democratically-elected local authorities in the education system by encouraging as many schools as possible to become academies.

Once a head decides they quite fancy getting academy status, governing bodies represent one of the few potential obstacles. Parents, councillors, the public do not need to be consulted – governors do. For those of us concerned that Michael Gove’s academy-enthusiasm will result in more organisations seeking profits from running schools, education becoming wholly unaccountable to local communities, and state schools competing with each other even more so than they do already, it’s very important that governors do their job properly.

The problem is, being a governor isn’t a job. Governors aren’t professionals. I should know – I’m one! Being an active governor could be a full-time occupation. Middle-class busybodies though we are, most governors can’t spend every waking hour establishing how each detail of Government policy will affect their school. Governors meetings are crammed full of items for discussion – so much so that I’m sure it can be tempting to try to get home in time for dinner by simply neglecting to challenge staff by asking awkward questions. Plus there’s the instinctive feeling that teachers are the professionals so just trust the head’s opinion.

I am therefore worried that some schools may become academies not because it’s especially appropriate for the school but because the governing body does not fully understand the implications of the academies policy and fails to thoroughly scrutinise the head teacher’s decision.

In the Commons recently Lib Dem Simon Hughes asked: “Could the follow-up to the Secretary of State’s letter to outstanding schools such as ours include a letter to the chair of governors setting out the advantages and disadvantages of academy status to schools, and the advantages and disadvantages, if any, to local authorities and to diocesan boards of education?”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb glibly replied: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Of course the advantages of academy status are very clear: this is about trusting professionals to run their schools without interference from politicians and bureaucrats, either locally or nationally. I am sure that all the people he refers to will be aware of that.”

Au contraire, variation in school structure seems quite complicated to me and the possible consequences of encouraging huge numbers of schools to become academies could be very significant. As a governor, I would actually appreciate being provided with as much information on the policy as possible. If the Government truly is so confident that academy mania is on balance a good thing for education, why not be brave enough to honestly set out the advantages and disadvantages?

The fact that Hughes’ suggestion was ignored makes me think that the Government hopes governors will not do too much reading up on academies. Indeed, Gove’s dream governor is someone who has never read the education section in the Guardian, has forgotten the head teacher’s name so is too embarrassed to ask questions,  and anyway hopes to avoid starting arguments because they need to get back in time for Coronation Street.

Academy sceptics will have to engage with governors of their local schools. Well-informed and well-motivated governors are vital to keeping a check on Gove’s Conservative revolution in the state education system.

Glum Councillors

August 30, 2009

I know, I know. 6 weeks is too long to leave poor old Captain Jako to run the blog all on his lonesome. But I’ve been busy, and on holiday, and have determined to mend my ways.

I’m saving up for some nice long posts on esoteric areas of policy that you won’t want to read, but for the moment, I’m going to ease in slightly

The picture of a local councillor pointing at a pot hole and looking disgusted is, apparently, so much a part of British national life that it now merits its own blog, This may well be the first known local government-themed internet meme. This effort gets the Paintbrush thumbs up – please send them your faves.

Council Housing = communism (apparently)

July 10, 2009
Hammersmiths Queen Caroline Estate, where - if Blaney is to be believed - tractor production is up 800%

Hammersmith's Queen Caroline Estate, where - if Blaney is to be believed - tractor production is up 800%

There’s been coverage this week of a row in Hammersmith and Fulham, where the Tory council is tying itself in knots trying to deny its very clear plans for 21st Century Porterism.

As Tory Councillors in London’s wild west try to think up more wheezes and dodges to keep valiant seekers after truth off the scent, it’s refreshing to see that some in the Conservative Party are more refreshingly direct about their views on the complex issue of local authority housing.

Donal Blaney – who is to the Tories what football hooligans are to their chosen teams, and is himself a former Hammersmith and Fulham Councillor and no stranger to social engineering experiments with council housing – reckons that providing affordable and decent rented housing is, you know, evil.

[Local Labour MP Andy] Slaughter, and his ilk, wish to subjugate what they no doubt dismissively call “the working classes” to the might of the state, making them dependent on the state’s largesse so that they lose any last vestige of independence of thought, operation or dignity and so that they can be controlled and bullied by the levers of the left. It is, in essence, an evil creed that even the Cubans are moving away from.

Hmmm. Interesting. Because living in slum landlords’ private rented accomodation – which would be the only other option for most social tenants, with higher rent and far fewer routes to pursue for service improvement – would be such an improving, enlightened move.

Incidentally, if you were in any doubt as to what Cameron’s Militant Tendency are trying to do in Hammersmith and Fulham, you should see the shocking footage taken by local Labour leader Cllr Steve Cowan, who has been doggedly pursuing them to come clean for months.

The Mayor is a moron

June 11, 2009

No, not my neighbour Boris, but the newly elected Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies.

Peter Davies stood for the English Democrats, the party whose membership mostly consists of reactionary pub bores. He claims to have been a founder member of the mighty Campaign Against Political Correctness. He wants to pull Doncaster out of the European Union and suchlike. You get the idea.

Other blogs have covered this, but it is so heartening to see the idiocy of this right-wing populist being exposed that I cannot resist copying and pasting the transcript of his recent radio interview here.

(Hat tip to Welcome to the North)

Toby Foster (BBC Radio Sheffield): Thanks very much for joining us. I said that we didn’t see it coming – did you see it coming? Did you expect to win?

Peter Davies: Well, well not really. A great friend of mine told me the night before I was going to get a great shock, and that I would win. I was thinking of saving the deposit at the time.


Steve Richards on a hung parliament

March 17, 2009

I think that we need to end the old Punch and Judy civil war of Roundheads and Cavaliers

"I think that we need to end the old Punch and Judy civil war of Roundheads and Cavaliers"

A good article in the Independent (I can’t remember the last time I said or wrote that phrase) by Steve Richards on the prospects for the Tories if there should be a hung parliament.

Steve’s point seems to hinge on three premises:

  • Despite the polls, Labour are likely to have more seats than the Tories after the election.
  • Lib Dem MPs are keener for a coalition with Labour than with the Tories.
  • The Lib Dem membership, which (apparently) needs to be consulted before a coalition as part of their “triple lock” system of approval from leadership, parliamentary party and membership, won’t go with the Tories.

It’s an interesting analysis, but flawed. (more…)

Cyfamser, yn Ngogledd Cymru (Meanwhile, in North Wales)

March 13, 2009
Shire Hall, Mold, Flintshire - proving that what Flintshire lacks in excitement, it makes up in architectural splendourShire Hall, in Mold – proving that, what Flintshire lacks in excitement, it makes up for in architectural splendour.

I’m a big fan of North Wales, and Flintshire in particular. In my view, it is an unfairly overlooked County, and has a lot to offer.

Until last year, Flintshire County Council (warning: perhaps the worst local government website I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot) had been run by Labour, as had its prececessors, Alyn and Deeside and Delyn District Councils and the former Clwyd County Council, before 1996.

the 2008 local elections went a bit pear-shaped for Flintshire Labour Party. Comrades up there went from having 35 out of 74 councillors (a majority of 2) to 22, a staggering fall of 13 seats. Most of the benefit went to Independents, of which there are a lot, especially in rural areas. The Tories increased their tally from 4 to 9, but were able to secure plum cabinet seats in the “everyone-but-Labour” rainbow coalition established between the Independents, Liberals, Tories and Plaid.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, our Flintshire comrades have just managed to lose a by-election on Mold Town Council for a previously Labour-held seat.

How did they lose? By failing to put up a candidate. The Tory candidate was returned unopposed.

How on earth a local party can fail to put up a candidate in a ward that it holds is beyond me. I just hope that this will be the spur which gets the local party – not the most active campaigning force in Labour politics, I’m afraid to say – into action before the Bagillt East by-election next week.

Stay tuned for more Flintshire news. I bet you’re on the edge of your seat.

EDIT: Alun Ephraim, ever the helpful soul, has drawn my attention in the comments to some maps of the Flintshire council elections in 2008 (which he made, God bless him). Here they are.

2008 elections in Flintshire

2008 elections in Flintshire