It gets spent on more beaurocracy, what other job does government have?
I'd rather slash my own throat. They are all the same, red, blue or yellow, they are all bound together by a desire to exercise the power that is confered by the 'taxpayer's pound'. That's the confidence trick that is 'democracy'. I listened to Ms Blears at lunchtime and she was being pompous about how we protest, here, in the cradle of democracy. We do it 'properly' ie not with bombs but through the process. Ah yes, the process of democracy. Once every 5 years we all get a chance to be influenced by pernicious claptrap (see M Howard/immigrants) and to vote with our basest fears. And then its business as usual as our 'elected representatives' have another 5 uninterupted years to spend the taxpayer's pound without accountability.
I look northward to my countrymen in Scotland and laugh at the poor saps. The Parliament building in Edinburgh will end up costing £500m+ which is, I believe, £85 for every man woman and child in Scotland and all it will do is create an ever bigger beaurocracy that produces nothing except self justification. Where did the Scots get their reputation for caution in matters fiscal? Maybe we should look more closely at Mr Browns
figures, his being a Scot.
Here in London we have Portcullis House, the most expensive office building in Britain per square foot. I believe that it has cost £1.5M to house each MP who uses it yet not one of them has refused to use the offices. As if £1.5M is quite acceptable to house their desk, PA, Pa's assistant, researcher and uncle Tom Cobbley. Oh yes, then there is the subsidised (at the taxpayer's expense) bar where our MP's can obtain one of their drugs of choice.
No, I actually think that 'value for money', when its other people's money, is not a political issue. Its a moral issue. Anyone making decisions which result in the expenditure of other people's money has an obligation to ensure that by any reasonable standards, they obtain 'best value' and there is a much abused phrase.
Did you hear John Humphries 'On the ropes' earlier this week when he was interviewing the Chief Police Officer responsible for the area where the Soaham murders took place. Blunkett suspended him because he refused to resign and the reason he refused was because he did not feel that his officers had done anything wrong. He did admit deficiencies but he was explicit in his statement that the deficiencies were "service wide" and a function of failings in systems which were in place across the service.
Now, three or more years ago I would have been sceptical about that 'defence' but having just finished 3 years working for a Local Authority I believe that I more fully understand what was being described. 'Information Technology' or IT in the jorgon-speak of today's society, simply doesn't work across large organisations. Oh yes, billions of pounds are being spent on IT and, yes, it does work across small areas of large organisations but it doesn't work across large beaurocratic organisations. You just have to look at the NHS or Local Government to see that.
And all of these IT systems are subject to 'best value review' and the very fact that they survive that process tells you everything you need to know about the process and its objectives. 'Best value' is not 'best value' with regard to the taxpayer's investment. No, 'best value' is 'best value' with regard to the individual beaurocratic feifdom who implements the review. Its smoke and mirrors, nothing more.
Lets take an example. Lets look at information held by, say, a planning department. Now, they hold files on individual addresses or groups of addresses. Those files are meant to describe the planning and development history of a property or properties. So a planning department might give a particular address a particular identity.
Now, lets go to the Business Rate section of this mythic authority. They keep records of addresses upon which they make Business Rate charges. Some of those records will be common to the records held by the Planning Department.
Now, lets go to the Inland Revenue's Valuation Office where they have a direct interest in the addresses that are recorded by the mythic Local Authority's Business Rates section.
Now lets go back to the Housing Department of the mythic Local Authority where, again, they have an interest in addresses which appear on the records of the Planning Department because there are flats above shops.
Now, I could go on but the point is that, with some types of information, there are a large number of organisations who could share key elements of information and then add specific and specialist information to their own needs. This might suggest the development of a common standard for information systems across local and national government to make sure that information is visible. But it won't happen. Why not? Because middle and senior managers and civil servants know that knowledge is power and they need to compartmentalise their information to protect their own feifdom's, powerbases and pension prospects. And to hell with the cost.
At the same time, the IT industry actively aids and abetts the maintenance of different standards because they all have their snouts in the trough - the trough that is filled and refilled by the taxpayer.
Another example of miss-selling is the way that IT systems were sold as a final solution to the storage of documents. You see, IBM, ICL, Fuj Itsu
etc all sought to propose that their mainframes (then desktops) would take care of the filing. So many local authorities binned all their filing clerks, thinking that they would be able to retreive their documents at will, just as the IT people said they could. And that would have been in the 1970s.
Beaurocrats, at local and national level, were gagging to believe this fantasy because they saw a way to cut their overheads and they marched resolutely down the road of reliance on electronic storage. Now, it just so happens that no-one had agreed any common formats for these new 'wonder machines' so information started out being stored on mainframe disks, then tape reels, then the 7.5inch floppy came about then the desktop arrived with its hard drive and then the system server and the CD and the DVD. Earlier information was on microfiche and microfilm with the result that information may be stored on six or seven types of media and, in some cases, the formats may no longer be accessible. Incidentally, the American Standards Association will not offer an archive period for a CD because they don't believe that they are stable. But microfilm, correctly processed, washed and stored, is good for between 125 and 500 years.
In marching down this road to reduced staffing levels, the beaurocrats not only put their own records at risk, they disconnected themselves from the history of their own organisations and they lost contact with the culture of record keeping. As a result, many local and national government organisations do not have any active archiving which means that the maintenance of records is very much up to the individual staffer, which makes it something of a lottery.
The appalling events investigated by the public enquiry into the Climbie case in Haringey, and the Soaham murders for that matter, describe the failures of the systems that the taxpayer is funding. And I am sure that they are just the public tip of a very big iceberg.
So, for all of these reasons, I believe that our political system sucks because it isn't accountable. Politicians owe their allegience to their party first then, somewhere after that, the electorate. Politicians don't have to address the electorate as a whole, they just have to get more votes than the other parties. Thus we have the politics of division and the taxpayer is abandonned by them all.
Phew, I feel better after that, must do it again sometime.
Love and kisses
PS Jan Any government should send flowers to anyone who dies at 65 as a thank you. Equally it explains why government has been so slow to crack down on smoking - cancer kills and every little helps.