Tag Archives: public services

Austerity and Napoleon

There is an old joke: Income tax was introduced (by Pitt the Younger) to pay for the Napoleonic wars and now that those wars are over, surely it must be time to get rid of Income tax.

As a Liberal I believe in the individual and to build a society that will support and nurture that individual’s potential. If you look at examples in history, in almost every case it’s the individual who has made a difference so it makes sense to support creative/driven individuals to enable them to realise their vision.

However, society is made up of groups and communities with individuals of different capabilities. The predicament is to have a tax system that not only encourages investment and reward but one that ensures society is also equally served.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 18 Comments

It has to be about more than just Brexit in 2018

2018 is, for the optimists, the year when the wheels come off of the Brexit chariot for once and for all. The process of negotiating “the best possible deal for the United Kingdom” obliges the Government to face up to the brutal reality that the European Union has to hold together at all costs, and that means an outcome for us that is less good than the current arrangements. Then, as rational people, Conservative MPs will look into the abyss and realise how bad things might be.

I’m not so sure. Remember, most of them campaigned, with various levels of enthusiasm, …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 84 Comments

Mutualisation of public services needs to go up the agenda

One of the most interesting developments in domestic politics of recent years is the return of the debate over nationalisation in many public services: notably rail and utilities.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto put nationalisation firmly back on the agenda. Seeing as that is the case, I would argue that this offers the opportunity to make a strong case to the public for the largely ignored, but very credible model that mutualisation offers.

There is no disputing that there are many flaws with the privately-owned models that have been adopted for many public services, but equally it’s worth remembering that fully nationalised industries have had more than their fair share of problems.

In both cases, it stems from the innate conflict between the interests of shareholder interests and the interests of the workforce. In the privatised case, the interests of the workforce become a peripheral issue in favour of maximising returns, often leading to short termism, lack of public accountability, and a disenfranchised and disinterested workforce.

On the flip side, the weakness of nationalisation is that government control of the organisation means that management is heavily influenced by public opinion, which inevitably leads to a situation where unions can politicise the issues towards favouring the interests of the workforce over and above the interests of providing a good service to the public. Rewind 40 years and we can see these problems at their worst, with the nation pretty much crippled by the dominance of unions influencing public opinion and making sensible management in the public interest all but impossible.

Posted in Op-eds | 25 Comments

Lord William Wallace writes…Shrinking the State?

Liberal Democrats need to clarify where we stand on how large a public sector we support, the balance of public spending and administration between state, national/regional and local levels, and the appropriate division between private and public provision in our economy and society.  We are now faced with a Labour Party which is likely, under its new leader, to reassert large-scale state-level spending, and a Conservative Party that wants to shrink and weaken both the central state and local government.

The Conservative Government contains a number of convinced libertarians, with an almost anarchist streak in their antagonism to state action, civil servants and public services (I know – I worked with some of them until last May!).  The current rule on regulatory policy, for instance, is that ministers can only introduce one new regulation if they can find three comparable regulations to abolish: a deregulatory bias that will run into problems when the next food or health safety scandal hits.  OECD projections for government spending indicate that the UK currently intends to reduce public spending from 42% of GDP in 2014 to 36% in 2020 – taking Britain from European to North American levels of public provision.  Whitehall Departments are preparing for cuts of between 25 and 40% in ‘unprotected’ public spending.  On some calculations local authorities will have barely half the financial resources in real terms in 2020 that they had in 2010.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

Two appalling examples of lack of diversity in our public services

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary gender balance is horrendous everywhere except Wales and Europe,the latter being because we only have one MEP. Stuff must be done to resolve this, but that’s not the point of this post.

This week, two examples of lack of diversity in our public services have come to light. The first has been revealed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of Scotland’s Police Officers identify as coming from a BAME background – and none make it to the highest grades in the force.

Figures obtained using freedom of information laws found that – despite 7.6 percent of Scotland’s population being BAME – there are no BAME officers in the top two ranks and only two across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

In total, there are only 175 BAME officers out of a total 17,515 police officers.

Figures for police staff showed that there are no BAME in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5963 staff overall.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

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Opinion: Public services need public involvement

arrest in chicagoI must admit, I have become sceptical about the word ‘empowerment’.  For two reasons.  One is that it is a Blairite word, and based on a misunderstanding about where sovereignty lies.  Power isn’t distributed by an all-powerful prime minister. People already have it – they give it to the governments – but sometimes they have to be encouraged, persuaded or cajoled to use it.

The other reason I have become sceptical is my experience of the word.  I have sat in too many conferences where disabled people are encouraged to …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: We are still living with the consequences of nationalised railways today. Turning back the clock will make matters worse.

Northern trainIn a letter to the Observer a group of Labour PPCs, including my opponent Joshua Fenton-Glynn, have proposed that the Labour should nationalise rail services.

This idea displays an ignorance of the true cause of the problems with UK railways that beggars belief. Almost every issue with rail transport can be traced not to privatisation per se, but to nationalisation, or the insufficiently liberal privatisation foisted upon us by the Major government.

In the 1980s investment in rail was at an all time low, due entirely to the nationalised nature of …

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