Thursday, December 24, 2009

Support Your Local Sheriff

This video is dedicated to all local government officers trying to satisfy councillors' and residents' demands with inadequate resources!
In this film, James Garner plays a new sheriff who is provided with a brand new jail - the only things is, the bars haven't arrived yet. So he has to manage by using a little bit of red paint and his strong powers of suggestion....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Essex and IBM

I don't normally link to Conservativehome. But there's an important article on there tonight about Lord Hanningfield's plans for Essex County Council. The writer clearly thinks it's a great idea:

IBM have won the huge £5.4 billion, eight year, contract from Essex County Council for a mass privatisation of their services. This follows a report in March that IBM were competing for the contract with TI Systems. It promises to leave Essex residents very well placed to withstand the inevitable coming squeeze on Town Hall budgets.

But the comments from readers on there are generally very 'anti'. It seems that a lot of Conservatives don't think this kind of mass privatisation will work out best. Here's some typical responses:

Is IBM going to be used like a quango, hiding real responsibility away from voter accountability even further? What happens when Essex come to renegotiate and they no longer have the organisation to do anything other than agree to IBM's renewal terms (a problem often encountered by those outsourcing in industry - usually after the manager who negotiated the outsourcing has left)
Another bunch of politicians proving they haven't got the guts or the foresight to make the hard decisions themselves. Instead they hand it over to another fat obese global monster.
The only piece of good news here is that Essex are saving some money short-term. The bad news, and there is plenty of it, is that like most other IT outsourcing ventures, the service quality but not scope will fall significantly, jobs will be lost (with the taxpayer no doubt footing the bill - what are the redundancy and early retirement packages like in Essex?), medium term prices will go up (everything will become an extra cost) so long term it will become even more expensive than keeping it in-house, data security (and it is Essex people's data remember) will go out of the window and IBM no doubt using their usual methods will have got another government body's scrotum firmly in their hands.

This is the text book Thatcher/ Major mistake that opened the door to the extreme waste of resources in Government on IT over the last 20 years.

Short term gain - long term misery. Will they never learn! The thing is once you have outsourced there is virtually no chance of going back in house - the knowledge drain is far too great.

PS And I'm no leftie! Just someone who has worked in the IT game long enough to know a bit about it.
Britain tomorrow? - god help us!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Essex Village Life In the Grim Old Days- Water By The Bucket, Misappropriated Funds, And Poverty.

I'm grateful to Jonathan Calder for pointing us in direction of a website created by an outfit called Millbanksystems. It is basically an online register of what anyone has said in parliament in the last 200 years.

This may seem dull, but if you search for certain words- for example the name of your village or town- you can obtain some pretty illuminating information about what things were like in the good old days bad old days.

For example, I searched and found each of the 21 times the Essex village of "Canewdon" has been mentioned in parliament between 1803 and 2005. Why would an MP want to mention Canewdon? Not for very positive reasons. It's easy to build up a picture of just how grim life used to be. For example from 1924:

20 February 1924 vol 169 c1765W 1765W


asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the villagers of Canewdon, Essex, have to pay per bucket for water; and if he will make representations to the Rochford Rural District Council to secure adequate facilities being provided?


My attention has been drawn to this matter, but I will have inquiries made.

there was something irregular going on in 1897:

HC Deb 03 August 1897 vol 52 cc239-40 239

MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

I beg to ask the hon. Member for Thirsk, as Charity Commissioner, whether it has been reported to the Charity Commissioners that the Trustees of the Canewdon, Essex, Charities, have for many years annually voted out of the charity funds a sum of money to the vicar of the parish for a treat to the children of the day schools, and that only part of that sum has been expended for that purpose, the rest being spent on hymn books and prayer books for the Church Sunday schools; whether such an appropriation of the charity funds is legal; and what action have the Charity Commissioners taken in the matter?


My hon. Friend has asked me to say that the Charity Commissioners understand that the Trustees of this charity have intrusted the vicar every year with the expenditure of a sum of £5 part of the funds in their hands applicable for the benefit of the poor of the parish. It is alleged that this sum or part of it has been expended in the manner stated. The action of the Trustees in this respect is irregular. A new scheme for the regulation of this charity is in draft and will shortly be established. That scheme contains a clause expressly prohibiting the practice in question.

and agricultural workers faced poverty:



.... the point I desire to raise is of considerable interest to agricultural labourers in my constituency, and it affords a typical instance of the diversion of a fund. towards objects in which this class have no interest. ... the claim is that as there is a certain fund left for the benefit of agricultural labourers, they have a right that a certain portion of the money should be devoted to reducing the expenses connected with allotment, and they applied through me to the Charity Commissioners with that object; but the Commissioners said they could do nothing in the matter, and met me with a non possumus.

Money which used to be spent upon doles, coals, bread, &c., for the poor is now spent in payment of salaries, the purchase of books, and for other purposes in which the labourers have not the faintest interest. Under a scheme sanctioned by the Court of Chancery, the residue of the fund is to be spent upon the agricultural labourers; but I suppose I shall be reminded that, owing to the decline in the value of land in Essex, there is no residue, and also that the money is spent under an Act sanctioned by Parliament in 1852, and with which the Commissioners have nothing to do. But I venture to think we sit here to rescind and abrogate such obsolete schemes as have been passed almost entirely in the interests of the rich, and certainly to the prejudice of my poorer constituents.

Here's the same MP for SE Essex, Major Rasch again in 1893:


I beg to ask the Charity Commissioner whether he is aware that J. Whitwell, labourer, 75 years old, had notice to quit a cottage the property of the Canewdon Charities, and was subsequently fined for refusing to give up possession; and if the property of those Charities could be dispensed, as intended by the donors, for the relief of the deserving poor, and not devoted to other and totally different purposes?

Incidentally Major Rasch was certainly no left-winger - in fact Major Sir Frederick Carne Rasch was Tory. I hope to write about him again closer to Christmas.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Quote Of the Day

Catherine Bennett in the Guardian:

For much of its history the length of the average union, before it was ended by the death of a partner, was the same as it is now, before being terminated by divorce: 11 years.

Oh, No.

I was shocked to see in the Guardian that Robert Holdstock, the author of Mythago Wood and quite a few other fantasy novels, has died at the age of 61, from an E Coli infection.....

This blogger puts Mythago Wood in his top ten list of fantasy books


.....A marvellously atmospheric work, it captures somehow the feel of the English countryside and its woodlands and fields, which can be ordinary and familiar, damp and muddy, yet at the same time feel ancient, mysterious and secretive. .

For me, it's a book I read maybe 20 years ago, but the images still linger in the mind. I hope his work is remembered 200 years from now....
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

I write this blog in a private capacity , but just in case I mention any elections here is a Legal Statement for the purposes of complying with electoral law: This website is published and promoted by Ron Oatham, 8 Brixham Close , Rayleigh Essex on behalf of Liberal Democrat Candidates all at 8 Brixham Close.