Government policies are expressed political intentions, regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated socio-economic aims and consequences. None of the policies that this government have formulated regarding the “support and care” of the most vulnerable citizens could be seen as anything other than expressions of intended harm.
Unintended consequences may arise from implementing policies, however, governments usually evaluate the merit, worth and consequences of policies, using criteria governed by a set of standards for evaluating, after implementation, and before implementation by carrying out a cumulative impact assessment. There has been neither a review or a cumulative assessment of the welfare “reforms” carried out by the government.
Services and support have been cut, lifeline benefits have been restricted by a variety of means, such as the revolving door process application of the work capability assessment, benefit sanctions, the mandatory reconsideration process, the Bedroom Tax, the Council Tax…
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Andrew Green QC, Andy Hornby, bank, banker, Banking Standards, Coalition, Conservative, crisis, David Cameron, Democrat, economic, economy, FCA, financial, Financial Conduct Authority, Financial Services Authority, fred goodwin, fred the shred, FSA, fund, George Osborne, government, HBOS, James Crosby, Johnny Cameron, Lib Dem, Liberal, Lord Stevenson, maxwellisation, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, Mirror, Parliamentary Commission, pension, Peter Cummings, politics, Private Eye, RBS, recession, Robert Maxwell, Royal Bank of Scotland, Tom McKillop, Tories, Tory, Vince Cable, Vox Political
Here’s a word that should be in all our dictionaries but probably isn’t: ‘MAXWELLISATION’.
It refers to a procedure in British governance where individuals who are due to be criticised in an official report are sent details in advance and permitted to respond before publication. The process takes its name from the late newspaper owner Robert Maxwell, who fell off a yacht after stealing the Mirror Group’s pension fund.
Maxwellisation is how the irresponsible bankers who caused the economic recession, out of which some of us have just climbed according to the latest figures, are likely to get away Scot (and the word is used most definitely in reference to the land north of England) free.
Current folk wisdom has it that most of us are still unhappy about the banking crisis. We want to see heads roll.
This is a serious headache for the Coalition government, according to Private Eye (issue 1371, p33: ‘Call to inaction’) – because almost nobody involved in that fiasco is likely to suffer the slightest inconvenience.
They really are going to get away with it because the government of the day really is going to let them.
It seems that Andrew Green QC has been hired to find out whether action could and should be taken against those who bankrupted HBOS, beyond corporate lending chief Peter Cummings, who has already been banned for life from the industry and was fined half a million pounds in 2012.
That might seem a lot of money but the HBOS crash, along with that of the Royal Bank of Scotland, cost the taxpayer £60 billion (along with who-knows-how-much in interest payments).
Mr Green has also been asked why HBOS chief executives James Crosby and Andy Hornby were untouched, along with chairman Lord Stevenson.
For the facts, he need look no further than what happened with RBS, the Eye reckons.
In 2010, the Financial Services Authority – discredited forerunner to the FCA – allowed (allowed!) RBS’s top investment banker Johnny Cameron to ban himself from another senior banking job. The following year it pronounced chief executive Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin and chairman Sir Tom McKillop effectively blameless. Mr ‘The Shred’ was stripped of his knighthood, however.
This whitewash appears to have been an embarrassment for business secretary Vince Cable, who announced in December 2011 that he wanted to prosecute, disqualify as directors or ban from the financial sector those responsible at RBS and passed his request for disqualification up to the Scottish law officers in early 2012.
He is still awaiting an answer, it seems.
Back to HBOS, where Cable has made “similar disqualification noises”, according to the Eye, after a “highly critical” report from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards last year.
Unfortunately for him, not only is HBOS also based in Scotland, so any proceedings may have to follow a similar path to those involving RBS, but also the FCA’s report into the bank’s failure is currently “unfinished”.
This is because it is being “Maxwellised” – according to the Eye, “whereby lawyers for those in the frame (if allowed) remove anything critical of their clients”.
The report continues; “With RBS, ‘Maxwellisation’ took several months and resulted in the whitewash that made any future action against those found not guilty difficult, if not impossible.
But the public wants heads to roll! Will anybody get what’s coming to them?
According to the Eye, the answer is a qualified “yes”.
Only one boss of HBOS still has links with any organisation regulated by the FCA – James Crosby is a director of the Moneybarn sub-prime car finance group and its parent, the Duncton Group. The FCA took over regulation of the consumer loan industry in April and has until December 2015 to provide full approval to the Moneybarn operation. The Eye states: “By then chairman Crosby would have to pass its ‘fit and proper’ test. He is completely unauthorised. So, a low-hanging scalp.”
Beyond that, expect “a wringing and washing of Coalition political hands, blaming legal loopholes, failures of others and it-was-all-a-long-time-ago”.
It is possible that other directors could be offered the Johnny Cameron deal – agree not to be a director for a few years “and this will all go away quickly and cheaply with no public hearings”.
Cable – along with George Osborne, David Cameron and any other Coalition MP who claimed that they were making laws to ensure the bankers responsible would face prison sentences – will simply walk away from the whole affair and hope that you forget about it.
Are you going to let that happen?
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Number 15: End the Dispute as to Whether Soft or Hard Skills Provision is Best for Jobseekers
The resolution of this long running dispute is not one for DWP alone, but there is evidence that employers, when seeking new staff, rate soft skills over hard skills when deciding whom to employ. Therefore, arguably most of the money spent on hard skills training for those out of work does little or nothing to help them get into work. Why not, therefore, focus Government spending for those out of work on soft skills and, given that such provision is relatively cheap, plough the remainder of the money into supporting the development of skills in SMEs.
Incidentally, the Voluntary and Community Sector and niche private providers are well placed to deliver effective, flexible and personalised soft skills support in accessible, welcoming community venues, unlike the usual suspects.
Number 14: Is DWP Fraud Washing Its Face?
A good few years ago now, I attended a briefing being delivered by Marks and Spencer. I was working alongside colleagues helping to fill vacancies at stores opening at the (then) new Fort Retail Park. A manager had come along from M&S to tell us about her company and their recruitment methods.
We found the presentation useful and detailed enough that we had few questions. However, the manager had referred to something called shrinkage. A colleague asked what this meant. The manager described shrinkage to us as a retail sector euphemism for theft by customers and staff. My colleague became rather agitated when she realised that during the presentation she had been told that M&S tolerated shrinkage of up to 5% at store level! Only if it went over 5% would M&S send in the heavy mob. Businesses tend to lose shrinkage…
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Number 13: Digital by Default
I have already posted on this topic, The War On Welfare, Digital by Default and DWP! And, although these are not the latest Digital Divide figures, Beyond the Barriers: UK Internet Access Quarterly Update, 2013 Q4 (The Digital Divide), they do show the challenge facing Government and DWP, in particular, when it comes to making the move to delivering government services online an inclusive one.
In the interest of equity for all, Government must recognise that some people, whatever level of help they receive, will never be able to fully access those services it delivers online. As a consequence, a new SoS will need to make sure that DWP not only recognises this fact, but ensures that individual inter-actions between its staff and clients are conducted in the light of it.
Part 11: Effective Partnership Working
Just do it! Moreover, by partnership, I do not mean, in DWP speak, a contractual arrangement with a provider or supplier. I am talking about real partnership work across all sectors, particularly the Voluntary and Community Sector, that builds up mutual respect and support.
I could write a small book, well pamphlet, on partnership, how to do it (and not), the benefits (and the costs) and the goodwill that flows from just getting out into the local community (and, by extension, labour market).
If you do partnership work right (and I think I was getting there by the end) then the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. Partners may still agree to disagree, on occasion, but that is often an improvement on their not agreeing to be in the same room together.
Again, for DWP to go back to where it was…
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Part 10: Time to Take a Reasoned Approach to Promoting Self Employment
Self-employment is not all it is cracked up to be, particularly if you write to the Prime Minister saying that you are aiming to be the next Richard Branson. And believe me, they did and said they signed up fully to the enterprise culture too. They usually ended their letters by asking Mrs Thatcher for a grant to help set up their business. I blame our schools for not explaining enough about the meaning of irony!
About ten years or so ago, Birmingham City Council hired a firm of reputable consultants (yes, they do exist) to review its spend on enterprise support. The consultants’ report came to a very definite conclusion that the City got a bigger return from every pound spent on support to existing businesses, mainly SMEs than it got from encouraging new business start-ups. Logically…
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Number 9: Refocusing DWP’s Employer Support on the United Kingdom’s Job Creators
Here are some figures for you:
Micro Enterprises (0 to 9 employees) in the UK = 1,912,455
Small Enterprises (10 to 49 employees) in the UK = 209,710
Medium Enterprises (50 to 249) in the UK = 36,505
Large Enterprises (250 employees and over) in the UK = 8,915
I suspect that it is not for nothing that Ed Miliband has been talking a lot about Small and Medium Size Enterprises (0 to 249 employees) in the last six months or so. If each of them were to create just one job that would result in 2,158,670 new jobs (in gross terms). Not only are SMEs the driver of economic growth within the UK, they are also, where the vast majority of voters in the private sector are employed.
DWP has always had a bit of a blind…
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Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that a Labour Secretary of State, Rachel Reeves takes up post on Friday 8th May in the SoS’s offices at Caxton House.
Ms Reeves will be handed a file of issues requiring her attention, some well known about, for example, manifesto pledges; others less so, the real progress of development on and implementation of Universal Credit, say, and some virtually unknown, the slow collapse of existing benefit payment systems.
Using insider knowledge and my own insight, I am going to prepare my own mini file for Ms Reeves. Most of the issues, barring the first six, should not be treated as being listed in any particular order. I leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide your own priorities. However, I contend that my first six are urgent and to some extent inter-connected.
To set the tone of a new approach…
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