Thursday, 22 December 2011

FIT for Purpose

I have found it quite enlightening reading comments from Labour apologists on Twitter - including someone claiming to be a freelance consultant (Read: "Labour stooge") about the Feed in Tariff scheme.

Here's some basic facts.

1) I gave officers a directive to pursue projects to maximise renewable energy and take advantage of the Feed In Tariff scheme. The report presented to Cabinet in August was basically my report which was little changed from the January version
2) I obtained an undertaking from the Head of Finance (Read: new Chief Exec) that any economically viable scheme would be backed with capital financing on the basis of cost benefit analysis.
3) The report was presented in January 2011 with a deadline for action before the 1 August deadline.

That Labour screwed it up and lost 5 months on my original timetable is their problem not the Lib Dems. On my timetable we'd have hit the Government targets and Reading would have been able to implement my initiatives.

I was just as pissed off with the changes at Government level as anyone. That doesn't mean that there is a conflict here. Labour dropped the ball.

I had a "no holds barred" meeting with Reading Friends of the Earth and I think that they were quite clear with my commitment to the green agenda. Ironically, Green support for Labour in Reading has seem a backwards step in promoting the (little 'g') green agenda as their support for the 'green waste' as opposed to the mixed plastic collection shows.

Of course, being annoyed with Government policy doesn't create a conflict with real politics. Reading Labour claimed that they were against the Labour Government's plans to close Post Offices, or renew Trident or kill 250,000 Iraqi civilians.

Unfortunately we didn't get a majority government. I can deal with it. Labour can't. We are punching above our weight. A full Lib Dem government would not be required to take decisions required to keep the Tory nutters under control.

You see when Blair and Brown were screwing over the wishes of Labour members, it wasn't a coalition, it was a full Labour government. Yet, hypocrisy is their raison d'etre. They ceased to be a political party after they abolished Clause 4!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Secret Squirrel

No surprise here but the Labour group just cannot keep their gobs shut.

The latest Labour blabber mouth appears to have given away in a public place..,

Senior staff on the way out at the Civic

December 14, 2011
Whilst browsing the supermarket aisles yesterday I happened to overhear something that caught my attention from a nearby Labour councillor – what are the chances! If my ears do not deceive me, the Labour group met in secret a few days ago in a highly confidential meeting, to discuss the “departure” of a very senior member of staff at the council.

Now it would be wrong to comment on the personal circumstances of an individual employee, so I will refrain from doing so, what I will add is that the leading politicians have got “their storyline” well and truly sorted.
The officer in question has “come to the understanding that s/he will be mutually parting ways with the council as soon as possible”. The reasons for this may well be something to do with his/her “lack of support for the council’s transform agenda” – but it’s always more complicated than meets the eye with these local council matters.

Keep your eyes peeled when reading future editions of the local paper, but remember, you read it here first!

Original blog post has now been marked as private.

...the news that certain senior staff are facing the chop. I happen to know what they are planning but I think I owe the civil servants involved a duty of confidentiality so I won't go into further details to reveal personal information. Labour don't appear to give a damn about the feelings of those involved and are prepared to tell all and sundry... or at least the Waitrose supermarket queue.

It is absolutely true that Labour has had a series of meetings which were out of cycle and it was abundantly clear that they were up to something and that something is, it would appear, is to axe officers who they deem as uncooperative.

One thing that has become increasing apparent is that many of the officers who I thought were highly competent have been slipping out the back door. Labour's rain of terror has been taking its toll. I feel sorry for the dedicated officers who were bloody good at their jobs who have decided to take their talents elsewhere.

Now the question, given the nature of their hatchet job on council staff is how far outside the Cabinet have they been leaking things for political ends? We know, for example, that Anneliese Dodds was regularly given pre-briefings about internal council matters before it was announced to elected members and ward councillors so was this a cabinet member or a lowly lick-spittle?

If the former, then it would appear to be a breach of the member-officer protocol and serious disciplinary action could be taken against them.

If it was a non-cabinet member then it would seem to be a prima-facie breach of the member-officer protocol and the cabinet member who leaked it plus the member involved in blabbing could face serious disciplinary action.

And staff haven't seen the end of Labour's hatchet job. I hear that one of the things being done to reinstate the green waste collection (which is a misnomer if ever there was one, being as environmentally dubious as they come) is to decimate curation at the museums in-year, i.e. outside the budget cycle. Yes, under Labour the arts are being slashed to pay for their incompetence at running a budget. It was ever thus if you look into the redundancy figures over the last 10 years.

Of course, the last time a similar senior staffing situation existed at Reading Borough Council we had a catestrophic failure in oversight of the allocation of Section 106 monies because senior staff responsible were too busy to monitor what Labour were up to. during that period. Far from Labour's trumpeting of a "clean bill of health", it was actually found as "impossible to determine" by an independent investigation. Perhaps that's their motivational factor? Get rid of anyone who knows what they get up do and buy a bigger carpet paid for by staff posts to sweep things under.

I find it worrying the exodus of certain capable officers who I had the good fortune to work with. However, after the Green's put Labour back in control, it's not been a case of rats deserting a sinking ship but more one of sensible people deserting sinking rats.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Turing Machine

There's a petition to have an official pardon for Alan Turing.

It's easy to dismiss revisionism as not worthy of consideration. I have some sympathy with that as I am not a fan of the idea of the 'sins of the fathers'. It's very un-Catholic!

However, whilst I firmly believe that we are responsible for our own actions but it doesn't excuse us from understanding history.

When I was 15, one programme made a huge impact on me. Horizon broadcast "Now The Chips Are Down" probably the most life changing TV programme I ever watched.

I was at the time interested in electronics so it wasn't a great leap to venture into the world of computing. But it was a different world then. The MK14 was the height of sophistication. The ZX80 was the stuff of dreams.

I couldn't afford a computer. I wrote programmes and "dry ran" them on paper which was beneficial when I started work with ICL as a kernel dump cracker (think working out from the Microsoft Windows blue screen of death why your PC had crashed and scale it up to a mainframe!)

But as a result of the programme I was responsible for my school starting to run a computer science course which was also also notable because our teacher (David Sayers) hated computers!

So why is Alan Turing such a hero to me?
  • Sure he was involved in Bletchley Park and helped shorten the Second World War.
  • To the LGBT community he is a symbol of persecution and the unjust way society treated people. [Dirk Bogarde in Victim made a similar impact on me when I saw it on TV in the 70s.
These are both important in their own way but not why Alan Turing deserves place amongst the greats. Tim Berners-Lee did good things but he was not as ground breaking as Alan Turing.

Turing was the person who made computer science a science. Separate from mathematics and more akin to philosophy. A real dscipline in it's own right. The World owes him a debt.

Sign the petition. to honour a real British hero.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Green Deal

It will be very easy post election to work out of there was a deal between the Greens and Labour over Park ward in exchange for allowing them to take control of the council. Follow the money!


Earlier this year, Labour spent the most fighting the election in Park, so now it will be more than interesting to see whether they think putting resources into the ward is a good use of their money. After all, they can pretty much depend on the Greens to roll on their backs and waggle their arms and legs in the air and back them in power whether or not the Greens wish to admit publicly to that agreement. In that respect a penny spent in Park, is a penny wasted for Labour.

This is all the more likely now when, in the least surprising news of the year, Jon Hartley is standing down to spend more time with London. I suspect that many in the Labour group are quietly cheering. Indeed there have to be questions asked as to why he was appointed as a lead councillor to a made up post in the first place. Perhaps the local party didn't want to upset his girlfriend who just happened to be the Chair of the local party.

He's made no impact in the role and given his previous track record when the SACRE committee wanted to chuck him off for failing to attend three meetings in a row you have to wonder whether we were seeing not only nepotism at work but that we will discover that his position was more the result of him having pictures of the rest of the Cabinet in compromising poses!

When it comes to the value for money and service he is meant to have championed, Jon Hartley has failed to deliver any having failed to attend the last three Cabinet meetings, all the time whilst trousering the £3,816 Special Responsibility Allowance paid to lead councillors. That's a failure to attend 50% of the meetings which he is paid to attend and this seems to be being tolerated by his colleagues. I think Council tax payers can quite rightly ask whether he should be forced to pay back monies paid to him for services not-rendered.

However, after the obvious election deal with the Greens, would Park residents' notice any difference if they had all Green councillors? Very doubtful for pretty much the same reason.

Their group leader can't be bothered to represent them at council meetings for which he is paid a bonus of £2,147 to attend, consisting as they do his extra duties as Green group leader. What exactly does he do to justify that money? What responsibility does he actually take?

Does he turn up at Cabinet to put forward the Green agenda? No.
He's been seen there once once out of six meetings. Couldn't even be bothered to turn up to speak on the item on abandoned trolleys which no doubt will be laughingly referred to as a Green win. Got to be in it to win it.

Does he turn up at Personnel Committee to stick up for the workers? Nope.
A complete no show all year, leading to the squirmingly embarrassing motion he put forward to the last full council meeting demanding that RBC adopt a minimum wage policy at a rate which was below that actually in force and asking for a policy that was already in place and had the full backing of all previous administrations.

Does he pontificate about councillors receiving perfectly permissible and lawfully declared gifts whilst at the same time asking for free inkjet cartridges paid for by the council that do not appear on any list of declared expenses. Oh yes!
There is of course nothing wrong with him doing so. It is an allowed expense, but he seems to be selective as to what he sees as acceptable. In the case of Reading Festival tickets there is no cost incurred to the council. In the case of printer cartridges there is an actual expense incurred. Perhaps to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, he should pay for his own home printing in future and come into the Civic where the Greens already have a perfectly good full colour laser printer in their group room.

And for a Green he did not attend a single Environmental Scrutiny Panel last council year to make the Green case for anything.

There are some people who complain about the Council gravy train and about how they believe councillors get elected solely to get the allowances. That is demonstrably nonsense unless people genuinely think that being a councillor should be the preserve of the rich and retired. There's a lot of work required. I can safely say that in the vast majority of cases the rates paid by RBC are below the minimum wage for the work put in even for those I may have in the past tagged as "lazy". That tag I am more than happy to state is a relative term.

On the other hand, Special Responsibility Allowances are paid specifically for extra work and responsibility. If you are not doing that extra work or taking any responsibility, it is tantamount to obtaining money under false pretences and perhaps there is a case for Councillors Hartley and White being asked to pay some of it back!