Archive | April, 2012

Explain this one away Dave!

30 Apr
Give us a smile Dave!

Give us a smile Dave!

There’s a point where people that give high quality commitment get a kicking regardless of their efforts. As a fairly well placed insider told us last week Bedford’s Safeguarding and Looked After Children’s Service was given the once over from 23rd January to the 3rd Feb. Now the actual blog last week gave us a few headaches as too much info might pinpoint the source and for whatever reason we had over 50 hits to the site in an unusual cluster within a few hours of posting!
Much of the venom inside Borough Hall seems to be aimed at the political structure and the way that attempts have been made to make cutbacks into a frontline service that is in every sense of the word demand led! In short coming up with an intention to strip the budget of such an essential area of public need is the sort of woolly headed thinking that gave us the kick up the botty to start this site up.

Let’s look at the results of the audit and let’s at all times remember that the worse case scenario when such services fail can lead to devastating results for those at the eye of the storm both families and supporters. For Overall Effectiveness, Capacity for Improvement, [ensuring] Children and young people are safe and feel safe, Contributions from Health agencies to keeping children and young people safe, Ambition and Prioritisation, Leadership and Management, Performance Management and Quality Assurance, Overall Effectiveness and Capacity for Improvement the council scored “Adequate” and if you look at the report itself this equals and I quote “A service that only meets minimum requirements”. Quality of Provision and Being Healthy (in terms of the way the authority supports the health requirements of looked after children) were both ranked “Inadequate” meaning “A service that does not meet minimum requirements”.
So add the two together and you can’t really escape the conclusion of “Not very good”. Now this hasn’t gone down well across the staffing units at all and having been on the receiving end of this type of audit when externals come in and pull you apart you start looking for your own solutions and sadly one of the most readily available is to look for alternative employment or a total change of career! The other option is to start demanding better leadership!
Now I know a few people that work there and I have at all times used my maiden name as my Bypass front as I’m not that far removed from this area of work myself. I have to say they agree with parts of the report and disagree vehemently with others. “Vehemently means passionately and if you work with damaged and dysfunctional families you really need to know that everyone around and above you is supporting you.
One area highlighted as a deficiency is gaps in staffing and the over reliance on agency workers which as the report says resulted in a lack of capacity competency and continuity to provide, the residents of Bedford with a satisfactory service. This is the crux of the matter. If you don’t replace staff you easily save money. Then you get kicked when the inspectors come a visiting! Didn’t you work this one out Grizzly Mayor?
Read the report yourselves. Assume that when it comes to Bedford Borough we might be jaundiced not as to the staff more the political leadership so form your own views! What is equally worrying is that this exposes the whole sorry state of the council itself, a small army of elected councillors on the gravy train and hardly any form of comment of any value. Nodding Dogs at £10,000 minimum a year! £20,000 if you are one of the in crowd and how much value could that sort of money give if injected into frontline care!

When this is posted I shall look for a single hit on the meta data report safe in the knowledge that I shall see another cluster and secure in the knowledge that someone in Borough Hall is reading what we say!
Gill McClinton


Now or Never Issue 21

29 Apr

Sort of a quiet weekend as the two youngest loafers have gone up to the Whitby Goth Weekend, the assurance thay they had enough money was short lived and I’ve just had to settle the hotel bill over the phone on account that they got carried away buying stuff at the Goth Market. I would have gone along but Friday was our 21st wedding anniversary and I was advised I had to be elsewhere. Hanging round a graveyard in Whitby wasn’t an option!

Anyway the weekend has been enlivened by the arrival of issue 21 of Now or Never magazine sent all the way from Norwich. Nearly said Nantwich for some reason.

(have a look, it’s like going into an attic full of goodies)

Best article so far is called “Bury Your Friends” which is the link between the Whitby graveyard and this blog. What you get in the latest issue is a very basic guide to what you have to do when a friend or relative dies. Now this might not sound fun but its done in a style that a) made me laugh quite loudly and b) made me remember the dehumanising process I had to go through when my mum died six days before Christmas back in 1987. Sat there all alone in some office on Brazzenose St up in Manchester trying to register her death but having a pig of her job because one certificate said Joan and her real name was Peggy. One of them moments where you collide with beaucracy and I realised that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Now I was adopted and a few years later I met my “birth” mother, two brothers and Gill. So from being an only child I ended up with a sister who’s become my best friend. There’s an interesting story!

Back to Now or Never or the article to be exact..well done to Harry K, its a bloody good guide to one of the inevitables of life, at some point you are going to end up looking out of the rain streaked window wondering what the f@ck to do with (insert name of person) who is lying (insert location) and if youv’e not had this pleasure the process seems designed to completely strip away any dignity out of the deceased and then the vulture’s circle so quickly that as you are working your way through the leftover’s you get a bill for £5000 which reminds me that a friend got snapped by the council’s parking van while she was taking her departed sisters books to a charity shop last week .
Our friend Dick died a few years back, with no family Bedford’s alternative community did the neccesary deeds and we all met one June evening at his boat mooring near that posh hotel that keeps changing hands. Dick had been canny enough to leave enough for a stash of lager and pop and other things (use your imagination) so about 100 hippies, punks and general nice types drank into the night, Dicks ashes were scattered from his boat into the river, he hung about for ten minutes or so before drifting off towards the setting sun. Now I’d forgotten this and when I read the article it came back and so I hope you don’t mind me sharing it!


27 Apr

Ever wondered what hard core anarchists get up to, really? Well last night, clad in black and khaki we decended down the pub in the next village along and helped raise near £300 for the local hospice. So we aren’t that bad despite what Phil Simpkins the boss of Bedford Borough Council might think. “S” got a letter off him as part of an ongoing exchange about the council being a bit lightweight when it comes to providing information and its clear Phil isn’t a happy bunny! On it goes. Apparently someone in the Mayor’s inner sanctum made reference to Bedford Bypass in the Borough Hall canteen last week and so we’d like to say “Hi” to the person who has the job of checking what we are saying and we’d like to suggest that the Mayor’s team keep talking up this lil old blog! We are getting near on 100 hits a day and it all helps!

Back to the quiz, we came third out of 15 thanks to our pal “Mister Fish” who sits there quietly and jsut as you’re about to give up he comes upo with the goods and tells you that “Tivoli Gardens is in Copenhagen” or whatever. I said Paris. We might have done better if we’d kept quiet as to having been supplied with a “Musicals” section that had all the answers on (which explains the photo above).

I took Debs home afterwards and noticed that The Anchor pub on Cardington Road seems to have gone under so that’s another closed down people’s emporium there for all to see as you head into Bedford, or more likely out of it! So in the space of a few minutes you go from one packed pub to one that’s in darkness

Something for the Weekend!

27 Apr

It’s Whitby Goth Festival this weekend and just to confuse it takes place over two weekends with the other being in Autumn. Some of you will know of my meanders with The Mission back in the 80s and it’s nice to see people enjoying themselves and doing what they want! If you like style…

Coal Face Comment!

25 Apr

Here’s a contribution from an employee in frontline work in Children’s Welfare. Unedited apart from a bit of tidying and clarification. Please read it and accpet that much of what the writer would have liked to have said on examples of the work they are required to do has by nature had to be left out!

The “Baby P” incident of 2010 sent shockwaves throughout every Chidren’s Welfare Service across the UK and the treatment of Sharon Shoesmith who was thrown to the wolves by Labour had an equal gutting effect on every person operating at the frontline of social intervention in cases of “at risk” children. Children’s Welfare is an employment option for people motivated by a desire to care, it offers in exchange for a long hours at a not particularly attractive wage, long and often inconvenient hours, front row seats for the realities of life and regular upheavals as the service seems to be subject to permanent reorganisation.

As part of the Borough Council’s “Modernisation Programme” cuts in the region of £3million are being made across vital areas of welfare provision in areas that are effectively “demand” led in that the phone could ring with an intervention case triggering demands on resources. Other unexpected events can conspire to impact on intentions to save. Here’s one example:
In Bedford, after some 30 years of direct input and service provision Christian Family Care ceased all activity across Bedfordshire and from Mid April, as a result of their own funding crisis the operator of two key Children’s centres in the Borough was no more. Given a Liberal Democrat statement not to reduce children’s centres and a statutory obligation to provide adequate provision Bedford Borough Council, my employer since re-organisation has had no option but to plug the funding gap to keep Pine Trees and Clapham Children’s Centres “business as usual”.
Back to the more immediate issues of protecting vulnerable children, an unannounced Ofsted Inspection and Social Care Audit Commission review found the service operating within requirements as expected, reducing immediate financial pressures . A planned three year inspection by (again) Ofsted in late Jan and into Feb this year gave a consistent recognition of our quality however two inadequate scores were received for quality of provision and healthy outcomes. Also raised were issues in partnership working which was described as not particularly effective. The sting was concern that the time between completing initial /core inspections and reaching a decision on whether a child is at risk was too long equalling a major red flashing light and alarm bell. The recommendation made was to fill vacant posts to build the resource. You might think given the nature of the service Bedford Borough wouldn’t need telling.
Alongside these pressures, in the wake of Baby P came additional emphasis on early intervention i.e. the decision when exactly to act. Pre 2007 the main consideration was to retain children in biological family units which may sound technical however this was combined with major support to parents with intervention as a last but justified and necessary resort.

The landscape has now changed giving a rise to more interventions. In short removals to care and the break up of the family unit over the required time (Often an unknown factor). There is a national UK problem in that not all cases involve single children, there can be multiples. Central Government guidance states a desire for children not to share rooms so if as an example (and not an unusual one) an intervention gives rise to three children requiring protective support. Whilst the desired result is one foster unit with three rooms it’s a hard request and might involve some distance or more likely than not break up of the sibling unit which can and does leads to later problems. Court delays quite simply equals children in limbo for longer periods and a cumulative lack of resources leads to a ripple effect of further problems requiring more cost later down the process. One negative from the lack of carers able to or willing to accept older children has been the use of what are termed “crash pads” i.e. use of bed and breakfast merely to provide a basic level of accommodation overnight.
Now looking at support services across the wider community, particularly in a social dimension (care and protection) it’s not at the forefront of people’s attention unless directly affected so whereas the reduction of library opening hours can equal an outcry, similar cutbacks in care provision can be muted.
Given that a large number of practitioners in the field across Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire emerged with bumps and bruises through the process of creating two unitary councils (splitting the former County) many staff took the view that essential services are best provided across an area greater than a single authority and given that neither Bedford nor Central had any experience at senior officer and Councillor level of providing this type of welfare, repeated views of the inadequacies of the former Bedfordshire County Council was and still is looked on as a repeated slap in the face as for the most part the same people with the same commitment to childrens welfare provide the front line work.
At the same time as Bedford continues on its programme of “Modernisation” , a euphamism for intense service cuts, pressures still show. In March 2011 there were 161 “looked after children”. By February 2012, this had risen to 216 with regular monthly increases.
I enjoy my job, I enjoy my work colleagues. I do not enjoy the overall pressure of uncertainty.

Nadine talks Tough!

24 Apr

If I ever get rattled my soft Liverpuddlian accent tends to magnify. I don’t know why. The same happens to “our kid” but in his case he ends up ranting like someone off Coronation Street.

Now she’s not a Bedford MP but Nadine Dorries is near enough to warrant a mention!

Her seat is facing the boot and without any comment on her “qualities” and views on a woman’s right to choose she drew the rath of Cameron a few months back with his barbed comment on her being “extremely frustrated” followed by a pause infused with giggles and a smirk from the chamber and widespread criticism from a wider more mature audience. Politics at it’s mud slinging worst!
Nadine’s in the news again for describing Cameron and Osborne as two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk. It’s not news to anyone who has been looking at the steer of things over the last 20 years as most of those pulling the strings, MPs and big business are totally divorced from the “bewildered herd” (us lot) however Nadine seems to have lost her rag, opened her mouth more than usual and would appears to be pursuing an option of going back into nursing (she was a nurse in Liverpool some years back) when she vanishes at the next election as given her comments, she’s not likely to get on any shortlist unless she changes party and even if she does the chance of it being a safe seat are remote. I might be wrong.

Now I’ve met Nadine a few times. I was there first and she approached me and as I was being paid to be polite I did so, she was polite back. One time her refined vocals gave way to a soft Liverpool burr and when we swapped notes both our accents emerged. Otherwise she appears to have made a lifestyle choice and opted for a neutral tone!

On the news last night there was Nadine sounding very “scouse” and proud, and sticking a real solid boot into the Bullingdon Club although giver her reputation all it really amounted to was a bit of a giggle.

What it did also do was water down news of more cuts circa £16billion for what is said to be a rainy day so that means the war chest for the next election. Like taking a tenner of you, given you three quid back and saying “you deserve that”.

Nadine is unlikely to remain as an MP after the next jamboree!

Lobster Cards

20 Apr

Apparently if you got the drift of our two recent contributions to the letters pages of the free newspapers, cutting a public service when seen and “spun” through the office of the Mayor becomes nothing more than a wonderful cost saving and great value to the public!

The latest wheeze from Grizzly Dave the Mayor is our very own Bedford version of Oyster Cards to use on the bus. It’s another form of ensuring that your money spends as much of its time sitting in someone else’s bank account as opposed to your own. Think of top up mobile phones. If you have one and don’t want to or aren’t allowed to sign up for a contract you top up by say £5 or £10 and then use it over however long it takes to whittle it down. So all that money sits in Vodaphone’s vault giving them millions to play with.

The same goes for Oyster cards although the clever trick here is that they’ve made it so that the only way to traverse London with ease is to have one, its hobson’s choice as there’s only one public transport provider down the smoke and so my £20 that I put on a card a few weeks back isn’t mine anymore and it’s going to be two weeks before I head that way again and I might even end up driving down!

Bedford’s bus service is something I use when I really need to. In that respect I hold it in the same light as the public loos at the side of the library. I last used a bus two years back but for the most part I will use my bike as unlike the bus, my two wheeler is available when I want to get home!

Mayor Dave doesn’t know as yet how the Bedford Lobster Card is going to work but why let that get in the way of a press release. Close all the other options off like actually paying the bus man in cash and you steamroller people into having to use it!

Here’s a wheeze, if and when they introduce Lobster Cards you can take the little chip out, fasten it onto a wand and when you get on the bus you can do a bit of magic. It works better on the tube whe the barrier appears to open under mystical forces but its the same process as the Mayor’s press releases. When you look close its not what its cracked up to be!

From Phil!

18 Apr

Cynical reflections ahead of the next public sector strike by Phil (Dickens not Simpkins) 

After the non-starter that was 28 March, it now looks like we will see two big strikes in the next two months. The teachers unions NUT and NASUWT have started the ball rolling for an as-yet-unspecified date in June, whilst more immediately a number of unions are set to strike on 10 May.

The Unite health sector was the first to announce the 10 May date. As ever, the rhetoric is far more charged and bellicose than the actual fight. Despite the headline, this doesn’t “step up” the dispute except with the proviso that doing nothing since November 30 was a step down and so they are returning to where they were. Workers are clearly itching for a fight, with a 94% vote for action, but despite talking tough this is just the second day of action for Unite members in over a year since pension attacks were announced.

My own union, PCS, is little different. Again, the press release speaks of a “programme of ongoing action,” but it remains to be seen what form this will take. Especially as the same rhetoric has been bandied about in a year where all we’ve had are two one day strikes, months apart. If the “co-ordinated, targeted industrial action in employer groups and sectors” does emerge, then it remains to be seen how effective this will be – especially as the previous reticence of the ruling Left Unity faction to adopt such tactics boils down to their botching them previously. I personally remain to be convinced until something other than another single day protest strike actually happens.

It goes without saying that I’m more than a little cynical on what can now be achieved in the pensions fight. As I’ve said on innumerable occasions, periodic one day strikes will not make the government budge. It is pressing ahead with austerity so rapidly and viciously quite simply because it feels strong enough to get away with it. To convince them otherwise, workers need to exercise serious disruptive power as a class. What we’ve seen so far simply isn’t that.

Of course, a number of factors have led to us seeing far more militancy than we might have. In the main, this has been rank-and-file pressure – workers realising the scale of the attacks they are facing and, quite rightly, demanding something be done against that. This has been helped considerably by the strength of the grassroots movements outside of the trade unions – from the students movement and UK Uncut to the ongoing workfare campaign – creating a climate where the working class was regaining confidence in itself. The IWW’s Cleaners Branch and Solfed’s victory against agency supplier Office Angels demonstrated what impact such forms of organisation could have industrially.

However, this has been tempered by the fact that within the mainstream unions there has been no similar rank-and-file empowerment. The Sparks are a vital exception, and to be sure there are those of us trying to kick start similar initiatives. But as a general rule, though there is certainly discontent with how the unions are plodding along, there is no real organisation to give it tangible form.

That is the long-running task of militants in the workplace, to build the networks and committees that get such rank-and-file organisation off the ground. However, for most shop stewards and lay activists, it’ll mainly be a case of overcoming a general sense of defeatism and making the case for the next one day strike rather than drawing people into a rank-and-file group empowered to push beyond those limitations. Such is the benefit to union officials of managed defeat; not only does it ensure their position at the top table selling industrial peace, it makes it that much harder for control of the struggle to be wrested from their grasp.

I’ll still be on the picket line when strike day comes, and I’ll still be arguing passionately for workers to lead our own fight. But, ultimately, real militancy against austerity will come from outside the unions and – short of something bloody spectacular – the pensions dispute will end in defeat at the hands of our class enemies. Those in government and those at the top of the unions.

Wizard Stuff!

17 Apr

Believe it or not but there are people wandering the streets that are wizards! Really, owls and broomsticks. Anyone who doubts that spells and chants are useless really needs to think again!

Not only can these wizards work magic they can spout what might sound like total bollocks to us normal mundane folks but it’s actually very clever stuff that explains how the universe is structured and how spells can bend light. Or something like that. Here’s a sample nicked from a site called Spectacularium. If you can make sense of it get yourself a pointy hat and cape, make a wand, write something similar and doors will open.Probably as you get asked to leave wherever you are living!

“Thus I went looking for evidence of multidimensional time concealed in the data of fundamental physics. I think that I may have found it.
I present my hypotheses in two major parts, HD8, (Hyperspin 8-Dimensional), shows evidence for multidimensional time in particle physics, and VHC, (the Vorticitating Hypersphere Cosmology hypothesis) shows evidence for multidimensional time in cosmology. .

In both of these hypotheses time has the same dimensionality of 3 as space, and spacetime has an overall small positive curvature to give an hyperspherical geometry and topology to a universe which remains finite but unbounded in both space and time. A single equation describes the vorticitation of the entire universe and all fundamental particles within it.

The overwhelming majority of alternative theories in physics attack only a limited number of the interpretations of observations that constitute the paradigm of the Standard Models of Cosmology and Particle Physics.
HD8 attempts to challenge the entire foundation of the Standard Models with a coherent alternative that remains unfalsified by experimental and observational data at the time of writing.

Whilst the hypothesis of 3 dimensional time remains unfalsified, I intend to devote my time to exploring its implications in parapsychology and starship design, neither of which have much of a chance within the standard models”

and that’s it. Total gibberish but if it keeps people happy who am I to be critical, I’m sure they are very nice people. Bit of insurance there, don’t want to be turned into a frog!

Dog Shit Boulevard!

17 Apr

(This was my own name for the path at the side of County Hall!, we would pick our way through the dollops on the way to the market!)

It’s my fault! I’m thick. I must be. Simple things just don’t make sense. Bedford Borough Council has launched a consultation on dog poo! They are asking people to support moves to clamp down on people that let their dogs poo in parks and playgrounds.
Notwithstanding the fact that councils have more than enough legislation in their armoury to fine miscreants through something called the Clean Neighbourhoods Act (Bedford have used it) and the Dog Fouling of Land Act it seems that more is needed and this one allows the council to increase the fine!

So we are being asked to endorse whatever the council does to cut out dog poo! It’s like having a consultation to stop witch burning in that no one is going to support people letting their dogs crap near the swings!
As ever the council has jumped to the podium to support the measures in that time honoured tradition of it turning up in the local papers and the end result seems to me to be that the council will get the usual derisory public support which will be massaged into a massive endorsement to do something they can do already. Although as I know, they haven’t got the resources to monitor 24/7 all the places where dogs shit so I can only guess that as millions are cut from essential budgets (I’ve got some juicy tit bits from someone in Social Services to go through) all this is padding to make us feel that Mayor Dave is on our side!
I was driving down Fenlake Rd two weeks back about 7.30pm, it was just about still light and there on the pavement, four lads about 20, Staffordshire bull terrier in full dump mode being dragged along in mid shit, all over the pavement. Lads ignored it! No one from the council anywhere to be seen. Now I’m anti dog shit and various rescue lurchers and greyhounds have looked on in amusement as I collect fresh dog eggs! I collared two people outside our house a few months back, I find a six foot Mancunian offering a spare carrier bag and a hint of malice to be quite effective but it doesn’t apply everywhere and all we will get out this is council staff hanging round a few select areas approaching fairly safe targets. And various councillors pointing at turds and “being concerned”. Yawn!
Look at the various semi rural footpaths that lead into and out of town. Dog shit all over the place and the last council officer to see it was probably me when I worked there some years back. I’m not knocking the council for its efforts to tackle the problem, nor am I endorsing having council staff hiding behind hedges. What I am having a go at is consultations that are useless and the corporate culture of spinning and blagging when there are more important issues like cuts to reactive public services being slashed!
As an aside, when you go to the Borough Council website, aim for the consultations page, click on Introduction of Dog Control Orders and then “Consultation Document” and some useful information appears! Here it is…
“The requested document is not available, or you don’t have permission to view it”