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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Seema Malhotra Blog on Violence

In her new role, Seema Malhotra MP has blogged on the extent of violence against women in the UK.  As she says, it is a complex situation with many factors.  Getting a prosecution through the justice system is even more difficult in this area than in others, and the victims have to be extremely brave to stick with it.  Over the past few years of cuts, Brent has been careful to protect support services for victims.  The current arrangements are due to be reviewed in September.  I hope the previous support is maintained.

Positive Roles for Scrutiny

I was unhappy at the downgrading of Scrutiny in Brent shortly after the elections in May.  This is because, if it is taken seriously, Scrutiny has the potential to do valuable work.  A recent example would be the Brent report on violence against women and girls, which was chaired by then Cllr Ann John.  The prospects of the new Scrutiny system in Brent producing results like this don't look rosy.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Economic Depression

Anyone feeling depressed about the dismal state of the UK economy might reflect on Italy.  Much of the blame for Italy's plight lies with its dysfunctional political leadership.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Alex Salmond's Currency Evasion

Yesterday's Observer was spot on about Alex Salmond's currency evasion.  I find it hard to understand how this, and indeed his non existent legal advice on membership of the EU, haven't simply blasted him out of contention. 

Demanding the Impossible

I see that Martin Francis is once again avoiding the issue with regard to Brent Council.  He suggests that Brent Council "fund" a more generous Council Tax Support scheme, without suggesting what public spending he would cut to pay for it.  That is just a refusal to make a political choice.  It is fair enough to say that protecting people on low incomes from further demands is a priority, but the cost of keeping the previous Council Tax Support system would have been more than £5 million a year.  Identifying that level of funding in the current budget is the only credible way that the older system could be supported.

Incidentally, it looks entirely possible that (as predicted) Eric Pickles is about to cut funding for local welfare assistance which would further undermine people in extreme poverty.  Perhaps attacking that cut would be a better use of time than demanding Brent Council do things it simply has not got the power to do.  There again, I have argued before that Martin actually simply wants to attack Brent Council and the Labour Party.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Seema Malhotra Preventing Violence Against Women

Well done to Seema Malhotra MP on her appointment as the first shadow minister for preventing violence against women.  Violence against women and girls is a widespread problem in Brent, and across the rest of the country.  It is good to see the Labour Party focusing on it. 

Britain's Management Problem

Flip Chart Fairy Tales has an interesting take on Britain's management problem.  His suggestion that our flexible labour market may actually be holding productivity back.  I also wonder whether our over centralised political structure undermines effective management in the public sector.

Brent Council of course has been getting rid of permanent staff in huge numbers in recent years, whilst also getting loads of interims to replace them.  The Council also appears to have become embroiled in a series of employment tribunal cases, with people alleging poor management.  That certainly suggests to me that there is something seriously wrong with the management of the Council's human resources.  One of the main points of  the One Oracle project was supposed to be to improve the quality of human resources management in the Council.  Perhaps it would be sensible to see how the new computer systems can be used to improve Brent's sub-standard human resources?

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Eventual Triumph of the Facts

Paul Krugman argues that the effective success of Obamacare is making it harder and harder for the Republicans to use as a campaign issue against the Democrats.  People are simply starting to notice that the facts don't adhere to Republican propaganda.

However, I think this is true of political issues in general.  When you have a difficult decision, you get a phase where opponents can whip all kinds of fears about how it won't work.  Once it is in place, people can see whether it is working or not.  For instance, w3hen Brent introduced blue top bins we were assailed with a whole series of accusations of rats, flytipping, fire hazards, ridiculous numbers of bins per household and so on.  Once the system was in place, these suggestions had much less traction as people could see the scare stories didn't work.  In particular, the opposition was dampened by the immediate rise in the recycling figures as soon as the bins started being collected.

Eric Pickles is still trying to overcome this, by simply repeating the same old stories even though he knows they are untrue.  Unfortunately, the likes of the Daily Mail and so on willingly lap it up and regurgitate his lines. 

I suspect the same is now true of libraries.  The improved satisfaction of library users is established.  The visits and loan figures are higher than before, and Brent outperforms comparable authorities.  The only way to deny the success of the Brent Libraries Transformation is simply to deny the facts altogether, which unfortunately a few of the campaigners continue to do, aided by journalists who have little interest in publishing the truth.  

Friday, 22 August 2014

Browsing in Public Libraries

I was interested in this Dutch experiment in making libraries user friendly.  Things like soft furnishings, coffee and so on are widely used in libraries now, not least in Wembley Library.  However this is the first time I have seen a public library abandoning the Dewey Decimal system, which I think many users find hard to understand.  As bookshops become less common, perhaps libraries could find a role as areas for physically browsing books.