JG's blog

The great big PFI scam

Private Funding Initiatives (PFIs) - the best way to finance a major project at the same time as keeping the risk away from the taxpayer.  In theory.  The latest example of where the taxpayer always gets shafted in the end is the new build in PFI schools.  In a report today, MPs said that half the Government's £45 billion investment that was financed by PFI was a "risk" which could result in local councils paying over the odds for new schools.  The problem lies in the length of the contracts.  PFIs are usually signed for 30 year periods.  If a school closes before the contract

A record breaking exam year! (Again)

In just a couple days the nation's sixteen year olds will be receiving news of how they have done in their GCSEs and the following week it will be the turn of A-level students.  It is traditional, therefore, this time of year to tell all the kids it was much harder in my day and they are, effectively, a bunch of numpties who have been given straight As on a plate.  But is that fair?  In part, I'm afraid, it seems it is.  The numpties part is unfair, granted, but the dumbing down, easy to get an A grade bit is not.  From the criticism that flies about, you would get the impression ch

DfT logic

The Department for Transport is to publish a consultation report it commissioned on cutting the death toll amongst younger drivers in the autumn. The major proposal is increasing the age limit for gaining a full driving licence to by a year to eighteen. To do this they will impose a 12-month training period for new drivers, in effect preventing 17-year-olds from holding a full licence. According to DfT research a 12-month learning period would save up to 1,000 deaths and up to 7,000 serious injuries a year. All very well, but I don't really understand the logic entirely.

The Carbon Trust

If you had a load of money you wanted to invest in a project, how would you go about ensuring that you made as much return for as little risk as possible?  Chances are you'd seek some sort of professional advice.  Now suppose that someone forced you to hand over your own money and they told you that they would invest it for you - you wouldn't be very happy.  You'd even less happy if they told you that they were just going to have a punt with it rather than treating it like they had something to lose.  This, in a nutshell, is what the government is doing with our hard earned mone

Junior doctor change over runs smoothly/was a complete shambles

So, depending on who you believe - yesterday's changeover at the NHS was either a smooth transition with no problems whatsoever or it was a complete shambles.  My cynical money is on the shambles.  Fortunately, I was not hit by a car nor had some other freak accident so managed to keep myself out of hospital yesterday.  As such I have no first hand evidence of what it was all like.   The BMA, however did and said that hospitals were encountering "a catalogue of problems" as they rushed to fill hundreds of junior doctor posts after the appointment system was plague

One man and (not) his dog

This isn't the most critically important story I've ever posted about, but it does demonstrate the knee-jerk mindset of our legislators and government agencies.  It is reported today in the times that Animal Health, the agency responsible for the state veterinary service, has banned vets and other staff from taking their dogs in cars on visits to farms or other premises when on official business.  This will also affect private vets on government contracts.  That’s right, the government is telling vets how to look after animals.  Incredible. 

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

As hospitals wake up to the change over of 30,000 young doctors today, one hospital in particular will be welcoming back a Raj Mattu after five years.  The significance of this?  Well Mr Mattu has been serving a five year suspension from Walesgrave Hospital in Coventry for being a whistle blower.  He did the outrageous act of exposing the scandal of overcrowding on his heart attack recovery ward - which he believed led to cause of 11 deaths because they could not be reached in an emergency by resuscitation teams.  See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil - the apparent motto of Walesgrave

Poll Result - And the new poll: The Environment Agency Bonuses

It seems Picking Losers has an overwhelming readership that are either staunch believers in the right for the individual to choose or you are a bunch of hippies. 61% of you voted to legalise cannabis regardless of the harm both physically and physiologically it can do you. A quarter of you want it reclassified as a class B drug and only 12% were happy with the Blair government’s policy.

D-Day at the NHS

Following up another long running story that will go "live" tomorrow is the big doctor change over.  Thanks to some brilliant planning at the DoH, 30,000 junior doctors will all change jobs at once tomorrow.  It will mean that many patients who have been waiting months for routine surgery - such as a hip replacement or hernia repairs - will have to rejoin waiting lists all over again.  There have also been fears, going back many months now, that patient health will be put as risk in the chaos.  Remedy UK, which represents junior doctors - a role which many feel the British Medical

The cost of war

The going rate for a serving soldier who comes home from war suffering from "permanent severely impaired grip in both hands" is a £16,500 one-off compensation payment.  Probably just as well for the tax payer given the thirst for war Britain has had over the past five years or so.  To me that does seem a little low, however, seeing as the soldier will not be able to get employment in anything involving his hands again (just about everything, then).  There is the old argument that this is what they sign up to and they should expect the worse - but I'm still not sure that means

The return of HIPs

You didn't think I'd forgotten had you?  In two days it will be the belated launch of the Home Information Packs.  The watered down, meaningless, poorly thought out, incompetently implemented scheme will going live on 1st August for all properties with four or more bedrooms.  No doubt there will be plenty of horror stories over the coming months associated with the HIPs scheme.  The latest fear is that the Valuation Office Agency, the body responsible for deciding a property's council tax band, is said to have applied for access to the information, which it could then use to ass

A great day to bury bad news!

While we're on the subject of MP finances, the Tories have taken a very cynical view of the government and its attempts to bury bad news - such as MP wages and expenses rising by 5.5% or the 8% rise in the cost of private cars by government ministers last year.  The tax payer can also expect to give our hard working MPs a salary rise for next year.  In fact, just as parliament went in to recess yesterday for their long, long summer break (the sort the rest of us - except teachers - can only dream of) the government spurted out 76 announcements to the Commons.  All in the space of 48 hou

The "stunningly complex" benefits system only benefits the crooks

Another recurring story on PL - the benefits system. Anyone who can get their head round the complexities of this system deserves a few financial handouts and tax credits. It seems those who control it are not up to speed, they have been conned out of £2.5bn (TWO POINT FIVE BILLION POUNDS) through fraud. The Commons Work and Pensions select committee has described the benefits system as "stunningly complex".

PMQs & Climate Change

In today's PMQs, Ming Campbell asked the PM, with specific reference to the recent floods the following question:

"The Prime Minister was responsible for the establishment of the Stern report which as he will recall pointed out the severe economic consequences of climate change. Isn't it clear from the events of the past few weeks that we can not afford not to take the necessary steps nor indeed not to spend the necessary money in order to mitigate the effects of climate change."

To which Gordon Brown answered: