FOI reform - "Unnecessary, unpopular and undesirable"

Will one of Gordon's first acts of his premiership be to put behind him the scandal and sleaze of the Blair years and do a symbolic act and abolish all talk of freedom of information exemptions for MPs?  The Constitutional Affairs Select Committee is certainly for the abandonment of the "unnecessary, unpopular and undesirable" reforms.  Their report even concludes that "There is no objective evidence that any change is necessary.

Warning - Do not go to work on an egg

"Go to work on an egg" - a slogan that was run well before my time, yet I am very familiar with it such is its impact on the social conscience. And good advice too, in my book - if I had the patience to boil an egg every morning in between making up for lost time in order to catch the bus, the I too would go to work on an egg. But of course, I'd be stupid to - according to the government at least.

"People respect honesty, not cover-up"

There is no reason why our MPs should be exempt from Freedom of Information laws.  That is the opinion of Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner from the UK's information watchdog.  Some MPs claim that their correspondence with members from their constituents could be put in the public domain, destroying their trust between local MP and the electorate.  Yet not one complaint has been made that anyone's correspondence with an MP had been wrongly disclosed under the terms of the two-year-old legislation.  Mr Thomas said "There are bound

We all told you so! As usual the Government didn't listen

No prizes for guessing what the papers are full of today.  The slow motion car crash that has been in the making for many, many months now has finally made impact - though not entirely in the manner predicted nor has the crashing car come to halt yet.  Yesterday the Home Improvement Packs (HIPs) fiasco finally came to a head.  The watered down, un-necessary, unwanted scheme that has been doomed to fail from the start has failed before they even started!  As reported yesterday, the scheme has been put back by two months until the start of August.  They have also been watered down even furthe

HIPs to be delayed?

It is being reported on the BBC that the introduction of the Home Improvement Packs will be delayed. DCLG Secretary, Ruth Kelly, is expected to make an annoucement... more later...

UPDATE:  The introduction of HIPs has been put back 2 months and they will now be introduced on 1st August.

Only the Government's complete incompetence can save us now

Ahh!  You couldn't make this one up.  Home Improvement Packs.  The Tories have tried to stop them.  The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has tried to stop them.  In fact the whole property industry pretty much has tried to stop them.  Even Ruth Kelly has tried to stop them and it's her department!  Where all others have failed, the Government's complete incompetence with IT systems may yet come to the rescue.  According to the Times

Judicial review of HIPs?

With just a couple of weeks to go before the introduction of the Home Improvement Packs, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has thrown a spanner in to the Government's works.  Fearing a housing market crash from the combined effect of potential sellers being put of selling due to HIPs, a rush of sales prior to the 1st June and rising interest rates, RICS are now seeking a judicial review over the packs.  They are claiming, what we all know, that there aren't enough inspectors and also that the consultation process was not carried out properly.  They did, however, fail to add that the packs are a waste of time and money.

What have our MPs got to hide?

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 was, at least in principle, a good piece of legislation. It is not perfect and as far as I'm concern had too many ambiguities and exemptions. But all in all it made for a far more open government and public sector. Unfortunately, it seems it has been too successful and there has been for some time a growing force within Parliament to make MPs exempt from the law. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the most open and obvious show of contempt for the electorate I have seen for a long time. What makes them so special that they feel they above the law?

HIPs - five questions

The countdown continues until the HIPs fiasco hits - everyone knows it's coming but I have all confidence that nothing will be done about it. Currently there are just 57 qualified inspectors for the North East, 76 for Wales, and 152 for London. The Government itself has said it needs at least 7,500 qualified inspectors to carry out the required number of assessments. The Tories have hit out saying that due to the shortage there will be more miles racked up by the few inspectors as they race around the country trying to get to all the houses.

Failed Government IT System... but which one?

"Chaos as Government IT system grinds to a halt". Guess which IT system I'm talking about. MTAS? The Child Support Agency's IT phone system? The NHS's £12bn upgrade system? The criminal records bureau? The answer, of course, could be all of them. However today I'm referring to the latest incredible waste of public money and seemingly unending incompetence of the government when it comes to IT projects that is occurring in our registry offices.

The master of spin and the public's right to hear it

Nobody has spun a story better than Alistair Campbell. He was one of the big players behind new Labour and one of the big reasons they have won three elections. He is portrayed as a heartless and ruthless character and will use every trick in the book to get policy through. While Blair was the smiling face with the "like me, like me" speeches, Campbell was always lurking in the background - it all seemed rather sinister to me. He also always seemed to have the last laugh as well. Though now he is about to be apoplectic with laughter.

Another day, another regret

More bitter experience. More unfinished business.

LP has pointed out The Guardian article in which Lord Falconer declares that Tony Blair has "big regrets" about not tackling the culture of public-service provision earlier. "I don't think we even really clocked that agenda until four or five years on", he is reported as saying.

This is looking like a theme. Why would the departing leader and his supporters be drawing attention to his failures? Has anyone got an alternative explanation to the one I posited yesterday?

HIPS: A nice little earner (not for us though)

The Home Improvement Pack (HIP) disaster is slowly coming to the boil. The Law Society believes that Home inspectors could make up to £250 million a year on producing packs that never get used! If a property has been on the market for 6 months it will require a new HIP, leading to nearly half a million packs being pulped every year. With each one costing at least £500, the total bill would hit £250 million. Whilst 6 months will not be a legal requirement, in reality renewals will be required if the property is to sell. Nearly two million homes are put on the market every year, with a quarter going unsold after a year, it is estimated.

Expensive and deficient red tape

A story that has been brewing for sometime now is that of the Home Improvement Packs or HIPS. By June 1st of this year everyone selling their house will have to have an inspector come round at the cost of £600-£1000 to issue the seller with the pack. The problems associated with this scheme have been foreseen for a long time but the government has done absolutely nothing about it.

It's our money, we have a right to know how you are spending it.

The old saying in politics goes "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas", and it seems the turkeys in the House of Commons are no different. Senior Ministers will back plans to give exemptions to MPs in certain areas of the Freedom of Information Act. The measures will mean restrictions on the release of MPs expenses claims in to the public domain. So whilst the rest of the public sector will be under the scrutiny of FoI, the very people who voted it in in the first place will be exempt.

The cost of the EU tendering process

It comes as little surprise that the public sector tendering process is not only costing the tax payer money but putting off contractors even applying for contracts in the first place making the process less competitive and poor value for money. This has become a particular problem with private finance procurements. The NOA has criticised the PFI tendering process saying that that NHS trusts and authorities are spending 75 per cent more than expected on external consultants and that many contracts are uncompetitive and involve only one bidder.

RDA's, value for money?

Regional Agencies, aka Quangos, are costing the tax payer £360m a year to run, double the level of five years ago. The FT reports that the typical cost for each region is put at £23m for the regional development agency, £3m for the regional assembly and £14m for government offices, which act as Whitehall's representatives on issues such as education and transport. Adding in the regional cost of other state bodies, such as the Learning Skills Council and the Environment Agency, takes the annual administrative cost to £200m for each region or £1.8bn for England as a whole. £1.8bn for an extra tier of government.

Does work work?

Lord McKenzie of Luton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Lords) at the Department for Work and Pensions, today "called on the expertise of businesses, government and charities to discuss and agree what constitutes 'good work'." As he explained, "we need to figure out exactly what 'good work' is, so that we can ensure workplaces are happy, healthy and productive".

Here we go again. To Labour, everything is standardisable and reducible to the average or the lowest common denominator, and then enforceable by government mandate. In their eyes, my idea of what constitutes "good work" must be the same as yours, which must be the same as everyone else's. All they need to do is work out what this standard of "good work" consists of, and then insist that all jobs conform with this standard.

Why cannot I decide whether a job is acceptable to me, and accept or refuse employment offers accordingly? If the quality of my job disappoints, why can I not be left to decide whether it is sufficiently disappointing that I should look for a new job? If I can find nothing better than my existing job, am I better off having my unsatisfactory job regulated away (assuming my standards of satisfaction conform with the average), or putting up with something less than perfect until something better comes along? Why does government need to intervene in this area? My terms of employment are a matter for me and my employer alone.

Red tape stops us from making money

A Chamber of Commerce report released yesterday has shown that the cost of regulation and red tape to small businesses is running at £55bn. 70% of these businesses believe that the government is not doing enough to help them. One of the comments from the survey was "A risk culture needs to be encouraged in Government – try making a pound instead of trying to save one". This really sums up the government - they do not trust anyone to be able to run anything and so put all the regulation they can in place to put in the safe guards. All in order to save money - but what's the point in saving a pound when your the cost of saving it completely nullifies what you are trying to do?