The Big Society and the state: can only the state look after us?

 

                 The government is mired in criticisms from the public sector. Only the state, they claim, can care for us. Only the traditional public sector  can look after our woods, educate our children and provide us with health care. Any attempt at reform will make things worse, they say.

                They are attacking the idea of the Big Society. The Big Society is an umbrella idea that reminds us that caring can come from charities, families and the private sector as well as from the state. It seeks to harness voluntary activity and the private sector as well as public cash to improve our society and look after those who need help and support. It wishes to harness voluntary and private sector effort to look after our environment and provide a range of services.

                Now we are reminded  that some charities are very dependent on public sector grants. Many Councils have found it easier to cut the money they give to charities than to cut their own overhead costs, leading to a campaign against the cuts from a surprising source.

              We are back to the view that only public sector cash works, and the only caring that counts comes from public money. We see this in the battle of the budgets over Free schools, where the core public sector complains should any education money be given to state financed schools on the new model. We see it with Councils who prefer to spend on themselves rather than let charities and others do it for them. We see it in the opposition to health reforms where critics do not want doctors spending  NHS money to provide free treatment by buying in services from the private sector. We see it in the opposition to charitable trusts looking after heritage forests, where apparently only the Forestry Commission can be trusted to keep the trees and allow us to walk by them.

            None of these attitudes are healthy. They all get in the way of doing things better. They get in the way of bringing down the public deficit without undermining important public services. They are based on the public sector paradox. People who often are very critical of politicians and bureaucrats, and who regularly condemn their approach, their attitudes and their incompetence, want politicians and bureaucrats to run more and more of their lives.

             The government  knows  that if  charities and other institutions do not want to take on running a heritage forest, and if the public remain opposed to its transfer, they cannot force it. The Big Society runs on the voluntary principle. The government can offer, and allow a decade to local groups and charities to see if they want to own their local wood. It is a permissive policy, not a threat.

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47 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Health Care, too important to be left to the private sector ~ right ?

    Even more important, food, no one can live without food, so shouldn’t food also be nationalised.

    Imagine a politician proclaiming that from this day on, that national food service (NFS) was founded and all one had to do was go into a restaurant or supermarket (now taken over by government), and apply for a meal without charge.

    Would you expect increased queuing at food outlets and them sometimes running out of food? Would it be likely that people would order lobsters, fine wine or other expensive meals? Would you expect to wait 16 weeks for a table sometimes?

    Would it be reasonable to expect the government to limit what one could order, and place a limit on what it would pay the food outlet per meal or would it be total open season, with no cost limits?

    Given that there would be no end of customers, and no way to increase prices, would services suffer? Would there be queues and shortages, would the place become dirty with MRSA and C-Diff?

    Would the waiters and chefs care if you liked the food or not, after all, you have to pay for it anyway, would they be attentive or would you have to constantly pester them to attend to you? Would you expect a restaurant to be crowded with drunken people on a Friday night (knowing the food was free), would you expect to wait hours to be seen and have to suffer abuse from other patrons regardless of how hungry you were?

    Would you expect left-wing politicians to say how marvellous it was that everyone ate? That the NFS was the crowning glory of the socialist state, that without the NFS people would starve and the NFS was safe in only their hands.

    When food production was state run in the USSR there were food shortages (remember the bread queues in the snow), and indeed every service provided by government had shortages, so how come there are no shortages of shirts or bicycles or umbrellas or toothpaste etc. which are not “provided” by government?

    So, considering that we have no food shortages now and absolute choice and convenience are you willing to hand control of food to the NFS?

    If not, why tolerate the NHS?

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      They are already trying t,o sort of, nationalise food with, CAP, health and safety rules, packaging labelling rules, balanced diet traffic light rules, bio fuel energy rules, packaging rules recycling rules & import tariffs restrictions.

      Do not encourage them any further or we shall all starve too.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Absolute twaddle. The sooner cricket is all pay per view the better. More money for the sport/players/schools/future sportsman and better for the viewer, certainly this viewer. Sell that one to yourself/in the pub
      I am always wary of anyone over simplifying complex arguments especially someone making a ‘market’ a market. Any ‘profits’ or surplus money the state has should be put back into the health service not in the pockets of rich overseas companies. A bit more state intervention into the food industry would be a good thing considering what they are allowed to get away with vested interests.
      Toll roads for you too suppose?
      .

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        It is entirely a matter for the cricket authorities whether they offer their product to subscription TV, advertising supported, free-to-air TV or some kind of live-stream internet broadcaster.

        I did not entirely understand your point about making a ‘market’ a market but please don’t trot out the tired nonsense about surplus profits being ‘put back’ into the health service. The NHS doesn’t make any profits worthy of the name and if the concept was a sound one, Trabant the famous East German car maker would have produced the best cars in the world because they could ‘put back’ profits into the car industry unlike Mercedes who had to pay shareholders. Our state health care is Trabant at present and the politicians won’t say so publically, but they know it’s days are numbered.

        Private roads? Yep, every last one. No fuel duty, no queues and serious efforts to keep the roads passable in bad weather rather than useless council excuses. Again, state roads mean queues (just like Poland with their bread queues in the 1980’s as there is no market pricing mechanism to allocate reosurces) and dismal quality.

        I am greatly amused by the idea that politics prevents vested interests in some way.

  2. norman
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Why can’t we call it what it’s been called for the last 300 years – conservatism?

  3. lifelogic
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Clearly the local authorities will use the cuts for political advantage making political cuts in areas to make the public notice and blame the government. What did the coalition expect? Most local authorities have no real democratic accountability areas still labour now are likely to remain so.

    They need to cut state sector wages, pensions liabilities and employee numbers and give the public some real control over the council excesses. There are endless things that could be cut without anyone even noticing. They also need to be prevented from just raising new back door taxes such as increasing funeral charges, planning fees, parking fines and similar.

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Goods trade deficit hits record high in December.

      How much more bad news do they actually need before they start to sort of the lack of bank lending, regulation, government waste, over taxations and expensive green energy so business can actually compete again without the state just pulling them under the water & drowning them with tax and regulations.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 9, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        From, quite extensive, personal experience I can confirm that most of the big banks are not lending to good businesses even with good property as security. They are actually just clawing funds back perhaps to repay the government or to lend overseas (where businesses do not have the dead weight of the state trying to sink them). This is certainly the case with at least the 6 large banks and brokers I have dealing with.

        You have more chance of getting a loan of a neighbour.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        They have no personal incentive to change, so they won’t change. The current system suits them fine.

  4. Boudicca
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Part of the problem is the name ‘Big Society.’ It is vacuous. It means nothing to ordinary people and the idea underneath it hasn’t been explained at all well.

    Why not ‘Mutual Britain’ or the Partnership Society. People understand what mutualism is and the John Lewis Partnership is widely known and admired. Surely the ethos behind both these ideas could have been used to explain what Cameron is on about.

    The problem is that a lot of our charities have been politicised, are left-wing and are now basically an arm of the Labour Party. Then you have Labour Local Authorities which will do all they can to thwart the Government’s proposals, aided and abetted by the BBC who do all they can to publicise every cutback in negative terms.

    Why on earth Cameron didn’t deal with the in-built bias at the BBC as his first action is beyond me.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    The problem with a genuine charity (one that does not get Local Authority or Government money) that has to raise all of its own funds to exist (and you do need funds to exist) Is that if you are holding a public event, a local carnival, firework night, pram race, fun run, craft fair, santa’s sleigh or the like, the Council get involved.

    They get involved because of regulations, street closure orders, health and safety, risk assessments, method statements, police notification, parking areas/enforcement, fees for street collecting licences, environmental health, hygene certification, labeling of home made cakes, Public liability insurance, third party insurance etc.

    All of the above are needed to run a public event within the laws and regulations required. I know because I have organised many of the above events for our local Lions club.

    The above costs in both time and money, have to be met before any event is put on, (notice none of the above costs include the actual event costs themselves) or indeed the organisations own running/administration costs, telephone, petrol, postage, meeting rooms etc.

    Our own Club membership pays all of its own administration costs, for meeting rooms (once a month) and public liability insurance etc, so we pay up front to be to be volunteers, we then meet all our own fuel and telephone costs, all possible communication is by “e” mail, so postage is kept to a minimum, and all time is given free of any charge.

    Over the last 30 years we have raised, and spent over £600,000 in the local community on needy causes, some even at the request of the local Authority.

    The big society is a great idea, but it already exists, with increased regulation, increased health and safety and all of the other hoops you have to now jump through, the cost of fund raising is rising to a point where there is no point in running an event at all. Case in point, local Fun Day in Earley (which you opened a few years ago John) now does not run at all, and ceased a couple of years ago after 28 years.

    Case in point. Our Club attended a Carnival organised by the local Rotary club, our wives were selling home made cakes, a visiting environmental officer, arrived at the stand (did not identify themselves as such until challenged), asked many questions about how cakes were made, where they were made, were eggs or nuts involved, and then purchased one to take away for analysis.

    Instead of helping REAL charities, years and years of regulation is strangling them.

    That is why the big society is doomed to failure unless the red tape can but cut, and local authorites give up the protect my back mentality.

    Reply: thanks to you for what you do. I agree about the difficulties now of fund raiisng against the regulatory background.

  6. Gary
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    with Big Govt the language of dependency gets so perverted that we end up calling quangos that get govt handouts “charities”.

  7. Mr J Leslie Smith
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    The Conservative Party and this Coalition Government are in great danger of losing this argument with Labour on the “Big Society,” unless they start to hammer home that it is “bad” to borrow too much money and”good” to save and be prudent.

    People will only start to look after them selves and their local Community, when they are not constantly mired and worried by debt. Most people are on the edge with credt card bills, direct debit monthly payments and of course mortgages. Many have no real idea of finanical management and do not plan properly even for a small pension. The morality of the argument that “debt is bad” and “Big Debt is worse” must be put much more strongly. Also that Labour got us into this and want to keep us there, dependent on the State and more debt, which we all know is not sustainable.

    Force the questions back to Labour and Ed Balls, “What exactly are your plans to reduce these huge debts.?” Should interest rates rise and inflation continue its rise, we are already in trouble.

  8. Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    John,

    Agree with the article. What I would add is that the Government (i.e. taxpayer) should not be funding any charities.

    Thanks.
    FAV

  9. Nick
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Still doesn’t address the issue.

    Far from saying, lets make the charity sector effective, you’re cutting off the supply of funds. Good.

    Now, the philanthropists can pick up, and get more value for money, can’t they?

    Er, no. You’re not allowing the phillanthropists to keep their money and distribute as they see fit. You’re taxing it and raising tax levels. There is less money to give because of the tax rises.

    It’s getting worse. With you spending 10.8% more, Nov-Nov, you’re going to have to raise taxes even more to pay off that borrowing.

    Personally, I think its tipped. You won’t or can’t control your spending habits, and are borrowing hand over fist trying to find someone else to blame.

  10. Michael St George
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    In your second paragraph above, you’ve stated with clarity the definition and description of the Big Society concept in only 5 lines: yet this is something which appears totally beyond the abilities of the current government to articulate and convey.

    Francis Maude’s attempt at this on Newsnight on Monday was, in particular, lamentably inept: yet these are people who atavistically would refuse even to listen to you and your colleagues of like mind. They really do deserve all the opprobrium currently being heaped upon their heads.

    Seeing the extent to which people appear to believe that, for example, only the state is able to run the small proportion of forests which remain not in private hands, and that only the state can operate something as uncomplicated as a book-lending library, is profoundly depressing.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the government has to face up to the vested interests of the public sector. They haven’t helped their cause by the inept way in which they have presented and then failed to defend their policies. This has given their opponents in those vested interests a virtually clear run at getting across their propaganda in the news media. Government popularity has fallen sharply and as we know public spending is now higher than under Labour. When the effects of the redistribution of taxpayers’ cash amongst the departments begin their popularity will decline further. Allowing the councils to decide how to reduce their expenditure was bound to result in the sorts of scare stories that now proliferate in the media. It was also naive to believe that these councils will be punished by the voters. They won’t, because they will blame their actions on the already unpopular government. You are correct to highlight the public sector paradox and unless you and your colleagues speak out much more in support of the benefits of the private sector nothing will change. I wonder why those who think that only the state can look after our health, education and so many other things are quite happy to allow the private sector to provide our food. I dare say that some of them would be happier if the state ran the supermarkets as well!

  12. Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t consider a Charity to be a charity if it gets more than about 10% of its funding from government or similar sources. Quite rightly, all charities’ boards of management listen to the wishes of their donors and give consideration to their views, but when that donor is the government, they don’t just consider what the government wants, they do exactly as “suggested”.
    Instead of fussing around trying to prove that private schools don’t provide a benefit to the public (they must do as they remove a cost from the taxpayer), the Charities Commission should be examining all charities which receive significant state funding and assessing whether they are genuine independent charities or disguised arms of government.

    As an aside, I think that the “Big Society” is a stupid name for David Cameron’s concept with which I would broadly agree. It reminds me of George Orwell’s “Big Brother”, and in any case what we want is surely a “Small Society” where individuals can get together and look after themselves and their interests without interference from those who think that they “know better”

    • Posted February 10, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      Free society
      People power society
      DIY Governence
      Grass Roots Gov.
      I am no copywriter or spin man

      You would have thought a PR man would have sussed this. There is something that does not add up here. I think that is the reason that people are not buying it.
      Sounds like blair’s ‘big tent’
      Can you please get through the message that you all need to get your arses into gear PDQ!
      I tell anyone who will listen to get onto this and other blogs
      -Soakell-P

  13. R. Goodacre
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    It may be a truism, but the ability to communicate a message is surely the most fundamental of political skills – in fact, as we now know from bitter recent experience, the content of the message matters less than the manner in which it’s delivered. Mandelson appreciated this better than anyone in post-war politics, and since his emergence in the late 80s the Labour party (through Gould, Blair, Campbell in particular) has run rings round the Conservatives, even when the Conservatives have had sensible policies to offer. We have to go back to that famous slogan – Labour’s not working – for an example of a truly effective Conservative communication campaign (I’m not forgetting Mrs Thatcher’s ability to communicate with a blue collar constituency).

    Distressingly, even today the Conservatives appear not to have realised how crucial it is to win the communications battle. When an overgrown student (word left out) like Balls can still be described by the media as some sort of an economic wizard despite his disastrous role in our impoverishment, and the Conservatives are unable to hit such a large target, something is clearly very wrong.

    Whatever initiative Labour introduced, they have nearly always been able to control the message with the result that they escaped the wipe-out they expected in the last election. In contrast, the present government too often launches a policy with insufficient groundwork, allows Labour to identify and savage its weak points, and have to play catch up to try to explain what is intended.

  14. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    If you believe current Deficit denying antics from the official opposition, then you would have to say that the last government engineered the banking collapse in order that it would throw more people onto dependency from the state.

    The issue that the “Big Society is being attacked” is seemingly because the ministers responsible for it are continually reported as being unable to put forward a coherent arguement for it, and thus the officail opposition is having a field day.

    If the Coalition wants to “do” Big Society then at least have the temerity to stand behind the policy.

    It will also be interesting to see where the council voting falls when seemingly Coalition Councils aren’t making huge front line cuts whilst the opposition ones are running nothing but “cherished programme cuts”. Maybe we could see the abolition of some of the Unitary authorities to free up more localism.

  15. Winston Smith
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Its more than some, John. Most charities are reliant on the State for a large part of their funding. Labour effectively nationalised the charity sector to expand their client State. Some received funds in return for Labour placemen on their boards.

    The Big Society is a wooly idea concocted by those who live among the aloof, wealthy metropolitan elite. It is part of the Cameron clique’s disastrous strategy that cost an outright election win. It’s a strategy that concedes far too much ground to the socialists, not based on logic or ideology, but on cowardice. For, Cameron is scared of arguing for a smaller State, personal responsibility and self-determination for fear of being harangued as selfish and nasty. He is unprincipled. He has appeased the bullying Leftist elite, tied himself in knots and this Big Society nonsense is derided by everyone, but Party loyalists.

  16. Jay Wreck
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Philanthropy? Looks like your lot feather-bedding to me
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/tax-city-heist-of-century

  17. Acorn
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I notice JR, that you have not published my post concerning the Community Service Volunteers and its multiple sources of taxpayers money. Naturally the BBC allowed it five minutes on “the cuts”. I know politicians are frightened of criticising “charities”; automatic bad press, charities are mostly untouchable. (Fortunately, the CC did manage to spot a fishing club that applied to be a charity; and turned it down. Alas, a rare catch for the CC.) See:- http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Our_regulatory_activity/Compliance_reports/fdcase.aspx#20

    In my time as a Councillor, I was never asked to audit a charity my council had donated to. Like, what exactly did they do with the money. Hence I suggest that there are charities out there, that are actually disguised extensions of the benefits system with tax breaks.

  18. Liz
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The left and even some in the centre do not believe in charities and do what they can to make life as difficult as possible for them. Added to that many local authority health and safety/trading standards departments are heavily over staffed and looking for new areas to regulate and ban if possible thus you have a recipe for the state taking over even more activities.
    As for the BBC – since the beginning of the year most of its main news broadcasts have been thinly veiled Labour political broadcasts with not the slightest attempt at balance and are as guilty of political cuts, rather than rational cuts, as a Labour Council, Why did it cut the World Service rather than reduce their website – cutting out all the written content which belongs to newspapers and concentrating on sound and vision programme information only. It should not be using taxpapyers’ money either for political propaganda or unfair competition with the books and newspaper media.

  19. Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The Big Society has been ill thought out, and unlike the “Active Citizen”, that vanished without a trace in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Big Society is likely to hang around the neck of David Cameron for months to come.

    Many of us believe in much of the rhetoric of the BS but the actual policy decision making does not meet this rhetoric and the groups in society that could take up the challenge are the first to lose out in the current “austerity Britain” agenda.
    Whether we like it or not the Big Society is in trouble.

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that Cameron’s “Big Society” concept is going anywhere, any more than Blair’s “Big Conversation” went anywhere beyond a few “public” meetings to which only Labour party members were invited.

    There are now just too many inconsistencies when a national politician whose own affiliation with the nation is in doubt attempts to get the nation involved in a top-down plan to promote bottom-up initiatives.

    Like going to Munich to give a speech to a multi-national audience and tell them inter alia that the British people:

    “need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone”

    rather than addressing us directly in a speech delivered in this country, say in Manchester; and moreover saying that to a multi-national audience which includes EU politicians who he knows are constantly working to undermine national identity within each of the EU member states and replace it with a European identity.

    I don’t feel that Cameron is one of us, and I can’t see many of us springing into action to follow whatever lead he may think he’s giving us.

  21. Alte Fritz
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    You commeneted recently that charities were used in some cases as arms of government. Here is another manifestation in the Big Society argument. I heard it first last week and it seems flavour of the month.

    The state ran so many things so badly that there seemed no reason not to privatise. I wonder, in retrospect, about some privatistions, but, as you say, the policy can be permissive, not threatening.

  22. A.Sedgwick
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Repeal of the human rights act, zero tolerance policing, longer prison sentences would give The Big Society a chance, without such measures many likely volunteers could think the odds are insurmountable in our criminal and minority biased society.

  23. Andrew Johnson
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Conservatives are losing the battle for ideas and policy, (propaganda) big time. Mr. Cameron has not dealt with the Biased BBC, is still funding the Guardian through public sector job adverts, and does not appear to have anyone in government, Eric Pickles apart, who is able to make a coherent case for the the reduction of Big Government to to be replaced by Big Society ( a truly terrible strap line).
    It appears that real Conservatives have been excluded from the government. We were told that the coalition was formed, and not a minority Conservative government, because the country’s needs had to be placed above party needs. Can anyone tell me what BIG ideas the coalition have come up with or propose to introduce. State spending is increasing year on year. Taxes are going up, the prudent and hard working are still subsidising and rescuing the imprudent, feckless and workshy, the whole “Cuts” angst is a complete myth. The French have a saying, “Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose”. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
    When the election comes, and that may be sooner than anyone thinks, why would anyone want to vote Conservative?

  24. JimF
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I didn’t realise so many charities have, as their lifeblood, Government cash. That really puts them into the Quango category.

    So money is paid by business and individuals to HMRC, then to the Treasury, then to a spending department, then to a Quango-charity, then to an end-use.

    I think all it takes to explain this is that, with some tax benefit, business or individuals could sponsor and run these things themselves. Cut out the 3 or 4 middlemen. The only problem is that there has been no decent explanation by the government as to why this is better.

  25. BobE
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I think that Cameron is a lot like Blair. PR men with no real substance. In the past they would sell cars for a living. They just want to make headlines and aim to become the President of Europe.

    No public servant should earn more than the PM. Any that do should be cut back. That would save a few pence!!
    BobE, Region 6, EUSSR

  26. Jer
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    With regard to the trees, I’m a bit baffled. Either we need trees for wood or paper, in which case the forests should be sold and operated by private businesses, or they are non-commercial recreation areas. In the latter case trees are perfectly capable of going about their arborial ways without assistance.

    So what would we ever need a forestry commission for?

  27. Posted February 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Individually if asked if we would like monery from government (or indeed the Christmas fairy) for our own hobbyhorses we would go for it and why not (I am no exception, I want government money for space X_prizes but at least I can say where to get it).

    Collectively we all want lower taxes.

    The way to discuss it is for there to be a legal limit on the amount of the economy government is allowed to take, a limit which could be raised or lowered by referendum. My strong opinion is that such referenda would reduce the size of government to less than 40% of GNP (my weak opinion is less than 20%).

    This is something on which the other parties in Parliament could never outflank the Conservatives. But it does require somebody to have the gumption to name a target figure otherwise the debate will always be only about funding particular hobbyhorses.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t often say this about former liberal democrats, or indeed anyone, but Neil’s views are well considered and worthy of serious consideration and no he doesn’t pay me anything and we’ve never met.

  28. BobE
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Telegraph Quote of the day
    “Lord Lang, the Conservative peer, said people in ordinary jobs were not sufficiently qualified to pass judgement on the employment of former ministers in the private sector.
    The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business appointments has come under pressure to dilute the “Establishment” make-up of his panel, which comprises four peers, two knights and a dame.
    But he defended the composition of his committee, despite accusations the arrangement was too “cosy”.
    Lord Lang told MPs he would be prepared to accept a “lay member”, but added that is should be someone “who had experience and proven success in a relatively important profession or trade – somebody who had achieved distinction – rather than a waitress or bus driver.”
    He must be a Cameroon.

  29. Julian Hodgson
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I was reading the online version of the Blackpool Gazette the other day and I noticed in the top-right hand corner one of those surveys where it is possible to vote yes or no to a question. The way people have voted is hidden until you cast your own ballot. The question on this particular day was: “Should the RNLI be nationalised?”. This caught my eye because the way people answer such a question would give a rough and ready insight into the prevailing attitudes on state provision, which I was hoping would have shifted following the disastrous years of the Labour government. You can guess my answer but the aggregate of ballots cast was split in a most depressing way: 94% voted yes, and only 6% no.

    It’s difficult to imagine a greater catastrophe to befall the RNLI than nationalisation, short of the wholesale destruction of their fleet of lifeboats and the massacre of all their volunteers. For it to become another vested interest inside the hideous majesty of the British public sector would mean only one thing: more people drowning off the coasts of Britain. And what follows this almost inevitable consequence?: a call for more funding from a wily chief executive whose main skills are lobbying and buttering up politicians rather than running a life-saving organisation.

    I’ve heard madness defined as a belief that the same behaviours will result in different outcomes. Just when will people realise and accept that state intervention in almost any walk of life ends up with waste, incompetence and strife?

  30. Andrew Gately
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Your spot on today, I am a private landlord doing a very simple transaction which should be relatively straight forward but the grief you have to put up with from the public sector and pressure groups is ridiculous.

    It is kind of like being a boat in the middle of a pond and the public sector and pressure groups are throwing rocks at you to try and sink you.

    The utter nonsense they spout is embarrassing but is routinely reported in the media as facts e.g. 2,000,000 people are victims of landlord fraud which is utterly ridiculous and I would be surprised if there were as manay as 2000.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      I feel your pain having just spent eight months evicting some tenants for non-payment of rent for eight months.

      You might imagine that a formal court judgement might be enough for a certain deposit holding service, but oh no, I had to go to court again to instruct them to release the deposit covering six weeks of the eight month debt (and don’t even start me on the wreck of a house that was left).

      A great many landlords are also victims as I am sure you know

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Stuart

        And then you would have to go to Court again to try and get a judgement for payment for the debt.
        And then again for payment enforcement.
        And if they still do not pay, a bankruptcy order.
        That is if they had any money in the first place.

        Quite why the rules on housing benefit was changed, and is now all paid to the tenant instead of the landlord, simply makes no sense.

        And no I am not a landlord, but have seen what tenants have left behind when we have been asked to go in and repair properties.

      • Andrew Gately
        Posted February 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        David Cameron said before the election that he would pay the landlord direct to avoid the situation you faced but has conveniently forgotton about this promise.

        What makes the situation worse is that Council officers are actively advising tenants not to pay their rent and to make the landlord go to court to recover possesion to avoid the tenant becoming homeless.

  31. Mike Stallard
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’m going to be honest. So batten down the hatches.

    As a Catholic, I work for God.
    If I do not do what He asks me to do, then I am letting the side down. No, I do not go to Hell etc. I just let the side down and feel awful.
    If I do what He asks, then people say I am mad, misguided, a Fascist, a fool, naif (today in a letter), or just plain stupid.
    Twas ever thus, I believe.

    What I do not need – and neither does anyone else on our team – the secret state helping me, tying me up in power crazy paperwork and generally lecturing me about what a prat I am.

    We are a team, you see. There are lots of us all over the world. We generally know what we are doing and if we get some loonie ideas, we are pretty soon corrected by our peers.

    Arrogantly, the State assumes that it is as good at Charity Work as we are.

    Rubbish.

  32. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree, the State should do less.

    However, just because many activities currently in the public sector would be better in the private sector, it does not follow that this approach always holds good. In particular where the activity is an inherent monopoly. When government creates a large private monopoly it also has to create a regulator: BT is a good example. The problem is that (and here I hope I will be allowed to borrow from a telling phrase familiar to regular readers of this blog) you end up with a medium sized regulator with a large company attached.

    These arrangements tend not to work too well, and with BT we can see the problems manifesting themselves with the roll out to the whole country of Next Generation Access broadband.

    And then, of course, if you take the merits privatisation to its logical conclusion, why not privatise the Cabinet!

  33. Bazman
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Big society. Sacking the Librarian and then asking her if she wants to work for free. A private health service will be private companies doing all the straightforward stuff at inflated prices while all the difficult expensive long term care will be taken carried by the state or the worst of both worlds like elderly long term care. You just know it will be like this.

  34. Mr J Leslie Smith
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    We will have grown up and matured as a Society when we cna finally admit that the so called “NHS” is an Emperor, without clothes. By every rational measurement, the Societies of Germany, France, Begium, America, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, even Singapore, have far superior patient centred health systems, than we do in Britain. The NHS is NOT the envy of the World. It is the biggest Gulag Employer by any State, totalling some 1.5 Million people, the biggest employer by any State outside of the Red Army, of China. It is run for its employees by its employees and regulated by the most powerful Union in the land,, The British Medical Association. (BMA) We, being Patients, who pay taxes for this system to function have few rights and very little powers. The NHS needs dismantling and we need to start afresh… Waiting lists have become “Death Lists” and cannot be compared favourably with other Countries as developed as ours. We can spend our taxes better on healthcare, and much more wisely and better targetted… Just look around the World, at other systems and you will see the truth of this…. Wake Up!!

    • Bazman
      Posted February 10, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      No problem with the banking system though this seems to be run for the benefit of a small elite and their beneficiaries? I thought not. I suppose you would like the health system run on the same lines which it naturally will following privatisation.

  35. Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Because you cannot trust the ‘private sector’.

    Look at big pharma?

    It is never anything other than self-serving. The state might not be the best but it is the only option that can be slightly held to account when it goes tits up.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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