Thursday, 19 June 2008

Preparing Britain for the Future

Alarmed by the loose wheel nuts on this New Labour machine we're all riding in, I've been delving under the seats in a desperate attempt to find anything that might tell me where we're headed and just how dangerous it might get.

This evening, I found the Government's legislative proposals for 2008-09 under a jumbo crisp packet and the greasy remains of a cornish pasty in the rear of the cab.

Apart from the smell, the first thing that slaps you in the face is that these guys plan to do an awful lot - too much, one senses, if they are to really achieve much. This government is a great one for gallons of policies, tapping the brakes and U-turns. Not good if you're prone to motion sickness.

Second, while there are no funding details, of course, all this planning feels really expensive in terms of consultants, and additional civil servants to staff all the new agencies. In other words, boiling an ocean consumes a lot of gas. And all the chat about better regulation, only seems to mean more regulation, if only to gather the existing regulation into neat and tidy piles for lawyers to sift through (page 72). The words "Titanic" and "deckchairs" spring to mind.

Third, and most importantly, there's absolutely no sign that this government is remotely concerned about reducing public sector costs, eliminating waste, enhancing productivity or educating civil servants to work smarter rather than hiring extra "special advisers" to get things done around them. This can't end well.

Anyway, here are 7 things that shone at me out of the rubble:
  1. We're going to get a a "Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" (p. 65), so be prepared to call Radio 4 to argue for outrageously generous personal rights and extremely high expectations of others.
  2. A "community empowerment" bill (p. 66) will make it lawful to lynch local councillors for squandering our council taxes if we can only lobby hard enough.
  3. Business rates will increase 2% to fund some kind of local authority "economic development" budget (p.12). Does this mean that local authorities are better at economic development than local businesses?
  4. 8 million low income earners will be forced to take bank accounts to qualify for The Saving Gateway, a scheme that matches government handouts with individuals' own savings (p. 29). No mention of bank fees, or savings rates that will apply, but this is chum in the water for the retail banking sharks. You can already see their fins on the surface. Also a nice way to ensure that people lend to banks while the banks are refusing to lend it to each other (or anyone else, for that matter).
  5. At last we are going to get 3 new, additional, extra education agencies - to regulate tests, skills funding and apprenticeships for some reason (pp 14-15). These agencies are vital, as they act as human shields for Ministers against citizens and the media.
  6. An oddly named "Bureaucracy Champion" will be appointed to cut red tape the for the police (p. 18). Why can't the police find the people who created the red tape in the first place and beat them with truncheons until it's all removed?
  7. Great news for IT vendors - a new Communications Data Bill will increase police access to our personal communications data, which will mean lots more IT kit to record and store it all. Really securely.
Remember: don't drink the Kool-Aid.
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