Tag Archives: red tape

Barking fire blamed on cladding – and safety fears were downplayed. Grenfell Mk 2?

The conflagration in De Pass Gardens, Barking, was due to cladding breaking fire while safety concerns were ignored, it seems.

According to the Guardian‘s report (link below), it is believed the fire spread after someone lit a barbecue on a balcony.

The flames reached the wooden cladding that covered the building and, despite claims that it was flame-retardant and perfectly safe, spread across the whole building rapidly.

Apparently the sprinkler system did not work.

Concerns had been raised about possible fire safety problems in early May, after the BBC’s Watchdog programme had highlighted fire safety problems at a development by the same builder – Bellway Homes – in Scotland.

An email from Bellway Homes said the construction method in Barking was different and therefore the De Pass Gardens development would not be affected the same way.

But the company had hired a fire safety warden to patrol the building in order to address unspecified concerns.

It all seems highly reminiscent of the Grenfell Tower fire of almost exactly two years ago.

On June 14, 2017, fire ripped through the allegedly-flameproof cladding on Grenfell Tower, despite residents having been assured that it was safe. There was no sprinkler system.

That blaze killed 72 people.

The Conservative government of the day – almost exactly the same administration as the current Conservative government – promised that lessons would be learned (the old mantra) but here we are again.

It seems clear that building regulations are not robust enough to ensure the safety of tower block residents, their homes and their possessions.

I recall another Conservative government – that of David Cameron – promising a “bonfire of red tape”, scrapping regulaations on the basis that they were not necessary.

Is this the reason the people of Barking were endangered yesterday, their homes and possessions destroyed? If so, who will face prosecution for the threat against the residents’ lives?

Source: Barking fire: residents claim safety fears about flats were downplayed | UK news | The Guardian

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NHS: It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it

141116milibandpromises

Has it occurred to anyone else that elections may be won or lost, not on the substance of a party’s policies, but on the way those policies are described to the public?

Putting aside for a moment the fact that David Cameron and the Conservative Party deliberately lied to the British people about their intentions for the National Health Service, were people not persuaded by their constant claims that Labour had increased expensive and unnecessary bureaucracy and ‘red tape’, and a new administration was needed to cut through it all before we choked on it?

Now, after almost five years of Cameron, we’re all a little wiser.

But it seems we still need the proper persuasion – in the right code, if you like.

So take a look at the image above, with Ed Miliband’s lynchpin policy pledges. See where he said, “I will scrap the Health and Social Care Act, which damages and undermines our NHS”?

Is that really enough to get him elected? It might be, but it probably isn’t.

How about if he said this: “Paying private companies to do what the NHS does anyway adds another layer of expensive bureaucracy to the process while pointlessly throwing away your tax money to provide their profit. I will end this.”

Or how about: “David Cameron’s government has added an expensive new bureaucratic layer to the NHS, as the inclusion of private companies means an unnecessary duplication of effort. I will scrap that.”

And perhaps: “The government’s system of Clinical Commissioning Groups overseen by Monitor to ensure that private companies get their choice of NHS contracts is unnecessarily bureaucratic, expensive, and failing the public. I will cut through this red tape.”

In fact, he could just turn Cameron’s words back on him: “Cameron’s new NHS is expensive, bureaucratic, and failing. Because of his policies, it cannot cope with demand that is lower than it was last summer.

“I will end this profligacy and ensure the NHS provides the best service in the world – together with the best value for money in the world.”

That’s what it’s all about, after all.

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Cutting red tape has cost the taxpayer billions

A waste of taxpayers' money: This is Tory business minister and twit Michael Fallon. The amount of money his 'red tape' cuts have cost this country mean he should be behind bars, not in front of them.

A waste of taxpayers’ money: This is Tory business minister and twit Michael Fallon. The amount of money his ‘red tape’ cuts have cost this country mean he should be behind bars, not in front of them.

Conservative business minister Michael Fallon has announced that the Coalition government’s cuts in ‘red tape’ are saving businesses £1.5 billion every year. How wonderful for him.

What he has neglected to mention is the fact that the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab – possibly at much greater cost.

Fallon reckons the government is “stripping back unnecessary rules that restrict enterprise and act as a brake on jobs and growth”.

For example, the Coalition has:

  • Removed thousands of “low risk” businesses from “unnecessary” health and safety inspections;
  • Stopped “responsible” employers from being held liable for workplace accidents and injuries that are “totally outside of their control”; and
  • Simplified mandatory reporting of workplace injuries.

The words in quotation marks are questionable. Who decides which businesses are “low risk”? Why would health and safety inspections by “unnecessary” in their cases? How do we know an employer is “responsible”, and why – after being labelled as such – should we believe they would not lie about whether an incident was “totally outside of their control”?

The possibilities for corruption are huge, now that the “brake” has come off.

Fortunately, it is possible to measure – very roughly – the effect of these measures; you simply look at the number of people applying for incapacity benefits.

These are people who are unable to work because of illness or injury. Counting them is not a perfect way of measuring the government’s success in cutting red tape while safeguarding employees’ health, because factors other than the workplace may be relevant in a number of cases. However, these should be seen as a minority only.

We know that, in May 2010, before the Coalition government came into office and started stripping away this “unnecessary” red tape, 28,300 ESA claims were awaiting assessment.

From the same source, we know that the number currently awaiting assessment is “just over” 700,000.

700,000!

Mr Fallon wants you to believe that none of these claims relate to his red tape cuts but the increase is simply too large to be discounted.

The lowest possible assessment rate of ESA (the amount they receive before their claim has been assessed) is £51.85 per week. Even if all claimants were receiving this, that’s a cost of £36,295,000 to the government, per week. The taxpayer pays that bill.

Over a year, it adds up to £13,247,675,000.

That’s at the assessment rate. Now, some of these may be knocked off-benefit after assessment – but this process, itself, costs money. It costs £311 per claim, according to the most recent official source available to this blog at the time of writing. Clearing the backlog would therefore cost £217,700,000.

This means the cost of assessing the 700,000 claims that have mounted up during the years of Conservative-led, red-tape-cutting Coalition government totals a vertiginous £13,465,375,000.

That’s almost nine times as much as Fallon thinks is being saved – spent on ESA assessments alone!

What a waste of taxpayers’ money.

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Hidden plan for ministers to axe laws that protect you – with a penstroke

Gone in a penstroke: If the Deregulation Bill becomes law, Acts of Parliament that protect your freedom could be removed from the statute book at a minister's whim.

Gone in a penstroke: If the Deregulation Bill becomes law, Acts of Parliament that protect your freedom could be removed from the statute book at a minister’s whim.

I have spent much of today putting old paperwork through the shredder in advance of tomorrow’s debate on the Deregulation Bill.

Why? Hidden among the plans to revoke ancient laws regulating pigsties is a clause that revokes the freedom of the press – in particular, the freedom of journalists to protect their sources.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats don’t want reporters to be able to protect political whistleblowers and the information they release from state harassment and confiscation.

Vox Political has long warned that the Coalition government was pushing us towards totalitarianism, and that is exactly what this apparently innocuous – but in fact deeply pernicious – piece of legislation proves.

We’ve had the gagging law, to silence organised dissent; we know that police chiefs want to use water cannons to stifle public protest; now we are faced with a cloak-and-dagger scheme to silence the press.

The removal of these privileges means the media will be unable to report anything that does not meet government approval – or face confiscation of equipment including computers, notebooks, recordings and correspondence that will lead to the identification of people who provide information that the government wants hushed up.

As a blogger who is also a qualified journalist, this directly affects me – and that is why I have been destroying paperwork. Tomorrow is only the Bill’s second reading – it must go through the committee stage, report stage and third reading before moving on to the House of Lords – but it is better to be well-prepared than to be caught napping.

Far more insidious than this, however, is the other part of this ‘red tape-cutting’ Bill that goes unmentioned. The really harmful part…

The part that says ministers should have the power to revoke any law they like, using statutory instruments (at the stroke of a pen) rather than taking the issue to a democratic vote in Parliament and, you know, actually telling anybody about it.

This means freedoms we have enjoyed for centuries-  or just a few years – could be removed with no prior notice, under the pretext of getting rid of ‘red tape’.

We would certainly be living in a police state if this were allowed to happen.

So here’s the big question: Do you think your MP even knows about this?

I only know because I read it on Another Angry Voice – from which site this article has swiped much of its information.

In his article, AAV creator Thomas G. Clark points out: “The Tories that devised this scheme… are clearly relying on the vast majority of Coalition MPs voting this through as the whips instruct them, without bothering to even read the documentation, understand the intricacies or even participate in the debate.

“If you chose to ignore the wealth of evidence and refuse to believe that David Cameron and the Tories would use these new powers to… stamp out dissent for their own sociopathic reasons, then at least consider the possibility that they are enabling the possibility of an unimaginably invasive totalitarian regime in the future. One where open justice is abolished, the population permanently monitored for signs of dissent, and dissenters are silenced in secretive Stalinist style legalistic proceedings.”

Obviously AAV and Vox Political will be right in the firing-line if this happens.

You need to contact your MP and ask what they’re going to do about this appalling assault on your freedom. Tell them about the clauses in the Deregulation Bill that have nothing to do with removing archaic regulations and everything to do with clamping down on your freedom and tell them in no uncertain terms that you won’t have it.

It’s a good bet that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Clause 47 relates to the press, as this Guardian report and this article from Inforrm’s blog make clear.

I believe Clause 51, and those following, relate to the repeal of laws by statutory instrument.

You can find contact details for your MP on TheyWorkForYou.com

If you get an email off to them quickly, there might even be a chance to nip this in the bud.

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Incrementalism – we think we’re winning victories but in fact we are losing freedoms

Loss of freedom: Every day the Coalition government tries to take something away from you; at the moment, it's your right to criticise.

Loss of freedom: Every day the Coalition government tries to take something away from you; at the moment, it’s your right to criticise.

Here’s a long-standing Conservative policy that has served that party very well over the years and continues to be alive today: Incrementalism.

This is the process of putting several changes into a single policy – or using one change as an excuse for another – so that, even if the main aim is defeated by public opinion or Parliament, others are achieved. Their plans progress by increments.

This week we are seeing it in several ways.

Did you think Chris Grayling’s announcement about Legal Aid was a victory for common sense and freedom? Think again.

He announced yesterday that plans to cut the Legal Aid bill by awarding contracts only to the lowest bidder have been dropped, after they attracted huge criticism.

The policy had been mocked because it meant smaller legal firms would be priced out of the market and replaced by legal outbranchings of large firms like Tesco or even Eddie Stobart. For these companies, there would be no financial incentive to fight any cases and they would most probably advise defendants to admit any crime, even if they were innocent. Meanwhile, habitual criminals, used to accepting the advice of their regular representative, would distrust that of the man from Eddie McTesco in his ‘My First Try At Law’ suit and would most likely deny everything. Result: The innocent go to jail and the guilty go free.

That was the headline issue; it has been defeated.

But Grayling still intends to cut Legal Aid fees by 17.5 per cent across the board. How many law firms will find they can’t operate on such lowered incomes?

The government’s war on immigrants will be stepped up with a residency test; only those who have lived in the UK for more than 12 months will be eligible for Legal Aid. Otherwise, for poorer immigrants, there will be no access to justice here.

Thousands of cases brought by people who have already been imprisoned will no longer be eligible for legal aid. Grayling says it won’t be available “because you don’t like your prison”. One supposes we are to hope this loss of one more right will not adversely affect people who are fighting wrongful imprisonment, or who have crimes committed against them while they are in prison, but we should all doubt that.

There is one block on Legal Aid that we may support, in fairness: An income restriction meaning that people with more than £3,000 left over every month after paying their “essential outgoings” will not be entitled to it. That’s a lot of money, and people earning this much should definitely be paying their own legal fees and not asking the taxpayer to do it for them.

According to the BBC report, Labour’s shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the dropping of ‘price competitive tendering’, as the plan to award contracts to the lowest bidder was known, was “a humiliating climbdown”.

It would have been better for him to take a leaf out of the charity Reprieve’s book. Its representatives said blocking Legal Aid to immigrants who have been here less than a year would deny justice to people wronged by the UK government, ranging from victims of torture and rendition to Gurkhas and Afghan interpreters denied the right to settle here. Legal director Kat Craig said the government wanted to “silence its critics in the courts”.

Another attempt to silence critics of the government is the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill, which is due to be discussed in Parliament next week.

The publicised aim of this legislation was to curb what comedy Prime Minister David Cameron himself has called “the next big scandal” – but none of the measures in the first part of the Bill would achieve this. A statutory register of all consultant lobbyists – those working for independent companies who represent the interests of others – as recommended by the Bill, would have prevented none of the lobbying scandals in which Cameron has found himself embroiled during his premiership.

Instead, it seems likely that this will make lobbying by smaller-scale individuals and organisations more difficult, while larger concerns, with in-house lobbyists, may continue to walk through the doors of Number 10, chequebook in hand, and buy any policy they deem beneficial to their business. If this Bill becomes law, they’ll be rubbing our faces in it.

The Bill was introduced on the very last day that Parliament sat before the summer recess – and ministers waited until the very last moment to bolt two new sections onto it. There had been no consultation on the content of these sections, and the timetable proposed for the Bill meant there could be only limited discussion of them.

These were the provisions for gagging political campaigners who do not belong to a political party, and for tying up trade unions in excessive and unneeded red tape. The only possible reason for the first of these is to stop anyone from publishing material that criticises the government in the run-up to the next election – a totalitarian move if every there was one.

And the restriction on trade unions, having their memberships audited independently, is totally unnecessary as the unions already adhere to very strict rules on membership. The real reason would appear to be a plan to make union membership a matter of public knowledge in order to allow businesses to ‘blacklist’ anyone in a union – stop them from getting jobs.

The Bill “will now undergo more detailed scrutiny from MPs”, the BBC website story states. This scrutiny will last a mere three days, next week. This is far too short a period, and rushed onto the Parliamentary schedule far too early, for MPs to subject it to proper scrutiny.

Some of the provisions will be altered, but the Tories are sure to get their way in others. The possibility that union members will be ‘blacklisted’ seems extremely likely, since this is something Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats are not keen to oppose.

And then there is Iain Duncan Smith, who came under fire from the National Audit Office yesterday, over his extremely expensive and utterly unworkable bid to remake social security in his own image – Universal Credit.

The report hammered the project for the poor leadership shown throughout – nobody knew what Universal Credit was supposed to do or how its aims were supposed to be achieved, the timescales imposed for it were unrealistic, the management structure imposed on it was unorthodox and (it turned out) unworkable, there were no adequate measures of progress, and nobody working on the project was able to explain the reasoning behind any of these decisions.

Smith himself, whose likely inadequacies as a bag-carrier in the Army have led to him being labelled ‘RTU’ (Returned To Unit, a sign of shame in the armed forces), was revealed to have lied to Parliament last year, when he claimed the process was running smoothly just weeks after having to order a rethink of the entire project.

How did he explain himself?

He blamed the Civil Service.

So now the issue is not whether Universal Credit will ever work (it won’t) but whether the British Civil Service – described in this blog as “the most well-developed, professional and able government organisation on this planet” – can do its job properly.

The article in which that description was made also described ministerial attacks on civil servants as “the Conservatives’ latest wheeze”. Michael Gove has already hammered morale in his Education department by making huge staff cuts and then employing his ignorant mates to impose their stupid views on the professionals.

It also foreshadowed RTU’s outburst this week, quoting a Spectator article that said, “If Universal Credit is a flop, then it will prove our current Whitehall set-up is failing. But if it succeeds, it will be no thanks to the Civil Service either”.

So the scene is set for the government to attack the very people who try to enact its policies. This blog stands by its words in the previous article, when the plan was described this: “Blame the Civil Service for everything, cut it back, and leave the actual mechanics of government unusable by anybody who follows”.

Meanwhile, ministers such as Mr ‘Denial’ Smith have made the British government an international laughing-stock.

Sydney Finkelstein, Professor of Strategy and Leadership at the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth, in the USA, tweeted the following yesterday: “Shocked to hear top guy not take full responsibility for bad execution. Never happens in America.

“140 character twitter not enough to convey amateurism of leader who can’t lead.”

He might not be able to lead, but – by devious means – he and his odious ilk are getting almost everything they want.

Are you going to let David Cameron abolish your rights without a fight?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

Skewed view: This image (not mine) provides a startlingly accurate representation of the way British Conservatives see Europe. Do you honestly think they can be trusted to honour the human rights that European laws have granted us?

You do realise what David Cameron means when he says he wants to re-negotiate our membership of the European Union, don’t you?

For a start, he means he wants to abolish laws that protect the human rights your ancestors fought tooth and nail to win for you.

He won’t make any deals in your interest. That’s not in his nature.

If he gets his way, you could lose the right to:

  • Written terms and conditions of work, and a job description – and the right to the same terms and conditions if transferred to a different employer.
  • Four weeks’ paid leave from work per year.
  • Not be sacked for being pregnant, or for taking time off for ante-natal appointments.
  • Come back to work after maternity leave, on the same pay, terms and conditions as before the leave started.
  • Health and safety protection for pregnant women, new and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Parental leave.
  • Equal treatment for workers employed through an agency.
  • Tea and lunch breaks during the working day for anyone working six hours or more
  • One day off per week.
  • Time off for urgent family reasons.

In addition, Cameron could relieve employeers of the legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including undertaking risk assessments, acting to minimise risks, informing workers of risks, and consulting on health and safety with employees and their representatives. In his cost-cutting brave new Britain you’d just have to take your chances.

Health and safety representatives from trade unions could lose the right to ask employers to make changes in order to protect workers’ health and safety, and they would lose their protection against unfair treatment by their employer for carrying out their duties in relation to this.

The ban on forcing children less than 13 years of age into work could be lost, along with the limit on the hours children aged 13 or more and young people can work.

Children who could then be forced into work, regardless of the effect on their education, would have no rules protecting their health and safety, and the rules that say they can only be employed doing “light work” could also be abolished.

Protection from discrimination or harassment at work on grounds of gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation – direct or indirect – could be dropped.

And the right of disabled people to expect their employers to make reasonable adjustments for them at work could also be abolished.

These are just your rights at work!

Cameron himself has said, as leader of the Opposition: “I do not believe it is appropriate for social and employment legislation to be dealt with at the European level. It will be a top priority for the next Conservative government to restore social and employment legislation to national control.”

And as Prime Minister: “Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.”

To find out what he meant by those words, we must turn to the former leader of the British Conservative MEPs, Martin Callanan, who said: “One of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to … scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”

Of course, they distort the facts. These rules aren’t barriers to employing people at all; they are structures within which people may be employed responsibly.

The Tories want to ban responsibility in the workplace. They want a return to dangerous employment conditions, abuse of workers and the removal of any legal protection from such abuse that they may have.

They will tear apart your rights at work.

So, if you are living in the UK and you’ve got a job, please take a moment to consider what this means for you. You might agree with the Coalition on its benefits policy that has led to thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people; you might agree with its bedroom tax and too-low benefit cap that has led to a rapid rise in debt and homelessness among the unemployed and those on low wages.

But now you know they’re coming for you, too.

What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit on your thumbs and do nothing – just meekly wait for them to rock up and tell you they’ve abolished all your rights at work and you can now go and slave for them in appalling conditions with absolutely no legal protection at all?

In other words, when it’s you that’s threatened, are you going to let it happen, just like you let it happen to the sick, disabled, unemployed and low-waged?

Or are you going to take action and make a difference?

It doesn’t take much. You could write to David Cameron and to your MP at the House of Commons. You could email them – just look up the addresses on They Work For You, or you could add your name to the letter being created by Unions Together. Yes, I know Mr Cameron says the unions are a bad thing, but in this case the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

As the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Glenis Willmott MEP, says: “Our rights at work are not ‘red tape’ to be slashed away. Don’t let Cameron and the Tories get away with this great European scam.”