Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red Ed's Wordle

So I've quickly wordled Ed Milliband's conference speech to see if his main message really was generation. Unsurprisingly "Generation" is right up there, but "Must" is mentioned just as often, not to mention "Country" which is interesting, and then along comes "New" and "Change". If you look at the rest you can see just how many words were frequently mentioned reinforcing the view, in our office anyway, that the speech was a mess and all over the place.

NB: For those that don't know the larger the word the more times it was mentioned

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quotes of the day - Vince Cable vs. Adam Smith

Vince Cable:
"Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can, as Adam Smith explained over 200 years ago."
Except he didn't say that Vince, he said government kills competition

Adam Smith:
"Where free competition reigns, businesses cannot keep out competitors. Government policy should focus on increasing competition, ensuring that trade is honest – and on reducing other regulation."

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The state shouldn't compensate the poor - Clegg

'Welfare needs to become an engine of mobility, changing people's lives for the better, rather than a giant cheque written by the State to compensate the poor for their predicament.
Nick Clegg

You've got to hand it to Clegg he's got balls. On the eve of his conference he picks a massive fight with the left of his party by saying he basically disagrees with everything they stand for. 

After the defection of a Lib Dem councillor to the Conservatives here in Stratford, one wonders if Mr Clegg is lining himself up for something similar? If he carries on at this rate he'll be ousted as leader at the first opportunity, if that happens, maybe he'll be looking for a new home....

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Those Fringe Diary emails

Like many people I was fed up with the daily email coming from FingerPrint events about fringe events at Party Conference. There's no indication of why you're getting them and no unsubscribe, to be honest they feel a lot like spam.

So I fired off an email to FingerPrint saying I wanted to unsubscribe and considered them spam and got a nice reply back from one of their directors.

Dear Simon
I hope you do not mind me replying but please note when you registered you left ticked the option to receive conference related information.
I shall remove you from receiving further fringe diary emails.
However the Party may have you on other mailing lists because that option was left ticked - so you may need to ask to be removed from other emails separately.

Kind Regards

Shama Hussain
 So there you have it, everyone is getting them becuase they left the box ticked to say they wanted to receieve information by email about the conference. As a result you get one email a day totally unrelated to you and your interests. Personally I disagree that these are related to the conference, is the fringe really  the conference, or by definition something else, a fringe to it? I expected to be receiving updates about the conference agenda, sessions, speakers etc, not these.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Does the NHS have to cut the frontline?

The NHS has had its budget ringfenced, meaning no cuts in spending. However stories are starting to emerge, such as this one from Nick Robinson, suggesting that because NHS funding won't continue to go up at the phenomenal rates that it has over the past 13 years, hospitals will have to start making cuts of up to 12 %, and obviously this means less nurses and doctors.

Except it doesn't have to. I've spent this morning sat in the cafe at Warwick Hospital, whilst my wife has her gallbladder removed in the Day Surgery Unit. Whilst sat here I've noticed that on every table there's a little pop-up notice about the NHS pension choice packs that apparently all members of the NHS pension scheme over 50 on 1st October 2009 will soon be receiving.

So what's this got to do with cutting the frontline. Well inside this pack there will be:

  • A Pension Choice statement
  • The NHS Pension Choice Guide
  • The NHS Pension Choice Guide DVD featuring financial educator Alvin Hall and ITN news reader Faye Barker
Yes that's right, the NHS produced a DVD featuring two "celebrities", who I somehow doubt did it for free, to help NHS staff make a difficult decision about what to do with their gold plated public sector pension.

When we talk about NHS spending it's important to remember that such a lot of it goes on things like this, all coming from the NHS Business Services Authority. The NHS doesn't just spend money on nurses and doctors, drugs and MRI scanners, there's a lot of this too, that can easily be cut out without affecting the frontline.

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Opposition Day Debate Fun

Today is Opposition Day which means that the Opposition get to lay down a motion and the government gets to put down an amendment and then there is a debate followed by a vote on the amendment and motion.

They're normally quite amusing, purely for the audacity of the government in their amendment, and today's is no different.

The Opposition motion:

"That this House notes with concern the Government’s failure to prioritise the safety of communities by not protecting central Government funding for the police; notes the conclusion of the Audit Commission and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary that any budget reduction over 12 per cent. will reduce frontline policing; pays tribute to the police and other agencies for achieving a 43 per cent. reduction in crime, including a 42 per cent. cut in violent crime, since 1997, and for maintaining that reduction through last year’s recession; notes that public perception of anti-social behaviour is at its lowest level since it was recorded in the British Crime Survey of 2001–02; further notes that the previous Government set out plans in its Policing White Paper to drive down policing costs whilst maintaining core funding; and condemns the Government’s policy of reducing police numbers, restricting police powers and imposing elected commissioners to replace police authorities, thus condemning the police service to unnecessary, unwelcome and costly re-structuring at a time when their focus should be on maintaining the fall in crime and anti-social behaviour."

The Government Amendment:
Basically drop everything except the first three words then bash the previous government's record whilst praising what we're doing! Fantastic!
"Line 1, leave out from ‘House’ to end and add ‘notes the appalling fiscal deficit left by the last Government and reiterates the urgent need to restore the nation to economic health; recognises that the police will need to play their part in reducing that deficit; and welcomes the Government’s proposed policing reforms, which will deliver a more responsive and efficient police service, less encumbered by bureaucracy, more accountable to the public and, most importantly, better equipped to fight crime.’."

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How to make Government IT deliver savings

Another lazy post regurgitating a press release, sorry.

I've written about IT procurement and government IT failures before, here and here, but not really put forward a solution. However the fantastic Network for the Post Bureaucratic Age have released their first report and it's into solving the issues we have with government IT

From PB-Age

The Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age today publishes its first detailed report on one way we can get better-for-less. This has been put together by some of the UK’s best thinkers on the subject, led by Liam Maxwell, IT specialist and Councillor at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. It presents examples of where their approach has succeeded and a clear plan – a playbook – for implementation. But will government actually be able to put this into action, or will it be blocked?

The report - ‘Better for Less: How to make Government IT deliver savings’ - investigates the quagmire of government IT. 

The British government currently spends somewhere between £16 billion and £23 billion on IT every year. The astonishing lack of clarity over expenditure is symptomatic of appalling failures in IT strategy, procurement, and process. This cannot be allowed to continue, especially during a time of spending cuts in frontline services. The annual cost dwarfs some government departments. It is three times the amount we spend on the army, more than the Department for Transport. Worse, it has been designed badly and, unfortunately this time, the process has been built to last. The problems come from ineffective procurement – much of which is waste. 

Each year about the same amount of money is spent on the procurement process (the jumping through hoops to secure contracts) as is used to run the Foreign Office. Savings just in the procurement process - without even counting the savings from better IT -  could finance the entire Sure Start programme, they could fund 50% more school building. And even when the form-filling is done only 30% of projects work. Indeed government productivity has actually declined since IT was introduced. At a time when dynamic change is required -  to reduce cost and deliver better services – one of the principle barriers to that change has become government IT.

Liam and his co-authors are dedicated to bringing government into the information age, and have looked in detail about what should be done to deliver government IT more effectively, and at a much lower cost to taxpayers. The paper spells out exactly how government can deliver a better service for less money – a very different proposition to proposing mere ‘cuts’, where less money means poorer service.

The full report is available at http://pbage.org, directly here and as an ibook here.

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