Friday, December 31, 2010

Honours - Britain's Feudal system alive and well

A sore point for me twice a year, Britain's appalling honours system in which a few deserving recipient's get the recognition they deserve, lost in a fog of those, who receive awards for either looking after our political masters, having great wealth and bunging a few quid to charity, or those employed by the public sector at senior level who get rewarded for just doing a job.

Myself I'd like to see awards for all, particularly those of us who have spent a lifetime in the private sector, supporting the wealth creating part of the economy, enabling the bankers to get richer and the public sector generous pay and benefits.

In fact back in 2006 I awarded myself with the GBE (Grafter for the British Empire) so this is a regular gripe I'm afraid but it will continue whilst Chief Executives of local councils get awards for things like services to local government as is the case in neighbouring Canterbury City Council and I don't doubt the recipient has done an excellent job but doesn't he get paid to do a good job?

Anyway no doubt your asking, what has Tony Flaig "GBE " has ever done, well not a lot but readers keep coming back for more and I'm conceited enough to think that I made a major contribution to saving Kent taxpayers around a £600,000 on KCC's Kent TV project, cancelled this year and no doubt KCC Tory council leader Paul Carter will be recommending me for a gong in next years Queens Birthday honours for services to funders of local government.

I can see it now "arise Sir Flaigy of Bignews Margate" well maybe not, anyhow any suggestions of those who deserve but probably won't receive honours do please comment.

Friday, December 24, 2010

happy Christmas

I wish all my readers, a happy Christmas and happy new year, and would like to give a thought for all those working over the holiday period, particularly those in my industry, rail maintenance who will be out working around the clock, in this winters extreme weather.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wi-fi won't work nor will laptop

And the Blackwall Tunnel Is not looking too chipper either.

Just an explanation as too lack of fresh content, wi fi won't talk to laptop and laptop keeps stopping to give me an incompressible reason not to do as told.

Will try system restore and await a new wi fi do-berry, after firing a few unkind words into ISP, would look forward to an evening in front of the other box but not sure what the traffic lottery will throw up or once in front of box whether Mr Puss will again settle down by the skyplus box and block the remote.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Labour's big idea - playing with words

Stumbled across this article in today's Observer.

If nothing else it shows just how shallow Labour are. Rather than face the enormity of the errors both Blair and Brown are guilty during their time in office, it seems all Labour are capable of is spin & verbal abuse.

For the last few months labour have been using the term ConDem Government, like it's a four letter swear word and they're school kids, looks like this might become a thing of the past since Ed Milliband has issued a decree that the term " coalition" is not be used because it sounds too reasonable.

Last week I thought local labour were idiots, as they made a meal of their tennis court victory ( see last post) , now I know it comes from the top.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Local Democracy we deserve better

before reading this please note these are my personal views and may contain error  and also I 'm bloody fuming that Thanet council has no provision for allowing members of the public to exit the council offices DESPITE HAVE WRITTEN TO RICHARD SAMUEL BEFORE ON THE SAME SUBJECT

Stupidly I've always held the view that we the public ought to support democracy by a) voting in local elections and b) getting involved.

I do both to some extent, however tonight forget the involved bit, tonight's council meeting was, the part i witnessed a complete and utter farce.

At the opening of the meeting it was made abundantly clear that the council (the ruling tory group) had decided to take Montefiore Tennis court off the councils asset disposal list.
In any sane world a bit of clarification and everyone would have past on to the next item, however this didn't allow for Labours self serving stupidity. Firstly a motion was voted by a show of hands this was in favour of not debating item 10 "This council agrees to remove Montefiore Games Centre (Tennis courts) from asset disposal register" since as council leader Bob Bayford had agreed not to, this was too easy for Labour they still wished to debate a pointless motion insisting despite a clear show of hands on a recorded vote they clearly lost 18-29.

The agenda item 5b dealing with petition on the same subject all in all this subject was debated and questioned for I would guess one and half hours.

It was a farce of great magnitude, effectively Clive Hart's Labour group managed to steal a defeat from the jaws of victory, had they accepted the conservative leaders genuine withdrawal they could have made capital but decided to put on a show for the supporters gathered together for the occasion .
I may blog on this a bit more but feel free to fill in the detail, Labour looked to me like complete idiots tonight.

Having left Cllr Poole in little doubt I was hacked off with Labours performance to his credit, when I went back up to the third floor he was kind enough to travel back down to the entrance and let me out of the building. Well Done Cllr Poole for opening the door, the rest was just politics of the worst sort!

Margate Museum – Its a mystery TDC

As readers will know I have a keen interest in matters of culture and history, particularly where it concerns Margate, so you can imagine how excited I was to see on page 7 of this weeks Thanet Times reference to Margate Museum being open, albeit briefly.

The subject of the article was some sort of Christmas event held at the Margate Museum or rather the building that had been used to house the Margate Museum.
margate exhibitSince this brief article provoked some questions I contacted Thanet councils press supremo for some further information to see what was actually occurring, the councils press supremo seemed to know nothing about the report, bemused I decided to contact the local paper, I understand from the reporter a group of people are hoping  to do something with the old museum, which when more is known will be detailed in the Gazette, I look forward to something positive.

As you know it's my opinion that Margate Museum or lack of it is one of those issues that needs to be addressed by the council whilst we can forward to new visitors arriving to wallow in the new cultural mecca Turner Contemporary it would be nice to have other venues to complement what will be on offer at the gallery, somehow the rather tawdry arcades of Marine Terrace may not hit the spot, not that most Tories have a clue.

Last time I broached this subject I Simon Moores, decided to make the sort superior "I know best" and pompous comments you might expect of someone making his way up the greasy pole of the local Tory party, going off on one as it were, citing Labours finance black hole which is almost fair except, he chose not to ignoring local conservative barbarians who consigned Margate museum to the scrap heap long before the extent of Labour economic crimes were known.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doctors - should they be trusted to run NHS?

The government is pressing ahead with plans to get doctors to manage the NHS should they? In a word no or NO NO NO at least that is my view.

Its simple the police don't run the judicial system because their expertise is in catching crooks and enforcement.

At the risk of being struck off from my current surgery, here's why I think it would be wrong. First off, over the last few years doctors, particularly GP's have dramatically increased their earnings while reducing the hours they work. Clearly a doctor should not have to work too many hours but certainly improvements for general practitioners have pushed up costs.

Hopefully the average doctor is expert at dealing with illness and the best ways to treat patients, I'd imagine like any other profession most doctors have an opinion of how their NHS or industry should be operated, still since most patients experience difficulty in getting to see their doctor, what is the likelihood that doctors have the time to get that involved or manage.

As a rail maintenance worker, working for a contractor I have an opinion on how Network Rail should be run but since I'm at the bottom of the food chain, its probably best that those who manage continue to do just that. If changes are needed then government should direct management.

With the NHS the government, should simply issue the chief executives of each health authority, with objectives a budget and make them achieve it or sack the top tier of management, until each health authority is run efficiently.

Finally do doctors actually want to run the NHS? Probably not otherwise they'd no doubt have trained to be managers and accountants.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Internet broken – Mr Puss is safe – other stuff

A long day yesterday, I thought I would relax chill out and blog a little, however on arriving home once I fought past decorations Christmas trees and blooming Santa's, there by the main tree (M&S) was the wi-fi box with an unfamiliar orange light (usually green) showing.

A quick attempt to surf the web with my phone confirmed my worse fears, the internet is broken, all I can tell you is this evening has been an emotional rollercoaster, at times I had that yes sorted feeling, only to realise no I haven't, eventually  I cracked and phoned technical support, thirty minutes later after doing as I was told the wi-fi was back.

Frankly I'm drained, 

RE Mr Puss who was recently on the missing list, I can report that shortly after I posted a blog on the subject, he was found  safe and well sleeping in the front room, on top of washing which was airing on the radiator. (it was one of the coldest days of the year) this makes a change from hogging the heat from my computer and sitting on or near the sky box.

Had I the time ,I was going to contrast the deserved concern shown by the metropolitan police chief for Prince Charles and Mrs Prince Charles, over a few moronic students, with that shown to the family of Ian Tomlinson who died during another protest on his way home after work having apparently been hit from behind by a metropolitan officer, odd world we live in really.

With that I shall carry on watching tonight's soaps. Talking of emotional roller coasters, must get back to Corrie, crikey how much more can we take!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A day in the life

Can a Sunday that starts with an early alarm get any better, possibly not, at work no parking space, a random drug and alcohol test, and for once no problem giving a sample (it's quite chilly  out), followed pretty much by usual lite bit of grafting till the end of shift.

Not long arrived home to find a blimin winter wonderland has been created both in the front garden and inside the house, I must say I am pleased to see the Christmas tree from Marks & Spencer is not as hideous as I thought, although last week not long after I'd tripped over the box containing the thing, it did prompt a lively chat with Mrs Me along the lines of Crikey is that all it cost, how reasonable? and Couldn't we have paid off the flipping mortgage.

Now I've had chance to chill out and knock back a glass of wine, consumed a microwave meal, consider my bank balance the "Tree" is not that bad, still I 'm not being ungrateful and I know Christmas is only once a year but I'm thinking of writing Santa to ask if we could make Christmas once every other year.
yum yum

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Turner + Reminder- Tudor House– this weekend

Until such time as Thanet Council work out a way to make a quick buck from Margate's Tudor House, by selling it, once in a while this remarkable house will be open to the public for the the odd day or so, as is the case this weekend.

I have made reference to the Tudor house on numerous postings, and if there is theme in all this ,it is of wasted opportunity. Those involved specifically with Margate renascence, frequently use the this phrase "The Margate offer" which is almost as meaningless as it is irritating.

Currently if such a thing exists, the Margate offer, consists of one as yet to be opened but impressive gallery several years late, and a burgeoning art economy which has grown in expectation, however a lot of potential is still tied up in and held up in the future.

I'll believe in "the Margate offer" when Dreamland is revived in some way ( what's going on with that?), Margate has its museum back and those buildings like Arcadia Hotel and Fort Hotels are sorted not hidden ( are these really going to be tarted up by the Turner opening in April?).

My view is that much of Margate regeneration has simply been mishandled, too little to late, as with Arcadia, even the Milestone hand over ceremony of Turner Contemporary from KCC to the gallery trust was a private affair with a handful of the great and good on hand and apparently none of the public, who as taxpayers are paying for this, were on hand to witness the event.
claddingwhathappenedOne thing that has troubled me, and I note others is the finish of the Turner building, this comment from Michael Child made on Thanet Life "...I thought it was supposed to be coated with glass and glow"  or this from Amanda Baillieu of BDonline (Builiding Design) " And while the CGIs show the light bouncing off the building’s pearly cladding to evoke the spirit of  JW Turner, in the flesh it looks flat and charmless and cheap.

Since its out there, I'd like to know what happened to the outside of the building, this quote from the architect "....capture the same unique light that inspired Turner." at the time I understood that the building would be clad in some sort of glass with perhaps iridescent properties which would indeed reflect and enhance the buildings look, however the outside although white, looks dull and uninspiring and I'm sure I've seen a similar finish on some supermarkets and train stations.

Anyway if you haven't taken the opportunity go see the Tudor House, this is a beautiful building not built by committee the arts council or flippin KCC enjoy it while you can. Sorry for the late mention.

* CGI Computer Generated Image

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tesco are they trying to deter shoppers with Christmas cheer

I suspect I might well be one of Tesco's typical "Metro" shoppers, most week nights I end up foraging for food, I go to Tesco for two reasons its product quality and efficient tills, and none of that doing you a favour attitude you get in some. I just want to get in, out and fed.

Music however has never really been part of the experience, nor has Christmas, so shopping was doubly irritating tonight when my local Tesco had one of my least favourite seasonal tunes, which skipped as it played, Elton John singing "Step into Christmas", which apart from slinging the word "Christmas" into the lyrics is about as festive as a price increase.

It set me thinking, many songs, played endlessly at this time of year are just cynical attempts to make money and here's a list of those I feel fit the bill. In no particular order of merit, Clift Richards - Mistletoe and Whine, Chris Rea - Driving Home for Christmas  profits, Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime bonus............


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Turner Contemporary how KCC manage things?

As I have mentioned before KCC, spends an awful lot of your money on PR and press. A typical example of this concerns the Turner Contemporary gallery, in what looks to have been a carefully controlled media event, KCC handed over the gallery to the Turner Contemporary Trust.

As someone who has taken an interest, I am surprised that todays event or milestone has no mention on Turner Contemporary website and wonder is this a result of KCC's obsession with the media.

John Kampfner the chair of the Turner Contemporary Trust, is a media bod himself, also Chief Executive of the index on censorship, an organisation dealing with freedom of expression, I just wonder if he could disabuse me of the suspicion that KCC invited along the usual complacent press poodles, who report on local events and issues.

I realise this is a time for celebration but one question that could have been asked, in tonight's BBC report  is how back in 2006, the gallery was I think going to cost around 12 mill, not the 17million price tag of today.

Labour suffers from memory loss as do students

They say a weeks a long time in politics, so it is no surprise the utter hypocrisy of Labour of over tuition fees, today Ed Milliband has developed a new policy on education, forgetting that his own party and his colleagues not only introduced them but continued to back student loans until the coalition government, when it naturally became the blunt instrument by which to attack the coalition.

In 1997 "Our preferred solution secures equity, access, quality and accountability," said Mr Blunkett. It would produce a university system that was "fair, good for students, good for parents, good for the universities, good for business and good for Britain". Reference

Back in 1997, Labour could get away with a lot after the crazy years of Thatcher destroying the countries manufacturing base and then the Major years when conservatives chose self destruction, so screwing potential students for a grand a year was nothing.
Forget your history and lose your wayInterestingly Labour hasn't always had the easy ride it's now experiencing, I found this summation of its problems when having introduced fees they then decided to tripled the charge to students a bit like todays controversy however for Labour time is a great healer as the forget their past to stir up things up a bit.

Labour and Ed Milliband must think we are all stupid and we probably are. Labours militants for now are doing well, in manipulating students, who if nothing else, ought at least learn the lessons of history still that would be to much to expect, and just think these will be tomorrows leaders just like Milliband, Cameron and Clegg.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Student loans - Its simples really

The Liberal Democrats have had a lot of flack just recently over student loans, according to tonight's news Lib Dem ministers will vote in favour of the governments proposals.

The proposition put forward by students, led I suspect by militant Labour supporters, that Liberals have cheated on a promise, to me seems somewhat flawed since Nick Clegg's party did not win a majority in Parliament, so therefore has never had the opportunity to renege, as they have not been in the position to go with manifesto policy.

This whole attack, is almost as sensible as suggesting that students have let themselves down by not ensuring a majority Liberal Democrat government, who would have abolished student loans.

What is clear is that Labour introduced student loans, backed by its many Scottish MP's, who have  not seen this nonsense north of the boarder.

And in any case who screwed up the economy Labours rag back of self serving and selfish MP's, some of whom spent much of the last Parliament defrauding the taxpayer, at the cost of today's students.

I'm sure Labours leading lights who involved this country, in what many regard as an illegal war with Iraq, are really bothered about student's plight and are in no way just using students as a convenient purpose as they did with the Iraqi people.

Monday, December 06, 2010

NHS West Kent to practice class discrimination?

This evenings BBC's South East Today programme assuming I heard correct has announced that West Kent NHS are planning to refuse medical treatment to smokers and the obese.

I know my more puritanical and sanctimonious readers will applaud such discrimination, on the basis, that smokers and the obese are self harmer's who don't deserve medical assistance despite having been taxed to er  ..

Whilst that might be true, both conditions are considered to be illness, however I believe that both are less likely to occur in the professional & middle classes (the sort who run West Kent NHS) and more likely to be more common in working classes.

West Kent Health, bods ought to consider just how far their prejudices will take them, why draw the line at smokers and fatties how about not treating the millions of weekend drunks who turn up in our hospitals each year, this I guess would save billions across the country, although we might get a little upset at the ensuing cull of our younger generations as they're left to bleed to death, still we will be able to comfort ourselves with the thought that despite being taxpayers they did bring upon themselves and lets face it the doctor always knows best doesn't he.

The NHS should not discriminate, of course they should advise on issues on lifestyles, but medicine rationed on prejudice is wrong, its the sort of thing you'd expect in some crazy fascist totalitarian state. Its difficult not to feel West Kent NHS are following some extreme right wing agenda.

And what about alcoholics?

Motorist not welcome

Is it me or have Kent highways struck on a new way to deter motorist, driving along the Canterbury road back into Margate, last night it seemed to me that Kent's road bods must have acquired a shed load of speed camera signs as there seemed to be one attached to every other lamppost.

What is going on?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Margate are we there yet?

Driving along the front, Friday afternoon I paused for a moment to look see the nearly done, Turner Contemporary gallery and thought that this time next year, the harbour area would be awash with art connoisseurs  and wondered if,  the Kent highways/agency and southeastern railways will have the developed not just the technology but the blimin willpower to deliver travellers from London and elsewhere during modest snow falls such as those we have just experienced, like any other civilised society.nearly there
Will the TC gallery result in the renascence of Margate? Not alone, I think, it will take more, than the gallery, still efforts are being made, even small things like painting the light house on the Harbour Arm, with hoops which if nothing else will brighten the seascape even if it offends, Local Labour who recently appear to have a nutty nimby tendency. Local business cafes and gallery's are improving and particular mention ought to be given to those involved with the Harbour Arm I see this weekend, there is as is often the an exhibition, in this case by Martin Meyrick also worth a mention are Caitlin's Beach Cruisers (Bike Hire),  not sure if they were open for business but spotted one of their bikes tethered to the bike stands at the entrance to the Harbour Arm.martin meyrick
Any how, although not necessarily your typical gallery visitor, I can do the Tate Britain in a couple of hours including a cup of coffee and a muffin, Tate Modern in 45 minutes possibly less if I don't stop to mumble about most of it not looking out of place in landfill, so it lets hope local business and other organisations can rustle up other distractions to keep visitors amused.

One particular omission that ought to be rectified is the abysmal decision by local conservatives for whatever reason to close the local museums particularly Margate's, I can only imagine  of what pettiness or spite bought on that decision, perhaps Cllr. Bob Bayford leader of the council could redeem his apparent contempt for the Isle's citizens and do something positive.

Whatever rose tinted glasses, those involved in local regeneration might be wearing, the fact is for a whole new, type and generation of visitors, there wont be any second chance to give a first impression, Kent highways recent fanciful plans, wont matter a flying toss if we cock up the next 12 months.

Eric Pickles the governments communities secretary has suggested local councils dip into their reserves, and what better that dig up a few miserly thousand, for the museum, when there is always loads of money for nonsense like Thanet's CCTV cameras £1.4 million in three years, which allow council staff to snoop and spy on you and I as well as check, that their car is still safely parked for free in Mill Lane car park.

This time next year we will know whether the regeneration game has worked, Kent 's Conservative council is sitting on £100 million+ reserves, most of Kent's spending is carried out in the Maidstone and West Kent, they currently waste more than £5million pounds a year on self congratulatory advertising which I would argue is not in the public interest. 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What the hell is going on - This is Kent isn't it?

Yeah I suppose it is, its just watching the local news BBC Southeast a few nights ago, Tuesday I think, when eventually the presenters had dug themselves out of the unseasonal snow drifts, to report on actual news, I got the impression I might have just woken up in some totalitarian state.

Admittedly Kent is far from some Stalinist regime or even a Banana republic, however the report that I found so startling revealed how a senior officer at Kent Council has been asked to take two months leave of absence and county councillors have been informed by email that she will not be at work until further notice.

The officer in question Lynda McMullan, is the counties Finance Director, and if you click here, KCC have provided a web page which she herself explains her role.

Why? well the political editor of BBC southeast Louise Stewart mentioned that Lynda McMullan had agreed to take time off after concerns were raised about her relationship with the media and "sources" suggested that her emails had been investigated although no disciplinary action had been taken. Surely KCC officers can talk to the media?

Its difficult to see quite what's going on here, and lord knows just how sensitive the KCC establishment are about the media, KCC spends in excess of £5 million pounds to project its image, media manipulation has involved lavish presentations, its own magazine in which one edition had both Leader and Chief Executive go on about how marvellous the council was and of course that sacred cow Kent TV which despite all sorts of efforts failed.

Now you might think I have a downer on all bureaucrats, not so KCC clearly has some very competent staff,  I don't think I've ever spoken to Lynda McMullen, however I have corresponded concerning the claims by Peter Gilroy of savings made by Kent TV, Lynda McMullen dealt with my request in an efficient and business like manner this week a senior Kent Councillor who would know informs me that Lynda McMullan does a first class job.

This issue was first raised by Paul Francis, and it seems a complete mystery as to why.

Hopefully this is an issue that will be resolved shortly, I hope this hasn't arisen as a result of hostility toward our open and free media, I reminded of how upset Conservative Leader Paul Carter was when the Kent Messenger wrote a story concerning Peter Gilroy “I feel very strongly and I am extremely upset by the way the Kent Messenger has orchestrated their story regarding KCC Chief Executive Peter Gilroy’s contract renewal that was agreed in November 2006.

Incidentally its just been revealed that a one year extension to the former Chief Exec contract cost in excess of £400,000 a lifetimes earning for many of us.

Leave for Kent's Finance Director at a time of great financial restraint ought at least warrant a statement from Paul Carter, its a pity the national press don't start taking an interest in Kent, something is clearly wrong here

Mr Puss disappears in snow –Feared eaten by foxes

Mr Puss, Bignews Margate's very own, fat cat, has disappeared last seen at breakfast this morning, its understood that he has a lot on his mind at the moment and fears are growing for his safety, given the adverse weather conditions.
mr puss in kitchenTimes are tough for all fat cats (even in the private sector), and questions have been raised about Mr Puss's mental state, lately he's seen big cuts in his private health insurance and luxury items like Tuna and despite reassurances, of a minimum income of two bowls of GoCat complete a day (with on demand top ups), it's understood the Puss may have slipped into a deep depression, not helped by listening to BBC Radio Kent, who've been constantly wittering on for the last few days about the flippin snow and little else.

Concerns have deepened since Mrs Me reported, seeing a fox earlier scavenging at the edge of the Flaig estate, and whilst the estate's herd of fibre glass cows (Freezeians)  (Pictured above) appear unperturbed, its worth noting that Mr Puss is much smaller and doesn't move that fast and may well have been eaten by a family of hungry foxes.

I shall keep you posted.

Cllr. Chris Wells–Comments on Children's Social Services

It's not something I often do but in the light of comments made elsewhere on this web site it seemed handy to republish Chris Wells thoughts on social service to which he agreed.

Margate and Cliftonville County Councillor Chris Wells, was the Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services during its last formal inspection in 2008, when it was adjudged to be one of the best in the country. The Gazette asked him exclusively what he though had changed so radically during the last two years……..

‘The first thing to say is that inspections are not always the best measure of good social work. There will be excellent practice going on in any number of cases, but if the legal deadlines have not been met, and the files are not up to date, there is an almost automatic assumption that practice as a whole is poor.

In addition the nature and style of inspection has changed during the last couple of years. Previously, we knew in advance when the Inspectors were coming, and, with a bit of research with fellow councils who had been recently inspected, how they were likely to work. I once commented that my Directors spent around 40% of their time getting ready for inspections, and only 60% on the day job. Haringay’s experiences demonstrated, amongst other things, that the inspection regime as it was could give a department a clean bill of health when there was some very poor practice going on. Now the inspections are not announced and rather more difficult to manage.

The result is that many are being caught out by the new regime; some third of all councils inspected to date under the new regime have been judged inadequate, so Kent is not alone.

The current report contains three consistent and underlying criticisms of the Kent children’s social service operation. Firstly, it identifies concern for social worker caseload, vacancy rates, concern regarding the recording and timing of looked after children actions, and supervision. This presents as a failure to provide solid evidence of consistently good practice across the county. Kent could argue that the timing of this inspection has actually provided a snap shot at a time of great difficulty, when many of these problems are already identified, have management action in place, but have not yet delivered the expected solutions.

This is actually a criticism of the level of professionalism able to be delivered in social work across the county, stretched by vacancy rates and increasing workloads. Kent is already running a number of innovative solutions to the recognised national difficulties in recruiting new social workers; and has indeed been highly successful in bringing new talent into the county at newly qualified, and pre qualified levels. This has lowered the vacancy rates across the county, but has created a differently shaped structure for social work, which in number terms is heavily dependent on newly qualified and relatively inexperienced social workers. This feeds into the supervision concerns as the vacancy rate at Principal Social Worker, the level at which the guidance for these newer entrants is vital, is much higher, an issue discussed in some detail at the last Vulnerable Children’s Scrutiny Committee.

Once again Kent has already moved to cover these gaps, and place in each area a supervision champion to promote the importance of this basic element of social work good practice. Kent’s own innovation in bringing European and other nationalities of social worker into the county to help fill the gaps also attracted criticism, for not having enough resources to support these individuals for long enough in their early months. These same resources are, of course, already stretched with a 30% surge in social work referrals following the Peter Connelly case in Haringay. Again Kent can claim with some justification it has already put an extra £5m into this department, and promised more if needed.

The second area criticised is that of IT and recording systems. The current IT system was demanded and funded by the previous government following the Climbie Inquiry. It has been a disaster for day to day working from the very start, and fails in almost every area of real requirement to make the work happen. It was supposed to be a case management system, rather than simply a recording system. It does not even record as well as previously used systems, and in spite of constant revision and updating, fails more often than it succeeds, and where it does succeed tends to do so by taking the less than obvious route to success. It has all the hallmarks of most recent government attempts to introduce huge all encompassing computer systems - an enormous waste of money, time, energy and effort: most of which could have been saved if any of the programmers had consulted front line users about the screens and files used most regularly.

The third area is probably the most difficult of all…partnership working and capacity to improve. These are areas in which Kent has previously scored highly, and been commended for its innovation and expertise. Here something has gone seriously awry, in the ability of the management, for both professional and political direction, to convince the Inspectors that they have the vision and ability to change what they know is wrong…and bring their public service partners along with them. This was the same Lead Inspector which we had two years ago, so will have had a real personal base line to work from in comparison.

Generally Kent is a strong authority, with a good track record in getting things sorted when they have gone wrong, and I would expect those areas directly under our control to be dealt with swiftly. Some of these criticisms are based upon national difficulties, however, and can only be dealt with through working and cooperation with government and higher authorities.

In particular it is time we had a sensible debate nationally about the manner in which much children’s social services policy is created. It is unique across public service in being constantly assessed on failure rather than success. Since the Maria Colwell tragedy of 1973, through so many other names and enquiries we could all recite, processes and policy are based on the cry ‘it must never happen again’. Yet the general reasons why these cases happen have a common thread – of people who are wicked, or incapable, and often accomplished and excellent hiders of the truth.

Poor social work practice may well have prevented some similar deaths; it may well have missed chances to prevent some of those deaths; but social workers do not kill children. Many children are given better lives than they would have experienced through the dedication of social workers and their service partners: even in poor scoring authorities during inspections.

The great thing about this report is that it has come to us before a tragedy of that sort. Yes we must act. We must reaffirm our dedication and desire to ensure the most vulnerable children in our society have the support they need and expect. County Councillors, held responsible in their role as corporate parent, will greet the report with concern and disappointment, and must now put their energies into putting it right, and placing our inspected scores where they belong, alongside the first class efforts of our frontline staff.

Truly, to famously misquote, two years is a long time in social work.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I no wot I mean

As regulars will appreciate, errors are not uncommon here on the pages of Bignews Margate, not factually or in argument but English and all that malarkey, and some will notice that postings are altered as I reread minutes, hours and days later.

Still it's reassuring to know that I'm not alone, nice little story on the Mail online site today " Must try arder! ..." which relies on a school report sent by a teacher to parents, littered with spelling and grammatical errors.

Anyhow I try my best, read and reread this stuff and then some time down the line, I cringe as I find errors which range in severity from a "Damn!" (a missing comma), "Blast!" (wrong word used) or "F*** me!" ( gobbledegook, libel, or cocked up title), I'm sure one day I shall create a masterpiece,  maybe its my schooling, that's at fault, although I 'm fairly sure I learnt next to nothing at Charles Dickens in Broadstairs, so I can't blame them and anyhow that was nearly forty years ago.

I feel sorry for the teacher in this case, clearly under pressure to write dozens of reports which aren't  entirely blunt or honest about students for fear of offending parents, it's a while since I've been a recipient of one of those documents but did notice in the last few, that teachers were writing bliming essays, so who could blame a teacher forgetting to hit the spell checker.

Hopefully the teacher concerned, at Gleed Girl's Technology College will in future "concentrate more". And for readers please put away your red pens and superior grammar.