Nov 2007 07

Smallbluebin_2It’s that time again, the weekly painful trawl through the pages of the Guardian Society jobs section to find yet more cringe-worthy jobs you couldn’t make up but ones that you certainly are paying for.  We look this week to North Norfolk District Council, spending your money on a ‘County Community Cohesion Officer’, a job oozing with politically correct overtones.

At a cost of well over £40,000 to the taxpayer, can we really say this job is value for money?  If people want to experience and research other beliefs and cultures, what can a Community Cohesion Officer do that a Public Library, place of worship or voluntary community can’t?  Nothing.  The council should be working to lower taxes in next years budget and not looking to increase its payroll.

So we present to you this week our non-job of the week:

County Community Cohesion Officer

Everybody in a community has a voice.

We want you to make sure that everyone listens.

Norfolk is an outstandingly beautiful county, and we want to make living here just as special.

We have strong strategic partnerships that include the public, private and voluntary sectors.

A key objective of the Norfolk Strategic Partnership is to support strong and vibrant communities.

This aspiration will be achieved through extensive partnership working to create an environment where people live and work together appreciating and respecting difference and diversity. This means positively recognising the beliefs, cultures and identities of individuals and communities and ensuring that everyone is valued. It’s about ensuring that strong and positive relationships are developed between people from different backgrounds in schools, the workplaces, and within local communities and neighbourhoods.

As the County Community Cohesion Officer you would be responsible for developing:

- A Community Cohesion Strategy – which promotes and encourages opportunities for people to learn about and appreciate and respect the wide range of cultures, beliefs and values which exist in Norfolk

- A Community Cohesion Contingency Plan which brings together key agencies in the provision and development of services which respond effectively to activities or incidents that may threaten community cohesion in Norfolk

- Developing mechanisms to ensure that key agencies and organisations and community interest groups are working together to understand and develop their knowledge of community cohesion and integration issues at a strategic and local level.

This post will be hosted by North Norfolk District Council on behalf of the Norfolk County Strategic Partnership. North Norfolk District Council operates from modern offices in the resort town of Cromer on the North Norfolk Coast. The requirements of the post will however require extensive travel across Norfolk and work at a sub-regional and regional level.”

As always, let the people know about this.  Get writing to your local papers about this, look through your local papers and find more non-jobs.  These people are wasting our money and it has got to stop.  So get writing.  Feel free to contact:

Letters Editor
Eastern Daily Press
Prospect House,
Rouen Road,
NR1 1RE,
United Kingdom
Email: [email protected]

Please put in the comments section any other newspapers in the area worth writing to.  Keep up the work folks.

Nov 2007 06

Stuff_from_the_tpa_camera_024It’s been an exciting two days for the TPA grassroots campaign.  Yesterday activists from Hatfield, St. Albans and Stevenage got together for another meeting to organise yet more campaign activities in Hertfordshire.  They have already handed out well over 400 leaflets in a month, with more on their way.  If you’d like to get involved, their next meeting is on Monday 3rd December at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Hatfield so please email TPA organiser Martin Thornhill at [email protected] for more information and to get involved in the one of our leading TPA grassroots campaigns.  Also visit their campaign site  for campaign news and developments in Hertfordshire.

As our branches get stuck in fighting to overturn the high-tax, nanny-state consensus we’ve had two new organisers step forward in the last two days.  TPA supporter Sue Brockbank is looking for fellow activists to help set up a campaign in Oxford.  This can be a crucial area for the TPA, Oxford City Council is dominated by Socialists and Greens meaning that if we score a breakthrough in Oxford, we can start to fight back against those who think it’s no bad thing to increase taxes year on year and show our message resonates everywhere.  If you want to get involved and build a strong TPA campaign to hold the high-spending council to account email Sue at [email protected] and please put in the subject ‘TaxPayers’ Alliance’.

Today I have spoken to Cam Poulter in Wiltshire who wants to get in contact with fellow TPA members in Wiltshire to build a local TPA campaign.  In talking with Cam he’s determined to overturn the consensus and return some low-tax, better government principles to British politics.  If you want to join Cam in Wiltshire email him at [email protected] to get involved in the campaign for lower taxes in the South West.

Over the past two days we’ve had campaign developments in three very different areas.  Middle-England Hertfordshire has an excellent, stable and growing TPA branch campaigning for taxpayers.  In Oxford, we’re about to become the dissenting voice for lower taxes in a City run by those who think high taxes are a good thing.  And in rural and suburban Wiltshire we have a determined campaigner willing and ready to hold the government to account. 

Very clearly, our activist base is growing.  In addition to our thousands of supporters, we now have hundreds of activists out there holding our overspending politicians to account.  But we need your help to continue the campaign.  You can donate to the TPA here to help us continue the full time campaign for better government or email me at [email protected] to join the campaign and become an activist to spread the low tax message.  Remember that every bit we do, no matter how much, helps the campaign and, as Ronald Reagan said: "There’s no limit to what can be achieved if you don’t care who takes the credit".

Nov 2007 06

Yesterday’s Shropshire Star reported some profligate spending of the most ridiculous kind by Shropshire County Council.

The council, who tender out contracts to taxi firms taking local children to and from school, have been paying for a taxi to travel around 600 miles per week in order to take the children of one family on the five-mile trip to school.

The taxi starts its journey in Nescliffe, near Oswestry and then travels 35 miles to its first pick-up in Quatt, near Brignorth, from there it goes to Kings Nordley and then to Alveley. This journey is made twice a day and the family are bemused as to why the council can’t simply give the contract to a taxi firm in nearby Bridgnorth.Taxi

Aside from the financial cost to the taxpayer Mr.Parry, the father of the two children, points out that there is also a potential cost to the environment:

“One department of the county council are prepared to burn all that fuel but I’m expected to recycle my cornflakes packet.”

Unsurprisingly this is another council failing to practice what it preaches regarding matters of the environment…

Local councillors are similarly appalled, and yet Shropshire County Council claim that this is the most cost effective way of ferrying the children to school, though they say they will be reviewing the matter next month which suggests that the ‘most cost effective’ might be a euphemism for ‘not very cost effective at all but it will have to do for the time being’.

No figures are given so we can’t be exactly sure what this is costing the taxpayer but we can rest assured that no taxi driver would travel 600miles per week in peak hours unless it was worth his while. Only in today’s press was it revealed that Edinburgh City Council have been paying for two cleaners to take the 70-mile round trip to work in a taxi, at a cost of £180-per-day.

This is just another example of a council throwing money at a problem instead of trying to think of a sensible way around it.

Some may even question why children are being taxi-driven to school on the public purse at all. Is there no school or public bus to cover a five-mile journey? Couldn’t other parents who live locally be encouraged to take two more children on their school run? Or even teachers or staff?

The above ideas would obviously be too straight forward and no doubt they’d breach all sorts of pointless regulations of the sort that now lead councillors to the assumption that paying a taxi driver for 600miles per week is the most feasible option.

This certainly is an expensive way of doing things, and while it goes on the metre will continue to tick away for taxpayers.

Nov 2007 06

Comrades- we will build ten million more
Labour has spent billions of our cash on increasing the quantity of state education.

In 2006-07 it spent £74bn, more than double the £36.4bn spent ten years ago (a 60% increase in real terms). And that leaves out of account the much greater debts higher education students now incur on their own account.

Has it been worth it?

£11bn of the cash goes on higher education, where there are now 2.3m students, or 4% of the entire population (they include 27,000 doing our old favourite, the degree in media studies).
Now, we’ve just been given an update on employment patterns among recent graduates. And guess what. It turns out that many of these students don’t get anything like traditional graduate salaries when they finally enter the labour market.

According to the ongoing study of 2002-03 graduates carried out by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), four years after graduation, 74% of first degree holders are still in jobs not classified as graduate occupations. And on top of that, only 74% are in full-time work of any description. Which implies that of the entire group, actually only a little over half are in graduate occupations (74% of 74%).

The impact on earnings is clear. The average first degree holder in full-time work is still only on £22,000, four years on. Which compares to average earnings across the economy as a whole – grads and non-grads – now around £24,000.

Here’s the distribution of graduate incomes from the HESA study:

Yes, there are some high earning management consultants, lawyers, and investment bankers. But the bulk of these grads are still anchored in the low £20,000s or below. And remember, these are just those in full-time jobs: with a quarter of them still not in full-time work of any kind, there’s a great long tail on incomes far below those shown in the chart.

Conclusion? The huge ramping up of student numbers has simply not paid off. Many of these new degrees have no economic value, and their holders are lumbered with debts they’d have avoided had they entered the labour market at 18 or earlier.

Labour of course is now intent on compounding the whole problem even further by forcing everybody to stay on at school (or "similar") until 18 – at pain of criminal law, including fines.

When we blogged this crackers idea here, we discovered the official estimate of costs was £200m for set-up, and £740m pa running costs. But we all know the true costs will be much higher.

The excellent Reform has put out a useful note on this. They point out that Labour’s emphasis on the quantity of inputs rather than the quality of outputs has been an abject failure, and they quote the OECD’s latest Economic Survey of the UK:

“While raising education participation is an important goal, it is not clear that compulsion is necessarily the best way to achieve it. In the United States there is substantial evidence that higher student achievement leads students to stay in school longer voluntarily.

For those students who have already performed poorly, and who are unmotivated, it is not clear what the returns to further education and training at ages 16 and 17 would be, particularly since the return on many existing vocational qualifications is low and the new diplomas are yet to be tested.

It should also be kept in mind that education participation is a relatively poor proxy for skills, and that a focus on qualifications can hide problems of poor usage and over-qualification."

The OECD also highlights a point already well known to regular BOM readers:

"There is no strong empirical link between aggregate education spending and pupil achievement so that additional resources do not automatically translate into better results."

Forcing disenchanted 16 year olds to remain in education is in nobody’s interests, certainly not taxpayers. 16 is far too late to address educational failure: as Reform highlights, the real crying desperate need is to improve schooling for younger children.

PS As we know, social mobility in Britain has collapsed since the imposition of those one-size fits all comprehensive schools. And the OECD has an interesting chart showing how we’re now pretty well at the top of the international social immobility league. "The chart shows the intergenerational earnings elasticities as estimated in various studies. The higher the parameter, the higher is the persistence of earnings across generations and thus the lower is mobility. Source: D’Addio, A.C. (2007), “Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 52."

Some Old Labour types favour tackling this by abolishing private schools (see this blog). More sensible proposals envisage extending parental choice to the state sector, including voucher based schemes. One thing’s for sure- in terms of social mobility, our current state education system is failing catastrophically.

Nov 2007 06

Oh Deer…

This is an actual job from the Scottish ‘Government’:

Deer Officer

£21,292 – £28,520

This post is responsible for delivering Deer Commission for Scotland (DCS) work across the Central Belt, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, and Fife, and for helping to develop new policy, particularly relating to roe and sika deer, and public safety. Specifically leading DCS support for collaborative deer management in South Scotland through provision of advice to local deer management groups; Leading on the sustainable management of roe deer in South Scotland; Leading the further development of DCS policy on deer and public safety; Leading the development of new models for the management of deer through recreational stalking; Coordinating the development of DCS policy on the management of peri-urban deer.

Bet you never thought Deer need public sector managers?

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