Oct 2007 25

In the wake of the TaxPayers’ Alliance inadvertently attracting media attention for their “non-job” of the week – as advertised by Sandwell Council – another job of ambiguous merit has surfaced on the Coventry City Council website…

Community Lifestyle Coach0110fat20belly
£22,293 – £27,492pa

A physical activity professional, you will work on the successful ‘One Body One Life’ programme. You will work with families to provide individualised physical activity support and deliver safe physical activity programmes within communities. Excellent communication, negotiation and motivation skills together with a sport or health degree will be essential.

The ‘One Body One Life’ programme is a taxpayer funded to drive to provide an ‘obesity and sedentary behaviour programme for Coventry children, young people and families’ – i.e. those who cannot be trusted must be supervised by the state.

On this programme the rest of us get to pay for ‘intervention’:

…an intensive 12 week course for families where one or more members are obese. An individualized health plan will be produced with the family to encourage ongoing small changes to improve healthy eating and physical activity levels. This will be supported by a weekly group healthy eating workshop and a weekly group physical activity session.

The intervention is also flanked by ‘prevention’ and ‘activities’ (only open to those who tip the scales of course) all in aid of keeping people in Coventry slimmer and, of course, over-taxed.

The taxpayer already shells out huge amounts of money for the NHS to treat obese people and now some are paying out for these ‘intervention’ courses at a local government level too – and if the salary of this lifestyle coach is anything to go by this stuff doesn’t come cheap!

It is not Coventry City Council’s job to make sure the citizens of Coventry aren’t obese and it isn’t the taxpayers’ responsibility to fund the salaries of ‘lifestyle coaches’. Those who have weight problems are free to join a gym or consult their doctors, and if the council cut-out programmes like this and lowered council taxes then more might be able to afford to take their own action.

Oct 2007 25

ClownsCan’t council bureaucrats find anything better to do than discourage social, voluntary activity helping the local community?  If you’ve read the Telegraph this morning you’ll see the disappointing story involving Broxbourne Council asking Stan and Jean Chatterton to stop cleaning a grass verge near their house.

In a letter to the couple, the council said their generous acts were getting in the way of the Council’s ability to “monitor the frequency we need to cut the area”. 

Therefore the council want to stop the Chatterton’s from cleaning, cutting and taking care of a grass verge because they want to do it themselves, using money from the taxpayer that could be put to other services because voluntary activity was taking care of the public area.

This yet more is proof of local government trying to carve out a role for itself where it simply has no role to play.  You, truly, couldn’t make it up.

Oct 2007 25

The Telegraph reports statistics from the ONS showing that middle class professionals are outliving builders and cleaners by as much as eight years:

Nlives125_2

One of the factors that the report cited as possibly affecting a person’s life expectancy was interesting:

"But the nature of people’s jobs also has an effect. If you have autonomy and control over what you do, you tend to be in better health."

This logic implies that reforms that give public sector employees more autonomy and control over how they provide services, with accountability for outcomes to the public instead of to politicians, are very much in the professionals’ interests.  This is possible within public services.  A study, Good people, good systems (PDF), by the Serco Institute found that when public services were managed by the private sector the staff found they had much greater freedom to act on their own initiative.  Here are some quotes from professionals who had moved from the public to the private sector (still working for public services):

‘Implementing change is much quicker.  In the private sector, you have the capacity to change quickly and to react almost instantaneously.  But it is left to individual [contract units] to react to the changing pace of the [customer] – head office is behind on these development most of the time.’

‘I am free to manage with greater autonomy, most certainly.  But that freedom comes with a price.  If you get it wrong – I’ve always accepted that if I’ve made a mess of my job I will be called to account at some stage.  It doesn’t have to be a nasty falling out; it’s just that if I run this contract and it doesn’t go well – either because we lose a lot of money, or the client is permanently unhappy with us, or we have a terrible safety record – it’s quite right that I should be called to account.’

Another factor contributing to poor healthcare outcomes among the poorest is that they tend to get let down most by the poor quality of British healthcare.  Dr. Thomas Stuttaford writes for the Times:

"In many deprived areas high blood pressure is still grossly underdiagnosed and treated poorly. Hyperlipidaemia – raised cholesterol levels – is ignored and few NHS patients know that their low-density lipoprotein levels are an essential indicator of possible trouble ahead. Breast screening, when compared with that of the rich, is too infrequent, discontinued too early and can even be desultory.

The average NHS practice still does not carry out or organise worthwhile cardiovascular assessment. It doesn’t measure blood sugar levels and renal function routinely, or determine the PSA levels of men so that it can diagnose prostate cancer in time for worthwhile intervention, or even understand the cardiac implications of progressive impotence.

Once a potentially lethal disease has been discovered, the quality of care that money can buy either in this country or abroad when compared with the standard NHS treatment is deeply worrying."

Oct 2007 25

The Mail reports today that MPs are struggling to find employment on leaving work:

"The study said employers have little use for former MPs – and some take more than a year to find a job.  Those who do manage to find work often complain that they do not earn as much as they did in Westminster.

[...]

A careers advice company cited in the report warned that a high percentage of former MPs ‘were commercially unemployable at senior management level’.

[...]

A high proportion of those who do find work get places on quangos."

It is pretty clear that in the private sector MPs, with little management experience or really detailed knowledge of a subject, cannot find senior management level employment.  They tend to find jobs by staying in the, less discriminating, public sector.

The top tiers of management in public services are taken up by politicians.  They don’t have the right skills and experience for senior management in the private sector, is it any wonder they fail in the public sector?

Oct 2007 25

MoneyYesterday we noted how Renfrewshire Council was spending £100,000 on desks.  Today we learn that the government has been spending £57,000+ on ministerial red boxes in the past 5 years.  A series of questions and freedom of information requests from Lib Dem MP John Hemming showed that the Department for Communities and Local Government topped the list, spending £7,420 for only 8 ministerial red boxes, almost £1,000 a box.

It’s important to note that these boxes are built to withstand most accidents owing to the confidential nature of ministerial papers, that’s completely understandable.  Yet the prices of these boxes ranged from £385 to £750 per box and indicating by the following breakdowns, it seems like most departments went for the most expensive option:

Transport – £8,853
Work and Pensions – £6,588
Defra – £1,500
Communities and Local Government – £7,420
Scotland – £1,620
Culture Media Sport – £1,598
DTI – £13,337.50
Innovation – none
Foreign Office – £6,990
Wales – none
Treasury – £1,899
Defence – £6,108
International Dev – £1,346.55

This is yet again another example of waste we have to watch, highlight and campaign on.  By a simple freedom of information request you can find out where your money is being spent and how much they’re wasting.  To make it easy for our supporters and activists to hold politicians and government to account we have a template freedom of information letter.  Email me at [email protected] requesting the letter and I will send it to you.  All you need to do is fill in the blanks and send it off to any public body.  What is essential, however, is that the more we bring these instances of waste and mismanagement the public’s attention, the more politicians will think before they waste our money. 

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