Tuesday 30 December 2014

The Cage Bars are made of Plasticine

Western democracies have not turned out quite as their founders imagined. None were expected to be bound by universal adult suffrage. In each region and nation where they developed the various assemblies and parliaments were formed by the social elites of the time.  Structures were expanded by demands for extending the vote and increasing the powers. The old aristocratic orders declined but money still ruled. Politicians and votes could still be bought, although the mechanisms were more subtle.Governments became deeply influenced by multinational, financially dominant organisations. Conflicts engineered not to preserve the lives and livelihoods of local populations, but for economic and political strategy. Not only the old fashioned military type of conflict still plague these mature democracies but also equally immoral campaigns against individual interest groups,economic, currency and geopolitical targets.

Are we ordinary people helpless in the face of all this? Our governments can't even balance their own books but ask for endless "austerity", generally a term describing taking as much as possible away from the poorest in society, the easy targets. Benefits reform is removing income from the least well off and compounding their misery is the shrinking of local government, the services on which they most depend, not only cutting health, social care and education facilities but also depriving communities of libraries, parks and even repairs to roads and pavements. However, UK money can be found in its billions for vanity projects such as high speed rail links, new nuclear weapons and bombing Iraq.

So the penny pinching is officially just to reduce the deficit, the rate at which the National Debt grows, and not by enough to make a significant difference. The National Debt was never meant to be paid back in full, but constantly borrowed with, theoretically, only the interest to pay back. However, it was never meant to become hopelessly out of control either! Naturally, this does not bode well if the debt is increasing relentlessly and the country struggling to pay the interest. However, so is almost everyone else's national debt in the Western World, particularly in countries who bailed out their banks. The usual economic remedy is to wait for inflation to devalue the debt but this doesn't look likely any time soon.

The future looks like endless cuts, job losses, a low wage economy and grinding poverty for the vulnerable. Good Public Services are usually the bedrock of a prosperous economy but have apparently become an unnecessary luxury in this bankrupt one. Worryingly, there is no pretense that things will ever get better, evidenced by the governments at all levels selling off assets and not mothballing anything for future use when the economy really recovers. The cuts are clearly permanent. We are just told we need "less government" and more self reliance.

Are the less prosperous majority really condemned to endless, permanent reductions to our welfare state and standard of living while the economy crawls along like a slug? The answer is "Yes" as long as your politicians play the big money game. The major parties all espouse the analysis of cutting public spending and public jobs which is supposed to make things better by cutting the government's outgoings. Theoretically tax income will not be affected as the private sector would take on all the former public sector workers at around the same pay. In fact the cuts almost never produce the "savings" forecast and the private sector hasn't taken up the slack but used the opportunity to pay poverty wages to desperate people who then need benefits from the state just to survive. So its a lose - lose scenario but our governments still advocate it.

Why should we continue with an economic policy which isn't working?  Why should our councils, national governments and central government carry on punishing those with modest means, devastating health and social care provision and letting our basic infrastructure rot? It only continues because no-one is prepared to point out that both the Chancellor and the Shadow Chancellor have no clothes. It will all end in tears and no-one in power has the guts to say so. This isn't about Europe or immigration or the threat of Isis or how fast we cut or how much we borrow. The problem is arithmetical. The sums don't add up, the cuts are inadequate to produce enough savings and the economy too sluggish to respond with growth in wages big enough. If it isn't going to work, why bother with more pain for no gain?

There is no easy way out of this crisis but by accepting this strategy, we prolong it .Every day we agree to make or take the cuts is another day when we lose a little bit more of the welfare state and appear content  with our government's management of the situation. In a few months we will go into a General Election election where there is little choice as every major political party will have an unconvincing variation of the same flawed theme.

It is time to say "No". The world will not end, the country will not collapse and it is time to look at the other solutions, not behind closed doors but in an open and honest debate. What is the use of Democracy if the representatives abandon their voters and join the broad coalition of deceit  and misinformation fed from above by all Party Leaders? Even official oppositions have all become the mouthpieces of the Great Institutions of State, Public and Private. Where is the honesty, transparency and openness in a state where the politician lie about their true intentions and the likely outcomes of their decisions?

As UK budgets are handed down to the lower level of our currently compliant local authorities your local representatives will all have the opportunity to say "no " to the cuts they are asked to make on behalf of the UK government. However, the cuts to your services, to local council jobs and local facilities have already been accepted by the Council Leaders. Only which cuts to make first is the topic of discussion. If you do care, find time to contact your local Councillor and see if they have any answers other than going with the flow?.

Here in Carmarthenshire our "consultation" is a list of carefully crafted questions by which you are invited to chose between preferences on selected cuts . As the budget is practicality finalised  its a manipulated exercise only, the question of whether or not we should accept the cuts from the Welsh Government doesn't even feature.

  The cuts are generally accepted  by the party politicians as necessary to "save" the  UK economy. Councillors are encouraged to believe that there is no other option We need to suffer to keep the Bankers, the UK Government and the Multinationals above water. In Carmartheshire many staff have already been warned that they are likely to lose their posts in the cuts, even before the decisions are officially confirmed by the Councillors. Such is the confidence of our local government civil servants that there will be no rebellion, just the usual rubber stamp.

 Democracy is only as good as the quality of representation in the system. The Old Parties are stuck in collective team strategy dictated from above. Political Parties do not encourage dissent. They prevent free speech, use internal disciplinary procedures to enforce compliance and play a team game even when the outcome of the game is clearly going to be a disastrous loss. Modern politics needs a different stance, based on frequent contact and consultation with the voters. Representatives should constantly inform their electorate honestly and selflessly as to what is going on.

I personally abandoned the party system as I saw it as outdated, often perverse and increasingly unfit for the challenges facing us. I helped form People First/Gwerin Gyntaf to give true independents who wish to stand for public office a label and a brand distinct from the discredited  "Independent" label. "Independent" has been often used by those who are not truly independent and/or have personal self interest to the fore.

Bell's Principles, which we all espouse, are excellent pledges for quality political representation. They are not easy and ensure that you work harder than most politicians. Democracy should be about delivering the best for the people and nothing else.

Sian Caiach
People First County Councillor. Carmarthenshire.


  1. Your paragraph:-
    "Here in Carmarthenshire our "consultation" is a list of carefully crafted questions by which you are invited to chose between preferences on selected cuts . As the budget is practicality finalised its a manipulated exercise only, the question of whether or not we should accept the cuts from the Welsh Government doesn't even feature." This para. was interesting to me as I did fill in this "consultation" document.

    I used my experience of being a CCC whistleblower and how the officers failed to follow WB policy, POVA & Statutory Complaints policy to make comments in the sections "Democratic Process", "Social Care, Housing & Public Protection Department" & "2015/18 Council Budget" in which I asserted that by the CCC not following policies had resulted in the council incurring unnecessary costs. In other words their cover up of their mishandling of the institutional abuse cost them dearly even though I lost my ET claim for unfair dismissal under PIDA.

    The lack of transparency or integrity & the failure of the CEO to follow the WB policy and investigate the misconduct of his officers will no doubt continue to cause the CCC unnecessary costs in attempt to cover up it's wrongdoing from members & the public.

    As this consultation document was going to the CEO's department I felt there might be a chance that these comments would reach him. I had been told, by the Complaints Officer at my tribunal, the CEO had not read any of the attachments I had emailed to him in my effort to have the actions taken by POVA, after our WB disclosures, looked into. Does the "Toxic Culture" stem from him or is he so uninterested in fulfilling his duties that he just leaves matters in the hands of his officers (gives them free rein to ignore policies and procedures)???

    I have been watching your efforts to get answers at council meetings with interest.

    Jennifer Brown (Whistleblower)

    1. I agree with you. Jennifer and have noticed that "shoot the messenger" is the usual response to whistle blowing. In much of the public sector the first action when mistakes are pointed out seems to be hush it all up and discredit the informant, however much it costs and however poisonous the culture it produces.
      Although Carmarthenshire County Council has pledged to become the most open and transparent council in Wales after the unlawful payments were discovered and described by the Wales Audit Office.

      I don't see much progress in that new policy but it may just be because the panel overlooking the process of improvement haven't held open meetings or published their minutes. Old habits die hard perhaps?

      I myself have several complaints and queries which have been dodged by tangential or misleading statements or just ignored. Getting to the point, never mind the truth is very hard but the more of us who challenge the status quo, the better. The new policy of openness will hopefully help....?

    2. Thank you for your response and I admire your persistence in try to obtain answers.

      I wish other councillors abided by Bells principals and had the strength to question wrongdoing. A number of councillors in positions where you would think they would question and look into matters of wrongdoing by officers who fail to follow policy and procedures regarding POVA, Statutory Social Services Complaints and Whistleblowing.

      It could be they are less than courageous when to speak up against the wrongdoing would impact on the CCC's reputation which is so well guarded by both Officers and Executive.

      They could also have taken on board the libellous statements made by HR and officers including the ex Social Services Director made to damage my reputation and standing as a caring employee who whistleblew without question.

      The ex Social Services Director ordered my County Councillor not to communicate with me, I was on suspension at the time. All my correspondences were being sent straight to my disciplinary investigation officer.

      I was suspended to prevent our (4 whistleblowers) complaint against POVA's handling of our disclosures being carried forward. (More about this in comments in Y Cneifiwr and Caebrwyn's blogs.

      Thanks again for you kind comments

      Jennifer Brown (whistleblower)

    3. Thanks again, Jennifer. I know you've been trying to get me on the phone. I've been away but am around most of the coming weekend Feb 21/22 so please ring again- evenings best. Sian


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