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BBC spends our money to resist sharing of licence fee

By Angela Harbutt
August 14th, 2009 at 1:06 am | 4 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Since I have returned to UK three totally separate people have said to me “Angela have you seen what the BBC have been up to whilst you’ve been away”. The answer has been “no” . Though frankly nothing they do surprises me anymore.

So I go and look. What do I find ? Yes ignore the expenses, the ludicrous overspend on relocating to Salford, ….the hiring of huge yachts…and villas etc etc ….. the shocking stuff is that the BBC  is spending my/your/our license fee to secretly fund a protest  against proposals to share the licence fee.

To be specific. The BBC is paying part of the cost of a trade union meeting  entitled “Digital Britain – An Attack on the BBC?” at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton (Sept 30th). WTF??????  

The session will feature BECTU ( the broadcast technicians union) and the NUJ (national union of journalists) both speaking out against government proposals to “top slice” the TV licence fee.

When caught questioned, the BBC said …errr…. that it would be helping to meet the costs of the Labour party fringe meeting …. but err….  that a fringe meeting could not be described as “lobbying”  because it was open to a wide cross section of the public. 

How dare these people attempt to chop logic on whether this is “lobbying” or not.  They were spending my money to try protect their “slug” of the licence fee – by paying trade unions to front up for them . Thats cowardly and dishonest.

But if this is the game they want to play, I will play it. If this is “not lobbying” by virtue of it being ” open to a wide cross section of the public” I assume that as a licence fee payer I can just turn up to the labour party conference and be granted access to this session? Because – you bet I am going to try – and will advise the commercial broadcasters of my intentions – and ask the BBC why I cant gain entrance if I am stopped (strikes me that I am paying for it after all!).

Interesting to note that the BBC is not funding any fringe meetings at the Tory or Lib Dem conferences (well….. not any that they are admitting to anyway).

Anyone wishing to join me in seeking access to the BBC funded debate  on “Digital Britain – An attack on the BBC?” on Sept 30th , please let me know. details will be published as I receive them.


Nine sacked for breaching core ID card database

By Angela Harbutt
August 13th, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Comments Off on Nine sacked for breaching core ID card database | Posted in UK Politics

no2idThe government has always poo-pooed the idea that holding our personal information in a single database will make it vulnerable to abuse by those (hundreds of thousands) who have access to the system.

Henry Porter’s blog points to why we should be VERY concerned about this issue (regardless of where we are, or not, on implementation of the ID card scheme).  Its already happening ! Council employees are illegally accessing personal information on celebrities, their friends, their girlfriends and themselves.

Henry’s source – Computer Weekly – has reported that nine people have been sacked for accessing personal information  from the core ID card database. The nine were “among 34 council workers who illegally accessed the Customer Information System (CIS) database, which holds the biographical data of the population that will underpin the government’s multi-billion-pound ID-card programme.”

The others were either reprimanded or resigned though note than none (including the sacked nine) were prosecuted.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg as many of the breaches were discovered after “sample checks”. Samples are just that – samples.  There may be many more breaches that have gone undetected as the CIS is a database accessed by over 200,000 government employees.

The Government reaction was typically complacent. A DWP spokesman said “the small number of incidents shows that the CIS security system is working…” As Henry points out, they did not, of course, acknowledge that these cases came from sample checks generated by the system. They clearly have NO idea how many government employees are accessing our data illegally. And they clearly dont think that theft of our personal information merits prosecution.

Herein lies the problem. The government has yet to acknowledge that information about me is mine. If someone helped themselves to money out of my bank I would expect to see them prosecuted. If someone helps themselves to my personal information i expect the same. I also expect it to be protected adequately by those holding it by the way.

If ever anyone thought that we had “won” the battle on ID cards they should think again. We still have a very long way to go on this one. Good work Computer Weekly. Excellent post Henry Porter.

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GUEST POST: Rob Waller on Osborne’s cunning plan

By admin
August 12th, 2009 at 12:35 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

skoolThis may surprise you, but I think Conservative George may actually be bright enough to have a rather cunning plan. And I believe his cunning plan is to weaken the left’s strangle hold of the education system.

It should be obvious why he would want to do this. The state education system is notoriously left wing, a bed rock of Labour support and has massive influence over the development of the next generation of voters.

In his speech to Demos George said…

Sweden introduced its supply side education reforms in the early nineties in the aftermath of a banking crisis and the wake of a recession.

They not only drove up standards, the reforms also ensured that resources were used more efficiently.

New providers used the same amount of per pupil funding available to existing state schools and found innovative ways of making it go far further.

They negotiated contracts on premises, IT and textbooks which reduced costs, liberating more money to spend on teaching and learning.

The competitive pressures introduced by new education providers forced existing bureaucracies to look at their own cost base and that drove further reform – and savings.

Education reform is not an optional extra we’ll pay for at some unspecified date in the future.

Now George couches these reforms in the language of standards. However the real reason for them should be obvious. If you bring in other providers you give parents choice. And this inherently weakens the state education system’s control over society as it no longer has a near monopoly. Which will weaken Labour’s control of society as the left will no longer control education.

However given the fact that George is a ‘Cameroon we’re not libertarian’ Conservative these reforms will probably be a corporatist fudge. But that is not to say we should not be making similar changes. In fact I believe we should go a lot further and for the same reasons. I believe it is essential if we want to develop a liberal and free society that we completely destroy the state education system. Because to have a liberal society you need a diverse and questioning population. And to develop this you need a diverse and varied education system that promotes choice.

So what do we need to do? Well first off make education non-compulsory. Now, this may seem fairly radical, but there are a number of reasons why we should do this. First there is a moral/ethical issue. Which is that people should want to be educated, they should not be forced. Second, it makes it far easier for parents to home school or opt-out of a bad school, they need not give any justification. Third, as education is no longer compulsory schools will no longer have any compulsion to educate meaning it is far easier to get rid of unruly kids. And finally, traditional education doesn’t suit everyone. So these people should be free to pursue other life options.

In addition to this the National Curriculum should be scrapped — let the parents and teachers decide what to teach. All national exams should be scrapped — schools, universities and businesses can work out how best to asses kids. And any state funding should be directed at the individual — not the system.

I imagine a lot of people will be horrified by some of these ideas, they will throw their hands in the air and proclaim “What about the terrorists, and religious nuts and the paedophiles?” I say to those people — these problems already exist, they pose very little risk and more state control won’t solve them.

However, only more choice in the education system can drive up standards. And as I assume George has worked out if we diversify the education system we will severely damage one of the left-wing strongholds in Britain. Which so long as it’s not replaced with corporatist fudge is a good thing that will help us build a freer and more liberal society.

Rob Waller sits on the NCC of the Libertarian Party and regularly posts for the LPUK South East Blog.

£540 million government spend on “behavioural change”

By Angela Harbutt
August 11th, 2009 at 12:45 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Goverment behavioural correction dept


I have been away in sunny USA for a few weeks so apologies for being slow off the mark on this one.But did anyone else notice that COI spend has jumped by almost 50% in 2008/2009 to £540million ?

(The COI is the somewhat Orwellian sounding “Central Office of Information” by the way)

Inspection of the COI annual report and accounts reveals some further interesting titbits. Spend on “news and PR” grew by 52% year on year from £26.9m to £40.9m – that’s surely “spin on spin” to you and me. And whilst we are used to talk of government spend in the billions, £40million is a hell of a lot of money to spend on spinning the spin.

Further, I note the salaries are listed for these peddlers of Government corrective behavioural programmes information: Chief Executive: £150,000 , Deputy Chief Executive:£125,000, seven directors on somewhere between £90,000-£100,000) and that is as nothing compared to their (very very) nice government pension plans – the deputy chief executive has a cash equivalent transfer value of £844,000. Nice work if you can get it.

Can anyone tell me why the government spending on advertising and marketing is soaring at a time when businesses are cutting back and we are desperately short of money in almost every area of life we look?

Their answer is that that the cost increase was driven by the need of the government to “tackle behavioural change” (according to the COI Chief Executive this is on areas like obesity, climate change, smoking etc) ….hmmm.. This does not really speak of government information. More like the government spending my money telling me how I should behave. 

My answer as to why government spending on “information” has spiralled out of control is simpler but perhaps less palatable.

There is a causal relationship here – the more government seeks to pay for everything, the more government then feels the need to correct our behaviour to match its budgets. Obesity costs the NHS £x so we need to spend money preaching on peoples eating and exercise habits to reduce the cost of treatment. But goverments have made people dependent on the state. Why should people take care of their own health if they can get a gastric band and a nice nip and tuck on the NHS when it starts to endanger their health? If people were weened off government nannying and relearned to take responsibility for themselves, we would all be a lot healthier, wealthier and wise.

Unfortunately that does not suit the current governments’ ideology and certainly does not suit all those civil servants taking home their very nice salaries and golden pensions. Turkeys and Christmas come to mind. 

So here we are seeing, frankly, obscene amounts of money spent telling us how to live our lives. My view remains the same – that given the opportunity people will do a much better job of looking after themselves than the government ever can. And you wont stop the spiralling spend on “government information” until we remove their creeping involvement in our lives



Is Lynne Featherstone right – are these child killers a waste of taxpayers’ money?

By Mark Littlewood
August 11th, 2009 at 10:53 am | 16 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

connelly-barkerThe two people pictured on the left may look like highly respectable, upstanding members of the community, but don’t be fooled! They are in fact Tracey Connelly and Steven Barker, who are serving minimum sentences of five and twelve years for the death of Baby P. The delightful Mr. Barker is also serving a life sentence for the rape of a two year-old.

Lynne Featherstone pretty much caught the public mood today when she told the BBC, “There’s certainly a section of the public that think that they should be in jail for life and if they come out they should not receive any protection at taxpayers’ expense whatsoever.” 

Hurrah! It’s an air punching moment to hear a LibDem MP arguing for restraint in spending and exposing the nonsense of this country’s “tough on crime” b*llshit. The LibDem approach – established by Nick Clegg when he was Home Affairs spokesman – is essentially to lock up fewer people, but for longer.

But is Lynne right? Given that virtually all murderers are one day released from jail, do we have any obligation to protect them from possible vigilante attacks? I’m just not sure intellectually, but my guts tell me that Lynne’s hardline is spot on.

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