Delivering a Deaf Ear to the Electorate

April 8, 2015

Well, it’s over a week since the DeliveryDemon emailed David Cameron’s constituency office about the intrusion of multiple nuisance calls from his party. Has there been a reply? Has there even been an acknowledgement? Not a peep.

The DeliveryDemon is not party partisan. Rather she regards voting as a form of damage limitation. This one tiny example is part of the all-encompassing pattern which gives her reason to believe that no political party has any commitment to the issues which are important to the electorate.

The DeliveryDemon has a message for every single would be MP and their cohorts – if you want the least bit of credibility, be prepared to do the job that goes with the pay and publicity – listen to, and represent, the views of the people in your constituency.

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Delivering Sports Participation

April 3, 2012

The DeliveryDemon isn’t hugely fascinated by the 2012 Olympics. She didn’t bother with the ticket allocation fiasco. She hopes she won’t be in London, or near one of the few non-London venues during the event. She has no intention of going anywhere to peer through crowds at anyone trotting along with a badly designed bit of metalwork, which is the nearest many Brits will get to the Olympics. She certainly won’t be watching the Olympics on television, as she still hasn’t found a good reason to go out and buy one.

According to BBC talking heads, this means that the DeliveryDemon is not interested in sport. No matter that she walks for miles in the mountains and across country – that doesn’t count. Nor does bodyflying, an activity which tests muscles most people never get round to using. As soon as she finishes rehab from last year’s skydiving accident, she aims to be back flowriding and doing the occasional bit of running. But she’s not interested in sport. The DeliveryDemon was delighted when recovery reached a point that allowed her back in the gym and the pool – but that’s not sport. She’s looking forward to being able to take winter holidays with ice climbing and snowshoeing and cross country skiing and dog sledging – but according to those in the know, she’s not a sporty person. Obviously not, since she isn’t inclined to sit on the couch, munching and drinking, while watching others do something which may be active – or which may be as inactive as darts or snooker or angling or even poker, all of which are skilled, none of which contribute much to the body’s need for physical activity.

There’s a lot of justification of Olympic costs on the grounds that the fact of the Olympics will increase sports participation. It’s a pity that those who made the decisions to spend shed loads of public money didn’t do some realistic thinking:

  • What does participation actually mean?
  • How can you demonstrate that it’s happening?

Since the powers that spend our taxes clearly haven’t done this thinking, please allow the DeliveryDemon to suggest a few actions and measures.

Work is spread throughout the country so that people don’t have to spend so much time commuting that there’s no weekday time for anything else and no weekend time because weekends are used up with recovering from the week’s commute and doing all the chores there wasn’t time for during the week.

School offer a range of activities within the timetable with sufficient variety so that all children can particpate without feeling useless or stupid, and sufficient competition to give the competitive a way of measuring their success.

Sports funding includes reasonable support for public facilities which provide ready access for the public at times when people want to use them.

Bylaws and bureaucrats do not use health and safety as an excuse to prevent popular and emerging sports like inline skating and skateboarding and freerunning in public places.

Planning decisions require provision of public open spaces including green space, and sports facilties, with properly thought out arrangements for their long term upkeep.

That’s just for starters. The Olympics will long be remembered for the white elephant developments it leaves behind, but any effect it has on sports participation will be as transient as the annual blip  in tennis court use around the time of Wimbledon – but without Wimbledon’s annual influence. If the powers that be seriously want to influence public health for the better, they need to think more pragmatically than low usage monolithic development and nanny state pronouncements.


Ethics? That’th in the eatht, ithn’t it?

May 15, 2009

The DeliveryDemon has been restraining herself from adding to the torrent of commentary on the UK MPs’ expenses scandal, but she can’t hold back any more. It is so blindingly obvious that the vast majority of voters choose their representatives in the hope that they will deliver a fair, honest and secure environment for the voters to earn a living and go about their daily lives. If only in the interests of re-election, one might expect MPs to deliver the impression of doing just that.

Are the UK’s MPs really blind to the impression they deliver, or doesn’t it matter to them? What’s fair, honest and secure about a country where:

  • An MP can build up a property portfolio and have the taxpayer subsidise purchase and maintenance across the portfolio by calling first one property then another the main / second residence, while an ordinary taxpayer working away from home and family is subject to strict rules about what can be claimed, and must even pay tax on expenses if it looks likely that the working away period will be more than 2 years.
  • Husband and wife MPs can claim on the same property, but in small husband and wife businesses, the owners have had to fight to ensure that the wife can have earnings in her own right instead of being treated as the husband’s chattel.
  • A private individual’s expenses must have a demonstrable link to the job, whereas an MP may treat an expenses limit as an entitlement.

It’s shocking when it happens, more so when it happens on the recent grand scale. It’s embarrassing when the ethics of the situation are glossed over and ‘the rules’ used as justification. There’s a kind of grim comedy in the attempts to divert attention to payments made to the architects of recent banking failures. But the worst of it is the total absence of any way out which would restore to the country a parliamentary system which could be trusted to act in the interests of the electorate.

The DeliveryDemon has a suggestion to offer.

Historically, MPs had allowances because their working situation was unusual in that many needed to live away from home and family and local responsibilities. That’s not unusual now. Soaring house prices have made it impossible for many to live near work. Inconsistent quality of schooling and healthcare has forced some taxpayers into weekly commuting in order to avoid moving the family somewhere which doesn’t provide a reasonable quality of life. The flexibility of this country’s economy relies on a pool of people who are prepared to work on the basis of short term contracts, moving where the work is.

MPs are no longer a special case when it comes to working away from home. There’s no longer a justification for special rules and allowances for them. If MPs were subject to the same rule as the normal taxpayer, there would be no opportunity for them to manipulate the rules and take advantage of their position.


What Price the Knowledge Economy?

April 23, 2009

Britains politicians have been loudly trumpeting the view that the country’s future lies with the knowledge sector.

What is this knowledge sector? It is basically those industries based on technical skills and understanding rather than physical goods. It includes areas such as IT, engineering, training, accountancy, HR. It covers the whole area of interim management, where an individual is brought in to carry out a piece of work, troubleshoot, or fill a gap, purely because of their skills and knowledge. It includes those with specialist skills and understanding in a whole host of other sectors. It is, as the politicians say, the future, and it’s growing.

A feature of the knowledge sector is the demand for flexibility, as a significant number of knowledge-based requirements exist for a limited period of time, and the company with the need is unlikely to take on a permanent employee only to make them redundant after a short period. To some extent, the gap is filled by the larger consultancy companies but their needs can fluctuate depending on the contracts they win and the requirements of their clients. The flexibility in the knowledge sector comes from the growing population of skilled and experienced individuals who work as independent contractors.

Many people look enviously at the day rate charged by such contractors, because they mistakenly equate it with the contractor’s salary. They forget that, unlike an employee:

  • The contractor bears the risk of economic downturns and changing client requirements, when there may be long, unpaid, periods when contract work is not available, and earnings have to cover that period.
  • The contractor does not get paid holiday or sick leave or training leave.
  • Contractors pay the cost of their own training courses.
  • Since most contractors have to work through their own limited companies, they have in effect a second job running those companies, and that job is unpaid.
  • There are costs associated with running a company – fees for accountancy and running a payroll, multiple insurances, legal fees for checking contracts….
  • While an employee pays Income Tax and Employee’s National Insurance, a contractor working through a limited company pays  Income Tax  Employee’s National Insurance, Employer’s National Insurance, and Corporation Tax.
  • Contractors frequently work away from home. With contracts often lasting only a few months it would be both impractical and unrealistic for the contractor to sell up and uproot the family every time they sign a new contract, so the contractor has to bear the cost of temporary accommodation.
  • Many contractors need to provide their own IT equipment and software.

Start taking this into account and a contractor’s earnings suddenly look much lower than the day rate might suggest.

So if it’s not the money, what attracts contractors to the lifestyle? For many, it is the opportunity to focus on their professional area of interest and expertise, and they are prepared to take personal and financial risk to do so. It is not an easy life. As well as keeping up their technical skills, the contractor has to be company administrator, book-keeper and salesman, over and above the prime job of providing services to clients.

The knowledge economy is the future, and the knowledge economy needs a pool of skilled and entrepreneurial people to enable it to be responsive to the demands of the market place. It will be a major factor as Britain drags itself from the pit of the current recession. So what did the 268 pages of yesterday’s budget do to encourage this hard-working sector of the economy? Precisely nothing. In fact, less than nothing. Nothing to reduce the onerous taxation regime which targets the freelance contractor with ambiguous legislation, so that each and every contractor has to spend significant sums on legal and accounting advice on each and every contract, to clarify the tax position. Nothing to reduce the corporation tax burden. Not even a recognition of the value of freelance contracting to a flexible economy. Nothing to improve the existing situation, and nothing new to make things better.

There is an enormous gulf here between what the politicians say and what they actually deliver to support the knowledge economy. The DeliveryDemon is far from surprised that so many of her colleagues see the future as outside this country, and she regrets the environment which makes them take that decision.

[If you want to see how a 268 page budget can deliver nothing to support a sector which is critical to the recovery of Britain’s economy, the DeliveryDemon recommends PCG’s summary at http://tinyurl.com/PCGbudgetanalysis The DeliveryDemon’s head is still reeling from trying to disentangle the morass of overlapping numbers in the actual Budget document. And it’s too horrible to be a cure for insomnia.}


Delivering According to Priorities

March 30, 2009

It’s a good thing to do away with discrimination in the job market, more so during an economic downturn when the sheer volume of jobseekers gives the recruiter so many adequately qualified people to choose from that discrimination in individual cases becomes virtually impossible to prove. So, with the ever increasing number of jobseekers in the UK it might seem like a good time to ensure that none of those millions qualified candidate is denied a job on the basis of, say, religion or gender.

But why, oh why, has the government given priority and Parliamentary time to THIS http://tinyurl.com/c8hf46 , a single job opportunity which becomes available only a handful of times a century, when there’s a crying need to deal with the pressing economic conditions hitting MILLIONS of jobs at the moment?


Delivering Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

March 19, 2009

DeliveryDemon was more than slightly incensed to receive from the local MP a letter which delivered a blast of breathtaking cynicism with a nasty aftertaste of unsubtle manipulativeness.

 

There’s a proposal to resite the outpatient facility of a hospital in the area, currently based in a town with a population of 50,000. It’s not being moved to another nearby town with a population of 46,000. No, it’s being moved to a much smaller town, population 9,000. This for a service used by older people, disabled people, ill people, people who may be unable to drive. This in an area with limited public transport outside the main population centres. Nothing in the letter to say why the MP supports this particular move, just a statement that the hospital deems it to be best for patients. Knowing the quality of service delivered by this particular hospital, the DeliveryDemon thinks this very statement is a good reason to question the decision, but that’s another story.

 

Anyway, the letter delivers a couple of paragraphs of unsubstantiated benefit claims followed by a tirade about political bias with a claim that only one view can be the right one and a total absence of any explanation of why the balance of benefits would favour the MP’s preferred option. The text is littered with ‘what do you think?’ but guess what options are offered in the poll at the end. Choose between the good of the patient and political pressure. In other words, either you agree with the MP or you are in favour of evil, underhand politicking. No room for dissent there.

 

Let’s step back from the issue of the hospital and look at the intended payload of this communication. No doubt Phil Hope would like to present to the local planning committee an interpretation of poll results showing that, of those who voted, the majority were in favour of his preferred option. Well, it’s a convenient vehicle for those in favour of the proposal to cast a vote in support of him. It has been lent dubious credibility by being sent to all local voters, and worded in a way which makes it unlikely that anyone not already in favour will vote against it. I refer back to my earlier comment on breathtaking cynicism and unsubtle manipulativeness.

 

And what is the actual delivery payload when the reader thinks about the letter? Any or all of the following:

  • Annoyance at an MP who thinks that voters are idiots who can be manipulated like this, and who thinks that it’s alright to do so
  • Annoyance at the waste of taxpayers’ money and the creation of landfill fodder in the form of thousands of pages and envelopes of expensive House of Commons stationery
  • Suspicion about the validity of the proposal
  • Distrust of the letter’s signatory
  • An inclination to question something which might otherwise have been of only passing interest.

This MP has made a massive mistake in ignoring the fact that successful delivery of a communication can only be measured in the context of the perception of the recipient. The implied message in his communication is completely at odds with what he intended. And that brings us to honesty. Successful delivery happens when deliverer and recipient have a shared view of what is to be delivered. Try and slip in something different from what you’re claiming to deliver and you’ll destroy the recipient’s trust. Honesty is the only basis for a strong relationship.