John Redwood MP sings, ‘I like to be in America’

How disappointing to see a seasoned MP such as John Redwood, not content with just falling over himself to kiss the collective backsides of the good ol’ US of A, despite their major involvement in the world wide recession and the crap we inherit from them, such as gang culture, reality TV shows, skyscrapers, fast food – the list goes on and on, he then adopts the practices of the playground, by ignoring the comparisons being made between the UK and Germany and saying, ‘well Norway and Switzerland are better than all of them, so there!’.
I didn’t find it to be a wholesale endorsement of the German way of doing things, just a reasonable comparison of the differences between the two countries, both good and bad. Yes, the Germans are more productive, but they haven’t had any pay increases above inflation for 20 years. Excellent child care facilities cost a fraction of the cost of lower quality facilities here, but German women feel obliged to be stay at home mums, with little or no career prospects. Workers are more committed to their company and its success, because they share in the profits and work as a team – there’s no but to that one!
The Germans don’t seem to have a problem with private rented properties as being the most effective way to house the masses, rather than encouraging people to saddle themselves with a lifetime of debt.
Hands up all those who’d like to be American… Can you hold them up a bit higher, I can’t see any hands from here.

No win no fee earns H&S a bad press again!

The BBC’s One Show was taking a cheap shot last week, with an item on an ex WWII RAF Spitfire pilot. Apparently, the old boy wasn’t allowed to get in to a Spitfire that had been restored by a group of volunteers. The reason given for the prohibition was of course given as ‘health and safety concerns’, which of course was greeted by derisory comments from the one Show presenters, similar to those made in national newspapers earlier in the week.

Interestingly, the film clip they showed was edited to show the OAP first standing next to the cockpit and then, as if by magic, sitting in the aircraft. No doubt climbing in to the aircraft for the 90+ year old pensioner was not as quick or slick as the producer would of liked and no doubt had some potential health and safety implications, they didn’t want shown on early evening TV.

Trivialising health and safety concerns in this way, does nobody any good and completely ignores the aircraft owners genuine reasons for refusing the ex-RAF pilot’s request – the fear of being sued by a no win, no fee lawyer. Had this old gentleman come a cropper, either climbing in or climbing out of the Spitfire, do you think either he or his relative would of accepted it as just one of those things? Or would they have been on the phone to the first no win, no fee lawyer they found in the phone book? Even if they hadn’t initiated the legal action, there’s every possibility one of the numerous ambulance chasing firms, that advertise daily on day time TV, would probably have been on the phone to them!

As long as the no win, no fee legal system remains unchanged, people will continue to respond in this way to what would otherwise be a very straightforward request.

Media needs to pick the right target

In today’s Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker is taking a swipe at rising levels of public pay, bonuses and benefits, in these times of public sector austerity. He is of course right to be seriously concerned on behalf of the public. It cannot be right that, whilst everything else in the public sector is shrinking, the wealth of those at the highest levels continue to inflate.

However, targeting those benefitting from a corrupted remuneration system, is hardly going to achieve the desired outcome – the wholesale realignment of public sector pay. The present system has evolved over many years of negotiation between recruitment bodies, unions and even individuals seeking senior positions. Much of this negotiation, especially involving unions, has been based on claims that public sector workers are poorly paid, because they have greater job security and receive earlier pensions than those in the private sector. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, and this is where Christopher Booker is right to voice his concerns. Public sector pay has not just caught up, it has, especially at the more senior levels, surpassed the private sector, whilst all other benefits have stayed the same. It is this increasing disparity between the public and private sectors that is creating the current media outrage.

There is also one group that tends to be overlooked when it comes to responsibility for pay inflation – local government elected members. I myself have sat through more than a few debates and subsequent votes on decisions related to the chief executive’s next pay rise. Invariably discussions always focussed on how we needed to pay at least the going rate, having taken soundings from what was called our family group. This family group was based on councils of the same type and size as ours and was supposed to ensure that we didn’t loose a good CX, because we were not paying the going rate. The problem with this approach, is that it automatically builds in inflation which is then made worse by members often unfounded concerns at the possibility of loosing the devil they know. Also, somebody will often throw in a comment about the high cost of seeking a replacement for a senior management post and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve added 5 or even 10% to the cost of employing your chief executive.

Some councils have attempted to justify pay inflation within it’s senior management team, by introducing performance related bonuses. This farcical approach is also widespread across Whitehall and only adds to the outrage felt by those in the private sector, when reading reports such as Christopher Booker’s. If you can’t measure somebody’s performance against a well understood outcome such as profit, you’re stumbling around in the dark, basing your decision on personality and not performance and inviting the sort of pay inflation now common across the public sector.