My answers to MK Citizen published today.
1. Do you believe a cut in spending on public services in Milton Keynes will be necessary after the election?
- Whether cuts are ‘necessary’ is debatable but cuts are inevitable, imminent and indefinite because whichever party and/or groups are fortunate enough to form an effective coalition with the ‘lingering Labour’ or ‘tolerated trespassers’ in No.10 will have the first task of grasping the nettle that has deliberately been left by Labour for obvious selfish electoral reasons. If Gordon Brown says that he is acting in the best interest of GB PLC you should and must believe him unconditionally.
- The inevitable decision has been stayed after the election only because public sector presents the largest and most sensitive cost management anathema. Why then, you might ask, is public cost control more challenging than managing private sector costs?
- [i] Payroll: Once on the roll its difficult to get them off like some dodgy MPs. Latent costs are always much larger than the headline salaries. With no business-critical imperatives, abhorrent ‘people’ decisions tend to be deferred as long as possible as is the case in hand. Pay, performance and productivity ratios are incomparable to the private sector. The hidden or latent costs of public sector are much worse because long-term pension, retirement and health-care benefits are not accounted for in government accounts. If honestly accounted for, these would add up to 40% extra to the actual annual cost of a state employee and an extra 50% plus of GDP to national government debt. No private business can or would be expected to conduct business in this way. More than 20% of our country’s workers [client-voters] are working for the state with a strong interest in self-survival.
- [ii] Procurement or buying services: The state is a gigantic buyer of hospital catering, rubbish collection, prescription drugs, IT contracts, roads and infrastructure, military hardware etc. Notwithstanding the fact the state is zero-credit-risk to suppliers, and therefore enjoying the maximum buying clout to elicit cost-effectiveness, the mammoth failures such as £12bn defunct NHS IT Database are due to pernicious and pervasive incompetencies both in central and local governments. I can expand on this but brevity is of essence to put the message across without fear or favour.
- [iii] Structural costs viz pensions & healthcare are almost impossible to control. State pensions devised after the second world war were calculated to pay out for about two years after retirement! Retired pensioners now survive over 20 years after the retirement age. The crunch-point is that even if pension cost per head had been held constant, the government contribution per head would have arisen manifold and would continue upwards until state pensions are ‘reformed’ – by raising retirement age, reducing payments, or increasing contributions during the lifetime. The government has been in purdah over this issue. Sheer neglect, incompetency and ineptitude. [This is one of the reasons why some well-managed immigration of professionals is essential to ensure adequate NI contributions to sustain the older retired generation in the UK whatever the BNP states. If BNP wish to sustain the pensions at £150 pw, they’ll need twice the number of contributing immigrants.]. Healthcare is the other costly monolith because the state is the provider of good, accessible and, at most times, reliable national health service on demand free to all British citizens irrespective of the ability to pay. But it lacks two drivers of efficiency and innovation viz profit-motive and competition. So the government devised internal-markets by way of targets [some meaningless] and league tables in hospitals and schools. But the pseudo-markets created fraudulent outcomes as too many ‘managers’ managed to measures rather than deliver the best ‘holistic’ services befitting the local health economy. Whilst in private sector customers can switch custom the public consumers of such monopolies are captive and have such choice and can vote only once every 4 or 5 years. Performance date is often non-existent, late, inconsistent, unreliable or full of government spin. Thus managing public sector cost is particularly petrifying but one must not give up. I haven’t. What we need is strong, honest, competent, professional, credible and exemplary leaders both as politicians and public sector managers because:
- Public service industry that essentially belongs to the public, there will inevitably be constant change; indefinitely. People are far more complex than money & machinery. As well as being a key ingredient to the success of any project, the human side of management is a discipline that offers life long learning opportunities. This is my forté. One ignores this truism at one’s own peril.
- Hence any leader worth the salt must establish a culture where: the staff are able to challenge the business-as-usual and innovate; devolved budgets to front-line establish proper and measurable accountability; continuous improvement is facilitated; open feedback and ability to act upon ideas is valued; exemplariness is valued especially from leaders down to workforce.
2. What is your policy on housing development in the city?
- Deputy Prime Minister’s Community Plan intended to address Health, Economic, Social, Environmental, Educational, Employment inequalities & deprivation via Decent Housing & Quality of Life in Thriving Sustainable Communities (what I had achieved in Agar Grove Estate, London NW1 albeit in a small way some 17 years ago) is sufficient evidence that such common sense business critical ideas neither die nor fade away. What is more significant is that these innovative social entrepreneurial ideas endured in self imposed, self-motivated experience when the only compulsion, as opposed to then ODPM’s & DCLG’s requirements, was that of the residents’ and the estate’s deprivation and need; Truly the customer-led service of all.
- Government’s role was to translate its manifesto pledges and its strategy into National, Regional & local level and deliver its Housing Policies via the Housing Departments of the LAs & RSLs in England & Wales as Decent Housing was seen as vital, critical & fundamental to healthy, educated, thriving and sustainable communities enjoying safety, quality of life, environmental, social & economic well-being. I have been there and delivered it some 20 years ago & have delivering through my suggestion to The Deputy PM (in my visionary paper on Community Cohesion 05/12/2004) about affordable and modular flexible life-time homes – now being built in The Oakgrove Millennium Community, Tattenhoe Park, Oxley Park, MK, and Basingstoke, Hampshire the national exemplar site for the supposedly affordable super-flexible homes for life which are extendable or internally convertible & adaptable as families’ needs grow. MK2031 Master Plan, in which I was a consultee, recommended these super-flexible homes for life being pioneered here – ‘hopefully’ meeting social inclusion, community cohesion & sustainable community agenda.
- Community Cohesion 05/12/2004 paper argues: Ethnic Pluralism & Social Cohesion indicates that (i) Immigration has not undermined national integrity (ii) Some immigrant groups have progressed well, others not (iii) Labour market integration has been unwisely downplayed (iv) Discrimination persists & thus affects social trust (v) High risk, alienated, left behind groups are the priority (vi) Building common glue is vital but so is the need to avoid overly prescriptive, threatening answers. Promoting solidarity depends on underlying equality in a three-way triangular relationship thus solidarity r equality s diversity. Thus building greater & more explicit cohesion across ethnic lines depends on (i) understanding recent history (ii) learning the lessons of how economic integration has worked abroad and (iii) systematically tackling settled disadvantage. In OU Hustings on 27 April 2005, I had identified the possibility of ‘home-grown bombers’: “The Deputy PM’s Community Plan has completely missed Community Cohesion as a critical issue within it. I am arguing that where there is no injustice, unfairness &/or inequality – there can be no strife, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disaffection, complaint or grievance. In order for Britain to effectively manage and address the internal risks of communal violence and (putting it bluntly) threats of terrorism from left behind groups, is to pay heed to my assertions in the third paragraph (last page) that Discrimination persists & thus affects social trust.”
- Both the innovations cited above utilised my excellent inter-personal & intra-personal skills in influencing, enthusing, persuading and negotiating with the District staff, senior officers and Councillors (including the then Chair of Housing Management Committee) thus presenting and selling my innovative ideas communicating them clearly both orally and in writing. It involved identifying their motivations and working with them as levers to facilitate cultural change thus addressing both staff management & dealing with performance issues effectively without fear or favour. A special well argued and presented reports including the SRB Bid to the DoE were prepared. These projects (including when I was acting up as an Area Manager) also utilised my staff management skills in addressing repeated poor performance incisively including taking disciplinary action, time management using management tools like Critical Path Analysis to keep track of projects plan as live documents including not only managing budgets effectively but actually delivering substantial savings to the Council as demonstrated above through innovative change management techniques.
- Nothing of this can be said to be remotely representative of what is being delivered by the Milton Keynes Council or the Government Quango or so-called delivery vehicle ‘The English Partnership’. Although this might appear as overly critical from what may appear to be a mere insignificant front-line foot-soldier serving in the ‘Best Council in the UK’ about the overly paid grandees both in The MKC & EP including the Government and its post-Blears-flipping fiasco the DCLG; the mere fact that ODPM’s Community Plan omitted the critical issue of community cohesion in its plan and 13 years later, after John Prescott flashed his Pledge Cards on every TV interview since, and most importantly, despite my innovative ideas were given life by Lord Roger’s architectural genius, the crucial element of ‘affordability‘ was thrown out with the wasted mortar. When young couples cannot afford a starter home, how can the nation have the chutzpah to expect them to progress in social mobility to the ‘flexible-homes-for-life’ sustaining an extended family of their own contributing to community cohesion?
- Furthermore, MKC & MKPC, & EP have failed to deliver the necessary new-built social housing for the Milton Keynes Citizens of reasonably long-term domicile than the recently settled immigrants including small number of asylum seekers which have been given undue priority in social housing according to the concerns expressed to me. So far as my own experience is concerned I know that to be the case since 1997. Having challenged Hazel Blears and her department about this social injustice, the Govt, only recently, via Alan Johnson, surreptitiously announced in the Evening Standard that they have amended their policy of social housing allocations. My experience still does not show that to be true. Only the MK Citizens can vouch whether they have been accorded equal information, access and, most importantly, treatment in social housing queue.
- Hence, my policy of housing in Milton Keynes is that sufficient resources should be allocated to built affordable starter homes with zero carbon emissions and side-by-side build sufficient mixed-occupancy social housing of the same standards in the owner-occupied areas; review the government legislation pertaining to the immigration, asylum seeking, access to housing, housing benefits, council tax benefits, welfare rights, pathways to other facilities, access to NHS addressing the inherent injustices. Prioritising access to social housing for those families living in Milton Keynes since 1967 and their families. Policy to house large immigrant families in private sector housing with exorbitant rents subject to massive housing benefit costs and other associated costs to the Council and thus necessitating urgent queue jumping in social housing in order to reduce HB costs must be addressed side-by-side with the review of all legislation since 2000 given that it is probable that all legislation passed since 2000 is ‘Null & Void’. See https://anantmvyas.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/news-all-uk-legislation-passed-since-2000-is-null-and-void/ . Side-by-side the MKC Housing allocation policy will need reviewing in line with first-in-first-served policy to address imbalances. It is only through equal ‘treatment’ in central government and local Govt services, that there can a semblance of ‘social justice’ and ‘social-trust’ established. It is only through these common glues that any beginning of cohesion could be expected let alone elicited and delivered. It has been a sheer wasted effort with the New Labour and the New-new Labour.
- No sooner I wrote about lack of social mobility 25/04/10, the BBC News this morning 26/04/10 validate my assertions: Social mobility in England lagging behind http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8639671.stm
- Finally, the Conservative legislation Right to Buy gave Council tenants the much needs social mobility but the legislation was badly thought through giving the greedy the unchallenged opportunity to exploit the system for lucrative gains in London especially in much salubrious areas like Hampstead where commercial companies were able to ‘buy’ multi-million pound properties for and from existing tenants some on life-time benefits with no realisable chance of buying their rented properties. The tenants were paid off and the property company rented the properties out, some times back to the Council to house their ‘homeless asylum seekers’ awaiting approval from the government’s ind [Immigration & Nationality Department], the approvals that took more than a few years to come. I have single-handedly stopped innumerable fraudulent claims and crimes against the Council and the public purse from fraudulent right to buy to applications for Council housing. Although after innumerable complaints from loyal citizens like me John Prescott woke up rather late to stop the RTB discount in London from max £38,000 to £16,000, the situation in other Councils is as it was when the legislation was passed. Hence, my approach to giving the long term Council tenants, maintaining their tenancies in a tenantable manner, paying unrebated rent and with no serious housing management problems, the much deserved lift in social mobility, would be give them the maximum discount on RTB but in the private or SRL sector thus vacating the much needed social housing resource. Those on benefits will get reduced discount going down to nil. Thus the RTB debacle has to be amended accordingly to provide incentive for the law-abiding and rent paying tenants. Although this measure would be akin to ‘closing the stable door after…’ – better late than never to free up much sought after social housing resource for those ‘needy’ rather than those ‘greedy’.
3. MK’s grid roads – expand them or scrap them?
Expand them retaining the original ‘master-plan’ comprising the best of housing development, landscape planning, free open spaces, parks, walkways, cycling routes etc. Milton Keynes has the best balance thus far. I would hate to see the development greed, haste and inconsistency ruin all that has been achieved since 1967.
4. What would be the first thing you would do if you gained power?
Power lies in the electoral will of the MK Citizens. Should I be fortunate enough to be elected, the first thing I’d do is to wholeheartedly, unequivocally and humbly thank all the electorate irrespective of how they cast their votes.
5. What is the policy which defines your party/campaign?
- Politics for the People
- Politics with Principles
- Politics without Parties