Corruption and Incompetence - Blog 9

Joe Salmon, 12 August 2023, Tags:

Again as ever this shouldn’t be taken as anything other than my own personal thoughts written up first thing on Saturday morning before anybody else wakes up. They don’t represent the views of the other Green councillors or Green Group policy etc etc etc, and certainly aren’t fixed unchangeable beliefs you couldn’t probably argue me out of over a pint in the pub. 

Also these actions are only the ones I feel comfortable with banging on about in public, if you’ve contacted me about more personal case work I’m not going to whack it up here I promise.

1. Neighbourhood plan for Moordown

Previous DEADLINE 11th August - Check progress of ward newsletter laying out and ordering

Leaflet design is done, and should go to print this weekend!! I’m thinking once this has gone out we should be approached by a few people interested in the idea. I’ll hammer out a date for an initial meeting, which I think the Moordown Community Centre would be an ideal venue for (Although it’s wifi is a bit ropey if we are going to do a hybrid meeting).

New Deadline 1st September - put date in diary for meeting of new body to take plan forward


2. Moordown Rec

I’m still waiting for a response from the officer involved re the replacement of vandalised equipment. Once I’ve had this I’m going to be sure to flag this up to the NPT to avoid any more vandalism etc

New Deadline 19th August - chase response if none received.


3. Anti Social Behaviour on Wimborne Road

The inspector of the NPT should be at the next BH9 Business Community meeting, which is great. I’ve not had any further emails from residents on this topic which is also positive. Depending on how that meeting goes, and if I hear anything else from residents on the topic I might drop this action.


4. Proactive Licensing

Deadline 1st Sept - obtain document setting out best practice on identifying and investigation of potential breaches of licence conditions related to alcohol

Well I’ve been a little frustrated here to say the least. It looks like our approach to licensing is as muddled and ineffective as our approach to planning, or well frankly anything else.

This week I found out that ‘Statutory Guidance’ from the national government prevents our licensing officers from simply calling the licences of a premises when they are a magnet for anti-social behaviour, first we have to give them a warning. Imagine if banks had to operate with a policy that said before charging an employee with theft you had to give them a warning and chance to simply pay the money back and carry on working as normal with no further consequences, and to do so repeatedly whenever you were concerned. Every single bank employee in the county would have a crack at stuffing a few notes in their pockets given the opportunity knowing that their actions were totally risk free.


We really need to get a handle on how crap our current legislation and guidance is. I was very frustrated to see our local MPs tweets in response to the stabbing last week.

This series of Tweets is much less than I’d expect from an MP. It reads like he’s a frustrated blogger with no power to change things or responsibility for the current state of affairs. Reminds me of when that idiot Justin Trudea went on a protest march against his own government. You’re in the position of power you idiot, you should be coming up with solutions, not calling on others to do so.

Really I would like our MPs to start taking more of an interest in what is going on locally, acknowledge all the legislative artificial barriers currently in place to us taking any sensible actions, and then start working on getting these removed. As it stands I’m a little worried that Tobias may simply suggest replacing the local council with the Taliban given how impressed he is at their running of Afghanistan, but I guess it’s a risk we’ve got to take.

Aside from this there is a bigger piece of work in identifying all the ridiculous little bits of legislation and guidance which are causing us headaches. I’m going to make some time to meet with Green Group Leader Chris R later next week to talk about how we do this. I probably need to break this down into several more manageable higher level actions.

New Deadline - Meeting with Chris R and discuss approach 19th August


5. Licensing Data Collection

Ugh, like the above, the utterly unnavigable unworkable pointless bureaucracy of local government is the barrier here.

6. Traffic Calming

Previous deadline 11th August - Check progress of ward newsletter laying out and ordering

Well we’ve got a news letter on the way, and also a response from the council officers responsible for making this kind of change.

These are the relevant documents

I’ve obviously woken up in a bad mood, as my gut feeling is that once I examine them rather than seeing a clear path to getting something done, I’ll instead have a firm grasp of all the bureaucratic barriers in the way of putting a 20mph limit in place. That said maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, and the only thing preventing us getting some 20mph limits in place will be the fact the council is flat broke.

That said they also confirmed that looking at introducing 20mph limits on all residential streets was something the current administration were doing, which is a really positive move, although the methodology for assessing all the streets in question wasn’t yet determined. I’ve offered to get involved, and I’ve reached out to the Association of Green Councillors to see if anybody has some examples of best practice we can copy.


7. Get some more litter picks in the diary

So we’ve got dates, which are below!

Sunday 10 September, 11am-12pm - Meeting point: outside the United Reformed Church on Sutton Road

Saturday 11 November, 10-11am - Meeting point: outside Moordown Coop on Wimborne Road


8. Explore the possibility of walk to school litter picks with local schools

No change here

DEADLINE - 1st Oct - chase schools


9. Labour Candidate Complaint

Still waiting on a response here.

Deadline - contact police to make formal complaint by end of September if Labour are not willing to take any action


10. Planters Saga

Kate is plodding on with this one.


11. Adult Health and social Care OS

So I found out yesterday that we won’t be having a forward planning meeting before our next meeting in Late September, despite agreeing at the meeting in June we would need this. I’m very frustrated by this and have emailed the chair. I’m concerned that we still don’t have a solid pre-analytic vision and without that we have no way of scrutinising anything or acting as a ‘critical friend’ which is meant to be our role. The chair has proposed an informal chat on teams instead which I’ve said is a good idea. I’ve also reached out to the ICB with a request for a quick summary of all the KPIs of the organisations which make it up, which feels like a good place to start. I’ll chase the chair by the end of next week if I’ve not heard anything, but ideally we’ll still have the forward planning meeting in advance of the next panel meeting.

Deadline 19th August - Chase chair for informal meeting 


Okay, so there are my actions, now here is my morning waffle of thoughts. A few years ago one of my favourite series on TV was Line of Duty, okay it was not as good as the wire, but frankly nothing on TV is. Sadly it really went off the boil after season 3 and was pretty hard to watch after that as it strung things out far too much. However I’m glad I watched it to the end. While the ending fell a bit flat, the series overall conclusion, that incompetence at the highest levels of our institution becomes indistinguishable from corruption was an interesting idea.

All, pretty much without exception, our public institutions are broken. Our police can’t keep us safe, our NHS can’t keep us Healthy and our schools cannot teach our children. This isn’t a big moan about the people in those institutions, no individual teacher can be expected to impart any real meaningful learning to a classroom of 30 children without the support they need. The 3 PCSOs, Sergeant and Inspector who make up our neighbourhood policing team cannot be expected to tackle the 300+ reports of Violence, anti-social behaviour and theft reported just last month in the area they cover. No individual GP can handle the 2000 or so patients they currently have on their books.

I’ve never met a lazy teacher, a useless police officer or a doctor who didn’t care deeply about the members of the public they were responsible for. All of them are held back by institutions and bureaucracy that isn’t fit for purpose. Not only do these institutions not work however, they also almost by design now create spaces for private companies to come in and exploit their failings by picking up the work for a profit.

If you want decent dental care, our dental system has been set up so that your only option is to go private. If you want your child to pass the 11 plus and go to a grammar school, or learn a musical instrument, or play sports you better cough up for private lessons. If you don’t want your house to be broken into while you are away on holiday you better come up with the cash for CCTV, if you want to cycle safely to work better pay for a helmet camera to dissuade motorists from running you off the road. If you want a house, well screw you there are none for you. Better hope when Grandma and Grandad die all their money doesn't go on care home fees and you’re left with enough to buy something, because the private rental market is brutal and there are only a handful of council houses left after maggie. Genuine access to all the basic functions of the welfare state have now been monetized almost every step of the way, and it’s making certain people very very rich.

If you look at BCPs budget, and the budget for the various departments that make up BCP you’ll see that payments to third party providers make up most of the council's expenditure. Now maybe years ago someone in one of the private care companies or other consultancies slipped brown envelopes to a group of councillors and or other politicians with the promise of more to come if they carved up local government in a way that let a parasitic private sector capitalise on its failings. Similarly maybe a bunch of fraudsters ready to set up bogus PPE companies somehow blackmailed Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson into engineering the situation that allowed them to pocket billions of public money. Maybe Blair, Brown and Cambell were promised riches beyond belief to loosen the bolts on the welfare state with academy schools and NHS Trusts so that when they left power it could be dismantled super quick.

It’s fairly unlikely this happened, and instead (arguably more depressingly)  these crap decisions were made by people who genuinely thought they were doing the right thing, not just for them individually, but for society, civilisation even.

There has been a lot of chat on twitter about the previous Conservative administration following the best value notice.

The main debate centres around the reasons behind the massive holes in our budgets, although there is a rather tedious discussion about if people were unduly rude to the politicians screwing things up as they were screwing things up. The majority of people seem split between two points of view:

  1. BCP Council’s finances are in a mess because BCPs councillors in administration were corrupt and didn't care.

  2. BCP Council’s finances are in a mess because BCPs councillors in administration were incompetent and incapable of making sensible decisions.

I don’t think either explanation is correct. Yes there were some very stupid decisions, mistakes made that the average person would probably have avoided by dint of pure common sense. Frustratingly our political system elects and rewards party zealots, primarily those who are fully signed up to the ideologies of the Conservative or Labour Party, and who apply that ideology without any care for reality to the decision making process. This leads to some very stupid decisions. The lack of remorse of insight shown by those no longer in power I think is telling of their inability to even see their own mistakes, let alone learn from them and avoid them in the future.

However even within the traditional political parties there are a few people who are in touch with reality in positions of power, and even the most incompetent collection of politicians couldn’t screw up a council’s finances as badly as BCPs through sheer inadvertent cockups.

My third, alternative explanation for the issues at BCP isn’t corruption, or incompetence, it’s that local councils are set up to fail from the start. Every sensible decision the council wants to make is something there is a byelaw from 1972 in place to prevent or some mandatory guidance that officers have to do something stupid to balance out any intelligent decisions they take in the interest of fairness. 

The issue with explaining the state of disarray our council is in by pointing to how it is structurally set up to fail and tied up by red tape is that you only really push the problem of is this corruption or incompetence on. Are the politicians, civil servants and legislators who make up the government either corrupt or incompetent to come up with such a system? Again I’d say that they are neither corrupt or incompetent, but instead again set up to fail, and restricted in the choices they can make by more powerful structures. I would imagine the frustration I feel is one felt by MPs up and down the country.

Why then is our very government set up to be totally unable to execute any sensible policies or achieve any goals? Is this because of a shadowy cabal of dark money influencing our media and elections? Are Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch to blame? The problem with this idea is that you very quickly start going down the comforting rabbit-holes of conspiracy theory land. When it comes to conspiracy theories my personal favourites are that of phantom time and New Chronology, they seem like the historical equivalent of flat eartherism.

The real frightening truth is that at the end of the line, at the top of our structures of power there are no individual people, or collections of individuals we can blame, there are only markets and algorithms. Our leaders unknowingly gave up power gradually over generations to forces they didn’t understand and couldn’t control, and now we are here.

While conspiracy theories and sensational explanations offer a tempting narrative, and it is easy to look no further than the individuals immediately responsible and their shortcomings, the truth is far more nuanced and sobering. Our challenges stem from a convergence of historical decisions, evolving power dynamics, and the gradual surrender of control to impersonal market forces. Consequently, the struggle to reform and improve our institutions is not just about addressing corruption or rectifying incompetence; it's about fundamentally reshaping our understanding of governance in an era dominated by algorithms and markets.

Anyhow the kids are waking up, and I plan on watching a fair whack of the football today, so should participate a bit in family life now. Hope everybody who has managed to read this far has a great weekend, and please get in touch with any suggestions or ideas Joe.Salmon2@bcpCouncil.Gov.UK 

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