Saturday, 1 May 2010

Liberal Change

Nick Clegg and the Liberals almost sole appeal for our votes rests upon the idea that they are different from Labour or the Tories. Of course, even were that true, different does not necessarily mean good. After all, UKIP and the BNP make the same claim. Of course, the Liberals are indistinguishable from either Labour or the Tories, in terms of the policies they are advocating in this election. They are, if anything, advocating even more severe cuts than the other two.

Yes, they are proposing not renewing Trident - a policy they might not have raised had they thought they might be in Government - but are only proposing to replace it with some other nuclear deterrent, that the review of alternatives showed would probably work out more expensive. They play up their opposition to the War in Iraq, but that's history, and they do not call for a withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Liberals, as they always have, play up their Traditional "Orange Book" Liberalism in areas where they are fighting the Tories, whereas they play up their social conscience, social liberalism where they are fighting Labour. Of course, to be a "National" rather than purely localist party you can't get away with such deception and hypocrisy for long. But, its necessary to look at what the Liberals do, not what they say.

For the last few years, my local Council has been run by the Liberals in coalition - as they are in most other places, where they share power - with the Tories. From that alliance, and the others they have formed, with the Tories, up and down the country, we should judge their claim to be different from the other parties, and in particular their claims to be different from the backwoods Tories. In reality, they will compromise on any principle in order to get their grubby hands on a Cabinet post. Ask the ordinary workers here if they think that the Liberals represent anything different!

The Liberals make a play of their Liberal principles in relation to Civil Liberties, but they have not rushed out, here, to tear down CCTV cameras, for example. On the contrary, like most other Councillors, they have been keen to claim the kudos for getting them set up in areas they represent - and some they don't. At the Sports Centre, I used to attend, the staff were completely demoralised, because of the way things were run. Customers continually complained that they were paying good money for use of the Centre, whilst it had not even been painted for years, equipment was left unrepaired for months on end.

Two-thirds of the Councils budget goes, not to provide services to the Public, but on "Finance and Management" that is paying for the Council bureaucracy, and the cost of collecting the Council Tax! Not that their Tory partners are any better. Cameron talked the other day about cutting out the leaflets that Local Government send out - which, as I pointed out, would hit small printshops and their suppliers - but the Council, which would hardly count as even a large business, let alone a large Council, has a large Public Relations Department.

Last year, one of its Chief Officers was reportedly suspended because he had cost the Council £1.5m by not claiming grants that should have been claimed. Staff at the Council reported to me that he'd been retired with a pay off of £400,000! I don't know if that's true, because the Council's books are closed on such things to the Public. Again, so much for the Liberals claims to be different. I could only calculate his pay off to be about £200,000 - £80,000 as 1 Year's Pay for redundancy, and a lump sum payment of around £120,000 being 3 years annual pension of around £40,000 p.a. assuming a salary of £80,000 a year. If it was more than that then again questions arise as to why, but again the Liberals won't be disclosing that to the people who elected them.

At the same time, that they can pay out huge amounts, to chief officers under such conditions, the Council now sacks workers who have been off sick for any length of time, even where that is with full medical certification, whereas in the past they would have been retired with a pension on health grounds.

And, when it comes to approving of waste,a signal example was given. Only a few years ago, a large new block was built at the local F.E. College. Yet, in what must be one of the most wasteful examples of local Government Planning and Economic Development, the Council approved the demolition of this brand new building in order to make way for a new Sainsbury's store!

Liberal Change? Different faces, same policies and practices! The more things change the more they stay the same!

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