Children in the care of Nottinghamshire Councils

A report published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, with a lot to take in. “The primary purpose of this investigation was to examine the institutional responses to such allegations of Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, and other organisations such as Nottinghamshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and to consider the adequacy of steps taken to protect children from abuse.

David Mellen has issued a statement on the report.

I know how in 1994/5, Notts. County Council showed vigour and resolve in reviewing the death of a child in Ashfield District.
The report on abuse is long and I will be interested to see what the report fully says. For now, the City Council’s Leader response is presented.

East Midlands Today
Coverage on East Midlands News (BBC tv) is worth looking up, especially for survivors saying that they now feel they have been listened to. Interviewed on the programme, David Mellen explained clearly that we are apologising for what happened and I’ve re-published his apology made on *our* behalf.
There are 161 pages in the report, with quite a section on Beechwood.  
May well say more when I’ve properly read it.

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Nuclear Power and Garden Bridges

So, made the mistake of picking a TED X talk on nuclear power, and how this particular activist had become pro-nuclear power. (No mention of the £72,000 million clean up bill for Windscale which still, no-one seems to be reacting to.) 
Ah, says the speaker, hardly anyone died as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Fine, or as Tony Blair would say, all very well, but tell me which town would volunteer to have one on their doorstep?  
Think I’ve said before that I get frustrated about the complaints of £42,000 million which puts The Midlands and The North on the high speed network.  
But the latest scandal is the notion that the country will pay £24,000 million to clean up the platforms etc. from North Sea oil drilling – surely the oil companies are going to pay for that?
Then there’s Amazon etc. not paying tax.  
Meanwhile, the £54 million lost on the London Garden Bridge has made the news this week. 
This, despite Brexit – or the distractions of “was Winston Churchill a villain?” (like, don’t bite).  
Meanwhile, youtube keeps offering me more speeches on why nuclear power is the way forward. This despite future nuclear power stations planned for the UK now being dropped cos of expense. (Hinckley Point (C) next, please.) To be safe, it’s too expensive.
Final thought – £179,000 million being spent on new nuclear submarines, even though the Conservative Chair of the Defence Select Cttee said its tactical advantage is soon to be lost.

Better government in England

The debate on devolution within England is the wrong debate at what BBC East Midlands journalist John Hess hinted is a convenient pre General Election debate time.  Truth is, any national gov’t needs to know its mandate is able to shape the country.  It’s also true that the balance of powers is wrong.  But so is the balance of the country – the real reason why the Scottish referendum was so close.

England does need better government.  It’s hard to see what value any kind of English assembly could add.  The natural levels of gov’t here are – UK, principal local authorities, boroughs & districts, towns & parishes, and finally regions.  Notably, health and education structures are fitting less easily into that model.  Core cities don’t fit the model well enough either – but they’re meeting a need and who wants to hold them up with boundary re-organisation?
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New Labour developed a psyche – “Look, there’s a problem! Quick! Re-organise!”  At its worse with the re-organisation of social services into adults and children (as if families don’t contain both) because of Baby P.  Top down, expensive, knee-jerk and merely creating different boundaries to manage. 

Yet New Labour also developed models for service delivery – based on project management, service planning and inspection that tests key criteria for success – ambition; planning and performance management; capability, capacity and culture; legitimacy; inspiration.  (I’ve added some, but I’d also expect a Labour gov’t to be looking to equality and participation.)

benn-l by kathleenEnglish gov’t would be better if people could more easily understand it – to which Tony Benn’s five questions are interesting.  My version would say –
– elected representatives are accountable for all public money raised and spent;
– more than FoI, freedom of quality information;  the planning that allows the spending of public money published, along with its results;  available (on-line) to the public, journalists and inspectors; giving substance to political debate.

Democracy – all equal on election day – gives so much, but it gives more when people take the responsibilities along with the rights.
The greatest disappointment of the new technology in politics (and in journalism) is that it has led to trolling and conspiracy theories, impugning motives and attacking personality (even for opinions on baking on TV) and putting people off from joining in, rather than enlightenment and participation.  Legislation can only take us so far; instead we should all work to what George Orwell said – publish nothing rather than publish anything barbarous. 

Better government requires better information.  Pathetic that we can no longer properly count the people who are out of work.  Civil servants should be given a duty to publish more fully the options that have been suggested by those not in majority power.  And check everything for the impact of poverty;  check performance in the context of adding value – don’t fail teachers for deigning to teach the deprived.

My immediate steps for change (which I think could appeal across the political spectrum) would be –
– new accountability for the NHS, including commissioning by principal local authorities; the restoration of full local education authorities;
– along with new rights for principal local authorities, new responsibilities for them and Whitehall – embracing value-added analysis, FoQI and inspections (based on key criteria and self-assessment, including peer inspectors, and Ofsted mark 2 rather than Ofsted marks 1 and 3);
– allowing core cities to find their own ways of evolving, and locally elected representatives to provide regional co-ordination;
– the North, the Midlands and the South-West to take on more of the economic activity conducted in London and the South-East;
– a massive drive on tackling tax avoidance.

For Labour –
– an electoral register drawing from all sources of public authority information, from which people have to opt out of; enfranchising millions of people left off the lists;
– new expectations that public services are provided by staff in recognised workplaces, working to the living wage as a minimum;
– commissioning that allows choosing local suppliers.

Longer term –
– can we find ways of town councils being the viable second tier of local government, rather than boroughs?
– could the regional assemblies be the new channels for creating a new House of Lords?

Postscript:
Should have said something about the need for national (and possibly regional) government to ensure that neighbouring authorities don’t undermine each other – not bringing forward plans to build housing, allowing out of town dev’t that takes retail away from existing shopping centres supported by public transport, schools taking away the most able children, not taking opportunities for green energy. You need a framework. And it’s just one reason why “independence for Nottingham” is so ridiculous.

Michael Gove denies the real world

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I want to weep.
‘City schools have a “toxic lack of ambition” for pupils from poorer backgrounds’ reports the N Post on Michael Gove. Yeah right. The schools that have just returned the highest levels of Key stage 4 results, following years of extra financial support from the Labour government, extra finance then withdrawn by the ConDems.
The minister spoke out during a visit to Nottinghamshire yesterday and demanded that under-performing schools improve – suggesting they be taken “by the scruff of the neck”. Yeah, but with what powers? Cos the only people with powers over academies are Ministers and Whitehall. The Ofsted inspections have found things to address and the council has had to create a new structure to make progress.
‘education leaders in the city should not hide behind levels of deprivation when trying to explain away poor exam results and inspection reports.’ 20 years after Notts County Council’s Education Cttee. published research it had commissioned from Sheffield Hallam University showing the statistical connection between attainment at schools and the deprivation of their cohorts, and we’re left with the Secretary of State of Education, say again, the Secretary of State, demonstrating a dismissal of statistical analysis not worthy of a student of Maths O-level.
Cos we were taught to understand the value and the limitation of statistics. That you can’t determine an individual’s future from statistical analysis is plain and was understood, but still people feel the need to repeat it. Once you embrace value-added analysis, there’s nothing to hide behind anymore.

Before Gove, we got that you needed to focus on leadership, management, teaching and learning. We got that schools serving deprived cohorts needed extra finance to mitigate its impact. We even gave ground on allowing some schools to be run in a new way to give schools a new appeal, at the expense of democratic accountability.
We also get that you need to acknowledge a problem, not deny it; then measure and understand it; and then solve it.