OK IBS I’ve had enough of you now, this time it’s personal

Oh no, sorry, I meant IDS (Iain Duncan Smith) IBS is obviously something completely different.

You may have problems viewing today’s blog on a phone, normal service will be resumed soonly.

I’ve listened to Iain Duncan Smith’s views and suggestions on various topics over the last few months with increasing incredulity, how arrogant can a politician get?

Now he disturbed my weekend away by suggesting that pensioners should hand back their Free Bus Passes and Winter Fuel Allowance payments. This provoked almost total apoplexy in the Angry household.  I’m not old and decrepit enough to receive either of those wonderful benefits yet, but when my time comes I intend to receive both of them with open arms. I won’t be voluntarily handing back a single penny.

My personal opinion, and it’s only that, (other opinions are also available) is that I have been fortunate enough to pay National Insurance contributions every week/month since the day I left school. For this I am unbelievably grateful, but I hold the view that having done so I should be allowed to receive those benefits to which I am ENTITLED without being harassed my some millionaire politician spouting some diatribe that the country really isn’t very interested in hearing.

If this government is truly interested in its Austerity measures and things like handing back Bus Passes and Heating payments then maybe they could set a fine example and look at themselves.  How much do they claim that they could afford to do without?

If you want to see who has claimed what in the House of Commons over the last few years you can view that information here.

I thought that I would give you a starter for 10 as it were and publish Mr Iain Duncan Smith’s Parliamentary expenses for the year 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 (which seems to be the last year that the records contain a full financial year’s expenses).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

2012-2013

Nothing too much to get excited about here, adds up to just over £8,000, but it includes claims for things like £2.06 for a new pen, and £41.86 for a ‘Yellow Duster’. Speak to Mrs Angry, she can buy them cheaper than that. Does a millionaire really have to claim back 2 quid for a poxy pen? And then ask pensioners to hand back some of their entitlements? Bloody cheek.

2011 – 2012

A full year’s expenses adding up to just over £20k. It is recommended that the starting pay of a newly selected Constable be reduced by £4,000 to £19,000 per annum, so that would be less than Iain Duncan Smith’s expenses then?, and he wants pensioners to pay back some of their entitlements.

You’ve already said that you could exist on £53 per week Mr Smith, I haven’t seen you begin that exercise yet, but maybe you will.

Now what will you cease claiming to make pensioners feel better about your latest hair-brained scheme? I wonder.

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Just Who Runs The BBC? Pravda?

I have devoted much thought over the last few months to the BBC, and, for the few remaining brain cells I have left, it is thought that I could do without wasting.  I have long thought that the BBC is not reporting news that the government might not want us to know about.

The most recent example of this was Mark McGowan’s noble quest to push a toy pig to Westminster to highlight the selling off of our beloved NHS.  How much of the #WheresDaddysPig campaign did you hear about on the BBC? Did you hear anything about it at all?

I don’t necessarily subscribe to the subsequent Conspiracy Theory regarding F***Book and their alleged censoring of @Scriptonite’s blog, but I would certainly have expected something as wacky as this, for a cause so important, to have been reported on.  We had regular updates on the man in the diver’s suit running (walking) the London Marathon for charity a few years back, so why not #WheresDaddysPig?

So what else have the BBC NOT reported on recently?

In September last year, I told you that the BBC had not seemingly reported that our Lords are benefiting to the tune of millions, if not billions, by privatisation of the NHS, but no-one seems to notice. When 6,000 nurses got the sack, and Lord Ashcroft’s business replaced them with temps (earning him untold fortunes), no-one seemed to notice.  Interestingly, like the Police reforms, the BBC chooses not to report these things

In all things Plebgate the BBC appears to be on the side of nice Mr Mitchell. I’m not going into whether or not he said ‘Pleb’ or the supposed orchestrated campaign to bring him down. Enquiries are still ongoing and no doubt the truth will out eventually.  However, the BBC has chosen to report the issue with a scathing attack on the Federation which includes the line “Mr Mitchell has always denied swearing at police officers and using the word “pleb”, although he did apologise for the words he did use and not treating the police with respect.”  Other journalists see it differently;

The Sunday Telegraph understands that the Chief Whip’s own version of events is that after asking officers to open the main gates to Downing Street for his bicycle, and being refused, he said: “You guys are supposed to f***ing help us.”  So is using the F word not swearing any more? Slanted journalism or what?

An article in The Grauniad in March this year reports that the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has issued instructions that probation officers face the risk of disciplinary action if they publicly criticise on Twitter or other social media his plans to outsource 70% of their work with offenders.  I can’t find any reference to this in the BBC News section. Why would that be?

It has been reported in the free press that certain ex Scotland Yard senior officers have received large cash payouts in return for signing Gagging Orders preventing them from speaking out about their treatment etc.  Neither the Met nor the Mayor’s Office, MOPAC, will answer my FOI request to establish whether this is true or not, so I am left to make my own decision.  Was the BBC amongst the agencies that reported these alleged Gagging Orders? No. Why not? Is it not newsworthy, even in London?

There is a Tweeter some of you may know, @J_amesP, who is currently being investigated by the Met DPS for his Tweetings and writing of a book, the proceeds of which were donated to charity. The plight of this young officer and the possible consequences of this investigation have been reported in the press at various times and publications.  Reported by the BBC? Not that I can find unless you know differently.

These are but a few examples, I’m sure you, dear reader, can provide many more.

The real, more serious, question must be “Why are the BBC NOT reporting the News?” Simple, End of.

Facebook Censors Users during Media Blackout on Privatisation of the NHS

We really are not supposed to know about this obviously. Well we do, and all power to the people.

Scriptonite Daily

FB1

They say that you haven’t made it as a blogger until you get censored by Facebook.  In which case, I’ve made it. It failed to provoke a sense of validation in me though, just nausea and quiet fury. This is yet another case where bloggers filling the gaps left by the main stream media are finding themselves censored on social media – the printing press of the masses.

Censorship

 FBblock

Yesterday I wrote and published the article The Man Who Pushed a Toy Pig to Downing Street to Save our NHS.  It was intended to raise awareness and support for The Artist Taxi Driver’s art based protest of the privatisation of the NHS.

On publishing the article on my Facebook page I was asked (unusually) to fill in a captcha (the little box that asks you to type the letters you see so they know you aren’t a computer). …

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My 2nd 15 Minutes of Fame

Or Two Minutes and 50 Seconds to be precise.

This was the length of time that Theresa May devoted to answering our questions at yesterday’s Home Affairs Select Committee meeting.

I had had the temerity to submit the following question to the Committee  “Given that Police Pensions must change and evolve, why are these changes being forced upon existing members?  If all proposed changes were restricted to future members of the scheme much hostility and opposition could surely be avoided.” and I must thank Mr @Keith_VazMP for giving me the opportunity to do so.

I received such a bland acknowledgement of my question that I assumed it had been ignored.  Until yesterday that is when I started to get Tweets from folk on here asking if that was me that had just been mentioned at #HASC. Bloody Hell I thought.

My congratulations go to @MentalHealthCop as he seems to have received an answer to his question but Theresa May did not seem to answer the question that I had actually asked, but rather adopted the usual politician’s stance of answering the question she would have preferred to have been asked.

So maybe I should have a stab at answering it for her.  She has had her opportunity after all.

Given that Police Pensions must change and evolve, why are these changes being forced upon existing members?

The first reason may be that the government are greedy and can’t wait for the increased pension contributions of new recruits on £19k per annum to filter through and swell the coffers. They seem to want results now and not in the future. I suspect that they knew full well that rates of pay for new recruits were going to fall dramatically when Mr Winsor drew up his plans against us (sounds a bit War of the Worlds ish)

The second reason may possibly be that new recruits are not joining the new, improved Police Pension Scheme as they don’t see it as an attractive proposition, hence the increased money coming in would not be sufficient for government’s needs if restricted to new recruits.   I don’t know this for a fact, it is just supposition. Maybe some of our Fed colleagues can respond and let me know the situation.

So there we are, my second appearance on the evil telly box, even if this was only by proxy. I was going to keep it to myself but was prompted by one or more of you out there, so here it is. You know who you are.

Hands Up, Baby Hands Up……….

Sadly this is becoming reality for Dave’s Big Society. Our predecessors didn’t have such problems because the Police were respected by the Public, the criminals (don’t laugh it’s true) and the Government. I think that the majority of the Public still respect and support the police but the other two have long since changed their view. Good article Steely, sad, but good. Well written, literate Mr Winsor, and balanced.

Steelriverboy

OK. Today I’m going to start with a quick “show of hands” type thing.

Hands up all of you that think that the 20% cuts to the police are not having an adverse effect on the way that the police are able to do their job.

I see. Interesting. Mr Cameron, Mrs May and Mr Winsor, please put your hands down and sit on them. Now remain in that position until I’ve finished. Thank you.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I thought that due to the cuts imposed on the police, in the name of “reform”, that things would get worse, before they got better, and not just for the police.

In my opinion, the first duty of any government, is to protect its people.

In this country, this protection is usually carried out by the police and the armed services.

 

But how can the police protect the…

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The Way We Were Part II

Not continued, because it isn’t.

I have witnessed a lot of gnashing and wailing and open hostility and hatred on the world of Twitter this past week, mostly concerning the death of Maggie Thatcher. I don’t really care whether you’re in the love her or hate her camp, why on earth would any civilised human being want to celebrate the death of another, particularly 30 years later.  I can understand people privately thinking that she’s gone now, and they might even think that the world’s a better place without her, who knows?  Why oh why do dozens or even hundreds of people, many of whom weren’t even born when Maggie was in office, want to have street parties, or go the their local pub and drink champagne?

History tells us that Hitler was not a very nice man.  Even though I wasn’t alive in the 30s and 40s, history equips me with enough knowledge of the man to form a judgement on what sort of character he was.  Does this entitle me to organise a street party to celebrate his apparent suicide?

Saddam Hussain wasn’t a particularly nice chap either, and I was alive to witness second or third hand some of his excesses.  Doesn’t mean I was down the pub swigging champagne while he was dangling on the end of a rope.

Do we really applaud Les Tricoteuses who used to sit and knit while folk were being beheaded on the guillotine in Paris?  Was that a good way to behave?

I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion of Maggie Thatcher, but I am absolutely appalled and sickened at the reactions of some folk.  She was a mother as well as a politician, she has family still alive.  How are they feeling right now?  What gives a human being the right to inflict further misery on a grieving family?  I stayed out of the Twitter debates because I would undoubtedly have got embroiled and said something that I should not have done, so I stayed silent, but inside I was ashamed of certain people.

I was never a miner, but the Miners’ Strike gave me the opportunity to go down a ‘live’ coal mine, Bentinck it was, I remember the name to this day, and see first hand the conditions in which miners worked.  I formed a profound respect for coal miners that day, that has stayed with me ever since.  Has that experience made me change my opinion of Maggie Thatcher or a certain Mr Scargill? Not one jot.

Bentinck-Colliery-Coal-Mine-User-Album-020 Bentinck-Colliery-Coal-Mine-Archive-Album-63886I try to remain objective and balanced.  Maggie Thatcher had her faults, but she had her good points too.  The previous Labour government under Jim Callaghan, with Merlyn Rees at the helm as Home Secretary had commissioned the Edmund-Davies Review of Police Pay and Conditions (a bit like Winsor only better). He recommended that Police Officers received a pay rise of (I think) 45% which Callaghan agreed to implement over a 2 year period.  When Maggie came to power she not only implemented the whole 45% increase with immediate effect but her and her government promised to abide by Edmund-Davies’ recommendations year on year thereafter. You can have your opinions about how she used her Police Force, but she knew how to look after them.

If Mr Scargill had had his way he would have brought this country to its knees in a far more spectacular fashion than the bankers achieved.  He had taken on successive governments and won, no wonder Maggie stood up to him.

The Armed Forces is another good example, in 1985 the total strength of Regular UK Servicemen was approx 326,000. By 2011 this had dropped alarmingly to 186,000, not much more than half.

As I just mentioned, Maggie wasn’t always perceived as using her police in an appropriate, non-political manner. Let me say just this.  When the Fire Brigade strike, it is traditional for the government of the day to call upon the services of the British Army to provide cover. Can you imagine what might have happened if the government in the 1980s called upon the Army to contain the striking miners with the Police just held in reserve to supply an arrest function if required. Personally, I never witnessed any Police brutality on the picket lines of the Miners’ Strike. But I witnessed plenty of Miners’ brutality against the Police. I remember well one cold morning being called out from our breakfast to rescue a lone Devon and Cornwall Bobby who had climbed up a slag heap, all by himself, to ask the miners who were throwing lumps of coal, and slag down on to the cordon below, if they wouldn’t mind stopping.  Their answer was quick, short and brutal. It wasn’t totally the Bobby’s fault, although he should never have been allowed to do it, he was just behaving the same way as he would have spoken to protesters in the peaceful Cornish village he had come from.

There are many tales I could tell about Miners, Grunwicks, Greenham Common, Brixton and Tottenham riots, but they’re for another time.

I can’t think of a single politician of any party who is perfect. I can’t think of a single Police Officer, Teacher, Soldier, Prison Officer etc who is perfect. I don’t know anyone who is perfect. I know a few who tell me that they are perfect, but I’m not perfect so I try not to judge too harshly those who display their lack of perfection.

If I had been Prime Minister in those days, I would have tackled the Unions, I would have sent the troops off down to the Falklands. Would I have taken away School Milk, NO,

Getting back to my point Maggie ‘Marmite’ Thatcher polarised the nation. She is dead. Will her policies now be reversed? Not a chance in Hell. The reaction to her death by some saddened me, it saddened me in a way that would have affected me whoever the outpouring of rage was directed at, but even more so when people not old enough to remember are partaking if not instigating.

Have your memories and opinions by all means, I’m not trying to change them or take them away from you, but please leave them as personal emotions and don’t bring them out onto the streets.  If you really MUST crack open a bottle of champagne tomorrow, please think about doing it in the privacy of your own home and not telling the world at large via Twitter and Facebook etc what you’re doing. Whatever your politics and opinions, let the family grieve with dignity, they did not cause any of what it is that you dislike.

I shall probably lose a few ‘friends’ with this blog but thank you.

A Tale From The Auditor’s Chair

I need to start this blog with a warning – I haven’t been able to confirm the end of this particular tale (yet) but the source is impeccable.  It is rumour, unsubstantiated, but maybe my friends in the Met can shed some light on it.

When I left the Met, all those years ago, I went and worked for the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) as a bloody civvie.  I applied for, was interviewed for, and was selected for a job as a Forensic Auditor (never be afraid of good, open, honest competition).  Now that’s a very grand sounding job title and let me tell you it has absolutely nothing to do with Forensics.  It meant working for the Internal Audit Directorate, alongside the bean counters and investigating stuff.  They had a whole load of bean counters of various grades and qualifications, but the bean counters (lovely people almost all of them) couldn’t investigate their way out of a game of Cluedo.  Nor should they, horses for courses, that’s not where their skills lie, any more than I and my colleagues could go and conduct a proper audit.  The job involves studying stuff in Forensic detail, looking for the frauds and corruptions that may, or may not not, exist in bloody civvie world.

The Met is not immune to corruption and fraud, perpetrated against it.  Some contractors ‘double billed’. Some contractors billed for services they had not provided. Some contracts were remarkably favourable to the contractor and should never have been written in the manner they were.  Some practices, policies and systems were flawed, and could be exploited by unscrupulous contractors and/or staff.

The majority were absolutely fine, but the Met needed protection from those intent on profiting at its expense.  The Met had a reputation some time ago of ‘just paying’ for stuff.  Submit an invoice and it will be paid, no-one seemed to check very well whether the work had been done or not.  That may not always have been the case, but that was frequently how the Met was perceived.

Our office was staffed mainly, but by no means exclusively, by retired Police Officers. There were three teams of three, each team consisting of a Senior Forensic Auditor and 2 Forensic Auditors, or in my case, me and a Trainee Forensic Auditor. This may sound excessive to you, a luxury that Met couldn’t afford. I would dispute that. We were never sitting around twiddling our thumbs, work was always at hand. Some was referred top us by Finance or Procurement, some was simply stumbled upon or referred by Met SMT and some was self-generated.  In the 3 years I was there our collective salaries were never more than the figure we had been able to save the Met or recover.

The two ‘Headline Grabbing’ enquiries our office dealt with in my time there were ‘Interpreters’ and ‘Misuse of Corporate Credit Cards’, but there were many others, some big, some small, some ‘quick wins’ ad some ‘plodders’.

The main one that I was involved in was the Interpreters enquiry, which had been brought to our attention because a certain Interpreter/Translator who was retained on a part-time basis, paid hourly plus expenses, was found to be earning more than the Commissioner and he was not best pleased.

We were quickly able to establish that the system for paying Linguists was a little lax and would benefit from a bit of tightening up.  My team sat down, looked at the information we had in front of us and devised a strategy for dealing with it, and establishing the size of the problem. An executive decision was taken that we would Forensically examine the ‘Top 10’ earners over a 5 year period.

Welcome to Paper Mountain.

To cut a very long story short, we quite quickly established that SOME of the Linguists had been systematically milking the Met for all they could, but one was head and shoulders above the rest.   Some of you Met and ex Met may well remember the files that came out from us seeking to verify (or otherwise) hundreds of claims for payment submitted by Linguists. The results were astonishing, the most outstanding and an Oscar Winning Performance was by our League leading Linguist for 3 days over a Bank Holiday Weekend, for 14-18 hours per day, at Double Time or Time and a Half plus Travelling Time and Travelling Expenses.  A monumental amount of money claimed for allegedly translating documents relating to a property fraud.

After this person was arrested (and arrested she most surely was) her diary and personal work records (for they were all free to work for other organisations also as the Met couldn’t guarantee them work) were seized and with bated breath I checked her records for this particular Bank Holiday Weekend.  Was she indeed at a Central London police Station all weekend as she had claimed and a certain Detective Sergeant had inadvertently confirmed by signing her claim form for HIS enquiry?

It should come as no surprise by now, dear reader, to discover that the little lady had not been in this particular Central London Police Station for all of those hours, she wasn’t even there for any of those hours, she wasn’t even in England that weekend.  She was in Toulouse providing contemporaneous translation services at a conference, for another agency.  How bold was that?

She was eventually tried, convicted and would have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment if she hadn’t developed cancer whilst awaiting trial.  Then followed the High Court action to recover the monies she had claimed.  All my work had to be examined independently by a Forensic Accountant (I want to be one of those in my next life, they charge more than solicitors) and a Consultant Statistician, by order of His Judgeness.  Once this had been done His Judgeness found in our favour and impoverished Linguist was made to repay over a Quarter of a Million British Pounds to the MPA, and this just represented what we could demonstrate that she had been overpaid in a 5 year period.

Further prosecutions followed, followed by further High Court recovery actions.  I am proud to say that we did not ever lose one of them, we just, occasionally, had to negotiate on the amount the Linguist in question would repay.

Systems and Practices were tightened up in the wake of this enquiry, some Linguists will never work again in that field.  The Met now has a completely revamped method for paying for Language Services., and for any Linguists reading this blog I KNOW that you’re not all like that.  Some even underclaimed their entitlements.

And finally to the point of this blog;

I received information this weekend that almost all of my old department (now under the MOPAC umbrella) is faced with the threat of redundancy.  It has been suggested that an office of 3 and 6 will be reduced to 1 and 1.  Is this really a good idea given the success of our office at saving money, as I said we saved/recovered more than we cost.  We always had a feeling that a chill wind would blow through the Directorate one day, but we always thought that 3 teams would be reduced to 6, not all the way down to 2 thirds of a team.

The example I have illustrated above is by far and away the worst excess that I was aware of in my time there, but there were others. The Corporate Credit Card enquiry was almost as bad, and left unchecked and undetected would have been a corporate disgrace.  I don’t disagree with any department being run efficiently, money can be saved where possible, but NOT at all costs.  I know from personal experience that an establishment of 2 investigators will soon be overwhelmed by any large or complicated enquiry, or even a significant number of small, uncomplicated enquiries.  Maybe MOPAC would have to ‘Buy In’ services from the Private Sector?, but I’m sure Blair Gibbs would probably approve of that.

I’m certainly glad that I’m no longer a Council Tax payer in London. The old MPA did occasionally demonstrate that it had some teeth.  Will Boris?  Will the other PCCs have any teeth, and are they prepared to use them in this manner?  Who knows, time will tell but it may well be too late by then.