Frontline Friday round-up 10th May 2013: picking holes in Government policy

Chris Sherwood /   June 29, 2015 at 8:34 PM 1,485 views

Here’s our round-up of frontline blogs we’ve particularly liked from the week of 6th May 2013. Let us know which posts we’ve missed and which other bloggers we should be following for next week’s round-up. This week the frontline blogosphere has been picking holes in Government policy and wondering whether Ministers are reckless or are pushing a hidden agenda, starting with health. George Farrelly at One GP’s Protest published an open letter to the Health Select Committee outlining his concerns about the Government’s proposals to abolish GP practice boundaries: “The Government and Department of Health wish to abolish GP practice boundaries, saying that it will increase patient choice, drive up quality, and remove anachronistic constraints. From my perspective as a GP with 25 years’ experience of trying to provide good quality general practice to a local community, this policy may sound attractive on the surface, but in reality will simply not work and will cause general practice to malfunction; in some cases it will be unsafe. The Government and Department of Health are either remarkably stupid, or they have a hidden agenda and are engaged in an elaborate deception.” George concluded that the Government’s real agenda “is to de-regulate general practice. At present, because it is geographically defined, it limits the type of business model that can be used to gain access to general practice. By removing the geographical element in primary care, you change significantly the business models and frameworks that can be applied.” Jules Birch, in a post entitled ‘Never knowingly undernudged’, examined Francis Maude’s mutuals agenda: “So-called ‘John Lewis-style mutuals’ are (depending on your point of view) the future of the public sector or a euphemism for privatisation.” Jules went onto question some of the successes that have been trailed by the Nudge Unit, which is to be turned into a Maude-style mutual: The Nudge Unit is claimed to have already saved the government millions of pounds although it not quite clear how. It hit the headlines for different reasons today when it was revealed to be behind bogus psychometric tests for jobseekers. It is best known to me as the unit that the DCLG failed to consult when it introduced the New Homes Bonus in a bid to change the behaviour of local authorities and I wonder what, if anything, it had to say about the behavioural impacts of welfare reform that the DWP found impossible to quantity.” Joe Halewood’s campaign against the bedroom tax on SPeye continues – from Joe’s perspective the policy has been introduced in haste and has lacked definition, which local authorities and social landlords are now having to grapple with. This week Joe broke the news that Bristol City Council has defined what constitutes a bedroom (or not) for the purposes of the Bedroom Tax (sorry, ‘under occupancy charge’): “Here we see (below) one Council stating that they maintain anything with a floor space of under 50 square feet is NOT a bedroom AND this council will not be applying the bedroom tax deduction and this is significant for every single bedroom tax appeal on bedroom size grounds and even for all bedroom tax appeals on any other procedural grounds.” Joe went on to note that defining what constitutes a bedroom causes real difficulties for social landlords, which has not been appreciated by policymakers and commentators: “When such a life-changing decision has been taken across the country based on simply believing the landlords view or word that is even worse as social landlords have a massive conflict of interest. If just 5% of all social housing properties have a purported bedroom of less than 50 square feet this means 190,000 properties have tenants that are being overcharged. It means 124,000 or so properties have been overcharging the public purse in Housing Benefit terms too.”  Urban Wisdom, in an open letter to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, noted the tension between his proposed changes to the way offenders are treated in the prison system and the stated desire to reduce re-offending: “In their first two weeks prisoners are at their most vulnerable and most likely to self-harm and commit suicide. Having them wear a uniform sounds to us like you’re trying to de-humanise these people and make them stand out more which is making them targets; it’s like painting a bull’s eye on them. What about the families? Having no contact in the early stages of prison life could be devastating to the families as much as the prisoners. Contact with family and friends could be crucial at a time when suicide and self-harm are such a risk.” They concluded their letter with: “To us, your changes seem a little half-baked but slightly barbaric. What trials have there been to see that this would work? Where are the facts to back up this proposal?” Finally, Jim Brown at On Probation Blog was unimpressed with the announcement of the probation reforms by Chris Grayling this week: “I’m tempted to ask if he (Grayling) really understands what he is embarking upon here? But actually I’m fairly sure he doesn’t. It has all the hallmarks of possibly appearing to be a good idea on paper, drawn up by bright, but utterly green civil servants with little knowledge of offenders and the realities of the prison and probation environment.” The announcement from the MOJ reminded Jim of a story that his former father-in-law told him many years ago: “He worked as an engineer at the Central Electricity Generating Board and one of his areas of specialisation was valves. He recounted having a heated telephone argument with a civil servant in London about a design problem with an 8inch valve. In desperation the civil servant eventually said ‘Look, just pop it in a jiffy bag and post it to me!’ It weighed 5 tons apparently.” We’re always interested in hearing from frontline bloggers, so if you’re interested in having your post featured on Guerilla Policy then do get in touch: [email protected]

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