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Sunday, 30 January 2011

2 problems solved for the price of 1: a continuing series

The Daily Telegraph reports that the BBC would like to help itself to a dollop of cash from the Department of International Development.  Their logic is that BBC World Service broadcasts can aid international development (as though anybody was ever developed by the patronising attitude of British broadcasters), and of course it would count towards any international promises of aif as a percentage of GDP (although we can also boost that percentage by cutting back on government spending and reducing the GDP denominator).

But although I don't approve of the BBC's idea, it put me in mind of a better one.  Development budgets go further when they employ local staff, so the BBC can solve their budget probleams and we can provide development aid if the BBC puts its UK staff on Afghan wages, and opening the jobs up to competition from Afghan workers. 2 problems solved for less than the price of 1.

Beebonomics Part II

I have to admit that I am a Michael Lewis fan. And that is mostly because he used to be a trader at Salomons. Well not actually because hew was a trader, but because he is now a writer who writes about the behaviour of financial markets and financial institutions, but because he has the experience of being a trader at a top investment bank, going through their training programme and working on the trading floor, he gives an insight into the operation of Wall Street and the City that is unmatched by all the other financial journalists.  He also has a succinct but eminent readable style that makes his books and articles enjoyable.

So it was a joy to hear him last night on Loose Ends on Radio 4 . Strange as it was to heara financial commentator amongst the luvvies, it showed just how entertaining he can make his stories, and this latest story which appears to be a reworking of a Vanity Fair article of  June 2009 was published in the spring of last year, but he has only just got around to UK promotional tour. So let me push his book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, but add that if you really want the lowdown on CDO's and the financial crisis, one of the best reads is this Harvard undergraduate paper.

The latter is well written and researched albeit by someone completely outside the system.  What is really concerning is that if Michael Lewis and Anna Katherine Barnett-Hart, who wrote the undergraduate paper, could see the flaws in the system while several steps removed from the process, what happened to all the expensive corporate governance and risk management at these many institutions.

Oh yes, I remember, they sold out to the bonus culture.

Beebonomics Part I

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said on the Andrew Marr show he doubts that "in his heart of hearts" the Bank of England governor believes the UK economy is on the right track

Governor Mervyn King said on Tuesday "the right course has been set and it is important we maintain it".
But Mr Balls told the BBC that if Mr King said Britain "was on the wrong track it would have caused a crisis".

Which just shows how desperate balls and the Labour Party are becoming.  With commentator after commentator from the OECD, German government, the US, the IMF and the rest of the world queueing up at Davos to tell the BBC that theUK governement's actions were the only sensible one's to be made in the current circumstances.

And yet in spite of all the eminent economists speaking up for the government the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation continue to give credence to the odiously mendacious MP for Northallerton and his year of undergraduate economics.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Honest politician shocker.

The National Debt may be about to jump by £23 billion. Except it isn't because really because the current figure should be at least £23 billion higher that it is already.

According to the Times, ministers are prepared to put £23 billion worth of Network Rail debt back on to public books to secure greater leverage over the private company. Such a move could also be seen as an attempt to increase transparency. Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, is preparing to sit down with leading figures from the rail industry to forge a future framework for Network Rail.

It is nice to see a little straight dealing from time to time. The last government decided the Network Rail borrowings should be off the government's books because they were borrowed by a separate "not for profit company" (actually a company limited by guarantee which is not necessarily the same thing at all), which has never been a reason for deconsolidation because the shares were held by the government.

For some unknown reason it was deemed that the fact that all of the company's borrowings were wrapped with a government guarantee was also immaterial. In any other world, that would have led to a DTI referral and an unfit and improper person ruling on the controlling shareholders - the government.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Stupid is as stupid does

Gary Cohn is a President of Goldman Sachs or maybe he is the the President of Goldman Sachs.  I couldn't care less.. He says we shouldn't regulate banks more because that will drive "risky" business into unregulated hedge funds. Now Mr Cohn was paid $53.2 million not so long ago, but his proposal is so stupid on so many levels that it is hard to understand why he gets paid that much.

Let's run that one again. Mr Cohn has warned the assembled masses at Davos that the imposition of more regulation on banks could cause the next crisis by pushing risky activities towards hedge funds and other lightly supervised entities.

Well yes, Mr Cohn, that is one of the purposes of regulations. There is an infinite variety of risky activities and all unregulated entities are free to participate in them, measuring the risk against the rewards. Banks on the other hand carry an implicit or explicit level of support from governments (like the support Goldman's got from the US government), in return for which governments impose regulations on the banks to reduce the risks taken on by the banks.

Now it seems that Mr Cohn thinks banking is like drug dealing, and by bringing the drug dealing into the regulated sector all the nasty people will be cut out of the business.

No Mr Cohn, it doesn't work like that. These nasty trades are still risky, but quite frankly if they are going to happen, I would rather that they were undertaken by somebody playing with their own or their own client's money and not by some bank under written by the tax payer.

I have heard some stupid ideas in my time, but that really is $53.2 million stupid.

Congratulations to Gerry Adams

.. who has been appointed to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Nice to see him taking up a royal appointment and serving the British monarchy (Non-media enquiries should be addressed to the Her Majesty's Treasury Correspondence and Enquiry Unit on 020 7270 4558 or by e-mail to public.enquiries@hm-treasury.gov.uk).

No doubt he will be turning up at the next Buckingham Palace Garden Party. Funny how they all go soft in the head when they get older. Probably be after one of those Nobel Peace Prizes next.

Is it just me

or when the radio announcer said the economy had suffered an unexpected contraction, was I the only one who thought "Oh, my God, we might be going into Labour"?

Sanity from the OECD

Good to here the OECD a respected economist of international standing speak up in favour of reducing the budget deficit (and more so because he is paid out of the public purse). You can hear Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), outlines his views on Osborne's plans here.

Particularly interesting is the BBC lackey trying to push the Labour line on the need for government spending to avoid GDP dropping being swept aside.  The UK deficit he says was "out of control".

Likewise when she tries to put the blame on reckless lending by bankers who then go on to claim vast bonuses (not true by the way, the reckless lenders are long gone), Mr Gurria fires back with the line that the mistakes of the past are as much the fault of the regulators and politicians.

The biggest threat to the economic recovery this country is the blind support by the BBC of Ed Balls, whose sole  claim to expertise in financial matters is one third of an undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, more perhaps than his former boss who was hailed as an expert by the Labour Party, but the reality is that such people should never get their hands back on the country's economic levers.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Another Labour screw up

The Digital Economy Act 2010 is an Act of the Parliament regulating digital media, introduced by Peter Mandelson.  Due to the largesse of the last Labour government, the richest commercial radio station in the UK has had its licence renewed automatically - avoiding a competitive auction, and depriving the taxpayer of millions of pounds of cash. Classic FM station has even seen fees cut to a "nominal amount". Talksport's licence was also renewed under similar terms.

The 1990 Act which permitted the creation of Talksport and Classic FM required sealed auction bids for all licence renewals. Classic FM is estimated to gross £20m per year in revenue for its owner, but now needs only pay £10,000 per year. More significantly, the previous requirement to 6% of revenue to Ofcom has been scrapped.
Classic FM was granted the first commercial nationwide radio license in 1990, and started transmissions in 1992. Changes in the 1996 Act saw Classic FM pay over £1.5m a year to the Treasury, but for the next 5 years, the station will pay less than £1,000 a month.

The Digital Economy Act of 2010 changed the 1990 law, permitting stations a cheap renewal. The Carter Report that floated the policy cited uncertainty about the future of radio as the justification for the incumbent-friendly change. Ofcom justified lack of an auction by saying that auction wouldn't attract any bidders - so why should they bother holding one?

Why then should we pay the salaries or pensions of the people who allowed this to happen?

Monday, 24 January 2011

A hot mug of Coco

Having spent the last fifteen years short changing the tax man and claiming the savings as profits, Barclays Capital have now turned their attention to short changing their staff with a new bonus proposal.  Now instead of getting so many zillions of cash  or shares the Barclays bonus recipients will be paid in contingent capital bonds, except that of course a million dollars of face value coco bonds isn't worth its face value.

Here's how it works.  The bank issues a bond to a bondholder and the bond pays normal interest, but if the market value of the bank's shares falls below a given price the bank is entitled to convert the bond into shares.  The bond holder has essentially written a long dated out of the money put option on the banks shares, and for that the investor wants a lower price.  This was a trick that the banks tried to pull on investors last year without much success, but being a moderately transparent exercise the investors aren't really interested in an artificial exposure that they could have created for themselves.

Investors didn't buy the idea, but now it seems Barclays will stuff the paper into their own staff, and some of the chattering classes say cocos would better align bankers’ interests with those of other bank stakeholders.

Well not quite. The numskulls say that share options encourage bankers to take big risks to keep their employer’s share price up, but cocos pay a fixed annual return, and only fall in value if an institution suffers heavy losses, which means bankers and traders will pay more attention to a firm’s overall risk profile instead of just their own division’s profits.

Which is baloney. The best form of defnce is attack and the best way of maintaining a high share price is to keep delivering high profits through risk taking. Besides which writing a put and executing a forward sale has the same payoff as buying a call option, so there is really no difference.

The real losers are the bunus recipients who receive a bonus value X%, taxable on receipt, but only receive cash in the form of interest payments, which won't be enough to pay the tax bill. And then jsut as they get their finances straight over that, they may find that they have the option exercised against them.

Contemptible persons (I always aim to be polite) of the week

It's been a hard week to make a choice because there are so many candidates.

First up we had the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, a Mr Obama,  who hosted a dinner with the President of China, a Mr Hu Jintao.  That has a certain irony because Mr Jintao's government is currently holding the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison.

Also in the running were various Labour peers who were trying to gerrymander the division of electoral boundaries, not that they had any point of principle or any purpose other than to keep their pals in the lower house employed.  Not that they were that wedded to the idea of electoral democracy anyway, preferring to have a House of Lords that was no more than 40% elected.  After all, after a lifetime sitting in Westminster as MP for a cushy northern seat, campaigning if at all on the politics of envy rather than real policies, should a member of the House of Lords put them selves to the trouble of more campaigning (as they do in just about every other second chamber in the free world)?

But I think this week's award (and probably the only one for some time goes to the bankers (or heads of banks) who have been trying to put their views against John Vickers proposals for a split banking system.  I have always said that I would go for a Glass-Steagall type system separating investment banks from commercial banks, but Sir John has spoken about a slightly watered down version.  Banking groups would be allowed to undertake investment banking activities and retail banking activities in separate companies within the group, but crucially government support would be limited to the retail deposit taking activities. He hasn't given the full details, but the only logical conclusion is that the investment bank part of the group could only be funded on an arms length basis, counting as a 100% risk weighted exposure and subject to the usual; single counterparty risk limits that would apply to any other financial institution.

"Woe, woe", cry the banks, "This will make the UK a less attractive place for foreign banks and the City of London will lose out".  Not at all.  The UK government doesn't guarantee the deposits of the UK branches of foreign incorporated banks and 99% of them don't take any retail deposits anyway, so they are unaffected.

"Oh, well in that case, combining investment banking and retail banking diversifies the risk in the business", which of course is pure cock & bull.  Risk diversification is a myth believed only by stockbrokers and builders of diversified conglomerates, and it doesn't even apply in this case.  First of all the risks are not independent (a fast and loose investment banking system would find its losses more volatile than but correlated to those of a retail bank), and secondly the government is only looking at the downside not the overall return(which is the supposed point of diversification).

But most importantly, the bank chairmen fear losing the ability to fund their trading activities from retail and wholesale deposits.  Just as I would rejoice that my taxes will no longer back their cheap funding, they are horrified that their traders will have to up their game to compete with all the non-bank traders. Which of course they won't because hey are fat and lazy and used to their tax payer backed funding subsidy, which hopefully, is going away.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The waste of space that is Lady Ashton

Allow me to be a little bit politically incorrect, but pragmatic.

The world has decided that it wants to negotiate with Iran over nuclear weapons.  Nuclear weapons seem to rank less highly in our collective consciousness these days, but they have lost none of their destructive power in the last 60 years, so any held by Iran must give us cause for concern.  So the "world", in their ignorance, sends Lady Ashton, a woman whose sole claim to fame appears to be that she is married to Peter Kellner and whose only experience in negotiating is "negotiating" bills through the House of Lords, which is chicken feed compared to typical business negotiations.

So what do the Iranians do when they see this leviathan of international diplomacy heading their way?  They check out her CV and see that she started her career working for the unilateralists at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  Not much of a threat there and the Iranians know that they can outbluff the rest of the world because they dealing with a pacifist.

But even then you would have thought that a deal could be done: the Iranians bought off with cash and technology.  Ah yes, my friend, but you have obviously never dealt with the Iranians, or many in the Middle East, for there is a fatal flaw in the make up of people such as Mrs Ashton and even Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State which means that the Iranians will never sit downto negotiate with them. For alas, they are women, and in so much as the Iranian President and the Supreme Leader will never be seen to sign a document negotiated with a woman, the whole exercise is a vast waste of time and money, and you, dear tax payer, will be picking up the tab.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Left-wing bias? It's written through the BBC's very DNA, says Peter Sissons

I have lifted this wholesale from the Daily Mail, which is not something I would normally do, but it rings so true it merits reading in full.  After getting rid os a ruinous Labour government, perhaps the country should be thinking about dismantling their propaganda machine, the ones who are bigging up Ed Balls like the return of the prodigal son.

For 20 years I was a front man at the BBC, anchoring news and current ­affairs programmes, so I reckon nobody is better placed than me to ­answer the question that nags at many of its viewers — is the BBC biased?

In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the ­pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’. At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.

By far the most popular and widely read newspapers at the BBC are The Guardian and The Independent. ­Producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on ­running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover. In the later stages of my career, I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.

If you want to read one of the few copies of the Daily Mail that find their way into the BBC newsroom, they are difficult to track down, and you would be advised not to make too much of a show of reading them. Wrap them in brown paper or a copy of The Guardian, would be my advice.

I am in no doubt that the majority of BBC staff vote for political parties of the Left. But it’s impossible to do ­anything but guess at the numbers whose beliefs are on the Right or even Centre-Right. This is because the one thing guaranteed to damage your career prospects at the BBC is letting it be known that you are at odds with the prevailing and deep-rooted BBC attitude towards Life, the Universe, and Everything.

At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is ­blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.

Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN. Soaking the rich is good, despite well-founded economic arguments that the more you tax, the less you get. And Government spending is a good thing, although most BBC ­people prefer to call it investment, in line with New Labour’s terminology.

All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.

Trade unions are mostly good things, especially when they are fighting BBC managers. Quangos are also mostly good, and the reports they produce are usually handled uncritically. The Royal Family is a bore. Islam must not be offended at any price, although ­Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.

The increasing ­tendency for the BBC to interview its own reporters on air exacerbates this mindset. Instead of ­concentrating on interviewing the leading players in a story or spreading the net wide for a range of views, these days the BBC frequently chooses to use the time getting the thoughts of its own correspondents. It is a format intended to help clarify the facts, but which often invites the expression of opinion. When that happens, instead of hearing both sides of a story, the audience at home gets what is, in effect, the BBC’s view presented as fact.

And, inside the organisation, you challenge that collective view at your peril. In today’s BBC only those whose antennae are fully attuned to the corporation’s cultural mindset — or keep quiet about their true feelings — are going to make progress.

Moreover, making progress these days doesn’t mean just achieving the influence and prestige of a senior job with the world’s greatest broadcaster, once considered reward enough. For those breaking through into the senior ranks, there’s now big, big money and a gold-plated pension to be had

Which is why, although there has been plenty of grumbling on the shop floor about the escalation of pay for top BBC managers in recent years, it’s muted. No one wants to wreck his or her chances of a well-paid place in the promised land. The newsroom has many talented journalists of middle rank, who know what’s wrong with the organisation, but who don’t rock the boat for fear of blowing their futures.

Not that talent alone is enough to get on at the BBC. The key to understanding its internal promotions system is that, for every person whose career is advanced on ability, two are promoted because it solves a problem for management.

If Human Resources — or Personnel, as it used to be known — advise that it’s time a woman or someone from an ethnic minority (or a combination of the two) was appointed to the job for which you, a white male, have applied, then that’s who gets it.

But whatever your talent, sex or ethnicity, there’s one sure-fire way at a BBC promotions board to ensure you don’t get the job, indeed to bring your career to a grinding halt. And that’s if, when asked which post-war politician you most admire, you reply: ‘Margaret Thatcher’.

What the BBC wants you, the public, to believe is that it has ‘independence’ woven into its fabric, running through its veins and concreted into its foundations.

The reality, I discovered, was that for the BBC, independence is not a banner it carries ­principally on behalf of the listener or viewer.

Rather, it is the name it gives to its ability to act at all times in its own best interests.

The BBC’s ability to position itself, to decide for itself on which side its bread is buttered, is what it calls its independence. It’s flexible, and acutely sensitive to which way the wind is blowing politically.

Complaints from viewers may invariably be met with the BBC’s stock response, ‘We don’t accept that, so get lost’. But complaints from ministers, though they may be rejected publicly, usually cause consternation — particularly if there is a licence fee settlement in the offing. And not just ministers, if a change of Government is thought likely.

Back in October 1995, the then leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair, made his big speech at the Labour Party Conference — but on the Six O’clock News, there was every chance it would be upstaged by the verdict in the sensational OJ Simpson trial in the U.S., which was expected at the same time. Even at the conference itself delegates crowded round TV sets for the news, and it wasn’t to see a rerun of Tony.

Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, was having none of it. He faxed the BBC and ITN ‘not to lose sight of the importance to the country of Mr Blair’s speech’. He wanted it to lead the news. ITN ignored his letter. The BBC made sure the Six O’clock News complied.

That spoke volumes. Such a letter from a spin doctor would have been binned on principle by the great editors of ITN who I worked for before joining the BBC. At the BBC, the instinct, faced with such a plea from a party of the Left standing on the brink of power, was to do as requested.

All Governments work hard on influencing the news agenda, but what I found uncomfortable during my years presenting the Nine O’clock and Ten O’clock News was how blatant those attempts to pressurise the BBC became, particularly at General Election time.

The party machines all had the internal BBC telephone numbers of the editors of the major news ­programmes, whom they would try to bully in person, both before and after the programmes went out.

I remember a night when the ­editor’s phone rang after the Nine O’Clock News. It was a direct call from No 10, questioning her judgment and complaining about our political coverage that night. This wasn’t a call to the director-general, or the head of news, but to a harassed and tired editor who had been on duty for 14 hours.

‘Tell him to get stuffed,’ I advised her. She rolled her eyes, knowing better than I the row that would be caused by that.

One of the things that always ­puzzled me at the BBC was the lack of inspirational leadership. There were exceptions.

My favourite ­editor when I chaired Question Time was notable for his total ­loyalty to me and the rest of his team. If things went wrong, he saw it as his job to take the bullet. That was not the BBC way — the old ­saying ‘Deputy heads must roll’ still raises a smile, but only because of the truth it contains.

Most of the managers I had over me had status and rank, on paper. In reality, they had little talent except the dark art of surviving at the BBC and alienating those who were answerable to them. I was always struck by how few senior people there were to look up to and to learn from.

It had been very different at ITN where I began my career as a television journalist. It had a tremendous esprit de corps and bosses whom you would follow over the top when they blew the whistle. You were always aware that someone was in charge who would say the seven most important words in any newsroom: ‘Here’s what we are going to do.’

Working at ITN wasn’t always a bed of roses. I can remember fights and disagreements, strikes and ­setbacks. But I never felt the chronic lack of motivation that comes when you work for an organisation that is rudderless.

ITN, it must be said, had the advantage of being small. The BBC, by contrast, has become so big and complex that it is virtually unmanageable. Those at the top of one of the world’s greatest communications businesses seem to find it impossible to communicate on a personal level with those who work for them.

Many of them were once convivial colleagues, but the dead hand of the BBC knocks the stuffing out of them, and the climate of fear — fear usually of making a decision — ­finishes them off.

The BBC is one of our most important national institutions. It is revered around the world, and many of its products, in entertainment and drama, are unsurpassed. But at its core is news, and BBC News is an unhappy place, under-performing and directionless.

Paradoxically, it’s never had more people involved in journalist training and laying down editorial guidelines.

What it lacks is a leader whose lodestone isn’t The Guardian; who will draw a line on political correctness; who’s not afraid to hire some people who don’t fit the BBC ­template; who will kick backsides when merited; who will promote solely on talent; who will remind all interest groups that they don’t have an entitlement to BBC airtime; and who will do the job for the prestige and not the money.

On a day-to-day basis the people who ran BBC News were rarely seen on the shop floor. If a visitor to the BBC’s huge newsroom at Television Centre were to ask who was in charge, you wouldn’t be able to point to any individual in the room.

Harassed programme editors would be summoned to editorial meetings on the management floors above, and the sentiment most often expressed when they returned was that they had wasted valuable time reading lists to each other and explaining the day’s news to the man or woman notionally at the helm.

Too many senior executives were just playing out their roles, oblivious to how irrelevant they had become to what was actually being done in the news factory below. Colleagues told me that they had not just lost respect for their highly-paid bosses, what they felt was now total contempt. What they were looking for was leadership, and all they got was management.

Developments like this increasingly disturbed and depressed me. They came to a head just before the 2009 local and European elections, when time was starting to run out for the Brown Government.

I was at Television Centre preparing to anchor the 5pm-6pm news, the centre-piece of which was to be an extended interview that I would conduct with Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman.

I did what I have always done before thousands of interviews in my 45 years as a broadcast journalist. I drew up a list of the most important current issues that I felt she needed to be asked about, drafted a few core questions, and scoured the newswires and morning papers for anything I’d missed.

Then it started — a steady stream of email messages from producers telling me what to ask. Three or four of them all wanted to have their say, and they seemed particularly twitchy about Harman being interviewed by me, unsupervised. Most seemed to be fully paid-up members of her fan club.

BBC news producers have a perfect right to try to ensure that a news presenter sticks to their agenda — it is the BBC way. But too many of them are concerned not about what will be the best thing to do journalistically, but about what will best please the news executives on the floors above. The two are not necessarily the same thing.

I managed to bat away most of the stuff suggested to me, and the way the interview might go took shape in my mind. Then, half an hour before transmission, a ­producer arrived with a list of questions for Harriet Harman emailed in by viewers.

This was news to me, but I had no choice in the matter because they had already been set up with ­captions, and it was my job simply to put them to her. After that, if there was time — and the interview was to run to no more than eight minutes — I could put some questions of my own.

I was asked what I had in mind, and I said that I was going to ask her about a row brewing in the morning papers about Gordon Brown not inviting the Queen to the 65th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. The response shocked me. I was told this was not a topic worth raising because it was ‘only a ­campaign being run by the Daily Mail’.

I have no doubt that if it had been the lead in The Guardian or The Independent, I would have been instructed to nail Ms Harman to the wall. I did ask the question, and she, clearly uncomfortable, promised a statement when she had found out all the facts.

But as I drove home that evening, I asked myself if I wanted to go on working for the BBC. By the time I arrived home, I’d decided to leave.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Beware doom merchants with a vested interest

"Hospitals will have to close, patient care could be hit and treatment rationed by GPs because of the government's controversial shake-up of the NHS, health bosses and medical leaders have warned."
The biggest restructuring of the service since its creation in 1948 is described as "extraordinarily risky" by NHS leaders and medical groups in a new report.
The analysis by the NHS Confederation – comprising the British Medical Association, the Faculty of Public Health and the royal colleges representing GPs, surgeons and hospital doctors – comes ahead of publication of the government's flagship Health and Social Care Bill on Wednesday.

Enough of this claptrap. Let's just stop for a minute and consider why the BMA, faculty of Public Health and various surgeon's colleges are saying this.  s it because they look after the interests of the patient?  Hardly.  Don't be fooled.  To put it politely, they are collectively the TUC of the National health service looking after the interests of their members.

So what are they worried about?  Is the government threatening to shut vast swathes of the NHS and put them out of work.  Hardly.  The government intends to commission the same work and more as the population ages, so why are they making a fuss?

the simple answer is that many of the changes to be proposed will get rid of a lot of Spanish practices in the NHS, moving some care from secondary care (hospitals) to primary care (day clinics) where the cost of patient care is far lower.  Gone will be the easy life of the consultant surgeon who wants a fully staffed operating theatre for even the most routine operations (and the cancelled operations because X or Y wasn't available). With it goes the overgenerous overtime that only came about because of "inefficient administration" (for that read the difficulty of getting so many ducks in a row so tha operations had to be performed outside normal working hours at inflated rate).

In comes competitive working as GP's commission services from the most efficient hospitals. But in the meantime expect more squeals and threats from the vested interests whose fingers are firmly stuck into an NHS pie that costs more than the country raises in income tax..

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Taxi for Miliband

The UK’s manufacturing sector finished 2010 with output, export orders and employment all rising rapidly according to the purchasing managers’ index for the manufacturing sector.

The index hit a 16-year high in December reaching 58.3, up from 57.5 in November. A figure above 50 means that companies are reporting rising output.
The figures suggest that the manufacturing sector grew at a strong pace in the fourth quarter of the year and shrugged off the heavy snow that hit parts of the country during December.
Sounds like those public sector redundancies will be easily absorbed by the private sector, and Labour have nothing left to carp about having been shown up for what they are.