The Plastic Hippo

February 9, 2011

Under the spell of Project Merlin

Filed under: Politics,World — theplastichippo @ 4:44 am

So, a fistful of very wealthy bankers are said to be “livid” at the “surprise” announcement of an increase in bank levy. Move on, no story, nothing to see here, mind how you go. No surprises.

Whatever cloak it is dress in, Project Merlin is a process of “negotiation” in which the banks tell the Treasury what to do. Chancellor Gideon Osborne, whose economic acumen extends only as far as his inherited personal fortune, was clearly excreting bricks into his Calvin Klein’s at the thought of a dispatch box exchange with his new shadow. Desperate to find a fig leaf to cover Balls, he pleaded with his banking chums to provide him with a tool to bash the former Labour leadership hopeful and serial leg bothering Rottwieler member for Morley and Outwood. Balls, it must be remembered, was the minister who threatened schools with legal action should they come to the ridiculous conclusion that SATS test were, in fact, ridiculous.

Osborne saw his chance. Balls is “second choice” and damaged goods. How the tiny rich band of brothers giggled. “Sure” said the bankers to Gideon, “here’s £800million, our bonuses wont be affected. Now wag your tail and you can have a doggy treat and we might even tickle your tummy.”

The tumescent scam being perpetrated by the banks and the government is nothing short of astonishing. Not just in its scale, audacity and duplicity, but in the breath-taking belief that these privileged millionaires expect that those suffering real hardship actually believe in the bare-faced lies that the unaccountable, the unelected and the illegitimate are telling. It is a dry hump of ruin.

Daniel Defoe, himself no stranger to harsh economics, was a prolific pamphleteer and author on the cusp of the industrial revolution. Long before Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe, his work, including “An Essay upon Projects”, resulted in him being placed in a pillory in 1703. It is alleged that the crowd did not throw rotten eggs, cabbages, excrement or even shoes. Instead they threw flowers. Defoe, ever mindful of a clever sound bite, suggested a truism that resounds today: nothing “as certain as death and taxes”. We can now add to that the certainty that whenever a coalition government representative opens theirs mouths the words “inherited deficit” will spurt out and relegate death and taxes to the deafening silence reserved for the despot. There will be deaths, there will be taxes and there will be more lies.

The bankers, the greedy and the avaricious who got us into this mess in the first place, are being given huge tax breaks and obscene financial rewards by this vindictive and incompetent government. Multi-national companies are being encouraged to avoid contributing to the exchequer by moving off shore. A tax haven abroad means more profit and less wasted tax money on the vital services needed by the people who have no choice when buying the products these sharks provide. A government intent on punishing the most vulnerable, are happy to let tax avoiders, including Gideon Osborne, literally get away with murder.

With delicious serendipity, the news of this invented spat came on the the day that the procurement procedure for replacing coast guard search and rescue helicopters was ditched. It seems that the deal with the “preferred” private contractor was sullied by insider dealing. Oh dear, whatever next. The elderly Sea King airframe is considered to be not fit for purpose and a new aircraft is needed to provide this important back-up to seafarers, hill walkers, holidaymakers, surfers, crash victims, dogs, cats, dolphins, whales and anybody else who needs a helping hand or winch man.

Patching up the 40-year-old Sea Kings with gaffer tape seems to be the only option as the government hovers towards meltdown. It would be unfair to mention Nimrod, Harrier or aircraft carriers, but, step forward the magic of the AugustaWestland Merlin. A truly superb helicopter, the Merlin is maintained by our own Serco and is a perfect platform for S and R. It is also very good at killing people. This coalition government faces a choice between life and death.

The recent news will not send wealthy bankers and CEO`s of PFI companies rushing to Beachy Head to hurl themselves into the abyss. Even if they considered this option, the way to the cliff will be blocked by wheelchairs, pensioners, children, librarians, foresters, helicopter pilots and the rest of humanity desperate to be free of unwarranted suffering.

In short, and in a direct message to the coalition government, rich bankers and private exploitationists, there is a well known, Anglo Saxon, prepositional, two word phrase ending in the word “off”.

For your information, the first word is not “take”.

February 6, 2011

School for scoundrels

Filed under: Education,Media,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 12:55 am

That great font of all knowledge, the “award winning” Walsall Council website continues to entertain by regurgitating the bird guano plopping out of the Council House. Two of the latest insults to intelligence concern themselves, without any sense of irony, with education.

More school improvement work set to get green light” boasts the headline of the press release. The “latest investment” of £685,000 will “improve learning environments” in six schools. Splendid.

However…

The good news in the press release makes no reference to the years of neglect and incompetence displayed by both local and central government regarding the state of school buildings. The half million plus will be spent on patching up schools that are falling down or are just down right dangerous. Rewiring and re-roofing that should have been done decades ago is hardly an excuse for triumphant largesse. Improving physical accessibility to schools was demanded by the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. For clarification, and for those within the council who struggle with mathematics, that was 16 years ago. The majority of schools in Walsall still discriminate against children with physical disabilities in terms of access.

It would be churlish to mention the supine response by Walsall Council to the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme. Two million pounds wasted and no word of objection from our elected leaders. Not even a dickie bird about the cuts to the Primary Capital Programme or the massive reductions in Devolved Formula Capital awarded to schools simply to keep the buildings open. DFC is not the Distinguished Flying Cross, but a vital source of funding required to maintain the very fabric of crumbling school buildings. A government and a council flying by the seats of their pants have reduced DFC funding to a level that makes a school think twice about purchasing a bag of sawdust to cover the vomit in a school canteen. It might be churlish, but Walsall needs churls.

The money wasted on BSF did not come from a central pot, but came from designated school budgets in a process called “top slicing”. All schools in Walsall had their planned budgets plundered and then frittered away on consultants and bureaucracy. The money took the afternoon train out of Walsall. The schools benefiting from this latest announcement are expected to divert money away from stuff like books, computers and staff to pay to fix the roof and the electrics. Councillor Rachel Andrew describes this shambles as an “investment”.

On the same day that this utter garbage was puked out of the “award winning” council website, another press release appeared entitled “Bridging the funding gap for schools”. This piece of fiction concerned itself with the future of school funding and the preposterous lie that is called “pupil premium”. Four million quid will go to support “disadvantaged” children in Walsall. Splendid.

However…

The pupil premium is a worthless sop dangled in front of the spineless Liberal Democrats as payment for propping up an unelected coalition government. With the common wealth of forests being sold off, prohibitive tuition fees allowing only the wealthy a university education and the wilful destruction of the NHS, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos lie torn to shreds in the fiction aisle of your local, closed library. Only the pupil premium remains to give any legitimacy to Clegg and his doomed party.

But the pupil premium is fatally and irreversibly flawed. A child is only considered to be “disadvantaged” if they qualify for free school meals. This is the only criteria and is about as accurate as a David Cameron speech or the “award winning” Walsall council website in understanding deprivation. The take up of free school meals eligibility is in no way an indicator of disadvantage and the half-wits in charge of education in Walsall scratch their thick skulls in incredulity as to why the entitlement is not enthusiastically embraced. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, the benefits system currently being savaged by Cameron, Clegg and their millionaire chums discourages free school meals take up by the poorest families as this impacts negatively on other benefits. As further millions are thrown out of work, the numbers of children entitled to FSM will, in reality, decrease.

The well paid army of “managers” within Walsall council and Serco simply do not understand the stigma imposed on families and, more importantly, the children entitled to FSM. Most schools handle the issue with sensitivity but there are still some that have separate queues for FSM children and in some isolated cases, the claimants are served after their paying peers. If these “educationalists” think that bullying is rife within Serco, the council and parliament, try being a seven-year-old in a school canteen.

There is also the thorny issue of cultural dietary restrictions. It is far easier for children living close to a school to go home for lunch and eat food that has been prepared by family members and can be trusted to conform to prescribed standards.

The up take of FSM will continue to decline because the standard of food dolloped out by the Walsall council catering service is, not to mince words, crap.

Schools will receive £430 for each child entitled to free school meals but, crucially, the money does not need to be directly spent on improving the life chances of the individual child. Headteachers and governing bodies, facing huge budget cuts, might need to use the money to simply fix the roof or make the mains supply safe. The “disadvantaged” child will be no better off and the right to an education will be further diminished.

The “award winning” Walsall council website makes no mention of this or any report of another school jumping ship to Academy status. Shire Oak School, with six outstanding features as judged by Ofsted, has been allowed to become an Academy. A decision the Head describes as “absolutely brilliant”. Perhaps his elation is due to the fact that the school will now be beyond the incompetence of Walsall council and Serco and that the council draft budget allocates £25million to Academies and the selective nature of admissions.

The “award winning” Walsall council website seems to have also missed the news that Alumwell, Blue Coat, Frank F Harrison and Willenhall schools with not an outstanding feature between them are also being frog marched out of local authority control to balance the books of Serco.

Walsall council spends half a million quid of council tax payers money on the “award winning” website which claims that “500,000 people a month log on” and that it has “consistently finished highly placed in industry reviews”. In July 2009, Webcredible reviewed 20 selected local authority websites. Walsall came 20th out of 20. The reason is obvious. Rather than disseminating information of value, the “award winning” website peddles discredited dogma from its political masters and has become the standard bearer of corrupt propaganda paid for by the very people it wishes to dupe.

But be of good cheer. Yet another ridiculous and loaded consultation document is available to allow you to tell Walsall council how wonderful it is and how indispensable the awful website is. Your opinions will be noticed and then ignored. Have a go, it`s hysterical.

As for winning awards; the What’s On Walsall website came second in the 2009 Black Country Hotel and Tourism Awards. It is somehow appropriate that a zoo came first and a golf club came third. As Terry-Thomas might have said:

“What an absolute shower.”

February 1, 2011

Last of the Pharoahs

Filed under: Fiction — theplastichippo @ 1:30 am

Image credit: Challenge 81

Statement from the Supreme Leader of Woeful Metropolitan Borough Council:

“My fellow Woefullians:

My security forces have informed me that a tiny minority of trouble-makers have taken to the streets in some sort of futile demonstration. I can assure concerned citizens of Woeful that this threat to the stability and well-being of my wonderful borough will be dealt with.

The poisonous elements within our community hell-bent on causing havoc would do well to remember that their freedom to protest, the right of association and the meaningless signing of petitions has only been made possible under the caring and watchful eye of my administration.

The marauding gangs of anarchists have overstepped their legitimate freedoms and are now attempting to bring chaos to my lovely borough. Indeed, some of them have gone into our libraries and removed books. In order to put a stop to this wanton looting of our cultural heritage, libraries will now be closed as a precaution.

Many of these vandals are young, giving irrefutable proof that schools are hot beds of revolution, radicalisation and sedition. Therefore, schools in Woeful will be placed under the control of the privately run prison system. This offers the best possible chance for our young people as it will ease the transition from education to detention and then onwards to a criminal career and custodial sentences.

Acts of deliberate arson not already included in the council planning strategy will not be tolerated. A 24 hour curfew is now in place and the palace guard of Traffic Enforcement Officers have orders to stop anyone attempting to come into Woeful and spend money.

These fair and progressive measures will send a clear message to these cowardly terrorists masquerading as readers, shoppers and people in need of social care: Woeful will not be dictated to.

As your Supreme Leader, I carry the foremost responsibility in protecting the security of the borough and the people. Therefore, I have instructed the current cabinet to present its resignation. I will name a new cabinet more in tune with my policies.

Let us be clear. Democracy is under attack and I am the only Supreme Leader qualified to lead the people of Woeful through this crisis. To enforce my mandate, I will once again allow a free and fair election in May when I will stand again. Most people will realise that this magnanimous gesture might lead to criticism that vital council resources will be wasted on a foregone conclusion. However, even my last 95 per cent victory as verified by independent electoral observers from Egypt, Zimbabwe and Myanmar is not enough. I am confident of winning 100 per cent of the vote once my party loyalists locate the few remaining illegal immigrants sleeping rough in empty rooms above shops.

Until that glorious day, I call upon the vast majority of good people in the Borough of Woeful to rise up and crush these violent rioters. If only a small proportion of the hundreds of thousands of honest, hard-working Woefullians who recently demanded an increase in my allowances were to act, then we can rid this vermin from our streets.

Have a nice day.”

This statement was issued from the Supreme Leader’s Office, currently temporarily relocated to a safe house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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