The Plastic Hippo

July 4, 2017

Public servants

Filed under: Law,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:50 am
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Image via BBC

We in the still just about United Kingdom are fortunate enough to be served by a silent army of selfless public sector workers who tirelessly toil to maintain and improve our precious way of life. Often without witness, recognition or appreciation, their meagre financial reward is offset by the pride in fulfilling public duty for the general good. Avoiding vulgar and shameless self-publicity, we owe these saviours of society a debt of thanks that transcends mere pension schemes, employment rights and tasteless arguments over take-home pay. High court judges, senior police officers, NHS Trust executive managers and local authority cabinet members work unstintingly for a generally unappreciative populous and would never demean their public duty by discussing salaries, allowances and perks.

Consider Nicholas Paget-Brown, the former leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who displayed such selfless leadership in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster by adopting a stance of complete inaction and a policy of victim blaming. With victims still homeless and rent still being charged for the occupancy of a burnt out ruin, this public servant took 15 days to call a meeting of his cabinet which he then curtailed due to the scrutiny of the press. It took another day before another public servant in the shape of Sajid Javid told Paget-Brown to resign in order to divert attention away from central government inaction and a lax approach to building safety regulation. Javid has come a long way since his employment with Deutsche Bank and his interesting approach to the setting of mysterious inter-bank rates. It is entirely coincidental that as Sajid promises the Earth to victims only to quietly not explain where the money will come from, various public servants from Barclays are up before the beak on charges dating back to the shenanigans of the 2008 banking crash.

Also spare a thought for the wonderfully named Rock Fielding-Mellen, the former deputy leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the councillor responsible for housing and regeneration. This public servant and minor aristocrat oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower which transformed the block into a death trap by installing unsafe, apparently illegal but, more importantly, cheaper cladding. Previously, he secured a very favourable deal for a public school to lease a former council library at a time when Rock`s children were on the waiting list for the very same public school.

Under the strong, stable and munificent leadership of Paget-Brown and Fielding-Mellen, Kensington and Chelsea amassed a financial council tax reserve of £274 million. Ignoring the well documented fears of concerned residents, the borough decided not to invest in fire safety for social housing and instead refunded £100 to each top rate council tax household who paid the full amount rather than in instalments. The former leader and deputy leader can continue their careers as something in the City and as a property developer respectively and still claim their councillor allowances and will, no doubt, continue to adopt righteous indignation at the suggestion that the disaster was anything to do with them or anything to do with their politics.

Fortunately, we have a government appointed judge to oversee a public inquiry. However, the government has already given a massive clue as to the focus of the inquiry in that public servant Sir Martin Moore-Bick is a specialist in corporate law and not human rights. He has history, albeit slight, of siding with Westminster council who wished remove a woman with disabilities and her family. Made homeless by the government`s cap on benefits, she was in effect a victim of the social cleansing of London. This discriminatory action was lost at appeal and Judge Moore-Bick was given a minor ticking off. He has already said that his inquiry will not satisfy victims and residents but it will, almost certainly, satisfy the government.

Nicholas Paget-Brown`s failure to hold a cabinet meeting was justified by the alleged need to respect and not prejudice the Moore-Bick public inquiry. Moore-Bick`s job is to hang around for a year or so to make sure comment is silenced under sub judice and then step down to allow another judge to be appointed and restart the process from scratch. Sir Martin joins public servants Baroness Butler-Sloss, Dame Fiona Woolf, Dame Lowell Goddard and Professor Alexis Jay in a futile pursuit of the truth instigated by governments more interested in long grass than a duty to serve the public.

Desperate to cling to power at any cost, Theresa May`s fragmenting cabinet are manoeuvring to inherit a poisoned chalice. Seeking unlikely popularity and wishfully thinking that people will forget they voted to retain the public sector pay cap, cabinet ministers now suggest an end to the unnecessary austerity that they have imposed for the last seven years. This madness has deliberately harmed the nation in order to shrink the state and channel wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer people and away from people with very little to show for their hard work. Regardless of the endlessly repeated mantra suggesting the contrary, austerity has increased debt and public borrowing and has increased poverty, homelessness, hunger and misery.

The insulting hypocrisy of May`s failing government is astonishing to behold. They praise heroic fire fighters, police officers, the armed forces, paramedics, doctors and nurses and they gush appreciation for teachers, social workers and those working in the public sector who maintain the nation`s infrastructure. For all the fine words, the government refuses to grant these public servants a pay rise.

If they are lucky, those guilty of any criminal charges as a result of the Grenfell Tower disaster will, like those under CSA investigation, be dead long before any inquiry reaches a conclusion. Other might enjoy a long wait for an appointment with justice.

Just ask public servants former Chief Superintendant David Duckinfield and former Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison. They waited for 28 years before being charged.

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1 Comment »

  1. Excellent as usual, Hippo, but I think there’s one mistake. Sadly, correcting it obliges me to be fair to Tories. I think you’ll find that the rebate was paid to all council tax payers who paid the full whack, and was not restricted either to those in the top band or those who paid the annual bill upfront. It excluded those who received a benefit-based reduction. I’m not sure about those on single-occupancy reduction.

    Comment by Alan — July 4, 2017 @ 1:08 pm | Reply


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