Banks – Being set free to do it to us all over again!

My posting of a few days ago (see link below)

made reference to how the banks have all but got away with their appalling reckless behaviour and are ruling the roost again. This Independent article (see link at top of story) sadly shows that the Tories will do anything not to control the bankers who all but destroyed our economy.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this story.

Remember the Banking Crisis! Strong regulation now? No way, banks still have upper hand

The Guardian has the story – see link above

Seems that the banks are still ruling the roost despite all the political will that was supposed to bring them to heel!

With thanks to Roy Connell for bringing this article to my attention.

War Memorials – Returning to my theme for 2014

1st World War Memorial in Potters Lane, Higher Walton, Lancashire

1st World War Memorial in Potters Lane, Higher Walton, Lancashire

I am still looking out for war memorials and more will follow. Here is one spotted by my old friend Roy Connell whilst he was out bike riding in deepest rural Lancashire recently.

It’s a simple but powerful memorial to this small community’s WW1 lost generation.

The Trade Union Movement is dying & needs urgent reform

The trade union movement is, I fear, slowly slipping away and becoming irrelevant to modern day life and I say that as a committed trade unionist. It was taken into a nursing home a few years ago but is now slowly day by day slipping away.

The modern world is all about individual freedoms far more than it is about collectivism. It probably started in the 1980’s and Thatcher probably started it. But the mistake trade unions make is to assume that individual freedoms are always trumped by collectivism – they aren’t and until unions can really grasp this they will continue to be on the slide.

As a Liberal who understands why collective action can be vital for the common good but who also sees why individual freedoms are just if not more vital this is not a concern but a change that has to be addressed by a trade union movement that does not cope with change at all well. Indeed, it is that inability to modernise, until it is too late, that has bedeviled unions for years.

Just cast your mind back to the 1970’s and 80’s, trade unions were headline news day in day out, maybe not always for the right reasons, but they were a force to be reckoned with. Now trade unions are in the news far less often because they are becoming less relevant to the lives of ordinary people.

Trade unions are also in financial difficulty too. Falling membership, feeling that they can’t charge the level of membership fees they would like to/need to and having to merge with other unions are all big issues driven by money worries. My own union, PCS, has even cancelled democracy recently by deferring internal elections to save money.

But why post this piece now? Well it came to mind because of a number of unrelated conversations and newspaper/internet articles that I had read in recent months. They seemed to form a common thread for me and that thread was that UK unions seem to struggle these days to back individual members who are in difficulty. One of those conversations was with my old chum Roy Connell, a committed trade unionist all his working life.

I must have heard and read about half a dozen cases where members with difficulties were not backed by their union and either had to fight their case on their own or were not able fight at all. A common issue seems to be ‘the union will not fund the legal battle’ and this is often down to a risk assessment by union bean counters of how much money a case may cost. Again, the tightness of money means that unions are far more picky these days about which legal cases they will back.

But now it is getting out that unions are effectively backing out of backing their members when they are in trouble can only make folk less inclined to join a union. A vicious circle indeed.

Fighting high profile social justice campaigns is of course bread and butter to trade unions. However, if they are channeling scare resources into this collective/political work whilst leaving their members high and dry when they need legal backing then the wrong balance is surely being struck.

Many of the freedoms that we all take for granted these days (even by those who vote Tory/UKIP) were gained for us by the trade union movement but as society has changed our unions have been slow to react and at times unwilling to react.

It’s no use union executive committees and general secretaries being up for the next internal fight for the Labour Party’s soul whilst their members see them (and the Labour Party) as being out of touch with their world, because I fear that is what’s happening. Collectivism is not now king and maybe it is only on a par with if not behind the individual issues that folks join trade unions for. They want their union to back them when they are in difficulty above all else. Fighting the political battles of the day usually passes them by whether union leaders like it or not.

So the challenge for trade unionists is to reinvent a trade union movement that is very much stuck in a rut and has found the rut a comfortable place to be except for the lack of money flowing into it of course!

Tories reneging on a Coalition promise – What’s going on with the promised care cap?

The BBC web site has the story – see link above.

Seems the Tories are backtracking on a promise made by the Coalition Government to cap the amount that we have to pay for our care.

The cap on care costs has been a long time coming. Nearly 70 years in fact, as the social-care system has remained relatively unchanged since the post-World War Two welfare settlement.

But last Friday, in a written ministerial statement, the long-awaited changes were put on ice. Instead of the £72,000 cap starting in April 2016, the elderly, and younger adults with disabilities, will now have to wait until 2020.

Unsurprisingly, there is concern in some quarters the delay may actually spell the end for the changes. After all, if a week is a long time in politics – as the saying goes – four years must be an eternity.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this story.

What will be left of the public sector after this!

Robert Peston has the story on the BBC web site – see link above

I am grateful to my old chum Roy Connell for bringing this item from the BBC web site to my attention. Having worked in the public sector all of my employed years I am, like Roy, rather worried about where this latest slash and burn policy will lead.

I have never doubted that the public sector once had its fair share of fat that could be trimmed but neither have I ever doubted that the public sector is vital for a functioning and progressive democracy. Anyone who thinks that the private sector can deliver all public services is living in cloud cuckoo land as the pressure to make money will always trump good services.

The missing link here for me is the lack of drive towards service delivery methods that really could work and potentially reduce costs as well. I refer to mutuals and co-operatives of course run by the people who work for them. I have banged on about them many times before but these days only Liberals and some real socialists still see them as a vital way forward as Tories and the new Red Tories lurch further towards privatisation.