Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2007

Darlington says "no" to Elected Mayor

In Darlington the result of the referendum for an elected Mayor was: No - 11,226 (58.4%) Yes - 7,981 (41.6%) Turnout was 24.7% The proposal to have an elected mayor is therefore lost. In Birmingham there is some effort to get a petition for an "elected Mayor". Of those campaigning for the petition not everyone wants the "elected Mayor". In the mean time the BBC are having a real go at James Purnell about a photoshopped photo. I cannot bring myself to be bothered really. Yes he is a Labour Minister, but having a go about something trivial that he does not seem to be responsible for is a waste of air time.

Election Results: Thursday 27th September 2007. (Reading the runes)

Cheshire CC, Gowy Con 1863 (50.4; +2.1), LD Andrew Garman 1419 (38.4; +5.7), Lab 307 (8.3; -10.8), UKIP 107 (2.9; +2.9). Majority 444. Turnout not known. Con hold. Last fought 2005. Chester-le-Street DC, Chester Central Lab 324 (59.4; -11.1), Con 89 (16.3; -13.2), LD Sean Kilkenny 81 (14.9; +14.9), BNP 51 (9.4; +9.4). Majority 235. Turnout 25.7%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007. Dover DC, Aylesham Lab 661 (79.7; +11.4), Con 108 (13.0; -12.6), Ind 59 (7.1; +0.9), Ind 1 (0.1; +0.1). Majority 553. Turnout 23.7%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007. Dover DC, Maxton, Elms Vale and Priory Labour 365 (33.7; -3.3), LD John Mackie 274 (25.3; +6.1), Con 252 (23.3; -8.2), Ind 70 (6.5; -5.8), UKIP 65 (6.0; +6.0), Ind 56 (5.2; +5.2). Majority 91. Turnout 20.2%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007. Kent CC, Dover Town Lab 1860 (44.5; -5.8), Con 1348 (32.2; +4.1), LD Dean Stiles 420 (10.0; -11.6), Ind 300 (7.2; +7.2), UKIP 256 (6.1; +6.1). Majority 512. Turnout 19.5%. Lab hold. Last fought 2005. Mansfield DC, Lindhurst La

Labour: Brown blusters but nothing changes

One of the more obvious things in parliament is that Labour say things will change, but often little changes. One small example relates to shop lifting. There is a form of shop lifting allowance before anyone is prosecuted rather than cautioned. This means that in essence people can shoplift knowing they won't be prosecuted. The rhetoric of Labout is "talking tough", but the action is not there. Gordon Brown claims to want accountable government. That means answering questions. However, they are refusing to answer questions about the costs of red boxes. They claim it is too expensive. Then they won't say how they worked out the costs. Another good example is the use of "reasonable force" for self-defence. There is actually a good argument to give victims security against prosecution in certain situations. However, they reviewed the issue three years ago and decided to do nothing. MRSA is another issue where they are unlikely to take the right actio

Immigration - one of the known unknowns

There are, of course, unknowns that are known as well as unknowns that are unknown. Immigration, however, is a policy area where we really don't know what is happening. What the government think is the case, local government know not to be true. In the mean time it is massively complex. At the same time we have people emigrating from the UK. This leads to a situation where a policy area that is very important to many people is debated with almost no understanding of the reality. C'est la vie. We discussed some of the aspects today at Health Scrutiny COmmittee. The health, housing and employment aspects of immigration are all interrelated and all operate on the basis of slightly separate rules. We have the complexity, for example, of destitution plus which means that a failed asylum seeker who is on tablet for depression gets support from the state, but one who is not depressed does not. The complexity that I think best demonstrates the absurdity of the system is the tale fr

Cafcass refuse complaints

One thing I find unusual about CAFCASS is that they will refuse to register complaints from time to time. They refuse to register a similar number of complaints as they actually register. (same order of magnitude). The numbers of complaints not registered in recent years are Year Number of complaints not registered Registered Complaints 2004/5 236 248 2005/6 215 259 2006/7 354 194 Figures updated as a result of CAFCASS update (correcting 2005/6) and providing registered figures.

Local Authority Targets inc Adoption

As part of the Audit Commission and DCLG's management of local authorities each local authority is required to have targets for various things (recycling etc). It is possible to find out centrally what the outcomes are for the indicators, but noone collates the information as to what the targets are. Anyone looking for the adoption target for a local authority should search for BV 163, BVPI 163 or PAF C23 on the local authority website. It should be published as part of the Best Value Performance Plan (BVPP). However, finding the information centrally involves quite a bit of work.

Licensing and Planning

Local Councils are both licensing and planning authorities with different systems for making decisions. One area of problem has been that the Licensing Committee is only allowed to take into account a limited range of things and cannot consider planning issues. However, I was pleased today that the Licensing Committee took into account when looking at an application for ... another ... brothel massage parlour in Hay Mills whether or not planning permission had been obtained as an indicator of the suitability of the applicant and/or premises. This will improve the operation of licensing in Birmingham in the future.

Judicial Statistics

The link should give the currently available judicial statistics. This includes for care order the number of times the local authority is turned down. That should worry people given the high proportion of proposals agreed by the judiciary.

Referenda and General Elections

The issue of the European Reform Treaty is one which is material in terms of the General Election. Clearly this causes Gordon Brown problems if he has an early general election because he would be under considerable electoral pressure to promise a referendum. However, that may not prevent him from going for it.

Office reconfiguration

I have run my office on the basis of one member of staff in London and others in Birmingham since 2005. I am, however, now going to experiment with having a team based in Birmingham who all spend a week in turn in London. The team of caseworkers is up for this as a proposal. This structure will particularly suit recent graduates as it will give a wide range of experience. The job is advertised on w4mp (see link).

Adoption Figures changed by Special Guardianship

The figures for up to 31st March 2007 have now been relased. The number of adoptions from care have dropped from 3,700 to 3,300, but the number of special guardianships have gone up from 60 to 740. The two figures are lumped together for the target BV163 or PAF C23. I cannot sensibly comment on these figures until I see the details of various profiles (age, gender etc).

Birmingham Recruits Social Workers from USA

The link is to a story in the Birmingham Post linked to a Committee Meeting of the Council at which the recruitment of Social Workers from the USA was discussed. It also raises the point about referrals. The problem is that all the analysis of the failures of the system have missed the point that it is the decisions in Local Authorities, CAFCASS and the Family Courts that go wrong for various reasons. It is not an absence of referrals. Hence more referrals just makes the system creak further. It will be interesting to find out if the government do scrap BVPI 163 (aka PAF C23) and how that affects things.

Boy (may have) died from lack of common sense in system (not Social Care)

This is a story which is unclear. The police are saying that training was needed. The problem is that if the evidence is that someone is somewhere under the water but the location is unclear then that would be the argument - not an absence of training. I think this is something which needs a bit of clarification. The initial story implied that common sense was being squeezed out. It is now unclear, but the statements issued by Greater Manchester Police do not properly stack up.

Election Results: Thursday 20th September 2007

Birmingham MBC, Brandwood Lab 1998 (42.7; +9.1), Con 1663 (35.6; -4.2), BNP 290 (6.2; -2.7), LD Brian Peace 285 (6.1; -4.9), Green 193 (4.1; -2.6), Ind 157 (3.4; +3.4), UKIP 64 (1.4; +1.4), New Nationalist Party 25 (0.5; +0.5). Majority 335. Turnout 26.2%. Lab gain from Con. Last fought 2007. Caerphilly UA, Moriah Lab 638 (73.5; -3.1), Ind 230 (26.5; +26.5), [PC (0.0; -23.4)]. Majority 408. Turnout 26.3%. Lab hold. Last fought 2004. Copeland DC, Harbour Lab 463 (44.3; -17.1), Con 337 (32.2; -6.4), BNP 245 (23.4; +23.4). Majority 126. Turnout 31.5%. Lab hold. Last fought 2007. Nuneaton and Bedworth BC, Abbey Lab 807 (37.9; -1.0), BNP 457 (21.5; +21.5), LD Mish Whitmore 409 (19.2; -16.5), Con 329 (15.5; -9.9), Green 115 (5.4; +5.4), Ind 10 (0.5; +0.5). Majority 350. Turnout 38.9%. Lab gain from LD. Last fought 2006. Pembrokeshire UA, Pembroke St Michael Con 251 (30.6; +30.6), LD Gareth Jones 242 (29.5; -28.9), Ind 184 (22.5; -19.1), Lab 142 (17.3; +17.3). Majority 9. Turnout 42.5%. Con g

Pauline Goodwin's story in the Liverpool Echo

Pauline has always demonstrated an impressive understanding of court procedures. It is sad, but the failures of the legal profession have led to parents having to learn how to use legal procedures themselves. There are different problems in different areas of the country. In Liverpool there are quite a few odd things that happen in the courts.

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

The link is to the US based NCCPR. They have similar, but probably not as extreme, problems as exist in the UK. The culture of consequentialism that dominates child protection theory tends to drive the same patterns of misbehaviour where the checks and balances fail. They have a number of proposals for looking after children (and families) here I make no comment about these.

More Babies taken into care -> More babies dying

The linked story is to one in the Sunday Telegraph which reveals that the increase in numbers of newborns taken into care has actually been accompanied by an increase in deaths of babies from homicide rather than a reduction. To that extent it is clear that the changes in the child protection system are failing to protect children.

Project Creep and the European Union

Project Creep is a logical conclusion of the Dustbin Theory of Decision-making. The Dustbin Theory of Decision-making (prop D. Howarth) is that most decisions are made essentially by a dustbin being passed around and everyone who it passes chucking something in. That means that most decisions are dominated by the people who are passed by the bin. This is one of the flaws of politics. It also results in Project Creep. Project Creep means that if the people involved in the project also dominate in defining the boundaries of the project then it will expand gradually to get larger and larger. This is the big problem in relating to the European Union. Unless the project is held back through constitutional mechanisms them power will gradually be centralised. That is why I am really "not sure" about the European Treaty. I am sure that I would wish to have a referendum on the issue. However, I am uncomfortable with anything that makes project creep easier. If anyone really thi

By-Election Results Thursday, 13th September 2007

Brent LBC, Stonebridge Lab 1432 (51.9 -1.6), LD S Wiltshire 864 (31.3 +16.2), Respect 237 (8.6 +8.6), Con 177 (6.4 -13.3), Green 51 (1.8 -5.2), [Ind (0.0 -4.7)]. Majority 568. Turnout 24.03. Lab hold. Last fought 2006. Chelmsford BC, Broomfield and The Walthams LD M Taylor 1198 (56.3 +38.1), Con 742 (34.9 -20.8), Lab 76 (3.6 -4.2), UKIP 57 (2.7 -5.7), Green 53 (2.5 -7.4). Majority 456. Turnout 35. LD gain Con. Last fought 2007. Conwy UA, Mochdre Lab 303 (45.7 -6.2), PC 166 (25.0 -23.1), Con 159 (24.0 +24.0), BNP 35 (5.3 +5.3). Majority 137. Lab hold. Last fought 2004. Lewisham LBC, Whitefoot LD P Pattisson 986 (37.1 -3.0), Lab 901 (33.9 +7.2), Con 536 (20.2 +2.5), Ind 95 (3.6 +3.6), UKIP 89, (3.3 -5.1), Green 52 (2.0 -5.2). Majority 85. Turnout 28.2. LD hold. Last fought 2006. Liverpool City MBC, Warbreck Lab 1796 (55.2 +10.9), LD R Roberts 1024 (31.4 -13.8), BNP 136 (4.2 +4.2), Ind 131 (4.0 +4.0), UKIP 52 (1.6 +1.6), Green 45 (1.4 +1.4), Con 40 (1.2 -3.2), Liverpool Lab Community Part

MSbP - overdiagnosed according doctors in the USA

There is an article in Psychology Today published Yesterday in the USA that has interesting elements: THE PERFECT STORM HERE IN THE U.S., AWARENESS OF MBP MAY BE RISING ALONG with antagonism between doctors and moms. "I have never known a false case not sparked by conflict between a mother and a doctor," New Hampshire psychologist Eric Mart states. Schreier says powerless mothers are clamoring for intimacy with doctors. But he could be recalling an era past, when doctors were emotionally present and generous with their time. Indeed, the impersonal nature of modern medicine doesn't seem to support the Munchausen by proxy construct. Marching to the drumbeat of managed care, in fear of litigation, 21st century doctors may have little interest in schmoozing. They are often seen as distant by the very patients they serve. Mothers, too, have changed. Best described by Judith Warner in her book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, post-millennium moms are intense,

Childrens Social Services version of Democracy

The link is to more of the newly revealed Norfolk Story. I would like to extract elements: April 2004 Diane’s mental health social worker informs her that that he has made a referral to children and families for extra support. November 2004 Just before the baby’s birth, a case conference is convened. The case conference lasts four hours and nine of the 12 professionals vote against registration, while three social workers vote for it. The chair decides to use her exceptional powers to assure registration on the grounds of likelihood of emotional abuse but does not make clear the five-day right of appeal. The police officer attending the meeting later phones the chair to question her decision. So, in this instance the local authority was approached for "extra support". The social workers decide - here's a baby we can steal. Even with the Child Protection conference voting 9:3 against registration the baby is still put on the register. Notwithstanding the fact that this w

Norfolk Grandparents Speak Out

The link is to a story in Community Care where a family were messed about by the Childrens Social Services department. The fundamental problem is a lack of ocncern for proper investigation of allegations of potential child abuse. This leads in part to the systematic perversion of the course of justice. When this is accompanied by some solicitors undermining their own clients it is not surprising that it is a debacle.

Bristol 10 year old dies

The death of a 10 year old in Bristol has raised further concerns about the priorities of the system. The issue is clearly not the absence of references, but that the priorities system of the local authority is wrong. Priorities are driven by targets. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Stalin and photographs

My daughter has "found" this photograph

Cycle Paths and Targets

Local Authorities have been given targets for increasing the length of cycle paths. That does not mean that the cycle paths have to be any use to cyclists. The link is to the Warrington Cycle Campaign's "Cycle Facility of the Month" that highlights each month a relatively futile cycle route. Such as these ones It is worth having a look at the site to see how badly government can act when it really tries (Still not as bad as recycling children, however)

Nine children removed in Northampton

The problem with this is that all we have is the allegation that: "There was an incident in which he banged a table and shouted at the little girl, who fled to her room." This is why we really need to understand the full reasoning. The evidence from Anna Freud's nursery is that breaking ties to the birth parents does a lot of damage to children. I cannot see that one incident about someone banging a table and shouting can warrant removing a 6 year old child from a birth family.

Election Results: Thursday 6th September 2007

Bromley LBC, Crystal Palace LD Tom Papworth 1051 (49.7; +2.5), Lab 537 (25.4; +1.5), Con 398 (18.8; +3.5), Green 129 (6.1; -7.5). Majority 514. Turnout 24.7%. LD hold. Last fought 2006. City of York UA, Heworth Without LD Nigel Ayre 914 (46.7; +11.0), Con 703 (35.9; -1.8), Lab 219 (11.2; -5.8), BNP 63 (3.2; +3.2), Green 58 (3.0; -1.4), [Liberal (0.0; -5.2)]. Majority 211. Turnout 61.8%. LD gain from Con. Last fought 2007.

Tahla Ikram

Another non-white child is discharged from care to die at the hands of a step parent. The link is to the BBC's questions in which they say: The final decision on returning Tahla to his father was made by a judge. This is the local authority hiding behind a judge again. The judges basically go along with the recommendations of the Local Authority and Guardian. When you have a particularly good Guardian they may have some independent judgment from the Local Authority. When I say the system as a whole is corrupt and secretive that does not mean that it does not get some things right. Nor does it mean that all of the people working within the system are corrupt. Some clearly are. Some make decisions for all sorts of wrong reasons. Some, however, work for what they perceive as the best interests of the child. The corruption of the system arises from the failure of the checks and balances.

The State is not your Friend

I saw this phrase somewhere recently. It is an interesting phrase. Obviously the state (or King) does provide certain services including protective services. However, it is quite clear that the state is not anyone's friend. It operates in the way in which it operates (partially by the rule of law, partially by direction of the executive and partially in the interests of the people operating it). The evidence from the mess in Public Family Law is that it acts directly against the interests of both children and wider families when a "friend" would not be expected to act in that way. It is against this background that the growth in databases needs to be considered. We have a consequentialist argument from Lord Justice Sedley wherein he argues that it is more important to have greater state power with all the potential abuse than have a situation in which one offender escapes the sanction of the state. (see link) I think it would be interesting to do a study of the judg

Pressure placed on witnesses

The linked story is from the Sunday Telegraph and involves social workers in Northumberland pressurising witnesses in Fran Lyon's case. What is unique abount this attempt to pervert the course of justice is that it has been done in a case which is essentially public. The "culture of consequentialism" means that the ends justify the means. The objective of the local authority is to get the baby. Therefore what is done to achieve this objective is not material as long as they get the baby. It shocks people when they end up in the Kafkaesque world of the Family Courts. Generally things in the UK do not work this way. However, as a result of the secrecy of the court processes bad practice becomes endemic. This is why people start out really bewildered by the irrational way that the system behaves. Another thing that happens frequently is presenting people with the need to prove their innocence. It is suggested that something is possible (without any evidence to prove

The Church and Forced Adoption

It has been pointed out to me that the Bible (see link) is opposed to the stealing of children from single mothers and the poor. I wonder, then, why the church seems to support the current system in England and Wales. See Job 24:9 (that's in the link) The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.

How safe are children in foster care?

The link is to another story about a Foster Carer who abused children in his care. What I am particularly concerned about is how the state gags children in foster care. Workers in one London Borough have threatened children in care that they won't get flats when they leave care if they speak out about their treatment. The system is evil in so many ways. That does not mean that there are not good people trying to do a good job. However, they are gradually voting with their feet.

Respect and internal disputes

The link is to a page on "Socialist Unity", which always strikes me as a bit of an Oxymoron, and describes current stress in Respect. Respect have, in Birmingham, split the anti-Labour vote and allowed Labour candidates to beat the Lib Dems.