Monday, 25 February 2008

Llandudno 2008

There is something nice about returning to an old conference haunt after a few years away and Llandudno has to be one of the oldest for me.

Last time we bought Welsh Conference here I promised our new conference chair that sunday morning would be a piece of cake and promptly got so drunk on the free post dinner shorts sponsored by S4C I didn't surface until just before midday to find out we had had almost every minor hassle on standing orders possible.

Previous visits had seen me watching the northern lights and learning the set had been involved in a near miss on the way up from london.

Was 2008 any the less eventful hardly is the answer that comes to mind the social side finally wore down between 3 and 4 each morning and the conference dinner with an excellent humerous speech from Ros Scott was one of the most successful in ages. (small memo to self don't ask RW to be the auctioneer next time)

The set piece speeches couldn't have gone much better either. You only need to read the anger of Labours elected members to realise we have hit the nail right on the head in Nick Cleggs comments about the neglect of the Valleys. Sadly the media have not been so hot in picking up on how well we have done when we run the show but you cant win them all.

Then there is the venue itself significantly expanded since we last came here about 8 years ago Venue Cymru is now a real contender for bringing Federal Spring Conference back to Wales

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Rock Nationalisation just the start of Labours problems

Todays announcement of Northern Rock nationalisation is just the start of Labours problems.

I like many other demutualisation shareholders have seen the writing on the wall for weeks but at the end of the day the whole fiasco should never have been allowed to happen.

I hope tomorrow that Vince will ask the hard questions.

The questions that seek to understand what the Chancellor was doing in the summer when he knew the problems at Northern Rock were a possibility, the questions as to why the FSA allowed the directors to act in the way they did and the questions that seek to unravel if there has been a false market in Northern Rock shares since the middle of August last year.

Because these are the questions on my mind at the moment, I accept shares go up and down and are a risk but put simply I owned shares in a company who in the full knowledge of the Government were keeping price sensitive information from the market.

In fact the whole story of Northern Rock is enough to shake the foundations of confidence in the banking sector to the core.

Price sensitive information not released to shareholders, dividends announced and then withdrawn, the government inferring that a private deal was possible then pulling the plug at the last minute, rescue terms set with financially impossible criteria. Then terms of reference for compensation set by the people writing the final cheque.

Now as we go down the nationalisation route I ask myself how much less taxpayers money would have been spent with nationalisation at £4 a share in the second week of the crisis than will now have been spent over the intervening time and will be spent in the courts.

Wheter I get a penny out of this I now don't really care, what I do care about is the incompetence of our Chancellor past and present exposed to the full. All the lessons that are to be learnt learnt in full and the relevant people (and I dont mean Northern Rock employees) given their P45 at the first available opportunity

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Suggestions for reform on staffing

I have no problem with an MP employing 1, 2 or 200 members of their family so long as they are the best 200 for the job. So let me make a simple suggestion on how reform could be achieved

Set up a common set of job descriptions and expected skills for the core jobs an MP may advertise (case worker, office manager, diary secretary etc). Within each area establish a job ladder of expanded skill levels/ expectations and development needs with an accompanying national pay scale.

The HR team in the commons then work with the individual parties to build up a resource pool of individuals who have been assessed against the required criteria and are available for any MP of that party to employ.

Final pay is based on assessed merit and selection based on employers preference.

Of course if an MPs family are particularly large and particularly gifted they can all be employed if they don't cut the mustard they are out the door before they even get in.

Time for some real reform on MPs expenses

Yesterday was the first working day of the new month.

On starting work I extracted all my fuel receipts from the car, pulled out my government credit card receipts opened up three spreadsheets and two web pages and completed my end of month financial return. No doubt many other civil servants did the same thing.

On expenses I am governed by specific rules I have limits on hotel room costs, how much I can spend on lunch and on an evening meal the smallest amount I have ever accounted for is a 20p car park ticket.

The forms then go off to the expenses team and will be checked against the rules if I spend 1p too much on lunch an adjustment is made.

Perhaps all MPs need to spend a week shadowing their civil service counterparts to start to understand what goes on in the real world. Who knows some of them might even benefit from it.