Your Tax Money At Work

That’s not the correct comparison

The average fees for privately run children’s homes are £4,100 a week, roughly five times the cost of keeping an adult in prison. Local authorities are legally responsible for children in care and rely on private providers because of a shortage of places and budget cuts.

What we want to know is what is the cost of a local council place for such children?

Damehood?

The venture capitalist behind Britain’s vaccines success is to be rewarded with a damehood, The Telegraph can reveal, as Boris Johnson urges a worldwide inoculation drive to end the pandemic “for good” by next year.

Kate Bingham, 55, is to be rewarded with the honour for her unpaid work leading the UK Vaccines Taskforce and obtaining access to millions of doses of six different coronavirus jabs.

Nonsense. Should be a Countess at least.

That’s also not entirely a joke. Bingham was likely to get a DBE – services to pharma industry or such – within the decade anyway. Bringing that forward isn’t really enough.

Further, it’s about time we revived those higher peerages. Revive that difference between party hacks put in the Lords to vote the right way and those who have actually achieved something. Start issuance of those three higher grades again.

An email from OpenDemocracy

Health data is both hugely sensitive and immensely valuable.

The UK’s NHS data alone has been valued at £10bn. And our GP data is the most detailed, valuable and sensitive of all.

Now, British health secretary Matt Hancock has quietly announced a plan to take the GP records of everyone in England, and enter them all into one massive database.

He wants to make this data available to “third parties” – including private companies. This would mean incredibly sensitive data about all of us who use the NHS – including sexual health, mental health, criminal records – being pooled and shared.

Maybe this is a good idea and maybe it isn’t. Concentrate, here, just on that value argument.

OK, so it’s all worth £10 billion. Cool. How do we get the £10 billion our of it? By collating it and then charging people for access to it. For if we don;t do that then we don;t get the money and it’s not worth £10 billion, is it?

Well, here’s your problem

Biden’s first budget aims to herald a new era of big government

That’s it, right there. Channelling the lives of 330 million people through Wash DC works about as well as channelling the vaccines for 450 million through Brussels does.

There are places that have more government, entirely true. But Sweden, Denmark and such places channel it through the smallest political unit – respectively the county or commune – rather than the largest. Which is, because of Bjorn’s Beer, why they work. This essential concept being rather simple. If Bjorn is the guy who collects and spends the tax money, you’re in small enough polity that you know where Bjorn has his Friday night beer, then the tax collected is going to be spent on things that the taxpayers don’t mob Bjorn’s Beer over.

It’s entirely possible to have more government, it’s even – possibly and maybe – possible that this will lead to a better world. But it has to be more small government, not more big.

Tough times indeed

But behind these scenes of domestic joy are financial straits so dire that they can be hard to comprehend: In the year after the pandemic shut down the economy of one of the world’s richest and most expensive cities, Ms. Galán and her children have lived on $100 a week.

And, well, you know….

Undocumented immigrant – ie, wetback. The Pops of the youngest, still a baby, didn’t stick around. And she was eligible for more – the kids are American born so food stamps were due. She just didn’t get them because she missed the phone call.

And, umm, well?

No, seriously, what is due to her?

This is true, yes

Earmarks have been absent from Congress for a decade but both parties now support their use. Some observers say earmarks promote bipartisan co-operation.

You allow me to buy my necessary votes with the taxpayers’ money and I’ll allow you to buy your necessary votes with the taxpayers’ money. That’s bipartisan co-operation, right?”

Well, it depends really

On the face of it, the idea that a prime minister cannot afford to do the job on a salary of £157,372 is ridiculous.

Cannot is ridiculous of course.

Johnson has told friends that he needs to earn about £300,000 a year — twice his salary — to keep his head above water. A former No 10 insider said it was “received wisdom” that he is permanently broke.

“Head above water” isn’t quite the right phrase either.

However, it’s a hell of a lot easier to allow expenditure to expand to rising income than it is to compress it to match a falling one. Someone who’s been earning £300 to £400k for a couple of decades would indeed find it difficult to compress down to £150k. That just is difficult, whatever the number of zeroes there, 40k to 15k is difficult too.

Add in a divorce, the ex-wife used to make a lot more than Carrie does and so on and one can see the problem.

On his own head and all that but the base contention isn’t unfair. It’s not that he can’t live on it, it’s that he’s not used to doing so.

Umm, why?

Campaigners in Cornwall are aiming to forge a direct cargo link to France to help the fishing fleet recover from post-Brexit trade disruption.

Err, OK, so this might be a good idea, might not be. But why campaigners? Why not folks with a bit of cash who set one up?

Martin Laity, who runs Sailor’s Creek Shellfish in Flushing, near Falmouth, said a ferry could open up new markets for his products.

“I think it should be looked at and the British government should start taking it seriously,” he said.

Ah, of course, silly of me. The aim is that we pay for the ferry which exports his products…..

My word

UK strategy of backing several Covid vaccines seems to be paying off
Analysis: buying new and existing technologies ensured alternatives if a vaccine failed or had supply issues

That idea of having multiple suppliers – markets in effect – seems to work. Rather than government decisions to pick the one loser…..

This might work for airlines, trains, steel, hey, maybe health care more widely……

Just to get the details right here

On the subject of the Cabinet civil servant working for Greensill.

It’s not – as some seem to be indicating – that a civil servant running procurement for the government from the Cabinet Office was also working for Greensill. Well, not quite.

It’s that someone retiring from working for the Cabinet Office in charge of procurement was going to work for Greensill when he left. And started to do so some months before he did leave.

Whether that was a good idea or not is another matter. But it’s worth grasping the detail of what did happen before screaming about it. You know, as with Murphy ranting about QE and NHS receivables meaning that Greensill was never needed there. Which is why Greensill wasn’t used there either, it was NHS payables, in the form of wages, that were financed. At the request and only at the request of a worker – they could receive their wages by the week – say – instead of working a month in hand.

Details do matter.

Much to my surprise

An actually good piece in American Prospect:

The biggest nursing home chain in America quietly changed hands earlier this month, in a little-noticed deal that underscores just about everything that is rotten about America’s elder care system.

Genesis HealthCare and its 350 facilities are now in the hands of a documented serial liar with a history of conning his way into nursing home takeovers, then evicting the patients and flipping the real estate to luxury condo developers. His name is Joel Landau, and he pulled off exactly this feat with a nursing home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2016, walking away with a $72 million profit after orchestrating an improbably elaborate campaign to convince a battalion of city and state officials that lifting a deed restriction that required the property to house a public health care facility was the only way to preserve the building as a public health care facility.

It’s possible to read it as all being the fault of The Joos. But in this particular instance, if it’s anything at all like the similar scandal 50 years ago in New York, that would be fair comment. Not Them, so much as some who happen to be.

It’s also far too against private equity and doesn’t delve enough into the appalling state government operation of the bits it can and should control. This is very much more about private operators taking advantage of a river of state cash than anything else.

And yet – it is true that something stinks here. And this piece is at least part of that story about what does.

Well, yes, clearly so

Runnymede Trust boss Halima Begum accused of using it to play politics

Obviously. This, from Halima’s view, being the point of the exercise.

If you believe that government is the solution then working toward a solution means doing politics, for politics is how you influence what a government does.

We can like this or not, claim that charities shouldn’t do politics and all that, but that’s what she and the like are doing.

There’s a level of government management that just doesn’t work

We’re past it:

Drinkers should take cash to the pub with them next week to avoid falling foul of new rules that say staff should take payments for drinks outside, The Telegraph has been told.

Guidelines have been drawn up that ban pubs from taking payments indoors – potentially shutting out a third of the sector from Monday’s reopening.

Consenting adults probably can work out how to pay for a round without the intervention of the bureaucracy.

This isn’t difficult to explain

Thursday’s problems didn’t come as a surprise. Despite its reputation as the world’s technology capital, California has struggled to develop a smooth process for Covid-19 vaccine sign-ups. At the top of Californians’ long list of complaints about vaccine distribution is My Turn, the website launched by the state as a hub for scheduling.

Since its launch in January, the system has struggled with glitches. The website often crashes, sometimes doesn’t show any appointments at all, lists appointments that do not actually exist, or at times allows users to sign up for a first vaccine dose but not for the second.

Getting government to do something often is less efficient than getting non-government to do something. Especially in California.

I spy money – gimmie, gimmie, gimmie

It has no website, but according to the Charity Commission the Denise Coates Foundation received £85 million in donations up to March last year but spent only £9.9 million. It made 23 grants in the same year, including to a mentoring programme in Malawi, a water hygiene project in Eritrea and education and arts projects in Britain but is facing questions over why it is not spending more of its reserves of £385 million.

The foundation has most of the reserves, £374 million, in an endowment fund, which trustees hope to maintain at its real value and distribute income and gains. The policy means that the charity can operate without being dependent on donations, but critics questioned why this was necessary given the regular donations from Coates.

Kishan Patel, from the gambling harm group Talkgen, said that the money could be used to fund services to address gambling addiction. “Research, education and treatment into gambling harm has been chronically underfunded for several years now and the Denise Coates Foundation sits on £300 million and [has] never made any donation to reduce or prevent gambling harm,” he claimed.

Some people just can’t see a pot of money without demanding some of it, can they?

What to do with those High Streets

As The Observer tells us in fact:

Wolfson may have the best ideas about what comes Next for shops

Seems likely to us. Long time industry professional who is actually paid, daily, to work out what to do with shops might be just the person to work out what to do with shops. The contribution that politics can make to all of this is to give him, and all his contemporaries, the room and freedom to do that experimentation.

That is, hands off and leave it alone. As nurse used to say, if you keep picking at it you’ll only make it worse.

Fairly rigorous here, fairly rigorous

The Army is always very keen indeed upon financial honesty. So, breaches are taken seriously. I know a bloke who was thrown out for bouncing a cheque in a fellow officer. So, our Major General:

A senior army officer has been jailed for 21 months for falsely claiming almost £50,000 in allowances to pay for his children’s boarding school fees.

Pretty fierce for there’s more:

As well as the custodial sentence, to be served in a civilian prison, Welch was retrospectively dismissed from the army, meaning he will not be able to benefit from the rank of retired major general.

He was also ordered to pay back the fraudulently claimed money.

Not sure if Brigadier is still a rank or not. Which means he might drop back to Colonel – which is a significant reduction in pension there.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if those others who work for us – in, say, politics, the civil service, local councils – who lift £50k get similar sentences?

Long grass

Britain is stuck with the licence fee until 2038 because the Government’s failure to roll out super-fast broadband has left no viable alternative, MPs have concluded.

The Government’s pledge to deliver full-fibre broadband to every home by 2025 was downgraded to a target of just 85 per cent in November.

A subscription-based, universal alternative to the licence fee would require all households to be online before the next BBC Charter is negotiated for 2028-38. That now appears all but impossible, according to a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

“It’s clear that the BBC TV licence fee has a limited shelf life in a digital media landscape. However, the Government has missed the boat to reform it,” said Julian Knight, the committee’s chairman.

That doesn’t sound like a reason at all. Rather, an opportunity to delay the decision for whatever spurity so as to maintain the status quo for a decade and more.