Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Police Election Arrested?

Are the new Kent Police elections are over before they’ve begun.

Few people would argue for less democracy. And the new Police Commissioner elections on 15th November to oversee Kent Police should be part of the wider trend for accountability and transparency in the public sector.

Yet the signs are disappointing.

The £5,000 fee seems to have priced out all the Independent candidates. The short list of five includes Labour and Tory candidates (the latter already on the Kent Police Authority), the incumbent Chair of KPA, a UKIP candidate and Kent Police EU (!) adviser, and an Independent who was Mayor of Medway.

Not exactly inspiring – and barely a manifesto between them other than vague platitudes about reducing crime. Presumably as opposed to increasing it.

So feeble is the offering that there are concerns the turnout will plummet below 20% making the democratic mandate simply non-existent.

Of more concern is that ahead of the election a self-elected KCC 16- member group has been set up for the directly-elected Commissioner to report to rather than the public.

In effect we have almost the same system – although you might not think so from the recent scare-tactic ads of the Home Office or Police Federation of grannies being murdered in their beds if you don’t vote.

And this at a time when policing is under greater scrutiny than ever – whether it be Kent Police’s two attempts at multi-million purchases of spy drones. And a peculiar new national Police RAF Unit for helicopters or aircraft and presumably drones again.

Taking civil liberties

Civil liberties aren’t just up in the air and circling at 30,000 feet, but at ground level in Kent with 6-year extradition scandals such as Christopher Tappin. He’s jailed and sent to Texas and selling off his house in an FBI sting at best or fishing expedition set-up at worst. If the paperwork’s messed-up he could be on Death Row. As is Margate’s Joshua French in the Congo.

Clearly any Kent citizen with anything as meagre as a lost passport, credit card or traffic accident can expect the same lack of help from the Police and Embassy at home or abroad.

Surely the time is right, with the bloat of 42 Police forces likely to be downsized by two-thirds, for Kent Police specialisations in say an emergency foreign service, or lead review of EU arrest warrants and extraditions.

Reforms such as the 101 system could be easily adapted, similarly the improvements to Missing Persons, or Cold Case reviews such as the Deepcut barracks incident, or specialisations in drugs unit, dog searches, Third World exchange programmes are viable against the backdrop of the improved Kent Police three district reforms and one back office.

A thinner but better blue line

Policing is all the more important in Frontline Kent: 85% of drugs are seized in Belgium presumably on their way to Amsterdam and London - or Manchester. Chief Constable Fahey there having to bury two officers on the same day in a gun and grenade (!) drugs gang incident. And with Kent’s terrorist hot-spots of Dover, Canterbury Cathedral and Bluewater as well as arms conduits to and from Europe excellent policing in Kent is crucial for the UK.

From an advertising point of view, policing represents a creative challenge for the most difficult and dangerous profession – hence some of the greatest-ever advertising (remember Sir Robert Marks’ major contribution to road safety for tyres, or John Barnes not being able to be a policeman or even New York’s finest choosing to serve and protect?).

We can laugh at the Fashion Police approach of out-of-control procurement of multiple hats and trousers and T-shirts, yet there’s the very real horror of KCC childcare with a social services dept in such disarray that all 21 of Thanet’s care homes have not one Kent child in them, and 25% of the 1,700 looked-after children are missing - all the makings of a Rochdale or Derby scandal - with the Police either picking up the pieces or copping the blame.

Increasingly it seems, Kent councillors’ ceremonial badges on the rates should extend to a Jimmy Savile badge for fixing it for more Kent opportunities for every paedophile and sex offender.

Policing forward

There’s certainly plenty of national policing scandals such as the failure to blacklist the Police thug PC Simon Harwood after several violent incidents resulting in the death of bystander Ian Tomlinson at the 2009 G20 protests, (part of a wider pattern with only 8 officers being sacked in a decade), the Levenson scandal of rent-a-cop news stories and Hillsboro with hundreds of statements falsified for dozens of deaths – many of them without the policemen knowing and scapegoats of the higher-ups shifting the blame downwards to a junior Officer X.

And, as with the UK’s presidency of the G8 forum next year, with its emphasis on rape in war zones such as the Congo or Sierra Leone or Syria then Kent Police should be best-placed an urgent overhaul of not just childcare (presumably the torture of Kent’s old folks in their care homes or frozen in their own homes continues as normal) but the Kent Police rape unit and procedures.

While Kent Police successes such as investigations into African trafficking or witchcraft-sacrifices with the Osolase case and Islamic honour killings again allows for greater specialisation and future-forward policing – often to take up the slack of other failed public services.

Indeed, so decrepit is Kent governance that the Police could easily fill any arrest quotas with a wander through the council offices. The Parr and Poulson county corruption scandals of the 1970’s seem repeated with wilful denial by the councillor and civil servants presumably in the mistaken belief that the Police can’t or won’t arrest them in Kent.

Take scandals such as Pleasurama in Ramsgate – the largest seafront development in Kent – with the largest-ever donations to the local political parties, mystery blueprints, mystery Cayman Island companies and construction companies who’ve never built so much as a garden shed.

And civil service corruption veers from the simply inept such as paying the other Paul Carter the KCC Leader’s salary for years, payoffs and pension increases for failure, Icelandic and Santander losses and tobacco and gun investments. Or to out-and-out blatant criminality such as the £2M Laser fraud paid into the civil servant’s own bank account – because he asked for it. Or the 0% salary fraud of the Gang of Four and current TDC CEO and repeated TDC and RTC accounts fraud.

All coupled with a strange 1970’s homophobia of councillors wishing each other Aids or the sorts of references to shirtlifting and slags, that went out of fashion in public life around the same time as policemen’s capes and whistles.

Any colour so long as its blacktop?

While the frequent council and construction murky nexus of plasterboard, permits and public land scandals tarmacs every construction project with the same brush - even the Prime Minster’s visit to Party donor JCB’s site in Brazil - hopefully improving the favela slums rather than removing rainforest. That job’s largely done in the Garden of England with 3% of woodland left: the lowest level in Europe compared to say France with 24%, let alone Kent’s twinning partners in Hungary with nearer 80%, or the removal of 90% of Kent’s orchards.

While the mystery fires around Pleasurama spread to Dreamland in Margate, and its unique wooden roller coaster, reducing to ashes and rubble one of Britain’s top ten tourist attractions and facing – as was the Pfizer site at one point – calls for hundreds more overbuild houses and roads in a county with 23,000 homes empty.

And if the Police cop the blame for the failure to act on such scandals, then they’re certainly not alone in the public sector in dragging their heels on FOI some 7 years after it became law. Whether it be weapons stockpiles despite only a half-dozen murders a year in Kent, or the aquifer pollution and missing fines of Infratil at Manston (and presumably at Stansted if successful) allowing banned aircraft such as IranAir or Afghan Air and known gunrunners complete with 1am flights when the airport closes at 11pm.

While the corporate manslaughter of Infratil’s Fitzgerald, Clarke and now Buchanan deliberately removing of noise and air monitors from 2006 – even now, with the Police stood by wringing their hands – presumably stunned by the complicity and silence of MP’s - is a national public health scandal that, along with the Northfleet children and removal of rabies controls, makes Hillsboro seem a walk in the park.

And it’s more luck than expertise that Al Qaida didn’t score a gold at Canary Wharf in the Olympics.

And on a lesser scale, the police seem to have self-policed themselves out of the bulk of minor duties from parking, roadworks, graffiti, foot patrols and noise abatement.

The Police canteen culture seems to be not just chips with every meal but veering into car-crash policing of an insular and hamstrung public service. Take the Coastguard failure to regulate either the SS Richard Montgomery explosive wreck or the ships off Margate’s presumably waiting for another storm like 1953 or 1978 to restage the Torrey Canyon on the Blue Flag beaches before switching on the blues and twos.

Or there’s the prison reform of over-crowded petty criminals locked in their cells stocking up on Charles Bronson books, and Charles Bronson films while waiting for their turn on cop-killer Playstation games 24 hours a day and to improve the appalling reoffending rates.

While joined-up Policing thinking would extend beyond just the basics of a Kent Most Wanted list but to Courts whereby the end of jury trial allows for a closed-shop of non-regulation and lawyer-fraud of fake fees, switching courts, courtroom pretend-law and playing the public courts system for lawyers’ gain.

Public sector criminals

Not sure if the public sector boardrooms contain more criminals than your average prison? Try Southern Water’s repeated – and secret - sewage incidents (for a county with the longest coastline and most Blue Flag beaches and dependency on tourism a scandal) the cholera risk seems optional for their salaries and £300M profits.

Or there’s the Environment Agency scandal of Thor mercury in Margate and other sites – a pollution case so notorious the trial of the South African managers was held in the UK High Court - after the Margate site was banned and closed in 1988. Although it remains open to this day – certainly poisoning more Kent citizens than Crippen.

Or the NHS hospitals scandals as in Maidstone with dozens of patients dying from a lack of basic cleanliness and even prescriptions for water. Or the more subtle concerns over a lack of patient care and spiralling death rates at evenings and weekends.

Surely the new Commissioner elections pose a broader remit for the Police: prison, coastguard, courts and lawyers. While a public sector blacklist replaces silence or parroting of lessons learned and them mere job rotation to continue – at the public’s expense. And public sector pensions, salary fines and jail sentences as misconduct in public office and corporate manslaughter provide for simple and clear policing of the public sector for the benefit of the public.

The first Kent Police election may be a damp squib but may yet set the ground for an improved second election and directly-elected NHS and Education roles where Kent can lead the way with policing by consent rather than cant is worth voting for.

Tim Garbutt is the Managing Director of Sincerity Agency the leading green and ethical advertising agency in East Kent: www.sincerityagency.com and standing for Mayor to “Stop the Pollution, Stop the Corruption, Stop the Construction”: http://lovekentloveramsgate.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

UN Day of days

Does this year’s UN Day marks a time of change for both the UN and Kent.

Today's UN Day (Wednesday 24th October) marks not just 67 years of the UN Charter founding in 1945 – but rather surprisingly a sudden outbreak of peace around the world.

From the 50 year conflicts and dictatorships of the Arab Spring of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, to the Colombian FARC ceasefire to the Aung-San Burmese democracy the world just got quieter and safer.

Plus we have a world more democratic with the last few red-blooded dictatorships of Cuba, Guinea, Cameroon, and Arabian Ayatollahs sliding into the past.

And if conflicts such as Yemen or Syria are fairly recent civil wars then Mexico’s recent convulsions into narco-state collapse are in contrast to the Congo War - home to the largest UN peacekeeping force and millions dead - and proving so problematic that Britain will declare war-rape as a theme of its presidency of the G8 in 2013.

While, the China-Japan disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, the disputes over the Spratlys and Paracel islands between China, Vietnam, Philippines and Brunei, or the Kurile disputes between Russia and Japan highlight how post-1945 conflicts can flare up.

Another curfew of all US troops on Okinawa, tension between North Korea and US, and China-Taiwan-US surely declare that the post-1945 settlement is, surprisingly, closest to unravelling in Asia.

Kent economy falters

A concern all the more important in Kent with the bulk of economic growth forecast for Asia rather than Europe, as the UK’s largest trading partner stagnates. The riot-torn streets of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are not conducive to any sales let alone exports. Even smaller Asian nations such as Thailand are forecast to grow at over 11%, while China and India settle around the 8% growth mark and UK and Europe slip into negative growth again.

Perhaps the greatest requirement from UN Day going forward is a new UN Borders Agency – capitalising on the UN Women’s Agency innovation - to arbitrate on petty disputes such as Diaoyu. Disputes all the more ludicrous, as like the Spratlys, none of the islands are inhabitable and at high tide are barely bigger than a few football pitches.

If the 20th century saw the flames of such 19th century nationalism fanned into imperialism, colonialism and ultimately war and genocide, then the 21st century must surely see a completion of the process of decolonisation. Would anyone bet against the Falklands, Britain’s last colony, being divested to Argentina under UN supervision, and the dozen flecks of British and French dependent islands before they sink into the Caribbean and Pacific?

And even Europe itself would be subject to greater scrutiny, with Gibraltar and Ceuta/Melilla and Western Sahara being resolved between UK, Spain and Morocco.
If the Diaoyu represent a warning of the conflict inherent in such unresolved disputes then the post-Soviet problems of Transdniestra, Kaliningrad and especially Georgia are best solved within the EU ideally.

But the high-water mark of EU capability may have been reached for a decade – the fall of 11 governments within the last 4 years, riots from Athens to Madrid and negative economic growth – so Croatia may have to be the last EU addition in a Japanese-style Lost Decade.

EU expansion with Turkey may be subject to unification with Cyprus and Armenian reform, similarly Serbia with Kosovo, and Ukraine, Belarus and Russia will require greater democracy and economic stability to avoid the threat of the cockpit of Europe shifting south and east to the longer, and porous, borders of Kashmir and Vladivostok.

European democratic change

The next decade will likely see unification in Ireland, Korea and Cyprus, as simultaneously the forces of secession pull away in Scotland and Catalonia and Kosovo and Montenegro. And also a greater need for a Sarajevo Shift eastwards for European unity with Brussels and NATO, as the removal of British and American troops from Germany and Afghanistan already reflects the US Pivot to Australia and South East Asia, away from Japan, Taiwan and Korea, with troop redeployments begun – as already heralded by APEC and now Obama’s visit to Cambodia next month.

And the world’s navies may just recede into minor piracy operations off the coasts of Nigeria, Somalia and Indonesia, or even HMS Kent’s suntan tours, rather than removing wrecks such as the SS Richard Montgomery off Kent – barely a dozen miles from the Royal Engineers bomb disposal squad - or the ocean’s huge plastic patches.

Greater democracy in the 21st century is only likely with the example of the UN now: the UN Millennium Development Goals are still unsupported as government policy by any European government, although widely adopted/adapted as required across Africa and Asia. And votes at 16 – now granted to Scotland, and already Jersey, Brazil and Austria – is likely to be the global suffrage default.

But not yet in Kent.

Nor are there in Kent the tablet PC’s and books, online art galleries and museums available to Thai or Indian schoolchildren, nor the tree-planting programmes in Kent’s 400 schools with just 5 trees per child each year required to provide a tree for every one of Kent’s 1.3M citizens in the Age of Climate Change.

If only fragments of the world’s population such as Brunei, Bhutan and Abu Dhabi are without any vote at all (and Saudi to introduce women’s votes in 2015), then future democracy and equality is more likely in the need for quotas for women’s rights in the economy: a minimum 30% representation in corporate boardrooms.

UN future

The International Day of the Girl equality campaign last week – celebrated at Surin Village School Charity: www.surinschoolcharity.org - also highlighted that the exclusion of young girls is statistically much higher in the 100M children still not in school. And the importance of a right to free university education that the world holds dearly, yet Britain has given away. Along with other previous areas of public excellence in say town planning such as room sizes, parks and slum clearances - that no Mary Portas stunt can hope to reform.

Greater global regulation of tax havens – Kent is certainly not immune from those with Pleasurama and party payoffs in Ramsgate – will release some funds for societal improvements. The wider liability in Kent though is the misuse of existing tax-billions (£2Bn at KCC and perhaps the same again in the rest of the public sector: 42% of c.£10Bn GDP for the Kent economy).

Greater public sector reform is required, witness the civil service rush to agree on tarmac, white elephants and blacktop sprawl through the Garden of England from Dartford to Rochester Riverside to Ashford. Or even after 7 years of law, the public sector refusal to publish FOI staffing levels, salaries, pensions and expenses before elections for you to decide how your money is spent.

And if the UNMDG are a UK oversight of 12 years’ standing then surely the UN elected Parliament is 67 years overdue – all the more so as the EU and UN itself along with various national parliaments agree its need for greater voice of the people.

A UN elected parliament, supervising the UNMDG – including a UNMDG2 if you will – along with OneGov-style electronic direct voting, and merger of the World Bank and IMF to create a global currency/rating based on the SDR is a prerequisite for the 21st century.

The lack of emphasis in UNMDG1 on R2P at 500 deaths or arms exports is surprising (if the slump into an expensive talking shop is to be avoided), given peace is the raison d’ĂȘtre of the UN.

The failure to achieve the UN 0.7% aid target for each nation after some 40 years is similarly weak. As is even basic Ofcom media innovations - such as UN TV and radio channels – or European national free-to-air broadcasters and satellites that cannot access a supposedly common market for entertainment and language training – and something that Kent was moving towards with KentTV.

While European innovations denied to Britain such as 10% interest rate caps in Germany, the beginnings of always-on free internet in Finland and mobile texts or free renewable utilities from construction innovations such as Desertec hint at greater stagnation within global governance.

Third World Kent?

Perhaps Kent’s shame though is that death from infectious disease is something still not unheard of in the Garden of England, with already at the start of Autumn, whooping cough epidemics, legionnaire outbreaks in dirty hospitals, oft-overlooked rabies dangers at Kent’s ports or the usual horrific winter cull of upto 20,000 UK pensioners with a shortage of flu vaccines and heating bills somehow accepted in the 21st century.

A problem all the more astonishing given the collapse of Glaxo and Pfizer in Dartford and Sandwich and loss of thousands of skilled pharma jobs to the Kent economy.

Kent pharma has a ready-made market of billions across Africa and Asia. With 8M deaths each year from nineteenth century diseases such as TB and cholera, or the 3M deaths in Europe from rare diseases (a death-toll of WW2 each and every year), the Kentish Ports somehow sit idle. Yet Kent firms are specialising in collateral exports of water filters and, firms such as MAG, are leading the way in landmine clearance from North Africa to Northern Cambodia.

And Government funding sits in KCC’s bank account, is frittered away into tobacco and guns investments, or invested in criminal businesses such as Infratil - with its faked air monitors, and now Stansted bid with profits greater than KCC’s entire budget - and Cargolux and ACG and IranAir illegal flights, and Total, Thor and Trafigura scarring the landscape.

While endemic civil service corruption and failure such as the 0% salary fraud, Veolia, Environment Agency, Southern Water, KCC Laser fraud, and EKO cement-for-council land-grabs with Roads to Nowhere, empty housing overbuild or the horrors of live animal exports and the childcare failings of hundreds of missing abused – and supposedly protected – children make Kent a charnel house or laughing stock.

A litany of public sector crime that the Police and CPS somehow find difficult to confront with corporate manslaughter charges until, no doubt, after the event with hand-wringing, scapegoating, and whitewashing away with pension increases and payoffs.

Equally a UN Parliament would struggle to reconcile falling turnouts with Party failure and civil service bloat: Canterbury by-elections of 13% and even the Kent Police elections forecast to plummet to 15% against a backdrop of calls for ballot box boycotts, repeated spy drone purchases and weapons procurement without oversight are hardly a democratic innovation or mandate.

Nor are layers of double-hatter councillors or parachute Party candidates roadblocking democracy for pension topups - and not a manifesto published between them, and certainly not months in advance with FOI.

The Garden of England is looking lost under waves of tarmac with 90% of orchards gone and the destruction of hedgerows to SSSI sites such as Pegwell Bay with a resulting collapse of biodiversity such as bees, wasteful Food Miles - and not a single recycling factory for zero landfill and plastic and food waste sorting in the Climate Change Era.

International food speculation is likely to hit Kent’s farmers or the fished-out fisheries harder – unless a Torrey Canyon crash revisits the beaches of Margate and wakes up the Coastguard and destroys the industry completely. The death this week of Senator McGovern the1972 presidential candidate and founder of the UN Food Programme leaves unfinished work with famine requiring greater regulation of key commodity crops such as wheat and rice for market-subsidies.

And while the UK failings of secrecy and pollution are as prevalent as always, then Recession Planning seems a lost art in reducing the frequency and severity of the natural two per decade down-cycles in the economy – neither Plan B nor Plan Z seems available from Westminster. Yet these are the kind of crises that FDR resolved in the 1930’s through planned, and necessary, public works programmes easily tweaked for each decade to ensure the economy is moving and productive through briefer and shorter recessions: generational debt write-offs, tree planting, barracks, hospitals, pylons, 1960’s tower blocks and power stations demolition, asbestos cleanup, flood defences, wifi, solar panels etc.

And such a UN Parliament would be unlikely to fail to provide a Tobin Fund for rapid delivery of the UNMDG (and a Marshall Plan for Africa and India specifically), arms exports and disarmament, or a Tobin Disaster Fund for the world’s floods and hurricanes and earthquakes and 72M refugees each year.

Even the strategic pollution cleanups of the 20th century would be considered - whether it be nuclear power from Dungeness to Chernobyl (or Kent’s Channel reactors and sea-dumping in France) or asbestos in schools after 40 years, the unknown toxins affecting Kent’s Northfleet children, or the rusting Thor mercury factories from Margate to Cato Ridge would be rapidly improved and monitored.

Kent is best-placed to address the three strategic needs of the 21st century: Climate Change, the Third World and Space exploration – or face the slide back into a cold, malarial wetland, or at best, a fading and minor entrepot and dumping ground, an inverse 21st century Macao perhaps, on the Continental fringes of greater overseas powers.

Tim Garbutt is the Managing Director of Sincerity Agency the leading green and ethical advertising agency in East Kent: www.sincerityagency.com and standing for Mayor to “Stop the Pollution, Stop the Corruption, Stop the Construction”: http://timeforchange.blogspot.com