From education to James Bond, our readers from across the county give their weekly take on the biggest issues impacting Kent in their letters to the editor...
Some letters refer to past correspondence which can be found by clicking here.
Turn back tide of bureaucracy
That the NHS now requires new staff to have degrees is not an advance, as not only does it prevent non academic recruits following a vocational route, but it helps to conceal the fact that, as many of those I know who work at the sharp end of healthcare attest, the problem is with the unnecessary layers of managers draining the life out of the system.
The Civil Service expanded over years, thanks to its role as the EU’s enforcer in this country, and a proper implementation of Brexit would immensely cut back bureaucracy, but it is the growth of the HR industry which is one of the most damaging changes to threaten productivity, and prosperity in this country. As one who was the chairman of our office union for over 20 years, I saw how these people undermined previously good relations between management and workers, while imposing ever more absurd policies which did nothing more than obstruct the real work.
Those who may have escaped the tentacles of HR should be aware that parliament is considering the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill, which will render businesses liable for harassment of their employees by members of the public, seeking to extend third-party liability to every type of ‘unwanted conduct’ , including overheard conversations, so, if the bill becomes law, employers will have a duty to protect their workers from overhearing ‘upsetting’ remarks made not only by their colleagues, but by third parties as well.
Organisations will have to enforce every jot and tittle of HR regulations on customers, so that to make a justified complaint to one of their employees could constitute a breach of same. For the sake of the nation the tide of bureaucracy must be turned back.
Education needs a shake-up
Towards the end of my teaching career a major change took place over the structure of schools.
Instead of the more collegiate structure which recognised the professionalism of teachers, a managerial structure was introduced which changed the whole ethos and approach of schools to the detriment of teachers and pupils.
The academisation of schools took this process further and removed the direct link between schools and the communities they serve.
As far as the sector of education now served by the universities is concerned, fundamental changes have taken place.
The transition of Colleges of Advanced Technology into universities changed their nature and they ceased to provide the direct link to industry.
They also lost a great deal of the value they gave to communities.
As part of this process, industry stopped funding the education of their apprentices in the way in which they had in the past.
The cost of this education was transferred first to the general public through taxation and now to individual students through student loans.
The fault in extending university education was not that more young people were being educated at a higher level but in the structure of our educational system.
It is to the good of the whole community, not least to industry and commerce, that we have a highly educated population.
All sectors of education, from pre-school, primary, secondary and post secondary at all levels, are now suffering.
This from the fact that our industrial base is declining; industry and commerce are not paying enough, either directly or through the taxation, for the benefits they receive; and the severing of links between educational institutes and the communities they serve.
What is needed is a detailed enquiry to examine the whole structure of the educational system, concentrating on the priority needs of pupils and students, and the financing of education, especially bearing in mind the advantages this provides to industry and commerce.
It is clearly unjust and counter productive to place the burden of this cost upon individual students.
What we lack in this country is people with imagination and creativity. We cannot just continue in the old way, we need innovation and change.
Ralph A. Tebbutt
ID plan will strip many of vote
I am writing in respect of the new requir-ements for providing photo-graphic ID when attending a polling station to exercise my democratic right to cast my vote.
When voters attend their polling stations here in May, many prospective voters will not know that they need to have such documentation with them. Indeed, many voters do not have such documentation.
I am aware of a number of registered voters who are in such groups. My own daughter and son-in-law are in the latter situation. They do not have passports; they do not have driving licences; they do not even have a library card, bus ticket, or any other form of ID that features a photograph. I strongly suspect they are two of many tens of thousands out there in the same situation.
This is not a fault on their part. No one is required to have such ID if they are not going to use it, it is not compulsory. Yet to exercise their vote, someone on a minimum wage or benefits is expected to spend money they can ill afford on what is, to them, an unnecessary expense purely to vote once or twice a year.
Even such luminaries as the chair of the Local Government Association, the Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Electoral Commission have all criticised the government’s ill-reasoned and rushed implementation of these changes. To many, including myself, this has all the hallmarks of an underhand tactic to disenfranchise voters.
I am glad I am not an election officer being stationed at a polling station in the forthcoming local elections. They will be forced to deal with many annoyed and potentially angry people trying to exercise their right to vote. I do not envy them at all – indeed, I hope (almost certainly in vain) that the government will decide to reverse this requirement.
Short-sighted council savings
It’s that time of year, now that spring is in the air, that coming to your doormat soon will be your annual Council Tax bill, with confirmation of the inevitable 4.99% increase on last year’s charges.
Be prepared for the now predictable explanation for this latest increase: rising inflation rates, pressures on front line services due to Covid and the increasing pressures on social care resources, as we are living longer and consequently will need more support.
Do these factors justify the annual levels of increase of Council Tax at a time when the cost of living for so many is hard to manage?
Partially yes but don’t be misled, there is also a hidden agenda, certainly on behalf of Kent County Council, to recover lost funds resulting from wastage, covering salaries of ineffective employees and over bureaucratic, time-consuming and poor decision making, without taking into account what should be the priority to provide effective and efficient services for the people of Kent.
On the subject of poor decision making, it would be utter lunacy to close children’s centres in Kent. The excellent letter from Richard Styles was both refreshing and honest and referred to Sure Start Children’s Centres being shut down and how this contradicts our national Levelling Up agenda.
As someone who spent four years helping develop these centres across the county, I am very familiar with the importance of these settings and the range of services, advice and information that can be provided for the most vulnerable families.
This need is magnified now, with so many people struggling and in need of support and help, in any way possible.
With innovative working, effective partnerships with the private and charitable sectors and, these centres need to survive and can!
It is to be hoped Kent County Council has the foresight to see this? I, for one, am not confident!
Don’t lose the right to strike
The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty under direct attack from the Conservatives’ draconian strikes bill. The bill would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they could be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply.
The TUC says this is undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal.
The government is wasting precious time and energy on this spiteful bill while millions are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table. And it will do nothing to solve the staffing crisis in our schools and in the NHS but only make matters worse.
Our government should stop attacking the right to strike and give our public sector workers the decent pay rise they are owed.
Scooter danger being ignored
I read with interest the letter about electric scooters, and feel I should relate to you an incident that happened the other day.
I was driving along the road and coming towards me was a police vehicle.
Suddenly an adult male on an electric scooter overtook the police vehicle and swerved back in, just in front of me. There seemed to be no attempt by the police to apprehend a person who was breaking the law (including, I suspect, for speeding).
What example does this give to other lawbreakers?
Drawbacks with self-service tills
There is currently a divided opinion between those who prefer to be served by someone at the supermarket checkout and those who find the self-service tills more convenient.
It would seem sales assistants are diminishing in number to the extent customers will inevitably be denied a choice.
For some elderly people, it may be the only source of communication they have all day when they engage with the assistant at the checkout to pay for their groceries.
Self-service tills save the shopper from having to join a long queue. But they can be thrown by the dreaded announcement: ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. When the machines hit a glitch, then the customer is resorted to waving their hands about to gain a member of staff’s attention. It’s something that can subvert their dignity but they will have to bear it, along with their shopping bags! Yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that stores are switching to technology to save costs and to boost their profit margins.
Spare us these ‘saviour’ censors
I read with interest about the removal of some supposed sexist and racist terms that could be found somewhere in Ian Fleming’s Bond novels.
Was anyone really bothered or even worried about this in the first place? I doubt if this original sin even crossed our minds. And then the loony left came along and saved us all.
What jolly fellows they are rescuing us from 007 and all his not-so-correct pals. This is indeed the Theatre of the Absurd.