Thursday, 29 April 2010

Eight or nine levels of management

I thought this letter deserved a wider audience. I have seen the organisational chart which Senator Ferguson was generous and kind enough to share; it is a truly superb piece of thoroughly professional work by Sarah Ferguson, and I will be researching comparable charts etc for a detailed review of the structure. I suggest that Peter Body and his "levels of management" skeptics ask for a copy.

That a large States department has no organisational chart is amazing - when I was working on a business continuity plan at work, one part of the plan was - quite obviously - an organisational chart, giving posts and responsibilities - and that is for a relatively small organisation. Someone at Heath can't be doing their job properly!

How the States, with large departments like Health, manage without one is, quite frankly, incredible, because any additions to staff will likely be on an ad hoc basis, dependent purely on small clusters, and will very likely involve duplication, because no one has the big picture to hand. Yet the Chief Officers of Health over this period were all charge of managing manage a department in which he was unaware of the detailed structure and work done by its members. Didn't they think it might be useful? Obviously each Chief Officer knew who was beneath him, and each level of the pyramid knew their level, and perhaps a few levels below, but no one could have had the complete picture of how it all fitted together, because they had no chart.

From Senator Sarah Ferguson.

THE letter by John Henwood (JEP, 22 April) regarding the organisational structures of various States departments has been brought to my attention.
I happen to have the only chart for the Hospital and I have sent this - all 17 pages - to Mr Henwood.

When I first joined the Health Committee, under the presidency of the former Senator Syvret, my first question was to ask for a copy of the organisational structure.

The reply was that this is all we have - the top three layers of management - and if you want any more you will have to do it yourself. So I did it.
I have circulated it to various officials, getting a variety of reactions. These varied from the dismissive to 'how nice'. I have some hopes that the Comprehensive Spending Review may actually address the implications of these charts.

There is evidence that there is too much administration - for some departments within the Hospital there are eight or nine levels of management from the front line to the Health Minister. The Comptroller and Auditor General's report last year on the structure at the Hospital said that it was not possible to evaluate the cost of management because these costs were not known. While I understand improvements have been made the cost of management is not yet known. My understanding is that it should be about 6%.

I hope that the Comprehensive Spending Review addresses some of these issues. Meanwhile I have other departments in my sights!

On a different but related matter, I fear that the subtlety of my question on photocopiers - and I didn't mention bottled water - was lost on your reporter (JEP, 17 April).

Any competent organisation can extract information from the computerised ledgers and identify exactly what has been spent on what. The States ledgers were in such an appalling state that it was not possible to undertake more than very approximate analyses.

This was due to the fact that the financial management function was so poor. Considerable work has been undertaken to rationalise the ledgers and the Public Accounts Committee will no doubt be following this up.

This has been a constant theme of the Comptroller and Auditor General and my Public Accounts Committee and has figured in our reports and my speeches.
Similarly, it is important that the accounts of all the organisations supported by the States should be published in the interests of transparency. This was also mentioned during the hearing.

The Mystery Candidate

Can you guess which possible candidate candidate in the Senatorial bi-election:

1) Attended a signing ceremony (and no doubt meal, and overnight stay) for a Protocol Agreement between Jersey and the Department de la Manche in Paris - after he had lost his seat in the Senatorial Elections. One of the "Yes Minister" small "pared to the bone" contingent that went.

2) Went to the Commonwealth Games in Australia and apparently justified the trip on the grounds that it tied in with looking into the feasibility on sending Jersey students to study in Australia and New Zealand because the course fees were cheaper than the UK - but not the £2,000 per annum air travel costs.

3) Spoke up for free parking for the States.

4) Spoke up for longer lunch hours between States sittings

5) Tried to suppress the complete version of the Kathy Bull report being given to the JEP. No doubt "edited" highlights would have been released later.

6) Managed to get extra funding for free places in States nurseries for parents during the summer just before the election. And virtually led to the demise of private nursery care, which couldn't compete any longer, and was providing a service at much less cost to the tax payer.

7) Told me that if fireworks let off at random (in November) were extremely distressing to my autistic son, then I should ring the Constable or the Deputies because he was now a Senator. And there I was thinking that Senators had an Island wide mandate!

And no, I won't be voting for him.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Annie on Autism

By way of a change, a few notes on autism today. I'm posting are some of the journal entries made by Annie Parmeter on my son Martin, who has virtually no speech (he can just about whisper yes or no). The Sally-Anne test that she refers to was a marvellously simple experiment devised by Simon Baron-Cohen; basically it tests the ability of an individual to see what another person is seeing - as it were, to get "inside" of another person's mind, and understand what their perspective is. The test is very simple, and highlights one of the problems that autistic people have:

The experimenter uses two dolls, "Sally" and "Anne". Sally has a basket; Anne has a box. Experimenters show their subjects (usually children) a simple skit, in which Sally puts a marble in her basket and then leaves the scene. While Sally is away and cannot watch, Anne takes the marble out of Sally's basket and puts it into her box. Sally then returns and the children are asked where they think she will look for her marble. Children are said to "pass" the test if they understand that Sally will most likely look inside her basket before realizing that her marble isn't there. Children under the age of four, along with most autistic children (of older ages), will answer "Anne's box," seemingly unaware that Sally does not know her marble has been moved.

Here are Annie's notes, and they are also a good reminder that we don't all see the world the same way, and while we may think we are right in our understanding, those whom we disagree with also believe themselves to be right.

One of the hardest assumptions to shift is that everyone must see the world in the same way that we do and it has a been a fascinating privilege for me to spend time with some people who have Autistic Spectrum Disorders of varying degree.
As Simon Baron-Cohen's simple Sally/Anne test shows it can be extraordinarily difficult for people with ASDs (autistic spectrum disorders) to imagine what another person might be thinking, they tend to assume that the other person will be thinking the same as they are and this can lead to grave problems with socialisation and empathic connection even with people close to them.
This has served to remind me to what degree following our own assumptions can create blocks to understanding others, it has also reminded me not to make assumptions about my autistic friends even those with milder forms of ASDs especially in the realm of emotional responses and for whom anxiety due to change and lack of certainty is a big part of their lives.
One person in particular who is quite severely affected by his autism very seldom speaks and although he sometimes appears to laugh I have very little idea of what he finds amusing, (when he has had a verbal phase albeit fairly minimal he has said that he finds something funny although half the time I might be at pains to see why and does he mean funny in the same way that I do?)
He may laugh by way of discharging light fears or embarrassment or he may just be enjoying the sound of own voice, it would seem entirely inappropriate and indeed irrelevant to make any assumptions about his behaviour at all.
He is a human being and so logically I should assume that communication is something that I may enjoy with him but nearly all of the time I have no way whatsoever of knowing what is going on in his head, this seems to be most disconcerting for his family to be so near but yet so far as it were; but I find I can enjoy sharing other things with him like watching movies, eating sausages and playing a strange (communication?)'game' of squeezing each other's hands and feet.  He has given my existential complacency a good boot up the rear end and I am delighted to know him.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Weasel Words in the JEP Leader

SATURDAY'S march through St Helier, led by protesting teachers, broke new ground in the sense that it was the first event of its sort that the Island has ever seen. With placards, flags, whistles and chants, it was orchestrated to a level unseen in Royal Square demonstrations, the shape that Island protests ordinarily assume. It is doubtful whether middle-of-the-road Jersey has much appetite for marches designed to highlight industrial grievances. Indeed, many will dismiss the weekend's teacher-led protest as merely an attempt to challenge necessary, if regrettable, pay policy - in particular last year's pay freeze.

There will also be concern about the effect of the march on school pupils who witnessed it or will learn about it through the media. Some will claim that the spectacle will have undermined pupils' respect for teachers.(1)

Note the use of the word "some" in the above leader article. It is one of those slippery words which can be used to justify almost anything, from perhaps hundreds of people to a group of disgruntled beer drinkers in the pub bemoaning the state of society today. It is a meaningless and sloppy remark. What studies have been done? Can the writer cite anything which would qualify as scientific evidence - the kind of academic study that looks at samples and considers the effect of marches on pupils? I don't know that anything has been done, but I am pretty confident that the writer of that article has done absolutely no research on the matter.

And what people are these "some people"? Are they the kind of people who might be thought to know something intelligent on the matter? It is no good saying "some people" unless we know something about this population.

Wikipedia has a police on this. Articles written for Wikipedia cannot use "weasel words", which are defined as "phrases that are evasive, ambiguous, or misleading." On the use of the word "some" as in "some people" which is certainly implied in the leader writer, it notes:

"These phrases present the appearance of support for statements but deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint... . They may pad out sentences without conveying any useful information, and they may disguise a non-neutral point of view. Claims about what people say, think, feel, or believe and what has been shown, demonstrated, or proved should be clearly attributed."

With no particular evidence that this is the case, there is "concern" about the effect of the march on school pupils, in particular that it will "undermine" respect. On the contrary, it is equally likely to have the opposite effect. Teachers cannot use the classroom as a political platform to gain sympathy for their ends, and rightly so, but a public event can perhaps open the eyes of the pupil to the teacher's plight in a way that mere stories about failed negotiations or letters to the paper cannot. Pupils may respect the teachers more if they understand the nature of the dispute, and the way in which the pay freeze was simply imposed without consultation or arbitration.

I assume that it is the editor of the Jersey Evening Post, Chris Bright, who has penned this leader comment. There is a practice of leaving the leader unsigned, and this kind of leader, with its unsubstantiated slur on the teachers. G.K. Chesterton commented against this practice. He noted that:

I would do my best to introduce everywhere the practice of signed articles. Those who urge the advantages of anonymity are either people who do not realise the special peril of our time or they are people who are profiting by it.(2)

And he went to note that the disguise of anonymity means that the editor "can use the authority of the paper to
further his own private fads" because it appears as the newspapers point of view, rather than one individual's personal - and certainly in this case - ill-judged remarks. A clear case of "private fads" masquerading as "vox populi"

But this has been a long practice at the JEP, and this kind of bias was noted as far back as 1920, when in an editorial entitled "The demand for higher wages -Time to Face the Facts" regarded this as an impossible and warned its readers that demand, warning that " here in Jersey high wages must mean unemployment," for " we are not a producing community; we live, so to speak, on one another, and if wages get beyond a certain limit our economic system will be completely dislocated and labour will defeat its own ends."

In 1920, in saying " we are not a producing community," the JEP ignored the half-a-million pounds per annum from exported potatoes, while other agricultural exports and the benefits of tourism flowed into the Island as well. Jersey was most definitely a producing community, contrary to the leader writer's opinion on the matter. Nowadays, agriculture and tourism are no longer the main sources of income, and the finance industry is largely that, selling services overseas.

In this respect, Jersey is still a producing community, and education for all, properly financed, should not be let to slide because of a "regrettable pay freeze" which did not seem to apply to the likes of Stephen Izatt, who managed a healthy 7% pay rise.

Where the leader article is probably correct is in assuming that "middle-of-the-road Jersey" has much appetite for this kind of protest. That demographic population is not defined, but if we supposed it to be those who send their children to private schools, it is hardly surprising. As Peter Wilby noted:

"The state schools will never improve as long as the leaders and opinion-formers of our society send their children elsewhere. Why should they support paying higher taxes to educate other people's children when they are already paying fees to educate their own? Why should they take any interest in the teaching methods or quality of teachers? Some means, therefore, must be found of ending the division between private and state and bringing the professional elite into the latter system." (3)

And when cuts lead to no music lessons in our local public schools, these greater lessons will still remain to be learnt.

(2) G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered
(3) Tribalism in British Education, Peter Wilby, New Left Review, 1997

Monday, 26 April 2010

Ordinarily Resident

It is possible to be resident in the UK, but not ordinarily resident here or to be resident but not domiciled here. You can be resident in the UK but not ordinarily resident here. When we talk about someone being 'not ordinarily resident in the UK' we mean that although they are resident in the UK for a particular tax year, they normally live somewhere else. For example, if you are resident in a tax year because you have been in the country for more than 183 days but you normally live outside the UK, it is likely that you are not ordinarily resident. (U.K. Tax Guidance Sheet)

There's a lot of interest about whether former Senator Stuart will be able to stand for election again in the seat that he lost. The law regarding election says that:

Who may stand for election to the States
3. Any person who:
is twenty-one years of age before the date of the election and
is a British subject who has been ordinarily resident in the Island two years prior to the date of the election or has been resident for a period of 6 months prior to the date of the election and has been ordinarily resident in Jersey for an additional period of, or periods that total, at least 5 years.

The key term here is "ordinarily resident". This being a legal term, it does not simply mean where someone is residing. It is more complicated than that.

J. G. Collier is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Law and University Lecturer in Law at Trinity College, Cambridge. In his book "Conflict of Laws", he notes that:

A person's residence is where he lives. It is a question of fact. For the purpose of statutory provisions in which it is found 'ordinary residence' appears to differ from 'residence simpliciter'.

For the purpose of taxing statutes it has been held to mean 'residence' in a place with some degree of continuity and apart from accidental or temporary absence. 

In IRC v. Lysaght  it was held, in a case concerning a person who lived in Ireland but spent about a week in each month in England living in hotels when on business there, that a person can have his ordinary residence in each of two places and so, surprisingly perhaps, that he was ordinarily resident in England as well as in Ireland.

A person can continue to be ordinarily resident in one country though he is actually resident on business elsewhere, especially if he continues to maintain a home in that country. It has been held that a minor who usually lived in England with one parent continued to be ordinarily resident there, though he had been removed abroad by the other parent and had resided with that parent in the other country for some time.

The U.K. Tax authorities apply a pragmatic rule to saying whether someone is "ordinarily resident" in the U.K., for example:

When considering whether a person coming to the United Kingdom is ordinarily resident here, we are trying to decide whether they have come to live here as part of the regular order of their life for the time being. Often it will be obvious. On other occasions, there will be a need to consider all the relevant factors in order to build up an overall picture of the person's position.

Several of the key questions they ask is:

What is the reason the person has come to the United Kingdom? If the person is here for recreational or temporary purposes (such as a holiday), this is likely to be a sign that they are not ordinarily resident;

Does the person intend to leave the United Kingdom (other than for temporary absences of limited duration) in the near future? If so, this may indicate that the person is not here for a settled purpose and is not ordinarily resident;

Equally important - in Stuart Syvret's case - is whether he would be deemed to have ceased to be ordinarily resident in Jersey. Here again, the U.K. can provide useful guidance for the principles involved:

When considering whether a person leaving the United Kingdom has ceased to be ordinarily resident here, the decision is whether they have, for the time being, ceased to live here as part of the regular order of their life. All the relevant factors should be considered in order to build up an overall picture of the person's position.

Will the person be returning to the United Kingdom at the end of the period abroad? If so, this may indicate that ordinary residence continues. If not, this may indicate that the person ceases to be ordinarily resident, particularly if they do not retain a home in the United Kingdom during their absence.

Given there is an element of intent, and Stuart Syvret intends to return, it will be interesting to see how the Jersey Law Officers consider whether he is eligible or not. Of course, just because he is allowed to stand, it doesn't follow that he would be re-elected. Some politicians in the past who have resigned and stood again have discovered that their popular mandate has deserted them - Peter Manton being a notable example. Counts on a blog roll may turn out to be a poor indicator of electoral success.

Conflict of Laws, J. G. Collier, CUP, 2001, p55ff

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Empire of Glass

Angular, glass and concrete shell
A planning application certified
For a high rising, functional hell
The master architect now deified
Compasses, square and triangle
Meet in secret, form alliances
Draw into a matrix and entangle
These are means of conveyances
Iconic formation, world class
Design written more not less
Language games alone alas
So build high for happiness
Postmodernism comes to pass
In the all new Empire of Glass

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Accredited Media - the JEP

Some blogs (or bloggers) seem to have a very jaundiced view of the accredited media (JEP, Channel Television, BBC Radio Jersey), so I thought I'd add a few thoughts of my own. I don't watch Channel, except the odd extract online, so I cannot really comment with any justification on that outlet of news.

Regarding the Jersey Evening Post, I don't think the idea that they are part of some Island conspiracy really works. They have full length interviews across the political divide - for instance, in recent months, we have seen Philip Ozouf, Alan Maclean, Geoff Southern, Simon Crowcroft.

There is, I think, a degree of distortion in how they report the news, but I don't think that is down to conspiracy, so much as the chasing of eye-catching headlines that sell papers. The headlines are often misleading, and sometimes the background reporting makes a mess of what is actually being said, by oversimplifying matters. I've criticised them on this blog (e.g. burglaries, average wage etc) for precisely that, but not for conspiracy theories. And I am not the only one - two senior Ministers from the Council of Ministers (who I won't name), have replied with emails to me on various subjects on much the same tenor.

I would ask you not to accept blindly all that is written in the J.E.P.

Incidentally, the JEP headline writer has again changed the meaning of what I said to the Scrutiny Panel.

Now if Ministers themselves find fault with the JEP on these grounds, and incidentally, were kind enough to reply and set the record straight in emails to me, then it can hardly be argued that it is an "establishment conspiracy"! I'd put it down to sloppiness. The recently appointed Chief Officer of Health was criticised by what was little more than a cut and paste job from U.K. media, with no consideration of how the one sided reporting would affect the general public's perception.

The degree to which reports can be slanted by headline writing, by over simplifying is considerable. This, I think, is why other bloggers may find - for example - the treatment of Graham Power in the JEP to be one-sided. It isn't really - they cover many news stories in the same way, but we tend to focus on those where we have a vested interest, rather than considering overall coverage.

As far as the political feature writers go, Ben Queree certainly seems to be fairly even handed in his handing out of bouquets and barbed wire, with his wry humour; Fly on the Wall is fun, Peter Body often criticises both the Council of Ministers, and those opposing them (from a businessman's perspective), and Helier Clement, from behind his cloak of anonymity, criticises both establishment and opposition from his shed. Only the leader writer seems to always take the Council of Ministers line, but at least this is written in longer paragraphs; in the old days, it was written in short paragraphs of one sentence, which gave the impression that it was something akin to Holy Writ; all that was missing was the verse numbers. And at least the editor's name (who presumably is the leader writer) is given in the JEP.

If I had a criticism of the feature writers, it would be that they write too much from the point of view of omniscience - they are right, and they know it. Some articles highlighting Island problems without immediate solution would provide a more balanced solution. I remember dear Betty Brooke, who as "Hardbencher" was full of comments about what the States were doing wrong, and yet when she got in, somehow the ability to fix things did not appear nearly so easily to her! Some awareness of the degree to which problems are complex, and not easily sorted out with the wave of a columnists magic wand, would be helpful. Of course politicians too, often want to show they have all the answers, or most of them, so that doesn't help either!

I have had at least one politician (from the Council of Ministers) outline some of the States problems to me (in an email) without saying there is an easy solution (he also said " I am trying to be honest with the public about the realities of the situation although this is not a popular message") and I find that honesty refreshing.

With the JEP, some articles have online comments available, some do not, some letters are accepted of abnormal length (but also often with a contradictory comment that letters must be short!).

To sum up, if I may borrow from G.K. Chesterton, insofar as there are faults with the JEP, they are not faults because of wild conspiracies, but chasing sales:

The old editor used dimly to regard himself as an unofficial public servant for the transmitting of public news. If he suppressed anything, he was supposed to have some special reason for doing so; as that the material was actually libellous or literally indecent. But the modern editor regards himself far too much as a kind of original artist, who can select and suppress facts with the arbitrary ease of a poet or a caricaturist. He "makes up" the paper as man "makes up" a fairy tale, he considers his newspaper solely as a work of art, meant to give pleasure, not to give news... The old idea that he is simply a mode of the expression of the public, an "organ" of opinion, seems to have entirely vanished from his mind. To-day the editor is not only the organ, but the man who plays on the organ. (G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered)

And let's also be fair - there are lots of other stories apart from the political ones which find their way into the Jersey Evening Post. Life is not all politics - there are good features on Island history, gardening, Island events, what schools are doing, and heroic endeavours, like the three Jerseymen who cycled to Morocco to raise money for charity, or Jersey Live, the Swimmarathon, or the eco-music event. Sometimes those even take the front page.

The JEP does provide a good service to the public in reporting on those too, or putting in requests for help by charities, event organisers or even ordinary individuals.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The ACPO Scandal and Logical Fallacy

Well, it seems we have an answer regarding the ACPO reports. One of them was after Power's job. No wonder he said all was rosy when anyone with half a brain could see it was a circus. (Anonymous comment, on Montfort Tadier's Blog)

An ad hominem argument has the basic form:
Person 1 makes claim X
There is something objectionable about Person 1
Therefore claim X is false

The first premise is called a 'factual claim' and is the pivot point of much debate. The contention is referred to as an 'inferential claim' and represents the reasoning process. There are two types of inferential claim, explicit and implicit. The fallacy does not represent a valid form of reasoning because even if you accept both co-premises, that does not guarantee the truthfulness of the contention. (Wikipedia)

I remember hearing Senator Ian Le Marquand on "Talkback" talking about the "scandal" to do with ACPO. And certainly if one of the ACPO team was after Lenny Harper's job, then there was a potential conflict of interest, which apparently is the "scandal", although that is a rather emotive word to use.

What is remarkable is how easily it is assumed that this means that all the ACPO reports were thereby tainted, which is a perfect example of what C.S. Lewis called "Bulverism", and which is also an example of the "ad hominem" fallacy. Listening to comments about the ACPO reports, I have been struck by how much weight is given to who compiled them, and the compilation process, and that they might have missed out information (because as Ian Le Marquand noted, they relied on information to be given to them and not concealed).

That may be true, but it doesn't really get us any closer to assessing their reliability unless we have better evidence which shows their weaknesses or corroborates them. And at the moment, all we have is question marks placed against the motivation of the team writing them up, as if this thereby discredits them.

Writing about motivation, Lewis looked at the way in which truth ignored in favour of motivational analyis; he gave as particularly widespread examples (in 1944), Freudianism and Marxism:

Nowadays the Freudian will tell you to go and analyze the hundred: you will find that they all think Elizabeth [I] a great queen because they all have a mother-complex. Their thoughts are psychologically tainted at the source. And the Marxist will tell you to go and examine the economic interests of the hundred; you will find that they all think freedom a good thing because they are all members of the bourgeoisie whose prosperity is increased by a policy of laissez-faire. Their thoughts are "ideologically tainted" at the source.

Now this is obviously great fun; but it has not always been noticed that there is a bill to pay for it. There are two questions that people who say this kind of thing ought to be asked. The first is, are all thoughts thus tainted at the source, or only some? The second is, does the taint invalidate the tainted thought - in the sense of making it untrue - or not?

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it "Bulverism."

Some day I am going the write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father - who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third - "Oh, you say that because you are a man." "At that moment," E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall." That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

Now looking at the ACPO reports, and the information about one of the team wanting to take over Lenny's job, and we can see Bulverism taking hold.

It could be the case that if he wanted the job, he tended to overlook deficiencies in the investigation. But it could equally be the case that he actually wanted to ensure the investigation was conducted as properly as possible, so that if he was presenting the final results, he would be assured that they were on a firm foundation.

As an analogy, consider an accountant's office. A is checking over B's accounts preparation work, and hoping that - perhaps as a result of this - he may have the opportunity to take over B's workload when B retires (as he has planned to do). Would A skimp over the checking, or would he or she be more likely to check thoroughly because otherwise A may have a mess to sort out later? From my experience, I'd say the latter was far more likely, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility of skimping.

This means that this new information doesn't really get us anywhere. For of course saying that the results of ACPO are tainted - because the officer in charge wanted a job - doesn't tell us one inch nearer to decide whether, as a matter of fact, the ACPO reports were true or false, were accurate or deficient. Those questions remain to be discussed on quite different grounds - a matter of assessment, and evidence.

The farce that passed for a press conference in 2008 certainly was not a sober critique of the ACPO reports. Perhaps the Wiltshire report will shed some light on the matter. But however the accuracy or otherwise of ACPO is to be decided, the improper motives of some people, both for believing it and for disbelieving it, would remain just as they are. That a member of the ACPO team wanted Lenny's job complicates matters; it does not discredit the ACPO reports, unless logic is chucked out of the window. But logic seems to be in short supply nowadays.


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Volcanic Ash: Assessing Risk

How does one assess the degree of risk involved in flying when there is Volcanic ash?

That there is damage possible to jets is proven by the images released by the Finnish air force which show the effects of volcanic dust ingestion from inside the engines of a Boeing F-18Hornet fighter:

"Five of the air force's Hornets were involved in a training exercise on the morning of 15 April, just hours before the imposition of airspace restrictions due to the ash cloud spreading from a major volcanic eruption in Iceland. One aircraft's engines have been inspected so far using a boroscope, with melted ash clearly visible on its inside surface. The air force decided to release the images to show the potentially damaging effects of current flight activities, says chief information officer Joni Malkamýÿki. "The images show that short-term flying can cause substantial damage to an aircraft engine," the air force says. Continued operation could lead to overheating and potentially pose a threat to the aircraft and its pilot, it adds."(1)

Now this was released on the 15th April, so there was clearly sufficient ash up in the jetstream to cause appreciable damage at that point, and according to reports it was already over Northen Finland (2). Yet this seems further afield than had currently been reported by the weather maps which give a visual distribution of the ash cloud's dispersal.

Part of the problem is that the area of dispersal is derived from a mathematical model. As the Daily Telegraph reports:

"The decision was based on a computer model operated by the Meteorological Office's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, which suggested there was a cloud of ash covering northern Europe. This prompted a warning from the Met Office, which triggered the wider European ban, via Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based air traffic control centre. However, the model is no more than that - a mathematical model. There was no empirical evidence to back up its findings. Yesterday, the European Commission suggested that the American method of dealing with such episodes, whereby airlines decide whether to fly based on facts and supported by risk assessment, might offer a better approach."(3)

So let's turn the clock back a little to 1989, and see one of the incidents that made the current worst-case scenario so great:

"Despite a new warning system designed to prevent such encounters, several planes last week made potentially disastrous trips through ash from an erupting Alaskan volcano. The incidents leave many wondering what went wrong.I n the most serious event, a Boeing 747 operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines lost power in all four engines on Dec. 15 when it flew through an ash cloud at 37,000 feet about 75 miles northwest of Anchorage. The plane plunged more than 13,000 feet before pilots restarted its engines, says Ivy Moore of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Anchorage."(4)

Notice - as with the other notable case in Indonesia, that the plane suffering the power loss was extremely close to the volcano. Iceland is over 1,000 miles from Britain, and the models being used to track the spread go back to 1995. Yet it should be noted that eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 caused damage but not engine failure to 16 aircraft, some of which were around 650 miles away. The safety margin may be larger than we might expect.

The mathematic model seems to have been developed around 1995 by M. Roth an others, in a paper entitled "Visualization of volcanic ash clouds":

"Ash clouds from a volcanic eruption-invisible to radar and nearly indistinguishable from weather clouds-pose a serious hazard to aviation safety. This article describes a system developed by the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center for predicting and visualizing the movement of ash clouds. Using meteorological and geophysical data from volcanic eruptions, a supercomputer model provides predictions of ash cloud movements for up to 72 hours. The AVS (Ash-cloud Visualization System) controls the execution of the ash cloud model and displays the model output in 3D form, showing the location of the ash cloud over a digital terrain model"(5)

Notice that this model is good for up to 72 hours, while the Iceland eruption has been causing a model to be used in considerably excess of that period. I cannot find any details of any extensive work in journals on improving the model, which is only as good as the sampling it can make. Over a small area, this is likely to be fairly accurate, but as the dispersal of the ash cloud increases, and some falls to ground, it is not clear exactly how many points of reference are available.

The scope of the ash cloud may be accurate, but elsewhere in the world, a different judgement is being taken on its concentration:

"Environment Canada expected no domestic problems from the cloud, which has shut European airports. 'The ash cloud is very diffuse, moving slowly and should not affect Canadian airports,' said spokesman Laura Cummings."(6)

How well the forecasting agrees with a actual data is also unclear, but the European Commissioner of Transport, Mr. Reute, shows how problematic the situation is, and how the tests currently taking place do not show the level of risk given by the model:

""In a case where, we do not have the data it is a tremendous and terrible responsibility for the authorities to say, 'oh well go on up'. That is why test flights are so important to have some kind of empirical evidence to help us move on from the mathematical model," he said. Mr. Reute also said that so far there have been 40 test flights that have been operated across Europe and none of them had found evidence of volacanic ash in their engines, windows or lubrication systems."(7)

A mathematical model for weather patterns, or in this case, ash dispersal, can be seen as roughly as a grid, like that used in graph paper, except this is 3-dimensional. The greater the number of points of data on the grid, the more accurate the forecast will be. Of course, weather data on winds and cloud cover is not only taken by weather measurements on the ground, but weather balloons and weather satellites. After the ash reaches a critical dispersal, it no longer shows on radar, and only special planes can test it. This reduces the amount of data being fed into the model considerably, and hence its accuracy.

To change the analogy, it is like measuring the depth of the ocean beneath a boat by sonar, or by sight and dropping plumb lines. Hazardous rocks in a random pattern are more dangerous, because they cannot be measured properly. If one was sailing in thick fog, the boat would have to drop anchor or move extremely slowly. Boats can do that; planes, of course, cannot.

The solution is better measuring techniques. The Swiss have unveiled their use of a much more sophisticated system:

"Laser weather technology, originally devised for 3D humidity maps, is the ideal solution for monitoring the volcanic ash cloud, says a top MeteoSwiss official. Bertrand Calpini and his team at the MeteoSwiss Aerological Station in Payerne have been using the innovative Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) weather measurement system to map the ash cloud over Switzerland. The Federal Civil Aviation Office said on Monday morning that the cloud, which arose following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland on April 14, remained over the country and another ash cloud was expected soon. Large parts of Europe enforced no-fly rulings for a fifth day on Monday because of the cloud, causing the worst air travel chaos since the September 11 attacks. The high-tech instrument, launched in 2008, provides continuous data on the vertical distribution of humidity in the atmosphere up to an altitude of 10km. It can also detect fine particles, including pollen, and can build up 3D temperature."

Calpini says this system provides better intelligence on the ash cloud: "We have been able to do excellent monitoring of the spatial extension of the cloud using satellite images, and in particular computer modelling by Britain's Met Office. We have a very good 2D view of the situation in Europe. But for knowing where the higher concentrations are, whether above the central Swiss Plateau region or over Munich, Lidar is THE ideal tool."

The irony is that the technology has been around for 10 years, and yet no one has thought to make a serious investment in it. The Swiss, however, are able to accurately gaige what is going on. As Calpini notes:

It arrived over Switzerland on Friday at midnight at 6,500 metres. On Saturday morning it then descended to 3,500m and tripled in intensity into a thinner layer of less than 500m. On Saturday afternoon it descended to 3,000m and increased in intensity. Then overnight the cloud diluted, descended to 2,500m and entered the so-called "mixed layer" - the air we breathe at ground level. The last interpreted observation at Sunday lunchtime shows a strong easing and dilution effect with traces around 3,500m.

This is the kind of detailed picture that is not available from the UK Met Office. The report also notes that the ground level on Switzerland has less impact than pollen. There are Lidar points across Europe, but they are very spread out, and as with the other systems of measuring, it is giving only so much data:

"Albert Ansmann of the Leipnitz Institute for Tropospheric Research in Leipzig said it was a "baseless impertinence" to claim that "measurement isn't taking place in Europe. From the Netherlands to Romania, we know where and how thick the ash cloud is." With a Europe-wide network of laser instruments set up at the start of the decade, "we have been measuring like crazy since Thursday," Ansmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We measured the cloud for the first time on Sunday night," said Volker Wulfmeyer, an atmospheric physicist at Germany's University of Hohenheim. "We see a structure at an altitude of eight kilometres, otherwise everything looks very clean." Hohenheim's measuring devices are located near the Stuttgart Airport."(9)

The other scientific advance noted in 1998 was a system being developed to operate on aircraft. Again, this uses laser technology rather than radar:

"Researchers have developed a laser system that shoots a beam of infrared light into the craft's flight path. Tiny dust particles, volcanic ash, and other natural aerosols, many less than a micrometer in diameter, reflect the laser light back to its source. If these particles happen to be entrained by turbulence, their swirling motion changes the frequency of the reflected light. Scientists tested a laser device in the mountain ridges of Colorado in late March and early April. During 15 hours of flying, light and moderate turbulence were detected 3 to 4 miles ahead of a research aircraft. "The system measured the turbulence, and then we felt the buffeting motion as we flew into it," says Bogue [Rodney Bogue of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center]. He adds that tests of the system on commercial aircraft may begin within 3 years. Developed by Coherent Technologies of Lafayette, Colo., in conjunction with NASA, the laser system may provide adequate warnings on passenger craft in 5 to 7 years."(10)

Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been developed further for Commercial Aircraft, and it appears as a kind of "Tomorrow's World" technology. The television programme showcased all kinds of technological advances, but many of them never actually got off the ground. Either the technology was less accurate than the tests had shown, or the commercial impetus was simply not there, because we are now ten years after the date proposed for "providing adequate warnings on passenger systems".

The special planes which are being used by Meteorlogical agencies to detect ash may use them. It certainly is referenced in the 2000 paper "Airborne Coherent Lidar for Advanced In-Flight Measurements (ACLAIM) Flight Testing of the Lidar Sensor" and in the 2005 paper "Optical Air Flow Measurements for Flight Tests and Flight Testing Optical Air Flow Meters"(11)

I suspect commercial pressures dictated the matter - to introduce an expensive piece of equipment, when shareholders were the final arbiter of profits, was a major consideration. Whether governments or airlines will now consider this to be essential to develop on at least some airplanes in each fleet remains to be seen. For now, it seems very shortsighted.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Remembering Malacandra

Pale blue sky, chill and clear
I breath deep of cool fresh air
Gaze up at rose coloured cloud
An alien world of life endowed
A lake of broken water, swirling
Upon strange creatures soaring
Upon the purple mountainsides
Where mottled pale sun abides
Rimmed with petrified trees
High above where air leaves
And cold starlight shines down
Covering heights with icy gown
The land of the Hross, the Sorn,
So far from where I was born
A place of eldila, moving light
Intelligence fast, scarce in sight
I will remember, I will return
Of Malacandra, I shall yearn.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Democratic Dictatorships and Speaking Truth to Power

Western parliamentary-style democracy is only one of several options that different societies find appropriate. 'Democracy' means something different in the UK from what it means in America and the different European countries. We whose histories include rotten boroughs and beer-for-votes rallies should not be surprised at how difficult it is to stage one-person-one-vote elections in many parts of the world today. Fewer people voted in the last UK election than in the 'Big Brother' TV series. We are not in a wonderful position from which to offer the rest of the world a permanent political solution. (N.T. Wright)

"To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true." Bayard Rustin

In last week's "Doctor Who", entitled "The Beast Beneath", we were given a very sharp satire of voting. The inhabitants of Star Ship UK were given a complete understanding of what made the Star Ship run every five years, and then they could register a protest against that, or select the choice to have their memory wiped for another five years.

Voting is good, because it does allow the electorate to change government without bloodshed. But it has come to be seen as a universal panacea. And it most decidedly is not. Here are a few of the problems with voting:

In African countries, where tribal loyalties determine voting allegiance, we have seen a dominant tribal majority impose its rule upon minority tribal groups. This was seen as long ago as the 1970s by Christopher Booker, who commented that:

Despite all the lessons of the past twenty years, we still see Dr Owen cavorting about under the impression that `one man, one vote' means something other than just the fact that, sooner or later, there will only be one man left in the country whose vote carries any weight - the tyrant. When Dr Owen uses that phrase `majority rule', meaning a `black majority', he is still of course thinking of `majority' as it is defined in the liberal-democratic phase of the Platonic cycle - a preponderance of free, autonomous citizens. In practice, however, in Africa just as in many other parts of the world, it all too often comes to mean simply that tyranny of the `People', the demos, over the mass of actual people - a deadly abstraction which may be used to cloak and to sanctify every kind of atrocity and `civil wrong' practised by a part against the whole (and in many parts of Africa this has been given a new twist, as the members of one tribe have, in the name of the `whole', been able to tyrannize over the rest, through their control of the party or state apparatus). (1)

In Iraq, the grouping is along the religious divide, with the majority Sunni taking control of the country. The danger is that a group in power, voted in a democratic election, will privilege its own members to the detriment of the minority groups.

This has been observed for some time. Alexis de Tocqueville first coined the phrase "tyranny of the majority" in the 1835 "Democracy in America", and it was taken up strongly by John Stuart Mill. Mill wrote that "there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own".

But this can also occur with subtler divides. The more prosperous members of society can also act as a group, without deliberate intent, simply by voting for those politicians who largely support their own self-interest; in this way, the owning class, and the middle classes can effectively exclude the working class and poorer members of society.

A sure sign that there are problems with voting patterns within the electorate is low turnout. One of the main reasons for a low turnout is a disillusionment with those being elected. People don't turn out to vote because they don't think it will make any difference. They believe that whoever gets in will simply ignore their own wishes, and go their own way. And they usually have some grounds for that.

Some politicians -for example Deputy Anne Dupre of St Clement - came out with a manifesto in which exemptions were needed for GST, and within about a month or so of being elected had a Damascus road conversion and instantly voted against exemptions. Other politicians (such as Alan Maclean) so fudged the issue that no one knew precisely how they might vote, because they had said they would have voted for exemptions provided that other financial matters were resolved to their satisfaction. There were some, like Ian Le Marquand, who gave a clear commitment to exceptions, and voted for exemptions, but not every politician was as honest or straightforward. Now I'm not saying that voting for exemptions was good or bad, simply that politicians made a promise to the electorate, and then promptly changed their mind.

This makes something of a nonsense of the idea that voting is the whole story. Bishop Tom Wright, who is a also historian of the ancient word, makes this comment:

The greatest democracies of the ancient world, those of Greece and Rome, had well-developed procedures for assessing their rulers once their term of office was over if not before, and if necessary for putting them on trial. Simply not being reelected (the main threat to politicians in today's democracies) was nowhere near good enough. When Kofi Annan retired as general secretary of the United Nations, one of the key points he made was that we urgently need to develop ways of holding governments to account. In our idolization of modern secular democracy we have imagined that, provided our leaders attain power by a popular vote, that's all that matters, and that the only possible critique is to vote them out again next time round. The early Christians, and their Jewish contemporaries, weren't particularly concerned with how people in power came to be in power; they were extremely concerned with speaking the truth to power, with calling the principalities and powers to account and reminding them that they hold power as a trust from the God who made the world and before whom they must stand to explain themselves. (2)

Last Sunday's episode of "Foyle's War" showed something of that. An elected government had decided - secretly - to repatriate any White Russians captured (and their dependents) to Russia, following Stalin's demands. This was dramatised exceedingly well:

Many of the Russian prisoners were transported to Britain and were held in training camps originally used for British troops. Of politics, most of these men knew nothing. All their lives they had been harried hither and thither in the name of confused ideologies by commanders whose languages more often than not they could not understand... Common to all of them was an absolute dread of returning to the Soviet Union. They were certain that they would be killed or, at the very least, sentenced to the unspeakable horrors of the labor camps. (3)

But at a Cabinet Meeting, Anthony Eden was able to convince Churchill that all Russian POWs must be repatriated, forcibly if necessary. Foyle takes up the case of a missing Russian, and a Russian who had committed suicide rather than be captured again by the British Army - again something that was happening frequently. The reason for the spate of suicides was that news had reached Britain of the first soldiers to be "repatriated", and how they were massacred. Foyle cannot halt the process of events completely, but he can speak out and secure safety for the missing Russian, because he can holds the official perpetrating this particular part of the official policy to account.

It is this holding governments to account, and speaking out, that is just as important as voting. As with the case of the Russian prisoners, a government in power assumes a mandate to decide what to do, and may forge ahead regardless. Sometimes, as in the case of the Russians, or in the case locally of "in camera" secret States debates, or the Privileges and Procedures Committee meeting to discipline States members in secret sessions, there is a blindness to the need to be accountable. It is assumed that voting provides all the accountability that is needed.

But in 1954, the Quaker community in the United States published a pamphlet entitled ""Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence.". The title, and much of the text is thought to be the work of Bayard Rustin.

This is not just about challenging the status quo, but it is about calling to account, when needed, how a government is behaving, and wherever there is seen to be injustice, persecution, or tyranny. Here a a few extracts from this paper

There is a politics of time, but there is also a politics of eternity that man would ignore, but cannot. He plays with the politics of time, sees it, manipulates it, imagines it is of himself alone; but both the politics of time and of eternity are of God. Only the eye of faith perceives the relationship, for it alone glimpses the dimension of eternity. Man sees but dimly, yet enough to know the overarching Power that moves in the affairs of men. Because we are first men of faith, and only secondarily political analysts, we would speak now, finally, of the politics of eternity which has undergirded the whole.

This is not "reasonable": the politics of eternity is not ruled by reason alone, but by reason ennobled by right. Indeed "faith is reason grown courageous." Reason alone may dictate destroying an enemy who would destroy liberty, but conscience balks, and conscience must be heeded, for nothing in our reading of history, or in our experience of religion, persuades us that at this point conscience is wrong.

To risk all may be to gain all. We do not fear death, but we want to live and we want our children to live and fulfill their lives. Men have ventured all and cheerfully risked death and starvation for many causes. There can hardly be a greater cause than the release of man from the terror and hate that now enslave him. Each man has the source of freedom within himself. He can say "No" whenever he sees himself compromised. We call on all men to say "No" to the war machine and to immoral claims of power wherever they exist and whatever the consequences may be. We call on all men to say "Yes" to courageous non-violence, which alone can overcome injustice, persecution, and tyranny.

(1) Christopher Booker, The Seventies
(2) N.T. Wright, God and Caesar

Thursday, 15 April 2010

What happens when an irresistible force meets an impenetrable Body?

Sir Humphrey: "Well briefly, Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary, I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are 10 Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing 2 Parliamentary Under Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary."
Jim Hacker: "Do they all type?"
Sir Humphrey: None of us can type Minister, Mrs McKay types, she's the secretary.

In his column entitled "Simple questions tend to produce simplistic answers", Peter Body, writing in tonight's JEP attempts to make John Henwood look rather foolish.

In Monday's JEP we had one of the most respected of their number relate in detail his sad tale of trying to find out where, in his words, 'the money, our money, goes'. He was, of course, referring to the growth in States spending and specifically the increase in the number of administrators and non-front-line staff. This is a hoary old chestnut. Business leaders have stopped criticising spending money on essential employees, such as nurses, policemen and doctors, because the argument was simply untenable. So they had to switch emphasis to 'non-essential' staff, otherwise known as administrators or pen pushers, as the cause of untold waste of taxpayers' money.

He points out that with regard to teachers:

It's obviously perfectly possible to find out how many teachers there are - the writer didn't need to invoke the Code of Practice on Access to States Information because the figures are published regularly. So it's also easy to find out how many non-teachers are employed by Education simply by deducting the number of teachers from the department's total headcount.

Peter Body chides John Henwood for not realising that departments need other employees apart from front-line staff, and for being rather silly.

Doesn't he not know that there are laboratories that have to be manned, patients that have to be fed, patients that also have to be moved from their ward to an operating theatre or even another hospital, the staff have to be managed and paid.

But it is perfectly plain that was not the sense of John Henwood's critique, and it certainly was not the basis for mine. I began with a quotation from "Yes Minister":

Sir Humphrey: In fact, there are only 342 administrative staff at the hospital. The other 170 are porters, cleaners, laundry workers, cooks, etc.
Jim Hacker: And medical staff?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, none of them.

There is a clear distinction in the writers of "Yes Minister", as seen in that extract, between support staff and administrators. It was written by people who had an "insiders point of view". It is a clear satire on reality, but it would not be funny if it did not have a basis in truth, and it makes a clear, and very funny comment, noting a difference between administrative staff and support staff. Peter Body must be about the only person who is unable to see this, or make this distinction - or, presumably, laugh at the joke. I can imagine him watching "Yes Minister", growing steadily redder in the face, with steam hissing out of his ears, as he groans about the simplistic scripts unfolding before his eyes.

I wish they'd replace the picture of him in the JEP with one of him smiling, but perhaps there is not that much for a businessman of his calibre to smile about, especially when he so busy setting up "straw men" to attack.

If he really wants to know how administration expands, either viewing "Yes Minister", or reading "Parkinson's Law" by by C. Northcote Parkinson would be a good starting place. Here is a scenario taken from "Parkinson's Law". It is a simplification, but it makes the point, which in the book, is also backed by a good many statistics. But perhaps it would be too much for some businessmen to read.

The Law of Multiplication of Subordinates

To comprehend Factor I, we must picture a civil servant called A who finds himself overworked. Whether this overwork is real or imaginary is immaterial; but we should observe, in passing, that A's sensation (or illusion) might easily result from his own decreasing energy-a normal symptom of middle-age. For this real or imagined overwork there are, broadly speaking, three possible remedies

(1) He may resign.

(2) He may ask to halve the work with a colleague called B.

(3) He may demand the assistance of two subordinates, to be called C and D.

There is probably no instance in civil service history of A choosing any but the third alternative. By resignation he would lose his pension rights. By having B appointed, on his own level in the hierarchy, he would merely bring in a rival for promotion to W's vacancy when W (at long last) retires. So A would rather have C and D, junior men, below him. They will add to his consequence; and, by dividing the work into two categories, as between C and D, he will have the merit of being the only man who comprehends them both.

It is essential to realise, at this point, that C and D are, as it were, inseparable. To appoint C alone would have been impossible. Why? Because C, if by himself, would divide the work with A and so assume almost the equal status which has been refused in the first instance to B; a status the more emphasised if C is A's only possible successor. Subordinates must thus number two or more, each being kept in order by fear of the other's promotion. When C complains in turn of being overworked (as he certainly will) A will, with the concurrence of C, advise the appointment of two assistants to help C. But he can then avert internal friction only by advising the appointment of two more assistants to help D, whose position is much the same. With this recruitment of E, F, G and H, the promotion of A is now practically certain.

The Law of Multiplication of Work

Seven officials are now doing what one did before. This is where Factor II comes into operation. For these seven make so much work for each other that all are fully occupied and A is actually working harder than ever. An incoming document may well come before each of them in turn. Official E decides that it falls within the province of F, who places a draft reply before C, who amends it drastically before consulting D, who asks G to deal with it. But G goes on leave at this point, handing the file over to H, who drafts a minute, which is signed by D and returned to C, who revises his draft accordingly and lays the new version before A.

What does A do? He would have every excuse for signing the thing unread, for he has many other matters on his mind. Knowing now that he is to succeed W next year, he has to decide whether C or D should succeed to his own office. He had to agree to G going on leave, although not yet strictly entitled to it. He is worried whether H should not have gone instead, for reasons of health. He has looked pale recently-partly but not solely because of his domestic troubles. Then there is the business of F's special increment of salary for the period of the conference, and E's application for transfer to the Ministry of Pensions. A has heard that D is in love with a married typist and that G and F are no longer on speaking terms-no one seems to know why. So A might be tempted to sign C's draft and have done with it.

But A is a conscientious man. Beset as he is with problems created by his colleagues for themselves and for him-created by the mere fact of these officials' existence-he is not the man to shirk his duty. He reads through the draft with care, deletes the fussy paragraphs added by C and H and restores the thing back to the form preferred in the first instance by the able (if quarrelsome) F. He corrects the English-none of these young men can write grammatically-and finally produces the same reply he would have written if officials C to H had never been born. Far more people have taken far longer to produce the same result. No one has been idle. All have done their best. And it is late in the evening before A finally quits his office and begins the return journey to Ealing. The last of the office lights are being turned off in the gathering dusk which marks the end of another day's administrative toil. Among the last to leave, A reflects, with bowed shoulders and a wry smile, that late hours, like grey hairs, are among the penalties of success.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Henwood Manifesto

Sir Humphrey: In fact, there are only 342 administrative staff at the hospital. The other 170 are porters, cleaners, laundry workers, cooks, etc.
Jim Hacker: And medical staff?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, none of them.
Jim Hacker:  None?
Sir Humphrey: No!
Jim Hacker: We are talking about St Edward's Hospital?
Sir Humphrey: Yes. It's brand-new and fully-staffed.
Sir Humphrey: Unfortunately, there were cutbacks, so there was no money for medical services.
Jim Hacker: A hospital with over 500 non-medical staff and no patients?
Sir Humphrey:  There's one patient.
Jim Hacker:  One?
Sir Humphrey: The deputy administrator fell over scaffolding and broke his leg.

John Henwood, writing a comment piece in the Jersey Evening Post, made some extremely good points about how little we know about administration. I don't always see eye to eye with John Henwood - for instance over the way forward in electoral reform - but on this occasion, I think he was absolutely correct.

I remember a survey a few years ago which concluded both that salaries were compatible with elsewhere, and also that there was no fat on the bone - the administration was very lean and efficient. Quite how that could be the case when no one seems able to answer what on the face of it is a very simple question, I do not know. He was simply trying to ascertain the ratio between administrative staff and front-line staff.

All States departments do need administrative staff, but looking at how the ratio has altered tells us a lot about how they are functioning, especially if the burden of the increase in employees is on administration, rather than front line staff, and that is also swallowing up the budget. A typist costs a lot less than a senior manager, and while we need typists, we may not need so many senior managers.

Actually, the wage situation often seems absurd - the trained staff with expert knowledge - teachers, nurses - are often paid substantially less than people who manage the department. The popular excuse is that unless senior managers are offered a competitive deal, they will go elsewhere, such as the private sector, although it is rare to see any senior manager to leave their cosy insulated job for life to the cold of the private sector (and forego their gold-plated final salary pension). But this never quite seems to apply when - as at present - we face a shortage of nursing staff.

Actually, anyone who has read the book Parkinson's Law knows what to do - if you get a lot of applicants, something  (qualifications or salary, probably the latter) is too high, and it is easy to reduce the salary and still get applicants - "the aim should be so to balance the inducement in salary against the possible risks involved that only a single applicant will appear."(1). The problem is in the grading, and differentials, and these seem cast in stone. Perhaps these should be reviewed.

It may be the case that - as reviews have said - these staff are needed, but unless the figures are in the public domain, and we can see how the ratios alter, we won't have any data. The "Yes Minister" extract is a satire - things are not that bad, but until we get ratios, we won't know if matters are top heavy or not.

What is of equal concern is the inability of Ministers to provide a simple answer to what is, after all, not that difficult a question. The obvious fudge can be seen in their replies - it is true that all kinds of people undertake some administrative duties, but that does not mean they are administrators. A teacher may do so, but they also teach, whereas a desk-bound manager certainly does not. That should be glaringly obvious, but to learn that "no fewer than 245 Health department employees have some managerial responsibility" is just sheer obfuscation. The slippery nature of the reply is exposed with the word "some".

Until we have some decent figures to work from, it is simply not clear how any proposed cutbacks will be made or can be made. It may well be that all the administration staff are needed, but at the moment, just listing the numbers with "some managerial responsibility" is analogous to the banks, when they bundled up all kinds of assets including toxic ones and sold these as packages. Are there similar employee assets, i.e., managerial staff who really are not needed, and who are "bundled up" with front-line staff so that they become hidden? Why has "joined up government", and the conflation of older departments under one Minister not led to administrative benefits of scale (as certainly happens in the private sector)?

Jim Hacker: Will you answer a direct question?
Sir Humphrey: I strongly advise you not to ask one.
Sir Humphrey: Jim Hacker: Why?
It might provoke a direct answer.
Jim Hacker: It never has yet.

John Henwood, rather like Jim Hacker, is still looking for a direct answer. Here then is his comment which is well worth reading in its entirety.

The views set out below have been simmering for a long time and came to the boil last week when I learned that, while our principal economic activity has seen a reduction of 400 posts in the last year, the public sector has actually grown by 40 new jobs. One has read and heard the Treasury Minister getting tough and demanding significant cuts in public expenditure; one has also heard his Council of Ministers colleagues agreeing in principle, but defiantly stating that cuts must come from elsewhere, not from their own department's budgets. At the forefront of the budget protectors' are the Ministers of Health, Education and Home Affairs, three of the top five spenders.

This public sector growth against the background. of universal restraint in the private sector crystallised for me a year of fruitlessly trying to establish some simple truths about where the money, our money, goes.

Following some public utterances. by the Education, Sport and Culture Minister, I wrote to him in February 2009 asking this question: how many children are there in education in Jersey, how many teachers and. how many non-teacher employees in the department compared with a previous time? What I was trying to uncover was whether there is any truth in the often-repeated allegation that administrative posts in the Education department had been allowed to grow disproportionately to the number of children in school and the number of teaching posts. It seemed pretty straightforward to me.

At first there was an attempt to fob me off with a combination of data that I had not requested and flannel in the form of selectively quoting from a report suggesting insufficient departmental resources. In short, it was too
difficult to answer my question.

I tried again, pressing a bit harder. This time it took over a month for the minister to reply, even more defensively. He did explain that the department employs 876 teachers and lecturers and 705 other staff, but still he did not provide an answer to my question. Getting fed up with, as I saw it, being given the run-around, I" wrote yet again, this time making it abundantly clear that my question was posed under the so-called Freedom of Information Code, the very purpose of which is to establish a minimum standard of openness and accountability by the States of Jersey; it requires States Members and departments to answer reasonable questions.

There followed a very long silence. Meanwhile, the Health and Social Services Minister had also made a public statement, which needed further investigation. So, in March 2009, I wrote posing another very simple question: what is the ratio between clinical and non-clinical staff now compared with a time in the past? I made it clear this question was again inspired by the popularly held view that the ever-increasing Health department budget had disproportionately been funnelled into an ever-growing bureaucracy.

The initial reply was remarkably similar to that from the Education Minister, some meaningless data and the suggestion that a soon-to-be-published report would reveal a degree of inter-resourced management. There was no attempt to deal with my question.

I wrote again, expressing my disappointment with the minister's evasiveness and invoking the Freedom of Information Code in the hope this would flush out an answer. No such luck.

Over the next ten months, through a change of minister, there was a game of ping-pong, largely conducted by email. At one stage I was given even a firm undertaking, by the chief executive no less, that, the required information would be provided. Of course, it was not.

Eventually, through sheer persistence, my efforts resulted in meetings. The first, around a year after I first wrote to his minister, was with the Director of Education. He was exceptionally generous with his time and very
courteous. For over an hour he explained the structure of Education; Sport and Culture, how it had changed and how challenging the environment had become. Some of it I was already ware of, but it is always interesting to listen and learn new facts, What I did not learn was an answer to my original question about the growth of administration within the department compared with teaching posts and school rolls. The nearest I got was was the frank admission that, were the director able to provide the answers I required, they would probably not look too good.

The meeting with Health and Social also took place about a year after I had written to the then minister. I was flattered to to find myself sitting around a table with the a minister and two senior departmental officers. They were keen to help and offered some interesting and detailed information from which I learned, for instance, that no fewer than 245 Health department employees have some managerial responsibility. They stressed that today's standards of governance require much more form-filling and box-ticking, about which they were powerless to do much. They too were courteous and expressed a willingness to be open, but the bottom line was they still could not answer my question about how much of the budget was spent on direct patient care and how much on administration.

It had been my intention also to ask questions of the Home Affairs Minister, but there is only so much one individual can do when trying -through innumerable obstacles - to get meaningful information out of States
departments. Had I asked a question of the Home Affairs Minister, it would have been about, growth in the Probation Service. Some little while back. I was talking to a former chief officer of the Jersey Probation Service who told me the total establishment at the department on his appointment had been three. Today it is about 40.

Presumably the caseload has grown in the Intervening period, although he doubted it had gone up by much, and it certainly has not grown by a factor of 13 So what is the justification for such an increase? I don't know the answer and, on the basis of previous experience, probably would not have got one had I asked; but I wouldn't mind betting that the number of administrative posts accounts for the largest increase.

If the biggest-spending departments don't know in detail how, their budget is apportioned, how can their ministers put up any sort of .meaningful argument that they are not able to, accept budget. cuts? How do
they know they can't make cuts when, at Health and Social . Services, for example, they don't know, how much of their vast pool of financial resource goes into direct patient care and how much to administration? How can
departments draw up meaningful business plans when they, make no attempt to track vital trends? When Education Sport and Culture doesn't know how the balance between children in school and departmental administration has shifted over the years how can they assess whether or, not their resources are being deployed deployed effectively?

(2) John Henwood's Comment is in the public domain (published the the JEP 12.04.2010, but has not appeared on the on-line edition. I think it should have a wider audience.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Moving the Island in the direction of openness and honesty

An extremely good letter which I reprint below was written by Deputy Daniel Wimberley and appeared in the Jersey Evening Post. I offer a few comments on the  strange dates of the letters - "the letter from Deputy Lewis to Chief of Police Graham Power informing him that the disciplinary process had commenced was created three days earlier, at 8.44 on Saturday 8 November."

While there have been attempts to "patch the chronology", by offering explanations for why the letters were drafted before the suspension, these strike me as particularly "ad hoc" explanations. One example of a "patch" is by claiming that the letter predating the suspension was legal work done as a "precautionary measure" because suspension was possible. Yet we still do not know who authorised that letter - it doesn't appear to be Andrew Lewis. Letters don't usually just get drafted by staff because they take up matters on their own initiative. Or if they did, then evidently, there was widespread news about the likelihood of a suspension.

This is the trouble with "ad hoc" explanations, as with attempts to plug holes in pseudo-scientific theories and immunise them against falsification, they raise more questions, requiring further "patches". Of course explanations can be found, but whether they would convince a historian, I'm not so sure.

For the historian, inconsistencies in chronology suggest we should look again at how much credence we can place on the story that the chronology is supposed to support. Here is G.R. Balleine, pointing out problems with the legend of St Helier:

St. Helier was born, we are told "after the death of wicked Queen Brunehild. when Childebert governed the Francs". This must be Childebert III, who came to the throne in 693. But Helier became a disciple of St. Marculf. who died in 558 ; and 'according to one account he was buried by the famous eighth century Bishop Willebrod. In other words he was baptised 150 years before he was born, and buried, while still a young man, two hundred years later.

He concludes (after looking at other problems) that the "Passion of St. Helier, written at least five hundred years after the time when our hermit is said to have lived, is a religious romance, composed purely for edification". He thinks there may be a core of truth in it, but it has become distorted in the composition.

Looking at the inconsistencies regarding the official account of the suspension of Graham Power, with letters written 3 days before they should have been, might a future historian think it likely that this may be a political fiction, composed purely for the public's edification?

From Deputy Daniel Wimberley.
WHY does it matter about Power and Warcup?

Surely, the Comprehensive Spending Review, or the Sustainable Transport Policy, to take but two things I am currently working on, will have a more direct impact on Islanders' lives?

Yes, it can feel like a sideshow - but I am convinced that it is not. It also seems to have gone on forever, but I ask readers to just remember that delay is the classic tool politicians use to make an uncomfortable issue go away.

It must not be allowed to die quietly. It has to be brought to an acceptable, fair and transparent resolution. Otherwise the suspicion of corruption, and the division of our Island, carry on.

I challenge anyone to read what follows and then say hand on heart that they still think that the procedure followed was fair and above board.

.  Until 11 November 2008, Home Affairs Minister Andrew Lewis 'had no reason to believe that they (that is, the States of Jersey Police) were not managing the investigation well'.

.  It was on the 11th that he saw the letter from Deputy Chief of Police David Warcup sent to chief executive Bill Ogley on 10th November 2008 and forwarded to him by Mr Ogley.

.  This account is in Mr Lewis's statement to the Wiltshire Police, which has the force of a sworn statement.

.  But the letter from Deputy Lewis to Chief of Police Graham Power informing him that the disciplinary process had commenced was created three days earlier, at 8.44 on Saturday 8 November.

.  The written notification of suspension was also drafted on Saturday 8 November at the same time.

.  So why was somebody creating suspension letters at a time when the minister thought the inquiry was being managed well, and bearing in mind that only the Home Affairs Minister can discipline or suspend the Chief of Police?

.  How could a minister be led to the extraordinary step of suspending the Chief of Police on the basis of one letter (the 'Warcup letter')?

. Particularly when that letter contradicts the opinion of both Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary who have praised the leadership of the force, and its success in reducing crime, and the Association of Chief Police Officers' advisory team who have mentored and advised on the handling of the Haut de la Garenne investigation?

. This letter (the 'Warcup letter') of 10 November 2008 relies heavily on the Met 'interim report'. No one has ever seen this report apart from David Warcup.

. The Met withdrew this report from its use by the Jersey authorities for disciplinary purposes.

.  So when Senator Ian Le Marquand reviewed the suspension in March 2009, he was forced to put a red pencil though all the references to the Met Report in the Warcup letter. How then could it have properly been used in the original November suspension?

. When Mr Power was phoned by Mr Lewis on 11 November and summoned to the meeting on 12 November, he was not told that it would be a disciplinary hearing. 'I had been given no notice, no time to prepare, and was not offered any representation' and 'suspension was not discussed until seconds before it was actually invoked' and 'I had not seen the documents to which the (suspension) letter referred.' (Graham Power's affidavit).

. The Disciplinary Code states that the chief executive (ie Bill Ogley) carries out a preliminary investigation to 'establish the relevant facts. Facts will include statements from available witnesses and the Chief Officer.' There was no such investigation.

I have focused in this letter on just one event - the suspension. I am happy to help readers who would like to be guided around other aspects of this murky affair.

We have to move as an Island in the direction of openness and honesty. We have to stop holding the door tight shut against the tide of history, justice and the evidence. It is an unworthy and in the end unsustainable position.

Tunnelling into Debt

In these stringent economic times, when the States are looking to make savings for all kinds of projects, it seems strange that the Waterfront plans are back on the agenda. Back in 2008, the proposition for the development noted that:

"The estimated long-term annual cost of maintaining and servicing the tunnel is £500,000 per annum. This cost consists of 2 main elements: (i) the cost of electricity to power lighting and ventilation; and (ii) the cost of maintaining the fabric of the tunnel (including maintenance and replacement of ventilation plant, lighting, signage, cleaning and maintaining the roadway). "(1)

The only States member who noted anything about this was Deputy G.C.L. Baudains, and he also came up with a somewhat worrying question about how this cost was going to be financed - by the general public by way of an increase in the Island rate:
"It does occur to me that perhaps some Ministers have difficulty differentiating between a liability and an asset in not counting for the £500,000 a year and rising cost to service the tunnel on top of future maintenance because I note in the report to the P.60 the Council suggested raising the Island-wide rate to meet this."(2)
The establishment of an Island Rate coincided with the establishment of the Income Support system, and it is not a general fund to be dipped into as an when departments decide they cannot balance their books, as another stealth tax.

Moreoever, these were the figures in 2008 for maintenance, and goodness knows how much they have risen since! What is certain is that costs are not fixed, and the maintenance costs will rise, year after year, and in a time when every department is being asked to make savings, to burden the future of the Island with this kind of rising cost seems incredibly shortsighted.

Thomas N Morrow of Jacobs Engineering UK Ltd, who is a  tunnelling and underground engineering specialist with 35 years experience notes that in even shorter road tunnels

"The operation and maintenance costs can still be significant - particularly the costs of power and lighting, ventilation, pumping and other safety systems. When looking at whole life costs of the asset then the tunnel operation and maintenance costs need to be factored in." (3)

The document entitled "Public consultation on the masterplan for St Helier Waterfront's Esplanade Quarter" which is a summary of the consultation remarks and considerations submitted was published on 16 April 2008. The word "ventillation" occurs once. There is not one single mention of the word "maintenance".

The only other useful piece of information comes in a question asked by Gerard Baudins: "With regard to the proposed sunken road at the Esplanade Quarter, would the Minister advise whether the annual maintenance and running cost of the fume extraction equipment is budgeted for within the suggested £500,000 annual spend, and would he further advise whether the fumes will be filtered before release into the atmosphere and, if so, the annual cost of so doing?"

And the reply, by Guy de Faye, was that "The estimated energy and routine maintenance costs for the tunnel ventilation plant are included in the suggested figure of £500,000 per annum for the total operating costs for the tunnel. There are no plans to filter the air exhausted from the tunnel. The pollution extract system will move the air through the tunnel prior to it being discharged at the tunnel portals. The air will not be filtered prior to discharge."

With the adjective "suggested" , the figure of £500,000 looks increasingly as if it was more or less plucked from thin air, or from the kind of calculations that are done in a pub quiz. I have not been able to find any documented breakdown of estimates of this "maintenance" anywhere, or any detailed plans of exactly what ventilation systems are to be used, and given that - such a suspiciously round figure as £500,000 looks remarkably false, and probably on the low side.

But the project is now back on the agenda, and could, according to Mr Izzat, the WEB Managing Director, start this year (7). While in the short term, the building work could boost the economy, in the long term, the cost of maintenance will grow, even allowing for no problems and hiccups on the way, which seems an extremely unlikely outcome for such a grandiose scheme.
I assume this is the same Stephen Izzat who was also responsible for Waterfront Edinburgh (6), and who is now on a £170,000 salary, by which comparison £500,000 probably does not seem an awfully large sum of money.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Minutes of AMOS GROUP

Minutes of AMOS GROUP of  CHRISTIANS TOGETHER IN  JERSEY on Wed. April 7th at 5.15 at  St. Thomas

1.   Opening prayer on Easter hope led by Adrian Pearce

2.   Income Support Scrutiny panel have held meetings with Age Concern and St Clement Senior citizens.  Also held two stalls on Saturdays in the precinct.  Lots of questionnaires filled in and entered on computer for analysis. St Clement Welfare support team with one paid officer and  a team of volunteers give a real human face to income support.  Much work now needed to have the report available by end of June.

3.     Response to Island Plan consultation.   ELeQ had put in a late submission about the general tone rather than point by point analysis of what is a £25 document, which he declined to buy.  See below

4.     Response to Long term care consultation.  Again made submission so that those who could afford more made a bigger contribution.  See below

5.     CAP, Christians against poverty, is a group that started in Bradford some years ago and has a vision of a debt counselling centre in every town in Britain by 2020.   Martyn Shea has money for 5 people to attend a course in Bristol on Sat. May 15th to be trained in giving advice for money matters.   Does anyone want to take up this challenge?   See  for more details.   Adrian suggested church treasurers might be suitable candidates for this post and will ask the treasurer at St. Lukes

6.   Jersey Link.   Work on the  Summer edition continues, including a look at websites, a report on Street pastors, on Mission Africa, on Cardinal Newman etc.    Items of news always welcome.   We are still uncertain who will take over as JEP link from Ron Felton.

7.   The book  "Deep economics' makes an excellent case for an economics that is much more local and personal.  The author Bill McKibben comes from Vermont in the USA.    A book by Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh explains the creation of social business.  He founded the Grammen Bank, which launched the idea of microcredit and won him the Nobel Peace prize.   This new idea has led to the creation of a yoghurt that is very healthy for young children just being weaned.  It is sold at low price in recyclable cups ( and soon he hopes edible !)    It is a business that runs in a sustainable fashion without regular inputs of aid and is aimed at clear social goals.    He worked with a French multinational that helped to design micro size plants that worked in Bangladesh conditions.  The title is "Creating a world without poverty'.    He is well worth reading.  It is capitalism with human aims that people feel excited to work for.  Perhaps it is rather like the Divine chocolate story.

8.   Stephen Izatt of WEB (Waterfront Enterprise Board) has agreed to come and speak on Wed. May 19th  It should be interesting to hear about WEB.  He will be bringing a PowerPoint presentation.   

9.  Future dates  June 2nd and July 7th both at 5.15. . At one of these we hope that Trish Tumelty will speak about her work with children

10.  The meeting closed with the grace at 6.30

Comments on the Island plan.

I am not putting forward an item by item comment on the proposed plan, but would like to suggest a real change in mindset for Jersey as we are facing a very different world with a rising cost of energy and a growing concern about climate change.

I would like to commend the case put forward by Michael Shuman, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch lecture in February  It was well-summarised by Harry McRandle in the JEP.

It is a real wake-up call for Jersey.  He said that the TINA mindset (There is no alternative)  believes in attracting Toyotas   (i.e. big global companies)
promoting exports  (develop potato exports rather than local food) reassuring locals (big office buildings at the Waterfront and more immigration is what we need!)
my examples in brackets for his 3 points.   An example this month is to promote the case for an extra supermarket in Jersey, which will take more money out of the Jersey economy.

The LOIS mindset (Locally owned, import substitution)  looks forward to the time when oil prices are much higher and self-sufficiency becomes important.  He mentioned the Transition Towns initiative in UK as similar.    In the USA, it goes by the name of BALLE (Business Alliance of Local Living Economies)  gives more details of what looks like a fast growing movement, as the massive amounts invested in mega banks have little effect on the small local economies. In Jersey we have the world's biggest banks, top 500, but can't organise a simple thrift club for ordinary people at St. Martin.

LOIS also has lots of good effects on civil society, with more participation

He listed 6 P's
Planning  - Plug the leaks where money is spent away rather than locally
People  -  Support local entrepreneurs
Partners  - Compete through collaboration between local businesses
Purse -  Harness pensions locally   Our pension contributions could be invested in local enterprises
Purchasing  - Support local campaigns i.e. Think twice, buy local
Policy-making  - Remove the anti-LOIS bias.  Don't keep inviting outside firms

There is leakage from Jersey as mortgage and credit card interest leaves Jersey. There are a variety of ways to encourage local purchases, through coupons or gift cards.   The main message is that public policy should do all it can to build up local businesses. There is much more on his website    but I hope you can see the sense of his approach and its relevance to Jersey.

On the social front, there needs to be a big drive for affordable housing.  This can be partly by building more houses by the Housing Dept and not-for-profit housing trusts rather than private developers.  Action needs to be taken on the Whitehead report.   There should also be an effective rent control tribunal so that people can get an opinion from an independent body about their rent level.

The welcome boost to investment in services for under 5's as shown at the Bridge and with the provision of free nursery places for all for 20 hours in term-time should be extended.   This is an investment which pays back in reduced costs of teenage crime.

We are still waiting for the proposals in the licensing law to be put into law. They would help to reduce the heavy costs to the health service and the police of Jersey's alcohol problem.

The income support system has had some benefits, but has reduced the personal and often non-monetary support provided by parish welfare staff.   This is being rebuilt in St Clement and needs to be in place in other parishes.  Caring services is perhaps an area where young people seeking work could be employed to provide support for elderly people.

Another area where the talents of young people could be used in Overseas Aid.  A spell spent in a developing country would provide a massive boost for young people at relatively low cost.  The Jersey Overseas Aid Commission is reluctant to spend any of its budget locally so it may perhaps have to come from another budget, but a regular supply of young people for 6 month spells abroad would seem to be an investment in people.   The Jersey One World Group are holding a celebration of 40 years of Overseas Aid trips taken by Islanders so it is a well-established system.

So let us think globally but act locally. This slogan applies even more in the coming decade.

Ed Le Quesne
March 2010

Comment on Funding Long-term care

There is a sharp division between those who just have their OAP and those who have a generous occupational pension too.  There is also a big difference between those who reach 65 owning their own homes with no mortgage and those who are sill renting.

In many cases older people are subsidising younger members of their family, rather than being a 'problem'.   Thus people over 65, who have the means to do so, should continue to pay a contribution  to the social security fund, which will be able to help them at 80 or 90 when they will eventually need care.

The burden of funding long-term care should not just fall on people of working age.  Many of the current 60+ generation are the fortunate ones who had subsidised education and lower housing costs when they were younger.

Ed Le Quesne
March 2010