Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Public Sector pay and the PM

Austerity for who Mr Cameron

Mr Cameron can afford to take a pay cut more than most

Interesting to see how the Government & the media have been getting in a tiz about public sector pay : BBC News – 9,000 in public sector get more pay than prime minister with “research” for a Panorama documentary BBC Panorama to air programme on public sector ‘rich list’ ( suggesting that 9,000 people working in the public sector are now paid more than the Prime Minister.

I’ve worked in the public sector for most of my career – in education – and so too has my wife – in the health service.

We’ve noticed over several cycles, that pretty much the same happens to our pay relative to the private sector.

In times of economic boom, our pay has lagged well behind private sector salaries – when friends working for retail and financial companies have received whacking great pay rises, we’ve received a “cost of living rise” – usually at less than the rate suggested by inflation rates. Where they’ve received bonuses, we’ve received a memo, or a Christmas card.

It’s not all been bad though because in the lean times we’ve still usually received a cost of living allowance, where they’ve taken a pay cut, and reduced hours; and where we’ve had a memo or a Christmas card, they’ve had their ‘cards’ as well – and their P. 45’s.

So it seems fairly evident that public sector pay rises less quickly in times of plenty, and falls more slowly in times of lean. In the words of Talking Heads “Same as it ever was” (and the video’s at the bottom of the page – any excuse for a bonus Talking Heads video !)

So please forgive me if I’m unimpressed by the suggestion that public sector employees are somehow “fat cats”. There’s only one market for staff remember – and the difficulties that public sector organisations have in attracting top staff away from highly paid private sector jobs, during the boom times, are what drives up the salaries – they stay there during the downtimes because the staff are generally treated a little more fairly by their employees. Come the next boom, they’ll lag behind again.

So let’s wait and see what the public sector fat cats look like after the next set of bankers’ bonuses.

There is of course also the question of why the PM’s salary should be some kind of yard stick. I’m not sure this article’s the best place to debate it.

David Cameron is a British politician, Leader ...

Prime Minister David Cameron

Do remember though that David Cameron‘s much publicised 5% pay cut is a somewhat easy gesture to make for a man whose personal wealth has been estimated at around £30, 000, 000 Claims that David Cameron has a £30m fortune sit uneasily with taxpayers. So what is the truth about his money? | Mail Online . While this may be somewhat exaggerated it is certainly true that both David Cameron and his wife are of families with a long tradition of extreme wealth. Which once again begs the question – Austerity for who, Mr Cameron ?

September 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Richard Littlejohn winds me up again !

In the middle of an election you’d think I’d manage to pull away from my traditional annoyance with the Daily Mail.

However yesterday I was driving – which I don’t do all that often do this days, and managed to catch snippets of BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends programme  BBC iPlayer – Loose Ends: 10/04/2010 feature none other than Richard Littlejohn. I only tend to listen to the radio in the car, and even then tend to listen to more or less anything but Radio 4 – so this was a rare occurrence.

In a few short minutes I was almost ready to plough the car into a ditch and abandon it so I wouldn’t have to listen to him any more.

There we had a lovely back patting group of people chuckling away on air at what a jolly humorous chap Mr Littlejohn is, poking fun at those oh so ridiculous figures of authority and the wacky things they do.

We get a few examples of his art. First up is Littlejohn’s story of  the average zebra crossing costing £114,000. You couldn’t make it up !

Well you could, and Richard Littlejohn did – because the cost of pedestrian crossings according to Road Safety charity Brake Engineering – crossings, and also Sefton Council Pedestrian crossings is actually no more than around £45,000 – with a Zebra Crossing coming in at between £5,000 & £10,000. Littlejohn presumably thinks that it’s just a matter of getting a tin of white paint, and has obviously not factored in matters like what to do with the traffic whilst you’re installing it, how to make sure that no one gets electrocuted by having two 24 / 7 beacons flashing in all weathers, how to make sure that they last longer than five minutes and not get vandalised every two minutes, or any considerations of public consultations, council approval and planning considerations.  No because he doesn’t need to take responsibility for anything – just make a number up and get some cheap digs in.

He also tells the story of the “Diversity Agency” spending £100,000 to send Burka clad Muslim women on fishing trips to the country where they stand in rowing boats wearing safety goggles while they try and catch a few carp. Hilarious. Funny how I can’t find any other mention of it, funny how no source is given for this information or the costs involved. Strange that safety guidance for fishing makes no mention of wearing goggles National Trust | Activities | Fishing – Health & safety

In fact there’s precious little evidence of this story even on the Mail’s website – although I did find Littlejohn’s reference to this in – hey ! – 2006 ! (Not exactly recent then Richard ?) – and a reference to the agency (that’s the Environment Agency mind – not the Diversity Agency – which is an agency that doesn’t exist by the way) in a similar article by Keith Elliott Fishing Lines: A broader church on the riverbank – More Sports, Sport – The Independent in the Independent. And yes this was 4 years ago – but involved not £100,000 but £1,000,000 – well what’s three zero’s amongst right wing journalists ? My guess is £10,000 if it happened at all, which I very much doubt. Let’s not let the truth get in the way of an opportunity to laugh at the way Muslim women look though Richard ? (To be fair to Keith Elliott – he’s somewhat more of a specialist Fishing journalist, and may well have sourced his article from Littlejohn)

The Environment agency’s principal role by the way is flood defence – and has an annual budget of over a billion pounds per year. More than a third of this amount is raised through fees and levies – rather than direct from the treasury. Its relatively small operation in relation to fishing, and angling, is funded almost entirely by the revenue generated from fishing permits and licenses which bring in around £20 Million pounds per year – not from the general tax payer but from anglers themselves.

Richard Littlejohn probably realised that he wouldn’t get a massive amount of tolerance on the BBC for his usually homophobic, racist rubbish, so instead he fell back on his dislike of Health and Safety – citing the example of Reading Football club who place notices around the stadium during team warm ups stating “Beware of flying footballs” – Well this is of course absolutely true – and rather absurd one might have thought. I wonder whether Richard has ever been knocked unconscious by a flying football – as I have seen occur, and more to the point I wonder whether he’s ever been accused of negligence by someone who has been knocked unconscious, because he failed to make someone whom he had a duty of care towards, aware of a known danger for which he was responsible ? .

This may of course be exactly the absurdity he’s wanting to point out – but hardly negates the importance of Health and Safety as he suggests.

In fact I had reason to think about Health & Safety rules the very next day – having spent the night in a Hotel – part of a big international chain in central Birmingham, my full English Breakfast was interrupted by a fire alarm, interspersed with loudspeaker announcements indicating that everyone should evacuate the building immediately.

I tried to leave by the nearest signposted Fire Exit – but was turned back by staff who told us to use the front door (and carried on cooking), I spotted another Fire Exit far nearer than that one – and found that it was locked shut – and eventually made my way to the front door – but couldn’t get out because people were still coming IN through the door. Eventually a receptionist came out and told us all to come back in, which we did and were met by colleagues staying on floors 2 to 16 where the alarm hadn’t sounded at all.

You couldn’t make it up !

If only we had more people like Richard Littlejohn, to help us get rid of these pesky Fire Alarms. What a nuisance they are, spoiling my breakfast like that

Richard Littlejohn claimed on Radio Four, that if the powers that be started taking notice of what he said he’d be out of a job because he wouldn’t have any more material. This is of course not true – he would go on making it up – as he does now.

Finally, If you’re looking for an Election angle for this blog, ask yourself this : Why is a high profile, publicly funded, and supposedly politically neutral organisation like the BBC giving airtime to a controversial prejudiced commentator like Richard Littlejohn without checking the provenance of his claims – during an election campaign ?

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, idle banter, politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Things that bug me ! – Part 1


Sorry I haven’t published anything for a while  – I’ve been a bit busy.

I’ll try and make up for lost time.  I’m planning a small series of blogs on “Things that bug me !” – because there have been a few that have just lately !

First  thing that bugs me  is a person who insists on leaving repeated comments spouting the same untrue garbage over and over again on my blog. In case you’re reading, (and I hope not) – I only get to see your comments if I care to check the spam trap – otherwise they’re just deleted. I’ve manually deleted all of your other comments too, even the ones I originally let through. My advice to you is to start your own blog, oh and try and make it more interesting. And get out more.

Returning to my theme …

Things that bug me :  The rubbish being spouted about the rise in National Insurance contributions.

Since the budget we’ve seen lots of media outlets, including my old favourites The Mail give David Cameron unwarranted publicity because he doesn’t think raising National Insurance contributions is a good idea. The Mail managed to call it a “stealth tax” Osborne: I’ll cut Labour’s National Insurance stealth tax on jobs | Mail Online . Call me contrary but announcing a tax rise in the Budget, live on television, in Parliament, doesn’t really seem all that stealthy. In fact I’d say it’s really making it rather obvious.

Making it so obvious though didn’t really make it so that the BBC noticed it. Take a look at their At a Glance coverage from Budget Day.BBC News – At-a-glance: Budget 2010 key points – scroll down to the bit about National Insurance. Can’t find it ? Try searching for “National” or “insurance” or “NIC” – still not got it ? No that’s because they didn’t think it worth mentioning.

Strange then that they should now be making such a fuss, this article being one of several which gives prominence to “Business Leaders” disparaging views of the rise in NICs :  BBC News – Cameron says Labour on ‘wrong side of working people

I could if I wished look at the contradictions in the Tory position – which seems to shift from draconian cuts one day, to who knows what the next, but really that isn’t what ‘bugs’ me so much – that’s their prerogative as a political party.

What really annoys me is that so many media outlets are giving such credence to these “Business Leaders” – many of whom are donors to the Tories, and who have no more qualification to speak on this subject than anyone else, and presenting it as “balanced news”

David Cameron says that it “is an impressive list of businesses” –  Excuse me – 41 ? that’s very few indeed.

I don’t run a business I run a school. I don’t oppose the increase in National Insurance rise – is that news ? No of course not – and neither is the opinion of these “executives”

They are of course entitled to their opinions, and the Conservative party are entitled to theirs, and of course to change the budget if they are elected.

Which sort of draws attention to the fact placed in smaller print in most of these articles – the rise doesn’t come in until April 2011 – so actually, if it IS likely that increases in NICs will affect the economy adversely, the Labour government would also have at least 2 opportunities – the pre-budget statement, and the next annual budget to change direction if need be.

But the BBC – who are supposed to be impartial – choose not to make a big issue of that.

The 1% rise is of course, actually a half a percent rise on what was already planned in 2008’s budget – and somehow that didn’t seem to make as many waves back then.

This is biased and partisan reporting – the BBC in particular should have higher standards than this.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | blogs, economy, news, politics | , , , | 1 Comment

When “news” isn’t news, and “no news” is

I had no work to go to today, and so unusually I got quite a different slant on the news to what I usually do. I had breakfast to the ‘wallpaper’ of BBC Breakfast – although (I guess like many thousands of people) I wasn’t paying much attention. It seemed to be talking about local authorities and the need to make cuts in spending. The figure that stuck in my mind was “25,000 job losses”.

As the day went on and I did errands running around in the car I heard snatches of radio repeating this – again on BBC radio – this time Nicky Campbell’s phone in asking “Where do you think the axe should fall”. A clear message was coming from the programme that councils around the country were going to have to cut spending because the Government was going to cut the cash going to local authorities.

I didn’t pay it much attention – didn’t have time – but made a mental note to check it out on the web (which is where I normally get my news) when I got home.

Along the way I spotted Gordon Brown in the bank. Yes really ! He was actually on the telly – (BBC again) making a speech from Reading about fighting crime The Press Association: PM outlines plans to fight crime in which among other things, he debunked some of the myths about crime statistics which the Conservative Party have in the past been accused of making misleading claims about. This was reported quite significantly by the BBC :BBC News – Chris Grayling use of crime statistics ‘mislead’ public – so I figured that the Prime Minister’s speech would figure prominently in the BBC News when I got home.

I was wrong.

The front page of the BBC News website, when I checked it, led with – 25,000 job cuts in local authorities – (although this has since slipped down the list, at the time of writing & been replaced by the story regarding Lord Ashcroft’s “non-dom” tax status). The Prime Minister’s speech is not mentioned, and even on searching shows up only as a local piece in the Berkshire section of the website.

Obviously it’s been deemed less newsworthy than these job losses – so I had a look at it …BBC News – Council cuts threaten 25,000 jobs, BBC survey suggests

Well  – let’s see – what’s it all about ? A response to a new Government announcement ? an election pledge perhaps ?

No – it’s a survey carried out by … Oh yes, the BBC !

A survey of local authorities in England. All of them presumably. Well no actually – just 93 of them.

That’s not to say that a sample can’t be representative of a larger group – of course it can.

The sample that this report’s based on though is just a sub-set of the total sample for the survey – just 49 of them who “think that they’ll need to make cuts over the next three to five years”. (Which let’s be honest, sounds like the answer to a bit of a leading question)

Notice that it’s not based on any word from the Government – or even the opposition – but just based on whether they “expect” to make the cuts.

Based on the answers to this question they’ve decided that up to 25,000 jobs could be lost.

Of course if the sample is a representative one then it could be much greater. In fact as far as I can work out, the sample represents 49 of the 354 local authorities in England – or 13.8% – which would represent around 180,000 job losses.

The sample isn’t representative though – it’s chosen only from the authorities that said they would be likely to make cuts – and who answered the survey. So it’s not at all easy – or wise – to extrapolate from this figure.

Bear in mind also that none of the authorities can possibly predict with any accuracy, how the economy will perform in the next few years – so all of this is guesswork. Bear in mind also that the spending round for next year is not indicating these kind of cuts thus far – my own school benefiting from a likely increase of around 2.3% for the budget from April – which is tight – but it’s not a cut.

All of which leads me to believe that this isn’t really news. But the BBC think it is.

I thought that the Gordon Brown speech – and the connections with the misleading figures quoted by the Tories, and commented on by the BBC and the UK Statistics Authority – was news. But the BBC thinks it isn’t.

I just wonder why ?

March 1, 2010 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Misleading headline ?

Just a very quick blog regarding this item on BBC News business pages : Bank of England warns inflation will exceed 3%

– which was in turn trailed by an RSS feed reading Bank warns of further inflation

The article tells us that the Bank of England expect inflation to rise slightly above 3% in the coming weeks. They then expect that it will fall quickly again, below the official 2% target level – and that it could well remain at that level for several years.

Fine – good reporting BBC !

It might have sounded a little more positive – not to mention truthful – if the headline had read “Bank expect long term low inflation after brief rise”, with the RSS Summary possibly being – “Bank predicts low inflation for years”

Just saying.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , | Leave a comment

Supermarket Car Parks, Disability & Corporate Citizenship

I was intrigued by this article on the BBC’s website Supermarket parking limits ‘breach’ disability laws Which claims that many supermarkets, by now limiting parking time for all customers to 2 hours, are in breach of the law by discriminating against disabled people parking in their car parks.

It’s a fairly innocuous piece – resisting the temptation to rant about non-disabled people (or people who don’t look as if they have a disability) parking in disabled bays ( although they’ve looked at this in the past : “‘Shocking’ rise in disabled parking abuse” (2004) ); and steering well clear of the “disabled people = benefit fraudsters” angle that some sources might have taken. It can be looked at in so many different ways though.

At first glance it does seem rather unfair not to give disabled people a fair chance to park freely – after all Blue Badge disabled parking generally allows up to three hours parking even on double yellow lines – so well done the BBC for flagging this up.

A second level of inspection would be to investigate the reasons why the supermarkets are limiting time, and the legal framework around disabled parking.  Well supermarkets have started to do this partly because many of them have increased the size of their stores by building over parts of their car parks, and spaces are often reduced – so to ensure that spaces are available to customers they introduce restrictions. The other part of that equation is that in many supermarket car parks – especially those near town centres, or facilities like railway stations, non-costumers have often blocked spaces in the past by parking there for long periods of time. Hence the two hour limit.

Does this discriminate against disabled people though ? Well the provider of the service (the supermarket) has a duty to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to ensure that it is not unreasonably difficult or impossible for a disabled person to have access to that service . Which clearly they do if they provide parking spaces reserved for disabled people. Note that there is no compulsion to make these available free of charge. So the question of whether disabled people are discriminated against would appear to revolve around whether they charge more for disabled people to access the disabled spaces (which as far as I’m aware they do not), and whether it is reasonable to expect a disabled person to complete their shopping and leave within 2 hours. I would argue that it usually is.

In any event, I’ve known many supermarkets waive the two hour limit during busy periods such as in the lead up to Christmas on production of a till receipt. I actually don’t know anyone who’s been fined for a supermarket parking violation. So on closer inspection this becomes a little bit of a non-story. I feel also that any problems that do exist, would be very easily overcome by making the disabled bays four hours, rather than two.

So contrary to what the BBC says, they don’t seem to be breaking the law. Even if they were, it would seem to be an oversight that can be very quickly remedied

There’s another level still at which we could look at this story though. The supermarkets are private companies. They don’t have to provide parking spaces, they don’t have to make them free, and they don’t have to make any of them disabled bays. Neither do they have to impose a two hour limit.

They choose to do all these things.

What I’d like to have seen the BBC’s article explore is not what the supermarket is compelled to do, but what benefits the supermarkets could provide to the communities in which they exist, simply by choosing to do things a little differently – and wouldn’t we all be grateful if they did ?

As an example – the South Bedfordshire commuter town where I live has experienced problems in the past from commuters leaving their cars in Tesco’s car park, and then clearing off to London for the day. It may save them six quid – but isn’t particularly fair on either Tesco’s or their customers.

On the other hand, parents of children at Town Centre schools often use the same car park when attending Parents Evenings and other events during weekday evenings, and despite the car park to the 24 hour store being virtually empty at this time, many have returned to find their cars locked in the car park, or with leaflets threatening future fines if they repeat this “offence” again. To Tesco’s credit, I have not heard of any parent fined (or locked in for long) in an incident of this type.

It would be so much more public spirited of them though, if they approached the schools and said – if you let us know when you have events planned you can use 50 spaces in the car park – tell us when it is, and use those 50 over there.

In fact there are a great many occasions when the sheer volume of space which they have, could greatly improve congestion and convenience in the Town Centre with just a little more goodwill from the Supermarkets – and I’m sure that’s the case all over the country – and for a good many other retailers and other businesses as well.

Companies like the Supermarket giants, make up such a large part of our urban, and even rural, landscapes around the country – and are amongst the most profitable organisations in our society. Surely their responsibility – not legal responsibility but moral responsibility – extends beyond generating profits for their shareholders – surely if they want to be deserving of our money, they should be able to use their corporate might to make things easier for everybody – car parking, disabled parking, work experience, hosting of community services – these should be just the tip of the ice berg.

Of course none of them would have to do this – they should choose to do this as good citizens – good corporate citizens. I’d like to see a lot more of this, and I’d like to see Governments taking steps to encourage it as well – perhaps by means of tax incentives for companies who “put something back” to the communities which they are a part of, and from which they derive their profits.

So if anyone out there is putting finishing touches to manifestos this weekend – please bear it in mind !

[ The Baywatch Campaign is a campaign to stop abuse of disabled parking in supermarket car parks; I’ve used the Equality & Human Rights website’s section on Disability in putting together this article, together with the handbook that comes with a Blue Badge disabled parking permit ]

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Disability, politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments

In a two and eight about Bingo

[Not sure why but I didn’t really get this out quickly enough – so it’s a little old now – still haven’t got the “real” story on it though – wonder if we ever will ?]

Interesting to see this piece – Bingo caller told to cut ‘fat ladies’ patter by council and later, the next day this Council defends ‘fat ladies’ bingo call ban on the BBC’s news website. The article apparently sees a 75 year old Bingo caller and former Town Mayor being told by the Town Council (of Suffolk town Sudbury) to stop using the expressions “two fat ladies” and “legs eleven” as bingo calls for fear of offending people and risking prosecution.

Not easy to get to the bottom of this, but reading both articles carefully – (especially the second one which rather than being an update appears to give more detail on the same information), and scouting around the web a little  – one finds a few interesting things out.

The council is a “Civil Parish” – with a small Town council of 16 councillors – including the Mayor & Deputy Mayor

It’s not easy from the Town Council’s website to establish political allegiances – at least one independent sits on the council, which lies within the much larger Conservative controlled Suffolk County Council area.

The Bingo Caller – John Sayers – is in fact still one of the Town councillors – and sits on the  Policy and Resources, Finance , Planning & Development, and Human Resources committees – hardly a bit player.

The spokeswoman, is revealed in the second article as Town Clerk Sue Brotherwood – so one wonders whether she’s being advised by John – or the other way around. Certainly she’s had no chance to take this up with the full Town council formally – since it meets on the second Tuesday of each calendar month (except August and December unless there is urgent business to discuss) at 7 p.m. – so presumably hasn’t met since 10th November 2009.

All of which leads me to believe that this story (which has gone pretty much global – carried for instance by the Mail, Sun, Mirror) is not all that it seems. I would be interested to learn which if any council committee authorised the Town Clerk to dispense this advice, if in fact it was her, and whether she sought advice from members before making her statement to the press. It strikes me as “inconvenient” that this story breaks during a ‘dead month’ in the council’s calendar – and of course on a double Bank Holiday weekend – how ever can anyone possibly get an authoritative statement from anyone ?

As I say it’s difficult to get to the bottom of things. If anyone manages to though, I’ll wager that the truth will be far less salacious than this appears, and far less likely to be syndicated across the world’s news feeds. Let’s wait and see – I suspect it will be sorted out clickety-click !

January 1, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , | 1 Comment

Are the media getting Twitchy ?

[picapp src=”8/8/7/1/Microblogging_Site_Twitter_84b8.jpg?adImageId=7064753&imageId=5320616″ width=”500″ height=”537″ /]

Just a quick one –

Saw this “Have your say – Does Twitter Matter ?” on the BBC site yesterday (arising out of Stephen’s Fry’s dither about whether to stay with Twitter or not) – most comments predictably saying how much they detest Twitter and how they’re not interested in whether we’ve just made a cup of tea or not (see my earlier blog – They just don’t get Twitter do they ?).

Also saw this today on the Guardian/Observer ‘s ‘Comment is Free’ website, from Nick Cohen Beware the instant online anger of the HobNob mob – which is a rather more longwinded and round-a-bout swipe at Twitter.

I can’t help but think that some people in the “traditional” news media are getting a wee bit scared that Twitter (and of course other new media) might actually be challenging their supremacy, and control of the news.

Or should I say – they’re getting “Twitchy ” ?

November 1, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , | 2 Comments

Are you or have you ever been on Prescription Pain Killers ?

This morning, my memories of  my experiences in recruiting staff myself prompted me to blogg about the legalities of actually demanding a would be employee to demonstrate that they are not an illegal immigrant. This in relation to Baroness Scotland’s recent faux pas ( Baroness Scotland – Did she look at the passport ?, and why it doesn’t matter ! )

It took only a matter of minutes for another aspect of the same recruitment experiences to be jogged into my memory by a blog which provided me with another insight that the ace journalists didn’t seem to have grasped. In this case it was Adam Boulton blogging (The Pill Question on his SkyNews blog) about Andrew Marr’s questions on his BBC Show on Sunday to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown (The Andrew Marr Show) asking him whether he takes prescription pain killers.

Adam makes quite a song dance about this clearly trying to claim the moral and journalistic high ground over Andrew Marr, but finally deciding that, yes – it was OK to ask this question because it is in the natural interest to find out if the Prime Minister is suffering from a health problem. He says :-

“My own view is that the physical and mental health of the national leader are legitimate areas of inquiry.

The American President publishes the results of his medical examinations and I don’t see why the British Prime Minister shouldn’t. We should know if there is a problem which is specifically affecting the way he or she does his job.”

Can’t quite see the moral high ground myself there Mr Boulton.

Before I get to why I disagree with him, I’d like to point out that the question wasn’t really about health – he wasn’t actually asked about his eye-sight, although Marr talked about it, and that’s also what the PM talked about – he was just asked about medication.

This was straight out of the top drawer of  “Have you stopped beating your wife bishop ?” questioning. He might as well have been asked “Do you still do the odd couple of lines of coke Gordy ?” or “Is your erectile disfunction problem still as bad as it used to be ?”. Questions which are impossible to answer without generating a negative headline, and all just like Andrew Marr’s question, thrown apropos of nothing in particular (other than smear campaigns on right wing websites).

It was interesting in fact how within minutes of this interview it was being reported via Twitter that he’d been asked not about pain killers but about anti-depressants. Compounded by the now re-edited piece  Should Marr Have Asked THAT Question? – on Ian Dale’s blog. Which seemed to draw on the long running and apparently totally fictitious rumour on several right wing blogs that the Prime Minister is suffering from depression and god knows what other mental illnesses.

How convenient for them to make this error (and whether Iain Dale removed the reference or not, his good friend Guido Fawkes clearly didn’t worry about the smear on the “Prime Mentalist”).

Anyway – how does my experience recruiting staff in schools relate to this issue ? Well clearly sometimes people apply for jobs with illnesses or other medical conditions which make it very difficult to actually do the job in practice. Which is why on recruiting we place a health questionnaire in with the application forms.

Thing is though, I never see those forms – they are placed in a sealed envelope and sent directly to our Occupational Health advisers (if the candidate is appointed). They read the form, they sometimes talk to the person, they some times ask them to go for a medical, rarely they seek permission to speak with their doctor.

After all this they send me a letter which says simply “This person is fit for employment” – or “This person is not fit for employment” or “This person is fit for employment subject to the following guidance …”

If health problems crop up at a later date I can ask about them, but the employee does not have to tell me. I can refer to Occupational Health and they can write to doctors (having gained written permission from the employee) to ask for further information about health problems.

The bottom line is – Yes – health is important to a persons ability to do the job, but unless I have advice that I need to make adjustments due to a persons health, or that they are unfit to do the job, then the patient’s (employee’s) health – including treatment and medication is entirely confidential.

and I really can’t see why that should be any different for a teacher, a classroom assistant, or any other person – including the Prime Minister

So in my book that goes for Adam Boulton, and Andrew Marr as well :

Gordon Brown’s prescriptions from his doctor are confidential.

That means that they are none of your business !

September 28, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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