Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time For MPs to Follow the Same Rules As Me & You

It's not been a good few days for the reputation of parliament or parliamentarians. First the brouhaha over the publishing of MPs' expenses and in the past couple of days the whole Derek Conway debacle.

Immediately the calls have come in for expenses to be slashed and for MPs to be barred from employing family members. As usual the reaction is an over-reaction. There is no need to bring in draconian measures, just treat MPs the same as the rest of us.

When I claim expenses from work I'm expected to hand in receipts. So don't slash MPs' expenses, just make them hand in receipts. Seems reasonable.

And there's no need to stop MPs employing family members, it's actually understandable wanting to have staff that you know you can trust 100%, but perhaps there should be less variation in the salary scales and an independent review and appraisal process in Parliament.

As with most things there's little need for new rules, just a little better enforcement of current ones.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is 2 Years 2 Years Too Long?

I'm really heartened by the announcement that the Conservative Party will take a tough line on getting people to move from welfare into work. There are plenty of people who know that claiming benefits is a much easier ride than getting up at 7 every day and working for 8 hours. Anything that can be done to get as many people back into the workplace is a good thing. And pointing out that state benefits are not a right is a great place to start.

I've been properly unemployed once in my life and it was a horrible time. It took about 6/7 weeks to get an appointment at the Job Centre and when I finally did make it I was astonished by what I saw. I was sitting at a communal table, happily filling out my little forms, listening to one ned say to his pal "Just tell them if they don't give you money today you'll rob someone - that's what I do". When I handed my completed booklet to the advisor (and I do use that word under caution) it was clearly the first time in a long time anyone had done so.

Change really does have to come from the bottom up from ensuring that threats from thugs aren't taken as an excuse to ensuring that the advisors act as such.

But the one thing I did learn is how easy it is to become depressed and fall into a rut. Weeks of looking through newspapers and finding nothing you like the look of, failing to even get a job at the local supermarket all take their toll very quickly. It's far too easy (and understandable) to become unwilling to get out of bed for yet another day of being disappointed and depressed by your situation. That's why I think 2 years before instigating some form of community work is too long. After 2 years people have lost key skills and the energy for returning to work. A programme of community and voluntary work beginning after 6 months would be a much more suitable option. Perhaps with some sort of "bonus" scheme added and of course part-time to allow job-hunting to continue. Of course the 2 year limit should remain so that this doesn't become a substitute for work.

Monday, January 07, 2008