Archive for September, 2018

Comment: If only we could all be more open and admit our mistakes.

September 29, 2018

One of the social media platforms (Faceboook) is in trouble again for being imperfect – people have been able to access accounts they shouldn’t. Whether you use this media platform or not, there is one thing that is certain and that is, mistakes will be made. While human beings run everything, errors will happen, for that is our nature. Even if we lived in a world run by robots, mistakes would still occur, for the robots are made by humans.

While I am the first to say I am liable to make mistakes, it is how these are handled that matters. At least Facebook has owned up immediately and has done something about it (although there have been complaints about some delay over other problems they have had in the past).  In so many cases it would be a simple matter for the person who made the error to own up and the mistake corrected. However, there is often a cloak of secrecy that prevents the general public from knowing what is really going on. People are afraid they may be prosecuted in court and have to pay millions in fines. If only we could have a more open culture where people feel confident they can own up to their mistakes and the consequences are reasonable. Where possible, the punishment should fit the crime. A nurse who accidentally injures a patient by administering the wrong medicine should be sacked as should the bank teller who accidentally puts in the wrong figures. The caterer that accidentally ruins the food, should simply have to pay for replacing the food.

American politics at the moment smacks of hypocrisy.  The president himself has been known to be derogatory about women and does not have an unblemished past and yet an individual is being denied office because of one indiscretion. While his indiscretion was serious enough for him not to be given a post of responsibility, why is the president remaining unpunished? Whether he likes to admit it or not, he, too, is surely a human being also likely to make mistakes that should be rectified.

It can be quite disconcerting for people when someone owns up to their mistakes immediately. So why doesn’t it happen? Being open about a mistake quite often takes the wind out of a manager’s sails and restitution is quickly and easily made. However, most organizations try to hide their mistakes and that is when the difficulties start. The two Russians who came ‘sightseeing’ to Salisbury at the time when a lethal nerve gas was released, have created a story that has obviously grown and grown like Pinocchio’s nose. If only we could all be more open.

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Comment: Flags should be signs of support, nothing more.

September 22, 2018

There has been a lot of fuss about a piece of cloth: a flag flown over Ely Cathedral recently. It was a rainbow coloured flag to represent support for the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) community for Ely and Cambridge Pride. This happened because a Pride celebration was held in the city. What is wrong with that?  The flag was not put up to say that Ely Cathedral was announcing that it was one of the community in question, it was merely a gesture of goodwill.

While flags can be important for what they represent, it is the purpose intended in flying them that matters. There is surely nothing wrong with a flag showing goodwill to an organization that does no harm. It is only flags that represent aggression or injustice that should be condemned. Even then, on more than one occasion I have seen ‘The Jolly Roger’ a pirate flag flown in the district. These pirate flags were obviously harmless – they were not put up as a cry for us to support piracy, a criminal act if ever there was one, but as part of children’s play. When children play they fantasize and through their play they need to be able to have ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ to explore the problems of good and evil in our lives, just as so many TV dramas do.

Unfortunately for some, flags represent unreasonable and extreme beliefs about a subject.  It seems to be particularly noticeable in the UK that flags are seen as antagonistic signs. There are many people who feel that even the Union Jack has been adopted by some extremists and so the feelings the flag engenders in the population can be mixed. We do not see households simply flying the Union Jack as a symbol of their appreciation and support for their country, certainly not in the way that they do in Spain where it is quite common to see the Spanish flag flown from balconies or from shop windows.

It is time for the ordinary people of our country, to re-adopt our flag and fly it with pride. The Scouts and Guides were once taught the significance of the flag and how it is constructed and how it could be used as a sign of distress by flying the flag upside down. Few people seem to be aware of this these days so if they were to do so it is very doubtful that any help would come. Our own government has been known to slip up on one occasion and when the flag was accidentally flown upside down on a government building, fortunately there were a few informed people who contacted the BBC immediately!

 

 

 

Comment: Boris chooses the wrong image

September 15, 2018

Why do politicians call each other names when they are trying to discuss much more important problems such as governing our country effectively? It is the ideas that should be attacked, not the person.

Recently regarding Brexit, Boris Johnson upset the political world by saying that our Prime Minister, Theresa May, is putting our country in a ‘suicide vest’. How dare he!

He dares, because fortunately we still have freedom of speech in our country and a belief is not necessarily a fact. We do not have to subscribe to this belief and if we do not, we can argue against it.

Unfortunately for Boris, I believe he chose the wrong image – a straightjacket might have been better for what he intended to say. A ‘suicide vest’ is associated with so many other negative thoughts, no wonder people made such a fuss. We think the holder of such a vest is a terrorist – our country, I hope, is no such thing. We also believe that the vest stands for someone who is under another’s control, and that person has evil intent – the physical destruction of others. Whatever Theresa May intends I do not recall her indicating that this is her intention.

We voted her in because we believed she would do what we want. After the Referendum was held and our nation chose to leave the European Market, she has made it clear that that is what she intends to do. Whatever your beliefs about whether we should stay in the European Market or leave, she is only doing her job. As far as I know there is nothing intentionally evil or ‘destructive’ in her mind about what she is doing. When we leave the European Market we will need to trade with someone – and it seems more than likely we will need to continue to trade with Europe. It is just that the terms will change, and these need negotiating. What is wrong with that? If it appears we have given in to every demand from the EU, can he be certain that if we do not, terms will be even worse?

While most of us have little information about what is being achieved in these negotiations, sometimes we should have faith that the people we voted in will do the best they can to improve our cause. This includes Boris, whose language is sometimes very effective and although sometimes outrageous, more often than not he hits the nail on the head and we cannot help but agree with him. However, there are times when he should think carefully before he blurts out his next catchphrase for the media to latch onto. He should think first what he wishes to achieve – fame or notoriety? – They are not one and the same.

What should an end of year report contain?

September 10, 2018

A local council has produced its end of year report; a glossy-coloured document of ‘successes’.

I believe that an end of year report is intended to give interested parties information about the ‘activities and financial performance of an institution’.  When writing end of term reports as a teacher I understood that we wrote about the abilities and performance of the children, be they good or bad. In other words, the report should be unbiased, presenting a comprehensive picture of both sides of the situation and performance.

Many of the statements made in this report are self congratulatory. The first page is about the council’s ‘vision’ and ‘successes’ with the descriptions littered with adjectives that register in my mind exaggeration and bias. The council we are told is aiming to be  ‘well-managed’. Who is to say whether it has achieved this? This would only be a valid if judged by an outside examining body. The council wishes to make our county a ‘fantastic place to live, work and visit’. It assumes that what it is doing will achieve what it says.

So we are to assume that building leisure centres outside the town will make our place a ‘fantastic place’. Yet I watch with despair as the centre of the city becomes, not an attractive tourist attraction filled with shops of character, but a place of neglect and despair. If it is a fantastic place, why have so many shops closed?

The council has decided that one of the centres they have built will be managed by a ‘Leisure’ company which we are to assume will be fully supportive of the community. Did the councillors not see in the press the row that erupted when this same company suddenly cancelled an agreed membership fee at one of its leisure centres and demanded nearly double the amount? This does not rank of thinking of the people in the community.

I looked for a statement of accounts – you know, money in, money out and loans outstanding – that kind of information. While a lot of figures were bandied around, there was no ‘statement of accounts’.

What of the separate companies the council has set up? I may be mistaken, but from the website, it looks as though the one of the companies was established with money borrowed from tax payers but is now independent of the council. It is ‘no longer a body governed by public law’ and will ’suffer its own losses’. Where was this information in the report?

I believe an end of year report should be a simple, unqualified and comprehensive statement of what a council has been able to achieve and what it has not been able to achieve or am I hoping for too much?

 

 

 

 

Arts and Crafts Fair

September 9, 2018

The Friends of St Andrew’s Church Witchford and the PCC held an Arts and Crafts Fair in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford on Saturday 8th September 2018. A variety of goods were on sale at stalls provided by Virginia Divall, Sara Gilbert, Bumbles Crafts and Sukie Hoyle and the church’s Bring and Buy stall. Coffee or tea and biscuits were available and a soup lunch was served.

£144.30 was made for the church’s extension fund to put in an accessible toiled and refreshment facilities..

Besides fortnightly coffee mornings on Wednesdays 10 – 12 from the 19th September, the next event in St. Andrew’s Hall Witchford will be on Thursday 11th October 2018 at 7.15 p.m. which will feature a two-course dinner, music and a ‘quirky’ quiz. The music will be provided by Phil and Laurine and the Isle Singers 7.15 p.m.

Tickets (£15 concessions £10) will be available from rjwestwell@hotmail.com; Enid Bedford or Witchford Post Office.

If you would like to help us out in anyway – do contact me on rjwestwell@hotmail.com

comment: letter to Anna Bailey

September 6, 2018

I have been writing for the Ely Standard for some time but now for a change. If you enjoyed reading my column, have no fear, I propose to continue writing on this site.

You may have read a letter from Anna Bailey criticizing me heavily in the Ely Standard recently . This is my reply. (The editor of the Ely Standard did not wish to publish it. )

To Anna Bailey, Deputy Leader of East Cambs District Council

Dear Anna,

If I understand you correctly, in your letter to the Ely Standard you state that:

  1. The recent survey has been personally paid for by serving Conservative district councillors
  2. The survey is an opportunity to tell the people what you have been doing with their (tax-payers) money
  3. The Conservatives were voted in as the administration in 2015
  4. Barton Road will have one less car parking space and other parking spaces have been provided elsewhere.
  5. The new position of mayor has not taken money away from Cambridgeshire councils. The position has brought hundreds of millions of pounds of new money into the country.
  6. I get basic information wrong about which council holds responsibility for what.

My response:

  1. I apologize for my mistake. I acknowledge that the recent survey has been personally paid for by serving Conservative district councillors and not the council. The misunderstanding came from my belief that councillors should have the permission of the council as a whole before publicising material that directly concerns the council’s activities. Hence my believing that the council had paid for the survey. I could not see a list of names of people responsible for publishing it which I believe is the usual way for making such matters clear.  Copyright and authorship are not always one and the same, although I acknowledge that it is most likely the case with the leaflet distributed. Again,  I do apologize for my mistake and I will try not to make mistakes like this again.
  2. Agreed that it is an opportunity to tell the people what you are spending their money on. The complaint was the manner in which the information was delivered and that the information was incomplete.
  3. If we are a true democracy, it is not only the Conservatives who represent the people, other parties should not be ignored.
  4. One less parking space in the central part of town in Barton Road in Ely is not an improvement, even if other spaces have been provided elsewhere. The design of the area I believe is also questionable.
  5. The new position of mayor I believe has been paid for by central government. Central government, I believe, gets much of its funds from income tax. There are numerous citizens of Cambridgeshire who pay income tax. So I still believe that ‘our’ money is being used. How has the mayor’s position brought ‘hundreds of millions of pounds of new money into the country ‘ please? It is not that I delight in remaining ignorant – it is just that when I search the Cambridgeshire websites, the information is not easy to find.  I am not trying to score any political points. I simply would like to know, and I believe that those who govern us should wish to be transparent and clear so that we have a better understanding.
  6. I acknowledge that different councils have different responsibilities; I look at the overall picture speaking as a citizen and not as a village councillor.
  7. I do hope this brings the matter to an end.  RJWestwell