March 2016

April 5, 2016

My book of the month for March was The authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher by Charles Moore, Volume Two. This covered the period between 1983 and 1987 in a lot of interesting detail. I’m looking forward to the third and final volume.

My daughter’s interest in mental health was triggered by her own experience of pigeon phobia (there is a medical term for it). For several years she not only suffered the phobia but also put up with people like me who thought she was being silly and would grow out of it. It got to a point where she had to have therapy. She is now able to cope with it but within limits. Recently, she’d advertised her services as a ‘tourist guide’ and a couple from Spain replied. Great she thought, ‘ I can practice my Spanish and earn money’. But then they said Trafalgar Square was the first attraction on their list! Suddenly my daughter was too busy!

On 16 March I tuned into BBC News to listen to the Chancellor’s Budget Statement. I managed to catch the end of Prime Minister’s Questions and one of the questions was from James Davies MP concerning Denbighshire Council’s decision to pursue the Compulsory Purchase of the Denbigh Hospital site. The Prime Minister replied by commending our council for exercising its powers in this case. It was a vindication of the courage and commitment our officers have shown in pursuing this case. It isn’t always easy to take risky decisions in local government because decisions are often politicised and sometimes misrepresented. Doing nothing can often present as the easy option, so when officers of the council decide to take calculated risks, in order to do the right thing, they deserve praise.

 

February 2016

March 3, 2016

My book of the month for February is ‘All for Nothing’ by Walter Kempowski. This book is about the last days of the Third Reich from the perspective of a wealthy German family that is in denial about what is happening around them, even when they witness the retreat of their army from the Russians. I also had a night at the Royal Opera House and went to see the film ‘Spotlight’.

My daughter has taken her first steps to a new career. She has left her well paid job and started an Advanced Diploma in CBT. She has also secured a volunteer position with MIND for which she had to go through a competitive process, including an interview and a group exercise which she was sure she didn’t do well in. She said she was always one of the last to speak in the exercise, but I think the assessors probably saw that as an ability to listen before speaking. The offer of voluntary work is subject to a police check and satisfactory references. I do sometimes wonder whether a rigorous recruitment process like this, for an unpaid position, is justified. On the other hand it does offer experience without which it’s hard to get a job in this area.

In December I wrote that the financial settlement for local government was better than expected. That’s true, but I’d made the standard mistake of equating the ‘settlement’ with the Revenue Support Grant. However, in Wales there are nearly 50 direct grants outside the RSG and the ‘settlement’ for each of these happen at different times of the year. Together these grants amount to nearly £900m and they fund important local services. In February we heard that some of these direct grants have not been cut but others have been cut by way above the rate of inflation. The Education Improvement Grant, for example, has been cut by 5.4% and the Single Environment Grant has been cut by 4.4%. These cuts won’t change the council’s budget because these grants are not controlled by the council, but they might impact on the services they currently pay for. So, not as bad as it could have been but worse than we’d thought.


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