Choose the topics of interest

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A Mind in the Making: From the Bottom-Up

This is an attempt to devise a way of finding our way through the connectedness of how things are – that is if you want to do this.  Most people don’t want to because they are perfectly content with where they are.

A good reason for wanting to find out about the connections is to enable better decisions to be taken about personal or institutional development. Things like buying a house, dealing with old age or developing incapacity, planning housing development, building or improving transport infrastructure (roads, railways, telecommunications), even thinking about possibilities for the future of a local authority or a country.  Any kind of development where you want to fathom out the potential consequences of different actions.

This blog is not structured in the usual top-down way, with categories and tags. My current idea is to think in terms of topics.   Each post will have one or more topics attributed to it.  If you click on the title of the post you will then see, at the bottom, that you can receive future posts on these topics by signing up at the bottom.

The underlying aim is to explore the future, from the bottom up.

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The circular economy is not fully circular


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The future of care: A grey future?

The lesson for a futurist: history is made of unintended consequences. Whenever you think about a solution to something, deeply examine the possibility that it will create opposite effect. Every solution bears seeds of a new problem.

Marina Gorbis, Institute For The Future: Executive Director
Palo Alto, California

In this piece, in addition to writing from bottom-up, I have a vested interest.  I have personal experience of old age:  I am 81 years old.

I think the UK is now in a muddle.  It is impossible to understand how things are now, let alone the direction in which the nation is travelling. Except in one aspect.

There is one thing we can now be certain of.  There will be an increasing number of old and handicapped people needing care.  And we DON’T KNOW what to do about it!

Mindful people might agree that the increasing dependence on the State, which most of us have “enjoyed” for all our lives, is going into reverse. This may slow down for a while, if we have a Government which conjures up extra public spending from somewhere.  But, I see a future of unavoidable no-growth. Those who reject this view assume that funding will be found to provide care services.  So they must think there isn’t a problem!  To me this is a mindless head in the sand view.  But then I am prejudiced.

Even if more funding is found, the problem of how to manage the increasing demands for social care seem to me to be intractable with the current system.  I cannot believe that sufficient care staff will be available to provide the services.  Wages are low, caring is an unpopular occupation and immigrants seem unlikely to provide a continuing source of cheap labour.  Also the big care home companies are saddled with debt and have profit seeking owners and share holders.

We must assume that there will be a continuing shift towards individual self-dependence.  And that it will be up to us, as individuals, families and local communities to look after ourselves. In health, work, social and cultural activities and especially in old age.

The problem then is how to manage this move towards local community care.  It has to happen.  The  longer the delay the greater the problem will be.

It can’t be left to a free local market.  It doesn’t exist in care.

Local community-based organisations will have to take the lead in providing and managing care services.

In this piece I focus on the management of community care services. Which is so important now.  Community ownership will have to follow later.

At first sight it may be assumed that relatives of those needing care will have to play an increasing role in their own homes.  But what will then happen in the care homes?

Full-time caring for elderly parents in your own home is understandably unpopular in the modern UK culture, in which more than one income is essential for comfortable living.  Not only is it unpopular, but also impracticable with an aging population in which very old people have to be looked after by old people.

There is an alternative but it is not legally possible at present, because of local government funding processes, Care Quality Commission inspection and regulatory systems, the personal taxation system and employment laws. All of which inhibit breaking away from how things are done now.

The alternative would be to activate and legitimise the grey economy locally.

[Wikipedia: the informal sector, informal economy, or grey economy is the part of an economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government.] 

The grey alternative would enable volunteers, relatives and friends, to be “employed” in care homes and residents own homes, on very low wages, providing supporting roles.  Undertaking cooking, cleaning and maintenance.

Most important, spending time with individuals in care, who may include their own relatives. Spending time in conversation, sharing memories, encouraging mindful thinking, playing card games, sharing old photographs and generally helping to maintain positive thinking. Becoming the friends many people in care no longer have.

Carers in the grey economy would be paid low wages (say £2 per hour) and receive out-of-pocket expences, on such things as travel, special clothing and for their meals in the homes. They would be paid by a local organisation, specialising in the management of grey care.

This approach reflects the fact that care cannot be financial viable in the conventional economy.  Which is perhaps a portent of things to come in a no-growth economy.

Supporting people to stay in their own homes is a crucial aspect of this alternative.

The reasons why people become unwilling to remain in their own homes are not fully appreciated until you get old.  It is not just that those needing care are less able to look after their bodily functions, which in truth is probably rare.  It is more to do with help needed to look after their homes.

People become reluctant to stay in their own homes because they are unable to deal with the day-to-day problems of living in and maintaining their houses and gardens. Changing a light bulb is a problem for those unable to balance on a chair or steps.  Reaching things in top and bottom shelves becomes impossible as you get older.  People who have tended their gardens all their lives can’t bear to see their cherished borders become weed infested.   Aspects of daily life which are seen by younger folk to be trivial become all-consuming problems in old age, leading to decisions to move to a care home or put pressure on their children to take them in.

Electricians, plumbers and builders already provide their services free of time charges to their own relatives, but those without relatives locally do not get this benefit and end up in despair at the inability to care for their own property. This is a particular problem for elderly people without relatives nearby. Community care must deal with this problem.  It must include help to care for peoples’ homes.

Trust is all important.  Knowing that someone at the front door comes from the local community organisation, and that organisation is known to be responsible for those they employ, will provide the kind of trust which is all too often missing today.

This is a kind of community care which overcomes the problems to do with people being unwilling to care for their relatives in their own homes.  Would they rather stay at home caring for their relatives and not get paid for it, or spend time when it suits them, and be paid pocket-money, to help in their local care home? Looking after their relatives and others needing help.

Also, bear in mind that relatives of those currently in care homes are generally dissatisfied with how their parents, siblings and children are looked after.  A kind of resigned dissatisfaction which is despairing of ever being able to get things done like they want.

For community care to work the responsibility for managing these “grey” care services will need to be undertaken by legitimate not-for-profit local organisations, with their own local funding. Raising money from community fun events (which incidentally would generate community development), endowments from relatives and those who have benefited from the system and support from local businesses.  Why not pay for the care services you have received after your death?

These local organisations will have to be authentic, autonomous, and unhindered by top-down edicts from self –interested social service and health authorities.

But there is a problem.  There are few formally constituted local organisations in most areas, which are empowered to undertake the kinds of services described here. Organisations which would be not-for profit companies, perhaps in mutual ownership, as co-operatives.

But how do they get started?  They need lawyers or capable individuals to incorporate them.  They need to make their doings financially viable.  Not by conventional grants and loans, but by raising money and developing resources locally.  Especially not by borrowing money – this leads down conventional pathways with hidden potential for disaster.

I have previously suggested that the way bureaucracies plan local services needs to be changed.  What follows is one possibility.

I propose that local authorities should help local communities to establish and incorporate organisations which can provide and run care services for their communities. The LAs would provide templates and support to informal local organisations to enable them to become legally incorporated, with proper financial systems.  There are already national organisations which provide this advice to self-funded local organisations, but I consider that it should to come from the local authorities.  They would then have to recognise these new kinds of local organisations as legitimate and work with them. But in no way must they control them.

Politically, this is neither left, central or right.  It is down to the local communities.

The Government should promote the idea, with suitable financial motivation, to get the co-operation of the local authorities.

Cultural changes would be required:  in social service and NHS funding process of care services; in Care Quality Commission inspection and regulatory systems; in the way that the employment related laws deal with the personal taxation system of volunteers; and laws relating to minimum wages.

Little new legislation would be needed. Just changes in mindsets and abandonment of vested interests.

When it is found to work, as it will, it will point the way to new kind of future for all kind of public services as their funding dries up.

It would be a future in which power would be transferred down from public authorities to individuals and their local communities. It would contribute to a fundamental system changeIt challenges established notions that the establishment knows what is best for us.  Most important it will have the potential to begin to create a new kind of society.




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Getting to well-being in a no-growth society

This adds something to my piece on clusters, which I see as an ingredient of how things will be in a future in which there is no growth in prosperity.

Having suggested clusters as the way forward, it is a different matter to say how things would then turn out. Such prognostications must be seen as no better than science fiction.

We are all used to growth. We are used to the notion that, when there is growth, the amount of money circulating within an area gives an indication of the prosperity of people within that area.

But what will happen when there is no growth? What does no-growth mean? When prosperity is not growing will people see consumerism as less important than how they feel about how things are? Will wellness or well-being become all-important, rather than how much disposable income people have?

Although there will be no national growth there will still be areas of growth. Elsewhere there will be no-growth or decline.

People will move from areas in decline to those seen to be better. This is nothing new – it was always so. In my own experience, for example, in the 1960s there was an area of mid Wales where there was no growth. People had moved out, when the slate quarries closed, leaving cottages behind which became derelict and for sale for around £100 (at that time new-build estate houses in better-off areas sold for around £5,000).

After a while, with increasing disposable income (funded by debt) these areas became clusters of second homes and holiday lets. This increased the money in circulation locally and the well-being of established residents improved. Now the area looks to be declining, albeit propped up for the time being by tourism and EC funding.

Getting more money circulating in an area which is seen to be “dying” is important if the aim is to reverse the process of decline. For this to happen, conventional thinking on what is good for a locality must be turned on its head. Attracting capital and revenue spending into the area become important. Allowing outsiders to have houses built, for second homes or letting, will help to improve the well-being of an area. But this may not be enough.

Spending on local public services is now reducing and local consumer spending is expected to reduce. This must be made up by a change of local mindsets, from money to perceptions to do with human energy and happiness. Energy spent growing and processing food and making things. Energy used for bartering, for giving away (freecycling) and for familial sharing. Getting resources of all kinds circulating locally, not just money, will lead to perceptions of better well-being.

For any of this to happen, top-down development control must be changed fundamentally to enable local resource circulation to develop, as suggested in my piece on clusters.

From the grassroots, subjective perceptions of well-being will then replace objective measures of prosperity. How this will play out in reality must be a matter of science fictional speculation.


Note: Those who have a top-down mindset may find it difficult to see that top-down concepts, such as classical economics, have no place in the world seen from the bottom up. The word “economic” is used from the bottom up to describe the financial efficiency of pursuing a particularly line of action. Thus “it can be more economical to join with other like-minded people to do something.” I have deliberately avoided the use of this word, hence my use of the phrase “well-being”. Which I sense is consistent with current thinking by economist Kate Raworth on doughnut economics. She suggests that “we need an economy that makes us thrive, whether or not it grows”.

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I have seen the future – and it’s clusters

The world is full of clusters. They have been around since the beginning of time. They can be seen from both top down and bottom up. From the bottom-up you may belong to a cluster, from the top down clusters may be seen as an implicit part of economic and cultural development. Whether you expect a future of no-growth or not, clusters will be part of the future.

Clusters of people and organisations are to be found in academic organisation, computer software, housing development, cybernetics, economic development, city planning, and so on.

Clusters may be generated and developed from the top down by public and private investment or “naturally” from the grass-roots by individuals coming together. An interesting example of the former, not far from where I live, is the Malvern Cyber Security Cluster which consists of more than 80 cyber security businesses. Why Malvern? It was established as a centre of cybernetic businesses in 1942, when Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered that telecommunications research should move to this rarely bombed region.

In this piece, probably mainly of interest to those who are aware of the UK town and country planning system, I will focus on the potential for clusters of people and businesses to develop in neighbourhoods, from the grass-roots. I expect this will come to be seen as an important way of planning the use of land, when the likelihood of no more growth in prosperity becomes widely accepted.

Clusters which develop naturally bring together like-minded individuals and organisations, with common aims and values, which come together for mutual benefit. It is a togetherness which is seen by those involved as an explicit co-operative process of personal and business development. It is a kind of development those involved expect to be sustainable. A kind of sustainability which complements ecological sustainability.

In my life-time I have known some local clusters. I will pick out three.

My childhood was spent in Studley, Warwickshire. Said at one time to be the largest village in England. Where all kinds of needles used to be made. The first needle makers moved to Studley in the 17th century. They were families who learnt to make a living by joining an emerging cluster of cottage industry businesses with a common business interest. Known collectively as “needle ticklers”, they included drillers, eyers, headers, pointers, straighteners, polishers and other specialisms. The number of needle families proliferated and then mechanisation, using water powered mills at first, led to mergers and take-overs.

Eventually there were just a few large businesses in factories, one of which, in the 1960s, was said to be the largest needle factory in the world. However, bigness led to a lack of competitiveness and to demise, and in 2007 the last needles were made in Studley. The co-operative business culture of the cluster had evaporated.

In Hay-on-Wye (population 1,500), there are over 20 books shops. A cluster started by the self proclaimed King Richard Cœur de Livre in 1977 to counter the declining fortune of the market town of Hay (population 1500). This cluster of book sellers “saved” Hay, which now gets over 500,000 visitors a year. Now perhaps in decline with antique shops taking over.

Clusters emerge as happenstances. In my area a redundant local authority village school was purchased and developed as a Steiner Academy, which in turn led to the coming together of a cluster of families with a shared interest in Steiner education.

In recent years, the emergence and development of clusters has not been recognised by the top-down land use planning system. This is particularly noticeable, sadly, with family clusters, where development control policies have, in effect, stopped families building homes nearby for their children and aged parents. Thus exacerbating the housing and social care crises.

I believe that clusters will become increasingly important in a no-growth world, in which people and businesses with shared values come to see co-operating with like-minded people to be more worthwhile than going it alone. Moreover, because they are newcomers they are likely to be innovative and creative.

The development of clusters, in response to declining wealth with new kinds of markets emerging, implies a fundamental re-think of how our lives will be organised. Maybe this is already happening but not yet seen as such.

A decline in disposable incomes will force family lifestyles to become more co-operative. Families will prefer to stay together, to support each other, rather than dispersing and losing contact, as has happened during the last 50 years or so. Sustainability through togetherness will be more important than chasing a career.

Existing businesses may relocate close to where their employees live, thus minimising employee travel costs, reflecting the reduction in disposable income available for travel. Business plans can be expected to include building houses to rent to their employees. As happened in my childhood when home ownership was beyond the means of the majority.

With no-growth, domestic car ownership will decline and human energy (walking and cycling) will be the way to enable travel within the clusters, to visit relatives and go about your businesses.

The Institute for the Future website shows how clusters have become a fundamental aspect of thinking about the future.

Tim Morgan has provided a convincing scenario of how the future will be in a no-growth economy. He makes the point that “true sustainability is going to require profound structural changes, including radical reform of patterns of habitation, work and leisure.” This sounds like clusters to me.

I don’t believe that any government would have electoral support for fundamental structural changes. But that shouldn’t be necessary, if the way forward were to be seen to be based on self-generating clusters. A process of organic development which is already happening, albeit frustrated by top-down intervention.

Changes in land use development control laws will be needed to enable self-generating clusters to develop. Those with vested interests in “business as usual” will resist change.

Top down development control would be needed, to define and protect areas from development which are seen to be of food production and landscape value. Elsewhere, deemed planning permission would be available for new individual dwellings (not estates), subject to agreement with immediate neighbours. In rural areas, this could be enacted by giving neighbours living within, say, 100 yards of a proposed dwelling, the right to stop it happening if there is no agreement between the parties.

Clusters would also make local housing more affordable and help to deal with the social problems of an ageing population.

Urban dispersal would be part of the evolution of population patterns based on clusters. In ways which cannot be predicted but must be allowed to happen unhindered. Markets in land suitable physically for building houses will emerge and evolve in unexpected ways, as part of the development of clusters.

In a world of uncertainty about the future, detailed top-down land use planning will come to be seen to be self-defeating. Much better to enable things to develop naturally, powered by creative individuals co-operating with each other to find sustainable futures for themselves and their families. IN CLUSTERS.

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Bureaucracy will prevail, but we could change the way it works

One of the reasons bureaucracy annoys us so is that it mostly doesn’t seem to provide the services we, as individuals, want for ourselves and for the areas in which we live.  We grumble about declining services and also about wasteful expenditure.

One reason for our discontent is that standards and processes of service provision are dictated from the top-down, irrespective of the wants or needs of individuals or where we live.  Whether you live in a city or in a rural area, your needs are seen to be the same, and so you are supposed to get the same services.  It is a technocratic system which is assumed to be free of political prejudice.

Those of us who choose to live in the countryside do so because we prefer the life-style to the hustle and bustle of urban living, and are happy to forego the supposed benefits of city life.  Alternatively, we may prefer the diversity of urban life and the proximity of shops and gymnasiums and shudder at the thought of living in the sticks. More likely, where we live will be dictated by what we can afford.

Another reason for our discontent is that the compartmentalisation of bureaucratic systems has the effect of defining the same priorities between services throughout bureaucratic territories, irrespective of how priorities are seen locally.

It is a system which, at the top, defines the overall priorities of different services, but fails to recognise that these priorities are wrong the further down the system one goes.  As a result, for example, a village may want funding put into a local school rather than have better street lighting. A city neighbourhood may want funds put into social programmes rather than new roads.

For these reasons services are both insufficient in some areas and for some people, and over the top elsewhere.

This inefficiency in service provision has arisen because of the progressive centralisation of services during the past 50 years or more.  The extent of centralisation surprised me when I looked it up for my area.  Prior to local government reorganisation in 1974, excluding parish councils, there were 18 local authorities in Herefordshire:  a county council, two borough councils, four urban district councils and 11 rural district councils. Herefordshire now has just one local council: a unitary authority.

Centralisation was driven not just by bureaucratic self-interest but also by a belief that large organisations are more efficient than small ones, which may seem to be true from the top down, but which disregards the diversity of local needs and wants.

Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with self-interests, especially when they are admitted.

Bureaucracy prevails irrespective of the persuasion of the political powers at the top or further down. If the political control of a local authority switches from one party to another, the administrative systems remain the same.   Political decisions on individual budgets and projects may be tweaked slightly, but the professional standards and processes within an authority remain unchanged

National standards and processes may be changed by the topmost bureaucracy – the civil service – but politicians seem to be powerless to avoid the bureaucratisation of the outcomes .  For example, the UK civil service interpretation of localism, which was wanted politically, was to create yet more bureaucratic processes, said to enable local consultation (not participation) to influence top down decisions.

So the bureaucratic systems and associated professionalism over-rule the aspirations of those of us at grassroots.  And when public spending is seen to be insufficient to meet needs, the current ways of doing things are wasteful.

There must be another way, which is driven by the needs of individuals and where they live, rather than by technocratic standards and processes.  A way which combines decentralised decision-making (not just consultation) with back-office business-style administration.

The underlying motivation for seeking a new way of distributing public services must surely be to enable overall decline in spending to be less painful.  A way, for example, which focuses cuts in services on those individuals and areas who receive more services than they want.

A way which might change how we see bureaucracy.

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How we see the future depends on our vested interests

During the past 50 years or so, growth has been part of my mindset.  I thought my prospects were good when the GNP was predicted to increase. Not so now, maybe?

In the past it was assumed that growth would underlie our thinking about the future.  Even in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the UK was heavily in debt, growth was assumed to be on the horizon.

But what kind of growth?  From the top down the talk was of growth of the national economy, the GNP.  It was generally assumed that our prosperity would increase along with GNP.  For some years it seemed to, but now we are not so sure.

People who understand how things really are, such as Tim Morgan, have pointed out that “the long years of growing prosperity are over”.  I believe this to be so.

It is time to think about contingency planning for a different kind of future, in which – although the GNP may be positive – there will be a decline in prosperity, because income growth will not keep up with inflation.

Most people – politicians, bureaucrats, business people and Uncle Tom Cobley and all – are committed to achieving growth in their organisations and their lives.  It is an invincible part of our mindsets. It would be considered perverse to think, or rather say, otherwise.

For the first thirty years of my life there was no growth in prosperity, as a result of the war and its aftermath.  I don’t remember how I saw the future during the war because I was too young to understand what the endless hum of war-planes, the barrage balloons and the air-raid sirens meant.  Silver paper from the sky was a pleasurable mystery. Recycling was part of childhood then.  Clothes and toys were passed on within and between families as we grew up. It was the way things were.

Sweet rationing ended in 1953, the year I left school. Other rationing ended the following year.  But disposable incomes didn’t seem to be growing.  I didn’t feel better off, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t expect to.  No-growth was an unconscious part of my mindset. My 10p (old pence) a week pocket money and then my income of less than £1,000 per annum, as a Chartered Engineer,  dictated how much I had to spend. Spending kept down, because borrowing was not an option.

Then, in the late 1960s, local authorities were allowed to give 100 per cent mortgages to their employees, up to 2.5 times their income on new houses. About the same time credit cards appeared. From then on, inflation ruled our spending and my income kept up, because public sector salaries were linked to inflation.  We were able to take equity out of our property by getting larger mortgages, some of which was spent on things other than property.  Materialism had become an integral part of my mindset, and borrowing became OK.  The UK had become gripped by materialism.

However, my thinking has changed.  I have read so much about the end of growth that I now believe it is likely.  No doubt those who believe in unending growth also believe they are right.  So why not have two contingency plans, for both possibilities?

If I am right I believe that, sooner or later, there will be general acceptance, politically and in the media, that growth of prosperity is no longer possible.  This will then lead to a national change of mindset from materialism to something else. Which will be difficult in all sorts of ways.  Especially politically.

It seems to me that there is a general state of denial about the possibility that the years of increasing prosperity are over.  This denial is understandable because people have a well-established vested interest in growth, for themselves and their children. The reason I believe in no-growth is because I have no interest in becoming better off.  This is because I am in my 80s and I have no familial interest in growth.

It is only when you strip away your vested interests that you can begin to see things as they really are, and be able to make meaningful political judgements. Contingency planning for both growth and no growth in prosperity would be a good step to take, without revealing your bias.

Post Script: there is a conundrum underlying this issue.  In my experience, no-growth was not a negative experience.  I was as happy then, as in later years, when I was doing my best to keep up.  In today’s world, no-growth would have outcomes which are undeniably good.  Re-cycling is an example, not just of our daily doings, but also as advocated by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation with its partners, including the likes of Google, Phillips, Renault and Unilever, whose mission is “To Accelerate the Transition to a Circular Economy”.


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I regard this as one of the most important and useful explanations of surplus energy economics.

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Good Idea, Bad Idea: The Merits of Renewables, the Folly of Electric Vehicles

This is important!

#118: Good idea, bad idea

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No matter where you live

In 1978, I moved away from bureaucracy.  I did so because I was disillusioned with the top-down system and wanted to live away from it.  I had a naive belief that I would achieve this if we lived on the edge of the country, away from the centre, in the Welsh Marches. How wrong I was.

We liked the area and it seemed to be remote from bureaucracy.  Our friends from suburbia thought we were crazy (in fact, there are nine supermarkets within half an hour!). We knew nothing of what went on within our chosen area. The statistics told us little. We had bought somewhere in a parish in which there are about 200 dwellings occupied, by around 400 people.

Not a village. For historical reasons, to do with Welsh inheritance laws, the area had developed as a higgledy-piggledy mixture of dwellings, separate and in clusters.  A mixture of small-holdings, family farms and farm workers’ tied cottages and a few incomers seeking self-sufficiency (not just off the land).  Now just a nice memory.

All our roads are single track lanes with passing places.  When we arrived, there were no traffic signs or road markings on the lanes. Then gradually a proliferation of traffic signs have been installed by the highway authority, at every bend and minor junction.  All in accordance with national standards.  They are still being installed.  A bureaucratic machine, once set in motion, is beyond the power of ordinary people to stop.  It is a system which assumes that drivers on single track lanes are unable see bends in the road ahead and drive accordingly.

Our landscape is hilly, with the Black Mountains on the horizon.  Sheep and a few beef cattle populate the fields. Which is as it should be.  But there are also some huge sheds, mostly out of sight from the lanes, each holding more than 20,000 poultry. The planning system allows this, ignoring local views on the traffic generated and smelly output.

Industrial buildings which would be better located in urban areas, alongside the poultry factory in Hereford, which processes 26,000 chickens per hour (yes, per hour).  Farming has always been smelly, but this is different.

We have a parish council which, as elsewhere, is powerless to do anything other than to put its own views forward on planning applications when asked. Views which are not those of the people and which will in any case be ignored if they are out of step with national and local authority edicts.

We have a council-subsidised shopping bus service to Hereford. On three days in the week.

In the 1980s and 90s, property prices here increased and the urge to build set in. Despite planning policies which dictated that there should be no houses built in ‘open countryside’, local councillors ignored legal advice and permissions were given.  But not for long. The Local Planning Authority was ‘told off’ and the officers resumed control.

Recently, the planning regime has changed as a result of new government policies.  These have been interpreted by planners to mean that infilling between existing houses is now OK, so long as they are  in areas they define, preferably in a Neighbourhood Plan.  Which is fine for those with large gardens in areas which have been chosen for growth.

The NHS prevails here, as anywhere else.  The only difference seems to be that you are more likely to meet someone you know or who knows someone you know when sitting in the GP and hospital waiting rooms.  Social service activities are out of sight unless you are personally involved, and then national laws, inspection processes and mindsets are followed.  There are no care homes in the parish, so those who are unable to look after themselves or be looked after have to move away.

So, top-down systems prevail here with the associated bureaucracy. Much the same as anywhere else.  Therein lies the problem.  Radical change cannot occur here or anywhere else without dismantling national standards and ways of doing things. It is a change that has to come from the top.

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Left or right, up or down?

The ‘rules’ which determine the modus operandi of local bureaucracies are set by laws made by the government at some time in the past, subsequently codified by the civil service as a basis for local implementation.

Much of how we are made to live now is a result of Acts of Parliament passed by the Attlee government in 1945/46 with subsequent minor changes which didn’t alter the fundamental Fabian inspired concepts of the initial enactment, such as in welfare and health.  Political changes in government and locally, left to right and so on, don’t change how things are done locally.  It is a flatland of sameness which does not alter with time.  A national revolution in thinking and practice would be needed to alter how local services are planned and managed.

Over the year,s the day-to-day activities of the bureaucracies, within their established legal frameworks and practice codes, have become professionalised, leading to technocratic languages and processes which only those in the know can understand.  In effect, the professions have become established as the foot-soldiers of bureaucracy, with aims and practices which enable them to do what they want, despite any political notions that there may be alternative ways.

The technocratic procedures officers follow are so embedded that they are taught in universities as the proper way to do things, leading to professional qualification.

Local politicians do not realise that they have so little power over what happens on the ground.

In looking generally for new ways of doing things, there seems to me to be an obsessive preoccupation with finding a centre ground, between left and right.  If the ground level effect of changes between left and right have little effect, I suggest that a middle ground would be no different. They are all the same.

If it is the command and control nature of the established isms which now need to be questioned, we must begin to think in a different dimension.  Up or down maybe?  Upwards towards totalitarianism and downwards to local community control.


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