Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Missing words round

According to David Cornock:

A Church of England Bishop told the MPs that it's "entirely unreasonable"
that some patients on either side of the Wales/England border face longer
waiting times for treatment.

Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford, said people should be treated
equally wherever they live. "I think from where we are, it is entirely
unreasonable that there should be that difference of treatment according to
where people live and waiting lists, and we would want to see a much greater
equality for people whichever side of the border they live.”

Sounds obvious at first, but suppose it had been the Bishop of Cracow comparing services along the border between Germany and Poland. Or the Bishop of Dover, comparing services at each end of the Channel Tunnel. Would it still sound so reasonable and obvious?

I do not argue for, or attempt to justify, lengthy waiting times, of course. Long waiting times are always unacceptable, whether in Radnor, Cracow or Dover. And all those charged with reducing them can study and learn from the success of others, even if there may be reasons, sometimes even good ones, why some of the approaches used in one place do not necessarily transfer to another. But to argue that there should never be differences seems a little absurd to me.

I suspect that, in reality, the good bishop simply missed out two words from what he said, namely “in Britain”. It's part of a mindset, shared by many, which hasn't really got to grips with the idea of devolved administrations setting their own, and sometimes different, priorities.


Draig said...


Really thought-provoking post here. My frustration I guess is that I'm not sure the blog format supports an equally thoughtful response from responders such as myself.

But I'll have a go anyway!

I think in the world we live in today, concepts such as centralism/decentralism are far more pertinent than concepts such as Left and Right. We live in a world of large concentrations of power, where even the local authority can seem like a bureaucratic machine grinding down localised expressions of dissent.

I think this centralism is a large reason for the alienation many people feel from the political process.

Yet Democracy as we know it has only really existed for around the last 60 years, and I think Nye Bevan hit it on the head when he said it was "a system whose potential had hardly been scratched." I'd say that's as true today as when he said it.

Bevan is credited with the creation of two of the "5 giants" of the welfare state - council housing and the NHS. But are things created 60 years ago relevant to the type of world we live in today?

It's true that the Assembly has been strait-jacketed as far as Local Authority housing is concerned. The Treasury holds the whip hand. Too much centralism? Definitely. So side-step it. Which is exactly what the Assembly did with the creation of the
"Community Mutual Model".

The Community Mutual model is essentially a co-operative. There has been much debate, especially in Swansea (where it was on the cards), as to whether it is viable. My argument is that it decentralises power down to where it should be - the estates, but still retains the unified structure of a county-wide organisation.

The reaction of the traditional left has been interesting. Many of them call this "privatisation". I'd say that shows that much of what passes for "thinking" in left-wing circles nowadays is nothing more than simplistic rhetoric.

Was Tower Colliery (another co-operative) "privatisation" too?

And if Miners can run their own pits, why can't tenants run their own estates? Council Tenants today face two broad choices - stay with the council and a generally poor repair and management regime, or buy your house. Younger tenants can do that, but at the end of the day then they usually become a tenant of a new organisation - a Lender. Along with thousands of other "tenants".

How much real accountability is there with either system?

Community Mutuals offer a middle way. Would tenants have the confidence to try it? I'm not sure.

As to the Tories, bear in mind that a Tory - John Redwood - supported the Tower venture. It would be interesting to learn what the Tory stance is on community mutuals...any takers?

Ceredig said...


Forgive me, but I think this comment perhaps relates to a leter post "Does size matter"? I'm duplicating it to that thread instead.