Thursday, 30 April 2009

Is Mayor Boris re-arranging deckchairs and not clearing the way?

WARNING: Parochial London-centric blogpost. However, this post has some relevance in the general issue of devolving power, boundaries etc.

Is Mayor Boris re-arranging deckchairs and not clearing the way?

Boris is backing a new City Charter, but I am concerned that some of the ideas will not move us forward. Just because the current arrangements are not ideal, does not mean that change will automatically mean improvement.

Lets take a look at some of the proposals.
* Appoint borough commanders instead of the Met chief doing so.
This might have legs, but I'd rather the people voted, not the Boroughs.
* Spend NHS money currently under the control of primary care trusts.
This is replacing one monopoly with another, with no plurality. Problem here is coordination and the fact that PCTs are not limited to one borough. My son was born in Hammersmith. If you get per-Borough control of monies, my mind sees into the future people will be limited to using their local borough's health services. Bad. bad. bad.
* Decide on GPs' opening hours.
Like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Who knows, this could be a wheeze to push through the dreaded Polyclinics, which will end up forcing out GPs and resulting in people having a de facto monopoly for General Practice provided by some faceless company who won a "tender" by the PCT. I smell corruption behind all this, as I always do when I see a Private Monopoly Operating Under State Mandate. I suspect we will end up with poorer services, higher costs and certainly far less choice and a further distance to see one's doctor than now. For those who do not know, Polyclinics are facilities offering some limited outpatient care, minor operations and sometimes a "Nurse Practitioner" environment instead of Doctor-led. They are larger than GP surgeries and serve a larger area, thus becoming a monopoly presence for many. The setting up of a Polyclinic often requires resources beyond that of the traditional GP partnerships, so only private corporations can bid. The link between you and your doctor can be shaky as it is, with a Polyclinic it is likely to break entirely.
* Change bus routes and timetables, taking control of local services from Transport for London.
Bus routes do not operate within a borough. Queue cat-fights as boroughs argue the toss as buses cross boundaries. One borough might not want a useful route diverted to a busy high street, screwing up the services. Whatever, we will see the spawning of 32 tin-pot TfLs around London. Yes to more local input into services, but I do not consider if my bus crosses into Hounslow or Acton when I get on it, so why should Ealing Borough care?
* Take charge of the trunk roads run by TfL.
Not sure why this is needed. Trunk routes by defintion are pan-borough, so it makes sense that the supra-borough entity runs them.

Still, if it means more INVOLVEMENT then fine, but I get the feeling it will just create a whole series of new layers reproduced in 32 boroughs with lower quality staff.

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