Archive for January, 2010

By Highgate Councillor Maya de Souza

At the Resources and Corporate Performance Scrutiny Commiteee meeting on Tuesday, I was surprised to see a proposal for the introduction of performance-related pay for officers at a senior level (that’s the 180 or so officers below the chief officers, who already receive performance-related pay). The excellent writing of recent years by the economist Richard Layard, and others, suggest that this is really not the sort of principle we should be applying if we are genuinely interested in well-being of staff or in efficient management, let alone all of the issues it raises for the community at this time of straightened finances.

Performance-related pay, bonus schemes etc spur people to act in an overly competitive way, worrying about their performance relative to others. This can affect their willingness to work as a team, it may mean that people look for projects that will make their name at the risk of unnecessary work being done, and it can encourage a long hours culture and poor work-life balance. It’s particularly bad at time of recession, when this can play on people’s insecurities.

I argued that Camden should be taking on board these factors in deciding what incentive system we need. It should look for systems of reward that encourage team work, and systems that do not require people to be even more competitive.

My fellow councillors were not however interested – they were more concerned that bonuses just weren’t going to be big enough! Little seems to have been learnt from the extreme example of a bonus culture that led to our financial system being derailed.

Camden should not be going down this route. It should be leading the way with good progressive employment practices.


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There were more concerning revelations at last night’s Camden council health scrutiny committee about the plans and activities of NHS Camden.

A deputation from the Camden branch of Keep Our NHS Public, led by Regan Scott, revealed that despite a request to suspend tendering of the out-of-hours GP service, now run by Camidoc, NHS Camden (formerly the PCT) was running a tendering process that was closing today. He said: “It has not been the PCT that told us what it is doing. It was we who found out.”

After an extensive debate — including taking legal advice on the precise definition of “substantial” that provided some light relief — the scrutiny committee agreed to ask NHS Camden to suspend the tender, stating that it believed there were substantial changes to the service being proposed under the terms of the contract – a specific concern was the degree to which face-to-face consultations would be provided by nurses, when they are now with GPs.

Councillors also expressed considerable frustration at the difficulty in obtaining information from NHS Camden sufficient to allow them to fulfil their legal scrutiny task properly. They were particularly concerned about the balance being weighed in the contract between quality and price as the two key factors to judge between the bidders. The NHS Camden’s representative, Liz Wise, indicated she “couldn’t recall” the ratio. Councillors also noted that while the contract made reference to the importance of local knowledge in the general specification, this was not apparently included in the final judgement of the tenders.

The KONHSP delegation also expressed great concern, echoed by councillors, about “the adoption at the last PCT Board meeting of a substantial, highly detailed new ‘Comercial Strategy’ which declares all primary provision of health care in Camden to be a ‘health market’.”

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I’m pleased to have just signed the candidate pledge for Vote Cruelty Free backing their election manifesto (PDF), which covers farm animal welfare, animal experimentation, hunting, fur, whaling, and other issues.

Farm welfare is an issue that I’m particularly concerned about. In my youth I spent quite a bit of time on farms in Australia, and I saw sows held in hideous farrowing crates, in which they were locked for many weeks, unable to turn around, to do much more than shake their head and lie down. At the time I was told that this was “necessary” to ensure they didn’t harm their piglets, yet now I know that any threat they presented to their young was a result of the stressful, inadequate conditions in which they were held, and that living in open field conditions, with appropriate space etc, there’s no need for concern.

I also saw mulesing – the removal from the rear of sheep whole patches of skin. This is justified on the basis of the need to prevent flystrike – which in the extensive, low-labour grazing conditions of Australia is pretty well impossible to stop any other way. Yet, it is clear that this is just one more sign that many aspects of current Australian agriculture are unsuited to the environment in which it tries to operate. (Hard-hoofed animals such as sheep and cattle are also extremely harmful to fragile Australia soils, their tracks making a significant contribution to erosion.)

(Natalie Bennett is the Green Party candidate for Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary constituency.)

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Natalie Bennett, Holborn and St Pancras

Beatrix Campbell, Hampstead and Kilburn

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Camden Green Party

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The Green chair of the London Assembly, Darren Johnson, on the 20% rise in bus fares

Darren Johnson letter

Letter from campaigner Cathryn Symons about the proposed medical lab in Somers Town in CNJ.

Letter from Bloomsbury campaigner Sam Bueno de Mesquita in CNJ about the importance of “bike boxes” & driver education.

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The Tories were last week proclaiming in the Ham and High, in an article not yet online, their “freeze council tax until 2013 policy (which they were also plugging in the Camden Gazette).

Yet we all know that the cost of living, the cost of providing services, keeps rising – indeed many essentials are rising faster than the headline inflation figures.

How can this disrepancy be met? Only by cutting services, the services that are essential to the most vulnerable in our community – the young, the old, the disabled, the ill, those who really need support.

The Tories make much of their concern about our allegedly “broken” society. How can slicing into the social safety net “fix” it?

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