The Silo in “The Silo Effect”

The Silo Effect – why putting everything in its place isn’t such a bright idea.

Gillian Tett, Little, Brown. 2015 £20.00

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This is in many ways a good book, especially for people who have never come across or thought about the problems of large hierarchical organizations (private or public) and even for those of us who have.

Tett is an accomplished journalist, US editor of the FT and has a PhD in Anthropology.

Tett begins with three main tales of how ‘silos’ – hierarchical constructed compartments within or between organisations – can cause enormous problems (chapters 2, 3 and 4).

She then moves on to four chapters examining case stories of how silos can be ‘busted’.

All of this is highly entertaining and enlightening – as long as you know nothing about the subject to start with. Then you get really frustrated by Tett’s own personal ‘silos’. Continue reading

A brief note on PFIs (and why I am sick of people misrepresenting them)

The “Private Finance Initiative” (PFI) policy was a curate’s egg – sometimes it worked, but in many (most) cases it was probably mistakenly conceived and implemented.

But what irritates me most about PFI is not the mistakes that were made around it, but the complete (wilful?) ignorance of many of its critics in understanding what most PFI deals were. Continue reading

£35bn on debt interest? But what about the £375bn held by the Bank of England?

One thing has puzzled me since the introduction of “Quantitative Easing” (QE) in 2009. Between then and 2012 the Bank of England ‘bought’ £375bn of government bonds from their previous private sector owners.

This is a pretty sizeable chunk of the total Government debt of about £1.5bn – roughly a quarter. And it costs us nothing. Continue reading

SR2015: Spending: Is 36% of GDP still his target? [Update: the answer is yes]

[Rather than single blog I am posting a series of shorter posts on the Spending Review today on specific issues]

“Mr Speaker, I want to announce to the House that we are on target to meet our long-term economic plan of reducing the size of the British state to just 36%, putting firmly at the lower end of public spending in advanced economies. This will replace the long-term trend of public spending in the UK to be at around 43% of GDP, even under Conservative governments. By 2020 we will have fundamentally reduced the size of British Government.”

Continue reading

Whither Labour?

The Labour Party is headed for an all out civil war between its social democrats on the one side and its reformist and revolutionary socialist wings on the other. This is inevitable, although at the moment both sides are trying to wait for the opportunity to say “you started it” (a bit like Ken Livingstone recently).

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[Labour MPs and front-benchers vote with their feet and leave Corbyn to face Cameron almost alone?]

In the 1972 post-script to his 1961 book on the Labour party, Parliamentary Socialism, Ralph Miliband finally comes out clearly and says what he has clearly thought all the way through his history of the party:

“[The] Labour remains, in practice, what it has always been – a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted.” (1972, p376).

In today’s language, Labour has always been predominantly a social democratic rather than a socialist party.

Continue reading

Notes on the attacks in Paris (and a personal dimension)

These are just some thoughts about the attacks in Paris. They’re not a thorough narrative or analysis, but things that have occurred to me as I have followed the story today.

For personal reasons this has been a particular concern, which I’ll explain at the end. Continue reading

Prisoners are people with real lives (why closing city centre prisons may be a big mistake)

[Disclaimer: I am not a criminologist. But I have worked on and with prison services in several countries, including as an external member of the review commission of HM Prison Service in 1996/7.]

The government has announced it wants to close some old city centre prisons, re-build them in cheaper areas (presumably away for high value city centres) and use the sale of the valuable sites to pay for the rebuild. Sounds like a “no-brainer”? Maybe. There is a very big BUT however…… Continue reading