Saturday, 3 December 2011

«Αποφασίζουμε»

At the end of October, in the run-up to the G20 meeting in Cannes on 3/4 November'11, President Sarkozi and Chancellor Merkel - Σαρκοζί και Μέρκελ - pressed George Papandreou, who was then still Prime Minister of Greece, to decide whether his country planned to remain in the Eurozone....: “Εμείς αποφασίζουμε για την Ελλάδα”. To many their words came out as "We decide for Greece"

On 1 December 2011 on the Ano Korakiana website:

ΑΝΑΚΟΙΝΩΣΗ
Στις 28/11/2011 πραγματοποιήθηκε η 2η Λαϊκή Συνέλευση των κατοίκων της Άνω Κορακιάνας για το χαράτσι της ΔΕΗ. Δηλώνουμε ότι θα αντισταθούμε οργανωμένα και συλλογικά στη ληστεία και την υποβάθμιση της ζωής μας και αρνούμαστε την πληρωμή του χαρατσιού για τα ακίνητα.

Α π ο φ α σ ί ζ ο υ μ ε:

- Κανένας εργολάβος με εντολές διακοπής δεν θα πατήσει το πόδι του στο χωριό μας
- Αναρτούμε πανό στις εισόδους του χωριού, μαζεύουμε τα χαράτσια και  δημιουργούμε δίκτυο επικοινωνίας και άμεσης παρέμβασης για να εμποδίσουμε τη διακοπή του ρεύματος
- Κανένα σπίτι χωρίς ρεύμα. Είμαστε αποφασισμένοι να επανασυνδέσουμε το κομμένο ρεύμα.
- Συγκροτούμε Λαϊκή Επιτροπή για τον καλύτερο συντονισμό της δράσης μας

ΚΑΝΕΝΑ ΣΠΙΤΙ ΧΩΡΙΣ ΡΕΥΜΑ
ΚΑΝΕΝΑΣ ΜΟΝΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΣΤΗΝ ΚΡΙΣΗ

ΣΗΜ.: έχει ξεκινήσει και στο χωριό μας και δυναμώνει από βδομάδα σε βδομάδα, η κίνηση-αντίδραση που εξελίσσεται και σε άλλα χωριά της Κέρκυρας κ.ά., ενάντια στους έκτακτους φόρους στα ακίνητα, που εισπράττονται μέσω των λογαριασμών της ΔΕΗ, αλλά και της απειλής για διακοπή της ηλεκτροδότησης σε όσους δεν πληρώσουν.

"No to the poll tax"

NOTICE
On 28/11/2011 the second People's Assembly of the residents of Ano Korakiana debated the property tax charged through bills from the Public Power Company. We declare that we will offer organised and collective resistance to this robbery and degradation of our lives and we refuse to pay the increased property tax.

W e  d e c i d e :

- No contractor with disconnection orders sets foot in our village
- We post banners at the entrances of the village, gathering to ensure we are in touch with one another to organise collective interventions to stop disconnections
- No home will be be without electricity. We are determined to reconnect homes whose power supply is cut off.
- We form a Popular committee for the better co-ordination of our activities.

NO HOME WILL BE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY
NO-ONE WILL FACE THIS CRISIS ALONE

What has begun in our village grows stronger from week to week, spreading to other villages of Corfu, against the extraordinary taxes on property collected by the Public Power Company using the threat of disconnection of power against those who do not pay.
*** ***
Linda and I, now in England, were discussing how we should conduct ourselves.
"I'm not sure" said Lin "whether we, as foreigners, should join in."
"I know. I'm unsure" I thought for a while "We've already paid the first of the two bills containing the tax increase" We left the money with friends. "We've still another property tax bill to pay."
Lin was silent.
"You know what?"
"?"
"I think it's right we should pay, but I would, if someone was about to have their electricity disconnected for non-payment, stand in any peaceful crowd that sought to intervene by gathering between someone's home and the contractor's workmen."
"I'd do that" said Lin.
Πρέπει να αποφασίσουμε...
*** ***
Athens News on 2 December reports the new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos saying to Parliament at his first session of PM's questions: "I do not think it is correct to cut off the power supply to households that cannot afford to pay..." Indeed something has to give as yet another instalment of the mighty bail-out, the 6th tranche, money on unimaginable scale, is agreed. Nick Malkoutzis, deputy editor of Kathimerini's English Edition, points out in his blog Inside Greece that...
...the impression is often created that Greece is being unfairly rewarded with 'cheap money despite failing to get its act together. The country is continuing to spend much more than it earns in revenues but its large deficit is not just down to the slow pace of public sector reforms, the worsening recession has deeply affected the revenues side of the equation as well....Greece’s inability, for whatever reason, to get its public finances on track does not change the fact that the bulk of the money Athens is borrowing from its eurozone partners is going toward repaying foreign banks, investors and institutions and only about a fifth is being spent on public sector salaries and pensions....the Greek bailout is by and large a recycling of money from eurozone taxpayers to European banks, which also helps buy everyone time ahead of a possible default by Greece. This theory is only emphasized by the fact that just days after Greece is due to receive its €8-billion loan tranche this month, it has to meet two major bond maturities: one for €1.2 billion on December 19 and another for €4.6 billion on December 29. In other words, Greece will pay out a total of €5.8 billion to its lenders this month, which is exactly the same amount that it is borrowing from the eurozone. As self-serving as that may appear on the part of its eurozone partners, Greece is in a position where it cannot survive without these loans until a better solution is adopted. At least for now, the two sides are bound together as they hurtle through the current uncertainty. 
*** ***
After teaching in Dumfries and Galloway on Tuesday I went south west of London to brief members and councillors on the implications for them of the Localism Act, just passed - and the wisdom of persuading scrutiny members to identify and focus on these for the rest of the authority. I enjoy cycling through London, strolling through the concourses of capital stations, crossing the Thames...
On Waterloo Bridge
...waiting in a shelter on a wet platform at the outer edge of London as through-trains dash by.
"The next train will not be stopping at ..."

My nurturing narratives of government at school were almost invariably - Boadicea, the English Civil War, Robin Hood, Hereward the Wake, Rob Roy notwithstanding - about the accrual of authority to the monarch, the centralisation of royal power - the Domesday Survey and Norman hegemony, before that the Romans and their roads and walls, later Henry VII and his use of the Star Chamber to gain control of a powerful royal exchequer, the Act of Union, and these, despite the spilling of blood, were stories of governments able to maintain and widen the rule of law, bringing greater opportunities for justice against the wolves of localism - predatory tribes, war lords, robber barons, raiding Picts, lawlessness along the marches, plunder and civil strife. I asked people what positive stories they knew from their history books - their early education in history - about devolution; about the giving up of power by larger governments to smaller. No-one could raise a hand.* Localism's heroes are rebels, outlaws (even criminals like the psychopath Dick Turpin), protestors, petitioners, and martyrs. There are no great narratives of localism triumphant. This is why it is so difficult to renegotiate relations between centre and locality in the United Kingdom. That it is happening is undoubted. Few do not believe it should not - so 'wicked' and intractable are the problems faced by a central government that attempts to control our unwieldy polity ("Try to control everything; you end up controlling nothing"). Do you now hear anyone at the centre calling for greater power there, unless it is to demand it from the larger government of Europe? Who now celebrates strengthening the control of Whitehall? There are struggling nations like Iraq where honourable and effective central government is yearned for; but not in Britain. Everyone thinks localism is an idea whose time has come (see The Welsh Assembly, The Scottish Parliament, even a faltering Northern Ireland Assembly) but do not be surprised if this happens slowly, cautiously, laboriously, vexingly and frustratingly slowly. There has never in the history of this 'United Kingdom' been a great story of successful devolution. It's being written as we speak. The Localism Act is not as significant for all the hoo-haa surrounding Big Society as the Local Government Act 2000, but it is not to be ignored. It offers further choices and possibilities. It needs to be scrutinised in detail - all 497 pages.
THE LOCALISM ACT  2011
Of special interest are those elements of the Act that relate to Overview and Scrutiny in local government. Three amendments relating to Scrutiny were made in the report stage,
1. The deletion of the prescription about matters non-scrutiny committee members may refer to a scrutiny committee. Councillors who are not members of scrutiny committees will no longer be restricted to referring only local government matters to scrutiny committees. This means that any members of an authority may refer any matter to scrutiny committees for consideration.
2. The removal of the link between the scrutiny committee’s powers to scrutinise partner authorities and improvement targets in local area agreements, widening the partners’ activities that overview scrutiny committees can scrutinise
3. The removal of the distinctions in the scrutiny provisions between district councils in county councils’ areas and other partners authorities. This gives scrutiny committees of non-unitary district councils an equivalent position to scrutiny in other authorities, allowing them to hold partner bodies to account.
...but the Localism Act introduces a demarcation line according to whether a local authority opts for Executive arrangements or Committee arrangements. It has that choice. If an Authority settles on Executive arrangements these must include provision for the appointment of at least one scrutiny committee. The rest of the provisions concerning scrutiny will then apply. But if an Authority settles on a committee system it may have one or more scrutiny committees - or none.
The Act contains provision for local authorities to continue to have a role in scrutinising the work of health authorities. In the consultation stage leading up to the bill there were proposals to merge local authority scrutiny functions into Health and Wellbeing Boards…Bodies like the Centre for Public Scrutiny, the Unitary and County Scrutiny Network as well as INLOGOV pointed out that, given that it was almost certain that senior Executive Members and Officers would be appointed to these Boards, the scope for scrutiny would be limited with the scope for conflict of interests increased. It would also be very difficult for the proverbial person on the Clapham omnibus to see such a Board being independent and impartial. Bluntly, the proposals were flawed…these representations were listened to …so now there’s continuing opportunity for scrutiny to contribute to the work of the NHS.... 
The role of a Designated Scrutiny Officer involves (see p.252)
- Promoting the role of authorities’ of O&S committee(s)
- Providing support to O&S committee(s)
- Providing support and guidance to ‘Members, Members of the Executive and Officers of the Authority’
Furthermore, in stating that this Officer should not be the Head of Paid Service, Monitoring Officer, or Section 151 Officer and placing it in this category suggests that it is envisaged that this role should be at a senior level.
An Inlogov view: Whether or not a Council chooses to conduct its affairs through committees; it should properly resource a capacity to undertake scrutiny. For committees, or for that matter cabinets (and cabinets are, in the last resort, just single party committees, dealing with detailed and complex agendas) there is no substitute for the analysis of an issue or service in depth which scrutiny is properly placed to do and where an input from non-executive Members can bring out choices and alternatives that otherwise might never see the light of day…
Using the Scrutiny function to make sense of the Localism Act 2011
_________
*There may be few if any striking narratives of locality and devolution but there are some increasingly prominent stories - fulminations where the story and its style make the narrative - against forms of sovereignty that no longer lie with nations. Of these one of the most prominent is Greg Palast's recent Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. I must thank this journalist for introducing me to the 'vulture fund' - 'a private equity or hedge fund that invests in debt issued by an entity that is considered to be very weak or dying, or whose debt is in imminent default.' Hear Palast on the phone to the US libertarian part-time gonzo historian, anti-globalist Alex Jones Show - especially when speaking of Greece as a 'crime scene' between 06.30-08.09 - more elaborately and soberly outlined in the film Debtocracy Χρεοκρατία, made earlier this year by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou, mentioned in Democracy Street on 17 June'11.
*** *** ***
I took the train to Stourbridge on Saturday morning to meet Simon Winter and sit in on part of the Kaleidoscope Christmas Event in The Talbot Hotel.
If anyone can dig up old copies of my step-father's TV programmes - especially Out of Town -  it's likely to be via people who belong to or are associated with Kaleidoscope.

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