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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

'... a truly continental economy'

We think we've allowed for the €3.50 for each square metre of the assessed floor space of our home in Democracy Street which we will be required to pay when we get our next electricity bill, but November 9th's Kathimerini reports problems across the country as the new property tax increment appears on this month's round of domestic bills:
Public Power Corporation (ΔΕΗ) on Tuesday announced that it has set up a special hotline to deal with hundreds of complaints from consumers around the country who have received larger-than-expected bills for an emergency property tax levied through their electricity bill. According to the majority of complaints received by PPC representatives across Greece, the square meterage of hundreds of properties -- which is one of the factors in the complex formula used to assess property tax, together with the location and age of the property, and the so-called objective value, a bracket set by the Finance Ministry to control real estate prices -- was inflated. It is the job of each individual municipality to submit to PPC the details of every declared property in its domain, with which it levies the municipal tax that is also charged through PPC bills. A spokesperson for PPC on Tuesday said that the discrepancies in the new emergency property tax are the responsibility of the municipal authorities rather than the electricity provider, though it added that consumers who have any questions regarding the tax they are being asked to pay can call the toll-free hotline on 214.214.1000 for advice. In the case of sensitive social groups, like pensioners and disabled people, the General Secretariat for Information Systems of the Finance Ministry - Γενική Γραμματεία Πληροφοριακών Συστημάτων - has set up an SMS (on tel 54160) and web ( service to deal with claims of over-charging. Other consumers who believe that they are being asked to pay more than their proper dues are required to pay their property tax and PPC in full and to then apply for a refund via their next electricity bill. PPC has been ordered to cut the electricity supply of anyone who refuses to pay the property tax.
[Back to the future - 15 Nov': Kathimerini reports:
It is unlikely that the state coffers will see anywhere near as much money as expected by the George Papandreou government from the Special Property Tax, levied on citizens via electricity bills, as the first signs have been rather disappointing.]
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Channel 4 is showing a programme Go Greek for a Week . In the first episode three British citizens - a bus driver, hair dresser and a doctor, advised by a fake accountant - Mr U.Kostas (ha ha) - learn how much they would get by way of earnings and pensions in Greece, and how much they would need to pay by way of fakelaki - Φακελάκι - for an MOT and a planning application to build on greenbelt land. It's all done archly tongue in cheek. It's also depressing and one-sided implying Greek corruption - undeniable (see 'Tragic Flaw: Graft Feeds Greek Crisis' Wall Street Journal, 10 April 2010) caused the Eurozone crisis, leading to the collapse of capitalism. One responses from Radio Arvyla - Ράδιο Αρβύλα -  is a parody show hosted by ANT1 from Thessaloniki.

"Go Greek for a Week" is sub-Ladybook One analysis of a complex crisis. Yes of course Greece sustains a horrid amount of corruption, but this alone excludes as much learning about causes and solutions to the problem as the medical treatment of an epidemic is helped by looking at someone's life style. It's almost certainly relevant but considered on its own becomes more useful for moralising, stereotyping and caricaturing than finding answers what happened and how we are all - and we are in it together - going to recover from the mess we're in.
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Negotiations continue for the formation of a possible government of unity in the Republic. Tony Scoville e-mailed me this afternoon with an account of his and Helen's tour of Greece, including their stay with us in Ano Korakiana, during October. I shall settle down to read it tomorrow. He ends his letter...
...Poor Greece. In the last three weeks since we left, things seem to have gone from bad to much, much worse. I read a heart-rending article today in the NYT portraying how the entire Greek economy seems to be grinding to halt - literally. Businesses and shops, even in the affluent districts are shuttering because they haven't had a buying customer in weeks and those who do come in are seeking to pawn family valuables rather than buy anything! Deposits are fleeing Greek banks and sent abroad before it loses its value from enforced conversion to a new drachma. Will be interesting to see whether the new coalition government can handle the situation. I have my doubts. All parliamentarians, according to the article, have to be accompanied by armed guards. Do you think the military will try to take over as in the 1970's if the situation becomes chaotic and the government simply cannot enforce the measures it passes? Though no one has mentioned the possibility yet, Greece may be close to this possibility. I have no sense as to how all these turns are affecting the countryside but the paralysis has got to hit the rural areas and smaller cities sooner or later if things continue along their present trajectory. How stupid and, as Paul Krugman points out in the NYT so much unnecessary suffering all because the ECB, France and Germany won't get together to form a truly continental economy with greater not less unity. Hell, we learned that lesson (during America's critical period) in the 1780's under the Articles of Confederation!

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Just another day and a half in my mother's house in the Highlands and then south to Birmingham. I'm ensconced as in a closed order here, warm, secure, remote - yet in touch through phone to laptop, with little need for TV or newspapers...
Brin Croft
...organising a lecture on campus on 11 November on 'managing in a political environment', planning an in-house event on performance scrutiny for Dumfries and Galloway later in the month, sending an outline of my interest to the new Director of Inlogov, Catherine Staite, in readiness for a meeting next week about further work:
Dear C...For 30 years or more, while teaching on campus and in-house at InlogovYes Minister crystallised that interest, both because it was so well received, so funny on an unpromising subject - the relationship between a senior administrator and senior politician - and because it was about the minutiae of what went on between two people, with their various foils, but primarily two named human beings - two players. In real life this relationship between a politician and an administrator is not meant to be a friendship, tho' often friendly and usually courteous. It's a public relationship of government - yet at the same time drawing on the energies, feelings, motives and passions of a private relationship. By and large this aspect of leadership in government is left to gossip, reminiscence, fiction and historical biography because methods for exploring personal relations at the core of democracy are so unattainable.
I’ve always had an interest in photography and then television (my step-father was on it and I spent some of my youth in studios as he broadcast). With a mix of help from Chris Game and John Stewart and people at the campus TV studios we started creating short films of political leaders in local government to use on courses - as spice. I became more and more fascinated by the idea of filming the working relationship between a lead manager and a lead politician in making government...there were subtleties here that merited the attention of the video camera, which while not guaranteeing authenticity, could show both verbal and non-verbal exchanges in conversations at a ‘political-management interface’.
I wrote about this in a number of papers that are on my CV - especially my thinking on ‘the construction of trust at the top of local government’ and ‘political-management leadership’. As time went by I detached myself from the increasingly expensive services of campus TV service and acquired my own filming and editing equipment; developing the skills need to use equipment that in time became more and more ‘user-friendly'.
There is a method and a craft to making these films of CEO’s (sometimes Chief Officers) and their significant opposite number in the political sphere. I don't just ask them to talk to me about their working relationship. I have found a way of getting them to have that relationship on camera while I say nothing though of course they know I’m filming.
In 2011 I have an archive comprising many hours of material collected over a lengthy period from which with very clearly agreed permission from participants I've extracted key episodes which I use for graduate teaching, one-off lectures, conference presentations and in-house teaching and consultancy aimed at enhancing the quality of a council's political-management working relationships. An important step forward was having participants trust me sufficiently to permit me to stream extracts of films I’d made of them on the web (clearing this also with campus legal services.).
Although these films are unique - both as a record and as teaching material about leadership in local government - they are by no means the only material I use. There’s the conceptual and cognitive material based on far wider writing on leadership in government and the tension between political, managerial and political processes concentrated at the point where unique figures meet in specific organisations - hence my strong preference for closely prepared in-house work based on local context. I use mini-case studies - critical incidents of which I have 100s on file - told to me, and then rendered anonymous, by the key actors. I use carefully prepared exercises in political mapping to help less experienced officers enhance their skills at ‘reading' a political environment, and similarly I have developed techniques that mirror these ‘reading' exercise to assist members read the bureaucracy they are expected to understand and lead.
With the great diffusion of agencies that has come with localisation such exercises are valued at all levels of local councils, but I continue to hold that the working relationship of a lead manager and politician is key to understanding the wider interaction of politics and management. I believe this entails a process of skilled negotiation. Teaching this subject in Australia with a colleague there we titled our seminars, run jointly across the continent, ‘Negotiating the Overlap’ (the attached programme flier may be of interest). I enjoy working with other trainers, indeed prefer it, whether colleagues from inlogov, other institutions or in-house managers.
With Professor John Martin in Tasmania
When I meet M I hope to win her interest (and the prospect of future work in this area) by running quickly through the contents of a one-day event for a specific local council and the planning that precedes such an event as well as what follows it by way of managerial and organisational development. Every encounter varies since every council’s unique. I’m a tourist in my own land. People speak of cloned town centres. One of the reasons I like walking and cycling is that when I visit a particular council I get to see a few of its byways and highways and of course, if it has one, its railway station. I see its houses, offices, public buildings and green spaces and the drivers of the local economy as I pedal about. As you know I’ve also been involved in community activism in Birmingham and have been able to learn from these experiences without compromising my capacity for an appropriate detachment when it comes to working with local members and officers across the UK....
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Yesterday under a clear sky I cycled first north to Wester Lairgs Farm, just sold to a new owner as yet unknown, then took the broad gravel forestry track that leads along the treeline on the eastern slopes of Strathnairn, turning downhill and back before Farr Loch, where the track ends...
...and joining a narrower one that runs beside the river beside fields and through tall plantations - about five miles, with Scotland to myself, but for the signs of seasonal heather burning and a few cars once I'd joined the road at Farr School half a mile from Inverarnie.
Later I drove with my mum to Tomatin Distillery to smell the oats and see a little of the process of making single malt...
'...curious treasures of their stock-in-trade'
... a small sight of another's craft. We got to see the copper distillation stills, a warehouse full of vaporous oak barrels...
... coopered on site and a sip of 12 year old Tomatin and learning that most Scots distilleries are owned by the Japanese - in this case Takara Shuzo - that the bottling's done far south in Dumbarton, the barrels emptied into a tanker; the oats made into mash-tun elsewhere and brought for distillation to Tomatin. Later I took Mum to the Snow Goose on the edge of town for supper - veg soup, local beer and sausages and mash, though Mum fiddled with an aubergine curry - and a chance to discuss a video we're planning to make tomorrow about memories of Bagnor - though I'm not sure mum has the plot on that wonderful 13 years of my childhood. There's so much happened, with so many separate intertwined strands, that I can't quite imagine how she'll weave a narrative, compared to other memories of her's that we've filmed.
Not out of the woods

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No white smoke yet. A compromise for Hellenic PM emerged today - Phillippos Petsalnikos - but he was blocked by fellow PASOK members, returning Lucas Papademos to preferred candidate, but with what mandate? Αύριο...
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My talented half-bro George Baddeley, Managing Director of Silver Comedy, just sent me a tweet about their recent work...

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Simon Baddeley