Is the UK govt using an algorithm to process deportations?

We read more and more about crass deportations of people by the government, people who are perfectly entitled to stay and live in the UK.

My guess is that some policy wonk in the Home Office commissioned an algorithm from an IT supplier, kept secret under a false cover of claiming national security, which here really means their own job security.

So, first make a database by taking the National Insurance database from DWP. Get HMRC to obligingly add current addresses to these names. Then access the Home Office database of UK full passport holders and protect from deportation anyone with a full current passport. Now cross the road to the General Records Office and also protect from deportation anyone with a UK birth certificate.

What’s left? Well, according to this warped thinking, many thousands of illegal immigrants. So they send them a scary letter, followed by a visit from the contractors with handcuffs.

This dirty process ignores annoying legal nuances such as evidence, made easier because people cannot get Legal Aid. Anyway, down that rabbit hole that is current Home Office logic, if they are not illegal they should fill in an 80-page form and pay the government hundreds of pounds to allow them to continue living here for a while longer, even though they already have this legal right.

Finally, if parliament was doing its job better, this sort of oppressive bureaucracy would be stopped in its tracks.


The culture “back then” was different, wasn’t it?

When older men are caught committing sexual harassment these days, one of the typical excuses which is trotted out is, “you need to understand that I grew up in the 60s – 70s – 80s and it was a different culture then.”
But was it so different then?
In the 80s I was a member a men’s community workers’ anti-sexism group. Our group was concerned with what men could do to support women’s demands for change in a sexist world. We did practical things like running creches at conferences as well as meeting and talking. This was before the modern days of CRB and DBS checks, but we knew enough to make sure that children were protected by making sure no-one had one-to-one access to children, everything was in the open.
I don’t make this point to win prizes, the point is that even in the 80s men made choices and many men made the right choice. So abusers blaming “the culture of the time” is simply their desperate attempt to avoid taking responsibility.

ERDF – the hourly rate processes need to be simplified, and in good Blue Peter fashion, here’s a better system we made earlier

I have written recently with the suggestion that in ERDF processes it would be clearer to talk about staff having “shared duties” between an ERDF project and other projects, rather than saying they are “part-time” on the project. Not least because they could be really part-time.

And we should remind ourselves, staff with shared duties are required to complete a timesheet which splits their hours worked each day between their project tasks and their other tasks.

A few years ago the method used for claims was to calculate an hourly rate for each person with shared duties, based in their contracted hours and pay, and then to apply this to the project hours worked each month. Let’s call this system one.

However, a problem was said to exist with a few individuals, usually those spending over 85% of their time on project duties and in a few busiest months. In these circumstances, hourly rate multiplied by the hours worked could be more than the person was actually paid that month. It would average out with other months where holidays were taken, but that apparently wasn’t good enough as an answer.

And so, we now have a prior twelve month ‘census’ or data collection process for payroll finances and a national formula which ignores individual contracted hours and lengths of permitted holidays, all requiring hours of desk work to be undertaken for each individual by applicants, and further hours of work for the officials to check in absolute detail for compliance. Let’s call this system two.

But, we are told, the advantage of using this highly laborious method – system two – makes it permissible to accept the anomaly of hourly rate times hours exceeding the actual paid amount in the busiest months, because a fair rate has been exhaustively calculated.

But, if it permissible to claim above the monthly salary in a busy month, balanced out in other months, in the second system, why can’t we just revert to the first system and accept the same anomaly while using system one instead?

No twelve-month census. No national formula.

Some may say that system two stops people playing with the formula to calculate too high an hourly rate. But system one has the same safeguard because the calculations equally had to be agreed with officials in advance. If some applicants were blatantly playing the system, just tell them no. The financial principle of requiring calculations to be true and fair sums it up nicely.

We should return to the relative sanity of system one.

ERDF jargon – it would be clearer to say “shared duties” than “part-time” for staff who complete timesheets

A suggestion … with all the confusion in ERDF circles around the current use of the phrase “part-time” for staff who need to complete timesheets, I suggest a new phrase – “shared duties”.

Because someone with shared duties can work 37 hours a week, or 16, or whatever; just not all of them on the project.

And if you don’t have shared duties then you don’t need to complete a timesheet.

We the people wish to remain in the EU

There are reliable accounts that a democratic Brexit referendum this year would show a 60% vote to remain in the EU. What should we do now?
A year ago 17.4 million people voted to leave, 52%. It was called “the will of the people”. If over 18 million now want to remain, we need to communicate our honest change of position.
The 18 million should all write a letter to the EU with one sentence: “we the people wish to remain in the EU and we hereby rescind Article 50 of the Treaty.”
With modern technology an online petition seems a natural choice, but we need some caveats.
For online security it needs to be organised by an organisation with ultra-strong security processes and audit credibility, a retail bank such as the Co-op.
For resources it needs fair-minded non-party backers, such as the Sainsbury and Rowntree trustees.
For avoiding fraud it needs people to give their full names, unique national insurance numbers and an anti-robot element.
For people who don’t use online processes an equivalent postal coupon (cheque size) printed in newspapers and leaflets would be machine counted.
For fairness it would be monitored by the Electoral Reform Society and overseen by a non-political board of national leaders from all faiths and none.
Hostile organisations at home and abroad would try to troll and hack it, so any extra behind-the-scenes support from the Bank of England and the security services would be welcomed, even if never revealed in detail. Closing date, Christmas Day.
When we are living in a failed state, sometimes we the people have to take matters into our own hands.

The politics of our anger: to transform the future or to punish the Other

There is a barrister that I follow ( @GeorgePeretzQC ) and he tweeted a link to this recent guest lecture by Martha Nussbaum on anger. 

He says, “This is about the important stuff. From one the most profound and interesting political philosophers writing today.” 

It was from a discussion thread with others which included: 

  • “Superb essay by Martha Nussbaum on why anger poisons democracy” and 
  • “[This lecture tells us about how] Politically extreme governments actively impairing quality of life and lowering living standards of the majority creates anger”.

She shows how anger comes from fear, but without fear we would also be without love. However there are two types of anger: the good one leads us to change the future for the better, the bad one turns us against other people and looks for retribution and scapegoats. 

Finally in this too-quick summary, people who are pre-occupied by their relative status and worrying themselves about being better than others, when they feel wronged they will focus their anger on retribution against the other. 

An excellent read –

Does a referendum have to be binary?

Imagine a groundswell of popular opinion saying, “hold on, ask me that question again”.

And then ask, if there is to be a second Brexit referendum, does it simply have to mirror the first? Perhaps the strongest lesson in politics today is that plurality is here to stay. So we could have a range of options on offer, such as:

A – Hard Brexit
B – Soft Brexit without freedom of movement
C – Soft Brexit with freedom of movement
D – Stay in EU

Voting could be by single transferable vote, 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc. Transfers are possible UK-wide, not limited to smaller constituencies. Harder work for the tellers, but these days human-supervised count scanners are possible.