Our parallel universe... - Veterinary Practice
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Our parallel universe…

Periscope continues the series of reflections on issues of current concern

NEWS that the Independent
Parliamentary Standards Authority
will cost over £6 million to set up
neither surprises nor shocks me.

Neither does the fact that it is six
times the amount that MPs were
ordered to repay as a result of the
enquiry into the expenses’ scandal
(which cost £400,000) and the
audit that was
carried out of MPs’
expenses by Sir
Thomas Legg which
was another mere
£1.1 million.

It comes as no
shock because these are small beer
when compared to the literally vast
amounts that have been “invested”
(wasted some might say) into all-singing
all-dancing computer systems (that still
don’t appear to know the words or the
steps to the dance routine they’re
supposed to perform), and various
“essential” restructuring programmes of
government department after
government department.

I would argue that the current
government is a master of waste,
dressed up in the garb of modernisation and with the driver of
fresh-faced and earnest consultants
who would not dream of getting out of
bed for anything less than £1,000 a day.
And on whom the public (their
paymasters) appears to have no
comeback if they fail to deliver.

The world it seems now belongs to those who dress in fine suits and talk a good
game. Those of us who
are blessed with nothing
more than professional
expertise and a wealth
of experience have
casually been relegated
to the role of troublemaker.

For fear of being branded nothing more than a bitter old man, please be
assured that I do have a life and that I
don’t lie awake at night pondering the
problems alluded to above. What I find
so distasteful, though, is that we appear
now to be living in a parallel universe,
one in which the lunatics really are
running the asylum.

Why on earth is a staff of 80
people (the number reputed to be in
line for recruitment to the Independent
Parliamentary Standards Authority) needed to oversee the expenses of
a little over 600 MPs?

Surely all that is needed is
half a dozen women “of a
certain age” who have worked
in the accounts departments
of reputable companies and
who are so formidable that no
one (not even MPs) would dare
to cross them.

I know plenty of women of
this description who strike a
certain amount of fear in me when
asking if I am up to date with the tea-
kitty and who I am certain would be
only too pleased to work for about £25
grand a year each, plus expenses
(audited, of course). And who would
almost certainly do as fine a job as a
government quango employing a staff
of 80.

One of the reasons I get so hot
under the collar about all this waste is
because of the so-called savings that
this government is intent on driving
through even when there appears little
rationale for the proposals it has in
mind. Take, for
instance, the recent
example for the
proposals for “cost
sharing” with
farmers in future
disease outbreaks.
payments for
slaughtered livestock
would be linked to
the “responsible”
behaviour (largely in
the form of
enhanced biosecurity) of farmers, with
those deemed irresponsible likely to
miss out.

Fine in theory, I suppose, but how
is this to be translated into practice?
Who is going to be the arbiter on
whether a farmer’s actions are deemed
responsible? Who out there in
Government any longer has enough
understanding of how farming
practices work in Britain to be able to
make an informed judgment on the

Clipboard exercise

Or will it just be a set of rules dreamt
up by the aforementioned organ
grinders (sorry consultants) and their
attendant monkeys? Sounds to me like
a clipboard exercise for a whole host of
Government jobsworths. I sometimes
wonder if Ricky Gervais is writing the
Government’s scripts.

Why do I think the Government is
out of touch with agriculture? Well, it is
well documented by the farming press
that the impact assessment of its recent proposals was based on statistics that
gave the average dairy herd as having
39 cows and the average pig herd with
only 16 sows! Which I’m afraid is the
stuff of children’s picture books where
the animals not only look pink and
fluffy but talk as well.

What is known?

One has to ask, does this Government
know anything about the crisis that is
currently besetting UK farming? Does it know how many dairy
farmers have left the
industry in the last 10
years and how many ewes
have been removed from
the hills in the same time?
Does it know that the
price received by a farmer
for a litre of milk was,
until very recently, the
same or lower in actual
terms than it was 20 years

Looking at the
proposals, one suspects the answer is that it does not; any
more than it knows the crass stupidity
of its proposal to separate out animal
health from animal welfare. What is all
that about, for goodness sake? The
two are so inextricably linked that it’s
like eating fish without the chips or
playing ping without the pong. How
will duplicating so much of the
support infrastructure in a two
organisation carve-up end up saving
costs? Only by pushing the costs of
one of them onto the farmer.

Sometime soon the profession has
to stand up to the Government and
stop making polite noises. Otherwise,
those of us who still manage to make a
living in large animal practice will
eventually be forced by age and
economics to close our doors with the
resultant negative effect on farm
animal welfare that will inevitably

The Government will then no
doubt blackmail us by citing the very
same “professional responsibility” that
it currently seems intent on destroying.

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