Where does the buck stop over shambles?

IPSWICH Council's benefit computer is a complete shambles. Everyone agrees about that.But what none of the politicians at Civic Centre seem interested in is the people who are caught up in this disaster - they seem only interested in trying to score political points against each other.

IPSWICH Council's benefit computer is a complete shambles.

Everyone agrees about that.

But what none of the politicians at Civic Centre seem interested in is the people who are caught up in this disaster - they seem only interested in trying to score political points against each other.

Labour says that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration is not dealing with the problem adequately.


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Up to now that is certainly true - although things might get better once new members of staff are appointed.

The way the council has dealt with the crisis has been tardy at best - it was clear that senior staff and councillors under-estimated the problems they would have to cope with and just hoped they would go away.

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And it doesn't do them any credit by their insistence on always trying to deflect criticism on to their political opponents.

However it is a bit rich for Labour to be stirring up the benefits crisis for its own political ends when its administration chose the system in the first place.

Pericles was a computer programme that was still largely untried and untested by other authorities when it was ordered. Who exactly decided to go ahead and bring it in remains unclear, but the buck stops with the former Labour executive.

It wasn't the cheapest system on offer, yet still the council decided to go ahead with ordering it.

Given that, it shows great hypocrisy for Labour to spend so much time attacking the Conservatives' problems in putting right a problem that they caused.

Good old political knockabout might be entertaining in the council chamber or on the letters' page of our newspaper - but it doesn't actually speed up the process of helping those in real difficulties.

I WAS interested to see all the publicity about how rural areas thrive if they are uncontaminated by supermarket giants, based on a survey around the Suffolk town of Saxmundham.

While I'm far from being a fan of large supermarkets, I must accept they are a convenient and simple way for people to do their shopping and that large stores do offer a good choice.

However in and around Saxmundham local producers seem to have prospered since Tesco's attempts to move in were thwarted.

Local butchers, bakers and delicatessens are apparently flourishing - and the farm shop at Snape has never been busier. That's good news, but I'm not convinced that it is a good enough reason for keeping large supermarkets away.

While local traders may be thriving, it would be better if they were thriving in competition with a supermarket - not because a supermarket has been stopped from opening in the area.

Civic leaders and the county set may tell everyone that they have maintained competition and choice for consumers by keeping out the supermarket monster.

But where is the choice for consumers who want to make a once-a-week hit on Tesco to refill their fridges and then not have to worry about grocery shopping?

The fact is that many of them are satisfying their need by getting in their cars and driving down to Martlesham or up to Lowestoft!

Having said that, good supermarkets in town centres can really make a difference to small market towns.

While Saxmundham is apparently flourishing in the absence of Tesco, it does have a Somerfield which satisfies the demand for the washing powder, cheese, and basic grocery needs.

But in neighbouring Leiston the large Solar (Co-op) store also attracts large numbers of shoppers from neighbouring villages as well as the town itself.

What is needed in rural areas is a balance. It's wrong for people to immediately condemn supermarkets as business bullies forcing shoppers in against their will.

They do provide a service that most of us, whether we live in Shotley Close, Ipswich, or Shotley itself want to use.

And pretending that we could all do without them in the 21st century is to be totally out of touch with reality.

WHAT on earth is happening to British politics? It looks like the voters are thoroughly fed up with both the main parties.

In Blaenau Gwent Labour was again beaten by an independent candidate (twice) and the Conservatives finished fifth - less than 700 votes ahead of the official monster raving looney candidate.

In Bromley the Tories hung on by the skin of their teeth, heading off a strong challenge from a Liberal Democrat party led by someone with all the charisma of a limp cabbage.

Here Labour finished fourth, losing 80 per cent of its vote from 2005.

If ever there was a case of the public saying to the politicians: “A plague on both your houses,” this is it!

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