Where's the joined up government?

ONE of the buzz phrases we hear from this government from time to time is “joined up government.”I can't help feeling this is a classic case of a meaningless phrase without any real substance behind it.

ONE of the buzz phrases we hear from this government from time to time is “joined up government.”

I can't help feeling this is a classic case of a meaningless phrase without any real substance behind it.

Yesterday the Learning and Skills Council announced its decision on the future of Suffolk College.

Why on earth couldn't it have been announced earlier this month at the same time as the Higher Education Funding Council for England revealed its decision on the university proposal?

The two decisions were inextricably linked, yet they had to be taken by two separate bodies.

I have no doubt that they talked to each other and that each knew what the other was doing - but why is it necessary for them to give the impression that they each have their own little empire that they are solely responsible for?

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And when we tried to get a comment from the Department for Education and Skills about the decisions, their response was: “It's not our job to comment on their decisions.”

Why not? Who appoints HEFCE and the LSC? The DfES!

Are they saying they cannot comment on bodies they appoint? Where is the democratic accountability in that?

If you are going to have the government delegating decisions to unelected quangos, it must retain the right to comment and - if necessary - overturn a decision. Otherwise democracy dies.

The Department of Transport seems to have seen that message with the railways - the Strategic Rail Authority is being put out of its misery and is being wound up.

From now on crucial decisions about the rail industry will come down directly from ministers through civil servants.

If we don't get the much needed east-west rail link for freight which would prevent many of the problems on the main line to London, it won't be possible for Alastair Darling and his ministers to pretend the decision was nothing to do with him!

But that message doesn't seem to have filtered through to other government departments like the DfES which might mouth the words “Joined up Government,” but don't do anything to implement them.

THIS week's news that the operation of Ipswich market is being put out to open tender and not just offered to the stallholders' co-operative is a shame - but one that could easily have been avoided.

What was needed was for the two sides to talk to each other more before the tender was submitted - and then for the council to explain its concerns sooner.

As it was the council was left with the feeling that the traders were bidding far less than they are currently paying.

The traders say they are bidding more - but there's a lower figure in the document to cover themselves in the event of serious disruption.

And the fact they did not talk to each other earlier to try to clear up this misunderstanding means that the whole process has gone back to square one.

Neither side is in the right or wrong in this particular mess which means a final decision and the long-awaited expansion of the market is still months away.

Let's hope all sides have now got the message that they need to talk to one another - then we might finally get the market Ipswich deserves.

I KNOW there are rules about immigration, asylum and refugee status - but it sometimes seems they are implemented by people totally lacking compassion or common sense.

In Ipswich this week we highlighted the case of Naematullah Rahmati who fled Afghanistan five years ago as a 16-year-old after the Taliban killed his father.

He was given permission to stay because he would have been at danger if he returned, and has made a good life for himself - and a productive one for the country as a fine mechanic.

So what on earth is the point of trying to send him back to a country which is so dangerous that the Foreign Office dare not open the British Embassy?

I fail to understand the mentality of people who make decisions like this.

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