If you ever wonder why people think government consultations are just a matter of routine that they get out of the way before they go and do what they’ve always planned, then the Government’s response to their ‘shares for rights’ proposal (PDF file) won’t surprise you at all. It’s a masterpiece of setting out all the reasons people have objected to the policy and pointed out reasons why it’s not needed and why it won’t work, then blithely responding that the Government intends to press ahead anyway.

As the Guardian reports (and LabourList illustrates with nice graphs) the clear majority of responses were against the proposals, but the changes suggested within the government response are cosmetic at best.

It appears that yet again, ideology has trumped evidence, and George Osborne will be continuing to push ahead with this, regardless of the fact that almost no one appears to want it. The effort put into this could have been put into some real measures to promote employee ownership, mutuals and co-operatives, but instead we have this scheme which seems to be a way for unscrupulous employers to screw their employees out of rights in exchange for a few magic beans, or for rich investors and their ilk to find more ways to avoid paying capital gains tax.

What really annoys is that while the fingerprints of the Treasury are all over it, this scheme is being pushed by the BIS department, which is one with a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State and Minister. (Indeed, one of Jo Swinson’s first roles at the department was appearing in the introduction to the consultation) They surely must have seen the reaction that this has had from the party, so why did they not take the opportunity to kill it when they were given the tools to do so? Indeed, why were they even attempting to push it through in the first place (under the smokescreen that we supported employee ownership, so we should support this)?

There’s no evidence supporting this proposal, there’s clearly no will or desire for it, it’s not in the Coalition Agreement and has never been approved by the party conference, so Liberal Democrats in Parliament should have no hesitation in voting it down and removing it.

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As I’ve talked about before, Essex County Council are now holding a consultation on library opening hours, now they’ve announced how much certain libraries’ opening hours are being cut.

You can go here and have your say, and it won’t take you very long as you’ll only be asked two questions. One about which library you want to comment on – for Colchester Borough, that’s Colchester central library, Prettygate, Greenstead and Stanway – and then another about which proposed set of opening hours you prefer. No chance to make any other comments, suggest alternatives or even any attempt to get any demographic data from respondents. So, the responses won’t be able to be weighted by age, gender, location, amount of times people use the library or anything like that. So, if there’s a specific group that might be adversely affected by one set of opening times, there’ll be no way for the consultation to show that.

The choices for the central library are:
Option A – opening from 9am-6.30pm Monday-Friday, 9am-5.30pm on Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sunday
Option B – opening from 8.30am-7pm Monday-Thursday and 8.30pm-5pm Friday-Saturday. The library would then be closed all day Sunday.

And that’s your choice, so make sure you have your say on which you’d prefer.

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