Friday, 6 November 2009

Move the civil servants out and move the MPs in

Whitehall is chock-a-block with government departments full of civil servants all hugger mugger in their many offices. There are, for example, almost 80,000 people working for the Ministry of Defence,most of them In London. You and I know them by their deeds: they are the desk-bound brigadiers and colonels who order the wrong rifles and boots and the air commodores whose task it is to make sure helicopters never fly. 
The point about them is that they can be just as inefficient out of London as in it. So why don't we move them and other civil servants out of the Capital? The MoD, for example, could relocate to Devon and Cornwall, England's two most impoverished counties, the Department of Health could relocate to the West Midlands and so on. Moving them out would boost local economies and provide job opportunities for young people in the regions in the future.
Only the senior advisers, bag carriers and spin doctors need stay in London (and we could cut their numbers while we are about it).
Moving the civil servants out would leave a lot of empty offices in central London, which could be converted into flats for homeless people and key workers and create jobs in the building industry. Flats could also be rented to MPs, thus ending their housing problems in London. A similar system operates in Washington where rented flats are provided for politicians. Why not do it here?

The sad tale of Staffies

This is Freckles, my late and still lamented dog I mentioned in my first post. Since writing about the need to micro-chip dogs, I have received more information about stray dogs in Brighton and Hove, and it's a very sad tale.
Of the 400 stray dogs rounded up each year by the city's animal welfare team, about 90 per cent are Staffordshire Bull Terrier type dogs. These dogs are put to sleep after seven days as most rehoming centres will not them. That's 360 dogs a year - more than one a day on average - put down.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier type dogs, regarded as a status symbol by some young men, are a major problem nationwide. Dealing with them and other agressive, or rather their owners, is very difficult. In Brighton and Hove City Council, for instance, dog owners are required to keep their dogs on leads on all public highways, but requests from animal welfare officers for loose dogs to be put on leads are often ignored and sometimes met with abusive language. And loose dogs will bite.
I don't want to demonise Staffies as a breed, rather the unscrupulous breeders who sell pups to anybody with enough money (and it can be up to £600) to buy one and the people who buy them without accepting the responsibilities of dog ownership. 
If all dogs were chipped, it would be possible to trace the owners of loose dogs. Meanwhile, I'll be asking the council to give more publicity to the absolute requirement that dog owners should keep their dogs on leads when they are on the street.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

There's two Red Admiral butterflies in my garden enjoying the final rays of what used to be called a St Luke's Summer - a spell of fine weather on or around St Luke's Day (18 October).
St Luke's Day was also Dog Whipping Day, the day when all stray dogs were whipped out of town. Judging from the increasing number of complaints I am getting about dog fouling, there's a considerable number of Brighton and Hove citizens who would happily revive the tradition and apply it to all dogs. 

Me, I'm a dog owner between dogs. My last dog - a rescue greyhound - died suddenly and we are still mourning his loss. I like dogs, and I know that most dog owners act responsibly, cleaning up after their companions and keeping them under proper control. 
However, a small but significant number of dog owners act irresponsibly and let their dogs crap anywhere. And there's the increasing number of aggressive pit-bull type dogs around. When they are on the lead, which isn't very often, I have the uncomfortable feeling,in some cases,  the dog is more intelligent than the human being at the other end of the lead.

Wandsworth responded to public concern about the number of serious assaults involving dogs by promoting the micro-chipping of all dogs in the borough. It's gone as far as making micro-chipping of dogs a condition of holding a council tenancy. Lambeth and Southwark have followed suit. Both the Labour and Tory parties support the nationwide roll-out of the scheme, and the idea is supported by the RSPCA, which holds free dog-chipping sessions, and the Dogs Trust. 

Government stats show a 36 per cent rise in the number of people needing hospital treatment after dog attacks between 2004 (2,802) and 2008 (3,837). In Sussex the number admitted to hospital rose from 56 to 78 in the same period, a rise of 40 per cent.

I wholeheartedly support the idea, as along as a free service is available to people struggling on low incomes, not least the many older people who take great comfort from their dogs. Not being able to afford to have your dog chipped should not be a barrier to dog ownership.