Friday, August 22, 2008

Latest government data cock-up

Now the Home Office has contrived to lose data covering the entire prison population of 84000, plus another 30000 people who are on the Police National Computer, on an unencrypted memory stick. My profession is IT, and one of things that I do is run records management for a FTSE 100 so I do know what I am talking about when I say that there is no excuse at all for this. Firstly sensitive data should never be consigned to portable storage, unless is as part of a courier transit from one secure location to another. If such transit is routine then it should be electronic, but in any case the data should be encrypted. Putting this sort of data on a memory stick, unencrypted is unforgivable, and the government's efforts to blame a contractor would have more credibility if the Home Office didn't already have form for doing exactly the same thing. The thing is that working with data in this way is usually not necessary. If you need to test software then data for that purpose can be desensitised, that is you change it to factitious details but in the correct format. So names become 'Joe Bloggs' or 'Jane Doe' and so on. On the rare occasions that you really need to work with real data, then you are very, very careful, or not, if you are this government.

My view is that this whole area needs some legislative focus. The most recent Criminal Justice bill adds large financial penalties for negligent data handling, but the process of implementation will take until the middle of next year. Right now there are no meaningful penalties beyond bad publicity for an organisation that is incompetent as opposed to criminal in the way it handles personal data. This has to change if we want to stamp these sorts of blunders out.

This latest screwup also begs a question; would you trust this government to run a National Identity database?

Thought not.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Basildon won't follow Labour's car park advice

Labour's latest wheeze to hammer the motorist is that Councils should use car park charges in an effort to 'shape' the behaviour of their people. The idea appears to be that charges are put up, funny it is always about taxing people more, in order to deter people from using their cars and thus encouraging local shops and fitness. So, Local Government minister John Healey said,
Only one in five councils are using charging to the full potential. Not just to cover costs but to shape their area.
because it would help in
reducing congestion, improving levels of health and exercise, encouraging the use of local shops...
This is idiotic on a number of levels. Firstly, 90% of the built environment that will exist in the next 50 years is already here. Development takes many years. Today's cities, towns and villages are not laid out with a range of local shops within easy walking distance of everyone and so many people would just have to pay the charges because they had no alternative. Secondly, even if there were local shops it is inconceivable that every village or similar area could have the entire range of retail outlets that people need and so many people would just have to pay the charges because they had no alternative. Thirdly, people with limited mobility need their cars or else they do not go anywhere and so many people would just have to pay the charges because they had no alternative. Fourthly, even if you are able-bodied sometimes you just have too much to carry, like the weekly shop for a large family, and so many people would just have to pay the charges because they had no alternative.

Basically, people would have to pay up and, of course, flat charges that do not take income into account hit the poorest the hardest.

What Labour also fails to take into account is the fact that many car parks are not Council-owned, most supermarkets and many large shopping centres have free parking for example. So, what are they suggesting, that Council's kill the trade in the town centres where they typically do have car parks and leave the out-of-town shopping centres to benefit?

This is a silly and ill-thought out suggestion and we won't be doing anything like it in Basildon. What is it about the Labour Party that they are so addicted to taxing people so much?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Elite Sport in Basildon

Everyone is revelling in the success of our Olympic team after a magnificent weekend's competition. One can only extend congratulations and acknowledge the hard work of the athletes, coaches, organisers and support staff who have pushed Great Britain to number three in the medal table and given us all so many unforgettable images and memories. But looking at those proud, happy faces standing on the podiums to see their flag being raised I just think how good it would be if one of the gold medal winners was from Basildon, or Billericay, or Wickford, or Pitsea, or Laindon or one of our other communities here in Basildon District. Unfortunately, we have had a historic problem with that. You see our local Labour party had this thing about competitive sport: they didn't like it. Winners and losers offended their sense of equality, espcially winners who achieved at the highest level. So, our sporting infrastructure was designed specifically not to support competition, with small sports centres that are unsuitable for organised events, and a swimming pool deliberately designed to be just too short to meet competition standard. By the way when I tell that to people they usually assume I am making that up, but sadly it is true. If you don't believe me get down to Gloucester Park pool with a tape measure and you will find it is just short of the 25m length that would support competition.

Well, the Conservatives have a different approach. We want sport for all, and that means elite sport just as much as casual lesiure usage. So, we are progressively renewing our sporting infrastructure, will relaid all-weather pitches. New competition standard netball courts, an Athletic track brought up to AAA standard, and, of course, a brand new sporting village with a 50m, Olympic-size, pool. To be fair to the Labour Party today, they have shed their virulent hatred of excellence, though they still display occasional grumpiness with the whole sporting agenda. It's a pity that we lost a generation of potential elite sportsmen and women before they got with the program.

Maybe it could have been a Basildon boy or girl standing there with gold around their neck...?