Thursday 13 December 2018
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John Burton Commments on Essential Standards

Eighteen years ago, after the “cash for questions” scandal (MP’s taking money for asking questions in Parliament), the Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up. Seven principles were set out as the standards by which any “public servant” should abide:








The fact that these had to be spelled out tells us that people whom the public should should have been able to trust had broken that trust. They were selfish, dishonorable, partial, unaccountable, secretive, dishonest and spineless. And a lot of them were at it. Some of these respectable crooks were publicly exposed and condemned, and a couple even went to gaol.

So, at last we had a set of standards and a regulator to check those standards were being stuck to. And since then we’ve hardly had a problem . . . er . . . perhaps one or two, or three . . . or hundreds? MPs on the take (again), bankers, and civil servants, and many others.

If Fred the Shred hadn’t been the unprincipled go-getting wheeler-dealer that he was, he would have been considered a failure amongst his peers who were all trying to do the same thing, by the government which were in awe of the city and banking, and by all his hangers-on, and he wouldn’t have been given his knighthood for services to banking. It seems very unfair that he’s picked on now because the bandwagon that he drove - and that hundreds of his get-rich-quick mates jumped on - careered downhill and crashed into the people who are now expected to go without to rebuild the same greedy system . Why pick on Fred? He was only doing what he was applauded and “honored” for. “Faster, faster” they all cried as they scrambled aboard, but are shocked and vengeful when the inevitable crash comes.

Last week it was revealed that the head of a government agency can set up a scheme whereby he doesn’t pay the same tax and the same national insurance as we do, that this is not some secret deal but is approved by the people in charge and HMRC. And to make matters worse he’s running the Student Loans Company and has apparently saved the government a lot of money. Clever man. Give him a knighthood too!


It’s remarkable that most of the greedy scams that led to the crash were quite legal and known about by thousands. The banks sold useless payment protection insurance to their customers. If you worked for the bank and refused to sell these fraudulent policies, your earnings and promotion would be severely limited, and you might even lose your job. Now, when people can claim back their money, who do you suppose pays? It’s not coming out of the pockets of the people who profited from the deception.

Every now and again I get a call from someone inside CQC. They are being ordered to do what they know is wrong. They ring me because they’re unhappy and feel compromised by what they are asked to do, and, for some reason they trust that I won’t reveal their identity. I won’t.

There are still good people in CQC, struggling to stick to their principles and ethics. However, there is bullying, scapegoating and dishonesty. We know this from the evidence given at the Mid-Staffs Inquiry by former and current CQC insiders. The occasional voices of dissent that I hear from within are usually from those on the lower levels of the huge hierarchical bureaucracy that is CQC. It’s not a happy organisation to work in. And this is the organisation that’s just set up a whistleblowers’ helpline.

CQC’s regulation of care homes has been a disaster. Not one great disaster but thousands of small disasters, happening all the time. Look at Winterbourne View - ignored by CQC until too late. Look at the good places that have been unjustifiably persecuted by CQC for not being “compliant”. Look at the time it takes for CQC to respond when there really is something wrong, and how long abuse and neglect can continue before CQC takes action. They simply haven’t a clue how to do the job.

Those at the top of CQC would do well to look at the seven principles for standards in public life. How do you think they rate? Are they compliant?








At ACM we ask all members of the Association to commit themselves to putting the needs, rights, and wellbeing of those they care for first. Well, that’s what the job’s about, isn’t it? Do that and you won’t go far wrong, but don’t expect CQC to recognise you as compliant.

John Burton

Association of Care Managers

February 2012