parish council

Olympic struggle to buy Games Makers CD

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, January 4 2013

Keen to support the choral efforts of my fellow London 2012 Games Makers, I visited HMV to ask for a copy of their Christmas single “I Wish for You the World.”
But after some scrabbling around, I was told it was a download only.
As one of the few ancients who prefer physical CDs - and even vinyl - to MP3 downloads, I left unimpressed and empty-handed.
No doubt it was cheaper for the choir to do it this way, although the Hillsborough disaster single that topped the charts was released in physical form. 
A few days later, we heard from the BPI that downloads have risen by more than 20% as sales of physical CDs, games etc  slumped by nearly 13%.
No wonder HMV is struggling on the High Street, even if queues stretched around the shop in the run-up to Christmas.
But how sad it this last man standing of big-name record shops finally succombs to the market. It suffered huge losses in 2012 and, after the demise of Comet, can it be far behind? It is important for the industry to prop it up as long as possible because where else will it have a shop window for back catalogue? Supermarkets are only good for the latest pop-boilers. I also worry about Waterstone’s after the Christmas rush has subsided.
For much of my life, it has been a delight to browse in record and book shops. Even electrical shops like Comet.
Browsing uncovers all sorts of hidden treasures and broadens understanding by touch and physical presence.
While great for a specific item, the internet is hopeless for browsing. I have never visited Amazon’s vast warehouse the size of umpteen football pitches, but can only be impressed by its rapid service facilitated by an efficient hi-tech factory-style operation, and good prices.
But it’s useless at serendipity.
Part of my reason for asking HMV for the Games Maker single was to show by support for this wounded retail animal. I wanted to buy something. I even asked for a CD reviewed as the best pop album of the year. But it was out of stock.
Amazon told me it was available and could be sent to me for next to nothing in a couple of days. How can HMV compete with that?
I sought a book in Waterstone’s - they had it but it was the last copy and torn. I was offered 10% off,  but it was still £18. I turned down the offer.
On Amazon, it was £8.86.
This is all worrying. Thankfully, a few independent booksellers and record shops remain, with the social interaction and helpful service they provide. But hundreds have sadly disappeared.
I fear my browsing days are numbered. The high street faces up to huge change, with the loss of record shops where customers once entered a booth, donned headphones and listened with mounting excitement to the latest Beatles or Stones’ album.
Amazon cannot match the thrill of a bookshop. A download or online order is just not the same.
I only hope that HMV, Waterstone’s and those valiant independents make it through to New Year’s Day 2014.

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Categories: parish council

Has Michael Gove's dog eaten his Freedom of Information homework?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, October 14 2012

Education secretary Michael Gove, as we all know, is something of a stickler for standards. But when it comes to his own department, standards are something that his officials seem to have a rather casual - not to say cavalier - approach to, at least so far as Freedom of Information goes.

A year ago, I lodged a request with the DfE asking for any information it held in private emails exchanged between Mr Gove and his officials, along with Kent County Council, relating to the council's involvement in a legal dispute with the department after the abrupt cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme.

The request was made last October and should have been responded to within 20 working days. To date, I have not had a formal response as required under the law; I have not even had a refusal notice telling me that the DfE does hold information but isn't prepared to give it to me.

The request I made was triggered by the disclosure of a leaked email obtained by the Financial Times, written by Mr Gove using his private account, sent to special advisers and a civil servant around the same subject. This led to a number of FOI requests on the subject but the DfE has sought to argue that as private account emails, they are not government-related and, therefore under the law, exempt from the Act.

That argument has been demolished by the Information Commissioner (the FOI watchdog) who has ruled that it is the content of emails that matters when it comes to determining whether they are captured by FOI - not whether they are sent from a private account.

Frustrated by the DfE's prevarication and despite any number of (unanswered) reminders, I eventually made a formal complaint to the Commissioner, who has now ruled that the DfE must give an answer within ten days.

It could still reject my request, of course. It could tell me that any emails that might have been sent no longer exist (how convenient). It could give me everything I have asked for (being optimistic here). All I'd like is an answer of some description.

Whatever the outcome, the episode is a good illustration of why journalists retain a healthy scepticism when it comes to the utterances of politicians who preach the virtues of transparency and accountability and then do completely the opposite. So far as Mr Gove is concerned, it is a perhaps a case of "could do better." Maybe he should be served with a notice to improve...


Should Kent County Council be taking the axe to funding for sports development? The Conservative administration's line is that a cut of £200k is acceptable and justifiable because it it simply taking the budget back to pre-Olympic levels.

But opposition is growing and there is dissent in the Tory ranks.

Cllr Mike Jarvis, a backbencher, says it is wrong and risks squandering Kent's Olympic legacy because the authority should be building on the interest in sport the Olympics has prompted and using it as a catalyst to get more people active - entirely reasonable arguments. KCC says that it is protecting funding for the Kent School Games, which is true.

But they started before the Olympics and it is unclear what additional plans the authority may have to further develop new programmes or schemes - and without any money, it is rather hard to see how they might happen.

Cllr Jarvis rather tellingly points out that KCC spends colossal sums on external consultants and suggests that if the council is looking to save money, this ought to be an area the council takes a look at first.

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Categories: parish council | Politics

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