Good karma for police on the beat

This week’s guru column

• Last week we reported on an NHS trust providing squeezy balls to staff to
relieve pressure. Now we hear Essex Police is looking into alternative
therapies to help its stress-prone officers.

It is currently assessing the benefits of providing stress-packs to its
bobbies, including vouchers for treatments such as acupuncture and counselling.

The enquiry was triggered by a report revealing the force was losing over a
million pounds a year in lost working days.

A spokeswoman for the force brusquely denied reports that aromatherapy was
an intended part of the programme. But even if it was, I think it’s time to
applaud the police for bringing its policies up to date. Many UK employers in
far less stressful sectors have offered such treatments for years. So I think
Essex Police should go the whole hog and offer yoga, massage, reflexology;
anything to keep their coppers calm.

Perhaps they should consider such therapies for road/air rage victims as well.
Now that would be alternative, man.

Striking while the issue’s hot

• The Government is suddenly desperate for good news.

There are reports of a crisis in NHS, gridlock in the transport system and
an embarrassing Department of Trade & Industry inquiry into the business
affairs of former Labour minister Geoffrey Robinson.

Step forward Alan Johnson, Parliamentary under-secretary for employee
relations. In his brief, union relations – once the poison in the offering that
Labour put to the electorate – peace seems to have broken out.

Industrial action figures are down; partnership agreements are up. Johnson
must have been pleased to have the podium at the annual "partnership"
do – the Anuman conference – held last week.

Surely this is one area where government rhetoric is matching reality. Well,

Sadly, despite having risen at the crack of dawn, Guru was unable to reach
the conference centre in time for the minister’s speech. There was a train

Complaints on sorry situation

• Howard Potter had a rip-roaring start to the new millennium. But since
then his year has been a disaster of Millennium Wheel proportions.

Potter, you may have read, is the man who apologised in a £150 local paper
advert for his New Year romp through Cardiff town centre. "The entire
staff of the Cardiff Hilton Hotel, several city centre landlords, the residents
of Prospect Drive, a man called Toni at a fish bar, two passing police
constables and the council cleansing department," received the 51-year old
chartered accountant’s abject, and very public, apologies.

Not so impressed by this display of repentance was the South Wales branch of
the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, whom Potter had represented
for three years. They felt that Potter’s confession did not reflect well on the
profession and accepted his resignation.

Quite right too. Accountants having a good time and saying they are sorry
when they did wrong. Now that wouldn’t do.

Committee fails to read all about illiteracy

Having attended the Employment sub-committee of the Commons last week
(always a pleasure), Guru was left wondering if anyone really cares about the
New Deal.

The questioners (and myself, I confess) seemed lulled to sleep by employment
minister Tessa Jowell’s familiar litany of assurances that the Government
"is committed to young people" and "is doing everything it can
to aspire towards giving advantages to the disadvantaged" or some such

Committee chairman Derek Foster (Lab) was so fawning in his comments in praise
of Jowell’s department, I felt somehow transported to the Stalinist Soviet
Union. And the sole Tory present, Graham Brady, had all the incisiveness of a
sponge. But worst of all, members of the committee seemed surprised to hear
from the minister that four out of 10 youngsters on the scheme are illiterate
and innumerate, despite the fact that this was splashed across the front pages
of the national press when the news broke.

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