Franchising: The Basics

165125803webEver heard the expression about “not reinventing the wheel”? Well, that’s the principle of franchising: why spend a lot of time, effort and money establishing a business when you can buy into one that’s already a proven success? 

From Civvy Street Magazine, February 2014. Words: Paul F. Cockburn

Franchising is when you pay a successful business – the franchisor – to use their name, brand and systems. It’s still your business, but you won’t be working alone; all the best franchisors provide appropriate training and ongoing support to help you succeed.

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UK leaves its Helmand project – like its roads, clinics and bridges – unfinished

Britain’s eight-year mission to transform an impoverished, tribal corner of Afghanistan into a modern state has been a failure

The UK this week said a quiet goodbye to its political ambitions in Helmand, the corner of Afghanistan it once dreamt of remaking, when it handed over its former headquarters in the provincial capital.

The dusty offices of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which once channelled hundreds of millions of dollars into trying to build everything from roads to rule of law, now belong to an Afghan government public health team.

Dozens of foreign staff lived there, secured by blast walls and British soldiers, and were ferried in and out of central Lashkar Gah by helicopter. There were treats like apple strudel and surprisingly good fry-ups, but it was a cramped place with a demanding brief: to transform a poor, increasingly violent, opium production centre into part of a modern state.

“[The PRT] helps the Afghan government deliver governance and security across the province,” the British Army said in a 2011 briefing about the outpost. “Success in Helmand, where the insurgency and drugs trade interact to create particular challenges, is critical to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.”

The 2014 departure was agreed years ago by Nato and President Hamid Karzai, who railed against the reconstruction teams as militarised outsiders undermining the government by providing services that should be the work of his ministers.

Still, they are leaving behind a province that last year harvested a record opium crop and where violence in northern Sangin got so bad that government forces reportedly struck a deal with the Taliban.

Unemployment is rampant, electricity is scarce and malnutrition is common. “People are worried,” said Ghulam Sarwar Ghafari, a 65-year-old school teacher in Lashkar Gah who said security was getting worse. “People had jobs working for the British. They were building roads, clinics and bridges, but a lot of things are unfinished.”

The British government has now retreated into the vast Camp Bastion military base, but in less than a month will shut what remains of the PRT. The mission in Kabul will still include the province in its aid plans, but the days of intense focus on an area that is home to fewer than a million people are over.

“The PRT has built a strong platform for future governance and development in Helmand,” a British embassy spokesman said. “It is desirable and right that the Afghans take increasing responsibility for their own future prosperity and security. We will continue to support them as they do so.”

The province was an unlikely place to focus efforts to rebuild Afghanistan even in 2006, when the UK took responsibility for security and aid from US forces. An impoverished, underpopulated corner of the country that has mostly served as a staging post for conquering armies looking towards the riches of Kabul or neighbouring Kandahar, its last real moment of glory came around a thousand years ago as the winter capital of the Ghaznavid empire.

Although it is now at the heart …read more    

Britain’s child soldiers are missing out on a proper education | @guardianletters

Zoe Williams obscures the context in which army education takes place (Meet the graduates of the mud-crawl challenge, 22 February). Army recruitment materials actively target young teenagers. A child can begin the enlistment process at the age of 15 years and seven months – before they sit their GCSEs. As there is no minimum entrance qualification for many army roles, there is no incentive for would-be recruits to work towards their exams.

Those who enlist at 16 are offered the lowest level of qualifications which can form an “apprenticeship”. This is despite the fact that educationists and industry bodies agree that GCSEs in English and maths are the essential minimum attainment required by all young people to succeed in employment today. The MoD claims that these qualifications are “available” to soldiers who choose to study “in their free time”, but last year just 20 soldiers in an army of over 78,000 enlisted personnel had obtained a GCSE in English or maths within four years of joining.

Ms Williams ignores the fact that the Department for Education has a legal obligation to provide accessible, good-quality education free of charge to all young people. Where it is failing to do so this must be remedied, but not by forcing minors to join the army simply to access their basic right to education.

Raising the enlistment age to 18 would save the MoD over £94m annually. That sum would pay for every recruit now at Harrogate – plus 24,000 of their friends – to do a highly sought-after civilian vocational apprenticeship, every year. Now that really would be hard not to admire.
Richard Clarke
Director, Child Soldiers International

• Zoe Williams, on her visit to the army college in Harrogate, seems to have been charmed by the pomp and ceremony. But why does the UK have the lowest recruiting age in Europe, and why is it the only permanent member of the UN security council that recruits 16-year-olds into its army? The UN defines a child soldier as any member of an armed group under 18 years old, and the UK has blocked changes to the protocols seeking to make 18 years the minimum age of recruitment. As we enter the centenary of the first world war, let us remember that they had to be 18 years old to join up and 19 years old to fight overseas. Today they can join at 16 and fight overseas aged 18. What progress have we made? A study last year found those recruited at 16 were twice as likely to die as a consequence of deployment to Afghanistan than those who enlisted as adults. Is it not time to be mature, protect our young and raise the recruitment age to 18 years old?
Dr Rupert Gude
Tavistock, Devon

• I joined the Royal Navy at 15 years old in the 1960s, and a letter was sent home to my parents from the training establishment I was sent to saying: “Our aim here is to build up a boy’s character and at the …read more    

Lee Rigby’s boy will see images of father ‘no son should have to’, says widow

Rebecca Rigby’s victim impact statement read to Old Bailey, where estranged husband’s murderers are due to be sentenced

The son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby will be forced to see “images of his dad that no son should ever have to endure”, his widow has said.

A moving victim impact statement written by Rebecca Rigby was read to the Old Bailey on Wednesday, where her husband’s murderers, Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, are due to be sentenced.

Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC read excerpts of the statement, in which Mrs Rigby described the effect of suddenly being in the public gaze after the brutal killing.

She said: “I was also living in the public gaze. I couldn’t go out or do anything. I felt like I didn’t want to go on. I saw people nudging and looking at me if I tried to walk down the street, it was surreal.

“Of all the feelings I have, the one thing that overrides everything is that I know my son will grow up and see images of his dad that no son should ever have to endure, and there is nothing I can do to change this.”

Adebolajo and Adebowale hit Fusilier Rigby, 25, in a car before hacking him to death near Woolwich barracks in south-east London on 22 May 2013.

Mrs Rigby said she had accepted her husband would be at risk when he went to serve in Afghanistan, but not in Britain, where he was based when he died.

She said: “When you wave someone off you accept that there is a chance you will never see them again. You do not expect to see this on the streets of the UK.” © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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New evidence delays coroner’s ruling on death of soldier who said she was raped

Family of Anne-Marie Ellement say diary and mobile phones referred to in documents were not passed to them

A coroner’s ruling into the death of a soldier who said she had been raped and bullied has been unexpectedly delayed after lawyers for the military revealed they had uncovered new documents, including a reference to a diary and mobile phones the woman’s family say were never passed to them.

Lawyers for the family of Anne-Marie Ellement, a corporal in the Royal Military Police, who was found hanging at her barracks in October 2011, said they were “devastated and upset” at the revelation and accused the military police of a gross breach of guidelines on evidence disclosure.

Following three weeks of evidence at the inquest in Salisbury, Wiltshire, the coroner, Nicholas Rheinberg, had been scheduled to deliver his decision on the death of Ellement, who died shortly after her 30th birthday.

However, this was postponed after it emerged that emails to the coroner from lawyers for the military over the weekend disclosed the discovery of two previously unseen computer discs containing more than 1,000 files.

Nicholas Moss, the barrister for the Ministry of Defence, said the great majority of these files were irrelevant to the case and were connected to Ellement’s military police casework. But within these were files such as a Ellement’s covering letter for her application to be transferred to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, and a note about a planned interview, scheduled to take place on 10 October 2011, the day after she died.

Also among the newly found files was an inventory of items found in Ellement’s room at Bulford barracks near Salisbury after her death, produced by the army’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre. The court heard this listed three mobile phones and a pink-covered 2010-11 diary, the latter referenced with a note that one page contained an entry that could be “sensitive and upsetting” for the family.

Kirsten Heaven, the barrister acting for Ellement’s sisters, said they had never previously seen the inventory or been passed the phones or the diary. She said: “The family are devastated and upset that these documents have come so late.”

Heaven cited guidelines on the disclosure of evidence at inquests, saying the family believed the MoD had clearly breached these by not producing the documents until the very end of the inquest, by which point all witnesses had been cross-examined.

Moss said the omission was accidental and the MoD had informed the coroner and family as soon as they had made the discovery, late on Friday. He said: “There is no suggestion at all of any wrongdoing.”

He said it was possible the diary and phones had been passed to Ellement’s father, Kenneth. Ellement’s sisters are not in touch with him, and police will seek to find out whether he has them, the inquest was told.

Rheinberg adjourned the inquest for a week but warned he was not willing to wait “forever and a day” for evidence that might be both impossible to track down and of possibly limited relevance.

The inquest …read more