Thursday, 28 October 2010

Harsh and draconian

The concerns about the governments housing benefit changes are causing particular interest in the national media.

As readers of this blog will know, I have a strong belief in locally democratically controlled affordable housing, having the benefit of growing up in a council property, with the security this offered as well as having a decent place to live.

No one can dispute the country and this part of the country has a housing problem, clearly we need more affordable housing.

So it is with some disappointment that the new government has hit the housing sector with a triple whammy (Shelter's words), cutting housing benefits, slashing affordable capital grants and the change of tenancies and allowing the social housing rents to go near market rents.

The housing benefit changes will cause local people pain, 35% of those effected locally are in low paid work it would appear 1320 people in total will be worse off with the average loss per claimant about £15 a week.

Forcing people with children to live in overcrowded accommodation will increase health inequalities and will have a detrimental learning impact to children's education.

The solution is a balanced housing market, by cutting social housing capital budgets, will make us more reliant on the private landlords who are interested in turning a profit, forcing rents up with less secure tenure.

By cutting the capital grants, this will mean fewer jobs in the coming period, with the potential loss of employment and skills and loss of tax revenues, again this will lead to more people chasing fewer rented properties forcing up the cost of rent.

If councils have an influx of people whom become homeless because they cannot afford to live with the loss of benefit, where is the temporary accommodation to accommodate them? Applying more pressure on councils.

I hope progressive MPs can vote these plans down in parliament, I hope the days of 'Cathy come home' are long gone.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Back to where I started

Some may find it hard to believe, but I wasn't political until I left school, I and my generation was the recipient of Mrs Thatchers remodelling of the British economy and the brutal economics of Milton Friedman as interpreted by the likes of Keith Joseph.

I have read and listened to much in this last week about George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review, much detail has yet to be explained in detail.

The sad facts of this review is that as the Institute for Fiscal Studies say the poorest in society will pay the highest price, yet this deficit reduction plan had little to do with their sins.

The recession was caused by the banking and financial sector that over reached, before the banking crisis struck virtually no political leader was calling for greater regulation of the financial markets and both then opposition parties were criticising labour for not spending enough on education, health and defence.

Yet without the actions of the last Labour government saving at least three British banks, pumping money into the economy and boosting demand, we would be talking about a depression, a completely different ball game to the current deficit, as Will Hutton says our national debt has been higher proportionately for the last 200 of the last 250 years.

I was interested to read Britain's Noble prize winning economist Professor Christopher Pissarides saying "the chancellor has exaggerating the sovereign risks that are threatening the country."

Most economists seem to accept that the coalition government has embarked on a economic experiment. Cutting about 500,000 jobs in the public sector, with other job losses in the private sector as a consequence of public sector cuts. When the last recession it look 6 years to generate 1.2million private sector jobs of which 900,000 of these jobs were in the financial sectors, this time it's projected the financial sector are going to shed 200,000 jobs, it appears the government are reducing 60% capital grants for affordable housing, so fewer jobs there.

Even businessman like Arup who support Osbournes cuts are making 600 people redundant in the UK.

From 1993 to 1999 the private sector generated 300,000 in sectors other than finance, so is it credible that the private sector can produce 1.2million jobs in the next 5 years.

The Japanese in the late 1980's tried this approach to restructure the economy after their property boom and led to a decade of austerity, the Irish republic cut the public sector and this has led to negative growth.

I suspect George Osbourne will be more like Keith Joseph, if I right, I rather fear for the coming period.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Can they cut it?

On the BBC website, Harvey Siggs Mendip District Council's Conservative leader outlines the levels of cuts he expects to be handed down from his conservative government and how he expects this to effect his council and our services.

It looks like the Conservatives are expecting £2million worth of cuts in revenue grant from a total of £16million, this a 12.5% reduction, this could lead to 10% cuts in staff and reductions in contractor services.

Politicians often talk about listening to people, I believe Mendip's failure is they have never successfully engaged with the communities they are here to serve.

The Conservatives say they will not increase Council Tax. They will no doubt raise the Special Expense Rate, Car Park charges and professional fees, these easier to hide and could be called stealthy indirect council tax rises.

Harvey Siggs implies there will be more slices of cuts, more generic officers, with less expertise, Mendip Council is increasingly looking a tier of local government for the sake of history (since 1974) it is increasingly looking like a council unable to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

Mendip will need to develop new partnerships, to do this the Council needs a different type of leadership, less arrogant more open and inclusive. Mendip Council does not operate in a bubble, yet this is how it often looks.

If Mendip has a future then it's needs to transparently to spell out a vision for it's future, if Mendip's strategy of managed decline of recent years continues, the question will be, do we need this tier of local government?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lets hope this is the darkest night

Or so they say, the darkest part of night is just before dawn.

Tonight should be the last day Tom Hicks has any association with Liverpool football club, his last desperate act, a restraining order in a Texas court to the sale of LFC, the High Court has given Hicks and Gillette until 4pm tomorrow to withdraw and allow LFC to be free of the acquisition debt they leveraged on the club, and free of the £40million annual debt repayments.

Clearly, the best solution for Football clubs would be owned by their supporters ala Barcelona FC, it never ceases to amaze me, supporters will invest £80 a year on replica shirts, hundreds of pounds on tickets and even more on pre and post match lubricant (ha ha).

However, in the short term I will settle for a well run football club, that does things behind closed doors and doesn't wash it's dirty washing in public.

The finishing touches of this week would be a win, any size win over Everton on Sunday, winning the derby and freeing the club of Hicks and Gillette, it would be a very good week.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Heart warming in Chile

Just a brief posting, but how wonderful was it to see those Chilean miners released from their days locked in their tomb hundreds of metres below the surface.

These monumental efforts by the miners surviving, the rescuers efforts to reach the miners and the courage of the miners families that believed in their rescue.

I felt their joy, wasn't it just wonderful, I guess that is what makes us human.

My family were North Somerset miners, I am happy the NCB closed those pits, I would have no desire to work under ground, but I have total respect for those men who did work in deep mining, being dropped hundreds of metres in a wire cage deep into the earth at 15 yrs old, yep, not for me!

The Renewable energy has great opportunities in the west country, we have wind and tidal power to capture, this clean energy needs capture.

These new environmental jobs should be growth here in the UK.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Debt, Lies and Cowboys

Anyone who knows me, will tell you of my passion for the Mighty Reds of Anfield, it is one of the great sporting institutions in this country.

Liverpool FC has a wonderful history, from that night in Rome to Istanbul, or those 18 league titles.

Sadly for the last three years this great football club, that for years was ran 'the right way', has been owned on borrowed money by Tom Hicks and George Gillette.

These two gentlemen encapsulates the sickness of modern capitalism.

They bought Liverpool FC on borrowed money, when banks borrowed to anyone and money was too cheap and the cost of repayment was also cheap, they made promises of not to place any debt on the football club, build a new stadium and money for new players. Now debt is expensive they cannot afford Liverpool Football Club.

Their first action was to place £280million of debt against the club, no stadium and the last three transfer windows LFC has delivered a profit to the Clubs owners.

We are now in the endgame.

Martin Broughton the independent chairman, who was brought in to find a buyer who claims to have undertakings to sell Liverpool FC from Hicks and Gillette along with Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, have found a buyer.

Hicks and Gillette have tried to remove Purslow and Ayre from the Board at LFC and replace them with their own stooges.

So next week this mess will go to the High Court, if the courts back the Chairman, LFC will have new owners, if the courts backs Hicks and Gillette and they cannot refinance as they haven't managed in the previous twelve months, the club will be in administration this time next week.

LFC will then be deducted 9 points, the banks presumably would sell to the current buyers.

Football a working class game, treated as a play thing by businessmen with no interest in the beautiful game.

My advice to Tom and George is respectfully, hold your heads up high and leave this mighty proud club, the damage done will be repaired, I can end my boycott of Anfield and I will again buy the replica shirt, I can again sing about the glories around the fields of anfield road.

Debt, Lies, Cowboys Tom and George not welcome here.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Pay back

Whilst the media has been consuming the cut in child benefit to higher taxpayers, my eye has been taken by three inter related stories.

The first is this coalition governments plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, since the first world war this has set minimum wages for farmer workers.

The second was the CBI calling for Agency workers to legally cover for striking workers.

The third is the CBI and Boris Johnson Calling for a 50% turnout for a strike ballot.

This country has the toughest anti strike laws, whilst strike action must always the absolute action taken by workers, this action is the last resort for workers.

Low skill manual workers are completely undermined by agency workers, these workers has no sick pay, no holiday pay and no other social benefit, many local companies use agency workers, these workers are like those dock workers at the turn of the last century who turned up for work to be selected, if not selected there was no work.

Last week the Labour Party debated why they lost many voters, Agency workers is one of the main ingredients why industrial employees were left feeling industrial flexibility was one way, low pay rises and many wages being forced to minimum wages, the loss of industrial muscle, as the industrial base reduced to many small employers with the loss of quality pensions and sick schemes.

It is now a year since employers can use tips in the hospitality trade to subsidise the National minimum wage.

This is why so many feel the inequality of wages between their own pay and their employers, I support the "Living Wage", the national minimum wage has it's uses, but £237 before tax is not enough to live on, the London Citizens has calculated that £7.50 is a more realistic hourly rate.

So, the forward may be a High Pay Commission to look at the top end of the pay scale and the Living Wage needs investigation.

Most people want a fair day pay for a fair day work, sadly I am not convinced if this can be said in modern Britain.