Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Reality Check

To quote George Orwell, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

2011 has largely dominated by the failing economy and falling living standards, yet the Labour Party had made only modest gains in the local elections and made only marginal progress in the opinion polls.

Let's be clear though, Labour has been proven right on the consequences of the coalition governments handling of the economy, yet they have not received recognition in the opinion polls when people asked on economic competence.

I am convinced without a coherent message in a language people understand, political parties has very little chance of convincing the public of their agenda, this is Labour's problem and has been for years, the political narrative.

The European fiasco before Christmas amplified Labour's problem.

David Cameron went to the European Summit to defend the interests of the City of London, he vetoed the agreement, so the Europeans decided to go on without Britain, as many financial regulation are dealt with in the single market, much of financial regulation will go on anyway.

David Cameron's message was clear "standing up for Britain", it doesn't matter he effectively did not!

Labour were seen as unclear on it's policy, seen as supporting Europe and Austerity and at home wanting a more Keynesian economic stimulus, Labour should be saying, if the Europeans want to save the Euro then they should devalued the Euro with further fiscal integration and more power to the European Central Bank.

At home Labour's economic policy is to stimulate demand that create revenue and jobs, yet the European Summit wanted to legalise Austerity.

Why would Labour want to agree with centre right political parties in Europe, when
Labour does not believe to have balanced budgets in all parts of the economic cycle, government has to spend in recession to keep the economy going, this is not my view, it is also George Osbourne's as he is going to borrow £158 billion more than he said.

Labour needs to state that we have an over reliance of the City of London and need to a switch in focus to the productive economy, this won't happen by the private sector alone, the organs of government needs to be involved.

When the coalition government cut the Jobs For a Future Scheme and cut Educational Maintenance Allowance this has led to over £1 million (20%) young people out of work, these cuts have made employment opportunities worse now we see
Labour message of the productive economy and jobs with the responsibility of government and the individual to work.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

To few media owners

I watched a piece on Liverpool Football Clubs TV channel about a fundraiser for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and justice for the 96.

Long before the News of the World hacking scandal, Hillsborough showed the corruption of an over powerful newspaper in tandem with police and politicians who colluded with the media to portray football fans poorly to protect the incompetence of the organs of the state.

This was an early lesson and strongly chimes with my core belief, that injustice is destructive and needs to be tackled, whether by the state or private business.

The powerful have the tools, the power and the wealth to protect themselves, whether private Newspaper companies, incompetent police (as was the case at Hillsborough)and bigoted governments and the judges will side with the establishment as they are deeply conservative in their thinking.

The need to tackle vested interests is essential, too few owners of the media, too much power concentrated, as we see with the current Levenson inquiry, with sections of the media was out of control, with apparent disregard of law, for a healthy democracy, there is a need for a diverse, open and accountable media.

There appears to be little protection for the little person, the Press Complaints system, is a sham, there is no power to investigate or punish poor news pieces in the newspapers.

Even this last week the former editor of the News International title that lied about Liverpool fans in 1989 had to retract a statement he made on the BBC this week, so tabloid sorts don't change.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Homelessness up 13% this year

The number of households declared homeless so far this year is up by 13 per cent from the same period last year, according to Government figures out today.

35,680 households have been accepted as homeless by local authorities since the start of 2011.

This is also borne out by a recent CAB meeting where it was stated issues raised around home ownership had increased by 36% this year, it was also thought that the worst was still to come as lenders see little point in repossessing as the market is poor. Levels of debt are high, with mortgage arrears and secured loans are up 26%.

And with rising unemployment, with less secure employment and an increases in fuel bills and a continued squeeze on living costs, the picture is unlikely to improve any time soon.

The number of new affordable homes being built for the first half of this year have fallen by 97% on the same time last year, to a mere 454 homes, it can’t be a surprise that unemployment is rising, when one of our most labour-intensive industries is collapsing.

There is now a real challenge with housing for government, this government policies of increasing the cost of new tenancies, with reduced tenure will hurt low paid workers the most, this coupled with few new social lets will force people into expensive private landlords.

Shelter says "we know only too well that being made homeless, or living each day under the constant threat of homelessness, is a horrific experience that can tear families apart. That’s why we will be doing all we can to help those who are struggling this Christmas"

Sadly our millionaire cabinet are turning a blind eye.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Real People

Sometimes when writing about the economy it's easy not to remember the human misery that lay behind data and statistics.

I attended the CAB meeting tonight and for example the CAB has seen mortgage arrears and secured loans has risen by 26% this year, the CAB is helping Mendip residents with £15million of debt. With average debt per client of £20/30,000

The resolution foundation this week reported on the Autumn statement by the government, it reports that scrapping the planned increases in Child Tax Credit and freezing more elements of the Working Tax Credit takes money from those who can least afford it, with more than three-quarters of the £1.2bn savings planned for 2012coming from the bottom half of the income distribution.

Cuts to the Child Tax Credit will mean families lose the extra £110 per child they had been expecting in 2012, and the freezing of the Working Tax Credit will reduce the incomes of working families by a further £100. Around 5.5 million families will lose as a result of the changes to Child Tax Credits with 2 million facing a double hit because of the Working Tax Credit changes.

The new announcements come on top of major cuts to tax credits previously announced in the October 2010 Spending Review and June 2010 Budget, including:
- a three year freeze in the basic and 30 hour elements of the Working Tax Credit from April 2011
- a reduction in the proportion of childcare costs parents can claim back through Working Tax Credits, from 80% to 70% from April 2011
- an increase in the rate at which tax credits are withdrawn, from 39 percent to 41 percent from April 2011
- the removal of the £575 families element from more middle income families from April 2012
Total cuts to tax credits announced by the coalition now amount to approximately £2.9 billion in 2012-13, around 10 percent of the total tax credit budget.

These families still have to pay their bills, with increases to food, fuel and energy bills with inflation running well above earnings.

The government have made a decision to switch taxes from companies onto individuals; a) The amount of taxes raised from the consumers & workers in the form of income tax, NICs & VAT is set to grow by 3.1% this parliament.
b) The amount of taxes raised from business through Corporation Tax, Business Rates & Oil and Gas is set to fall by a hefty 9.4% this parliament.

With the government reducing help for middle income families and raising their taxes it's no wonder consumer confidence is low and debt is on the increase.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


On Wednesday I attended the Bristol March in support of the public sector workers who were striking to defend their pension provision.

Today I was in Wells High Street, gauging public opinion on the strike doing a questionnaire.

There is no doubt the government chooses to divide public opinion on public sector pensions, this is easy to do, as many in the private sector do not have access or the ability to afford a private pension.

Public sector workers, Ambulance workers, Nurses and Teachers for example are valued people within our society and deserve to be rewarded in terms of their salaries and conditions.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has in July 2011 has stated that current public sector pension will decrease as a portion of nation income by a third.

Yet the proposed government changes would see a 42 year old nurse pay an extra £283 a year and have to work seven years longer and a 31 year old teaching assistant will pay £388 extra a year and work three extra years.

The government are looking to effectively save £2billion from public sector workers.

There is a huge problem with pensions in the private sector, between those who do not have employers schemes or cannot afford them and with top directors in the private sector (FTSE 100 directors) have pensions worth nearly £4 million on average.

For the Unions and public sector workers to win this argument the solution to extending decent pension provision to the private sector will have to be sought, this will mean the Unions have to change their approach and campaign in a more effective way with private sector workers and increase penetration in the workplace.

Politically, the case has to be made for a secure future for all, this will mean a revaluation of tax and benefit system, with tough choices made.

The bottom line is the country needs to be more productive, the government needs to help restructure the economy, developing an industrial strategy around innovation of new technologies that produce goods for the country and away from casino banking.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Self defeating

Today we saw more evidence of the economic woes, with real income falling by 3.5% in 2011, with wages not increasing as fast as inflation.

The headline figures also masked sizeable falls in pay for some of the UK's lowest-earning professions – and sizeable salary boosts for senior managers and directors.

Workers in "elementary occupations", a classification including labourers, farm workers, postal workers and others, saw their typical pay fall 0.9% against its 2010 level, while professional pay rose 1% and managerial salaries rose 0.5%.

Directors and chief executives of leading organisations enjoyed the most sizeable pay rises, with median earnings up 15% to £112,157, in part a result of trends shifting earnings to basic pay and away from bonuses.

Salaries of senior corporate managers also increased substantially – up 7.1% year-on-year to £77,679.

Today's figures confirm that 2011 has been a year of wage stagnation, with pay rises far outstripped by inflation, and low-paid employees being squeezed particularly hard.

Falling wages and self-defeating austerity have been the main reasons for the UK's economic woes, rather than a eurozone crisis which has yet to fully show up in official statistics.

The coalition government also announced today that they wish to further undermine workers rights with giving employers more power to sack workers for under-performance and less time to enjoy full employment rights.

These changes further strengthen the hands of employers.

Yet the real needs of business are being neglected, access to reasonably priced investment funds that are accessible for investing in their businesses for innovation and expansion, the need to look at tax for employing new staff and boosting manufacturing and technologies.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

More evidence of insecurity

The resolution foundation has conducted a opinion poll with MORI, the poll confirms fewer people feel secure in their employment, part time workers feel even less secure than full time workers.

32% of people have cut back on their spending this year and a further 20% of people expect to continue cutting their spending next.

With dismal unemployment figures and latest official statistics also showing dramatic falls in consumer spending and the proportion of overall household income that is saved rising again, the signs are that households are preparing themselves
for the worst as they batten down the hatches financially.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report that VAT takes more from the poor than the rich has merely contributed to the growing impression that we are not all in this together.

Much of the current weakness in the economy is due to a generalised loss of confidence in the ability of policymakers to put in place appropriate responses. It is therefore imperative to act decisively to restore confidence and to implement appropriate policies to restore longer-term fiscal sustainability at a pace that depends on the size of the fiscal challenge as well as the state of the economy and to strengthen long-term growth, this translate to Plan A isn't working.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Coalition has no answers on housing

Two weeks ago we had the CEO and leader of Mendip District Council come to the Town Council and I asked them about their housing policies, I suggested that their housing strategy was not robust enough; pointing out that they had achieved their desired 74 affordable units for the year and this was a "pin prick" on dealing with MDC housing list.

Most indignant were they? Oh yes, they have a waiting list of over 3,000 and so it will take 50yrs before they can house the people on it and this discounts the annual addition needs.

Then we have the hapless Shapps, a modern comic. When asked about the National Housing Federation and Shelter report he was asked whether the report’s findings kept him awake at night, he responded: “I’d rather be judged by what real people experience in the real world and as Housing Minister my job is to look after all housing, not just social homes, which tends to be the focus of the likes of Shelter, CIH and the NHF

So there we have it, slightly concerning the minister is unconcerned about the National Housing Federation, Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing found he and the Coalition is falling short across a number of areas including ensuring sufficient housing supply, tackling homelessness and improving affordability in the private rented sector.

With unemployment rising and a need for growth a targeted home building scheme would help provide growth in the economy and tackle the areas of concern, the housing crisis should be treated as a top political priority to prevent an already desperate situation become even more grim for the millions of people in need of a home.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Inflating Osbourne

Today confirmed the misery that the majority of the people are facing.

Inflation is at 5.2% at the Consumer price index, the government chosen measure of inflation, with the retail price index moving up to 5.6%.

Last weeks news that the Bank of England will pump another £75 billion into the banks will generate even more inflation.

As a result of the higher inflation, government spending on pensions and other benefits will be £1.2 billion higher in 2012/13 than the Office Budget Responsibility thought.

It is now looking like the Conservatives actions are starting to come home to bite them, because of their cuts and loose economic language they have curtailed growth, they are a failed government that does not have a "coherent and credible" plan for growth.

So we are in a cycle of rising unemployment and higher benefits payments, low wage increases and lower spending with banks not lending meaning less investment in industry, we see a lost generation of 1million young unemployed.

With all this will the government actually cut the deficit at all, are we to see a lost decade of stagnant growth and high inflation.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responding to today's inflation figures, said "January’s mistaken VAT rise has fuelled inflation and should be temporarily reversed to ease the squeeze on families and kick-start the economy. This would give a couple with children an average boost of £450 a year and is part of Labour's five point plan for jobs and growth. The Government also needs to do much more to stem soaring energy bills, especially when families are already being hit by the VAT rise and pensioners will get a lower winter fuel allowance this year.

"We need an emergency budget for jobs and growth now because with every day that passes when Ministers just sit on their hands living standards are squeezed harder, more businesses go bust and hundreds more people join the dole queue."

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

When 2+2=4

Today's unemployment figures are genuinely "horrific", we cannot be surprised, for the previous twelve months I have been writing quoting many people whom as said the Conservative liberal government Plan A wasn't working.

Unemployment is now at a 17 year high, with a million young people unemployed and unemployment increasing for the previous seven months.

The 178,000 slump in employment in the quarter to August is the biggest fall in more than two years and the largest-ever cut in the number of part-time workers, down by 175,000.

Around 150,000 people were made redundant in the latest three months, an increase of 6,000 over the previous quarter.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "These are terrible figures. The Government's austerity measures have turned unemployment into a full-blown crisis - with job losses not seen since the darkest days of the recession."

"This shouldn't really come as a surprise – the economy is growing at half the pace it needs to in order to keep unemployment stable. That isn't going to change any time soon – in fact it is probably going to get worse," said Alan Clarke, of Scotia Capital.

James Carrick, of Legal and General Investment Management, said the Treasury's cuts were responsible for pushing the economy to the brink of recession. "Despite announcing the harshest austerity plan since the second world war, the government has been predicting a steady economic expansion," he said. "This implied the biggest private sector boom ever." Instead, said Carrick, businesses were cutting back; recession was now a serious risk.

George Osborne and his team believed in expansionary fiscal contractions which meant that cuts in public spending allow the private sector to blossom. There was no believable empirical evidence to support such a contention and it hasn't worked, in the current economic environment it has no chance.

How social democrates can stay with the liberals in the lib Dems is beyond me, the economically right wing government is returning Britain to a time of a divided rather unpleasant country where people are more insecure, more frightened and people turn in on themselves.

All progressive people should stand together, to tackle the great evils of our society; Far too much low paid work and people on benefits, A health service being destroyed by the same financial interests that caused the financial crisis, the need to develop education, expand child services to promote social and emotional intelligence and garner the talents of people , the need for an expansion in affordable housing and to develop an Industrial policy to create real jobs.

This is a choice of the sort of country we want to live, and this is the choice of a deeply divided country with a huge gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" this is explained with George Osbournes expansionary fiscal contraction; savage cuts in public expenditure, lots of private borrowing and then the reward of tax cuts from a smaller less effective state.

We must reject this shallow, narrow view. We need a country where the five giant evils are tackled.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Democratic breakdown

Polly Toynbee is reporting that the NHS "health and social care bill" is being implemented before the House of Lords has scrutinise this piece of legislation.

The CONDEM government never sought a mandate for a top down reorganisation of the National Health Service, neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrats placed this proposal in their 2010 manifesto.

The House of Lords should be constitutionally affronted that this reorganisation is already imposed on the NHS without waiting for their consent. No one can remember a similar case of pre-legislative implementation, as if parliament were irrelevant.

Polly Toynbee is reporting the NHS is;

Without waiting for the legislation to be passed into an Act and seeking Royal Approval: 300 clinical commissioning groups are taking over, nominally run by GPs. Private sector involvement is already compulsory: by this month every commissioner must find at least three outside providers for diagnostic tests, audiology, primary care psychological therapies, treatment for back pain, feet and other services.

Department of Health website instructions say: "Commissioners cannot refuse to accept providers once they have qualified." That's what "any qualified provider means" and it's happening now – forget the law. McKinsey and other consultants are already being paid millions by commissioners to work out the payment system.

How do these new providers become "qualified"? They must register with the Care Quality Commission, the regulator whose severe stress was revealed over the Winterbourne View scandal. Created from merging three bodies, plus possibly the human fertilisation authority, this bill gives it the new HealthWatch too. Can they cope? CQC has 30% less cash than the bodies it replaced. Last year it cut inspections by 70%. It has just 900 inspectors to cover 18,000 care homes, 8,000 GP practices, 400 NHS hospital trusts, 9,000 dental practices and now every new "qualified" entrant. Will the Lords really think proliferating providers will be sufficiently inspected?

Why should the NHS be opened up to EU competition law? Other than private companies to cherry pick the NHS and Social Services.

I have tasted the new NHS, I had chronic pain in my ankle and needed to see a Podiatrist, my GP offered me a piece of paper with a private practice on it, as a footnote my treatment cost about £400 to put the ankle right, so future commissioning services will not be done in your GP surgery: the 300 CCGs will be cut back to many fewer, commissioning from afar and often outsourced to private companies.

The democratic deficit doesn't stop at the government, parliament with lose control and if the health and social care bill is enacted, it will be illegal for parliament to intervene in this newly formed Quango.

Power will pass to the Conservative friends that fund that Party, insurance groups and private health interests.

Where are the Liberal Democrats, Tessa Munt (my) MP Lib Dems for Wells has loyally supported the coalition government on this legislation (Vote Lib Dem get Tory), they have lost all credibility, they have lost their identity and hopefully Lib Dems will be wiped out after the next election.

The NHS has high satisfaction figures, it is efficient and effective at delivering health provision, but the cuts the coalition government is imposing £20 billion, we are seeing waiting lists growing.

The tragedy is the end of the NHS is near and the people are oblivious to the fact, like the banker with the five ace hand (or a shed load of cheap credit easing), the people cheated out of one of the greatest institutions.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

"Child like" government continues

Even Conservative ministers believe their own colleagues say child like things, especially concerning cats so it seems.

Then we have our Chancellor George Osbourne in January 2009: "Printing money is the last resort of desperate governments when all other policies have failed." October 2011: The Bank of England has said it will inject a further £75bn into the economy through quantitative easing.

So when Osbourne has a couple of minutes be could leave a comment on this blog to say which statement is correct.

I have read no justification of this new government policy, it was abundantly clear in late 2008 -09 there was a real need to inject liquidity into the economy.

In 2011 we must genuinely be fearful that this latest round of quantitative easing will lead to inflationary pressures, with the RPI now at 5% this additional money has to end up costing someone.

That someone will be people on low to medium incomes, Osbourne's policy seems to want to inflate our debt away without tackling the financial interests that caused the original financial crash.

Osbourne will offer some free money to banks and the rest of us will pay for it, sounds familiar doesn't it.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Paralysed by Dogma

So the Prime Minister believe that people are "paralysed by gloom and fear", I suspect Mr Cameron's speech writers would know why this is!

Mr Cameron and his friend Osbourne has misled the people on basic economic facts, deliberately confusing issues between what is "debt" and what is "deficit", clearly very clever politics talking up a none existing sovereign debt crisis, saying the UK was going bust, factually incorrect.

Then we have the Thatcherite economics of treating the economy as household accounts, this economically illiterate verbiage should be challenged, Cameron's call for credit cards to be paid off, was quickly denied, but it's the weakness of his governments thinking.

The thought anyone would buy a house on a credit card is mildly bonkers, so is cutting government spending too deep too fast, at the same time as consumer spending is in fragile state and then increasing VAT at the same as cutting corporation tax cuts for huge corporations, yet it is the small to medium businesses that need help are not getting it.

The country's biggest retailer Tesco, reported its first six-monthly decline in underlying UK sales for 20 years as Britons were forced it cut back not only on extras like clothing and household gadgets but their weekly grocery shop.

So today we have seen growth revised down to 0.1% leaving growth of 0% for the previous 9 months, we see no plan for growth and not a coherant plan, we need a more intelligent approach.

Cameron and Osbourne needs to end the dogma of Plan A, without some boosting of demand and investment in business, a double dip recession is looking likely, this without the Euro Zone developing crisis.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mr Cameron, another group who are holding the economy back, perhaps?

Following on from yesterday announcement that you can be sacked unfairly from your employer and have no rights to seek justice from an Employment Tribunal for the first two years of service, today I offer Mr Cameron another set of people to victimise.

Let me start by saying I will leave the latest notorious Bullingdon Club claims alone.

No, these people are those who's requires benefits and housing benefits are suffering from cuts presided over by the Conservative led government, these benefit changes has created real poverty, one example of this people who cannot afford to feed themselves.

According to the charity, FareShare, http://www.faresharesouthwest.org.uk/ which redistributes surplus food from major manufacturers and supermarkets to social care charities, said its donations now go to 35,000 people a day, an increase from 29,000 last year.

The Charity are obviously in need of continual supplies and say "We're asking anyone who works in the food industry in any capacity to look at what is happening to their surplus food and to ask themselves a simple question: 'Could this food stop someone going hungry?"'

These people of course cannot say they'll leave the country if income tax stays at 50% or a transaction tax is implemented to pay for the utter negligent of leading bankers.

The poor are now paying the price for those people arrogant indifference to long term security of their financial businesses, for short term returns for themselves and shareholders who was more interested in high dividends.

This country has to accept that government has to be more interventionist, the last thirty years of liberal economics has rewarded those who has power, the consequence is the welfare state, the safety net we can rely on hard times, is shot full of holes.

The Beverage Report recommended that the government, a Labour government implemented it when the Country was virtually bankrupt, should find ways of fighting the five 'Giant Evils' of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

This CONDEM government is prosiding over benefit cuts that require charity food parcels, the NHS waiting lists are increasing and proposing further rationalising through a "top down reorganisation", Children centres closing and academies again rationalising provision, a shortage of affordable housing and increasing evidence of poor housing as indentified by "Rogue Landlords" by Shelter and we see now over 20% of young people unemployed with the Labour government's Educational Maintenance Allowance, Jobs for a Future Scheme removed.

These are the challenges a government should be interested in, further liberalising of the economy will only lead to further queing for food parcels and the anger will grow, then watch out!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Cracks are showing

So another week and another series of poor stories for the government and it's handling of the economy.

So it is no surprise today that one of it's most influential backbenchers, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie has said the CONDEM government does not have a "coherent and credible" plan for growth.

He went on to say "A coherent and credible plan for the long-term economic growth rate of the UK economy is needed."

This echos the call by the Labour leader Ed Miliband at last weeks Labour conference.

The real problems of business of course is business confidence and their ability to raise capital to invest in developing their businesses in terms of development and job creation.

Will Hutton, who chairs the Big Innovation Centre, a partnership of 10 global companies including Google and GlaxoSmithKline, said the government needed to put more energy and long-term thought into making Britain a home for new sectors, for instance technology.

"It is this sense of lack of mobilisation, lack of sense of purpose that is dismaying everyone," he said.

So, instead of investing in Universities and financing a Green Investment bank & Innovation Banks to develop the "New Economy" we see a typical Tory response to a crisis caused by a banking crisis; to attack workers rights.

The latest wheeze from Osbourne is to attack workers rights, this workers with less than two years' service will be prevented from taking their employers to a tribunal for unfair dismissal.

This thinking comes from a belief it is workers that cause businesses to fail, but all the evidence points to small and medium sized businesses being starved of investment capital by Bankers.

These financiers of course fund the Tory Party, like hedge fund managers, who's role in life is to use peoples money to gamble on the future and make a profit, this sector gives £1.4million to the Tories.

Then we have the bankers, the same people who pay themselves huge bonuses for no real performance and starve business capital, they pay the Tories over £600,000 in the last year.

Then we have the insurance companies just about £180,000 a year to the Tories and for this curbs on Legal Aid Budget £350m and shift part of the costs of bringing no win, no fee cases from losing defendants to winning claimants. This reduces the liabilities of companies and their insurers if they unsuccessfully defend a claim, because it will force claimants to pay out of any awarded damages their lawyers' success fees and insurance policies that cover court costs.

With the five biggest building companies donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Tories in the last year, now we see the unfortunate Pickles saying he wants to "load the dice" in favour of developers.

So big businesses investment are baring their fruits in terms of government policies.

As the GMB union responded to the Conservative Party's proposals on employment rights, saying: "The Tory Party is increasingly being funded by the asset strippers and predators. That explains why the Tories want to reduce the employment rights of ordinary workers not to be sacked from their livelihoods unfairly. They are the same old nasty Tories now in the pockets of the predatory elite."

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Last evening I attended a public meeting at the Bell Hotel Inn concerning a potential referendum on the working party for a new Civic Centre proposed by a slight majority of the Town Council.

Originally, this meeting was billed as a Town Meeting, with the aim of calling a Parish Poll (referendum), the organisers of the meeting had contacted Mendip District Council, the Chairman of the Town Council.

To call a Town Meeting you have to follow a series of actions;

Place advertisements of the meetings in a public place with an Agenda. Not less than seven clear days, or, in a case falling within sub-paragraph (3) below, not less than fourteen clear days, before a parish meeting, public notice of the meeting shall be given, specifying the time and place of the intended meeting and the business to be transacted at the meeting, and signed by the person or persons convening the meeting.

Public notice of a parish meeting shall be given—
(a)by posting a notice of the meeting in some conspicuous place or places in the parish, and
(b)in such other manner, if any, as appears to the person or persons convening the meeting to be desirable for giving publicity to the meeting

A parish meeting shall not be held in [F29premises which at the time of the meeting may, by virtue of a premises licence or temporary event notice under the Licensing Act 2003, be used for the supply of alcohol (within the meaning of section 14 of that Act)] , except in cases where no other suitable room is available for such a meeting either free of charge or at a reasonable cost.

I had some concerns that some of the criteria had not been followed and so I had as Chairman of the Town Council to challenge whether this was a Town Meeting.

If I had of been content that it was a Town Meeting, I as Chairman would have legally chaired the meeting and my clerk would have minuted the meeting.

The reason why these matters of procedure are so important is that an incorrect calling of a Parish Poll, would be challenged by the Town Council. Mendip District Council if they had organised incurring expense on an invalid Poll and would be challengeable by the Town Council as improper expenditure and not capable of being reimbursed by the Town Council; thus leaving the District with unlawful expenditure which would be open to highlight at Audit.

So, I was left between a rock and a hard place.

I had to decide whether I deemed it a legally organised Town meeting.

I also knew that they're were enough people to call a Parish Poll at the meeting and that those people attending would consider I was blocking their aspirations to show the new Civic Centre at Park Road was an expense people did not want to incur.

Fortunately, the people at the meeting decided to hold another meeting within fourteen days, I thanked them for their understanding and appreciated their frustrations but I had to conduct my role as Chairman, whatever my personal thoughts were.

As the Town Council had not voted any money to investigate the Civic Hall project and the Audit Commission had written a report as Guidance for Local Councils, I assured the meeting that there was no rush to proceed with the call for a Poll last evening and they're was sufficient time, if enough electors wanted to pursue a Parish Poll.

I cannot see any way the civic centre can be built without the electors of Shepton agreeing to the project, this through a poll, the only question is the best time to hold the poll.

Is the best time to hold a Poll now? The advantage of this if the poll was successful rejecting the Civic Hall would stop the Town Council spending money and effort, as the Town Council has the potential of affordable premises.

Or is it better to wait to see if a viable plan for a Civic Hall ever sees the light of day before holding a Poll?

This question is not in my gift, however I will conduct my role as Chairman and the Town Council within the law and uphold the best traditions of the Shepton Mallet Town Council.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Where is the leadership?

I cannot help but think, where are all the great heavyweight political leaders gone? Normally we need not worry, but over the previous weeks we have seen an avalanche of economic data that suggests the economy is heading for recession.

Likewise across the Channel, we see an Europe of centre right politicians in Sarkozy and Merkel who cannot offer any solution to the Euro Crisis, it is to big for them, they seem unable to believe capitalism is failing, unwilling to make the right decisions and reinstate confidence in the markets.

The Little Ingerlanders, namely the Conservatives believe if they cut spending increase taxes for individuals whilst rewarding the big corporations with corporation tax cuts this will stimulate growth, yet the engine of our economy are small and middle sized companies their problems are getting credit to innovate, expand and invest in new plant and product, the Conservatives and little Vince have not tackled this issue.

Neither does Cameron or Osbourne show international economic diplomacy, they believe their failed economic approach will keep the UK insulated against the EuroZone, this miscalculation is as daft as their austerity plan. The European Union greatest success over it's life has seen the integration of markets and businesses, so if Europe goes down, whether we are in the Euro or not, we'll go down with them.

The Americans also seem incapable of agreeing a coherent plan, the Republicans seem to want to bring Obama down and if the American economy goes with him, then their purity has been preserved.

In 2008 Gordon Brown convinced the countries around the world to take action to save the banking sector from meltdown, confidence was restored to the markets, but then it was business as usual, banks carried on, banks to big to fail.

The centre right politics has failed, we need desperately for the centre left Social Democrats to stand up, we need a fundamental review of banking

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Just a trim Mr Osbourne

George Osbourne's favorite group the IMF has downgraded the growth figure for the UK economy to just 1.1% for this year and only 1.7% for the next financial year.

The gloomy outlook should make Chancellor George Osborne rethink his tough programme of spending cuts and tax increases for the many and tax cuts for big corporations, even the IMF who had previously given full backing to his austerity measures are now calling for a softening of Osbournes approach.

The Chancellor's deficit reduction plans have been challenged by business leaders, economists and opposition politicians in recent months as the economic outlook for the UK deteriorates.

The IMF said the UK will continue to struggle and advised that a slower pace of deficit reduction would be necessary were the economy to continue to expand less rapidly than expected.

So, even George Osbourne favorite financial group now supports action to support growth. The coalition government despite huge public sector cuts and tax increases still has £12billion structural deficit higher then they predicted, this will worsen if growth stays low.

The real issue here is despite all the pain, the CONDEM government will borrow the same or slightly more than Labour and next year Labour's plan would have seen borrowing fall, but if the IMF claim the budget deficit will be 1.4% higher under the CONDEMs.

The CONDEMs medicine isn't working, in the IMFs own words we are now facing a “lost decade” (the IMF’s words) and growth is being serially downgraded, we need a change of course and we need it now.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Revisionism and the utter useless

When the Conservatives try to revise history you understand it, like they conveniently forget they argued before the financial crash in 2007/08 for even weaker regulation of the financial sector and criticized the previous government for not spending enough.

This when they were in there "hug a hoodie" and wrapping themselves in environmental issues, you know Cameron and the husky dog.

All this gone now, now Austerity, rip up policies to promote growth and improve education of our young people. Choke of demand by increasing tax especially VAT and destroy jobs by front loading the public sector redundancies and then frightening people to lose confidence, this undoubtedly has been clever politic (blame Labour for everything and deny what you were saying at the same time)but it is lousy economics.

The Lib Dems are at it now; you the know the party that said no increase in Tuition fees, support Educational Maintenance Allowance; the party of no slamming the brakes on the economy and VAT increases; the party of no intervention into foreign civil wars.

My constituency MP Tessa Munt, you know the MP who has only rebelled once against the government, this on select committees, so no revolt on the economy or VAT rises, no revolt on Education, no revolt on the NHS, etc etc.

Why should the people of the Wells constituency vote Lib Dem, if you have an MP would supports a Conservative government, then vote conservative, why would you vote anything else, if you want an alternative, then vote for one.

So this week the Lib Dems meet for their Annual Conference, Cutter in Chief, Danny Alexander says the coalition will target tax evaders, the annual dusting off a populist policy for public consumption, but government has to be more, talking is fine in opposition, stop the con job, just get on with the job of stopping tax evasion, stop demoralising tax staff, stop making tax officers redundant and create a framework that allows tax efficient collection.

So now we have Sarah Teather, you know the government minister in the Tuition debate wouldn't speak to Skynews on her door step, is at it, rubbishing the previous government.

From the Polly Toynbee piece from the Guardian

"It's time to challenge Labour's wasted years. " Says Ms Teather lays claim to things Labour did - three free hours a day nursery for all three and four year olds, and deprived two year olds. She boasts of her pupil premium for poor children - yet the sum is less than all the programmes for deprived children she axed. She says it covers remedial reading but with no ringfenced cash it's still less than Labour's Every Child a Reader. She promises out of school clubs - but everywhere they are closing. Labour almost completed its extended schools programme with breakfast and homework clubs for all - many now shutting. She promises fairer school admissions, but Gove has relaxed the code and banned lotteries for places in oversubscribed schools, the fairest of all. She announces voluntary parenting classes yet Labour had them in most sure start children's centres - many now stopped. Her parenting classes will be "piloted in three or four areas" as if she never knew how well they did or how popular they were.

Whatever Labour's other failings, young children got universal free nurseries, 3,500 Sure Starts, child care credits and much more. The Teather technique is echoed in other speeches here: are these ministers ignorant - or just hoping everyone else is?

So whilst ordinary Lib Dem members are decent people, their leadership are in denial, the cock has crowed thrice and they've denied their previous election programme, all they have left is to attack Labour, they're souls are naked in front of Toryism, in 2015 we can rid ourselves of these people.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The One Million Pound Question

Something very local to Shepton.

If you had (or borrowed), a million pounds, what are Shepton Mallet's priorities?

Please discuss, I look forward to comments. What your Town Council should do?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Fruits of Osbourne

After weeks of saying Manufacturing was slowing, services were slowing and constructions orders were falling, today we saw the fruits of George Osbourne's Labour, Unemployment rose by 80,000.

These job loses have been predicted, there was never the slightest prospect of a expansionary fiscal contraction in the depths of a once in a hundred years financial crisis.

It is the Young and women are paying the highest price, with the Youth unemployment rate of 20.8 per cent, the highest since 1992. The 18-24 employment rate (57.3 per cent) is the lowest since 1992

Austerity and the global slowdown are now crimping private sector job creation; in the last quarter, net job creation there slipped to 41,000. But public sector cuts are now gaining momentum, with 111,000 jobs lost in the last quarter and probably more to come

The Office for Budget Responsibility said unemployment would peak at 8.2 per cent, was over-optimistic; their other unemployment forecast, that the claimant count would peak at 1.54 million, has already been overtaken.

The cycle continues downward, more unemployed, low growth, so what does George Osbourne do know?

He says more of the same, with that there is no chance of an upturn any time soon.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Pain has just begun

Today the Institute of Fiscal Studies reported that household incomes has fallen sharply 2010-11 saw the biggest fall in net household income since 1981.

The impact of public spending cuts and tax rises on UK household incomes will be felt for up to 10 years, as the worst effects of the recession are yet to be felt.

In the most recent financial year, earnings, state benefits and tax credits all fell in real terms.

This is a direct impact of the governments Austerity packages, they have cut demand by cancelling government projects, they chose to increase VAT to 20%, and cut benefits to low income families, they chose to reduce the public sector.

They chose to reward big business with corporation tax cuts, yet small businesses claim the reason why they cannot expand is the banking system refusing to lend money for business investment. Corporation Tax cuts will benefit Banks by £20 billion in this parliament.

We see our fuel costs rising dramatically, this because of lack of competition, the fuel companies behave more like a cartel, increasing diversity would offer a better deal for the consumer.

Like wise the banking system, we need a much more diverse banking system, we need the government to establish investment funds and innovation funds and invest in the new green technologies, only by economic growth can living standards will increase.

My eleven year old nephew told me "you know it is a matter of tax and not spending", I thought he gets it, the reason for our deficit is the falling off a cliff in tax revenues, if we do not grow the economy, boost the new economy and new industries creating new jobs, then the circle of lower tax, more cuts meaning more and more of the same.

Now of course the deficit cannot be ignored, but under Osbourne's Austerity plan we could borrow as much this year as last, so the cuts and tax rises have made no difference, it is time for a change of policy or a change of government.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Crisis on Housing

The BBC are reporting that Homelessness has increased by 17% over the last twelve months.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14838969

In my town the Citizens Advice Bureau are saying housing is the fastest growing problem, all aspects of housing, whether mortgage difficulties, private landlords lettings or homelessness, this is a real cause for concern.

The CAB also say, the housing problem is growing and has the real likelihood of getting much worse, the housing market is so weak, it makes no sense for lenders to foreclose on mortgage defaulters or private landlords to cash in on their investments, their is also a fear that cuts to housing benefit and other benefits and a stagnant wage market will lead to further cuts in household budgets.

The government is about to further attack the under thirty five year olds currently 25-34 year-olds can claim housing benefit based on the cost of renting a one-bedroom flat. Under changes proposed by the Coalition, from 2012 they will only be able to claim enough for a room in a shared house. This is grossly unfair, if you are young and single, you've paid tax but fall on hard times you'll get less benefit than a thirty six year old that has never worked, for example.

If under thirty five year olds get less income, their risk of homelessness increases greatly.

Under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act it is easy for a landlord to evict a tenant;

Section 8

Rent is unpaid when the notice seeking possession is served, and at the time of the hearing for a Possession Order:

Rent is paid weekly or fortnightly and at least eight weeks' rent is owed.

Rent is paid monthly and at least two months' rent is owed.

Rent is paid quarterly and at least one quarter's rent is more than three months overdue.

Rent is paid yearly and at least three months' rent is more than three months overdue.

Ground 10

Rent which is lawfully due to the landlord has not been paid by the time the possession proceedings are started and was owed at the time the Notice seeking possession was served.

If a landlord has been offered money for rent by the tenant but has refused to take it, the tenant will have a defence in the possession proceedings.

Ground 11

The tenant has failed repeatedly to pay rent on time. There don't have to be rent arrears at the time possession proceedings started.

If a tenant makes themselves homeless by whatever means then local authorities can/will not rehouse.

I have reported the weakness of the construction industry, we have builders unemployed, we have a housing problem, we have a stagnant economy, we need a stimulus, it makes perfect sense to bring forward a plan to build affordable homes for people who need them.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Services gloom

After reporting the slowdown in the manufacturing and construction industries today we have seen further evidence of the UKs faltering economy with the service sector reporting the biggest slowdown since 2001 when there was a outbreak of foot and mouth. "Allied with soft manufacturing data and a slowdown in construction growth, the overall picture provided by the latest PMI surveys is one of a stuttering UK private sector," said Markit's senior economist, Paul Smith.

Today service sector figures are the second worse ever, merely above contraction rate, David Noble, chief executive of CIPS, described the drop in the services purchasing managers' index as "eye-watering". It sent the pound falling to a six-week low of $1.6103 against the dollar.

The governments austerity measures are eating into economic demand, and could push us towards a double-dip recession.

"The PMI suggests that economic growth in the third quarter of 2011 is unlikely to improve on the 0.2% seen in the three months to June, and a contraction in the final quarter looks a distinct possibility unless business and consumer confidence improve noticeably in coming months," Chris Williamson of Markit warned.

Angela Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said in response to today’s services index showing the biggest monthly fall for a decade:

“These figures add to a bleak picture for the UK economy, which has flatlined since last autumn’s spending review and the VAT rise.

“It's no wonder that even the Chancellor's former supporters, from the head of the IMF to the founder of the world’s biggest bond fund, are now warning of the dangers of cutting too far and too fast and urging a change of course.

“Our complacent Chancellor needs to realise that carrying on regardless with a plan that isn’t working is not a credible policy. We need leadership on the world stage to agree a global plan for growth and a more balanced deficit plan that puts jobs and growth first. To kick-start the economy the Government should temporarily cut VAT and use the money raised from a tax on bank bonuses to build thousands of affordable homes and get people off the dole and into work."

Friday, 2 September 2011

Not Building on Osbournomics

The Office for National Statistics reported that orders for the construction industry was 23% down on the same quarter a year ago, this fall is the sharpest fall since 1980. This fall in orders is truly shocking.

Areas in the south and west were hardest hit – with north London, Bristol and the Medway in Kent suffering some of the largest falls.

Employment in the construction sector has fallen for the last three months. The Construction sector is working with increasingly lower margins and confidence at its lowest for eight months.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said "While the purchasing managers' survey does at least indicate that construction activity is still expanding, it shows output growth slowing, incoming new business at a seven-month low, employment in the sector contracting at an increased rate, squeezed margins and business expectations deteriorating. Meanwhile, the data from the ONS is horrible. This bodes ill for output prospects in the near term at least."

It is time for the government to act. This spiral of stagnant growth has to be broken, it is time for action.

The Labour party has called for short-term tax cuts to promote growth and prevent the economy slipping back into recession.

The government needs to revisit it's cuts to infrastructure projects, whilst private sector housebuilding remains muted the government could use a windfall tax on bankers to fund public sector housing and a VAT cut to boost consumption this would boost demand for building retail outlets and shopping centres as these have almost ground to a halt. These would raise tax revenues and lower the deficit.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Falling off a cliff

Today's retail sales data confirmed how weak the British economy has become, with experts expecting the country to slip back into recession.

Retail sales showed meagre growth last month as cash-strapped consumers cut back spending despite summer sale discounts. According to the Office for National Statistics, sales volumes grew by 0.2% in July from the previous month, leaving sales unchanged from last year's level. The City had expected 0.3% monthly and annual gains, as retailers slashed prices aggressively.

This is no surprise as Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: "Such weak spending is no real surprise. People are worried about job security, and incomes are being squeezed by higher prices. After inflation, real take-home pay is falling by over 2% per annum. Concerns about the economic outlook are also causing shoppers to hold back on making big-ticket purchases."

Nick Beecroft, senior markets consultant at Saxo Bank, was even gloomier. "If anything, the data just serves to confirm the general picture of an economy which can be described as, at best, moribund, but may well look like it's falling off a cliff by the time we see August's figures."

Today also saw a 4.5% fall in the FTSE continuing the falls of the recent period unsurprising as every piece of economic data that has come out recently has been weaker than expected.

Yesterdays British labour market data showed broad-based weakness, with slowing employment, rising unemployment, falling hours, falling vacancies and rising redundancies. Further significant increases in unemployment probably lie ahead for coming months.

Young people unemployment rate is 20.2% with nearly 1million 18-24 year olds out of work and unemployment for women is at it's highest level since 1988 at 1.05million.

The government has no real plan to resolve the economic difficulties, they hoped was for an export led recovery, this depended on the strength of foreign markets, now with the eurozone crisis and the US budget problems, this hope is in tatters. They're dogmatic view of not having a plan b, is likely to see years of no/very low growth and economic hardship.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Truth

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough tradedy in 1989, A News International title published the headline "The Truth", this publication printed lies about Liverpool football supporters, in defence of a disgraceful policing operation.

The then Prime minister and Home secretary repeated many of the misrepresentations made against Liverpool supporters and generally against football fans.

The excellent Taylor report uncovered many of the failings of the police, in terms of planning and operationally, it was their failings that caused 96 liverpool FC fans to lose their lives.

The Last Labour government finally agreed to release paperwork to allow the families of the dead to understand why their love ones died.

Two years ago the BBC applied for government papers to be released that would show the involvement of Mrs Thatcher and Douglas Hurd in the aftermath of the tradegy. Christopher Graham the information commissioner was happy to release these documents, he rejected the argument that the disclosure would impact negatively on the freedom with which ministers can engage in "free and frank discussions", and on the convention of collective responsibility.

"In this case there had been multiple changes in government between the time the information was recorded and the date of the request," Graham said. "Also, the subject matter of the discussions recorded within the information in question centred on a very particular set of circumstances that were no longer current at the time of the request.

"As a result the view of the Commissioner is that the argument in favour of maintenance of the exemption relating to convention of collective Cabinet responsibility is not a factor of significant weight in favour of maintenance of the exemption."

He also said the passage of time since the information was recorded was a key factor.

"This information was 20 years old at the time of the request and, as the complainant has noted, the current Government is implementing a reduction of the current 30-year period before Government papers are released to 20 years," he said.

He therefore recognised "that there is a diminishing case for withholding information over 20 years old".

The Government’s view is that it is in the public interest for the process that is underway through the Hillsborough Independent Panel be allowed to take its course.

“The terms of reference for that process includes the intention to disclose information to the Hillsborough families first.

“The Cabinet Office absolutely agrees with the principle of providing information to families about the Hillsborough stadium disaster, but we believe it is important that any release of information should be managed through the Panel’s processes and in line with their terms of reference.

Today the Conservative government has appealed Christopher Graham decision saying
The Government’s view is that it is in the public interest for the process that is underway through the Hillsborough Independent Panel be allowed to take its course.

“The terms of reference for that process includes the intention to disclose information to the Hillsborough families first.

“The Cabinet Office absolutely agrees with the principle of providing information to families about the Hillsborough stadium disaster, but we believe it is important that any release of information should be managed through the Panel’s processes and in line with their terms of reference.

The greatest disinfectant is openness and transparency.

It's time people know what our elected leaders knew, what they were doing, twenty two years on, there are no national security issues here, only the reputations of Conservative leaders, it's time for the Truth.

We know News International closed a tabloid because of endemic wrong doing, we know the same paper had close links with the police and politicians.

The British establishment is great at closing ranks, we know the tabloid lied about Liverpool supporters, we know the police tried to covered up their incompetence, it's time for the British state to publish everything on this disaster and let us learn the lessons for the 96.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ – there is us.

The inflationary pressures continue, we have seen the utilities bills continue to rise, today the hike in train fares, with fares 28% higher than today by 2015.

The UK’s rate of inflation increased from 4.2% in June to 4.4% in July according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics.

The latest increase in inflation will add to pressures on household budgets. Moreover, with inflation likely to increase to 5% in the next few months, the gap between increases in earnings and increases in prices could widen.

This makes it very unlikely that the pace of economic growth will pick up in the second half of the year. Retail sales volumes, which have barely increased over the last year, are likely to remain stagnant.

So the government does nothing to help with ever rising fuel prices, nothing on ever higher transport costs.

So them (the government and energy companies and train companies) and us (who have to pay).

This week we are expecting data on unemployment, we are expecting weak private sector employment with possible future rises in unemployment.

This will further reduce confidence.

Ed Balls said of the chancellor;
"He needs to realise that tax rises and cuts which go too far and too fast have crushed confidence and seen our economy flatline since last autumn. His reckless and incautious policies have left Britain vulnerable in the face of the global economic problems we are now seeing. And without strong growth and more people in work the government will find it much harder to get the deficit down."

The new IMF boss Christine Lagarde's attacks Osbornomics and is damning "For the advanced economies, there is an unmistakable need to restore fiscal sustainability through credible consolidation plans. At the same time we know that slamming on the brakes too quickly will hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects. So fiscal adjustment must resolve the conundrum of being neither too fast nor too slow... What is needed is a dual focus on medium-term consolidation and short-term support for growth and jobs.

That may sound contradictory, but the two are mutually reinforcing. Decisions on future consolidation, tackling the issues that will bring sustained fiscal improvement, create space in the near term for policies that support growth and jobs. By the same token, support for growth in the near term is vital to the credibility of any agreement on consolidation. After all, who will believe that commitments to cuts are going to survive a lengthy stagnation with prolonged high unemployment and social dissatisfaction?"

With low growth it is likely the government will miss it's borrowing target despite cuts to the public sector the country borrowing will not decrease and could even increase, so Osbournomics will demand even greater cuts to public services.

This will continue the cycle of public sector austerity, then private sector austerity and then lower consumer confidence, a stagnating economy.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Manufacturing activity falls

The Guardian newspaper are reporting Britain's manufacturing sector has suffered its first contraction in two years, fuelling fears that the UK economy is stumbling.

The detailed figures for the PMI showed that output grew slightly among Britain's manufacturers, while new orders and employment levels were down. Input prices grew at a slower pace, due to price reductions in plastics and steel.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said this was a "pretty horrible survey".

"It is not just the fact that the headline figure showed overall manufacturing activity contracting for the first time in two years in July, but also that the more forward-looking elements of the survey point to further softness ahead – most notably new orders contracting for a third month running in July and at the fastest rate since May 2009. This was due to contracting domestic demand as export orders actually picked up although they remained well below the growth rates seen up until the first quarter of 2011."

These figures are further evidence the British economy has not responded to the CONDEMs Austerity packages, the Chancellor Osbourne promised the private sector would take the slack of public sector job loses.

It would appear private business is now making employment reductions, growth in the UK over the previous two quarters - the final of 2010 and the first of 2011 - put us fifth from the bottom among EU countries, beating only Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Greece. The weak growth in the latest quarter will not lift us up these rankings. Manufacturers indicate there will be no short term bounce to growth as orders seem to be soft in the coming period.

This seems to me a case of history repeating, youth unemployment around 1million we are in danger of another lost generation in the labour market, the CONDEM government have cut by 85% help to keep young people in education through the EMA, they have scrapped the Future Jobs Fund, it's easy to cut, now the CONDEMs have to help the young into work.

The CONDEMs need to discover a growth plan, they need to stop playing politics, talking rubbish about sovereign debt and frightening people, the cycle of cutting will only continue until a strategy to grow the economy and the return of confidence, I fear the CONDEMs political narrative is more important to them then admitting to the need for plan B.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Lunatics and the asylum

Ladies and gentleman the lunatics are running the asylum.

The lunatics are the CONDEM government for sure.

In a report published today, the Commons Treasury Committee concluded there was a "serious risk" that if communicating with the HMRC became too time-consuming, difficult and expensive, "respect for the tax system, and with it voluntary compliance, may be undermined".

The committee acknowledged HMRC operated "under significant pressures" such as implementing increasingly complex tax legislation, restructuring, plus continuing resource reductions and its impact on staff.

"Given the fiscal position, it would make little sense for the department to be cut back further if resource reductions in addition to those plans already agreed would have the effect of reducing receipts, displacing disproportionate costs on to the wider economy or further eroding public confidence in the tax system."

The select committee are right to point out if you reduce staffing numbers and undermine staff morale, this effects performance. Tax revenues are crucially important to fund public services and if the government undermines it's ability to collect revenues, this is seriously undermining government it's self.

Oliver Letwin has let the governments strategy on public services out of the bag.

He made controversial comments angering teachers, nurses and doctors, he warned that it was only through "some real discipline and some fear" of job losses that excellence would be achieved in the public sector.

Letwin added that some of those running schools and hospitals would not survive the process and that it was an "inevitable and intended" consequence of government policy.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union(PCSU), "Public sector workers are already working in fear – fear of cuts to their job, pension, living standards and of privatisation. Far from improving productivity, the cuts are creating chaos in vital public services."

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, said last night that she did not recognise Letwin's portrayal of the public sector. "Death rates in hospitals have been falling, satisfaction levels have been rising," she said. "What hasn't changed is the Tories' antipathy to public services. And the idea that the way to improve public services is to put fear into those who provide them is absolutely grotesque."

In a nutshell, the government strategy is to see schools close, the Academy Schools are now essentially small businesses trading children/students like commodities, those who attract more young people survive and make a surplus and those schools who fail to attract pupils will close. This is "inevitable and intended" so no more community comprehensive schools.

The same agenda is being forced on the NHS, competition a Darwinii solution, the strong will survive and the weak go under.

Public sector reform is being conducted with fiscal contraction. The rationing of public services is back on the political agenda.

The public service like the HMRC are operating "under significant pressures" such as implementing increasingly complex reforms, restructuring, plus continuing resource reductions, as Einstein said "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" is a definition of insanity.

The CONDEM government are trying to prove Einstein wrong, but in truth, the lunatics are running the asylum.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

They're going to borrow more than Labour

When Labour left office in 2010 growth in the economy was 1.2% for the second quarter, 2011 has seen 0.2% growth in the same period.

By this time in 2010, borrowing was already £1.8 billion below 2009 borrowing; the borrowing numbers reported last week show borrowing only managed to fall by £370 million so far this year.

From the Office of Budget Responsibility’s estimates it could be projected that if growth for fiscal 2011 is below 1.1% then we could be in a situation where the CONDEM coalition is borrowing more than Labour.

With confidence at a low point, this will mean stagnant growth and will keep the deficit too high, with levels of borrowing higher under Labour, this will continue the collapsing confidence in both the business and consumer sectors.

In the last quarter production contracted 1.4% from the previous quarter, with mining and quarrying down 6.6%.

Agriculture declined by 1.3% while construction grew 0.5%, recovering after two weak quarters.

The CBI says "it's members are planning to cut jobs over the next three months and have revised down their investment plans for the year ahead," the business trade body said.

Manufacturers reported they were less optimistic than three months ago after a fall from +9% to -16% in the CBI index, the first fall in sentiment since July 2009.

The biggest drag on growth at the moment is inflation and that's eating into household disposable income and holding back consumer spending.

So the CONDEM governments policy of austerity is creating a cycle of lower growth, higher borrowing, this exasperated by VAT tax increases and National Insurance rises for employees and uncontrolled increases in fuel and food also increasing.

The current government have no strategy for growth, with some regions of the country are in recession, we have a government cutting taxes for large corporations, cutting benefits for the poorest and ignoring tax evasion by the wealthiest, we have a cronic housing problem with a million young people unemployed, we have a government with the wrong priorities, this needs to change.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Twelve months ago the UK economy was growing at 1.2% in the second quater of the year, this week we will receive the 2011 second quarter growth rates.

It would be unsurprising to see stalled economic growth in this last quarter, the current government has cut hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, expecting like Lazarus the private sector jobs to replace them. We have seen the cost of living rocket; food, fuel and increased taxes on VAT and National Insurance have shrunk the average families spending power.

The other side of demand in the economy is confidence, everyone I to talk to is frightened about the coming year, the governments dangerous largely unfounded talk of a sovereign debt crisis, comparing the UK to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, this is wrong when Labour left power only Canada had a smaller % GDP sovereign debt in the G7. Yet this dangerous talk has frightened people, reducing the confidence of consumers.

We are in a classic monetary squeeze.

The Labour Party has been calling for the VAT increase to be temporarily lifted to give a boost to spending, under the previous Labour government Alistair Darling did so and reduced the tax to 15 per cent during the financial crisis, consumers spent £9bn more than they otherwise would have done. A VAT cut today would be a similarly effective fiscal stimulus.

The Labour Party are calling for further taxation on Bankers with this money invested in Affordable housing giving a stimulus to the construction industry, increasing employment and taxes and spending.

We are seeing the Americans playing a desperate game with setting their deficit budget and the Europeans failing to get a grip in the euro zone crisis, the markets will remain jittery.

We need substantial political leaders to stand up, yet Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron and Osbourne are utterly failing in the economic diplomacy needed to restore confidence in the Euro zone.

The right wing republicans in the US clearly desperate to damage Obama and to hell with the world economy simply need to get a grip, history shows us Ronald Regan raised the deficit eighteen times in his presidency, so this is nothing new and is sensible handling of the economy.

There are challenges a plenty, yet the politicans are coming up short.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ed finally gets it

The Last week has finally convinced me that Ed Miliband has finally got the message about the need to develop Labour's agenda around tackling the vested interests of those extremely powerful corporations that abuse their concentrated power.

Ed Miliband led on the News International telephone hacking this week, he was clear that there needed to be a judge led public inquiry on the phone hacking at News International with full legal powers and there needed to be an inquiry into the Police handling of this scandal.

He also wanted to know at a political level of the decision of Prime Minister to appoint the former editor at the News of the World as his Communication Director in Downing Street.

Ed Miliband is now questioning how much anyone/corporation should control of the news/media communication in the country, basically questioning the dominance of media barons to control the news environment when decisions are made by public bodies.

The point I would make is it would be better if there were more owners of the news/media this should provide a diverse and healthier environment.

The Banks are another example of corporations abusing their size and power, a situation where banks are too big to fail, this leads to undue risk and corporate irresponsibility.

The financial model of the modern banks has seen mutuals reduced to a minimum and corporate greed rampant, shareholders of PLCs simply do not regulate these companies, how can the Barclay's Bank pay, Bob Diamond, president of Barclay's Capital millions in bonuses when their share price is just over half of there value of 4 years ago.

Are bankers embarrassed, NO, Bankers are warning that if the UK imposes a tax on bonuses when other major financial centres, such as New York, do not then the biggest stars might relocate from the City.

Banks continue to fail to invest in local communities to develop small businesses, failing to meet commitments made to government.

Greater diversity and models of financial services needs to be developed, with the PLC and investment banks being less powerful.

Politicians need to tackle tax evasion, in recent months we've seen the poor and those on benefits under attack, the mantra that it's the poor own fault if your poor, reminiscent of the poor laws, but tax evaders are rewarded to help government, the Lib Dem's talk about this issue but the Conservative government merely does zero.

The work place needs meaningful worker participation, the view of employers that employees are only working units, misses the point, workers invest there lives in the companies they work for, this investment should be rewarded by workers participation in the company board room.

So, Ed, continue tackling the powerful and those who abuse their position, proposals need to increase the power of ordinary people against powerful unaccountable bodies.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Fit and Proper?

The Independent on Sunday are saying that Rupert Murdoch personally guaranteed that Andy Coulson was safe to take on as his Downing Street press chief, the newspaper learnt yesterday, as the fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal threatened to escalate into all-out war between the UK's two most powerful men.

Mr Cameron promised he would defend Mr Coulson's position. The IoS revealed that the cosy relationship between the Prime Minister, Mr Murdoch Snr, News International's chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Mr Coulson has been severely damaged by the hacking crisis, which caused the closure of the 168-year-old tabloid newspaper this weekend.

Mr Cameron faces serious questions over his judgement in appointing Mr Coulson, who was arrested on Friday by police investigating hacking and illegal payments to police officers. The Prime Minister said that he had sought assurances over the appointment in July 2007. Mr Murdoch Snr later gave Mr Coulson a clean bill of health, himself believing he was giving an accurate portrayal of his former editor.

Lord Ashdown, a key player as the Liberal Democrats agonised over whether to join in a coalition with the Tories, told the Observer newspaper that, based on what he had been told, it was obvious Coulson's appointment as Cameron's director of communications would be a disaster.

"I warned No 10 within days of the election that they would suffer terrible damage if they did not get rid of Coulson, when these things came out, as it was inevitable they would," he said.

The bigger picture here is the BSkyB takeover that would give the Murdoch family 40% of the media, this in terms of competition would be wrong, but until the police investigations into News International are over, in terms of the fit and proper test cannot be fulfilled.

Ed Miliband the Labour leader said today "I say this to the prime minister candidly. Over the next 72 hours I hope he changes his position on this, because I don't want to force this to a vote in the house of Commons, but I think he's got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we've seen this week, the idea that this organisation – which engaged in these terrible practices – should be allowed to get that 100% stake without the criminal investigation being completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation, I'm afraid that won't wash with the public."

So the ball is in the Prime ministers court and the Lib Dems who will have to choose who's side they are on?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

NoW it's time

News International corp has closed the News of the World.

They claim this is the right thing to do.

The News of the World had used people who allegedly hacked celebrities, politicians, murder victims and bomb victims and fallen soldiers.

Years, months and weekly coverage of this scandal has drained the confidence in the News of the World, advertisers must also of lost confidence and they must have been telling News International so. So, whilst News International wish to bury this hacking scandal closing the News of the World seems a clever maneuver, especially as merging the News of the World and the Sun looks like the solution News International has been looking at.

We know the News of the World paid large sums of money to private investigators to hack phones and paid money to police officers.

News International want us to believe their editor did not know of this hacking and those financial transactions.

News International want to do the "right thing" by closing the paper and lay off 200 people, yet unbelievably "the right thing" is the then editor now the CEO of News International, continues in her job. Yet the sanctimonious media who claim government ministers must take responsibility for civil servants failings, by resigning, do not practice what they preach.

Are the Police capable of investigating this malpractice? I question whether the police are. They've tried to ignore then bury this malpractice.

Three things have to happens now;

A proper police investigation

A full public inquiry, investigating the practices of the News of the World and the failures of the Police.

A full review of the media and how newspapers operate and no deal between News International and BSkyB can go ahead until after these inquiries has taken place.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Who's in Charge

If politics matter, then our elected representatives have to respond.

After the financial crash in 2008, it was politicians that saved banks and saved peoples savings.

Yet after saving banks, by using tax payers money and printing £200 billion to reflate the economy, you would of thought our politicians would exact some pay back for the damage to ordinary peoples lives.

However, with banks to big to fail and now, the financial dictatorship who say any threat to bankers will be a threat to the city of London, if Politicians exact a Transaction Tax or higher taxes on bankers bonuses then they will leave the country. So politicians will not take action on bankers, despite the revulsion of the general public.

Then we have the untouchables in the Media, the News of the World hacking scandal has been running for months, with the police dragging(to be polite) their feet, at times the police refused to investigate claims by Labour MPs.

The hacking scandal now needs a public inquiry, to investigate News International and the police investigation, this inquiry requires legal powers to compel witnesses to attend and answer questions.

Finally this week we have a government minister talking about British jobs for British workers, then the following day we have British jobs for German contractors, double speak.

We need for our politicians to tackle the vested interests, in the economy and media, this government seems happy to cut benefits to the poorest that will cost more than it's saves, whilst taxing bank bonuses less than under the previous government, cut legal aid for the vulnerable, whilst turning a blind eye to alleged hacking.

Were all in this together, get real, attack the poorest and protect the wealthy and powerful, what happens when the public rumble the politicians, the wolf whistles of British Jobs for British workers sounds dangerously familiar, without democratic control over powerful vested interests, people will turn to less main stream political groups.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Silence of the establishment

Over the last couple of days stories in the national newspapers concerning the meddling of the heir to the throne in government matters.

The man who's position has been attained by the accident of birth and through no merit on his own, is now it appears using the exemptions afforded to him by the previous government in the Freedom of Information Act not answer the questions why he is speaking to government ministers and what issues he is lobbying on.

But the new rules mean there is an absolute ban on disclosing communications between the Government and the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Campaigners called for an urgent review of changes to the Freedom of Information Act ushered in during the final days of the last Labour government which granted the heir to the throne – who is obliged to be politically neutral – an absolute exemption from the release of details about his contacts with ministers and senior civil servants.

The right to freedom of information is critical in an open democratic society, no better example than this was the MP's expenses scandal, we cannot be shocked by what the 'heir' to the Windsor throne is talking to ministers about, government by the people for the people, Charlie needs to know he has always been privilaged, but he should be exposed to public scrutiny.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect storm is continuing to build, the government austerity plan, reducing the public sector, cutting benefits (now appears to cost more than they save) and increasing tax to individuals and the private austerity confirmed in an ICM poll with two-thirds of Britons think the economy is getting worse and most are cutting back drastically on their spending to make ends meet in the face of rising food, fuel and energy prices.

The findings follow a string of retail failures in recent months as shoppers cut back on non-essentials while Britain’s economic recovery remains sluggish

Official data showed that Britain’s economy grew by just 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2010, a muted bounce from Q4’s dismal 0.5 percent contraction.

Figures also showed the biggest fall in households’ disposable income in more than 30years the Office for National Statistics said that in the year to the end of March, real incomes - adjusted for inflation - fell 2.7%, a fall not seen since 1977 with higher taxes, domestic bills and inflation are all eating away at consumers' spending power.

Let us be clear, the CONDEM government has made and continue to make false claims about the British economy, the previous government NEVER left the country bankrupt, only Canada had a lower sovereign debt % of GDP, but this dangerous talk has frightened consumers, this led to a collapse in consumer confidence predates and predicts the collapse in consumer spending that is now devastating the high street: the value of goods sold in the high street fell by 1.4 per cent in May, which isn't surprising, given that real disposable income fell 0.8 per cent in Q1 2011, after a fall of 0.9 per cent in the previous quarter.

Now the CONDEM government has done little to tackle the financial sector, the sovereign date crisis in southern Europe could well be the tipping point that will be the shock to send our economy into recession, if Greece or Portugal defaults on their loans and with the banks inter connected through Europe and beyond, the final ingredient in the perfect storm, reminiscent of the Great Depression.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

So They knew it would cost more than it saved, but still did it

This taken from the Observer

"David Cameron has been warned by one of his most trusted cabinet ministers that his welfare policies risk making 40,000 families homeless.

The extraordinary claim, in a letter to the prime minister from the office of Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, exposes deep splits at the heart of government over plans to cap benefit at £500 a week per family.

The letter, leaked to the Observer, reveals Pickles's belief that the cap – announced with great fanfare at last year's Tory conference – will increase the burden on taxpayers, because thousands of families will be unable to pay their rent and will have to seek local government help. It blows apart the government's public insistence that a limit on benefit payments will have little impact on homelessness and child poverty.

Written by Nico Heslop, Pickles's private secretary, at the clear instigation of the minister, the letter lays bare fears of mass homelessness "disproportionately impacting on families". It says:

■ 40,000 families will be made homeless by the welfare reforms, putting further strain on services already "seeing increased pressures".

■ An estimated £270m saving from the benefits cap will be wiped out by the need to divert resources to help the newly homeless and is likely to "generate a net cost".

■ Half of the 56,000 affordable homes the government expects to be constructed by 2015 will not be built because developers will realise they will not be able to recoup even 80% of market rates from tenants."

This must show just how vicious the Conservative lib Dem government has become.

Shelter says "With 21% of people struggling to meet housing costs, it's naive to think you can cut support without putting some people at risk of losing their home. The coalition government should stop bulldozing through badly thought-through policies while ignoring independent evidence, its own expert panel and the views of those who will deal with the very real impact on people."

Enver Solomon, policy director at the Children's Society, said: "The social costs of the cap are huge and would have disastrous consequences for many children."

So the benefit cap will cost more, transferring the budget from government to local government and undermining the affordable house buildings.

This is yet another attack on lower income families, this without any savings with a high likely hood of costing more, so vicious and incompetent.

Conservatives and Lib Dems true to type.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Double standards squared

Much has been made of the potential strike action by public sector workers in their dispute with the government pension reform.

Now read reforms as; higher pensions contributions, having to work longer to get their pensions and getting less for these higher and longer contributions.

These pension reforms are to be made, so the government says, because public sector pensions are becoming a burden on the tax payers.

Public sector workers are seeing huge job losses and pay freezes, so this means in real terms they are working harder for in real terms less, so with higher pension contributions this will see public workers income being squeezed.

In reality public sectors workers did not cause the recession, they are not responsible for the low growth and stagnant recovery.

The people who caused the recession were bankers who used the markets as their casino and gambled on leverage lending and a neo liberal political settlement.

So the bankers; Bank chiefs’ average pay in the US and Europe leapt 36 per cent last year to $9.7m, according to data compiled for the Financial Times, despite variable performance across the sector.

We have seen a switch from higher banker bonuses to higher pay.

Our MP's pensions are based on fortieths of an MP's salary for every year he or she is in parliament, so better terms than your local public sector workers.

There are growing signs this economic sitution is being used to reshape the burden from state to private individuals, the powerful i.e bankers unfettered riches, with low to middle income families paying more tax, with fewer services, less social insurance and more private insurance.

Drip by drip the changes are being made, effectively working longer for less benefits, the divide between the powerful and those whom own wealth and the rest of the population is growing dangerously, the public sector is angry and this may lead to industrial action. I hope the Unions and government can agree a settlement.

Those low paid workers in the private sector, those with no pension, no long term career development, no sick pay scheme, those in short term employment, those who have no security of employment, who speaks for these workers?

The danger is extremist politicans will fill the void, our MP's tells them that they must be flexible, must price yourself into work, yet the bankers and corporate bonuses continue to over pay themselves and MP's still live in there own worlds.

The low paid workers can look to a government of millionaires, can look to the heads of our corporations and see their double standards.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Another Day another U Turn

I'm afraid this bumbling government continues, today's U turn is the discounted sentencing policy.

After ken Clarke made his rape case mistake and pressure from the media, the conservative government have shelved the discounted sentencing policy.

Once again, confusion at the heart of government, this driven by the haste to cut budgets, without thinking the policy through, there has to be a question at the competence of the Prime Minister to control policy.

I see saint Vince Cable is now talking tough on bankers and banks, the next U turn awaits.

How long before the next U turn? Not long!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A State of Confusion

The Conservative led government is in a state of confusion, their policies are a mixture of u turns and muddle.

On the economy, they can't decide whether the heavy cuts they've made in our public services are the same as Labour cuts or they are deep cuts necessary to put our finances in order, or Labour left the highest debt in history yet economist point out only Canada has a lower debt in the G8 than Britain.

On the NHS, the Conservative led government published a bill and had two readings in the commons that marketised the NHS with European competition laws included, with NHS spending protected, this despite cuts in the NHS and waiting times increasing.

On housing, the Conservative government say affordable rented housing is populated by the work shy or is it this housing is occupied by people on £100,000 a yr.

The simple truth is this is a very poor government with a dubious electoral mandate, but for goodness sake get their act together or go.

Monday, 6 June 2011

£100,000 Council tenants

Some times you really wonder what planet some wealthy Conservatives lives on!

The latest little red herring is that Council Tenants living on £100,000 should lose their council homes.

So those over 3,000 Mendip citizens waiting for an affordable home ought not hold their breath waiting for too many homes coming on stream.

We are seeing a utter shambles in Conservative thinking on affordable housing,on one hand the Conservatives say Council housing is populated by work shy and now Council housing is populated by wealthy people blocking homes for people to aspire.

The real truth is housing is becoming unaffordable, to buy, in Mendip over 12 times salary and no chance of an affordable rent and having to rent in the private sector, where rents at best are £100 pw for a one bed property in the Town Centre.

People who frequent the real world know, real income has been falling for several years, with annual pay rises a distant reality. Living standards are under the same strain as in the 1920's. The people in unskilled and semi skilled jobs has seen their incomes in decline in real terms since the 1980's. With other professions such as doctors, lawyers have seen their income double in the same period.

The effects of globalisation has seen well paid manufacturing jobs go abroad and low paid service jobs have replaced them.

Whilst politicians spend much of their time talking about social mobility, in reality this has stalled, the thirty year experiment of the market is best, needs to be re-thought, social mobility is important but so is security, governments need to understand that low paid service industry workers need the social wage and a key element of the social wage is secure affordable housing.

A balanced housing market is good for the economy, no more housing boom, of pent up housing demand funded by funny financial products, homes are to be lived in, this is the basis of community, not a financial opportunity, the difference between knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

This is something the Conservatives have never understood.