Friday, 25 February 2011

No Strategy for Growth

Today the office for National Statistics published the revised growth figures for the final quarter of last year, with growth revised lower to - 0.6%, with the private sector shrinking by 0.7%.
The Construction sector shrank by 2.5% and a 2.5% slump in business investment also contributed to the overall decline.

In terms of Consumer confidence the picture remains at rock bottom this highlighted concerns among consumers about the effects of the government's spending cuts and falling real incomes.

Anyone in work knows that we are working longer and expected to work overtime for no extra income, wages as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has fallen from 64% in 1975 to 54% in 2010, with the governor of the Bank of England stating average wages are likely to be no higher in 2011 than they were in 2005.

This may partly be explained by the fact that between mid-2009 and early 2010, 89% of all new income had gone to profits. In truth, £29bn (this year) is only a fraction of the total surplus that is being extracted from workers.

Productivity has virtually doubled, today a worker does in 23 hours what it took them in forty hours in 1975.

This governments solution is to introduce more flexibility into the Labour Market, with fewer protections for workers and making it harder to fight unfair dismal, further strengthening the hand of employers.

This diet of public sector cuts, VAT increases, benefit cuts and squeezed income and increased food and utility bills are crushing consumer confidence.

This cycle needs to be broken or a Plan B, the market is not working so growth can only be fostered with a set of strategic government interventions.

We need an investment bank to develop infrastructure projects, since the RDAs has been disbanded and the Local Enterprise Partnerships has not been formed in Somerset, we has no strategic regeneration body; more spent on research and development and training; developing manufacturing.

The economy needs confidence, a conservative state of economic fear will not build that growing economy.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


After weeks of my warnings the County Council confirmed their cuts to the local bus service , this will have a very big impact on many citizens lives. The 161 (Wells - Frome): Will run No Sunday service, the last bus at 1755 after the 17th April.

The situation could be made worse as seven off-peak services will be run by First on a trial "use it or lose it" basis. Its daytime services will remain unchanged.

The routes are Service 21/21A (Taunton - Burnham on Sea), Service 22 (Ladymead Road - Rockwell Green), Service 92/192 (Taunton - Exeter), Service 28 (Taunton - Minehead), Service 112 (Weston-super-Mare - Highbridge), Service 173 (Bath - Wells), Service 376 (Bristol - Street) and Service 377 (Wells - Yeovil).

These cuts mirror the cuts made by the Lib Dems at County Hall in 2004, cuts that were reversed almost immediately, sadly these cuts look more permanent.

These cuts from the Conservative County Council caused by the Conservative Lib Dem government budget, that cut public spending too fast too hard. The Conservative Lib Dem government have cut the Bus Operator Grant by 20%, this transferring the subsidy into higher ticket prices. Passenger growth has seen between 3-8% growth this year. The subsidy to the bus pass has also been cut from 64p a ticket to 34p, this effecting the viability of the bus service.

All in all these measures will make people's lives harder to live, commuting from the Mendip area to the cities is going to be made harder, tourism is going to be effected later in the year and people without cars or access to a car their freedoms will be curtailed.

Iain Duncan Smith MP sec of state for Work and Pensions said on the 21 October 2010 that the unemployed should "get on a bus to find work", so cutting the buses and leaving bus drivers unemployed is not the best solution.

The Conservatives through their economic strategy are cutting jobs, cutting help for childcare, cutting working tax credit that makes work pay and even cutting support for buses.

They are even cutting corporation tax for banks, giving them additional billions of pounds in the next four years, at the same time they are reshaping the public sector to be smaller, less comprehensive, more judgemental, making society more divided and less equal.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Members Allowances

Today the BBC on their website reports, obviously after a press release by Mendip District Council, that Mendip Councillors approved a freeze in their allowances, and voted against the independent review body that recommended an increase.

The allowance scheme for Mendip Councillors costs around £244,000 according , of course all councillors may not claim all or part of these allowances.

The question I would ask is a freeze in allowances sharing enough of the 14.8% reduction of government grant? Especially as 23 people are to lose their jobs at Mendip.

A theoretical cut in Members Allowances of 14.8% would raise £36000, least the staff would know the members took a reduction to help the council and the community in these most difficult times.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Somerset would close for business at six o'clock

Andrew Govier, leader of the labour Group on Somerset County Council has outlined the level of cuts to the bus services agreed yesterday in Taunton
There are almost 250 bus services in Somerset, almost all of which are subsidised to some extent by the County Council. A reduction will be made in this subsidy of around £3.6m over three years, lifeline bus routes are to be slashed as the council halves its spending on supported buses. Bus companies will look at their own routes and work out whether they can continue, though the Council is having talks with operators to try to avoid an impact upon journeys to work, schools and colleges, and medical appointments.

One bus company said "Somerset would close for business at six o'clock and off-peak services will take a significant hit”

The Mendip Labour Party believes these cuts will have dramatic impact on people and their ability to live productive lives, especially the young and the old.

How do people without cars go to the theatre or an evenings entertainment from Shepton if buses no longer run from Wells or Frome after 6pm in the evening?

How will young people visit their friends who live out of town or need the bus return from work in the evening, if these buses are removed because of these cuts, then the quality of life has been damaged.

Mendip's local economy is becoming more reliant on Tourism, rural link services are very important that join our Market Towns, and give tourist an opportunity to visit our unique Towns and villages.

The Mendip Labour Party will campaign for good bus services, we need good bus services to allow people to socialise, access to services, leisure and economic activity, with fuel increasing the bus is an ever important alternative form of transport.

The coalition of Conservative Council and Conservative Lib Dem Government have cut public services to fast to hard, with the result of crucial public services being decimated.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

More economic woe, from the wrong choices

The unemployment rate has risen again, another 49,000 people are out of work, this now almost 2.5 million, a rate of 7.9%, but more worrying is youth unemployment has risen to 951,000 or 20.3%, the problem is that unemployment is up, employment is down and economic activity is too slow to generate enough jobs to reverse this trend.

Under Labour's job schemes 850,000 people were helped to find work or training, these schemes has been scrapped under this government and replaced with a government's new "work programme" this will actually help fewer people than the existing schemes that ministers are scrapping they expect 605,000 people to go through the scheme 2011-12 and 565,000 in 2012-13. At a time when unemployment is rising, this government is cutting back help to those who needs it.

At the same time of unemployment and no growth we are seeing higher inflation, today we saw inflation RPI 5.1% or CPI 4%, this due to the VAT increase, weakness of sterling and higher commodity prices. This at a time when the economy shrank by 0.5%.

Private sector pay is increasing at 1.9%.

What is interesting the Office for National Statistics says petrol is £1.27 a litre, but in Shepton it is a penny more expensive.

In terms of growth the American growth rate was .8%, the Germans .4%, the french .3% and the British economy shrank by .5%.

This series of economic data shows the rest of the world growing, whilst Britain falls back, unemployment rising faster than first thought, with inadequate government action.

If this trend continues, world commodity prices are likely to remain high, with concern of middle east unrest, euro zone uncertainty, with Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain and even Belgium likely to be hit by economic woes, countries like America and China that are growing economies; consuming more forcing prices up.

With Inflation moving increasingly higher, the Bank of England will have to rise interest rates, this will further choke of growth and cause pressure on property prices downwards.

With the weakening of the economy sterling will further decrease, this downward spiral, living standards will be further undermined.

And all this before the Austerity cuts are enacted, these cuts as Ken Clarke said people are unaware how deep they will be.

So higher inflation, higher taxes, lower pay rises and stagnent economy, not a pretty picture this is Plan A.

Community Development Meeting

We held the penultimate Community Development Committee meeting of this Town Council, with the elections in May.

There was a number of items of interest;

1. We had Jane Sharp, regeneration officer at MDC, came to talk to us about Shop Jacket, this a scheme that offers business advice to new shops, gives a temporary shop front to attract new shops.
My concern was how we improve footfall in the Town Centre; the Town's street furniture is dirty and needs refurbishment; the lack of future focus from Mendip Council's likely ending of the regeneration function and how was going to lead on regeneration?; the cracked pavements and with Somerset County Council ending spraying who was going to weed the Town, I did apologise for being negative, but with all this going on is Shop Jacket the best investment? I have asked the Town Council to write to Mendip Council to discover if they were to play any part in regeneration after March, or was this left to the Town Council to coordinate in the future?

2.Youth Provision - I asked the Town Council to write to the Youth service for their concrete plans for youth provision for Shepton, with 75% cuts there has to be some loss of service, it would be unrealistic for untrained volunteers to pick up the slack. I asked for a meeting to discuss, this was agreed.

3.Bus Services, I again raised my concerns for those who needs transport for there jobs, 50% cuts are bound to affect after 6pm and weekend bus services.

4. Shepton in Bloom, the funding has been recommended that the funding should be taken off risk list as plants need to be funded, the Town Council is now looking to work with partners to develop a planting scheme for the summer.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

We're all in this together? Don't be silly

In Yesterdays Guardian Newspaper had an excellent article by George Monbiot where he outlined changes to tax for large corporations.

At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don't get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.

Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to "large and medium companies": it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects "large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime". The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.

But that's not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate "of any major western economy". By the time this government is done, we'll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: "What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy." He's doing just the opposite.

Today we learned that the Conservative Party are increasingly reliant on bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity moguls for their income for their political party now over 50% of their income. David Cameron has raised £42 million for his Party from the city of London in the last 5 years.

The Conservative Party are close to the City of London and has failed to tackle the bonus culture of our financial institutions, today's agreement between banks and the government on lending and bank bonuses seems meaningless because of the statement “3.5 nothing in this statement derogates from the obligation of the banks, and their boards and remuneration committees, to manage pay policy in a way which protects and enhances the interests of their shareholders.” in the agreement.

Lord Oakeshott a Lib Dem called said of the banking agreement "If this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name's Bob Diamond." He called the Treasury negotiating team "They've got an awful combination of arrogance and incompetence, most of them couldn't negotiate themselves out of a paper bag." His displeasure is made clear "I'm afraid the banks have taken the Treasury for a ride and I've decided I'm more comfortable saying that from the backbenches."

So it's becoming increasingly clear, this Conservative led government are acting on behalf of their funders and unwilling to tackle their friends excesses, at the same time this government are cutting frontline services, cutting schemes such as the financial inclusion fund to fund 500 centres for specialists in debt relief at a cost of just £45million.

We're all in this together? Don't be silly

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

No building plans

This evenings planning meeting only had two items, tree works for the Town and District Councils, over the previous month we have seen fewer planning applications being submitted, I worry this is further evidence of the slowing of economic confidence.

Mondays Citizens Advice Bureau management meeting has been cancelled due to uncertainity on funding, especially the coalition government cut of the Financial Inclusion Fund, this funds specialists in debt and legal matters costing £45 million funding 500 centres nationally, so it is proposed to meet at the end of February when the picture should be clearer on funding.

The enhancement of the Cenotaph work has begun and the work is progressing well, the works should be completed by the end of March, this scheme largely funded by the Tesco s106 fund, with some additional funding from the Town Council.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

On the buses

Today I went to town to celebrate the work of our Library, the band played and many people attended, more details can be found on

Shepton Mallet spoke as one against the plan by the Conservative County Council to close Shepton Mallets library, like many people across Somerset this cultural vandalism was consider completely unacceptable.

Shepton's library looks to have earned a reprieve, albeit with a reduced service. Smaller libraries across Somerset will still be closed. So for some residents of Somerset they will need to travel for their library services.

The Conservative County Council are to cut our bus services by 50%, lifeline bus routes are to be slashed as the council halves its spending on supported buses, amounting to a cut of more than £3.5m over three years.

The likely result of these cuts will be as one bus company said the changes meant "Somerset would close for business at six o'clock and off-peak services will take a significant hit".

David Redgewell, from Transport South West, said: "We're extremely concerned that people working in Bristol and Bath will find it very difficult to get home at night to the Mendip towns.

The Conservative lib Dem government has cut the Bus Operator Grant by 20%, this transferring the subsidy into higher fees. Passenger growth has seen between 3-8% growth this year. The subsidy to the bus pass has also been cut from 64p a ticket to 34p, this effecting the viability of the bus service.

Our local bus services are under attack, especially rural link services, for many these bus services are vital for every day life. Bus cuts will cause misery for bus users, obstruct the delivery of other public services and hold back the economy.

An excellent report

More information can be found on

Here in Shepton we have no Theatre, Cinema, Indoor Swimming Pool,Job Centre and governmental offices (other than Mendip)and many need the bus for accessing their jobs. A diverse group of people use buses, the bus pass has transformed many older peoples lives, college students can use buses to access their courses and give them freedom to live their lives, low paid people who needs transport, those who do not have a car.

Wells Bus station also employs 50 people, with the loss of bus services, this will lead to job loses.

We need our bus services, back in 2004 we fought off the Lib Dems proposals to cut evening and weekend buses to Shepton, it looks like the same fight will be fought again.