Saturday, 5 September 2015

If anyone is listening?

My dad told me once "you have to earn a pound before you can spend it" and that was good advice.

In the recent General Election the real condition of our nations economy was not discussed, the Conservatives ruthlessly exploited English nationalism against Scottish nationalism, with sound bite economics, that does not actually relate to the real world, Labour never articulated the fundamental problem within our economy, instead concentrated on the NHS and an electoral strategy that was doomed to failure.

The fundamental truth is we as a nation are not productive enough.

On some measures, Britain is now around a fifth less productive per worker than the G7 average, and a jaw dropping 40 per cent below the US. 

It is clear that there are a number of factors that make low productivity, one being our dysfunctional banking system may have been both starving enterprise of finance; with immigration and government welfare policy there is a plentiful supply of cheap labour, with a short term mentality on investment companies would rather use (cheap) labour rather than technological advances.

This country does not fair well in spending as a proportion of the nations wealth on research and development compared with other advanced nations.

In a decade of low interest rates some businesses have undoubtedly use wage deflation to sustain their businesses, that has allowed many unsustainable businesses to continue trading with the employees being subsided by the tax payers in the form of tax credits or housing benefits.

Many businesses do not invest in staff training rather using unskilled labour, life long learning has disappeared from the government's vocabulary, with a welfare system forcing people into low pay low skill work.

As a nation we are not spending enough on research and development and scientific research, our businesses do not have access to finance to invest in cutting edge technology and products and our employees are not trained well enough and are not equipped for the modern economy how on earth are we to generate the income to pay for high quality public services? 

This is the challenge for our political elite and particular the new Labour leader, to advocate an economic strategy that is based on wealth creation, business leaders are naturally suspicious of Labour politicians, suspicious of government, yet it is public policy that drives finance and taxation, education and training that business need to develop their businesses.

This two way street of government and business also requires that business takes responsibility, if government provides a framework of investment banking helping the real economy, investing in colleges and training, and universal childcare, it is reasonable to expect business to pay good wages and help with social welfare of their employees, This calls for strategy to make a wage structure that people do not need state top up payments and business develop learning of their employees as a central aspect of their business.

Business leaders are keen to portray Labour as anti business, but the reality is without government support, business on its own cannot flourish

Electing a new Leader


The election for the Labour party’s new leader enters the last week and Labour Party members from across the Wells constituency met in Wells to hear and debate from Kerry McCarthy MP representing Andy Burnham MP candidature and Clare Moody MEP representing Yvette Cooper candidature.

During the evening Labour Party members’ debated issues such as the rural economy and how to create wealth, debating how we safeguard the living standards of all who live in our country, the importance of lifelong learning and protecting the NHS and expanding social care, there were also debates around fracking and protection of the environment.

Clare Moody MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, supporting Yvette Cooper, said Labour can only grow the economy if the workforce has the right skills and the best training, invests in infrastructure (including the digital economy) that promotes economic growth and delivers high quality childcare that families need.

This country needs a serious plan for good jobs and growth, we lag behind many of our competing nations on productivity, Britain is being left behind. Too many businesses are stuck in narrow short term thinking, we need to double our investment in science, creating high tech jobs, with a vocational skills revolution. Labours alternative must support new, good jobs for the future, sustain our public services and bring down the deficit in a way that is fair.

Kerry McCarthy MP, who supported Andy Burnham MP, Labour is a party with a big vision for Britain that delivers a better life for everyone in this country. Government often overlooks the wealth creators, small to medium size businesses, many small businesses innovation and growth are hindered by the inability to attract high quality staff and investment to produce new products and services. Businesses need their business rates reduced too.

The last Labour government rebuilt our schools and saved our NHS, we tackled child poverty with tax credits and sure start and children centres, the challenges the next Labour government will be about tackling an economy that works for too few, that is not educating and skilling the workforce to compete in a 21st century economy. Britain needs healthcare that meets people’s expectation and social care that protects the most vulnerable in our society. We need to be building homes that people need and devolving power and responsibility to local communities to find the best way to deliver vital services.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Voting for Shepton, not politics

Neighbourhood plan

One of the decisions made at the first meeting of the new Town Council was to elect the new Chairman of the Council, and the new council selected Martin Lovell. I was selected as the vice chairman, I am alongside the chairman serving on all committees.

One of the key pieces of work for this council is to deliver the Neighbourhood Plan, this a planning document that fits below the Local Plan.

Originally the Town Council decided that a referendum should be held on the first Thursday in May, but the reason given why this referendum could not take place was that it would clash with the general election. It is now promised for October, however it would appear that there is still a tremendous amount of work outstanding.

Currently I can find no evidence of a project plan for the completion of the Neighbourhood Plan or an effective timescale for consulting and then to write the plan and examination before the public vote.

The Neighbourhood Plan's Vision and Objectives should have been put out for public consultation last February and so far as I can see this has not been done or any date for this to be carried out.

I personally am not happy with the Vision and Objection, in particular the housing section is particularly weak, the objective of Neighbourhood Plan should be delivering housing that local people need, it is obvious that we need more one bedroom properties and homes for an ageing population. We should be stipulating the highest environmental standards of these new homes.

Affordability of housing is a particular issue for local people, the objectives of the Neighbourhood Plan should clearly state how much affordable housing Shepton needs.

The failure of the plan's objectives to address the health needs of the town including the development of the well being centre and further developments in public health is a serious flaw. Serious attention needs to be given to the low take up of further education by sections of our community and how as a community we take life long learning.

The Town centre strategy is seriously under prepared, the plan as we stand has not identified significant  employment land for the jobs of tomorrow.

The Neighbourhood plan fails to state the need for sports and leisure opportunities.

For me the policy gaps are quite fundamental to a quality plan.

The other consideration about the Neighbourhood plan is the way it is being compiled. Whilst speaking to people during the recent election campaign, the community seem not to know of the plans existence and it has no community traction, yet the Neighbourhood Plan is a very important document informing policy decisions for the next decade and allocation of public money.

The Neighbourhood plan needs to grab the attention of Shepton people and needs the residents participation, we cannot allow such an important piece of work for the Town to be so anonymous, the neighbourhood plan needs invigorating, it needs to excite and involve the residents of the town.

The reporting back to councillors on the Town Council ( the commissioning authority) has been patchy at best, for example, minutes not being distributed to councillors was one example of the lack of information being shared.

As a Town Councillor I know nothing of the paid consultant, her terms of employment or time allocation to this project or the cost of her time, this has never been reported to me as a councillor.

Last Tuesday the Town Council decided to elect a new team to lead the Neighbourhood plan, the hope for an October referendum is wildly optimistic, we have an opportunity to relaunch the Neighbourhood Plan, this new team has new energy, that will work for a Better Shepton

Sunday, 17 May 2015

New Council - New Start?

Its true to say 2015 has been a truly difficult year, certainly a year I would not choose to fight an election, whether District or Town Council elections or the parliamentary one, this not because of the Labour party weakness but the profound loss in the early months of 2015.

It is obvious to say I have neglected this blog, but some things take a higher priority and they put your political activity into prospective and in some ways underline the importance of my political beliefs.

The Parliamentary election was invigorating, giving time to think about why you want to be in politics and speaking on the need to develop a new economy based on production, innovation and technology, how to harness capital for business investment and education and training to increase the skills and productivity of economy.

Too many jobs in rural Britain are low paid, unskilled and flexible and so insecure, too many businesses use cheap labour to hide gross inefficiencies and working practices that make high productivity impossible and make good wages a distant dream.

I loved to talk about the education of our young people, the failings of the first 1000 days of a child's life, Labour introduced Surestart, but much more needs to be done from health visitors and preschool nursery education, equality of opportunity in our area is a slogan, if every child matters, the more has to done to prove it.

We need a housing revolution, one where we recognise that a safe secure home is the best family policy, the foundations for life, why is it that buying a home for local people is out of reach, why the only option is high cost privately rented property? The home owning democracy is now rationed, rationed by years of neglect by our politicians.

On the 7 May I received 6.6% of the vote here in Wells, lost my district seat by 80 votes and was re elected to the Shepton Mallet Town Council.

I look forward to blogging in the coming period on my views for the Labour Party renewal and the updates on the Town Council.