Big brother moving the taxation goal posts

I don’t like the idea of the rich getting richer by avoid paying taxes. However, hearing that Barclays Bank has been fined half a billion pounds for helping people avoid tax legally, makes me feel very uneasy and see the shadow of Big Brother growing yet larger.

If you create a fiendishly complicated taxation system, with so many twist and turns that it would make most people’s head spin, then is it an wonder that clever people will find equally fiendish ways around that system? The government crying foul because they didn’t spot the loophole is not just sour grapes on their part, it also smacks of something a dictatorship would do.

If our supposedly democratically elected government can change the rules, making what was legal, illegal and retrospective, where does it stop? What if the government runs out of money to keep inflating their scandalous overseas aid budget, or to continue subsidise wind turbines, might they decide that basic rate taxpayers should of been paying 5% more tax for the last 3, 5 or even 10 years?

More ill-informed comments on planning from ministers

Daily Telegraph

The Prime Minister exhorted the Cabinet to step up efforts to increase house-building, speed up major infrastructure projects, and cut red tape for businesses…during a Cabinet meeting.

He set out areas of particular concern, including regulations for business, problems with the planning system, the tendency for EU directives to be “gold plated” when they are implemented in this country.

“It is difficult to get big infrastructure projects off the ground, whether in the public or the private sector. That is very difficult to make happen,” he said.

Mr Osborne, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet office minister and Mr Cameron’s policy adviser, and Nick Clegg all spoke at length during the discussion.

The spokesman also confirmed that details of the government’s planning law reforms would be published “soon”.

“Reform of the planning system is a key part of what we are doing to boost growth,” he said. “We set out the principle of a presumption in favour of sustainable development. I think we will be setting out our plans on that quite soon.”

Why is it that ministers and in particular David Cameron, insist on continuing to make such I’ll-informed comments about the planning system, despite their own experience of it as MPs? Do they really believe that their constant repetition of, ‘growth at any cost, development will be our saviour, trust us we’re MPs’, will placate those who will soon be suffering from the rampant development they are promoting?

Another step towards the past or the USA?

“@TweetyHall: “The balance of power has shifted in your councils away from your officials to you” – @ericpickles to local councillor’s at #cca12”

I’ve lifted this from Twitter, not just because it’s yet another piece of Pickles tripe, but also because demonstrates the dangerous illusion that Pickles is selling to elected members – they can do the job with out the officers. We’ve seen this start with the scrapping of chief executive posts by some councils and the thinning out of senior management posts in many others.

I’m not suggesting that local government hasn’t become top heavy and bloated and that the taxpayer is being over-charged through their council tax to pay for this. However, much of this bloatation (I’ve just invented that word) was caused by the very same organisation now criticising it – central government. The blunt instrument being used to redress the balance, massive cuts in the central grant, is encouraging the culling of officers and the apparent inflation of members’ egos.

Unfortunately, this situation has been forced on local government and members will never have the remotest chance to grow in to their new roles ( if that was ever possible). This will probably play out just as things did in the 1980s, when councils such as Liverpool and it’s then leader Derek Hatton, gave Margaret Thatcher the excuse to centralise much of local government’s powers.

It’s difficult not to feel that when people look back in another 15 or 20 years, they won’t see this as just a repeat of previous local government history and that nothing will have changed. Of course the alternative is, that we have become America!

Grant Shapps – I wished you hadn’t said that!

Housing Minister Grant Shapps today warned aspiring Dick Whittingtons from across the continent not to come to London before making firm plans, with figures showing that more than half the capital’s rough sleepers come from overseas. GREAT!, SPOT-ON!, just what taxpayers want to hear a leading politician telling the large numbers of often drunken foreigners blighting our streets, open spaces, alleyways, park benches and just about any other space they can find.

He goes on to say:

“Non UK residents now account for over half the rough sleepers in our capital, so anyone heading here with tales of Dick Whittington in their head needs to realise that the streets of…..our …..cities aren’t paved with gold. Those arriving from beyond our shores to try and carve out a future in England should come with a thought-through plan to avoid the risk of sleeping on the streets.”

What a pity he didn’t also include the hundreds of towns, such as Spalding, also suffering from this blight

UNFORTUNATELY, Mr Shapps then added:

“This country has some of the best homelessness services for those who become destitute in the world,….”

What was he thinking? saying, STOP!, don’t come here if you’ve got no money, no job and nowhere to live, but if you do, don’t worry because we’re the best in the world at looking after you!

Kids who want something for nothing

Who exactly are these people who are mud slinging at Tesco about the fact that they aren’t paying kids on work experience minimum wage? I personally have little time for Tesco with their always ruthless and sometimes brutal treatment of their suppliers. However, criticising them for offering workplace experience to kids with little or no ability (why else would they be there?) is out of order.
During my time in the RAF, I had dozens of kids come through my workshops and none of them were paid. Even when they had become reasonably competent at some of the simpler task, they were still fully supervised and therefore technically non-productive. In other words they were a liability, something that took resource and contributed little to the bottom line.
No doubt these people who are feeling so aggrieved and the people goading them on from the sidelines, are yet another product of the, ‘I want it all and I want it now’, society we have created. They think they deserve to be rewarded just for turning up and don’t see the need to spend any time learning how to ‘work’ at their own expense.
The government should tell these people to shut up and get on with it, or loose the handouts they are receiving. I would not blame Tesco, Argos and any of the other companies involved, for saying stuff this, find somewhere else to dump these kids you’re trying to get off of the streets!

English shortage, but Scottish plenty

The threat of hose pipe bans and water shortages seems to be a regular feature of the approach of summer these days and yet nothing seems to happen to deal with it, other than talk and threats to restrict our access to it. A drought summit is taking place this week in London and one wonders what the purpose of such a talking shop is, when we already know that what the problem is – not enough rain. More accurately, it’s not enough rain in the right place and then not enough water stored and moved to those places that need it.

Scotland has always had plenty of rain – too much some would say and it also seems to have plenty of places to store that rain once it’s fallen, they’re called lochs. Several years ago a study was done to use the rivers and waterways between Scotland and the south of England, the place that is likely to run out of water first, as a way of dealing with the increasing water shortages being experienced in England. As often happens with these projects, the powers that be were able to talk themselves out of it, no doubt because it wasn’t as sexy as something like the Olympics or HS2. Yes, it would of course be hugely expensive and a massive engineering project, but isn’t that exactly what this country needs at the moment, big infrastructure projects?

Properly done, not only would it become the nation’s water main, it would also be a major new water leisure route for the eastern side of the country. Of course, if the Scots get their independence, water may well become the new North Sea oil for them and this time one they have total control of. Wake up politicians, many experts have already suggested that water is likely to be the cause of the next world war, so a civil war wouldn’t be out of the question.

South Holland a dangerous place for young drivers

Lincolnshire roads are some of the most dangerous for young drivers, with the roads in South Holland apparently the most dangerous of them all.

I’ve no doubt people of a certain age – mine – will be making the same comments about this story as they always do, it’s not the roads, it’s the drivers! That is of course true for the most part. I have yet to hear of a road actively injuring, or killing a driver, passively yes, but actively no, that requires the intervention of a bad, but not necessarily young, driver.

Watching a news item on Look North tonight on the subject of our dangerous roads, I saw them teaching some young people to control a car on a skid pan, with the kids involved very much enjoying the experience. I don’t wish to be a killjoy, but the purpose of the exercise was supposedly education not enjoyment. Given the basis for the news story, slipping and sliding around the relatively safe environment of a skid pan, doesn’t wasn’t even educating the kids in the right way.

I won’t be the first to point out that it isn’t the mechanics of driving the car that’s the problem for young drivers, many pass their test first time and with a minimum of professional lessons – the biggest problem with young drivers is their attitude. This could be described as over-confidence, arrogance, bravado, showing-off in fact, all of these and more. Bad attitude from young drivers is on display nearly everyday of the year and also on many summer nights, in Sainsbury’s car park, let alone out on our public roads. Until we tackle this aspect of young driver training, we will continue to see hundreds of young lives damaged and wasted on the roads of the UK.

Supermarkets everywhere, all of the time – the future?

Following on from the previous entry about Justin King of Sainsbury and his, ‘don’t blame us’ statement, let’s not forget that he and his cohort are working tirelessly behind the scenes, lobbying government ministers, to gain even wider opening hours for all large retail outlets. Not only are they demanding the scrapping of our Sunday trading laws, they also want to see the last two non-shopping days of the year, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, become business as usual.

Just as with all the other boundaries that have been broken down by the heavyweights in the supermarket world, the reason they give for pushing for these changes, is not because they want to screw the last penny out of the buying public, but because we, the British public, want them.

Of course we, the British public, probably don’t yet know we want them, that explanation will come when people realise what has happened and start protesting about yet another step towards a 24/7 society. The supermarkets will then leap on to their high horses, telling us that it’s what we want and that they are just responding to public demand!

Sainsbury’s Justin King – It’s not fair, it’s not our fault!

The top dog at Sainsbury claims that high street shops have brought about their own demise and that it is nothing to do with the supermarkets he and his mates in the business have infested our towns and cities with. Is he just been funny or bullish, or does he really believe what he’s saying?

It might of been just possible to see the supermarkets as mounting fair competition to other food stuff providers when they were of a town centre scale and location. However, as soon as they decided to seek green field sites, away from centres of population, followed by selling an ever increasing range of non-food goods, it was no longer the case. The purchasing muscle deployed by supermarkets, combined with a ruthless and cut throat approach to pricing from their suppliers, means that the small independent retailer, of the standard fare, has no hope of competing.

If Mr King really believes that town centre shops are not falling victim to his brand of business, then he, along with all the other supermarket bosses, should be doing something to support and
encourage them, instead of trampling them under foot. Nor should he suggest that they can afford to run loyalty schemes, ala Nectar points, that will cut even further in to already threadbare profit margins.

Why don’t the supermarkets set up an investment fund that buys up blocks of town centre shops in areas that are struggling. They could then offer these premises to startup businesses that were either non-existent, or poorly represented in that high street, at a peppercorn rent. Only when the numbers started to add up, would the rent begin to increase and then at a very modest rate. Taxpayers would also do their bit by giving business rates relief for the same period. Even if the shop never became particularly profitable, as long it was providing a valuable service and adding colour and variety to its town centre, it would be supported. A pipe dream I know and something the voracious share holders of the big 4 would probably never wear, but one
Iives in hope.

Spalding Primary School expansion plan problems

Up to now I, along with my fellow ward councillor, have attempted to be as helpful as possible in respect of the county council’s attempts to increase primary education provision in Spalding. A s106 that gave LCC 1.5 hectares of land and £1.3m towards the provision of a brand new school, was due to terminate in 2013, meaning that the county would of been left with no means of increasing the education provision, other than by raiding its own rapidly diminishing coffers. Loss of these funds and the associated land would leave the county council with an ever increasing number of children to accommodate, but no money to do it with – hence our very qualifed support.

The county council have moved very quickly from the provision of a new school on the s106 land, to using the associated money to expand Spalding Primary School. The school already suffers from significant issues regarding traffic congestion and parking. My attempts to offer a radical solution to both the existing and the inevitable future parking and traffic problems have apparently not found favour with the county council. Also, having now seen the architect’s plans for the so called extension, my support for this plan is melting away faster than the latest fall of snow. Not only has the extension become a totally separate building, of virtually equal size to the main body of the existing school, the traffic and parking solutions being suggested are, in my opinion, nothing of the sort and will not offer any relief from the daily misery visited on residents.

Unfortunately, the county council is able to give itself planning permission for such schemes and given their remote and too often high-handed attitude to local issues, I am fearful that the residents concerns will be over-shadowed by ‘the greater needed’, or worse still, ‘the bigger picture’.

Lincolnshire County Council education department have gotten themselves in to this mess by failing to forward plan and build on the opportunity presented by having a large area of land available and a £1.3m pot of money. Had they started budgetting from the moment the planning application was approved, I am sure they would of had a significant pot of money to add to the index linked sum now about to become available to them. Instead, they have chosen to use only the s106 money to squeeze what is effectively a 210 place infant’s school, on to the same site as an already full to capacity junior school.

in an urban location, where many of the children would be taken to and from school by either public transport, or Shanks’s Pony, this type of over-development might be acceptable, because whilst the school might be very busy, the roads and streets around it would be little affected by the comings and goings of parents and children. Unfortunately for LCC, this situation does not apply at Spalding Primary School and a large number of children are transported there by private car, all of which must find space to manoeuvre and park in the streets around the school.

The combination of an enlarged school and inadequate traffic and parking solutions, means that residents will very likely have to endure even greater problems should these plans go ahead.
We have organised a public meeting at the school on 5th March at 7pm, so that the public can come along, hear more about the plans and most importantly have their say.