Local government has another 10% to find – for starters

I’ve borrowed this from the article published in today’s Sunday Telegraph – thank you ST. The further 10% cut in funding to local government, has been on the cards almost since the last cuts were announced, so that’s not the interesting bit.

What is interesting, is the Telegraph’s assessment that this is a defeat, I assume for the DCLG and Eric Pickles, as that couldn’t be further from the truth, given Mr Pickles constant eagerness to please his bosses. Let’s not forget, he was the first minister to settle, if that’s the right word for it. It’s more likely that Pickles was actually waiting outside the front door of the Treasury on the first day of this spending cuts round. He was probably like one of those over excited shoppers on the first day of the January sales, but in reverse. Instead of grabbing the bargains, as he burst through the doors, he leapt in, gleefully spreading local government grant funding around like confetti.

Dept of Communities and Local Government – Budget £25.92bn – Minister Eric Pickles

Battlegrounds Local authority budgets will bear the brunt of savings. The Local Government Association warns that children’s centres, museums, roads and bus fares will suffer cuts in the range of 10 per cent to the money local authorities get from Whitehall. Louise Casey, head of the Troubled Families Unit, is said to be behind moves to “take over” billions of pounds of spending from other departments.

Outcome – No deal yet. – Verdict Defeat

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Nick Boles is from Venus, everybody else is from Mars

Below is a perfect example of how those in charge of our planning system, are speaking a totally different language from those raising major concerns about the impact recent changes to the system are having.

It’s not even a case of one speaking English and the other French, at least there’s half a chance of getting some understanding when you’re both from the same planet. Unfortunately, when it comes to the planning system, government ministers are from Mars and the objectors are from Venus. Indeed, some objectors might wish to suggest that ministers are (talking) from Uranus.

Anna Soubry, a Conservative health minister, wrote to Eric Pickles saying:

“planning inspectors are forcing local councils to accept more housing and build on Green Belt.”

“Notwithstanding the localism agenda, the National Planning Policy Framework, the abolition of the RSS [regional spatial strategies] and the repeated assurances of your good self and the Prime Minister”…………….. “local authorities like Rushcliffe and my own are unable to determine their own housing needs, set their own targets and protect their Green Belt land from development, ” she wrote to Mr Pickles.

Nick Boles, Eric Pickles junior minister for Planning replied:

Local councils are in control of their Green Belt boundaries, through local plans, which this Government put at the heart of the planning system to allow communities to deliver the right development for their local area.”

The key phrases here are “…unable to determine their own housing need…”, from Anna Soubry, compared to, “…to deliver the right development..”, from Nick Boles.

The clear lack of comprehension, let alone understanding, is that one wishes to reduce or even prevent development, whilst the other is saying, you can control where and what, but not if, or when. PINS understand this, but are currently being made the villains of the piece. All I can say is, don’t shoot the messenger.

Recycling week – stop binning the bucks

Recycle Week celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. From Monday 17 June, the annual event encourages people, local authorities and businesses to recycle.

In the past decade alone the UK has recycled 50 billion plastic drink bottles, enough to reach the moon and back over 10 times. Across the UK, local authority recycling schemes have collected materials like card, paper, plastic and glass worth £2.4 billion.

This includes:

Paper and card worth around £1 billion
Plastic worth around £339 million
Mixed cans worth around £174 million
Mixed glass worth around £153 million
Textiles worth around £124 million

Defra Resource Management Minister Lord de Mauley said:

Dealing with waste and recycling properly not only makes environmental sense but also good business sense. We’ve made great strides in household recycling and over the next decade we can look forward to doing much more to reduce waste in the first place.

Reusing and recycling products and materials will also open up new avenues for UK businesses in growing domestic and export markets.

More ideas and information for consumers is available from http://www.recyclenow.com including a postcode locator to enable people to check what they can recycle in their area.

Join in the twitter conversation #recycleweek2013.

Internet porn is damaging our kids

Internet porn is damaging our kids and restrictions are needed, but what about their exposure to music? Viewing pornographic images online when you are only ten or eleven, or even younger in some cases, can twist the attitude of a young person to sex for the rest of their lives.

Boys exposed to this stuff, can turn into the men who carry out the assaults and rapes we read about everyday. Within the home, they can often be the ones guilty of domestic abuse, or even worse, if there are children in the family. Girls become the unwitting victims of this exposure, firstly by being pressed into viewing it by the boys they are so eager to please and then as either the girlfriend, or wife of a man with all the wrong attitudes when it comes to women and sex.

Sadly, it’s already be too late for many of the young people who have grown-up with such easy access to pornography and we can only hope that they have not suffered long term damage, or that they are helped in the future if problems arise. The controls on access to Internet pornography, that are being talked about, will almost certainly take time to be implemented and will have only limited effect, but at least it’s a start.

What worries me, is that whilst this attempt to deal with the tide of visually unacceptable material is being made, we are ignoring what our young people can listen to. In its own way, this aural pornography is nearly as bad when it comes to the long term effects it can have on the attitudes of young people to sex. How many of today’s modern pop songs have more than one version available on the Internet? One version will be suitable for broadcasting by the radio stations that promote the music and bring in the money. However, the other version, always listed with the tell-tale ‘explicit’ marking, is just as available to underage young people via the Internet.

One of the most striking things about any young person these days, is the photographic like memory they have for the lyrics of the songs they like. Given that many of these songs are almost unintelligible when listened to and unlikely to have readily available written lyrics, it’s likely that the kids have listened to them over and over again. it’s also more than likely that the version listened to will be the one flagged ‘explicit’. It therefore follows that these kids are potentially being exposed to exactly the same negative and destructive attitudes to sex and women, as those portrayed in pornographic images.

If you don’t believe me, try listening carefully to a song like Starships by Nicki Minaj. Even worse than the use of every sexual swear word imaginable and in the context of some form of sexually activity, is that many of them are sung, with great enthusiasm, by young woman. So, having seen woman subjected to all forms of sexual activity, in the pornography imagery that is so readily available on the Internet, our young people are also able to listen to young women endorsing this treatment via their favourite music.

Is it too late to address such issues, given the financial implications and the powerful lobby the music industry can present and the fact that much of the worst stuff originates in the USA? Put another way, if there were significant tax revenues to be gained from pornography, in the same way as there are from gambling, drinking and even payday loan companies, would the government be as keen to clamp down on Internet pornography as they now seem to be?

Wind farms – power to the people?

Although my last post highlighted the supposed new powers being given to the public when it comes to wind farms, I don’t believe it.

Just like Localism, the public are being mislead and sold a pup. Unless the government intends throwing all previous case precedent out of the window and telling a PINS that appeals by wind farm applicants are now out of bounds, people are going to be very disappointed by the outcomes from this latest bit of planning system spin.

Locals to get wind farm veto

Daily Telegraph 6th June 2013

By Robert Winnett, Political Editor

LOCAL communities will be given the power to block wind farms under planning rules to be unveiled today.
Senior Conservatives claim the move will effectively end the spread of the controversial turbines which have been blamed for blighting picturesque landscapes.
Ministers will announce that residents will have to be consulted over new wind farms with applications barred if there is significant opposition.
Councils are currently prevented from even considering applications for larger turbines.
However, under the plans, energy firms will be able to offer “incentives” – such as discounts on electricity bills – to persuade communities to agree to new wind farms.
When planning applications are submitted, officials will have to take into account topography and the impact on “views” and historic sites. Inspectors will also have to assess the “cumulative impact of wind turbines” amid fears that some areas are being overwhelmed by applications.
Currently, councils can be forced to accept new wind farms as national planning guidance states that renewable energy schemes should usually be permitted.
A senior Conservative source said: “The Prime Minister strongly feels that this is a real local issue and if people don’t want to have wind farms they don’t have to have them. This is a bombproof set of safeguards to protect the wishes of local people.”
Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, will today announce that legal planning guidance is to be altered and he will write to all councils and the Planning Inspectorate demanding that they use the new principles in current decisions.
Last night, Mr Pickles said: “We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity.”
Despite senior Conservatives heralding the end of new onshore wind farms, the Liberal Democrats – including the Energy Secretary – believe that the new system of incentives could actually lead to an increase in turbines.
The Energy Department says that a community agreeing to a modest wind farm could see their power bills fall by an average of £400 per household.
Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, said: “We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind, as a key part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix and committed to an evidence-based approach to supporting low carbon power.
“This is an important sector that is driving economic growth, supporting thousands of new jobs and providing a significant share of our electricity and I’m determined that local communities should share in these benefits.”