Exorbitant spending on Overseas Aid hasn’t made us any safer

One of the reasons given by David Cameron for his year on year increases in the Overseas Development budget since 2010 – well beyond that of any other European country – is that it will make our country a safer place, by helping those in foreign countries, improve their lot and become less radicalized by political extremists.  It has in fact, done nothing of the sort and will never do so, as long as we give the extremists reason, in their eyes, to see our country as their enemy and oppressor.

Some might suggest that our history as a colonial power, exploring and exploiting the world over many centuries,  had already done the damage, but I don’t believe that, given that many of our previous colonial conquests, remain members of the Commonwealth.  What has done the real damage and made us especially vulnerable, is our much cherished special relationship with the USA and our willingness to march shoulder to shoulder with them, into recent middle eastern conflicts.

Whilst successive Westminster leaders of all political persuasions, have viewed this relationship as the Holy Grail of international politics, giving the UK much great influence and kudos than it might otherwise have, I see it more as putting a target on the backs of every British citizen living and working in some of the most volatile areas of Africa and the Middle East.

Multiculturalism, a legacy of the Blair years, but again eagerly pursued by virtually all administrations, has opened our doors and left us vulnerable within our own boarders, something the Americans have bent over backwards to eliminate, post September 2001.  Live and let live, when those you are letting live in their own extremist ways – Sharia law is a very good example of this, along with female genital mutilation, is an irresponsible and ultimately dangerous political doctrine to pursue.

The upshot of this government’s single minder pursuit of international glory, often described as, ‘punching above our weight’ – a rather unfortunate term to use when you are supposedly trying to be everybody’s friend – is that an increase in spending in one area, has to be matched by a decrease elsewhere.  This applies even more so, when you are in the middle of a global financial crisis, but still determined to spend, spend, spend!  Which brings me to my point and the reason I have borrowed the article below.

Before anybody starts telling me that, despite all the cuts in local government funding, taxpayers haven’t noticed any reduction in services, I’d like to put that in some context.

Yes, most, if not all the essential services have been maintained to a good standard and residents won’t have seen their bins left un-emptied, streets knee deep in litter, or grass too long see over, let alone walk through.  Council houses are still being allocated and maintained and benefits are still being paid out on time.

However, what is suffering and will be cut even further in years to come, are those things we call discretionary – the things councils do because they believe their residents would like that service to be provided, even though the law doesn’t require it.  Leisure centres, youth clubs, play equipment, sports pitches, libraries, public toilets and maybe even usable, or at least affordable, burial grounds, could all disappear from localities, as cuts in local government funding continue for years to come.  Remember, all this is being done under the banner of deficit reduction, whilst the overseas aid budget continues to grow and grow, year on year.

Copied from Local Government Chronicle – 23 August 2014

Author – Tony Travers, director. Greater London Group, London School of Economics

The government will soon be spending twice as much on international development as councils can on highways

Under cover of mid-summer, the government has published two sets of figures about public expenditure.

The Department for Communities and Local Government revealed local authority revenue spending and income totals for 2014-15, while at the start of this month the Treasury belatedly released the annual Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses volume. Together these publications show how the years of austerity have affected individual services.

Although some parts of central government, notably the Home Office, defence and transport, have seen reductions of 100/o or more in their cash budgets, all the biggest programmes have been protected.  Council spending, by contrast, has been forced down at a remarkable pace.  The UK government will soon be spending twice as much on international development as English councils can afford to spend on highways and transport. Housing, roads, environment and planning have seen their cash expenditure fall by almost 30% in four years. In real terms, the cut is over 40%.

Council productivity increases must be among the greatest ever achieved by the public sector.  Planners appear to be processing as many applications in 2014 as in 2010 with barely half the resources. [What the planners are probably doing, is giving up the fight to maintain standards, given that the NPPF was written by developers, for developers and just passing applications to meet the targets set by Whitehall]. 

The government and opposition have no choice but to find additional money for the NHS: fear of public opinion will open the Treasury’s vaults. Pensions, as the biggest part of social security, are triple-locked into inflationary increases. Schools cannot be denied cash.

By 2020, many council spending programmes will have been halved within a decade.

 

CENTRAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING CHANGES

  2010-11  £millions 2014-15  £millions Change %
Local government
Housing

2,733

1,945

-28.8

Highways & transport

6,661

4,814

-27.8

Environment, planning, culture

10,959

9,029

-17.6

Social care

20,851

22,090

+5.9

Central government
International development

5,930

7,870

+32.7

Social security

164,512

184,380

+12.8

NHS

97,469 109,650

+12.5

Education

50,387 54,500

+8.2

Advertisements

Gobshite Alert Minister Says Unemployment Caused by Moaning About Unemployment

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Daily Mail

Unemployed young people are being put off even trying to find work because of the ‘morally reprehensible’ doom and gloom spread about the jobs market by Labour, the employment minister has said.

Esther McVey said there are ‘more than enough’ businesses willing to give young people a chance.

But she said jobless youths are giving up before they even start to look for work because of the ‘relentless negativity’ about their prospects.

Miss McVey, 46, who previously said young people should be prepared to take lowly jobs in coffee shops if they want to get on in life, said jobseekers should be more optimistic about their chances.

She told the Mail: ‘For too long now, young people have been subjected to relentless negativity about the state of the workplace that is waiting for them when they finish their study, training or apprenticeship.

‘I meet with thousands of young…

View original post 55 more words

Leonora Rozee Slams Complications of Reformed Planning System

Spot on comments from somebody with a wealth of knowledge in the field. Time to learn some lessons from other European systems, including the use of zones. Even more crucial to the long term wellbeing of England, is a National Plan for England. Without a national plan, how are we ever going to understand where the best location for significant development should go, in order to rebalance the resource black hole that is London.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

A damning indictment from Leonora Rozee on how complicated the reforms of the planning system has become on Linked-In

We are rapidly reaching the stage where no-one will actually have any idea of what our English planning system is any more. (Have we already reached it?). The only sensible solution is a wholesale review from top to bottom of why we need a planning system and what it needs to comprise, with the result set out in a single Act supported by such regulations, policy and guidance as are necessary to enable all to understand it. We now have a complete mess as successive governments have fiddled and changed what is there without thinking through exactly what it is they are trying to achieve – other than the much expressed desire for a simpler system with increased community involvement! If this Government want to get rid of it completely, then be…

View original post 16 more words

Districts face loss as county waste deal ends

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
13 August, 2014 | By Corin Williams

Districts in Lancashire are challenging the county council’s plans to change the funding system for waste collection in a way they say could cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Lancashire CC has said it will no longer fund district councils for each household they supply with a kerbside recycling collection after the present agreement, which began in 2004, runs out in 2018.

Districts will instead be paid by recycling credits issued for the tonnages of recyclable materials they collect.

Wyre BC leader Peter Gibson (Con) has warned his council would face a revenue reduction of more than £980,000, equivalent to a 15% increase in council tax, as a result of this change.

He said in a report to a council meeting that recycling credits were an unreliable payment method as “districts couldn’t predict what their recycling levels would be and this made financial planning more difficult”.

Eleven districts are involved in the existing deal with Lancashire, the exception being Ribble Valley BC.

A Lancashire spokesman told LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World: “The county council has made the waste collection authorities aware that it is considered highly unlikely that these agreements will be further extended once they expire in 2018 in order to ensure that they have sufficient time to plan their financial strategies beyond this date.”

This story could just as easily be about Lincolnshire County Council and its treatment of Lincolnshire district councils – but worse!

Each Lincolnshire district council already pays for its recycling collection service and only get recycling credits from LCC. The county are now stopping the payment of recycling credits AND taking over the disposal contract, so that they collect the revenue that is currently paid by the contractors.
Revenue from recycling is never a certainty and depends on a global market so, to be fair, the county council is at least taking on that risk. However, as the world recovers from the financial crisis, the risk becomes significantly lower.
This move by LCC, is a financial double whammy for South Holland and two other Lincolnshire district councils. Out taxpayers will still have to pay to collect recycling, but now the cost will not be offset, in part at least, by the payment of recycling credits, or revenue from the contract.

On Being a Councillor

TessaCoombes

I seem to have had quite a few comments and discussions recently about politicians and planners, and several people have asked me why I became a politician, what it was like on planning committee and what I think of politicians now. So I thought I’d have a go at writing a blog about it!

I was a Bristol City Councillor between 1994 and 2002, representing first Southville Ward and then Knowle Ward, at a time when Labour controlled the council (with a pretty big majority when I first got elected). It was also a time of constant change, as after my first year we transitioned to being a Unitary Council, with the abolition of Avon County Council, operating with the same tight city boundaries as before, but taking on massive new functions including Education and Social Services, with massive new budgets. We also took a decision to remove the post…

View original post 1,164 more words

Spalding Today website infested by trolls?

internet troll – Web definitions
In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response …
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

It seems the last place to go, if you want to get an insight into what people in South Holland think about a a local issue, is the website run by our local newspaper.
Oh don’t get me wrong, you’ll get plenty of opinion, but only from a very small element of the population – six at the last count. However, these opinions won’t be from what one could call right minded, or informed people, hence my inclusion of the above definition.
Although the screen names are different, the tone of their comments are not. To a man and possibly woman, they all display the same uninformed, spiteful, small mindedness.
Indeed, I’ve yet to read one that doesn’t sound like it’s come from somebody holed up in a darkened room and fermenting on the conspiracy theory that, all councillors are corrupt and the district council is out to destroy South Holland, one piece at a time.
Unfortunately, these trolls display little, or no grasp of even the basic facts behind the online stories they comment on – all they know is what they read on their screens – so it would be pointless to enter into any sort of constructive online debate with them. Indeed, I don’t think they even care about the content of story, they just see it as an opportunity to snipe and sneer at others.

IMG_0321.JPG

Is localism preventing the development of new homes?

Copied from housing network website article by Hannah Fearn
Friday 1 August 2014 10.33 BST

They are both government priorities, but involving communities in planning decisions appears incompatible with housebuilding

Redbridge Council has taken planning decisions out of the hands of elected councillors.

It was the big idea of the coalition government, a cornerstone of localism, a foolproof way of getting things done without scaring off the traditionalists in the Conservative heartland. But after just three years, is neighbourhood planning already dead?

There are few signs of life left in the policy. Nick Boles sounded the first notes of funeral dirge when he admitted that the scheme, which involves local people designing and signing off new housing schemes, was too complex to function. He found that multiple objections from local people actually holds up the development process (who’d have thought it?). Instead he called on councils to who had already given up and come up with a better idea to share their it with other authorities.

The Financial Times reported this week that Kate Barker, who conducted a review of housebuilding for the Labour government in 2004, does not blame government policy for the slow rate of development in recent years. Instead, she says, it’s partly the result of nimbyism.

The turning of the tide against localism in planning goes even further: now even councillors can’t be trusted to make the right decisions. In Redbridge, the council has ruled that all future decisions on planning applications will be made by staff in the planning department because they have the skills and training to ensure they are qualified to make the right decisions; elected members simply do not. Redbridge also claims the move will save £45,000 a year.

Council leader Jas Athwal told his local newspaper that councillors added nothing to the planning process. “These planning officers have a huge amount of education and it seems egotistic that councillors can overrule them,” he said.

Meanwhile, central government is meddling again: it’s offering a slice of a £3m funding pot to councils with the largest number of planning applications for new homes in the pipeline, to speed things up and get those homes built. It’s a reward, but it’s also another opportunity to bypass the planning process that this government put in place.

This is not the first example of government finding new ways to get out of its own promises. Plans to create a new generation of garden cities mean the establishment of development corporations or sub-regional planning bodies which will be tasked with getting these new settlements built; there will be little room for debate once the decision to create a new town has been agreed upon.

In fact, writing for Planning magazine, former Whitehall advisor and planning consultant Ben Kochan says that the best way to win approval for a new garden city is to involve a whole host of organisations which are about as far removed from the neighbourhood planning process as you can get – not just urban development corporations, but also local enterprise partnerships, which give the business community funding and powers to boost economic growth.

It’s somewhat inevitable that in focusing on the end result – seeing more homes built in areas where there is an urgent need – will mean taking difficult decisions that not everyone in the community welcomes. Removing these decisions from the responsibility of local councillors (or simply by circumventing the planning process) will either be seen as a wise attempt to force progress or a cynical attempt to avoid blame for unpopular developments.

Whether you’re in favour of neighbourhood planning or not, it is being quietly removed from the pre-development process in the run-up to the 2015 election. This might be a good thing for housing in terms of numbers, but it’s also a blow to the heart of democratic localism.

Personally, I don’t agree with Redbridge, if they have indeed completely killed of their committee, as officers don’t always give the right weight to the concerns of non-planning experts. Local people are ‘experts’ when it comes to local concerns and local knowledge and you ignore this at your peril.

I do however agree that the system is becoming too vague, the government’s approach far too developer friendly and the overall process too open to abuse by vested interests, to remain as it is.
Telling councillors that they can still make the decisions, even if they’ve campaigned against it. Also suggesting that being pre-disposed to an opinion, is not the same as pre-determination, is complete nonsense and falls apart as defence, as soon as the high court gets involved.