At last, somebody puts in print my own thoughts exactly

Copied from Sunday Telegraph 31 Dec 2017

Let those filling up drunk tanks pick up the tab by Daniel Hannan

Shakespeare, and most likely Falstaff – played above by Sir Antony Sher – would recognise modern-day attitudes to public drinking CREDIT: ROBBIE JACK/CORBIS
The announcement that “drunk tanks” may be rolled out across the UK has prompted amused headlines around the world. I’m afraid we have something of a global reputation when it comes to alcohol abuse. “This heavy-headed revel east and west makes us traduced and tax’d of other nations,” as the poet says. “They clepe us drunkards”.
In our own day, as in Shakespeare’s, we display an unusual attitude to inebriation. In most countries, being drunk in public is disgraceful. The notion that young Brits boast about how hammered they got the night before is met with incredulity in much of Europe.
But here’s the thing. Contrary to the impression you’d get from this week’s headlines – or, indeed, any headlines over the past decade – boozing is becoming less of a problem in the UK. Take any measure you like – binge drinking, overall consumption, alcohol-related crimes. All are in decline.
Why? Partly because, in November 2005, we ended the rule that forced pubs to stop serving at 11pm. It was controversial at the time. The tabloids prophesied societal collapse. The Daily Mail warned against “unbridled hedonism, with all the ghastly consequences that will follow.” The Sun foresaw a “swarm of drunken youngsters.” The Royal College of Physicians predicted “more excess and binge drinking, especially among young people.”
In the event, the opposite happened. Binge drinking among 16 to 24-year- olds sank from 29 to 18 per cent. Overall alcohol sales declined by 17 per cent. Alcohol-related hospital admissions fell sharply. It turned out that forcing drinkers to beat the bell, racing to get a final pint in at last orders, was not a sensible way to discourage consumption. Giving people more responsibility, on the other hand, encouraged them to behave more responsibly.
I suspect the creation of innumerable virtual universes over the past decade has also played its part. Although parents complain about how much time their children spend on screens, that is time that previous generations often spent on more directly harmful addictions. The rise of online gaming and social media has probably also played a part in the reduction of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases – two other developments that bear little relation to popular worries.
The increased use of police facilities or dedicated buses as places where drunks can dry out should be seen for what it is. Not as a response to some new epidemic of crapulous misbehaviour, but as a sensible way of ensuring that A & E facilities are there for the genuinely ill and injured. Being drunk, after all, is not a disease, but a consequence of choices. It is quite wrong to load the cost onto the taxpayer. The people filling the drunk tanks should be presented with the bill for their stay after they sober up.
The Englishman may, as Shakespeare put it, drink with facility the Dane dead drunk, and sweat not to overthrow the Almain. The least he can do is pick up his tab.

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Thanks for next to nothing Sajid

Copied from the MJ on line

 

 

 

Lifting the council tax cap is just passing the buck
By Heather Jameson | 18 December 2017
Heather Jameson
The Scottish Budget does not bode well for local government – on both sides of the border.

Finance secretary Derek MacKay’s decision to use his tax raising powers to pay for public services may herald a welcome shift towards ending austerity. However, the Scottish local government finance settlement also included the presumption that councils would do the same.

Without a double whammy of income tax rises, and council tax increases, taxpayers north of the border are set to feel the pinch.

And so we wait for the English settlement – delayed, we have been assured, due to communities secretary fighting for a good deal for the sector.

It seems unlikely there will be anything extra for adult social care as we wait for the green paper – although there may be measures to ease the rising pressures on children’s services. We can also expect an extension of transition grants. In the absence of a plan for fair funding and full business rate retention, a fiscal fudge may be the only option.

But the coffers are empty – there is no cash handout on the horizon. Last time round the gap was plugged with the adult social care precept. This time round, we could see the government lift the cap on council tax rises.

Is it a win for local government? Freeing councils from central government interference has got to be a good thing. Democratically elected councillors have every right to choose their own levels of taxation.

However, failing to fund local government and letting councils take the flack for raising taxes is passing the political buck. This is not giving councils the choice to raise taxes – it is forcing their hand.

Finance settlement offers no lifeline to the struggling sector
By Heather Jameson | 19 December 2017
Heather Jameson
Watching the local government finance settlement after last month’s budget, it is fair to say the Government can be commended for its consistency. It has consistently failed to address the financial crisis facing local government.

There are some positives. Easing the council tax referendum threshold gives local government a modicum more control over its own destiny. A three percent increase puts council tax broadly in line with inflation – assuming you ignore the social care precept, which taxpayers will not.

And the extension of business rate pilots will be welcomed in the lucky areas bestowed with the gift. A pledge to shift to 75% business rate retention is also a good move – and as far as Sajid Javid could go without legislation.

Promises to review the funding system and maintain New Homes Bonus are also likely to play well with the sector.

There is an extra £13m for struggling Northamptonshire, Mr Javid told Parliament – mentioned with the aside that he would listen to any reorganisation proposals put forward. Does this mean if you truly fail, government will come in and pick up the pieces?

However, council tax measures will raise around £250m – at different levels across the country – compared with the £2bn needed. Adult social care is in crisis, with a green paper planned for the summer – and a solution even further away.

Children’s services are increasingly becoming a concern and the settlement failed to find a solution there. Councils remain on a precipice, and the draft settlement provides very little in terms of a safety net.

Two years ago, MP’s threatened to vote against the settlement – could we see the same thing happen again? With some of the main protagonists handed business rate deals, Sajid Javid may have done enough to keep the sector quiet – but not enough to send a lifeline to the sector.

Call for action as fly-tipping hits eight-year high

No doubt this story in the Times will generate the standard response of criticism of councils.

This is normally along the lines of, we don’t collect the stuff often enough, we don’t collect the right stuff – or we charge for taking stuff away and of course, the tip isn’t open often enough.

As with every Council service, all this costs money to do and has to be paid for by every taxpayer, even if they don’t use that service.

People never seem to go straight to criticising the criminals, who actually do the tipping and blighting of the countryside, or streets.

Councils are calling for a more effective legal system to streamline prosecutions for fly-tipping, which latest figures show has reached an eight-year high.

There were more than a million fly-tipping cases over the past financial year but the number of prosecutions has halved since 2012. Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s Environment spokesman, said: “When they take offenders to court, councils need a faster and more effective legal system which means fly-tippers are given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences.

Clearing up fly-tipping is costing councils more than £57 million a year, money that could be spent on services like caring for the elderly, protecting children or tackling homelessness.

The Government has allowed us to apply fixed-penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping and this is a big step in the right direction.” Cllr Tett also called for manufacturers to take more responsibility for taking back old products when they sell new ones.

Council tax bills could rise

The comments from readers make very interesting reading. They offer significant insight into the levels of ignorance that exist, because of the complex systems of local government and taxation we have created in this country.

The Times suggests that council tax could rise under plans to head off deep cuts to frontline services and ease the social care crisis. Theresa May is reportedly resisting calls from councils to scrap rules that require them to hold a vote for the largest increases. However she could allow them more flexibility to increase bills when the Local Government Finance Settlement is announced next week. Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, urged Mrs May to lift all restrictions on council tax rises. He said: “The money local government has to provide vital day-to-day services is running out fast. There is huge uncertainty about how local services are going to be funded beyond 2020.” Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, who was criticised for failing to provide extra cash for social care in last month’s budget, is said to be sympathetic.

Housing – not just a crisis of quantity

We will never reverse the low quality of the housing stock now being built in this country, until we confront the issues that caused it and are continuing to encourage it.

  1. Right to Buy – Since it’s introduction in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Right to Buy has removed over 2 million social housing units from the system. Those in the most desirable areas, such as central London and the towns and villages of the Home Counties will never be replaced like for like, because the land is no longer available.  Even were any existing non-residential sites become available, given the open market value of housing in high demand areas, the private sector will always ensure that it outbid the local council. The Homes and Communities Agency, funded by DCLG, would be equally hard pressed to compete given its relatively limited budget for such uses.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/26/right-to-buy-margaret-thatcher-david-cameron-housing-crisis

The impact of this loss of affordable housing has forced ordinary, working class people further and further out to the edges of our large urban areas, in virtually every area of the country.

  1. Buy to Rent – this triggered a major building programme, which in turn encouraged the developers to produce a large number of lower quality off the shelf housing units, to fill the ever increasing deficit created by the RTB policy.

How many landlord properties are there currently in the market?

Landlords – the stats

– The number of landlords in the UK increased by 7% to reach 1.75 million in 2013-2014

  • In 2014, two million private landlords owned and let five million properties in the UK (Paragon)

Tenants – the stats

– In 2014-2015, 19% of households – equivalent to 4.3 million – were renting privately (English Housing Survey)

– The number of private tenants in England reached 3.84 million in 2011-2012 (English Housing Survey)

– Some 59% of 20 to 39 year-olds in England will be privately renting by 2025 (PwC)

– In 2015 there were 5.4 million households in the UK’s PRS, a number which will grow to 7.2 million by 2025 (PwC)

– In 2015 the PRS accounted for 22% of all UK households (ResPublica)

(homelet.co.uk/letting-agents/news/article/how-many-landlords-and-tenants-are-there-in-the-uk)

  1. Help to Buy – combined with the difficulties experienced by first time buyers in obtaining finance from the normal sources, has seem public money, that should have been spent on replacing the depleted social housing stock, sucked out of the system and placed straight into the pockets of the landowners and developers who are already applying a stranglehold on housing supply via their strategic land holdings and failure to follow through on extant planning permissions.

Even worse, the rules for getting money from the scheme have now been made so lax that, according to the government’s own survey, thousands of those who have used it, didn’t actually need to and could have purchased their own home without financial help from the taxpayer.

The government now plans to compound this, by placing a further £10 billion within their reach, while putting only £2 billion into replacing our severely depleted social housing stock.

The current proposed government funding of £2billion for affordable housing and a further £10billion to extend the Help to Buy scheme, is completely upside down and will simply continue the current lack of supply and lack of delivery we are experiencing.

Social Housing waiting lists

In 2016 there were over 1.2m on council house waiting lists.  This figure is actually down on previous numbers, because of what some might suggest is an attempt by central government to use local government as a way of covering up their failings.  By requiring a tightening up of the criteria for eligibility, tens of thousands of those previously entitled to be listed, have simply disappeared.  These families and of course single under 25’s, have been forced into the hands of what can be an over-priced and sub-standard private sector rented housing market, where security of tenure virtually non-existent and standard of accommodation often a lottery.

https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/may/12/council-waiting-lists-shrinking-more-need-homes

By 2021, a quarter of the British population will be in rented accommodation.  Much of it private and with potentially many of these tenants struggling to meet the ever increasing rent bill.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jun/12/one-in-four-households-in-britain-will-rent-privately-by-end-of-2021-says-report

Unless government allows councils to begin and then sustain a major council house building programme, the quantity of housing will always be squeezed by a profit driven market.  Not only will this continue the opportunities for exploitation of tenants, it will also ensure that developers are able to build to the lowest standards, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what they build, it will always be a sellers market.