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.



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




Highways & transport




Environment, planning, culture




Social care




Central government
International development




Social security





97,469 109,650



50,387 54,500


Andrew Mitchell – nasty as well as arrogant

Hardly a surprise to find out that this man is a ‘nasty’ piece of work as a career choice. No wonder he was chosen to be the chief whip. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t get rewarded by Cameron, rather than being punished, as a way of sending a message to the Party’s rebellious back benchers.

From today’s Daily Telegraph – POLITICS
How I felt the full force of chief whip’s rage, by volunteer, 21
By Steven Swinford

THE Conservative Chief Whip accused of insulting a Downing Street police officer flew into a rage with a young party volunteer who was critical of an aid trip to Africa, it was claimed last night.
Lucy Kinder said she received an angry telephone call from Andrew Mitchell when, as a 21 year-old, she drafted a newspaper article about a Conservative Party trip to teach English to Rwandan teachers in August 2009.
She claimed that Mr Mitchell accused her of betraying his trust before contacting her father and saying that he “did not blame” party members for threatening his daughter with violence.
Miss Kinder, now a trainee journalist with The Telegraph, was invited on Project Umubano after doing work experience in Mr Mitchell’s private office. She was one of 100 volunteers who paid up to £2,000 each to go on the trip, led by a delegation of senior Tory MPs including Mr Mitchell, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Nick Hurd. While not a Conservative Party member herself, she wanted to improve the lives of Rwandans and told organisers that she planned to write an article about her experience.
On arrival, Miss Kinder said the group faced an uphill struggle. She claimed that they were given just one day’s training and the Rwandan teachers did not receive an allowance from the country’s education ministry as promised to cover their food and travel. This meant that they had to walk up to 10 miles each morning to attend class. The ministry eventually gave them a lump sum, but only after the course had ended, she said. In an article submitted to The Independent newspaper, Miss Kinder wrote: “I found myself in a class of 45 who could barely speak a word of English. Progress was frustrating and the ministry of education did little to make this easier. It made a mockery of our fortnight. We have been instructing teachers who were hungry, tired and disillusioned.”
She praised the volunteers’ enthusiasm and the Conservative Party for the “impressive feat” of attracting so many to Rwanda. Mr Mitchell, however, was unimpressed. After learning of the draft article, he telephoned Miss Kinder at around midnight when she was on a coach journey to Zanzibar.
“He was furious,” she said. “He accused me of going behind his back and betraying the Conservative Party. He told me he couldn’t believe I had written such a damaging article and that he would make sure it wouldn’t be published. I tried to tell him it was a first draft and could be changed, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Mr Mitchell then allegedly called Miss Kinder’s father, with whom he had studied at Cambridge. “He said, ‘You know your daughter is writing this story? I can’t believe you would let her do that,’ said Miss Kinder. “He was really, really angry. He then sent him a text which said, ‘They are threatening her with physical violence and I can’t say I blame them.’”
Miss Kinder, now 25, said she felt intimidated and was forced to leave the group on her own when they arrived in Zanzibar for a week’s break.
A friend of Mr Mitchell said: “The volunteer was the daughter of one of his oldest friends. Yes, Andrew was angry but what he said was quite obviously figurative and he does not believe it could have been taken in any other way.”
A Conservative Party official said: “Hundreds of MPs and activists have worked on Project Umubano under Andrew Mitchell and this is the only time anyone has ever complained. There are two sides to every story, suffice to say that a lot of people felt very let down by this volunteer’s behaviour.”

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?

Immigration becoming yet another elephant in the room

Unashamedly lifted from the Conservative Home website, as I could not have put it any better myself.

Immigration comment
“The Coalition has declared its intention to get net immigration down from last year’s level of nearly 250,000 to the tens of thousands. But even that will not be good enough. In order to avoid the population reaching that 70 million, we have to get immigration down to 40,000 a year or less.” – Nicholas Soames and Frank Field in The Telegraph
“To put the matter brutally, neither David Cameron nor Theresa May has to live in Southall, Bradford or Tower Hamlets. They do not experience at first-hand the bitterness of traditional English people, who see their communities overtaken, their culture pushed aside, by people who force a path into Britain without the smallest desire, or even willingness, to embrace our ways or share our values.” – Max Hastings in the Daily Mail
“Ministers in the Home Office, from the Home Secretary downwards, should be under absolutely no illusion that failing to achieve the modest target set for them well before the next election will have a consequence: the public outcry they have faced these past few days will be as nothing to the wrath that unfolds.” – Express leader

Eviction, that’ll work- not!

I read that a number of MPs, including David Cameron, along with local councillors, are suggesting that those convicted of rioting, may be evicted from their social housing. Assuming this is a possibility, given that I doubt any of the current tenancy agreements include a non-rioting clause, what do they propose to do with the evicted reprobates?

These people will not just evaporate more’s the pity. They will almost certainly continue to be a burden on the taxpayer and a blight on our society. Many of them will no doubt be repeat criminals, living on benefits and entitled to social housing because they have children, who may of course also be fledgling criminals!

So, using a short term, headline grabbing solution like eviction, is just pushing the problem in to somebody else’s in tray, it’s not solving a damned thing!

Tottenham riots not just a local issue

Whilst the weekend riots in Tottenham are ringing numerous alarm bells, most of these appear to relate to the immediate issues of the police response and how a peaceful protest turned into a violent one.

For me, the flaw in the approach of pandering to the bellowing headlines that demand immediate answers and equally immediate solutions, is that it allows the politicians to duck the really hard questions. The first of these is, does this expose how thin the veneer of civilised society in this country is? In other words, are we fooling ourselves in to thinking that, given the opportunity, the same thing would not happen in practically every other city, town and village in this country?

Why such a depressing view of British society? Well, just look at our urban centres any Friday or Saturday night and the complete lack of self respect for both themselves and the police, displayed by our young people. Using the excuse of alcohol is a cop out in my opinion and allows those in power to duck the real issue of an increasingly failing society. David Cameron made reference to this in a recent speech and sadly I think he is right. Equally sad, is the fact that he didn’t seem to have any idea what to do about it other than something called the ‘Big society’.

The second issue to come from these riots for me, is the police response. The low level policing of a peaceful protest march had to morph into all out riot control almost instantly. If this had been anywhere else but London with its (relative to the rest of the country) high levels of police numbers, one wonders how much worse it could have been. Having drafted in police from other areas, including Kent I believe, did this then leave those area vulnerable to the same criminal behaviour? News reports from the following day, reporting incidents of sporadic rioting and looting breaking out in other areas of London, one can only suggest that the answer is yes. Even if it was a case of the criminals migrating via their Blackberry based intelligence network and not a case of other (normally law abiding people?) taking advantage, the issues remain the same, can the police cope now and what happens when the cuts in policing numbers take effect?

I hope I’m wrong and that when they do their inevitable post riot navel gazing exercise, part of it involves an analysis of where police officers were draft in from and where the subsequent rioting and looting took place and that this shows my fears to be unfounded.

Finally, where these two concerns come together – social breakdown and policing numbers – lies in the question, what are the politicians going to do about it? Despite David Cameron’s Big Society idea, our politicians are clearly failing to offer us any real solutions. This policy void brings me to another question – where next?

My solutions? Initially, more police on the streets, applying a zero tolerance policy and a justice system that doesn’t continue to think a police caution is a deterrent to anything. Longer term and much more difficult and expensive to do, is addressing the causes of the social breakdown. This comes from the lack of respect, for both themselves and others that we see in many young people these days, namely poor parenting and poor schooling and needs to be addressed before it damages another generation of children.

All we need now is a benevolent dictatorship, so that these policies can be implemented and not derailed by the liberal lefties who want to hug the hoodies- sorry Dave!

Our leaders don’t deserve a holiday?

Is there something happening in world markets so disastrous as to need our leaders to immediately return from holiday? Our newspapers seem to think so, but don’t actually appear to know what Dave and George could do once they got back to the office.

Given that the business world does exactly what it likes, when it likes and there are some very powerful people pulling the strings and don’t really take much notice of politicians, I think Dave and George might as well stay on the beach!

Time for Osborne to do his bit

I’ve been following, with growing alarm, the government’s proposals to overhaul the planning system and to effectively scrap the legislation that underpins it. My alarm comes from what could be seen as a simplistic, or even nieve, approach to the planning system by this government. Alternatively the more paranoid amongst us could see these changes as no more than a form of cronyism, designed to swell the bank accounts of landowners and developers, many of whom are more likely to be Tory supporters than not.

However, there may also be an additional reason why the government has decided to open the development flood gates. Recent newspaper headlines seem to suggest that government has given up trying to get the Treasury to ease its stranglehold on the economy and have now decided that dismantling the planning system is an easier option, using the drive for growth as the reason (excuse?).

Apparently David Cameron is having trouble persuading George Osborne that he needs to do his bit to encourage growth, through easing the tax burden on businesses. As the Chancellor of Exchequer appears to have more clout than any other minister, including the Prime Minister, it seems that the planning system is to be sacrificed instead.

Is building huge swaths of minimum quality housing and vast areas of souless industrial estates, the best way to do it? I doubt it and I doubt that our childrens’ children will think so either.

Stupid stupid stupid

I like using film quotes to mimic what’s going on in real life; I just wish I could remember more of them.  However, one does keep coming back to me time and time again since the coalition government came to power and decided to mess about with the planning system – again!

The quote I’m thinking of comes from the 1997 Matt Damon and Danny Divto film called Rainman and goes some thing like, ‘you must be stupid stupid stupid’.  The whole quote is (just in case you’re interested) and read out by an insurance company executive whilst under cross examination:   “Dear Mrs. Black. On seven prior occasions this company has denied your claim in writing. We now deny it for the eighth and final time. You must be stupid stupid stupid. Sincerely, Evert Luftkin, Vice President, Claims Department.”

I could quite happily rewrite this to apply to those in government, who keep sniping and criticising the planning system and blaming all the ills of the country on it.  Don’t get me wrong, the system’s not perfect far from it and if I were somebody trying to get a planning permission and finding myself fighting an uphill battle, I might well have the same attitude – it’s all the b***dy planners fault.

However, those in government who are so critical, should actually know better, after all it they (the government of the day) and not the planners, who write the rules; the planners merely interpret and implement them via local policies.  It’s also worth remembering that those policies are approved by local politicians and not planners

So, Dear Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne, Me Cable, Mr Pickles, Mr Neill, Mr Clark and even Mr Shapps (who seems happy to use Eric Pickles as his rolling, sorry I meant roving, assassin), on at least seven prior occasions, the planners have written to you refuting your claims.  We now write to you again, for the umpteenth and final time to tell you the same thing. You must be …………..Sincerely, a profession trying to do your bidding.

So, ministers, stop whinging on about how it’s all somebody else’s fault, put your pens where your mouths are and get YOUR planning legislation changed.  Then perhaps those of us at the sharp end, who are trying make some sense of the mess you’ve made of it so far, can get on with making it work – again!

Big Society – if the price is right

David Cameron is refusing to give up on his Big Society idea, with a speech tomorrow (Monday) to remind people of what it’s about.  One TV commentator was cruel enough to inform viewer that, if this were a film launch, it would be billed as Big Society 4.

I can’t help but wonder if David Cameron hasn’t already missed the boat on this in terms of public attitude?  How many volunteer led activities have folded in recent years, because of a lack of people willing to give up their time?  Scout, Guide and Brownie groups, along with numerous social clubs and community run halls, to name but a few.

Surly, if there were so many willing people out there, wouldn’t they already be doing it?  What is it about Big Society that’s going to bring all these potential volunteers out of the closet?

Even if it does succeed, this drive to turn us in to a nation of volunteers, (now that we’ve pretty much killed off all the shop keepers) has its fair share of negatives.  Just like his ministers, David Cameron seems hell bent on subjecting this country to a local government bypass operation.  It’s as though councils are being blamed for all the ills in our communities and that bypassing them to recruit a new set of volunteers, will somehow bring these communities back to back to health.

I say new set of volunteers because central government seems to have forgotten that local government already has a large number of volunteers.  They’re called elected members and they were put there by their communities.

Until the last government started interfering with the process, local government was very much something you got involved in because you wished to make a contribution to your community and were willing to make some financial sacrifices in order to do so.  Now, with the advent of members’ allowance and special responsibility payments that often run in to the tens of thousands, the clarity of this aspect of being an elected has become decidedly blurred.  Given the Pickles drive to cull local government senior and middle management and give the job to the members, this blurring can only get worse.

My second gripe about the Big Society idea, is that many of the charities that are apparently going to become the saviours of everything the public values, are often run like full blown businesses.  Many have chief executives and senior managers employed on a purely commercial basis, with pay packets to match.  I doubt if these people agree to take a reduced salary just because it’s a charity that’s employing them.

So, as with elected members, the public service ethos of volunteering to provide a service to communities, will become more and more blurred over time, as the big charities and their army of well meaning volunteers burrow their way in to the various local government service delivery areas.  As we see more and more services transferred from the stewardship of one set of elected volunteers and into the hands of those who are unelected and therefore far less accountable, a major question comes to mind.

Unlike those employed in local government, the senior management of the big charities bring none of the public service ethos that is currently present in local government, but do display much of the commercialism of the private sector.  How long will it be before it is impossible to tell the difference between a service delivered by a ‘charity’ and that delivered by an outsourcing company?

Not a major problem in itself you might think – who cares who delivers the service, as long as it’s delivered?  The problem is, once you’ve killed off the competition, in the form of the current local government structures and the only providers in the market are the privateers, it becomes a sellers market.  The defence industry has already done this via the MOD, now it would seem that it’s the turn of local government.  Come on Down The Price Is Right (for those old enough to remember the TV show).