October 29, 2014
Before 1990 local authorities were able to keep all the rates they collected locally, both domestic and business rates. Changing that was one of the means by which Thatcher imposed central government controls on local authorities. Writing in the Advertiser David Renard expressed the view that the debate on ‘devolution’ of power in the wake of the Scottish Referendum gave “a unique opportunity to investigate what Councils should do and how much we can prise from the distant hand of Whitehall”.
Fredrick Douglas, a campaigner against slavery, once said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” If anything is to be prised out of Whitehall then there has to be a clear demand. One such demand is that Councils should be able to keep all the business rates they raise locally. According to the Council Leader Swindon collected somewhere in the region of £107 million in business rates last year. However, the (non-education) grant we received was only £64.9 million. Read the rest of this entry »
October 18, 2014
A letter to the Swindon Advertiser
In response to Charles Linfield (“shoring up support”, October 8th) my letter did address the question of ‘devolved’ powers to England, but was cut, presumably for reasons of space. The simplest way to devolve power from Whitehall would be to give Councils the right to keep all their income from Business Rates. Before Thatcher’s assault on local democracy Councils had more control over their income. They kept all the domestic and commercial rates they collected, and then received additional money through the Rate Support Grant. However, Whitehall has progressively taken more control over local authorities.
The impact is reflected in what central government deigns to give us from the money raised from Business Rates. David Renard has informed me that the town takes in £107 million and the government funding assessment is £65 million. In other words they fleeced us of £42 million in one year. If we were able to keep all we take in there would be no financial crisis. Read the rest of this entry »
October 14, 2014
The Financial Times reported that Porterbrook, one of the three main rolling stock companies that own Britain’s trains, has been sold for an undisclosed sum. The company owns and manages nearly 6,000 passenger and freight vehicles which are leased to train operators such as Great Western Trains, South West Trains and Northern Rail.
Porterbrook has been sold to a consortium which includes an Australian asset manager Hastings, Canada’s Alberta Investment Management Corporation and EDF Invest of France. Porterbrook has been sold on a number of times since it was set up in 1994 when British Rail was privatised. At the time there were two other companies set up by the government, Angel Trains and Eversholt. Each received about one third of the rolling stock. Read the rest of this entry »
September 30, 2014
There was an interesting Financial Times editorial today on “the central fact of British politics, the fiscal deficit”. It bemoans the forecast that the (current account) deficit will be £87 billion this year, after 4 years of “tight fiscal policy”. This crisis “demands candour and big thinking from the main political parties” yet it is being met “by ambiguity at best and outright dishonesty at worst.” The FT is not very happy with the Tories who should be offering a contrast to Labour’s “delusion”.
“Instead they crow about an economic recovery that is yet to show up in the public finances.” Read the rest of this entry »
September 30, 2014
A letter to the Swindon Advertiser
Rob Buckland says that ‘English votes for English laws’ (EVEL) is a simple matter of ‘fairness’ and that the linking of that issue with greater powers for the Scottish Assembly is the right thing to do. In fact this was an opportunist attempt by Cameron to put Labour on the spot and to outmanoeuvre UKIP by presenting the Tory Party as the one which ‘stands up for the English’. As an Observer editorial commented: “What started out looking like a plan to save the union ended up looking like a device to entrench the Tory Party in power…” Read the rest of this entry »
September 26, 2014
The first in a series on the consequences of the Scottish referendum
Download a PDF of this here: postscotref
Writing in the Observer Anne McElvoy said: “…this is not a victory, just an avoidance of disaster for the main parties at Westminster.” Except it may yet turn into a disaster for them in any case. Although it’s a cliché Pandora’s box has definitely been opened. The consequences of this ‘victory’ are far reaching. Why? Because the three wise men (Cameron, Clegg and Miliband), desperate at the possibility of ‘losing the union’, offered increased powers in their ‘vow’ to Scotland. They did so without any mandate from their political Parties. They have failed to think through the consequences of their actions. Peter Henessy has ventured that the manner of the referendum pledges have left “a constitutional building site, devoid of a construction plan”.
Having ‘saved the union’ the man from Eton then proceeded to try to turn the result to his advantage by linking these increased powers with ‘English Votes for English Laws’. What concerns him is not a discussion on ‘a new constitutional settlement’ but saving his own bacon. This tactical ploy was designed to put Labour on the spot, mobilise ‘English nationalism’ and outmanoeuvre UKIP by presenting the Tory party as the one ‘standing up for the English’. As reports in the media over the weekend indicate Cameron not only didn’t get the agreement of the Liberal Democrats, he didn’t even get the agreement of Tory Cabinet members. Read the rest of this entry »
August 30, 2014
Mishor Adumim is an industrial park located in the industrial zone of the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, about 7 kilometres from Jerusalem. The town was granted official status as a ‘permanent’ settlement in 1977 after Menachim Begin took office. In the late 1990’s around 1,000 Bedouin were forced to move from land that now forms part of the settlement. In 2012 the population was 39,000.
According to the Jerusalem Post, in 2011 Mishor Adumim hosted 220 businesses, among them textile plants, garages, food manufacturers, aluminium and metal working factories, and printing companies. One of these garages, Zarfati, has 50 Palestinian workers who are involved in a fight for union recognition. They are members of the Israeli Workers Advice Center (WAC) which helped them set up a workers committee and start negotiations with the management for a collective agreement. (Download a PDF here zarfati or continue reading below)
Read the rest of this entry »