Saturday, 18 June 2011

The madness continues

Firstly an apology for returning to work and not making time time to write a blog! How very dare I. I have also had to face the daily battle of trying to get the Netbook off the wife in order to write my blog. The flip side being that the wife using the Netbook means that there is no need whatsoever to converse!

So what has been going on ? The answer is both lots and bugger all. The ConDems are still telling us how bloody awful life was under the previous administration and that we must all live like paupers for the rest of our lives in order for their rich chums and party contributors to stay sickeningly wealthy. I still can't recall the huge wage increase in teachers, nurses, police and coastguard pay that caused the crash but I do recall spending billions to save the banking sector from going bust but I must be delusional.

There still appears to be a complete lack of realism around the speed and depth of the cuts, the effect they are having on people and their effectiveness in improving the economy.
The economy will automatically repair itself over time but this government is actually trying to slow and prevent growth by removing the stimulus in the economy.

Cameron is still as slimey and Clegg is still as two faced as before and we are all still waiting for a genuine alternative line with strength and conviction from the opposition. So to put it bluntly, we are still in the same pit we were in before, with some of us having our torches taken off us and given to rich idiots who already have four big torches but can't work out how to turn them on.

Until we realise that the economy and society are linked and that the economy is not the transactions made by  the money traders in London but every transaction made by every person in the country, we will not start to genuinely resolve the situation. Only when we value every transaction equally will every person have an equal stake in the economy.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Business tax

The suggested policy of supporting small businesses by lowering or removing small business tax is an ill thought out, naive policy that would not achieve its' desired outcome. Would we all like lower taxes, would we like no taxes at all - of course we would but we all know that the money to run the country needs to come from somewhere and everyone needs to do their bit.

So lets look at the reality of this policy. First off, how do you define a small business? Is the current definition correct or does it need revision? Most common definitions are businesses with less than 25 employees and a turnover of less than £250k. The Conservative policy defines them as businesses with £12k profit or less. I find this an incredible way of making a policy that sounds good but actually is not applicable for the majority of small business.

Take some examples of small businesses I have regular contact with, A painter and decorator with 2 guys working for him, makes a profit of between £30 - £35k per year. A window cleaner, working mainly businesses with a little domestic work a few days a month - profit £15-£17k and a gardener with one part time assistant, working mainly contracts with some domestic work when needed, profit £20 - £25k.
Genuine examples of genuine (I would say small) businesses that will receive no benefit from this policy at all.

I would then ask the 'Poloticians' is small not relative? Is a small business in Pembrokeshire or Anglesey, different to a small business in Cardiff or Swansea? Would a local approach to business size be more appropriate? Not for me to decide, maybe the decisions around small business should be taken at the local level with the revenue being returned to the local level as well.

Then lets look at the practical side of reducing tax. With competition between small businesses being very intense, any opportunity to gain a price advantage will be taken, human nature and the market mechanisms dictate this. So reducing the tax will reduce prices, income and therefore profit. Small businesses will have less to invest in development and actually be worse off rather than better off. If there is any increase in income, it will be saved for a 'rainy day' not invested in expansion or people.
Now lets look at the government side of the equation. Reduce the tax and you instantly have a black hole in your budget. How to fill it - you could close a few more schools or hospitals but you know that is going to bite your backside hard pretty soon anyway. What else is left to cut?
You could tax those on higher incomes or close the tax loops the your friends use but they fund your party so that will not go down very well.
Lets face it the idea of reducing corporate tax did not go down very well. Everybody in the country pays for taking less in tax while a few finance houses and advertising companies (or chums as they are normally called) move back to London. Another business tax balls up would not go down very well.
No big companies are relocating to Pembrokeshire, no companies are expanding in Pembrokeshire - several still have their expansion plans on hold for several years to come.

All of the pain none of the gain.

It becomes a gimic policy when the WAG may not even have the powers to implement such a change and when several 'supporters' of the party are only capable of discussing soundbites rather than the policy. 
A better solution would be to increase the tax relief on certain types of investment such as training and expansion moves. This encourages business to improve their product, search for innovation,  improves the skills base and encourages expansion. Surely this is what we should be aiming to help our small businesses to do.
I have not spoken to every single small business in Wales, but then neither has a certain 'reporter' from 'National' newspapers who paint their blue skin a nuetral white so their Tory chums get a few more misguided votes. I may not have the perfect solution with my ideas, but I do not talk Welsh businesses and the Welsh economy down and never will.

It is only through thinking differently that the Welsh economy will improve - thinking 80's will simply send us back there. Maybe that reporter is stuck there which might explain his love for everything Thatcherite.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Democracy v Monarchy?

David Starkey feels Monarchy and democracy are good bed fellows as everyone likes a good celebrity and royal make good celebs! This must be the weakest argument for maintaining an unelected head of state that I have ever heard. It ranks alongside, tourists love them!

The words Queen and Royal family appear to evoke strong emotions, so lets label them correctly as unelected, impotent head of state and people related to the unelected, impotent head of state.

As I have argued my point around the Royal Wedding and the Royal family, even staunch royalists struggle to argue against rational facts. The facts that they serve no purpose and cost the country money being the main ones. They struggle with simple arguments such as, if they make the country so much money, they should be able to pay for themselves and require no funding from the tax payer. Even the parts of the monarchy that do pay for themselves i.e. Duchy of Cornwall, was a gift from and was set up by the tax payer (civil list), so even these areas are due to the tax payer.

I am not actually advocating getting rid of the monarchy but their position within British society needs reviewing. They should have a position within the political structure to protect the interests of the general public. They are unable to interfere in politics as they are unelected. They therefore serve no purpose in a democracy and should step aside to allow the election of a new House of Lords and a new Head of State.
It is a very difficult argument to go up against as the only genuine argument against is that people like them. There is a whole 'Toff' economy built around the royal family and their various properties. This economy relies on ordinary folk, people who are losing their jobs, having pay freezes, having their pensions reduced and their incomes strangled supporting the royal family, thus ensuring that the toff economy continues.
The monarch should step aside and allow an elected leader to hold the government to account in the same way all successful nations do. The country would provide one residence for the monarch and the monarch only with all other properties being returned to the state. This would provide a massive boost to tourism within London and the rest of us can get on with living our lives.

Would replacing the unelected, impotent head of state with an elected politician capable of steering policy be an improvement. It might or it might not, but if you don't like it you can change it - you cannot do that with a monarchy.

One of the weakest arguments I had used against me was if I did not like it, I should move to France or America. My reposte is simple, make Britain a republic and they can go and live in Bahrain or Saudi (for example).

Finally, the television audience for the wedding was around 29m. This is less than half the population. Many of those figures are based on a home of four watching where it was likely much less were (tv figures are skewed to exaggerate to promote advertising). Many people watched because they enjoy a wedding, not because they are royal supporters and many watched because you could not avoid it if you had the television on. That says to me that in a few years time, the chances of the Republican argument gaining a majority once again, as it has many times previously, it a strong likelihood. I look forward to that day!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Economies correct themselves!

Any idiot (and that includes Gormless George) who has studied basic economics, knows that economies and markets self correct without interference. They have in built mechanisms that mean that any shock will have a reaction that will balance it out. When people and in particular governments interfere, they create a shock which will have a knock on effect somewhere. Regardless of what the shock is, the market creates a balance somewhere else. So, if an economy overheats (usually between 10-15 years) it will have a recession ( usually between 2-3 years) that will ensure it can grow again. The more you interfere, the more you affect this cycle.

Society on the other hand, has no correction system. It is entirely man made and requires interference in order to correct itself and develop in the correct manner. This is where governments should be concentrating their efforts more. Focusing on (and taking credit for) the economy is a waste of time. Politicians should spend more of their energy on policies which actually have a chance of making a real difference and worry less about how much it costs. Many policies that generate social change take many years to prove effective, particularly when we discuss health and education. If we change the way we start to educate our under fives today, it will take twenty years before we start to see any direct change. It may take another twenty years of concerted effort to bring down the binge drinking trend and another twenty years to get parents to take responsibility for educating their children correctly. You cannot put a price on these and many other goals as the rewards and gains from these could far outstrip the investment if given the chance.

This is where we need to focus our efforts now. We should punish the banks and bankers - not only to recover the money they squandered but to generate a banking system that acts in the interests of society rather than self centred bankers.
We should reduce spending on the armed forces not to try and produce a business like army but so that we reduce the amount of conflicts we are involved in and become a peace keeper again.
We should invest in looking after the weak and the needy in society and leave the wealthy moneymakers to fend for themselves.
We should increase spending on encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle and encourage people to develop a personal discipline that keeps them healthy, the benefits in the future cannot be measured - so don't try.

Most economic history that has been written has shown that nearly all, 'economic poicies' had counter effects that severely reduced the impact of those policies and it will also be written of the policies that the current bunch of idiots are pursuing. It may even be written that the policies stunted growth severely, but what should be written is that the economic policies paled into significance against the social improvements that were generated through honest social change.

Very few governments have been brave enough to attempt this so far, even fewer have achieved it. I doubt this present government has the intelligence, integrity and honesty to try and change society for the benefit of all. I hope I am wrong!

I finish with a quote in reply to a commentator who said 'Only Conservatives act in the long run interests of the economy'.  Keynes once said, 'In the long run - we are all dead!' He knew a thing or two.

Monday, 25 April 2011

One size fits small

This may come as a bit of a shock t some people but Wales has a different economy and social fabric to other parts of the UK. 
We do not have a large banking sector to support, we do not have a need to upkeep thousands of miles of motorways, we do not have a massive political system, we do not have huge amounts of Universities, museums and art houses, we do not have huge manufacturing capabilities and we do not have a population based in large overcrowded cites.  Therefore, we do not need policies and funding that deal with these problems.
We do have a more evenly spread out population, we do have large environmental renewable resources to expolit, we do have a lack of ambition in large sectors of young people, we do have the majority of our population located near the coast and we have our pride!
The policies and priorities of London politicians have little or no relevance to Wales and nothing demonstrates this more than the ridiculous policy of closing Coastguard stations (under the banner of cutting costs and removing barriers to trade). Wales and indeed most of the rest of the UK needs these stations open - we don't need money hungry, egotistical, politicians friends in the city causing us hardship by their inability to do their job.
Wales needs to think different and be different. Most of the national parties are looking to use Wales and Scotland to prove that their policies are good for the UK. My message to you is that you are wrong and you will shoot yourselves in the foot if you try to enforce those policies. You need to understand that reason that London policies have not worked well in Wales before is because we are not London.
Only a London politician would create 'Enterprise zones' twenty years after they were abandoned in deprived areas at huge cost to tax payers. Only London politicians would cut funding for Flying start for children, they can afford childminders - we need to work every hour available to make ends meet. Only a London politician would accuse you of being negative when you read back the actual figures in the green and red financial reports, only London parties would get their own name wrong in Welsh, only London politicians go on tours of America and boast that they are getting away with more cuts than Thatcher at her best.

Only the rest of us swallow this and accept it?

The people of Wales have battled hard to stand on their own two feet through history and have been consistently double crossed by English leaders. We have provided some of the greatest people to the world, we practically set up the USA (it went wrong when English decendants took over), we have invented millions of useful products, we have allowed our land to be stripped of its resources with very little profit returned and we have allowed our language to become a minority.

It is time for us to be brave and start shouting for ourselves. Our Scottish cousins fly their flag with pride and determination and it is time we did the same. We have an opportunity to make real changes to our political and social fabric and really determine our own future, but we cannot do that with parties and politicians who take their lead from London. We need a genuinely independant Welsh voice, that speaks for all of Wales, Is proud of Wales and can lead Wales. Anything short of that on May 5th is another 5 years wasted. I urge you to think very carefully when you vote and be proud to put your cross for a better Wales.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Politicians !!

My title was very nearly, 'Should London politicians care about the rest of us?' or 'Do London politicians care about the rest of us', because unfortunately the way we are set up nationally, there is no real reason why they should. I couldn't word it right so left it at politicians!!
Huge parts of the country hasvevery little effect on London and it's people and therefore has very little impact in the decision making that goes on there.
Most career politicians have lived and worked in and around Westminster since leaving University. They work as reserchers, PA's, they work for their party or they work for lobby groups with the focus being, what do I need to do to get into Parliament and then progress. They live in London, if they are married, they make their home in London (part of why the expenses scandal got complicated) and their kids go to (very expensive) London schools. At no point do they serve on a till at a supermarket, pick bins for the council, work on a production line through on a night shift or clean toilets in an office block.
They have very little or no life experience outside of the political bubble and that is why they do not care and never will.
I actually applaud the fact that people care so much about their country that they dedicate their life to trying to make it better, but in doing so, they lose sight of what a better country actually is.

Not all politicians are career politicians, some do have life experience, but all too many of these politicians come from priviledged backgrounds where hard work is something completely alien to them. The few remaining ones who are actually, what you and I might call 'normal', get swallowed up in the Westminster cess pit. They get rapidly out manouvered by career politicians and out gunned by silver spoon politicians. They are left on the side lines, in pointless committees where there good ideas and intentions rapidly erode under the wave of political experience.

This situation is wrong, it is the system that needs to change and probably about half of the politicians.

If the system was a good one and politicians operated in the good of all of the country, there would be no need for Regional assemblies. There would be no north and south split and the social scale would be much narrower, with top and bottom closer together. If the system was a good one there would be no protest marches, no strikes and no calls for a different voting system. There would be no regional grants and no suggestion that enterprize zones will be used to win votes.

It is fairly simple to see that our political system is broken and corrupted but the only people with the power to do anything about it are the politicians. I am not holding my breath in anticipation of change.

If you doubt that this system is wrong and think that we have it right then ask yourself when you last influenced your local poitician. When did anyone from a political party ask you what do you think on this issue, why is your local MP in politics, who has sponsored them in the past, what jobs have they done before being an MP and why do they deserve your vote?

We have a political head of state who can do nothing because they are not elected, we have a two party system that means 'blame the others' is always an option and we vote for it in the most archaine way known to man.
Over 50% of this country who voted, voted against the parties in government. More people did not want them than did. If you add in the people who did not vote, you have a very small minority of people who chose this government.

Until we realise that we are no longer the worlds leading democracy, we will not change. I urge all of you now to drop an email to your MP and ask them the questions you feel you should know. Find out what they know about your area and what they are doing to help it, when they fob you off, question them some more and make them answer you. You might be surprised.

So, to answer my own questions, do they care? I think some would like to care, some think they care and some only care about themselves. Should they care? Yes, a damn sight more than they do now, about every last inch of our country.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

University and student funding

The debate around student fees, student debt and University funding seems to rumble on and on with no side really putting forward a solution that works for both sides. The reason for this I believe is that the best solution is to have less Universities offering less degrees but with a much wider 'College' system offering a lower but more practical level of education. This however would still require funding, so here is my funding solution, primarily for Welsh Universities and students as we have more control the funding and provision of education compared to the rest of the UK.

The first thing I would change would be for all students to be liable to pay fee's, regardless of your background. However, these would not be paid up front - they would be charged according to earning after completion of the degree. This would remove the need for a loan system to cover fee's and any loan would be for living expenses etc.

Each degree course would receive subsidies depending on the need of graduates at the time. So for example, if the economy required more lawyers (a frightening thought !) then the law courses would receive a subsidy until there 'Gap' was filled.

If then, 12 & 24 months after you finish your degree you are in full time employment - regardless of the occupation, you do not need to repay your fees - they are deferred. If you are not in full time employment then you will be required to start paying back your fees. Loans could be offered by Universities or by banks to cover this if needed.  The point is not to punish people who are not in work, but to say to them - your degree is a valuable asset - you need to use it.

This is the point where being in Wales also plays a part. It is where you choose to earn your wage after you graduate that is important- not where you were born. So I would suggest that we should encourage graduates to stay in Wales by only deferring if you are still living and working in Wales. This would encourage Welsh graduates to stay in Wales and those who study in our Universities to make their new life in Wales as well. If you choose to move out of Wales then your course fees are payable at the end of the following month.

It is only 3 years after the end of your course that you will be required to pay fees and there would be a further requirement. At 3 years you can defer for a further two years provided you are in a job that is related to your degree. The point of this is to focus the mind at the outset and to reduce the amount of degrees offered in irrelevant subjects. It might upset a few people but there is no point studying the history of the French revolution when there is no paying job which requires it (other than to be a lecturer in the French revolution). If you do not have a related job then you will need to repay your fees - again if you are in a full time permanent position within Wales, then you have a 12 month repayment plan, other than that, you repay at the end of the following month.
For those who are struggling, they have the option of starting their own business.

By five years after finishing your degree, you should be earning enough to repay your fees. It is in the interest of the University to make sure that they train people well and for the needs of the economy. This encourages people with relevant skills into the economy and gives an incentive for them to stay in the economy. We could even look at giving extra incentives if they choose to locate in areas of particular need - e.g. Dentists into an area that has none.

The final discount I would offer for graduates, is that if they enter University with a job offer and a sponsorship from an employer, there would be a discount on the fees related to how needed that graduate is.

So what is in it for the Universities?
Provided they recruit 50 or 60% or whatever is a fair level of students from Wales, they are free to charge what they want. In order to do this they may need to offer incentives to Welsh students to attend that University. I would suggest that they also need
to ensure that provisions are made by the University to ensure that no one with acceptable grades is deterred from attending that University.
I would also incentivize those Universities by paying half of the fees up front from public funds provided that target levels of graduates stay in Wales after they graduate.

I would also give tax incentives for companies who form partnerships with Universities to conduct research and to put graduates through, in order that we produce the right graduates from the best Universities that suit Wales.

It may seem a little vague and complicated but it is only by thinking differently that Wales will start to catch and then overtake her competitors.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Is it all Cleggs fault?

Yes is the short answer and I for one feel extremely let down.
12 months ago I was bouncing with enthusiasm as new ideas, new priorities and politicians with principles stepped forward. I was excited that I might see a political revolution where we broke free from the old style that has become incredibly tedious and deflating. How wrong I was.

I expected the LibDems to stand up and be counted, to have a strong voice and to stamp their feet where the situation required it. I wanted Nick Clegg to turn around and say, 'The only way to stop these cuts is to do it from the inside!' and then argue till he was blue in the face to genuinely reduce the impact of the cuts and do the sensible thing - smaller cuts over a longer term to allow the economy to develop properly. I was disappointed.

Without Clegg, Cameron would be running a minority government and would only be able to bring policies which had cross party support. The budget and cuts would have had to be much less severe in order to get it through and the country would not be struggling the way it is now (In summary).

Clegg and probably more likely Cable, hold the keys to the coalition and to their party's future well being. The LibDems are about to get an absolute kicking in Welsh, Scottish and Local elections and will struggle to recover if they continue along these lines. If Cable resigns, Clegg is left very unstable and will face calls to resign as well. If Simon Hughes then stands up to be counted then Clegg is scrambling for support and will surely fall or step down.

The best solution for the LibDems is to announce their intention to quit government before the AV result is announced. If they do it after, the Conservative party will wipe the floor with them and they will lose all credibility they may have.

If they resign from the coalition swiftly, they have a chance to rebuild and recover. If they stay the full period, they become tainted with blue and will struggle to recover at all - it may even mean the end of the party as it is now.

Our country would be in a much better place if we had a minority government - it is Cleggs fault that we don't.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Royal family What is the point?

'Over privileged man goes for a walk with fiance' is not a headline. The Royal family is an out dated pointless institution that benefits the few and distracts the many. The arguments for protecting them becoming weaker day by day but is consistently propped up by media institutions, mainly (I would guess) because it is very easy to create news on a slow day.
They serve no purpose and should be sidelined as part of a restructure of the British political system.
The main arguments for keeping them appear to be 1. They are great for tourism 2. They do a lot for charity and 3. It is part of our heritage.
So let take a look at the arguments and put a bit of perspective on them.

1. Tourism, they are good for tourism in and around London, they do bugger all for tourism around the rest of the country. I live in town where one of the greatest kings was born - Henry Tudor, I don't see adverts in London saying 'Go and visit some of the real heritage of our country'. If the Royal family were moved to my model below, tourism would increase as access to Royal history would increase. Then, maybe the rest of the country that holds the heritage of the Royal history might get a look in on the tourism.

2. They do a lot for charity - good, they should but it is not a good enough reason to continue to support them in the way that we do. They can continue to do charity work without the privileges that we bestow upon them. Millions of people do great work for charity whilst holding down a job and paying the mortgage with very little thanks - why can't posh people do it as well?

3. It is part of our heritage. Yes it is but there are many more important parts of our heritage that get completely overlooked because they are not centralised enough in London. I would also argue that the 'Pomp and pagentry' is not part of our history - it is something that we created through our history and therefore we can take it away.  It is a very insecure nation that is not capable of changing the direction forward for fear of insulting the direction behind.

So what would I change?
The Royal family would be removed from the political system completely and replaced with an elected President from the Upper House which would replace the House of Lords. Buckingham palace would be used as the Presidential home but would be opened up much more for tourists. The Royal family would retain their name and any property that they have purchased with their own money. Anything else that is not paid for by the Royal family becomes part of the State.
The Royal family would retain its status as head of Armed services and the Church/protector of faiths but would no longer be a part of the political system and would not represent the country abroad.
This is a tweak of a system that other countries use, that recognises their position within our country but also recognises that the country has moved on.

Large parts of society love the Royal Family and they will still be able to, but for the rest of society, it is time to move on and have a political system that rightly reflects todays society.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Banks - Again!

My message to banks is simple - you are welcome to take your HQ overseas, you are welcome to take your 'top talent' to America and you are welcome to increase your lending charges.
Because these are gesturing and threats that make it look like the banks are unhappy with the proposals put forward today.
The reality is that these proposals will not change the behaviour of the biggest banks and will not prevent a banking collapse again. All that could actually happen is that banks have to keep a little more in cash deposits than they do now i.e. They can't gamble all of our money - just nearly all of it.
Don't forget that these are only proposals, there are another six months of 'lobbying' which is the current acceptable term for bribery before which the Commission gives the report to the government, who then have a further six months to decide what to do with it. It will then take at least another twelve months to get diluted through parliament and the banks will then have a few years to prepare a way of getting around the regulations and we will end up having to sign a few more forms when we go to the bank to say it is ok for them to do what they want with our money.

All in all, if these proposals even get taken up, which I doubt, they will have negligible effect upon the operations of the banking and financial sector.

What we need is to decide what we actually want from our banking sector and then accept that it will mean change. It will mean deciding if we want to be a 'World banking centre', which will mean going back to having no control over the banks at all and exposing the economy and all of our money to international whims. Or we could accept that we do not want that type of money controlling our economy and restrict the actions of banks. If the big banks then decide to leave the country, so be it.
Smaller banks who make a profit through consistent and ethical lending would fill the gaps - it would be a big chance but it would be a change in the right directions.

The Firewall that they now talk about is nothing more than a noble gesture. Banks would find ways around it as there is no real way of enforcing it - it is a simple paper transfer of money back and for to make it look like they are complying. It is only by completely breaking up the integrated financial systems that we will ensure that our money is not put at risk again.

The biggest worry about these proposals is that the strongest measure is to make banks hold 10% of deposits as cash security - sounds great. The Bank of England recommends a minimum 15% held as deposits and when Lehman brothers went bankrupt it held 11% in cash deposits.

Another great opportunity to really deal with the issues that continue to hold this country back is being lost - it does not look like anyone wants to take those opportunities. Until we force them to - they will continue to tread the path most trodden.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Assembly elections - pointless?

The forthcoming assembly elections are a huge opportunity to do something different in Wales and actually make us radically better than most countries. I think the important thing is to see it as a ten or fifteen year plan of improvement, split down into two or three sections and each assembly sitting needs to achieve certain objectives. This is  opposed to a three or four year cycle of criticism of what had happened, consultation on the way forward and then starting something new again, which is an unproductive waste of time.
The joy of the Welsh Assembly is that all parties are connected around the idea of 'We really don't like the English' and anything that we can do to better them is great for everyone.

There are those that say this is narrow minded and regressive, we need to work with our neighbours etc etc.


This is healthy competition at its best. it is also a chance for us as a nation to stand up for what we should have been having over years past. Wales has consistently been shortchanged by England and has lacked the national backbone to fight back. We have tried to take on the English from the inside, using Parliament to try and get a better deal, but every time we come close it gets taken away from us.We now need to aspire to not only match England but to rapidly surpass them in the areas we choose to. So the time is now right to take the opportunity and build an economy and a society that is right for us and others look at with envy.

We have already seen and heard MP's use London language to try and impose their values upon us - it is not welcome. Bugger off back to London and do it there, my eight year old will join you and show you how to have a debate using constructive language and reasoned argument.
The mud slinging and criticism is not the way the Welsh Assembly has or should work.

So what we should do is agree in general terms on what the main targets should be and the time frames over which they should be achieved - then we should debate the policies by which we should achieve them. In a system as young as ours we have the chance to construct a genuine written constitution as mentioned in previous blogs.

And what would my vision be. My vision has a green and sustainable base, where we encourage  sustainable companies to set up in Wales, develop and manufacture their products and then use their products to create a better energy base in Wales. We are then in a position to supply the rest of the UK with energy on our terms - not theirs. We would also develop an international reputation which would act in the same way as the silicon valley rush did. We could develop Colleges and Universities to specialise make sure that the top well paid jobs all go to home grown talent.

I would also base our society on what we do best, education, sport, tourism and innovation.

But my ideas alone are not important. The point is that we have a chance to do things differently and everyone has the opportunity to have their say in it. If you don't feel that politician is listening to you or will not engage with your opinion, either make them listen or make a fuss but never sit back and do nothing.

In five years time the world will be a very different place and we may not have the opportunity that we do today to really make the difference.  That is why everyone should take this election seriously and why we owe it to ourselves to question every single politician at every single chance we get.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Teachers and teaching!

Let's get stuck into teaching shall we?
Those lazy, layabout moaning teachers, they get every Christmas, Easter and six weeks every summer - and they finish at 3 every day, that's not work!  A popular argument that gets trotted out every time a teacher makes a sensible comment about their working conditions.

So before I reveal my revolutionary vision of the future I want you to think about this;
1. You are where you are because somebody taught you
2. If you had worked harder in school, you probably would have achieved more in life
3. Nobody forced you to not pay attention at school
4. Without teachers, we would all be working at Macdonalds.
5. In twenty or thirty years time, your pension will be determined by the education that we provide for our children today.
6. In ten years time, the economy will be run by people who are in education now.
7. 70% of education happens at home!

So, we owe a lot to teachers and we should value them and their services more than we do currently.
Not every teacher is amazing and not every child will be capable of going to OxBridge but we are capable of being better than we currently are.
We can do a few things quite simply if we choose to but they will cost and we need to see that cost as an investment - not a sunken cost.  We could pay teachers more, We could employ more teachers to bring every class size down to 20, we could train teachers better both initially and ongoing, we could invest in technology to upgrade our teaching workplaces or we could stop all of that and cut back on all of the above to save money to prop up banks!

My vision of the future for education varies greatly from most politicians, which might not be a bad thing.
At the primary stage, it is vital that we have smaller class sizes to allow teachers to spend more time with each child. That personal time with a teacher is a very significant part of the childs development and is a springboard for the childs learning. Right up to the age of seven children are willing learners and will take as much information as we can throw at them. Unfortunately, schools do not have enough time to give individual attention. I would ensure that every primary class had a maximum of fifteen children in it and that every child had at least ten minutes of individual time every day.
I would also give schools much greater powers to force parents to attend the school. I don't just mean to come in and see the teacher, I mean to actually sit in a class with their child and observe the childs behaviour. The priority should be given to behaviour and ability to learn in the early years so that the information that is given to them, goes in and sticks. If the parent has to sit in the classroom (which will be very humiliating for some - tough), they should understand the effects that their child has on others. I would give Police powers to pull parents out of their workplace if parents refuse to comply. this will mean an impact on their income (it would be unpaid), their colleagues, their boss as well as their personal standing. I would allow employers to ask if the parent had to attend school for their childs discipline as part of the recruitment process.
I believe that everyone needs to see the first years of education as the most important of a childs life and give it the profile that it needs to flourish.
If we support schools in the way they deserve, then there is no reason why schools cannot still provide the extra education such as music, plays and sports. However, these should be built on children wanting and capable of being taught.

If more people reach the Secondary phase of their education with a basic understanding of the expectations of them, then teaching will actually become easier and the outcome better.
I would again allow schools to bring parents into class and ensure that discipline is the primary value that all pupils have.
But there is a bigger change that needs to take place and that revolves around technology.
I would ensure that all classrooms are fitted with CCTV cameras with parents being able to access that CCTV remotely, so they can see what is happening in lessons. If a child comes home and says, 'This happened today - the evidence should be there either way.
I would develop a system of 'remote teaching' using high speed Internet access and video conferencing so that pupils could receive their education closer to home and they can receive more top quality instruction. When I choose my A Level subjects, I actually wanted to do five, but as some overlapped and we could only select three, I had to forgo a two of my choices.  If those lessons were then delivered remotely, it would be much easier to slot those subjects into a rota.
This would also mean that teachers could specialise more e.g. if six schools each only had one language teacher, teaching different languages - all six could still offer six language options without great upheaval. You could also move between levels easier, so if you were going up a level, you could sit in on a couple of remote lessons first to see if they are right for you. Lessons could also be recorded and re-viewed at home with parents if children come across a problem.

My biggest change would be in the provision of 'non core' subjects such as hairdressing and survival skills. These lessons would need to be provided out of school hours - either on a weekend or an evening and attendance would be as a reward for discipline and hard work through the day i.e. if you misbehave or fail to hand in work, you don't get to do the practical subjects. This would require a big adjustment from schools in terms of timings and coverage but I think it would be worth the change.
There are some schools where 'life subjects' are seen as the soft option for children and teachers a like. it suits both parties, where teachers get rid of misbehaving children and those children get to do more fun things as a reward for misbehaving.
It is only by being disciplined and mature, that people will be prepared for work when they leave.

My final change would be to remove control of the education system from political control and genuinely give it back to teachers. In the same way that we trust the control of the banking system to the BoE, then we should trust education to the specialists that actually do the job (at the very least we should keep Michael Gove as far away from it as possible). I don't think that education should be a political game that we can mess around with, it is far too important to keep tinkering with.

In the same way as my NHS boards would have 5, 10 and 20 year targets, as defined by the general public, my School boards would operate in a similar way. This would set out overall objectives and standards with priorities and desires as well.

It might seem like a lot of change but education is always worth it - you just need to ask yourself this, 'If I was in school now, what would I like to do differently?' Thats where I started and look what I got.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Alternative to AV

Jumping on a bandwagon is not something I do very often but the debate around AV has started so I am going to jump in with both feet.

The AV system should encourage main parties to discuss and engage with more people. If you are in a 'safe seat' but only get around 35% of the votes (quite common) then you will have to ask what the other 65% of the electorate are thinking. If all of those people end up with the second placed candidate - you will be in trouble.

Unfortunately, we don't have huge amounts of forward thinking, innovative and popular politicians. We don't have politicians who will go out and speak to people who may not agree with their party ideas or who will debate and consider arguments rather than shout louder and discredit the alternative view.
Politicians and the main political parties are the main reason that this system might not deliver what it promises. It relies on politicians taking brave steps forward and doing things differently, which is not what British MP's are renowned for.

So here is my alternative.
Make the House Of Lords 100% elected through PR. Give the HoL more powers to scrutinise the HoC and to act as the 'Big Brother'. I would like to see the HoL act as the connection between National and Local Government by sitting on Local Council boards in rotation. They would only need to physically sit in HoL for one or two days per week as we would move to remote access debates through video conferencing etc.

This ensures that everyone has at least two but usually more people who they can go to if they have an issue and that these people are closer to the masses. Surely this is a better solution than messing around with grumpy idiots in HoC, who can then sit back and watch how they should be doing their job.

Yes it would cost money, but then so does the current system and who can you talk to in the HoL to get your point heard? This would be an investment in the future of the whole country and would provide more of a voice for those who do not currently have one.

As for AV, it is a good start and we all need to start somewhere. It will only change the results in a few very close seats and I doubt it will change the behaviour of MP's - but at least we are trying.

A more detailed proposal for the deficit!

There is an alternative - anyone who says there is not is fooling themselves and you.
There is a price to pay both for the current path and for the alternative path - anyone who says there isn't is deluding themselves.

The question is, what price are we willing to pay and for what alternatives?

Having just had an operation, I spoke with a nurse who said to me, 'Your operation has resolved the problem but it is causing you short term pain, your physio will help you get back on your feet and stop the problem in the future'.  I think this is a good way of looking at the economy.

I had a series of options to resolve my pain (in my back) which would then have different types and different lengths of pain associated with it, but unless I change what I do, that problem may come back in the future.

We are in a sticky situation as a national economy, yes we have a bigger debt than Portugal and Greece but we also have a much bigger economy and therefore a much better ability to repay that debt.
The case for a slower rate of cuts to allow the economy to recover more has been well made and the current 'Financial extremism' is only benefiting the extremists in the city and is having very little positive effect on the rest of the economy.

But where is the physio? Where is the plan that says this is how we will stop this happening again? Is there a better way of repaying the debt and ensuring we don't fall into the trap again?

Here is mine.
Firstly, We should have a written constitution that protects the people of the country from political whims and short term moves (please see my previous blog regarding this). What is the price to pay? It may be costly to set up but it needs setting up once and once only.

Secondly, It is the banks that should be repaying this debt. The government is aiming to take debt back to the levels of 2007, prior to the crisis. From this we can surmise that the extra spending has been made to protect the people from the worst effects of the recession and the banking balls up. Therefore we should offer banks an option of repaying our national debt for us. In exchange we reduce the level of tax on banks for a period of time after the debt has been repaid. The amount of tax and the length that it is reduced for will vary depending on how much of the debt they repay. This then allows the economy some breathing space to grow (which will in turn be good for the banks) and allow for job creation to grow. If you know that you will be losing an amount of tax in five years time, you can plan ahead and take account of it. This is a much more balanced approach rather than the slash and burn approach.  The flip side of the coin is that if banks decide not to assist the economy then they will be penalised with extra tax now. What is the cost? There will be a cost to the city of London traders in the form of more difficult trading conditions. They would have to invest in less risky and more assured accounts which would result in less profits for them. There would be a short term complaint of  'We are not being competitive' and 'We will lose talent' etc, but these will disappear quite quickly (They are not talent - they are the problem and the rest of the country becomes more competitive).
There would be a loss of face for the government and political leaders but they would also benefit from a smoother repayment of the debt.

Third, the banks need to be split. If I want to invest money I need to have all of the risks and benefits explained and I need to sign a piece of paper to say I understand what will happen. Why then is the money in my current account taken and used for investments by the bank that I will receive no benefit from at all. it is simply wrong - they are playing roulette with other peoples money. If that then goes wrong, it is you and me that suffer the consequences, while we bail out the failing 'Talent' and make sure they don't leave to cock up someone else's economy.
Separate the banks and ensure that Retail banks and Investment banks are not owned by the same company and that they act in the interests of their own customers. I would also ensure that no institution has more than a 25% exposure to the stock market. This includes insurance companies and Pension funds.
The price to pay would be less profit and less risk. Some banks might become open to international takeover, but these would also be subject to the trading conditions within the UK.  There may be a short term increase in interest rates but if you look at where we are now, that will not be a big change.

We have another choice, we have a different way of achieving the same target, we need to decide what we want and how much we are willing to pay for it.

Monday, 28 March 2011

What is the point of a Government?

When you watch an American court drama at some point somebody will mention their constitutional rights. Political programmes within the UK quite often mention 'Our Constitution'. The vast majority of developed and developing countries have a constitution.

For most countries, a constitution is a number of statements that guide the country and the rights that every person has in order to achieve the aim of those statements.
The UK does not have a written constitution and it needs one now more than ever. Successive governments (Blue, Red and multicoloured) have demonstrated that they are incapable of acting in the long term good of the country. They act for the short term good of their ideals and those ideals change regularly, ebbing and flowing with who ever has most power at the time.

I would like to see a written constitution with protected rights that every person in the UK is aware of and every Government can be challenged against. The constitution should be an amalgamation of the views of the country - not the politicians - and should be seen as the yard stick by which we measure ourselves. It should be the document that protects us and ensures that no single Government can affect the country negatively and that the Government acts within the will of the people.

Why do we need it now? Times are hard and when times are hard, the first people to flourish are the corrupt and the illegal. Government should be free of big business and free of media. It should have an aim of creating long term well paid jobs and a well balanced society. It should be capable of making decisions with the public in mind but with the current 'financial extremism' the long term view is being distorted and forgotten as the need to make progress before the next election takes priority.

It would be a brave politician that stands up and says 'We need to be held to account over the long term - We need a written constitution!' Unfortunately, we don't have many brave politicians. 

'Removing barriers to growth' e.g. Coastguards?

'We are removing the barriers to growth' is a direct quote from Vince Cable when he was justifying the current cuts.
How on earth is cutting back the services that my local authority provides 'removing a barrier to growth'.  I used to hold Mr Cable in high esteem, he used to talk sense but he has lost his voice and his credibility with it.

I actually agree that local government needs to re-prioritise its services but the solution is to give them more of the important services to deliver instead of sidelining them and restricting their ability to operate. I give you the Parking Police who currently zap anything that stays still for ten minutes, who hinder business and smooth traffic. Why are they needed? Because councils have to raise money through parking charges in every single car park, which encourages people to park illegally and take chances. Or, the council could adjust traffic flows and make car parks free (certainly at low pressure times) thus encouraging trade back to the high street.  The priority is wrong!

From Mr Cables comments, I would therefore conclude that the areas being cut are somehow preventing businesses from trading! 
How exactly Mr Cable, does my local Coastguard station prevent companies from growing.  How is preventing Oil tankers from crashing onto the rocks, preventing growth? How many Oil clear up businesses have gone out of business over the last few years?
How many 'sailing boat rescue services' have gone bust? How many Cliff rescue companies are struggling to make ends meet due to those pesky Coastguards stealing their business? How many 'Super Tanker guidance services' have gone to the wall as their trade has been stolen by 'over investment in the Coastguard'.

Does Mr Cable remember the Sea Empress disaster 10 years ago? Allow me to assure him that those of us who live in Pembrokeshire have not.
What exactly is my local library doing that prevents businesses from expanding and when did my local public toilets last prevent somebody from making money? How is cutting the funding for the caring service (a private business) going to boost private business? Who exactly suffers from keeping lawns and flower beds neat and tidy? How will businesses be affected when these 'sub concious signals' start to deteriorate and how exactly will businesses pay for this with no knock on effect?

As I stated previously, I used to respect Mr Cable for his independence and ability to think in a straight line to achieve an end. Unfortunately, the smell of power has (as often happens) affected this ability and ensured that positive thinking in the political arena has been stamped out.

Why are politicians so unwilling to accept that there is an alternative way?  There is another way of achieving growth and there is a price to pay for it. The reduction in government spending can be slowed and targetted in areas where the effect will be felt less. You can offer the high profit companies a tax reduction in the future in return for assisting with the current issue. You can clamp down on the high earners who avoid taxes, you can break up banks and restrict pension companies from investing in the stock market, you can offer subsidies to re-locate Head Office operations out of big cities and into areas where job losses will be felt and you can move to a greener economy to make the most of the resources we have.

The price we will pay, will be that traders in the city of London will find it more difficult to raise money to invest in finance funds. The government might need to pay a higher interest rate on it's debt (It never bothered Cameron that much when he oversaw the collapse of the ERM which cost us Millions in extra borrowing) but most of us would accept that in exchange for having a job.

The unwillingness to even consider an alternative view will be the fall of this government. The lessons from the 80's and 90's have not been learned. The rich will benefit most from these cuts and the poorer will ultimately end up rebelling against society and given the starting point of the current society, any decline will have a significant effect.

It is time to reconsider and ask for the alternative view, before it is too late.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Has 'Miss World' got a point?

Can you imagine a Miss World contestant running the country - any country? Would it really be that bad?

PMQs would be a lot easier to watch, you would engage a lot more shallow people who have never even spelled politician let alone spoken to one and everything would just be a little bit more pretty.

The main change that I think we would see would be the priorities. When asked at every contest (so I am told!) what their priorities are, contestants regularly reply with, 'Feed all the children of the world and encourage World Peace'. Ask yourself is that really such a bad thing to be aiming for?

Compare that with the priorities of most governments, which usually move along the lines of, 'Expand the economy, grow big business, be better than than other countries'. How is this helping?
We are obsessed with beating others, being the best, improving faster and growing faster - constantly judging ourselves against others instead of our potential. We look at what other countries do and we say, we can do that, only better so that makes us better than them. This does not feel like the right way for a country to be heading.

Surely, as one of the most developed and mature societies, we should be setting the lead in focusing on non financial measures as our priority. Maybe we focus on everyone being capable of working, rather than how many are working, maybe we should focus on how many people play a team sport or are active in their community rather than pushing to work longer hours.

Maybe we should focus on developing a more balanced society, where people enjoy the opportunities they have and feel they are capable of of taking those opportunities, rather than growing our stock market faster than Wall Street.

Many of my views and opinions are already in other blogs and many of you have contacted me to say -'It is just not realistic'. I would reply that the only thing that stops us from changing - is us!

So while Miss World may not be in line for a government office, maybe the views and intentions of the contestants might be better than some that current politicians tell us are 'the only way forward'.

Or is it just me?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Budget reply

I will keep it short and simple (similar to most politicians!).
We had a chance in yesterdays budget to really start pushing in a new direction but the Chancellor decided to stick to what he knows works i.e. the 80's! The situation feels very similar to the recessions of the 80's with high unemployment being blamed on those who are out of work rather than looking at the economy as a whole and saying what can we all do.
The Government thinks that simply restricting spending is somehow going to make everybody sit up and go 'I could have started my business before, but now that we are in a recession - the time is right - lets do it!' There will be some fantastic businesses that emerge out of this recession but they would have done that anyway. There are far more decent, hard working businesses that have not and will not make it.
To say that the public sector was preventing these businesses from growing is pure folly.
There are opportunities to reduce spending on a local level but sadly, the government has decided to turn it's back on these areas and hit the softer services that are actually vital to society functioning properly.

I agree that NI and Income tax should be merged, I fail to see why it will take six years to consult on it - that is not even implementing it!
The penny off fuel has been seen through by the public very quickly as a marketing and PR stunt - talk for an hour and everyone remembers the last minute! The Government has only got itself to blame on this as the public have become very wary of anything that they are told by Cameron &co.

So where did we miss an opportunity?

Osbourne himself admits 'I cannot control the price of fuel - only the tax upon it'. We have never been able to control the price of fuel and never will be able to, regardless of how close an eye he keeps on the oil companies (very easy to do it if you lunch with them and they attend party fundraisers!).
We had the choice to take some independent green steps. We could have left the fuel charges where they were, still taken the oil tax money and maybe even put airfuel charges up to encourage people to holiday in the UK rather than abroad. I heard one commentator say, 'It is only fair that the average family should have at least one holiday abroad each year, so holding the fuel charge makes sense.' What planet are they on?

We could have taken the tax from pollution generators and invested it in green technology, to remove our reliance on oil. We could put solar PV panels on every sports ground in the country, we could put them on every council house in the country, we could use wave generation technology (as we live on an island with huge tidal changes), we could have given tax breaks to electric cars throughout the country but we didn't.
We encouraged people to drive more, fly more and build where they want and how they want.
That is not progressive, that is the language of the 80's and it will result in the same end.

Big business and the City of London traders try to over centralise and control the money and therefore the power. This is a dangerous and corrupt path to walk down and I hope we can find a nice seat to sit down on soon, look around and make a path of our own for others to follow. Unfortunately, it will now be another twelve months before we have this option again. I wonder what the price of oil will be then?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

NHS reform - bursting a political football !

The debate continues and will continue, regardless of the decision that comes out of this current round of political football. AT some point in the future, another party, another leader or another Health Secretary will take over and the direction will change again. This is wrong!

It is unfair to our NHS, it is unfair to the employees of our NHS and it is unfair to the patients i.e. me and you!

How can any system operate when their objectives and targets (yes we all need something to aim for) can change from day to day and week to week. The only reason the service is still operational is because there are enough people who have been willing to stand up and defend the idea of free health care for all.

For me, the NHS is too important to leave to the politicians to run. For them, it is a party issue, one wants more privatisation, one wants more targets and investment and the other wants what ever they need to agree with to be in power. This system of management will not provide us with the best Health Care system in the world and that is the one target that all major parties can agree on.

There is no point in going to other countries to see how they do it and then trying to apply the system here. Grow some balls and make a decision for the country you represent while you still have the chance. If there was one health care system that worked perfectly and could easily translate between countries, then everyone would be doing it and there would be no issue.

The point is that we need an NHS that serves the people of this country and it cannot do that while it remains a political football and until it actually asks the people of this country what it wants the NHS to be.

So here is my proposal. We make the NHS independent of government in the same way as the Bank of England is. The NHS is far more important for more people than the BoE so it should be treated as more important. The national NHS would be run by a body of professionals, experts and members of the public who would be tasked with ensuring that the wishes of the people of the UK are met.  There would need to be a national consultation where everyone has a chance to have an input into the targets and aspirations of the NHS, which would then become a 5, 10 and 20 year plan. Local NHS boards would be selected and run in a similar manner with the aim of delivering the national and local targets.

The thing to remember is that what works in one area of the country might not be right for another and the adaptability and flexibility to make local decisions is vital to make any organisation a success.

There would obviously be more complexities to be dealt with an ironed out, but they could be dealt with in the knowledge that 'This is what the people want' and any solutions would always have that in mind.

We can mess around with structures and delivery mechanisms as much as we want and for as long as we want, but if we genuinely want an NHS that delivers what the people want, how they want it and when they want it, we need to take politicians away from it and give it the respect that it deserves.

I am about to have a back operation in a private hospital, because I have the option to (through my job). I have used the NHS for many years and think the people that work within it do an amazing job and I would like to think that when my kids grow up and they may face the decision of whether to go private or NHS, they have a bit more to think about than I did.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Room for a new one - Is it time for change?

Something is wrong with British Politics - come to think of it Politics in general is in pretty bad shape. In large parts of the world people cannot be bothered to vote or take any interest in their politics, while in other parts of the world people are regularly spilling blood as they fight to gain the right. There is a feeling that governments in both developed and developing countries, do not act in the best interests of their people - they act in the interests of big business. Whilst big business is not always against the interests of society as a whole, they certainly do not hold the well being of society as a main target.

We in the UK have long dispensed with the idea that politicians work for us and in our interest, whilst in places such as the USA, it is frightening to see the lurch towards special interest groups, that now appears to lead politics.

The current political parties and interest groups are far too well established to simply set up another party, with good policies and direction and then hope that common sense prevails. My previous Blogs have advocated the return of decision making and power back to local governments, with national government providing more of a guiding and supporting role but this would mean people in government effectively deciding to make themselves redundant - I am not thinking that is very likely.

We currently have the party that used to be 'The new voice', the party that people thought might actually deliver something new and progressive, jumping into bed and supporting a series of backward and regressive policies. The British people are being let down and dragged backwards, while those that put the brakes on have jumped cars and are racing again.  We need a stronger and genuinely different option that gives everyone in the country a fair chance and opportunity.

So, is there an alternative?  Of course there is and you are part of it. Right now you are part of a huge revolutions that is changing the way the world works. You are on the Internet and reading bits of information put together from different parts of the world.  So far my Blogs have been read by people in the UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan (Our thoughts are with you), Germany, Switzerland, Chile, Russia and probably loads more that I have missed and together we all have our own thoughts on the way forward.
How powerful would a political movement be, if it were to harness all of thoughts and feelings? How strong would that voice be if it came from all around the world, offering advice and support? Would it be possible to have a consistent message, one party existing in many countries all over the world, all aiming to achieve the same things and all working together in order to achieve a better outcome for all of us?

I think yes.
Let us all, together, start the first genuinely international political movement, with common aims and standards decided by ourselves. A party born and grown over the Internet, where everyone has a voice.  I am up for it and I know there are some of you that feel the same.

Your comments on making it happen would be appreciated.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Why do politicians fear de-centralisation?

The increased powers of the Welsh Assembly should be welcomed by the national government as a further step towards a much more progressive society where decisions are made closer to the places where the effects are felt. The traditional Downing Street reaction of a polite welcoming but several comments from senior insiders regarding the break up of Great Britain, was to be expected.
I would ask those in Downing Street and Westminster to think why people have requested the powers and why they want to do things differently.
I heard one commentator say 'We used to rule the world - now we don't even rule our own island'. He was disappointed with the fact that people did not want to be controlled by London because he felt they did an amazing job.  That is the problem!  London thinks it is doing an amazing job - very few others do.

Our government has lost touch with the people it serves and lacks the moral and emotional authority to make decisions on their behalf. We, as a society, have given up on influencing those that make decisions as history has demonstrated it to be a pointless task. Decisions are made by people who most people will never meet, see or listen to and there is no connection between the two.

It is only by bringing decision making closer to the point of impact, will we start to re-engage people in the democratic process. More power and control of money should be given away by central government back to local governments who are closer to the effects of decisions.
Does central government really care if social housing is managed correctly, or if rural roads are maintained, or if local youth groups have decent facilities to meet in?  No - they don't. They will only ever meet a few success stories once every five years during an election and then only if their seat is in a marginal.  They don't have to deal with these problems on a week to week basis, local councils deal with them on a daily basis and are in a much better position to create effective solutions for them.

The fact is that there will be a solution that works in central London, a different solution for the north of Scotland and a different one again for mid Wales. The 'single solution' generated by London, will work for some, will do ok for others and will be a waste of time for the rest. A better solution is for central government to become smaller, Income tax goes to local government with National Insurance going to national government to pay for genuine national services. When I try to think of a service that cannot be managed and paid for locally, I start to struggle, with the exception of the armed forces.

The over all effect of this change would mean that National  Government would become less relevant and smaller, with Local Government and services becoming more important. The biggest barrier to making this change happen, is the vanity of the politicians, who would ultimately cease to exist. This is why politicians do not like de-centralisation and why we, the people, should push for it at every opportunity.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Is China the next Egypt?

What happens when the people of China decide that they want reform and political freedom - what does the west do then. Those of us old enough will remember the massacre of the last uprising in China and the horrific images that were smuggled out. The world now relies on China for the supply of cheap products and our supply chains simple could not cope without Chinese products.
So what would happen if there was another uprising and civil unrest in China?
Modern media would allow more images to be broadcast and the message would spread rapidly. The sheer volumes of people in China would make a popular uprising almost unstoppable. If the will was in the people of China for reform and freedom, then they would be able to take it rapidly.
But here is the problem, the west is now so in bed and so reliant on China, that it has decided to overlook the human rights record in the interests of trade. The spin that 'We are helping them to change' does not wash - it was the same spin that we put on UAE, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain and look where those countries are now.
As a country, we need to be strong enough to say 'NO!' to trading with certain countries who do not match or show signs of matching our expectations on humanitarian issues and political freedom. Unfortunately, we are too far down the road to do a U-Turn and stop trading with some countries, but we can put pressure on our politicians to start putting the brakes on at the very least.
Unless we 'the people' start to take a stand in our country, then we are leaving ourselves open to the political unrest that will surely come in other countries. In order to support ourselves and protect our future, we need to support people in places such as China and the Middle East/North Africa by encouraging a rapid a peaceful move to democracy. The best way we can do that is to hit them in the pocket.

How we do that is over to you - however, given the current financial situation, I am not going to hold my breath for radical change in the UK.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Should ALL banks be held accountable?

Barclays pay 1% in Corporation tax, HSBC are keeping their heads well under the radar and Santander wash their hands as they were clearly not in the market back when the financial mistakes started happening. RBS still pays extravagant bonuses while making a loss and Lloyds has made a 'small' profit of a couple of billion whilst under state control, all of the Big 5 are pretty much back to trading where they were prior to them sending the economy over the edge.
To be fair Lloyds and RBS are starting to move their retailing practices to a more customer friendly, more helpful and less aggressive, way of doing things. I would hazard a guess that this is because they are mainly state owned and have been instructed to change their ways.
The other banks and the larger financial institutions have not changed. They are convinced that if they continue to trade the way they did before, this will help the economy because lots of people will be making money.

It is time to tell them they are wrong!

Firstly, It was not just RBS and Lloyds that caused the crisis - it was the actions of all of the banks. Those two got bailed out first in order to stabilise the market. If they had gone bankrupt or into administration, then the confidence in the other banks would have also fallen and they would have needed to be bailed out. Barclays DID get a bail out - it came from the Oil Monarchies of Bahrain and I would hazard a guess that HSBC and Santander also required additional funding from somewhere as well.
For the banks to now stand up and say that they should not be punished is disgraceful. For the Government to say that they don't want to lose 'talent' from the UK banks - hence they will go easy on the bonus rewards is disgraceful.  The fact that we the people swallow the rubbish that they throw at us - makes the problem our fault.

All of the major banks should be paying huge funds to the government to ensure that the deficit is paid off by them and not by the ordinary taxpayer. They have caused the problem, through their ineffective investment strategies. The stock market is over rated as the place to invest your money and banks love the fact that we give them permission to gamble on the stock market with our money and then take any profit that they make from it.

I believe it is in the banks interests to pay off the deficit and the national debt rather than the government making the cuts that it currently aims to do.  As cuts are made, people will restrict their spending and not be able to invest the way they had previously. More people will not be able to repay debt, whether that be credit cards, loans or mortgages and the Banks will end up footing the bill for it.  They will then have to put up interest rates and restrict their retail lending which tightens the spiral.  More people will lose their jobs, on top of the cuts and the deficit and debt will become worse - not better.

If the banks had a bit of long term thinking, they would see the opportunity to become 'the peoples friend' and they would offer to assist with the debt in return for lower tax rates in the future. I would class that  as a balanced pay off - they sort out the mess they have created, we re-structure the way they do business and they then receive a lower tax rate for the next ten years.

Failure to do this, will create the opposite outcome.  At some point, a bank will come along and see that there is an opportunity to improve the way banking is done and they will be rewarded for it.  If we continue as we are - we close down our vital services, we destroy the fabric of a fairly decent society and we widen the gap between rich and poor.  To me, it is a very easy decision to make - but I am not the one making those decisions.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Coastguards and libraries part 2

At last - the have admitted that they got something wrong - selling off forests. All we have gained is that they will now have to look for the money somewhere else because they are obsessed with taking the easy route out.
Why is it the easy route - because they are taking money away from those who do not have power. If you truly want to recover the money to repay the debt, then you start at the top - not the bottom. You certainly don't start by cutting services such as the library. Start with Banks, Investment houses, Insurance companies, Oil companies and the big supermarkets.

Why should my local library, that my children visit at least once a week, be forced to reduce its services or maybe even close completely simply because we propped up the failing financial sector. That financial sector is now firmly back on its feet and should be happy to pay back the lifeline it was extended plus a little extra, in order to support areas of the economy that have been hit most.

What practical use will cutting local services have? Will removing access to books help our society become more literate, will it help people who want to develop themselves but cannot afford to buy the book or will it somehow help those who lack social contact - the answer is no. Our libraries do all of these and more.

A small point for the idiots who are making these cuts - nobody is believing that it is not your fault - you can blame the previous lot or you can blame local councils - we don't believe you. You are making the decisions - you WILL live with the consequences. The rest of us have no choice but to live with the effects - in a few years time - you will live face the consequences.

So, here is my solution to not only keep, but to improve our libraries.

Control of libraries should fall under the same people that control back to work training schemes and job centres. Libraries should become the place where you go to improve yourself. I would like to see training courses delivered in libraries either in person or through interactive video links. The Internet has already changed the way that local libraries are used and this just takes it to a next level.
Hi speed internet links could deliver a huge amount of training to people who would never be able to access that training, whether it be basic computing, managerial skills, creative writing, applying for jobs or a million other subjects. The library then becomes a hub for the community - where people go to meet, interact and grow. Using hi speed internet, people would have more access to  events such as speeches and seminars that they would simply not be able to do previously.
Libraries should have more community rooms, where a variety of groups could meet and use the resources to grow. These would act as drop in centres, where community groups could grow and develop and have a 'home' where they could improve their offering - whatever that may be - from.

Closing these facilities down removes the possibility of developing these services in any shape and kills an opportunity for the next generation to be a step above this one.  I have not even touched upon the joy of reading and of developing your own intelligence.
I doubt that those at the top of government, those that make decisions have ever had to rely on local services such as the library and the Coastguard and I doubt they ever will.

The only way they will find out about the true effects of these decisions is if we tell them.  If we wait four years until the next election, it will be too late. We have an opportunity to make improvements if we choose to - the decision appears to be not to, but we need to act now, before it is too late to turn it around and recover the situation.

Lastly - a quick thought on Coastguards again. If Coastguards were merged with the immigration and customs service, with an expanded role in checking boats etc as well as in safe passage and rescue - would this be a better situation than to get rid of most of them?    Just a thought!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Did libraries and Coastguards cause the recession?

Have I missed something here, we propped up the financial sector, not just the banks, in order to lessen the impact of the recession. Now that we need to pay some of that money back, we continue to prop up the banks and decide to close Coastguard stations and libraries instead. There is a nominal charge for this year which the banks have made a suitable noise about however it will have exactly no effect on their thinking and their behaviours.
How can anyone justify cutting a Coastguard service which actually saves lives and prevents deaths, mainly due to the fact that they have local knowledge and local experience of sailing in the waters that they guard. I am not sure if Cameron understands this but - water is not like land. It moves under you and around you, there are no lanes and no motorways, there are no lights to help you see where you are going and the ambulance cannot get to you inside 12 minutes. If you make a mistake while you are floating in a big lump of metal, you cannot just put the brakes on and come to a safe stop - you need help. If you slip on rocks while you are walking or climbing, you can't rely on a passerby to stop and ask are you ok - there are none. You will need help.
To suggest that my local station which covers the third busiest port in the UK and possibly the most dangerous, as a serious accident with a fully laden LNG tanker would cause an incalculable amount of damage, can be covered effectively from 200 miles away is to say the same as Birmingham Police running the River Police on the Thames.  This actually makes more sense as the running costs and fixed costs would both be much lower.  Do I see this as a proposal for cost cutting - no!
Again, this policy stinks of double standards and the wrong strategy to move forward with.
The over-centralisation of money and power reduces the impact of the voices in the distance and makes it very easy to completely disregard the issues as 'a small price to pay'.  When the government is ready to give control of the river police and the underground police in London, to a control room over 200 miles away - then they can say that they are being fair. Until that day, we must fight these ridiculous cuts. They are not only practically wrong - they are morally mis-guided.

There is no - alternative option on this one - one is not needed. Leave it as it is!

Your local MP will only listen to your voice if you make them, so it is time to start shouting. Make them listen to your opinions and demand action. Request a reply from them that gives you their views and what they are doing about these cuts and then publish the reply on your twitter or facebook so people are aware of what is going on.

Libraries will have to wait till next time - but these cuts are just as mis-guided but I do have an alternative.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Lessons from the past!

This lot of numpties are still determined to go ahead with the cuts, so I would like to point out a few obvious lessons that appear to be forgotten.
The Conservative government elected in 1979 was determined to completely remove the power of the unions and set about privatising public services and changing the rules around unions. Speed was of the essence. It was key that the changes were made rapidly and that they were BIG changes. This would mean that the government could stand tall and say 'Look at what we have done!' by the next election.

As we find ourselves now - the intention is right but the execution is very wide of the mark.

The speed and depth of the changes in the early 80's resulted in large parts of the country and the economy being crippled, brought to it's knees because of the 'We know best' attitude. National bodies that were not ready for privatisation were sold off cheap in order to prove a point and the miners strike became the focal point for the Conservative agenda.
The problem was it was all or nothing. There was no 'Plan B' or second option and we are still paying for that failure now. A slow and gradual reduction in support for the mines would have allowed local economies to adjust and not go through the hardship and pain of an instant cut. A gradual preparation for privatisation and a correct assessment of suitability together with a correct valuation would have meant years of wrong decisions and corrections could have been avoided.

We are making the decisions now - too fast and too hard. It is panic politics at its worst. 'We need to do this quickly before we get voted out' is the leading thought in many Conservative MPs and voters and that leads to poor decision making.  The constant line of 'We must do this - we have no choice' wears thin very quickly when other economies are taking different choices and making them work.

There is a 'Plan B' if it is wanted. It would mean the Conservative government admitting they are wrong and taking a brave decision to change. I am fairly certain that will not happen. Arrogance and stubbornness will ensure that the present path is pursued until they are voted out. These changes are going to make this country more Conservative for a very long time and future governments will struggle to change the country for the better if they are not stopped before it is too late. We are handing control of the country to the money men who are responsible for ballsing it up in the first place and the rest of us are being told that this is good for us.

I am not going to stand for it and I encourage you also to do something about it - before it is too late.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Statistics and spin - Side by side!

It was all the snows fault! This actually makes a refreshing change from 'It is not our fault - it is the other lot!' as a reason for their under performance.
It is inevitable that the economy will actually recover - even if they sat back and did nothing. It is called an economic cycle and it runs for between eight and fourteen years depending on a few other factors. As we move through the cycle, the economy will expand, over heat, correct itself, start to contract and then bottom out as it finishes correcting itself. It takes a lot to affect an economy to a significant effect as there is very little that the government can actually control.
So this is my message to them: Stop taking the credit when it going well and then accept that you cannot do much when it is not. 
The snow reduced output by a little - it was not a 'significant impact' Mr Osbourne. The ONS report says that it is quite likely that the economy would have contracted without the snow and at best would have remained the same i.e. no growth.
Trying to blame everybody and everything else for this makes you look simple and extremely arrogant. STOP IT!

The economy is not expanding because people are still worried about the cuts that have not yet started.  Two months ago, Mr Cameron claimed that the growth in the economy was due to the cuts and measures that the ConDem government had made. Now that the figures are not so good Mr Osbourne has said that it is not the fault of the cuts as they have not started to take place yet. This is the kind of spin that governments usually fall down on after ten or twelve years in power, it is not the stuff that they do after 10 months.

Having said that it takes a lot to affect an economy, we have seen examples of this over the last few years. The Labour spending, undoubtedly propped up the economy and prevented a much deeper dip. However, the money that was given to the banks has mainly been invested in Futures, Oil and Commodities, which we are now paying much higher prices for.
The second impact is the promise of cuts. This has significantly reduced confidence and willingness of ordinary people to spend money - hence a contraction in growth.
Is it really that simple?
Probably not but that is the basic point that the government needs to get its head around. The financial power houses of this country are not the people who are going to get us back to a stable and comfortable economy - so stop listening and helping them. It is the ordinary person on the street - me and you - who ever reads this, that needs to helped and listened to. We are the people who will provide a strong and stable economy. We are the people who will buy goods, work more efficiently and generate more income. The finance castles will simply line their own pockets.

I urge you all to bombard the news stations through twitter and facebook, every time this lot, stand up and tell us what is good for us.  They know nothing and we need to find our voice and tell them. We need to tell them exactly how each and every one of us has a part to play in this economy and how we feel when we get pushed to one side because 'they know best'. We need to tell them that we don't believe them. Tell them how much we have to live on. Ask them to walk in our shoes and make them live up to their responsibilities.
If you read my previous posts you will see my ideas about de-centralisation and how you get real income down to lower levels and spread more (geographically) evenly.

Don't believe the spin or the stats that they give you. Challenge them and make them feel our pain every time you get a chance because if we don't, they will continue to move this country into a very uncomfortable position that we may not be able to truly recover from.

And lastly, (to quote a politician) 'It wasn't the snow - it was the economy - Stupid!'

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Are the cuts a help or a hinderance?

Having read over my blog for today I need to add a point to the beginning - I am not a supporter of any political party and am not a political activist in any way - these are just thought and arguments that I feel should be discussed.
The general thrust of the current government is to accept the credit when things are going well and to blame the previous governments 'reckless spending' when it is not going their way. I am sorry but I am fed up with it and I fail to see how cuts (that had not even started) were leading to falling unemployment up to December, but when it started to rise again, this was somehow the fault of the previous government because they had not spent the money efficiently.
There is only so much of the 'blame the previous guy' that we can put up with and I believe it has been and gone. We are already in a situation where the tide has turned very sharply against the government and they tactic appears to be - keep a stiff upper lip and a straight bat - blame the riff raff and keep the fingers crossed. this government is starting to unravel already and the pace of this will accelerate rapidly over the coming year as more of the LibDem core voters are affected and some of the Tory 'swing voters' that won them the slimmest majority, start to question their decision.
So lets deal with the BIG question, the deficit!
My understanding is that the deficit is very close to where the Labour party took over from in 1997 in percentage terms. This was mainly due to the debacle surrounding the ERM and the loss in confidence in the Pound if my Economics degree is to be believed. Was there a need for 'Urgent Action' - in the end yes there was because the voices of spin worried the market traders (or chums as they are better known) to the point where they had to take action. If they had put a 5 year plan on the table for fiscal control and a gradual, sustainable tightening of government spending the effect would have been the same. The fact that they continue to spin this line about the biggest ever deficit in £'s, while failing to recognise that in % terms it is actually very manageable over a fiscal cycle (between 8 and 14 years) says to me that they know that will be caught out at some point and therefore they need to make some rapid changes before something stops them from making these changes e.g. commonsense.
These current cuts are politically driven and not financially driven and therein lies the problem.
If you or I need to pay off a credit card, we plan to pay it off gradually over a period of twelve months or longer. We don't decide to stop eating and putting petrol in the car for three months so we can pay it off sooner. If you eat a little less each month and drive a little less each month - you can pay it off in a much more comfortable way.  I don't need to tell you how this translates to the economy.
So the size of the cuts is unnecessary, while the speed of the cuts will damage the long term growth prospects of the country.
What is does do is make it easier for gamblers who play the stock market and international finance markets - I will call them 'bankerchums' to get hold of credit as the 'urgency' that was created has now subsided and we appear to be a better bet than before the cuts were announced.
So, rather than bleat on and on about how deceitful politicians are being around the deficit and how bad it all is - I will give you an alternative to mull over.
I am in favour of a much smaller government at the top level with much more power being moved to local council level. But this also means that the benefits also need to be moved down to the local level. If we take the example of a Power station, it is a decision made by national government, the negotiations and payments are made to national government. The local government then has to cope with the extra traffic and road repair, extra signage, often extra waste created by workers who are mainly 'shipped in' not local, which seems to me to be unfair. It is usually justified through ' local jobs' but local jobs are usually temporary with very few permanent well paid positions going to local people. The workers who are shipped in, often stay in rented accommodation which is quite often bought up by large companies so the money leaves the local economy.
Central government then takes the credit for the creation of new jobs etc and takes the tax from the power station back into central funds.  The local government is left with very little to show for it.
This will act to re-balance the economy as the urban areas which attract much of the development and investment - cannot also have large installations. Funds therefore start to re-distribute away from the centre.
As money and investment and therefore power, becomes less centralised, so the gap between top and bottom become smaller. Yes, this will mean that some of the very wealthy will not have things their own way and may feel like they are working hard to support others but to quote a current wealthy politician 'Everyone needs to do their bit!'

As central government shrinks (along with the size of Parliament etc) so their role changes from one of controlling everything and everyone, to one of supporting the needy and reducing the gap between rich and poor. Think of it a bit like building a road - you take soil from the hills and use it to fill the valleys so that the road is easier for everyone to travel.
This change will be very difficult for local and national governments to understand - they will be giving away more power and accepting new roles, but it needs to be done and the sooner it gets done the better.