Thursday, June 09, 2011

Localism in Action

There has been a lot of discussion, in political circles anyway, regarding Localism and what it means. A lot of this seems to be an attempt to provide a dictionary definition rather than anything to do with actual policy. From the perspective of a local Councillor, I have already seen the death of a great deal of government oversight and reporting, which frankly was a complete waste of time and money. So, I no longer have to sit and be lectured by government-appointed know-nothings from the Audit Commission on what's wrong with me, while the professional officers from the Council sit around me on overtime courtesy of the Council taxpayer.

However, the real change has been to the planning system. Now, this is a bit of a dry subject, which is why it gets little attention, but it is actually hugely important. Planning defines how communities develop and grow and for a dynamic place like Basildon Borough it is especially important. So, what's changed? Well the Regional Spatial Strategy, where a bunch of people who never set foot in Basildon decided how many homes we had to build, is history. Well, not quite. Some property developers have fought a rearguard action through the courts, but it is still a case of going, going, soon to be gone. Now, we decide how much housebuilding we need, via a streamlined Local Development Framework process. This used to mean sending documents off to the Government Office for the East of England, for another bunch of know-nothings to mark our work and send it back in a seemingly endless cycle of corrections and changes. Now, with Localism, we write the LDF and a central government inspector reviews it. The only result of this can be a yes or no: either it is accepted as a credible piece of work or rejected. This stops a Council producing a work of fantasy, ignoring population growth in order to appease the 'not one brick' brigade for example, but it stops the government from micro-managing local planning. The net effect is to cut years off the LDF process and to save hundreds of thousands of pounds of the Council's money.

Firing the empty suits who used to look over our shoulders must have saved a few bob too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

John Baron MP: Dale Farm eviction funding now complete

MP sends message to travellers and says eviction can now proceed

Today John Baron MP confirmed that after detailed negotiations the total potential policing costs arising from the Council’s clearance of the illegal Dale Farm traveller site have now been fully funded. Negotiations between various Government Departments, the Prime Minister’s Office, Essex Police, Essex Police Authority, and Basildon Borough Council have resulted in the £9.5m needed in a worst case scenario being met through a combination of sources [see notes to editors]. This removes the final obstacle in proceeding with the eviction.

John said:
Because the Prime Minister accepted this site had to be cleared and because of the goodwill of various parties to these negotiations, we have now pieced together this financial jigsaw and so guarantee all potential policing costs are met. The eviction can now proceed.
This funding sends a clear message that no one individual or group is above the law. Once again, I urge the travellers at the illegal Dale Farm site to now move off peacefully, as no one wants to see the misery of a forced eviction. If not, the eviction will proceed for it is only fair the law is enforced without exception.
I would like to thank Cllr Tony Ball and his team, Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle and his team, Essex Police Authority, and the Government. These negotiations haven’t always gone smoothly but we got there in the end. I would also like to thank local residents for their patience and trust.

Notes to Editors

Essex Police has costed various scenarios and requires up to £9.5m in a worst case scenario. If necessary, this funding will be met as follows:-
  • The first £2.5m costs to be met by Essex Police Authority
  • The next £2.4m to be shared equally between the Home Office and Basildon Borough Council.
  • The next £2.3m costs to be met by the Home Office alone; and
  • The next £2.3m costs to be shared equally between the Home Office and Essex Police Authority.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Correction - Plan B advocates not economists, still Balls

Very good article on ConservativeHome on the background of those 'economists' who are suggesting a change to government economic policy. It turns out that a fairly large number of them are not economists, but soft-subject academics instead. So, we have expertise in History, Cultural Studies, Human resources and so on, but precious little in the subject that they are pontificating about.

A better headline to yesterday's media coverage would have been 'Labour unable to find actual economists to back Balls'.

Meanwhile the IMF have endorsed the government's approach, the key passage from their report being:
However, the weakness in economic growth and rise in inflation over the last several months was unexpected. This raises the question whether it is time to adjust macroeconomic policies. The answer is no as the deviations are largely temporary. Strong fiscal consolidation is underway and remains essential to achieve a more sustainable budgetary position, thus reducing fiscal risks.
Not exactly equivocal.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Plan B is Balls

A warning from economists that the government's economic policies are not working is reported in the Observer. The article, focusses on recent disappointing economic data, but the quoted arguments don't make a lot of sense. For example Johathan Portes, until recently a government economist, is quoted as giving this opinion on growth:
It isn't just about the international environment, it's because of the strategy the government has followed.
Most government cuts only started to kick in with the new tax year in April, for which there is no economic data yet. So, what is he talking about? He could argue that its all going to be a disaster, but the cause and effect that he implies simply doesn't exist.

The proposed plan B is the usual sort of stuff you get from left-wing economists. They want more government spending and higher taxes, because there is a long and rich history of nations taxing and spending their way out of problems with economic growth. Except that there isn't. The one thing that the government's policy has done is kept Britain out of the eurozone crisis, as a prime victim that is. There are still a lot of UK liabilities in foreign failing economies, but at least we haven't joined them.

Of course, up pops Ed Balls, who is incredibly complaining about government borrowing. Huh? He wants higher spending and where does he think the cash would come from? The tooth fairy?

Meanwhile, grown-ups will be aware that we won't be able to start making a balanced judgement on the outturn of last year's budget until the end of this year at least. By that time one or more European countries may well have defaulted on their government debt.

That will put the real issues into sharp relief and, hopefully put Balls back into his box.