Saturday, November 03, 2007

John Baron MP slams new bin taxes

John Baron MP today warned that families across Basildon District face the prospect of new bin taxes on top of council tax. After confusion in, Labour Ministers have finally confirmed that new taxes for bin collections will go ahead. In July, a cross-party Parliamentary Committee savaged the bin tax plans, warning of more fly-tipping, neighbourhood bin wars, non-payment by the public; it said that the plans would raise the overall burden of taxation.

John said, “Bin taxes will harm the local environment and public health by leading to a surge in backyard burning. The evidence shows this is what happened in the Republic of Ireland after bin taxes were introduced. Illegal burning of household waste releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. On top of tip-taxes, they will also lead to an increase in fly-tipping and put at risk Basildon Council’s good record in this area.

“Meanwhile, the set-up and running costs of such a complex tax, which involves installing microchips in every bin, will mean the overall burden of taxation will rise. Families now face the double whammy of record council tax bills and new bin taxes.

“The soaring costs of waste are yet another example of how Whitehall and EU burdens are being imposed on Basildon Council. The answer is not to create new local taxes. Labour Ministers must stop imposing unfunded obligations and red tape on local communities and cease hiking up local taxes by stealth.”

News of higher taxes comes as new official figures published by the Government have exposed that fly-tipping across England is soaring. Basildon Council has a good record in recent years in fly-tipping but, in total, cleaning up after fly-tipping has still cost local taxpayers £1,372,304 over the last three years. The Keep Britain Tidy campaign is warning that new bin taxes will make the problem even worse.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nothern Rock Nationalised

There is an old saying; 'if you owe the bank £1000 then you are in trouble, if you owe the bank £1000000 then the bank's in trouble'. Well now Northern Rock owes the Bank of England £23bn, and so the risks associated with that failing company have now been smoothly transferred from shareholders and depositors to taxpayers. The Bank of England, the FSA and the Treasury regulate banks in the UK, and all three have had a hand in this mess. The FSA failed to monitor Northern Rock's activities adequately, despite the fact that the Rock's business model was different to every other major financial institution. You would have thought that this would have brought some special scrutiny, but you would have thought wrong. Then there was the Bank of England's refusal to follow the other central banks in providing liquidity when the money markets dried up. The inevitable logic of that was that they were happy for a major bank to fail if it came to it, but of course they weren't so why take a course of action that would make it happen? Then we come to the treasury who sleepwalked their way into the first run on a major UK bank for a century. Let us be clear, Northern Rock is now effectively owned by the government who both finance it and guarantee its deposits. Safe in the arms of the State, Northern Rock's management are doing nothing to sort out their company, no closures, redundancies, repricing of products, nothing. In fact it is a question why those clowns are still running the show. It's not as if the Chief Executive is even a qualified banker.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Labour has been making it up on immigration

Let’s get this straight, the government have had no idea of how many foreign workers there were in the UK and no idea of how many of the jobs created since 1997 have gone to foreigners. Against this background we have been told for years that immigration was an unmitigated good and as recently as the 2005 general election anyone saying different has been branded a racist or a xenophobe. Now it turns out that the number of foreign workers in the country is at least 1.5 million and that more than half of the jobs created since 1997 have gone to them. This last is very serious as whenever the number of people on benefits refused to decline the government always pointed to the numbers in work as a defence. What these numbers are telling us is that the large numbers of people who a locked into dependency on the state by Labour’s failed policies have stayed there while the jobs that they may have had are taken by new arrivals. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of this as well if you talk to ordinary people in ordinary parts of our country, many of whom have been traditional Labour voters. That leaves aside the strain on public services and on the housing market of our steeply rising population. Now David Cameron has announced that a new Conservative government would tighten up on immigration, as well as doing something about people trapped on benefits, which also means being trapped in poverty. Labour meanwhile are floundering as ministers face the ruins of policies going back ten years. The country, and some of their own backbenchers, demands that they get on top of this situation. So far they seem to be in denial.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wickford Action Group rubbish Laindon Centre Regeneration

Wickford Town Centre doesn’t need ‘something doing to brighten it up’ which is the view of the 'Wickford Action Group' in their recent letter in our local paper; it needs proper regeneration to halt its decline. There is certainly a serious problem if you talk to the traders on the High Street, including the one who asked me if it was worth renewing the lease and staying in business because things have got so bad. There are also local examples of town centres going badly wrong and you only have to go to Grays or Laindon Town Centres and then consider what having half of the local shops boarded up does to a community. Basildon Council is not waiting for Wickford to reach a terminal state, which is why there is a Master Plan and why we are progressing with delivery. Another complaint is about town centre housing; this is government policy, which means that a local Council cannot turn down legal planning applications for residences in the Town Centre. We also don’t want to build on the surrounding Green belt that is Wickford’s vital green lung and gives the town so much of its character as a town instead of a suburb of Basildon. What is most disappointing is that the Wickford Action Group is now trying to rubbish regeneration efforts elsewhere in Basildon District, particularly in Laindon where regeneration of the Town Centre is desperately needed. They go so far as to claim that Councillors are misleading the people of Laindon in the consultation process there. In fact the consultation that has been going on is by the private owners of the Laindon Centre and nothing to do with the Council. So, who is misleading who?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Northern Rock saga trickles on

Northern Rock's bailout from the Bank of England is now over £20bn, and climbing. Given that the interest rate on the loans is around 7% and that most Northern Rock mortgages are for less than this amount, this means that the Northern Rock loan book is growing increasingly unprofitable. Worse still, the haemorrhage of market funds from the Rock is likely to continue as commercial loans have to be repaid and no more are to be had. So, what we have is a bank with rapidly decreasing profitability and little in the way of assets: few branches, unexceptional computer systems and a toxic brand. Two questions immediately spring to mind; why on earth are their shares still trading and what is in it for the two or three prospective buyers? There is no good answer to the first. It is impossible to accurately value Northern Rock shares and they should be suspended to stop the uninformed or downright foolish from investing further. The second question is more interesting; all of the buyers want some level of government support and the most likely scenario is that the various players are looking to a time when the capital markets will start to operate again and then the long term value of the Rock's generally high-quality mortgage book can be realised.

There is also the small matter of sorting out the regulatory shambles that led to this situation. Someone needs to get a grip there.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liberal Democrats now predicted to win some seats!

Following a revision of the predictive model, the Electoral Calculus site has revised its election prediction to Conservative 267, Labour 334, Liberal Democrat 16; giving Labour an 18 seat majority. This is based on the most recent opinion polls and takes the Liberal Democrats from a prediction of no seats to merely having their parliamentary representation cut by nearly three quarters.

Locally this prediction yields:

Basildon and Billericay

MP John Baron (CON)
Electorate64,873 Turnout60.20%

2005 Votes2005 SharePrediction
OTH3,096 7.93%
MIN1,805 4.62%
CON Majority3,587 9.19% Pred Maj12.12%

Basildon South and East Thurrock

MP Angela Smith (LAB)
Electorate71,108 Turnout58.95%

2005 Votes2005 SharePrediction
OTH2,446 5.83%
MIN250 0.60%
LAB Majority461 1.10% Pred Maj 1.71%CON Gain

Of course, there is probably a long way to go to the actual election, though with 'decisive' Gordon in charge who knows, but if I were Angela Smith I would be a little worried. This particular contest is marked by an incumbent who is actually a pretty good MP and a challenger in Stephen Metcalfe who will make an excellent MP. The people of Basildon and East Thurrock are lucky to have such high quality candidates for the next general election.

English votes for English laws

A proposal for a parliamentary Grand Committee of English MPs to deal with English-only laws is being considered by the Conservative Party. This is a very good idea, and the only way to really balance out the democratic deficit created by Labour's ham-fisted approach to devolution. Currently, Scottish MPs decide on policy for England while English MPs are excluded from doing the same for Scotland. In fact on many issues the Labour Party relies on its Scottish MPs to push English policy through parliament. Of course, Labour is now predictably whining about how the proposal puts the Union in danger when what has actually put the Union in danger is their own incompetent approach to devolution that has led to a separatist government in Scotland and mounting English resentment of subsidising Scottish state handouts that are not available in England. But there is another reason why Labour is complaining, and that is the electoral math. It is quite conceivable that there could be a Conservative majority in England, even if our skewed electoral system made for a Labour national government. A Labour Prime Minister would have to deal with an effective Conservative English government, in addition to whoever was in power in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and Labour do not relish that prospect one bit. Well, tough; this is the inevitable consequence of what they started, and the only hope of rebalancing the constitutional arrangements for our nation. Just for once it would be nice if they though about our country first instead of obsessing about their party political interests.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Harlow by-election results

Two by-elections in Harlow on Thursday. A good gain for the Conservatives, but look at the Lib Dem vote share. The motives for Ming's knifing are quite apparent.

Little Parndon and Hare Street Turnout 28.4%. Conservative Gain

Change in Vote Share
Cons 598 39.63% 8.00%
Lab 794 52.62% 5.95%
Lib Dem 117 7.75% -13.94%

Toddbrook Turnout 30.53%. Labour Hold

Change in Vote Share
Cons 728 45.50% 7.36%
Lab 713 44.56% 3.76%
Lib Dem 57 3.56% -7.34%
Respect 102 6.38% -3.78%

9/11 "Truthers" told to "Get a Life"

Most people with lives don't realise that there is a strand of opinion that thinks the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 were actually organised by the US government. These people have built up an entire theology around the government conspiracy proposition, complete with factions and schisms. Some believe that aeroplanes didn't actually hit the towers, they were holograms apparently; some believe that the World Trade Centre was hit by rays from space, and there are those who merely believe that the entire complex was wired for demolition. Of course they have no evidence that stands up to a moment's scrutiny and the entire movement is a monument to logical fallacies, and failures in basic science education. In fact, the only reason this is at all important is that these people act as apologists and deniers to the very real threat of Islamic terrorism, preferring the comfort zone of believing in the supposed evils of the governments of the West instead of recognising that there are actually enemies from elsewhere who would kill them in an eyeblink if it served their purposes.

Having failed to make any impression on public opinion, the latest 'truther' tactic is to ambush live television programmes and public figures with moronic shouted slogans or crackpot questions, usually filming the results for YouTube. This has moved some commentator opinion from amused tolerance to irritation, as can be seen from this article in the Telegraph. It is also a worrying development. Having seen some of the other things these people also tend to believe, Jews Control the media, worldwide conspiracies etc., then the more active they get the more likely it is that their activism will not end well. There is a rich history of lunatic fringes escalating to violence from the Unabomber to Timothy McVeigh to more 'organised' groups such as the Weather Underground or the Baader Meinhof group in Germany. So, not only are they abetting the enemies of democracy through their propaganda, but they are on a dangerous and slippery slope to becoming agents of terror themselves. Let's hope that 'truth' movement gets off that train before it arrives at its ghastly destination.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Conservatives lead Labour in new poll

The latest YouGov poll in the Telegraph has the Conservatives three points ahead of Labour. This represents an almost unprecedented shift from Labour's 11 point lead of just one month ago, and it is that turnaround rather than the bald numbers that make the situation more interesting. The proximate cause of the shift in support was Brown's non-election fiasco, which in a few short days undid his reputation for decisiveness and leadership. He followed that with the Pre-Budget Report, where the student-politics trick of lifting Conservative policy did not go down well in the world of grown-ups. Of course, the Conservative Party reacted brilliantly to the developing government dither, but these were primarily Labour self-inflicted wounds. How serious they will be for the long term remains to be seen, but Labour needed a cushion of goodwill with the serious danger of an economic downturn in the near future, and it has been squandered in a staggering display of political incompetence. Over on the Labour blogs, there actually are a few, they are consoling themselves that a new Liberal Democrat leader will steal support from the Conservatives and so all will be well. For myself I hear the scraping at the bottom of the barrel on that one. What Labour needs to do is come with coherent policies for the good of our country. Instead we have Alan Johnson claiming that obesity is as bad a global warming. With that sense of perspective from one of their so-called 'stars' it is no wonder that the government appears increasingly shambolic.