Government hammers Broxtowe/Privatisation kills the dermatology service/But Beeston turns the corner!

Hi all,

I was intending to make this a non-political festive newsletter, but events have crowded in.

  1. Government targets Broxtowe for spending cuts

The Government has, bizarrely, singled out Broxtowe as the area in the country to receive the largest spending cuts, with 6.4% slashed in a single year on top of all the previous cuts. Meanwhile, some of the richest councils in Britain are actually getting more Government money. Here’s the story:

http://www.nottinghampost.com/Borough-faces-biggest-spending-cut-country/story-25737818-detail/story.html

There is absolutely no point in local politicians criticising one cut or another in local services if they don’t also object to the relentless squeezing of our local authorities by the Government.

  1. Privatisation kills Nottingham’s dermatology service

The relentless drive to privatise the NHS has just killed off Nottingham’s acute adult dermatology service, including emergency care. Here’s the story, which speaks for itself and also shows the soaring NHS Trust deficits:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-services-cut-in-nottingham-after-doctors-quit-rather-than-work-for-private-firm-9931763.html

I don’t often make a straightforward party political point, but I’ll make one here. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is relentlessly driving the NHS over the brink. The deficits are soaring, the waiting times are climbing and the money provided to the service is increasingly being diverted to private profits. If you want to reverse the process, you really need to vote Labour in May – it’s frankly as simple as that.

Will that instantly cure the funding problems? No – they are too serious for that. But it’s the one area where Labour is committed both to spending more and to stopping the increasing diversion of money to profits. In the medium term, the NHS also needs the switch in emphasis to care services to reduce the pressure on hospitals.

  1. Is Broxtowe being represented on these issues?

It’s hard to find a blog by Broxtowe’s MP that doesn’t have a go at local councils, usually stressing that they’re run by non-Conservative parties. But where MPs actually have the chance to influence what happens locally, in mitigating the damage that the Government’s policies do to Broxtowe, the MP is entirely silent.

Let me make an explicit commitment. If I’m the MP again, I will criticise any government or council – Labour or Conservative or coalition – which damages our local interests. If that damages my career, so be it. I think we need a Labour alternative. But I also think we need an independent-minded constituency MP, rather than one who is unable or unwilling to criticise anything that the Government does.

A super-partisan MP is ineffective. Political allies don’t bother to help, since they know the MP will rally round anyway. Political opponents are annoyed by constant attacks, and unwilling to make special efforts to help.

If you feel that one party is always right and its competitors are always wrong, then you may prefer an ultra-loyalist. But if so, you shouldn’t vote for me: I will start from the position that politicians of any party should be willing to help with our issues, and where they fail to respond I’ll criticise them openly. If Broxtowe’s MP doesn’t stand up for us, nobody else will bother.

  1. Another year of bedroom tax – and my alternative proposal

There was a prospect of an end to the bedroom tax as the LibDems announced that they were now opposed to it. Consequently, Labour put forward a proposal in Parliament this week to remove it. The LibDems, as well as Broxtowe’s MP, then voted to keep it. According to Government statistics, 334 people were affected in Broxtowe last year.

What’s the problem about this? The policy reduces housing benefit for anyone whose circumstances change so that they no longer need one room. For example, if someone dies:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/forced-pay-cruel-bedroom-tax-4824246

The argument for this is that the family no longer need so much space, so they ought to move to smaller premises. The problem is that in many areas there simply isn’t anywhere smaller available, since most housing development is private and private developers make more money from larger properties. So the affected families – who by definition are poor, since otherwise they don’t qualify for Housing Benefit – are simply stuck: they can’t afford the rent without the benefit, but there’s nowhere to move to. Consequently, they are likely to have to go into debt, which produces a spiral into greater problems.

What’s the alternative? In my view, councils should be able to offer a positive incentive to people to move to smaller property when it’s available. This saves public money in the longer term (since the smaller place will have less rent and thus less benefit is needed), and a reasonable deal would be that the family get the same housing benefit for one year, which will help cover the cost of moving and give some incentive to do it. Using a carrot rather than a stick is more sensible as well as fairer, since it means that the family has the opportunity to benefit from a move as soon as it becomes possible, rather than being punished for the market’s failure to provide an alternative.

  1. …and some good news as well!

The Boots redevelopment has been approved, giving a huge boost to local jobs and housing.

Boots given go-ahead for huge development after Nottingham and Broxtowe councils approve plans

Boots given go-ahead for huge development after Not… NOTTINGHAM has taken a step closer to securing a major new development that could bring in thousands of jobs. The Nottingham Enterprise Zone will turn su…
View on www.nottinghampos… Preview by Yahoo

 

The main reservation here is to make sure it doesn’t create Rylands traffic problems. The plan is to make the access road to the site unattractive for rat-runners – it will be slow, winding, and replete with speed bumps!

Meanwhile, the Beeston Square development is gathering speed, and so is the Beeston Square redevelopment, with Costa opening, Pure Gym next and Wilkos expected soon after. As the tramworks finally clear the roads the bus services are resuming and businesses along the route are starting to feel more optimistic, with the Star aiming to attract more people for overnight stays. It’s been a horrible period for Beeston, but things will start to look very different in 2015.

That leaves the question of how best to exploit the site of the old multi-storey carpark, bus station and NET development. This is the “Phase 2″ development, and you may remember the New Deal for Beeston meeting which I organised last year to look forward to it. That showed a strong wish for a centre with interesting cultural and environmental features (a cinema, a roof garden…) and the Council has now adopted a motion incorporating those ideas in general terms.  The Civic Society has now announced a meeting to build on this: “Update on Beeston New Deal”: see

http://beestoncivicsociety.org.uk/2014/12/18/9th-january-2015-meeting-update-on-beeston-new-deal/

I’m delighted to have helped encourage this positive agenda, and hope to attend.

  1. The phantom Libdem candidate

If you live in Kimberley or Giltbrook, you may have received what seemed to be a new community magazine, called the “Ashfield and Eastwood Christmas Times”. If you opened it up, you’ll have found a host of articles explaining the wonders of the Liberal Democrats and terrible things about their rivals. Reading on, you’ll have learned that your LibDem candidate is Jason Zadrozny.

Who? He’s a councillor in Ashfield with no connection to Broxtowe, and apparently no knowledge of where the constituency boundary is. The LibDems still haven’t found a candidate in Broxtowe at all, though I expect they’ll pick someone in the New Year. Meanwhile, they’re paying Royal Mail to deliver Ashfield propaganda to Broxtowe.

A more serious point is that it’s the second dirty trick in a month – first the forged pro-Tory Facebook blog, and now the mock community newsletter, albeit sent to the wrong community. I don’t promise to say only popular things. But if you get something from me, it’ll be clear it’s from me.

Anyway! Regardless of your political preferences, I hope that you and yours enjoy a very happy Christmas and New Year. I expect to take a break myself for a week, though I’ll still be online if you want me.

All good wishes,

 

Nick

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

Toton by-election result

Hi all -

Just a note to say congratuations to Mia Kee for winning the by-election. The results were:

Mia Kee (Con) 952 (-525 compared with the Conservative average last time)

David Patrick (Lab) 454 (-442 compared with the Labour average)

Darryl Paxford (UKIP) 340 (-35 compared with last time)

Comparisons are difficult because there were 3 Con, 3 Lab and 1 UKIP candidate (and 3 LibDems) and because this one was held in typical December weather, so everyone’s vote fell. But it’s a good solid win for Ms Kee. UKIP, who initiated the by-election at a cost to taxpayers of around £20,000, again failed to make a major impact, though their share of the vote was up on 4 years ago.

Nick

 

 

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Fake message rounds off embarrassing Tory campaign/Recovery on YOUR credit card?

Hi all,

1.      A fake message rounds off the Tory by-election campaign

This last by-election before the General Election finishes on Thursday. The frankly embarrassing Conservative campaign seems to have rounded off with a fake message purporting to be from the Labour candidate David Patrick on the popular Spotted Toton Facebook community site, supposedly attacking himself and urging people to vote Tory (if you have Facebook you can see it at http://tinyurl.com/totonfake). What whichever Tory campaigners are behind this have done is take a genuine Facebook message from David Patrick (see http://tinyurl.com/patricktoton) and replace words to endorse their candidate instead.

A bit of a laugh is always welcome, but this isn’t really clever enough to be funny: it’s the social media equivalent of drawing a moustache on a poster, capping a campaign which has struggled to get off the ground. The basic difficulty that the Conservatives have is that they already have two councillors in Toton, and it’s not clear why having a third one would add anything.

I’m obviously biased, but if you’d like a bit of competition and spark in Toton politics, I hope you’ll support David Patrick, who so narrowly missed election as Toton and Chilwell’s County Councillor two years ago and is supported by prominent Toton Environment Protection Society members who are keen to have a voice for Toton inside the governing coalition. The choice is Labour, Conservative or UKIP – neither the LibDems nor the Greens are standing at all.

2.      Do you want economic recovery dependent on your credit card?

Moving to more serious national issues, it’s worth taking a closer look at the Institute for Financial Studies report from last week. This shows that the entire Government deficit reduction plans hinges on you getting into debt instead of the Government. To be precise, it requires a huge private spending binge of £360 billion, taking unsecured lending to a record 55%. The Government hopes that you will borrow so much that the ratio of private debt to income will reach 184% (unsecured and secured on private homes). This frenzy of spending would increase tax revenues through VAT, helping Mr Osborne to get a grip on Government debt, which has risen steadily ever since he took office.

See http://tinyurl.com/ifsreport for the full story.

Meanwhile, the plans to cut Government spending to the level of the 1930s. If the NHS and overseas aid are protected, as the Government claims they will, this will lead to mind-boggling cuts in policing, roads, defence and council services, with up to 40% lower budgets by 2020. Note that this is not a prediction by some left-wing pressure group, but by the Office of Budget Responsibility, which Mr Osborne set up to comment on Government strategy.

If the only thing that mattered was to reduce the deficit at any cost, which appears to be Mr Osborne’s objective, then this combination of wild private spending and savage Government cutting could make sense.

But consider the snags:

  • *  The unsecured private debt boom would recreate in Britain the over-extended credit that brought the whole world into recession in 2008. It would end in tears, as mortgage rates rose and home-owners found themselves hopelessly over-extended and faced with repossessions on a scale not seen since Mrs Thatcher.
  • * The emphasis on a recovery fuelled by domestic debt will make the balance of payments – already worsening every year – into a crippling drain on the economy. Instead of reviving manufacturing and service exports, the debt boom would temporarily boost consumer credit and suck in more imports.
  • * At some point, the unsecured boom will overextend and the balance of payments will become unsustainable. The process will then collapse and we’ll be back with a soaring deficit.

Do Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne really want all this? I’m not convinced that the Government has a coherent strategy at all:think they simply want to win the election and then hope for the best.

How would Labour’s plans differ from this? A key difference is that Labour would exclude investment from its aim to eliminate the deficit on current spending. This approach – endorsed by The Economist – avoids squeezing necessary investment in industry to help our production recover. Of course it would be nice to offer tax cuts all round, but it’s not sensible: the priority is to start to pay our way again. That produces a more manageable deficit reduction target which would enable the Government to get the economy back into balance without depending either on debt-fuelled consumer frenzy or massive cuts.

I don’t think the next five years are going to be easy for any Government, since the world recovery remains very fragile. But if we concentrate on rebuilding our production and services, we have a reasonable prospect of getting out of the downward spiral. To recreate the consumer crisis in order to give a temporary fix in government revenue makes no sense at all.

Best wishes

Nick

 

Posted in Broxtowe | Leave a comment

If this is localism, it’s ridiculous

Hi all,

1. The National Grid decides we need more building works

I’ve just heard that (a) the National Grid have announced that, after two years of excavation work for the tram project, they’ve decided that the time has come to dig up half of Beeston Square for six months to relay their gas main and (b) neither the MP nor the local authority have any legal power to complain, delay or object. The exact timing of the work is as yet unknown.

At any time during the tram development, the National Grid – one of the largest private energy companies in the world, with interests in both the UK and the US – could have done the work without causing much additional disruption. Instead, they waited until the work was almost finished before announcing their plans.

All political parties pay lip service to “localism”, i.e. the right of local authorities to coordinate local development. However, the privatised utilities seem to be entirely divorced from that, and simply follow their own agendas. Coupled with the fact that the tram works themselves were repeatedly disrupted by slow response by the utility companies, it’s time to look at their powers again. Each is a natural monopoly, which is why they ought to in the long term be brought back into public ownership. If that’s too expensive in the short term, at least we can follow the other European countries where there is more accountability and deadlines must be agreed and met. If I’m elected in May, this is an issue that I’ll take up. Utility monopolies are already a licence to print money; they should not also to be a licence to ignore common sense.

2. Concern over army unit transfer

A small point has arisen with possibly further-reaching implications. A constituent has asked me to raise concern about the proposed transfer of 49 (E) Brigade from Chetwynd barracks to a rural site. This will cause significant disruption and potentially loss of local jobs for families working with or connected to the unit, and it’s not clear that the new site – which I won’t identify for possible security reasons – will be as useful, since it’s further from the M1 and has no obvious natural advantages. I’ve written to the Secretary of State for Defence to ask him to review the proposal.

Apart from the concerns raised by the constituent, there is a question of whether this is just a rotation or the start of a reduction of use of the barracks. The latter could be worrying for local employment, though it might also present opportunities for brownfield housing development instead of some of the green belt development planned a little further west. If there is a significant change in prospect – and it must be stressed that we don’t know that yet – I hope that it will be fully discussed with the local authority and that they will take any opportunity to reduce the green belt plans.

Best regards,

Nick


 

 

Posted in Broxtowe | 2 Comments

Wilkinsons to return?

Hi all,

I thought this post on the popular Beestonia blog deserved wider circulation:

https://www.facebook.com/TheBeestonian

For those who don’t have Facebook access, the gist is that it looks as though Wilkinsons are returning to Beeston Square in a big way. I’ve heard this for some weeks as well, in the context of the council’s efforts to reinvigorate Beeston once the tram project is over, but the reports were not firm enough to be published.

A little caution is still advisable, as no deal is quite final until it’s published, but it’s excellent news if confirmed. Please pass this on to anyone that you think might be interested.

Nick

 

Posted in Broxtowe | 1 Comment