£15.6 million of savings announced

Cuts to Nottingham City Council services being announced. Consultation has begun.
Reasons –
– continued reduction of funds to local councils;
– continued redirection of money away from councils serving urban areas in The Midlands and the North;
– growth in ageing population and families & children who need extra support;
– promises by Government to fund the costs incurred through Covid-19 not being met provided;
– lost business for the Council’s commercial actives (e.g. theatres, leisure centres, markets):
– paying back borrowing incurred after the failure of Robin Hood Energy.
Incredibly frustrating to be carrying such burdens when Government services have so painfully been apparent in commissioning services – most especially track and trace – but also a range of services that councils could have provided.
The extra borrowing undertaken nationally could have relieved councils and seen them provide better services to meet the country’s needs.

Corporate failures and dodgy buying

The explosions in Beirut were shocking. The story of how the ammonium nitrate came to be stuck in the port for years is depressing. And starts with a ship owner who went bankrupt. The French president has been visible in expressing support for the Lebanese.  

Understandably, the story has overshadowed the tragedy of an oil tanker, sailing under a flag of convenience, running aground south of Mauritius and leaking oil over precious coral reefs. Mauritius says it needs help. The French president has been visible in expressing support. “We are there.”
And still railway companies want to to come up with more proposals to reduce staffing.  
Something always comes along that undermines health and safety.  
I hope it’s not oil trains. Or oil rigs. Perhaps it might be oil pipes.
Who knows what we face next in Britain’s corporate negligence?  

Especially now we’ve seen British ministers commission goods and services from companies ill-equipped to provide them.
Ferries from a company with no ferries.
Masks from a company that was newly founded and known to friends of friends. £3 a mask for 50 million masks that the NHS couldn’t use.

Austerity not cancelled after all

Letter was written on January 29th

FT report says they’re calling for 5% cuts, but protection is expected for improve health, fight crime or tackle regional inequalities. Then it mentions “Mr Javid already has a long list of spending priorities, ranging from social care to further education colleges”. So all over the place.

The end of austerity was announced in the spending review of 4th September last year.

Another missed opportunity

The Conservatives were the big losers of the local government elections.
And Labour can win when local groups and parties think it through and work at it.  
But the opportunity to compel over the cuts to local public services and the direction of our money to corporations and banks has been missed
= = = = = = = = = = = = 
The Conservatives have lost over 1300 Councillors, which even their mood setters didn’t predict. Labour lost 82.  
This against elections 4 years ago on a General Election turnout, when the Conservatives beat Labour by 2.5% points.
So how is the national share of the vote calculated to be 28% each?
Surely, the biggest losers have to be the Conservatives.  
In The Meadows, they were last.
They lost all 3 seats in Wollaton West and their only victory – in Clifton North – was narrower than expected.  
And they lost 1300 Councillors.  

The winners are the anti-politics independents.  
3 elected in Clifton East.  
Big numbers in Ashfield.
And gains across the country.  
Yet the Mansfield Mayor was lost to Labour, despite Labour losing 2 candidates.  
Labour gained in Gedling. and took Amber Valley.  
But was also set back in Derby.  

A mixed picture, kinda questioning how one simple national conclusion can be drawn. 
But there is plainly potential for local parties and councillor groups to make a difference over national trends.  

Then there’s these weird stories of places like Sunderland that voted Brexit now electing parties that advocate Remain.  

So is the story trust in the main parties? Well compared to the expenses issues of 2009, no. (And who are journalists to lecture politicians on trust.)
Then a Facebook friend says too much is read into local gov’t elections. Hey ho.

Brexit: the Uncivil War

Broadcast on Channel 4 tv, this made for tv film contends that the main story was a political heretic who listened to people more acutely than any other person or group, found the arguments that persuaded people that traditional focus groups didn’t and used new software and major databases such as Facebook’s to determine that the people who felt ignored and/or had not taken enough interest, to vote Leave.  
And people were prepared to believe we’d suffer from a wave of Turkish immigrants.
Have to be careful with a drama that creates scenes to tell the story.
But how much of it do we accept? It mentioned the problems in the labour market, which is often overlooked. It didn’t mention the numbers who just voted against Cameron. It rehearsed the complaints about creating an atmosphere whereby the views of experts were ignored. It suggested the solution might be to re-boot politics in a better way, but didn’t rehearse what that better way might really be.  
And I know I’m repeating myself, but the last proper re-boot we had was WW2 and the Attlee gov’t, which came out of some experience of gov’t making change for a purpose and a new universal deal for all.
Criticism of the film is that the dramatic device of holding the heretic to account in Parliament was not clearly enough understood, and the film does gloss over how the Leave campaign – creating fear of Turkish people and more – was racist.

There is no money tree

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Defending cuts to public services on the East Midlands version of BBC tv’ “Sunday Politics”, Conservative MP for Sherwood, Mark Spencer, said “There isn’t a money tree”.
Mediocre or what.
1. I don’t object to “quantative easing”, but it does feel a bit mythical and certainly, it’s been used for the benefit of the financial sector and the rich;
2. there is enough money to give away to corporations for cuts in their rates of tax;
3. what extra money announced above and beyond local government and health settlements has been awarded to those principal authorities with fewer less well off – Nottingham and Notts have lost out relative to Surrey – and you’d think a Notts MP would have something to say about that.

Comments (from 3rd April on…)
Alan Rhodes I object to being patronised by one of the most useless MP’s in Parliament
Alex Norris There isn’t a money tree. But there are choices. And time and time again this government have chosen to hit the poorest hardest to the benefit of the best off.


An alt-reality budget

Listening to Phillip Hammond’s budget speech, and seeing people praising it as it was given, always worth remembering the first golden rule of budgets – you need a few hours / days for it to be understood.

And sure enough, the broken promise on National Insurance became the story.

And if there’s some sympathy because there’s an issue to solve, reflect on how Labour had to fight 2015 charged with being unprepared to make that promise.
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Jezza has kicked off at the budget – it was sounding complacent and do have to say, ‘we are the party of the NHS’ when there are the issues there are (bed blocking, black alerts, long waits on trolleys, abandonment of 18 week targets, GP appointment problems) would be exhibit no. 1.

It’s the record numbers in work claim that confuses when so many people are seeking extra social security – or have already been written off by DWP procedures.

Claims of the richest 1% paying a greater share of the total income tax contribution is surely paralleled by the richest 1% earning a greater share.
Loads of analysis from many to come, but I also wonder if enough thought has been given to the potential of another economic crunch.

One final point, Midland Main Line electrification being deferred cos of concerns over Value for Money when new money has just been announced for road improvements to tackle pinch points on the road networks – which we have discovered before merely moves the pinch point.  For our environment, we need the extra investment to go into mass transport.

From Chris Leslie MP –
10 important points from the Chancellor’s Budget yesterday:
1. The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised “no increases in National Insurance contributions”, yet Class 4 NICs on self-employed profits will rise to 11% in 2019, costing an entrepreneur on £27,000 over £30 per month. (Tory MPs not happy – I’d expect a u-turn on this before long).
2. Small businesses are hit by a ‘double whammy’ not just from higher NICs, but also a reduction in the Dividend Allowance to £2000 from April 2018, which means less take home income for the self-employed too.
3. The Brexit challenge barely raised a mention in the Chancellor’s speech. The OBR say that “when the UK leaves the EU, the trading regime will be less open than before” adding that any new free trade deals with third countries would not be enough to prevent “lower trade intensity”. The Government will also miss their targets on trade and immigration – so it’s no wonder Brexit is airbrushed from the Budget.
4. On education, a handful of ‘free schools’ get £1bn over the Budget period, yet all the rest of our schools get just a quarter of that – £260m extra between them – over that same period.
5. The Business Rates hot-potato is handed across to local councils, who will have to cope with the administrative nightmare of running a discretionary support fund taking bids from companies in their area.
6. The headline £2bn extra for social care is spread over just three years and phased out again by 2020
7. DCLG Local Government budget is cut by more than 20% from £8.2bn in 2016-17 down to £6.5bn in 2017-18, and then again down to £5.5bn in the following year
8. Borrowing is expected to RISE from £51.7bn this year to £58bn next year, according to the OBR. They add “The Government does not appear to be on track to meet its stated fiscal objective to ‘return the public finances to balance at the earliest possible date in the next Parliament’. The deficit falls little in 2020-21 and 2021-22, while the ageing population and cost pressures in health are likely to put upward pressure on the deficit in the next Parliament.” (page 6 OBR report).
9. GDP growth is expected to moderate this year are rising inflation squeezes living standards and consumer spending (largely flowing from the sterling depreciation since the Brexit referendum). Economy forecast to actually grow less than expected at the Autumn Statement.
10. This is set to be the worst decade for pay growth in two centuries of earnings data (according to the Resolution Foundation).

Full Council – March 2017

IMG_6046ab0600h TCH CllrJC CllrGC mapBudget day – and agreeing £27 million of cuts despite raising Council tax by 4.9%.
The Conservatives nationally are to blame and the Conservatives locally say nothing to speak up for the injustice against Nottingham.
Pictured are Labour councillors pointing out how special transitional funds have been directed away from cities and towns in the North and The Midlands (featured on the maps in white). The government still refuse to publish the criteria used for the allocation of funds.
The other big theme – the crisis in funding for social care and the knock on effects on hospitals and health care. So a motion calling for extra national funding. Meanwhile the policy of seeking integration of health and adult services continues, even though aspects of the government’s STP version is not particularly helpful.

Finally, I made a statement recognising the impact of Professor Peter Mansfield and stating that Nottingham could well become known for being the hme of the MRI scanner – which the Nottingham Post on-line report turned into a questioning of such a claim. La de da.

Deutschland 83

When we think of close scrapes, then those who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and were old enough to know it, cite it as the time they thought the world might end.
1983 is overlooked, but the more we learn, the more it becomes clear that it might have happened.
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Deutschland 83,
a German production that has finished being broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 tv, tells the story of how military men in NATO thought a tactical nuclear war could be fought in, and limited to Europe, and leaders of The Warsaw Pact thought they needed to strike first before NATO did.  And Operation Able Archer could well have been the time when the mutual loathing and misunderstanding could have triggered nuclear exchanges.
Ronald Reagan is said to have been so shaken when he was briefed that the East actually believed the West was about to attack, that he changed tack and sought a new diplomacy.
The thriller series weaves in events and movements from the age, including movements I was a part of, with a spy genre to entertain and explain.
deutschland-83-28There were great moments and stories, some tragic, including of the secretary, manipulated into hoping and believing she’d found love, only to realise that she had to run and then fight for her life; and shockingly lose, just when she thought she’d escaped.
The drama series does have weaknesses – some of the twists being barely credible and some key dramatic moments being left to the imagination.
Things are different from ’83, and indeed ’45, ’49, ’62 and ’73.  Which is why it’s so depressing that arguments are still stuck in the fifties language of unilateralism and multilateralism, and the eighties portrayals of disarmament as cowardice and surrender.  2016 is not the most dangerous time in world history.  Renewing Trident would be a tragic waste of resource – and it’s such a shame that we, both west and east, lack the imagination to find a way to do something more useful on both sides.

People working need more help to get by

If Meadows people seeking help are anything to go by, then the number of Nottingham people getting social security to get by (even though they are working some hours) is going up.
And after a period when debt problems were going down, cos people were aware of the need to tackle problems early, debt problems are on the increase.
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Expanding …
From April 1st to 31st January, Meadows Advice Group helped on 664 matters,
gaining £1,155,653 benefits for residents (up slightly (£81k) on this point last year, which was already a record year),
helping to manage £171,816 of priority debt and
£191,497 of non priority debt, (both up proportionately higher).
Meadows Advice Group continue to report how benefits are being sought cos people are on zero hours, low hours or reduced hours.
Benefits up whilst apparently more people are in work (or not seeking job seekers allowance).
Some kind of economic miracle that.
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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, it was announced that Universal Credit will not reach Nottingham before December, and then only for single people.
(Not much coverage; how does Iain Duncan Smith get away with so much?)