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Our Politicians sold out our Farming and Fishing Communities to appease other EU Members when we joined. It would be as contradictory as it would be treacherous for them to do so again when the British People Voted to Leave

December 1, 2018 Leave a comment

 

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I’m proud to be British. To be part of the whole Community which populates the whole of this, our UK. To know that by striving to put what is in our best interests first, will allow us to contribute bigger, better and more considerate things to the World all around.

Yet I know that as businesses and as individuals we all have our part to play. That we are as a Nation, the sum of all our different parts. That if we purposefully neglect any type of business, industry, individual or group of people, we will disadvantage ourselves not in part or as a fraction, but collectively, together and in sum total as a whole.

It is shameful that our Politicians have reached a place where they do not see any need to do the same, and that they put self-interest before that of the people who directly elected them.

They have outsourced the responsibility with which they have been entrusted, instead looking upon their position of influence as something for their own use which they effectively own.

Two of the Communities that have rightly expected to have a different experience as a positive consequence of Brexit are those in and around Farming and Fishing.

Because British Agriculture and Fishing and the control of both our related resources and their markets were so prized by the Europeans – and particularly the French who as now were one of the most influential and key beneficiaries of the European Project – they were both key targets for industrial subjugation by the Michel Barniers and Guy Verhofstadts of the day.

As with Theresa May today, her predecessors of the time were so hell-bent upon winning what they perceived as being a beneficial relationship with the EU, that they were not only prepared to, but actively sold out and compromised these two World renowned and identifiably British Industries purely for what they wrongly told us would be an overall gain.

Joining the Common Market and becoming enslaved by the evolution and thereafter legitimised assimilation of everything which was once under our own control, through undemocratic rule making, implementation and administrative control creep of the European Project has left both UK Agriculture and UK Fishing as mere shadows of what they would otherwise now have been.

There was no gain for Farming and Fishing.

UK Farming and Fishing have only experienced a net loss.

Subsidies have removed competitiveness from smaller scale specialist farming and created a dependent culture through the industry whilst making it near impossible to build a genuinely profitable business either without the scales of economy or without diversifying businesses into a range of areas which either have to be uniquely niche or have the ability to buck the online retail trends.

The travesty we have witnessed where fields stand idle because it is more cost effective for farmers to do nothing with them, and huge swaths of land have become more useful to owners for leisure rather than production has hurt our farmers, but the Country too. And it is clearly no accident that as a result of the requirements of EU Membership, we could not be further away from self-sufficiently as a Nation, if national emergency were to require that of the UK too.

Our Fishing rights were always prized by all the European Countries who have their own Fleets too and the EU must have thought all of it’s Christmases had arrived all at once, the day that an out of touch politician ceded those Rights and with them access to all of our Fishing, leaving greed on the part of Foreign Powers to lead to overfishing and abuse of our Fishing Stocks, without us having any ability to influence or bring a halt to this very unwelcome tide.

Many of our trawlers were simply scrapped to adhere to the EU’s implementation of quotas, where the idea of balance between 28 nations is to share out access to resources and markets. We are one, they are twenty seven. When we have great things which we give away to be shared, the point of balance move not towards the one and to a point which is not difficult to picture. Is this fair? You decide.

Within both industries and despite the buy-offs from The EU, which have ironically only ever been our own money, repackaged and sold as a form of benevolence which would otherwise be denied, Farming and Fishing communities up and down the United Kingdom votes Leave and instructed Politicuans to bring back their futures, like all of ours, to the determination of our own democratically elected politicians. They rejected The EU, it’s autocracy and inherent self-interest and said we have a much better future ahead.

Yet as Remsiners have taken ever step possible and used every opportunity possible to overturn the democratic will of the people and that which our farming and fishing communities displayed, they have continued to overlook and ignore the realities of the power and potential benefits that all of our businesses, industries, people and communities hold.

These lacklustre politicians want to sell us out yet again, completely oblivious to the many great worlds we have throughout the UK, dismissing the validity of anything they do not understand and attempting to create an even closer union with the EU whilst telling us they are delivering the will of the people with the assumption that what they say will be taken as being the truth, whilst the truth itself can from the safety of London always be cleverly denied.

Feeding the UK is a vital part of our future. We must prioritise UK Agriculture and Fishing once again and dismiss these destructive EU systems which have never benefitted any of us in the UK in any meaningful way. We know they aren’t good for us because we’ve had decades of them being tried.

Image thanks to the times.co.uk

Young people and rural voters could all be kept happy with solutions to the Foxhunting debate that are already hiding in plain sight

December 25, 2017 Leave a comment

images (5)Like Brexit, Hunting has become an emotive subject which is safest left far away from discussion with people we know little about.

Few of us consciously acknowledge why this really is, and the elements of a solution which has the potential to be one supported by all have become hidden by the polarisation of ideas. The inevitable isolation of facts which follows is seen as an unacceptable compromise for each party as they become ever reluctant to recognise validity in any idea which extends beyond the scope and value set of their own.

The biggest elephant in the room for Hunting, is that no matter what supporters or those against this pastime tell us, the debate has long since been anything to do with either the activities or survival of a fox. Yet the actions of both groups in the debate present a story which is very different. If a resolution that works for all is genuinely to be found, each side and the politicians in between them will have to accept that both sides will have to be far more practical in the way they manage the pathways of their respective idealistic ground.

With the various truths presented as fact by some and interpreted as myth by others, the objective reality of this ‘sport’ is that it has very little to do with being competitive and everything to do with a highly social and lifestyle movement, which to its own detriment has become obsessive about a perceived right to hunt our indigenous wild-dog.

The world has moved on. Very few of us believe that the most efficient way to control any kind of mammalian pest, is to become hierarchically attired, mount a very expensive and well-kept horse and then charge around what is left of the open countryside with forty or more others doing exactly the same. Trundling alongside a pack of perhaps a hundred English Foxhounds who are never as happy as when they are simply out for a very long run.

In the years since the implementation of the ‘hunting ban’ under the tenure of the last Labour Government, Hunts around the Country have been doing surprisingly well without any genuine need to reverse the purpose of the Legislation. Hunt protesters and saboteurs would beg to differ, as foxes can often be disturbed and find themselves at the mercy of a brutal, but nonetheless non-intentional act, and it is at this point that we should perhaps all be minded of the propensity of accidents and the fact that many, many more foxes are likely to be killed on the roads during hunting season, than those uncovered accidentally by any hunt which should happen to gallop past.

Open discussion regarding the experience of death for any human or animal concludes quickly for any rational person, as soon as the presence of any deliberate cause or intent is removed. Like it or not, we cannot control that which cannot be controlled, and seeking to prevent any form of accident would easily bring into question just about everything that we do.

Those against hunting – even in its current form should remember this well and be ever mindful of the progressive leap which has already been achieved. There now needs to be an acceptance that this fieldsport is nothing like what it once was and that any form of resentment based upon perception alone, whilst dressed up as a legitimate debate will help no one.

Hunts and the hunt lobby itself would likewise do well to recognise and accept that killing foxes at any costs by applying the law in its most literal sense is a self-defeating act. Using devices such as large birds of prey to kill foxes they have uncovered, gives the true lie to an unnecessary intention and mindset which itself continues to fuel the antagonistic fervour and physical-activist approach of those against whom they have in some cases become violently opposed.

Hunting in its current form and in the way it really should now evolve, is not just the preserve of the wealthy and the one percent which many now love to hate. It is a lifestyle enjoyed by people from all backgrounds and we are as likely to see a plumber, builder or chef taking part as a rider, as we would a landowner or a London banker out for a day from their country home.

It is time that we recognised that Hunting is not about foxes and can be enjoyed by anyone. The Hunts need to stop attempting to play the rules and accept the spirit of the hunting ban in the manner in which it was implemented. The anti-hunt lobby should accept and recognise that they themselves have no legitimate right to police the activities of any hunt, and that holding a set of different ideas to someone else doesn’t mean that we have no choice but to physically collide.

The Hunting Act desperately needs intelligent and considered reform. There is nothing to be gained from it simply being overturned. The direct and related steps that a government seeking to deliver a revised act that would appropriately consider the rights, welfare and respect for the genuine rule of law for all – including the fox itself, could however include:-

Making it illegal to:

  • Intentionally and/or proactively pursue a fox as, for or as part of a social gathering, either directly with dogs or indirectly with alternative measures such as firearms or birds of prey.
  • Intentionally and/or proactively interfere with the activities of any hunt, its members, supporters or guests so convened as a social gathering

Recognising that:

  • Genuine intent is everything. That accidents do occur and no hunt, officer, member, guest or supporter thereof should ever be held liable for the result of any fox or other mammal being uncovered by a group of hounds during the course of a social hunt

Reviewing the role of the RSPCA:

  • Either restructuring the Governance structure of the Charity’s ‘Council’ to ensure that appointments are democratic and reflective of the impartial and non-political nature of the responsibilities with which the RSPCA has been entrusted
  • Or removing the responsibility and prosecutorial role of the RSPCA altogether, perhaps passing them to local authorities where democratic transparency and professional impartiality would be easier to monitor and define

With the current political environment having made hunting feel almost impossible to discuss, it is little wonder that our embattled Prime Minister is looking to secure votes by being perceived to be considering switching sides. The irony of such a choice is that divisive as Foxhunting may be, the very best solution will be making the effort and winning the arguments which will deliver a less than perfect, but nonetheless beneficial win for all.

Odd as it may seem to many of today’s political class, solutions which work for all of us are always possible, whenever there is a genuine willingness to talk.

 

image thanks to businessinsider.com

 

 

 

Flooding: It’s wet, getting wetter and the funds are drying up. Government Reform and Policy change is the only way to get all the protection that we need and that process must start now

February 10, 2014 1 comment

Flooding and the affects that it can have on all of us has been a consistent theme since the very beginning of my time as a local Councillor near Tewkesbury.

In July-August 2007, Adam spent over 2 weeks coordinating and delivering bottled water across the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward. Pictured here in Pamington delivering to the service point set up by then County Councillor Gordon Shurmer

In July-August 2007, Adam spent over 2 weeks coordinating and delivering drinking water supplies across the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward. Pictured in Pamington unloading at a service point set up by then County Cllr Gordon Shurmer

If you come from outside the immediate area, memories of the summer of 2007 and the notoriety of the July ‘Floods’ in Gloucestershire tend to focus attention more on the water shortages that hit the County for those who still remember, rather than the significant and extremely rapid flooding event responsible which took place in just one day on Friday 20th July 2007.

In less than 48 hours, the life that we all so easily take for granted was compromised. Not because of a war, famine or catastrophic crash of our economy, but because the drinking water in our taps was literally switched off when flood water polluted the tanks at the Mythe Water Treatment Plant near Tewkesbury. These floods suddenly affected everyone, and not just those who had been flooded out; many of whom were themselves within whole neighbourhoods where river torrents coming through your home would normally be the very last thing on your mind on a midsummer day.

The complacency and complete lack of urgency demonstrated by officials that follows an event of this magnitude when life is perceived to be ‘back to normal’ is a strange thing to deal with if you have had firsthand experience of it. But this is exactly what people in Tewkesbury and the surrounding Villages have had to frustratingly deal with ever since and what the people of the Somerset Levels have clearly had to endure now too.

Sadly, Towns, Villages, Hamlets, Communities and Businesses simply at risk of flooding don’t have the newsworthiness of water in the way it does when it literally covers the ground. This is a real problem for anyone living with the realities of these events as news teams seldom camp out for anything good. Most people would much prefer not to have the camera crews taking up semi-permanent residence ever again to report such stories. But it seems that it will take exactly that to happen before any sense of urgency to deal with existing and weather-changing threats or those that Developers may indeed be creating, will be adequately addressed.

Taking nothing away from the many people who spent up to a year living in caravans on their driveways after the 2007 pluvial ‘event’ who now also have insurance ‘blight’ as a result, some areas around Tewkesbury and Gloucester such as the historic Village of Walton Cardiff in the Ashchurch with Walton Cardiff Ward that I represent regularly have to face the prospect of river or fluvial flooding too.

Residents there have sadly come to be so used to it, that one homeowner with the means to do so has even bought an amphibious buggy which he uses to help other Residents when the roads become impassable. Whilst community-minded in the extreme, I will probably be far from alone in having concerns that such acts are taken by Government Politicians to mean that there is a general acceptance on the part of those living with the risk of flooding that they are simply happy with the status quo. Let me tell you; they aren’t.

The constant threat of both types of flooding is never far from the minds of those whose homes are at risk of either the flooding that it is ‘reasonable’ to expect, or that which ‘normal’ disaster planning doesn’t allow for that comes in the form of events that the Environment Agency and other Organisations communicate in terms such as ‘a one in a hundred year event’.

The problem is that the Floods in question aren’t only happening once every one hundred years or whatever the particular ‘banding’ may be and the type of lottery derived statistics that are being used as this benchmark for support to our communities is now proving to be a form of gamble that’s only paying off for those who are most distant from the problem.

There are actually some very painful realities sitting behind the lack of support for our communities. Getting the results that we all need relies on a significant number of issues needing to be addressed and whilst I have no intention of dismissing the action that the Prime Minister and Eric Pickles are now reactively taking to the Somerset problems in particular, it is only by dealing with all the problems comprehensively – and accepting that matters which on the face of it have little to do with Flooding also have an effect – that there will ever be any genuine first and meaningful steps to dealing with this situation in its truest depth.

The interactive nature of these contributory issues with other seemingly non-related Policies make statements like that made by the the Environment Agency Head Lord Smith last week potentially misleading. Suggesting that there may be a hard choice to be made over whether we protect Towns and Cities or Rural Areas is arguably very subjective indeed. Whilst in the sense of funding for defence and maintenance work accurate, a statement like this doesn’t take into consideration the other contributory issues that come with it. The issues include:

Funding

In isolation, we can all easily draw the conclusion that solving Flood Defence problems is just about the money that Local Authorities, Central Government Departments and Non Government Organisations such as the Environment Agency have to spend. But it isn’t.

Essentially any work that is undertaken does have to be paid for by the public purse as Flood Prevention is fundamentally in the public interest. However, the days when such an issue in itself was enough to trigger an immediate and responsive spend on a ‘size doesn’t matter’ basis has long gone – if it ever actually existed before in anything other than wartime.

The problem for us today is that the Country is now effectively bankrupt after generations of profligate spending by Government on Policies which are considered populist only in the sense of the number of votes that they will win. They should have been in the best interests of the wider community – which is arguably how every political decision should actually be made.

Budgets are and will most likely continue to be cut from all Publicly Funded Organisations and will continue to do so whilst the gargantuan plate-spinning effort to keep the Economy and Public Spending from smashing on the floor continues. Lack of discussion and reference to the National Debt, whilst overplay on the prospect of reaching a zero Deficit in maybe a few years time is a key indicator of the high stakes game that is already well in play. Any upward change in spending that might come from a change in Government could actually bring matters to a conclusion even sooner.

The £100 Million promised just to the Somerset Levels alone this week might sound like a lot of money to those struggling to survive on an average wage. But in real terms and without any unfortunate pun intended, it is in reality a mere drop in the ocean of the fund that would actually be needed to cover the cost of protecting the UK against Flooding if no other options were to be genuinely considered.

Painful as it is to accept, the fact is that without significant change in the way that all parts of Government raise and spend money, there will never be anywhere near enough funds to address the Flooding problems with a cash only solution and Government really needs to start being straight with people about this.

Planning

Prevention is almost certainly better than waiting to work on a cure. Whilst many people who have experience of a Flood Event will already have significant anecdotal evidence to illustrate how building on flood plains has exacerbated the problems that we already face, it is the Planning Policies and Procedures which exist today that provide part of the greatest threat to both individual properties and whole communities.

Unloading water at the Wheatpieces Community Centre, Walton Cardiff, near Tewkesbury, following the July 2007 Floods

Unloading bottled drinking water at the Wheatpieces Community Centre, Walton Cardiff, near Tewkesbury, following the July 2007 Floods

A good example is that Planning Policy arguably only takes fluvial flooding into account, the effects of which themselves can open to the bizarrest forms of interpretation possible. A case which demonstrates this well would be the Wheatpieces Development within my Ward, some of which is well known locally to have been built on what was mapped historically as flood plain. However, I understand that it is not considered to be as such for Planning purposes by the Environment Agency – and therefore Planners – because the houses built on these areas were erected on built up land or infill which when the earthworks were completed then complied with the requirement of being the required ground level height above Ordnance Datum Newlyn, which I also understand was at the time of Permission being granted, some 12 Feet.

Such an undertaking is for current Planning purposes apparently enough to quantify that a development has not been constructed on Floodplain, but then gives sparse consideration for the knock on effects that creating an island in the middle of natures own flood remedy will have had on properties that would otherwise have been at significantly less risk of flooding. Build as many reed beds and flood tanks under a new development as you like, but when storms of the nature we are now experiencing come in the increasingly menacing way that they do, such developments can be akin to dropping a breeze block into an overflowing bath.

Some will call it cynical to say this, but evidence strongly suggests that the deficiencies in Planning Policy today leave existing homes and developments open to threat from the increased risk of flooding which is created by new developments – the properties upon which are unlikely to face the same threat. Couple this with the headlong rush by successive governments to build houses as the silver bullet to solve all ills, and you might begin to realise the level of threat that a Planning Policy which does not consider the whole picture has actually become. Planning Policy isn’t actually working in the best interests of anybody other than the Politicians, builders and companies that lend people the money to buy the new houses.

The irresponsibility of the Government and Opposition in hanging the fate of the Economy and those desperate for affordable homes on house building is not only fueling the growth of an already uncontrollable credit bubble; it is also determining a fate of misery and loss to the owners and occupants for many existing homes who will almost certainly be put at greater risk of flooding.

The role of ‘Respondents’ of the Planning Process

Symptomatic of our correctness culture has been the exponential rise of the Quango and distribution of powers to what are non-elected Bodies, some of whom don’t even report to Government Ministers. A number of these are involved in both the Planning system as ‘Respondents’, but also within the other processes which relate to Flood Prevention.

A great weight of responsibility has been given to many of these Organisations and their opinion, view or interpretation of their Policy in relation to specific cases and subsequently are seen to have what can sometimes feel like limitless power to those who have witnessed it.

Alone, their objections can halt an application on the spot, whilst the absence of an objection from any such Respondent can and does lead Members of Planning Committees to conclude that objecting to an application is little more than a futile act, as with these agencies not objecting, a Planning Inspector will surely approve it should the Application then go to Appeal.

With all working to very centralised; one-size-fits-all Policies which are without any real consideration for the very localised issues that the Planning System does encounter and specifically Flooding issues, the realities of the influence that these bureaucratic entities have is significant. Developers know that if they table Applications that effectively tick all the boxes that each of these Organisations have on their checklists, Local Authority Planning Committees simply won’t have a prayer if a developer then takes a rejection to Appeal  – which they rarely have hesitation in doing so.

The influence that these Organisations have over the Planning Process is simply too much and is at best an arbitrary way of dealing with what are ever increasingly sensitive issues that require a level of interpretation, consideration and understanding which genuinely reflects locality and the concept of Localism that the Coalition Government has done so much to sell itself upon.

Maintenance – when money isn’t a problem

The Environment Agency once again plays a critical role in the preventative maintenance which is already or should already be undertaken on watercourses and rivers, as do Local Borough, District, County and Unitary Authorities that have Drainage responsibilities.

The often complex relationships or rather chain of decision making that arises as a result of multiple organisations or ‘stakeholders’ being involved in a decision relating to Flood Prevention will almost always cause delays, or worse still, like the Planning Process, will result in one of them being perceived to carry more weight, and for the buck to effectively stop with them. In a compensation and blame culture, taking action actually appears to be the very last thing on the mind of the Representatives of these Organisations, and this can serve no purpose other than their own.

Sadly I do not recall one conversation with Residents or indeed other Politicians which has reflected positively upon the work of the Environment Agency. I have spoken to Farmers who have watercourses and rivers crossing their properties and most look back comparatively fondly on one of the forerunners of the Environment Agency, the National Rivers Authority (NRA) which is remembered for a much more proactive, less obstructive and therefore constructive approach to clearance and dredging.

I can remember seeing specially modified tractors working the banks of the contributory rivers to the Severn during the period of the NRA’s tenure and it is clear that anecdotal evidence of the benefit of such work correlates well with a period when fluvial flooding seemed to affect a whole lot less of the area.

The NRA itself adopted the responsibilities which were once included within the portfolio of the ten former Regional Water Authorities with what we now know to be this expensive, but critical form of work not being adopted by the privatised Water Companies. One could easily conclude that the formation of the Environment Agency and absorption of the NRA within it in 1996 was seen as the ideal time to cut back on proactive and costly Flood Prevention works and that this may have been considered a much safer time to do so rather than the late Eighties when Privatisation itself took place.

I will add that one of my own experiences of questioning an Environment Agency Representative during a post-flood seminar held at Tewkesbury Abbey in the weeks following the 2007 Flood, I can honestly say that I found the responses given to my questions on dredging and clearance to be conflicting. I walked away with the distinct impression that giving excuses rather than any meaningful response was the chosen modus operandi  of this Organisation – even when they might have honestly said  ‘there isn’t the money available’.

Distance and lack of situational objectivity on the part of decision makers

Flooding is an issue that is simply not recognised for the problem that it is right now, has been and will be by Government and the Staff of the Organisations that matter. People making  decisions do not have the first hand knowledge or exposure not only to the Flood incidents themselves, but to what can be the very localised nature of the contributory factors as they exist today and how they may come into play as the result of apparently unleashed development.

Officers of all the Organisations discussed who may be rightly and properly qualified to be called experts arguably don’t use their expertise in the way that the public should rightly expect. Tick box decision making appears to have replaced that of using common sense and recognising the need to seek the fullest perspective, arguably for little more reason than the threat which comes from taking responsibility within the protectionist culture which is now an inherent part of Government Administration.

The earlier system of buck-passing which grew decision making into a very expensive system of ‘one-job, one-role; keep passing it on until we can justify engaging a consultant’, has systematically inflated the size of ‘back room operations’, and taken money that was available away from frontline service delivery, where ironically as a result, the need for even more precise and robust decision making becomes ever more critical. We can all see the results.

The Weather

There is no question that weather patterns are changing. We don’t however know if this is due to a phenomenon like global warming, or whether it is actually part of very extensive climate changing cycles which have affected the earth historically, and which there is evidence to suggest might be the case.

Whatever the cause, it is clear that Government and the Organisations involved have not developed a proactive bias to Flood Prevention measures and that the approach taken is far more reactive in nature. It is what could easily be called ‘out of site; out of mind’ management, as work only seems to be concentrated on issues which are in the Public view – or can be guaranteed to be regularly so.

Many will probably be quietly asking whether the ‘intensity’ of effort now focussing on Somerset will for instance continue once the roads are passable and life is deemed to have returned to ‘normal’.

These are apparently ‘irregular’ events after all. But it was indeed telling that the Military first arrived in the form of just two Personnel who apparently decided that there was nothing at that point which they could do. Given that much of the amphibious and landing–type craft which could at very least help these stranded Communities are likely to be based with Royal Marine and Royal Naval Units in the South and South West anyway, should it really have been that difficult to put some of these vehicles on low-loading lorries and get them to the Levels within a few hours? 

Either way, attitudes must change even if the funds are limited. Government has been entrusted with great power on our behalf along with the responsibility to use it. So why aren’t they?

The painful reality is that there are likely to be other contributory factors that I and certainly others are not aware of, but which are important all the same.

Money is the overriding factor which has, is and will continue to inhibit the development of capital flood defence projects whether they are inland, riverside or on the coast and there is a danger that neither the realistic sums which could be raised for these projects, nor the changes in the many other policy areas that could positively assist will come into being unless there is a complete change in the way that Politicians assess, develop and then act upon their priorities.

Tewkesbury in Flood. Image thanks to www.theguardian.com

Tewkesbury in Flood. Image thanks to http://www.theguardian.com

As we have seen in Tewkesbury with the effect on water supply; in Devon with the effect on Railways and in Somerset with the effect upon land and roads; doing nothing places critical Infrastructure at risk. So funnelling truckloads of borrowed cash into any service or benefit that will put around 350 MP’s or more in power for the next five years when all they will then do is think about doing the same again – all to the incalculable cost of the majority of Taxpayers – can simply no longer be sustained.

With money being the problem that the Government doesn’t want to talk about, it is unlikely that any Minister will stand up any time soon and simply say ‘we don’t have the money to do all the work that needs doing’. Even less likely would be finding one of them saying and actually meaning ‘we don’t have all the money, but we will make all the changes that we possibly can which will serve all of your interests’ best’.

When these Politicians have moved past the sound bites, the portrayals of being belated men of action and giving hollow apologies when pinned down by interviewers, the best advice any Politician could now take would be to stop treating the Electorate like they are idiots and that the issues facing Government are beyond their understanding.

Good communication crosses all barriers and honesty coupled with the emotional intelligence that can only be utilised by those who are fully ‘in touch’ with issues will surely build the foundations of a wholly different kind of support. They might start by:

Listening Locally

It will be in everyone’s interests to develop a culture where local voices are heard even when they don’t have the profile of people like Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival who wrote a very useful and telling article in the Mail on Sunday on 2nd February 2014.

Mr Eavis brought precisely the kind of invaluable and historical knowledge of the Somerset Levels to the table that no doubt many people could, if they were given the opportunity to do so.

Too much useful information is discounted because of the emotional buy-in that often accompanies very local issues and which is often badged as being Nimby-ism. Yes, there are people who will say no to everything simply because they don’t want change or others who make demands simply because they want something for themselves. But applying this very negative and destructive view on anyone who is promoting a local view, without taking adequate steps to discern the value from what they may be saying, is ultimately selling everyone short and is far from the hallmark of a fully enlightened form of Politics.

Reforming the Planning System and creating Local Planning Courts to make Localism really mean something and empower local people in the process

In the absence of the money that we need being available without either borrowing or taking money from services which may actually be invaluable elsewhere, Planning and its reform will be a key factor in proactively addressing future Flood Events.

Power of veto – whether negative or indeed positive, should never be held in the hands of unelected bureaucrats or people who are neither trained nor prepared to make decisions which truly reflect the very localised and area specific issues which relate to flooding.

We must move away from tick-box decision making which brings little more than the one-size-fits-all mentality to almost every Planning Application that will have an affect on the wider community and particularly so when it comes to Flooding.

Agencies and Local Authorities should inform, but ultimately not define the planning process and the only eventuality in which Government Ministers should intervene should be at moments when the genuine National interest overrides that of the local community and those who will be directly impacted by developments within it.

This could be done by transferring all Planning Decisions to a local ‘Planning Court’, in which evidence could be given by the Applicants, all respondents and interested parties to a Judge or panel, but where the power of appeal is limited to the same or a similarly localised Court, and where the Policies upon which decisions are based are those developed democratically by the Local Council’s themselves.

Such a process would be much more tailored to localised needs and allow and encourage Agencies to advise rather than administer, and leave people feeling much more empowered when it comes to their fate. It would also give the opportunity to consider new forms of information that come available through advances in technology and understanding, such as up-to-date computerised flood or water behaviour mapping, which would allow considerations to be made for issues such as pluvial flooding, which is likely to become ever relevant.

Central Government would have its role to play in assisting this by changing all appropriate Policies to reflect a genuine need-led, rather than projected development requirement and bringing into being all forms of legislation to prevent economic reliance and profiteering from building developments and multiple property ownership which skews the market.

Moving responsibility for Preventative Maintenance back to the Water Companies

It seems incredible that dredging and maintenance didn’t remain the responsibility of the Water Companies after Privatisation, but now makes a great deal more sense as we begin to gain a better understanding of the true costs involved and the resistance of any private company to undertake work which may be in the public interest, but which itself is distinctly non-profitable in nature.

The Water Companies gain significant benefit from the use of rivers and watercourses both as a source of water and as a route of discharge for treated effluent which no longer has value in its current form. These Companies could once again be harnessed with the responsibility for all the services that they once were before Privatisation and thereby take a more commercial approach to long term flooding defence and maintenance provision, which it would seem most natural for them to do so.

With successive Governments already responsible for failing to adequately regulate the profiteering nature of these Companies, the risk that the transfer of this responsibility would be seen as just another opportunity to raise fees would be real. As such, this would be another vital area where Government would have policy making work to do, but where the blood and guts approach of a return to real conviction and end-user focus politics could really make a profound difference in future flooding risk, whilst also dealing with key components of the real cost of living crisis.

Government Reform to facilitate the Funding that can come from no other source

Ultimately, only significant capital spending of a level which the Country currently cannot afford would provide the sea defences, river defences and perhaps even dykes of the kind seen in the Netherlands that the UK may now actually need to protect against and limit existing threats that exist right now. And there is of course the requirement to ‘future-proof’ or to then prevent against the impact and escalation which comes from the changes in weather patterns.

The money to do this will never be available whilst Government spending continues on the levels based only upon election-focussed service provision and a benefits system which propagates legitimate abuse. The services which attract most public money are themselves at risk from the same black financial cloud hovering above us, but could be run far more cost effectively – and arguably at lower cost – with the kind of holistic, joined-up and end-user focus reform that so many services provided by Government now need. Public servants must be encouraged to move away from the ‘what’s will be the benefit or risk to me’ culture and start focussing on a ‘how we can do the best possible for Taxpayers’ culture instead.

Sticking plaster solutions are no answer either to Flooding issues or to the many other problems which the Government faces. Parliamentarians seem so unwilling to tackle complex policy making and reform for the greater good and meanwhile, almost everyone else suffers.

Getting to the place where communities need to be; a place where they feel safe, protected and able to maintain a basic standard of living that doesn’t require lending money or a compromise of the services that they should be able to expect is a long and tough journey.  People must again be trusted locally by Parliamentarians and empowered to deal with the matters which relate only to their own fate, without centralised Policy or non-elected bureaucrats being able to override them.

A Coalition Government will never be equipped to even begin taking the steps which will be necessary to achieve this because they are by their very nature a relationship built upon compromise. You will never get the very best solution for all when a compromise has been necessary.

We can only hope that the next Government will take their responsibilities to all of us far more seriously. But with things looking as they are, it may not happen next time either.

See Adam’s related Blogs on:

Flooding

Dealing with the Energy Companies

Why the Political focus on house building is wrong

The Real Cost of Living Crisis

The influence of Utility Providers on the cost of living

The commonalities between bankers, blame-based lawyers and union bosses that touch us all and can only be dealt with by a change in the mind-set of Government first and the policies which will then follow afterwards

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Crazy as it may seem, many of the problems and fears facing society as a whole are inextricably linked and propagated by us all through a mesh of similar behaviours and actions. These are marked apart only by simple interpretation, knowledge, and the differences of public perspective that are all too often profitable for politicians and activists to retain.

One such example of this within this libertarian age is the ‘feel-good’ which comes from targeting those who most openly profit through the exploitation of others, and the apparent greed and avarice of high-level bankers and wealthy tax-dodgers has captivated ill-feeling within many. But is it really possible for just those few to ride off the backs of many others within a society which paints itself as being considerate of all others; or is this just the one end of a predominantly passive chain slowly strangling the UK as part of an evolving something-for-nothing and therefore self-before-all culture?

As unpalatable as it may seem, there is a distinct thread of commonality which runs from the profiteering of the hated fat-cats, through the behaviour of politicians, the influence of those promoting and making blame-based-claims, to the actions of union leaders and their seemingly strike-happy members to beyond in a way that very few would outwardly wish to knowingly associate. The sad reality is that each and every one of the self-beneficial acts that we probably at some point will have all pursued, goes on to have a negative impact upon others and usually so in a much greater number than just ourselves.

At one end of the spectrum, bankers and pension fund managers sat in plush London offices think little of the impact that pressure on retailers or energy providers to raise profits will have on end users – a point which may turn out to have been very well illustrated by the horse meat scandal and the continuing issues surrounding milk prices for farmers where margins are squeezed to unsustainable levels.

A few miles down the road, ‘career’ politicians make decisions which will affect 60 Million people based upon their chances of getting re-elected or promoted, whilst the oversold age of austerity does little to deliver any real reduction in deficit but leaves the very same people paying a higher price just the same.

Meanwhile clever animations with manipulated pop-songs and actors posing as glamorous lawyers promote the resignation of any self responsibility in accidents and the idea that somebody else is always fully to blame and must therefore pay in a very easy way, whilst the prices of almost every insurance policy in the land rises as a result.

Then in the papers, public sector union barons tell us that the Government is to blame for the slashing of services up and down the Country, when it is actually the unrealistically beneficial working conditions, wages and the limitation of responsibilities they have ransomed for their members over the course of many years which have contributed most to the destruction of a once enviable system which is sadly no longer able to sustain itself.

It is indeed ironic that it is the rise of ‘rights’ for the individual in the workplace and in just about every other part of life thereafter that strangle the rights and lives of others at every turn, and then come back full circle to a point where it is the jobs of those who sought those rights in the first place which are no longer sustainable because of the costs of the legislation and conditions that those very same enhanced rights have come to impose – generally because they have long since surpassed the point of doing good.

In every case, the public and customers at large end up paying through higher prices for food, fuel, taxes, insurances, lessening standards and losses within public services which are destroying quality of life and in some cases will probably lead to deaths if they have not already done so.

The true impact of the rising cost of living itself and the growing impact it will have upon low-income families and those in middle England who end up subsidising just about every other part of life has yet to truly manifest itself. But without change in each and every part of life and the way that every one of us approaches it, what we consider to be painful now, may soon become truly horrific.

Most of us do of course read every situation we face in life in terms of how it makes us feel and how it will impact upon us personally, rather than how it will affect the others involved, irrespective of how near or how far from us through a chain of resulting reactions they may actually be.

So in the same way that the banker raises profits by indirectly pushing the price of food up by continually pushing for better margins from the retailers that they own, union bosses demand higher wages for members so that they can afford to keep ahead of cost of living rises, with the ultimate effects being pretty much the same whichever way you choose to look at it.

Getting to a point where the balance is redressed in every sense is not a journey that any of us can toy with lightly, even though it would be politically expedient for any one of the groups discussed or their libertarian or profit-hungry apologists to do so.

The complexities brought into being when people prioritise themselves or manipulate others to do the same are enormous and much easier to embrace than they are to replace. Sadly, those who have become emotionally tied only to themselves without due regard to the result of their actions upon others are caught in a spiralling trap. One which is increasingly negative and encourages the growth of the ever evolving paranoia which accompanies the concept that all problems are of someone else’s making and that others must be made to pick up the tab.

Tackling a problem which is now cultural and has become so through many years of conditioning via the self-serving leadership of successive Governments is no easy task. Fundamentally, this is a problem which does not discern between demographics or social class and is defined only by the medium in which it is applied by the individual. It has been enhanced by the perception of close proximity, delivered by ease of communication through distance and propagated by the ease of buy-in which has itself been empowered by the two-edged-sword which is the media age.

Ultimately, self awareness and therefore responsibility of the individual has to be the aim of real Government as it will prove to be far more liberating and beneficial to everyone than the fleeting benefits any impractical plot cooked up by politicians as an easy and profitable crowd-pleaser.

It is the responsibility of those who led us here and are most likely to be happy with the status quo to lead us away from it and that is where the greatest difficulty arises.

Politicians can not only make the necessary policy changes to bring about a change which is much bigger than being about policy itself; they can also lead us in a way that advertisers, union reps and bankers simply cannot or never will be able to.

The real question here is where a change of this magnitude is going to come from when it is the political system itself which is responsible and politicians themselves who attain most benefit from maintaining the status quo.

After all, it is only politicians who have a genuine and meaningful mandate who will be selfless enough to take the risks to make those long overdue changes which nobody in Government today seems willing to outwardly contemplate. And these are indeed changes that are needed as a beacon for all to demonstrate a better way of living where a thought for all on the part of one is seen for its benefits to the one as a consequence of its benefits for us all, rather than for us continuing to live a life where the self must always come first and it seems ok for us to do so.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all. Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Leaps in utility prices touch just about everyone’s lives either directly or indirectly. No less so because of the growing paradox which appears to be a guaranteed bottom line for shareholders, whilst customers continually carry the can for everything that any non-essential business would have no option but to absorb within what are today’s unalterable margins.

Public services such as Trains run under much the same guise, and the question really should be asked if the time has come when any provider of a key or essential service should remain able to have a free reign over charges and their levels of profit when the end user simply has no choice but to buy?

Similarly, margins drawn from the production and retail of essential basic items such as milk, bread, meats and vegetables must surely now be protected from City speculation and the stranglehold of the big retailers who are together endangering various food producing industries in what is little more than an obligation to sustain and build upon profits, laid down by the purely financial motives of their masters.

So what exactly is stopping the long needed change in direction which would embrace a true form of moral or rather responsible capitalism, which in its boldest form would serve to protect a basic and affordable living for all, whilst delivering an arguably much reduced cost for Government?

One of the key failings of many of today’s politicians is a fundamental lack of understanding, will and fortitude to deal with the deep rooted causes of the problems that we as a nation face; instead choosing to do little more than dalliance in dealing with the effects of bad or flawed decisions, then going on to repeat the very same mistakes when that latest remedy itself begins to demonstrate its flaws.

Be under no illusion, this process is not unique to any political genre or ideology. It is a deep seated and inherently progressive condition, made all the worse by a political party system which now serves only to propagate itself and those within it who effectively function to do the very same, placing electability before delivery.

Successive Governments, whether they have been Conservative, Labour or even Coalitions have done the very same things, albeit with a different wrapper. But with little more than a ‘fire and forget’ mentality, the consequences are plain to see and there for us all to share and experience in our everyday lives.

The commonalities within privatisation, right-to-buy, the evolution of the free market and even political parties themselves are that they were arguably all political creations with a great and beneficial purpose in mind for those who were the driving forces behind them.

However, like most great ideas in Government that come to be manifest, they have progressively moved beyond their point of balance or what some might choose to call good, and have gone in another direction entirely. One which has benefited the unscrupulous and cost those of us dearly who have the right to expect the protection of our everyday interests by those who we put in place to take that responsibility on our behalf to do so.

Acceptance that the evolution of policies can and will continue beyond their point of good is no enviable task. This is particularly so when many organisations, NGO’s and even Government Departments have been created simply to deliver upon questionable policies and their lucrative spin-offs. In many cases they arguably continue to exist for the sole purpose of existing.

Trades Unions, Health & Safety Legislation and European red-tape are all examples of well-intentioned principles which have gone way beyond their point of good. Even UK Taxation and Benefits no longer represent the equitable and fair approach that we should all be able to reasonably expect from a 21st Century Western Government and the implementation of truly fair systems such as Flat Tax are long since overdue.

Fear of driving the watershed of change needed in an age where we have laws for the sake of having laws; where blame is a national industry and where everyday people feel that Government of all levels has no understanding of the lives that they lead, is no longer excuse enough in itself to avoid it.

Painful as it will be, somebody will soon have to be big enough to take on big business, the City and the insidious money men who are continuously elevating the breadline, all in the name of profit.

Selfless politicians must set about the change of policy after policy which may well serve their political masters today, but remain lifetimes away from serving those for whose benefit they were apparently intended.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all and not least the most vulnerable in society and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted does little to help after the event.

Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

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