It’s difficult to imagine that anyone in big business or government has any real concern about supply chain security, when the Conservative-friendly Daily Telegraph carries a story about the CEO of the UK’s Marks & Spencer retail chain now being on a 4-day week for a salary of £750K. Meanwhile, the real people at the other end of the wealth divide are working every hour they have and cannot even afford to buy food from one of the stores.
I will leave the timing and reasoning for this announcement, along with the raft of announcements from No.10 suggesting that our self-regalvanised PM is only now ready to his job to the reader.
But to say all of these deliberate distractions overlook the many elephants in the room and particularly the questions surrounding what happens to us all next would be comical, if it were not the fact that for the majority of us all, shit is about to get very real indeed.
Call me dramatic if you like. But few of us will accept that we are already in the process of a massive financial and systemic collapse until it actually hits us and we can feel the pain pushing into our own existence or life bubble in some way. Regrettably, that day will soon come.
However, whilst things like the housing market collapsing, or small businesses going bang because they simply cannot raise employee pay will inevitably hit or touch the lives of us all differently, there is one very profound and potentially very hard-hitting way that the collapse of the systems we currently take for granted is going to touch all of our lives in the same way. That’s the production, supply and the availability or shortages of food.
Before I go any further, it is important to get to the point that the supply of many of the foods that we probably all enjoy at home, from takeaways or when we go out to a pub or restaurant for a meal, are simply not going to be available in any of these ways anymore. Furthermore, this change to our lifestyles could well be pushing its way into our lives in perhaps just weeks or months from now.
The ingredients, the processing and the transportation of the foods that contribute to what might best be described as our very exotic, but nonetheless unhealthy diets aren’t just sourced from right across the world.
The foods we eat and the ingredients used to make them are processed here there and everywhere too.
The journeys that make up the pizzas, pies and puddings that we have all been conditioned to love crisscross continents and countries in various and accumulated forms. All before they finally reach the shelves of our local supermarkets or distribution centres, usually wrapped in a load of packaging that will immediately be thrown away, just as soon as they have come through our doors.
That the global supply chains that support and provide for all of this are collapsing right now is problematic enough.
But the real problem for us all that accompanies this collapse, is that even the majority of our most local producers (that’s local farmers and growers) buy the materials they need and then supply the meat, milk, cereals, vegetables and fruit that they produce into what is in effect part of this highly centralised operational business model.
Farmers and growers in the UK and across Western Countries do not produce or supply in a way that means that any of us could simply walk up to the local farm and buy or trade with the farmer to get the basic foods that we need, when everything that we know and take for granted about the supply of foods and goods today breaks down.
The processes that take raw foods from farms and turn them into the products that we love to eat and buy are massively complicated.
This complication has itself been encouraged and legitimised by the creation of many different industry-serving laws and rules. Not least of all by our friends in the European Union, that became just another way of dressing up greed-driven globalisation, but in a more politically acceptable continent-wide way.
What we or rather more importantly all of our seat-blocking politicians in Parliament are failing to grasp right now – whilst they keep on attempting to distract us with soundbites and other hollow scheme imaginable, is that we have a massive food crisis ahead of us. A food crisis that is looming large that will not be temporary. And that in terms of re-tasking, repurposing, redirecting, and reimagining the most essential forms and mechanics of our basic food supply chain – we are now critically unprepared.
Its not as if Farmers and Growers aren’t trying to make our politicians aware that there is a crisis coming either.
The issue with the politicians we have today is that everything they stand for, have bought and dragged us into and has been motivated by or is tied up in the money or greed based system that we currently have.
By even acknowledging that the focus of food supply must immediately become local, as part of the now essential drive to make the UK self-sufficient in all basic foods, goods and services in the shortest time, our politicians will be admitting to the wrongs of the part that they and many others before them have played in contributing to this mess over decades.
That however, is not an excuse for those in power and in our Parliament not to act now.
When we are all facing a change to our reality and a process of transition where there is a growing possibility that British People are going to starve, the public representatives that we have elected to look our for our best interests should be prioritising this change to local supply and UK self sufficiency in every possible way.
Yes, it does feel a bit like being the voice of doom and gloom as I write and produce videos about all the things that are going on and talk about what we can realistically expect as being likely to happen next.
The point is, that if someone like me can see what is happening and what is likely to happen next, the people we have elected as MPs have absolutely no excuse not to do so too.
In fact, our public representatives should be well ahead of the curve in both their horizon scanning and thinking than most.
Regrettably, they are not.
To be fair, the complexity of the growing problems and how each and every one of them interacts with the others is mind bogglingly scary to say the least.
Yet it is the culture of ‘let’s always take the easy option’ that exists, top to bottom within the British Political System, that has made the difficulties that are only just starting for us, significantly worse.
There are many people in this Country today who cannot afford to feed themselves, home themselves, clothe themselves, transport themselves or function normally in any way on the wages or income they have, without debt or benefits – or what is really a subsidy from the Government and therefore everyone else in some way.
Prices of the foods, goods and services that provide the basic essentials for life are spiraling out of control. Living at the standard we are experiencing even today, will soon become unaffordable for most.
Yet the complexities I mentioned above, all come back to just one thing: That the economic system we have today has been developed to benefit the self-interests of the few. That those driving it have continued to push prices up in the pursuit of ever-growing profits for as long as our stupid politicians have printed money and kept handing it out. When instead good politicians would have faced up to reality and dealt with the problems for wider society that have been caused by that same greedy few.
The Covid Pandemic has caused stupid politicians and greedy business and financial leaders to overplay their hand.
In fact, the inflationary spiral they have created together is now out of reach of any form of control they possess. Indeed, the only actions our weak-minded politicians have to address the issues are only serving to make the whole problem worse.
Events, or a coming chronology of them – which will have been caused by so many different profit-driven people with influence behaving in the same way, will combine to make basic food unaffordable where it is available. It will be absent from the supermarket and shop shelves where it would otherwise be not.
Food riots, as the system collapses and the old order makes way for a new one that will work for all will settle the mind of many. Especially the politicians that we have for the time that their waning power remains.
Greed, hoarding and any kind of self-driven prioritisation will have to go out of the window.
That will mean supermarket rationing as we experienced during the early Lockdowns. There will be an immediate need for Government to step in and fix prices along the entire food and essential goods supply chain, so that nobody can use this time of crisis to profit off the backs of us all.
Some of the more economically minded will baulk at the idea of any kind of price fixing, price regulation or price controls, because of its non-capitalist and non-market-friendly nature.
But the reality is that the epoch of easy money and making massive profits by exploiting the many to benefit the already bloated few, is now reaching its end.
A new system will emerge that will be fair to all. But it will not resemble anything that we’ve seen or experienced before.
As we walk the pathway to get there, it will be necessary to ensure that what we still have available – which will plenty for all of us without the influence or intervention of ongoing greed – will be made available fairly to all.
Money as we know it is likely to become only one of many different ways to make payment as change takes place. And it is therefore just as likely that rationing of the essentials that are available will also be necessary for everyone.
The times ahead may prove to be painful. But it’s the future which is possible for everyone once the change has been completed that we should look forward to.
The opportunities for a fair and just way of living, where everyone and everything matters are not just a pipe dream. They really exist and are there for us all.
After the pain, we have much happier times in store.
Globalisation as we knew it before the age of Lockdowns is over. We may not feel it, understand it or in most cases even see it. But the World has been changed by the chain reaction that was set in motion by the COVID Pandemic.
Daylight is now beginning to shine upon all the hidden, self-serving and myopic powers that influence our way of life. They are coming together in a concert of chaos with COVID conducting the orchestra – right at the fore.
It may sound dramatic. But the subjectivity and focus we have on everything beyond our own lives and the bubbles we unwittingly live in make it easy for us to ignore how things really are at the objective level. We are and have been living through significant National and World events that have consequences neither we, but even more importantly our politicians, can or now will avoid.
Loss of the realism that a genuine overview provides leaves us out of touch with the reality of what is happening. We take for granted that daily life will always go on as it has and that everything continues in the same way.
Yet the assumption that an encyclopaedic range of foods and products will always meet us when we walk through the supermarket doors or click online is a storybook waiting for a bad ending. And that ending is now almost certain to emerge.
Whilst the Government, media and the establishment they serve tell us that everything will return to the pre-COVID ‘normal’, concocted narratives cannot change nor head off the impact and consequences of the decisions they made, the money they created then spent, and the stories they have told to control people during a pandemic.
The change is already underway. We can already see it in the questions over home working and many revaluating where they wish to live. Change will touch everything, and this will include even the most basic parts of life, including the clothes we wear and the food that we eat.
We simply don’t need all the things that we buy, eat or drink, and many of us already know and understand this. Whilst it may sound moralistic to say so, it is certainly no coincidence that as a population we are becoming so unhealthy when we are happy sleepwalking through life in the way that we do.
The good, wholesome, locally and ethically produced foods that we genuinely need to live and feed ourselves would not be expensive if we prioritised production using the most localised supply chains possible. It could mean the ingredients of the meals we eat have not travelled outside of our own County boundaries or been carried much further on their journey from farm to fork.
Some may snort at the mere suggestion of returning to a world where butchers, bakers and every kind of traditional village shop or business sell you the produce and goods that have come to them for preparation from local farms and producers.
But this is the way that the world we know will go if it is again to begin making any kind of sense, and we do not need the Government or ambitious Ministers attempting to open up trade flow to Countries that will undercut our own farmers and producers. Indeed, the Countries that Trade Ministers are now talking to should be actively and demonstratively encouraged to develop their own enhanced forms of productivity as we all work towards the level of national and localised self-sufficiency that the post-COVID World and the collapse of global Supply chains will soon demand.
In the simplest terms, the rise and threat of what has been called the ‘Indian variant’ of COVID demonstrates some of the starkest lessons of how this virus works. The ZERO COVID solution that this Government has tied itself to will at some point have to be flipped to become one that we learn to live with it and treat it the same as we do the Flu.
Whether we continue going forward under the premise that COVID control is the only priority or change and accept that there are other ways to live, we can no longer allow or encourage the mass movement of people or encourage unnecessary international supply chains just for the sake of making profit in any way.
Borders will literally have to become borders once again. No matter how much we might we deserve that foreign holiday, we are no longer living in a world where there will continue to be one rule for ‘wealthy’ countries and another for all those that the ignorant and greedy thumb their noses at and call poor.
Viruses and the impacts of ill-considered human behaviour do not recognise boundaries. They have consequences for us all.
For better or worse, COVID is a virus that is here to stay. Global eradication is not possible with the political mindset that the world currently has, and we will soon have no option but to learn and act upon the realities that the spread of a respiratory disease through an interconnected version of the World presents.
Meanwhile, the decision making and behaviours of politicians, banks ad big business as they have struggled to maintain control during the Covid Pandemic has led them to supercharge the growth of the many problems that greed and profiteering have created.
Going local, real localism and putting our communities at the forefront of everything we build our lives around will now become key to addressing the change that events will create and to become happy and content in ways that we have culturally long since forgot.
Farmers, producers and those who run and maintain very local services and cottage industry businesses are going to be key. Allowing any foreign country to undercut local production of any kind – no matter our historic ties – will quickly become one of the greatest acts of economic self-harm in the post-COVID world.
This is not about having a downer on Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA or any Country with which we might have once found it desirable to extend trade with. All Countries across the World are going to have to face up to the realities of the step away from globalisation to closed borders and what this really means for prioritising local production too.
Self-sufficiency for food and essential goods must become both a National and Government priority for the UK. Within this, we must look to promote and encourage everyone to shop and focus what they do and the lives they live locally in pretty much the complete opposite way that globalisation and the greed that underpins it has done.
Government must guide and support the development of truly local cooperatives. Legislators must embrace and utilise the freedom we have following our unshackling from the EU to legislate in ways that mean it is both practical and cost effective for every service that businesses require to produce and manufacture locally will not only exist but will thrive in such ways that lead to local products and services being made available to everyone at prices even the poorest in society can afford.
Local Enterprise Partnerships or alternative bodies like them should be used to join up the dots and encourage this growth locally.
Instead of encouraging agriculture and food production to become ever more focused on ‘cost effective’ production that means they increasingly only become viable with the economies of scale and size, our legislators must look at regulating and restricting all of the malign influences that take money out of the supply chain, thereby increasing end-user cost. They are currently adding no value, as part of an equation that increasingly leaves heathy food being a luxury that only the financially wealthy can afford.
Farm shops, farmers markets and the systems of local production that can and must feed into them must be the direction of travel. We must reject the reliance upon retail giants and a system where shareholders and financial speculators make ridiculous sums of money after the companies they ‘own’ can appear to move goods around the planet more cheaply than our own producers can make them. The practice where supermarket buyers crush any farmers ability to both supply them and remain profitable must come to its end.
British Farmers are some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial members of society that we have. There is little doubt that if we both embrace and support the role that they can and will willingly then take within a new and diversified platform for UK food growing and production, the true value to us all of the wider rural and agricultural sector and the community that underpins it will come into its own and be good for us all.
We are hearing promise after promise and commitment after commitment based upon what our current crop of politicians and aspiring MPs will do for us if we give them our vote.
The problem is that if any of them do get elected with a majority this week – and therefore attain the ability to actually deliver on any of the things they have promised – the promises they have made will look and sound very different when they come to fruition for many reasons, not least of all because so little thought and consideration has gone into how those promises were actually formed and made.
The UK is desperate for change
If we were able to elect the right politicians, we would not need manifestos at all.
Good politicians would do the right things and would be committed to doing whatever is necessary to get the job done – all without any consideration for what the impact of their actions may or may not be for them themselves, the Political Party they represent or anyone else who has influence upon the way that they think.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the option to choose the right politicians in the 2019 General Election.
The system that we have has ensured that different names, different people and the different things they all say won’t deliver anything different to the outcome or result. Anything and everything they do will always end up being exactly the same.
That isn’t to say there isn’t any value to the things that politicians are currently talking about.
Any good salesman knows that no matter how small it might be, selling anything has to be anchored on the basis of at least one truth.
The politicians we have are savvy enough to be able to focus in on topics that people will identify with and talk about them or make offers to the Public that suggest the politicians will address them. Promises that will be calculated as being just enough to get them elected – which is the only real job or purpose that any and all of these politicians genuinely want to get done.
We don’t know what the outcome of the Election on Thursday 12th December will actually be.
But whatever the outcome of the 2019 General Election is, the fact that we have such poor, self-serving politicians as the majority of Candidates to become MPs means it is pretty likely that even greater chaos than what we have seen in the past two years is well on its way. That chaos may really begin to hit us all very hard in our everyday lives if there really is no change in politics and politicians continue to believe that they can continue to behave just the same as they are.
So what could politicians be doing differently now if they were focused on the right things?
Actually there is an awful lot.
But successful outcomes for us all means having new politicians who are big enough and confident enough in their own abilities, knowledge and understanding to know that the biggest thing they have to think differently about is the desire to always in someway feel like they are in control.
No, not the kind of control we think of like driving a car or riding a bike.
This is the idea that politicians can control future events by the decisions they take now or at a certain time.
They can’t and never will.
It just looks like that – some of the time.
So when I say that good politicians wouldn’t need manifestos, what I mean is that they wouldn’t need to try and bribe us with whatever they can dream up to convince us.
We would just elect good politicians because we could trust them to get on and do what’s best for all of us whenever they make a decision.
We could trust good politicians to do the right thing.
Because we don’t have good politicians, it’s worth having a think about the kinds of things they would actually be doing with the power that we have given them as part of that journey of doing the right things on our behalf.
Below is a list of the kinds of new policy ideas and changes that good politicians might be already acting upon, thinking about, questioning, discussing, researching and developing right now, if they were already in government.
It is not an exhaustive list by any means and I will apologise to any reader now who immediately finds the absence of a topic or suggestion in keeping with this document that I have for some reason or none left out.
There is, in reality today a never ending list of things that really need to be done and these are just a beginning or a start.
This is a Makeshift Manifesto
The points are deliberately short to bring focus and attention to the areas that need work in Public Policy if things in this Country were really to be changed and there was a genuine, wide-ranging commitment on the part of politicians to really get things done.
Some of the points will seem controversial, like withdrawing or rescinding the Legislation on Employment Rights that came from the EU.
I have raised them not with the intention of upsetting anyone or winding anyone up. They are there to serve as a gateway to the reality that there are much bigger and usually very negative consequences sitting beyond the mantras and sound bites that are deceptively used to draw voters in. The sweetest sounding lies and partial truths that often hurt the very people that they are supposed to help as they appear to positively impact the people they were designed for, but then negatively impact the world around them and then come back to haunt those same people too.
The way politics and the media operates today doesn’t foster genuine learning, discussion and debate. It focuses on fear and encouraging instant reactions and doesn’t allow anyone to take the time to sit down, go through ideas in the right way. It certainly doesn’t explain.
For example, when talking about subjects like hourly wages and rates of pay with young people and students, they will most often only be focused on what the value of pay to them is actually worth.
Yet when you take the time to discuss and explain how the businesses that employ them operate and what wage rises will actually mean as a result of the knock-on effects to the employer, the customers and the employees just like if not them, they are typically far more interested in what has been said. Indeed, they are genuinely receptive to the steps that would need to be taken to make the money they earn and already have in their pocket have better value. They want to see the changes come into being that would change not only theirs but everyone’s lives for the better – again, getting done what really needs to be done.
So no matter how the following points might immediately make the reader feel, they are offered up as no more than the equivalent of a light being shone on the areas of Public Policy that need to be changed; in some cases removed and in others completely transformed, simply to ensure that the battle to deliver something better for ALL People in the UK – that MPs are not yet fighting – is ultimately won.
‘You can’t do the right thing because it’s too complicated’
This isn’t costed. It can’t be done. Things don’t work like that. It’s not practical. It’s idealist.
These are all reactions that can be expected at the end of reading what follows below.
During conversations with many people about public policy generally and particularly with people who voted to Remain in the Referendum on Leaving the EU, I have become increasingly aware that the majority of us agree with all the kinds of suggestions I am making and with it the principle of ‘doing the right thing’. But they also believe this kind of change is impossible because it’s either too complicated or we will never have the right people in politics to do what it takes to get these things even considered, let alone started, completed or ‘done’.
Whilst this view is completely understandable when considering the mess that British politics is now in, it’s because politicians have not been prepared to look difficult policy decisions and challenges in the eye and deal with them properly as they should that the UK is now in the trouble that it is and so many people are suffering across our communities.
Brexit is a symptom of the very problem where the politicians who have been elected and given the responsibility to lead us and make decisions on our behalf always take the easy option. Do decision making in isolation without care for consequence. And give us government that is always thinking about the next election and is therefore on the run.
The reality is that if politics was done properly in the UK, manifestos and the false promises within them would be redundant.
Issues would be addressed and considered by Government as they need to be, rather than being wrapped up in shiny paper at election time and sold to us as part of some grand but nonetheless hollow strategic plan.
Cost, practicality, how the system works and all those things may be very relevant in considering what is only list of suggestions for consideration that follows here.
Any one of the suggestions made, when considered or even enacted in isolation might be appear impossible simply because of all the other existing policies that already interact with that area of policy, which in the immediacy of that apparently broader sense might make it seem impossible for that one thing to be done.
But none of this is impossible.
In fact, we all deserve an approach to public policy which is not fearful of even considering changes to public policy just like these.
This means that we need to change the way that we think as well as the people we elect to think on our behalf.
Only when we have political leaders who think differently will we all see and then understand how different and how better things in this Country can be if our politicians are prepared to break away from the idea that achievement only comes from compromise when repeated compromise itself means we continually end up with all the same things.
We must have real leaders in Government before we can actually be led.
A small caveat
Everything that follows is basically a starting point or a means to reaching or finding a way to an end. The overriding principle is that we should make better and more effective use of all that we have already got, rather than falling into the trap of thinking that the problems that we have can only be solved by throwing money around or by replacing whatever the problem is with something new.
This kind of thinking might be representative of ‘the way that things have always been done’. But in the long term, it helps no one.
PLEASE NOTE: There is no specific or intended order. As a result of an attempt to avoid duplication (which may have failed here and there…), some points or suggestions may appear to be located under headings which are different to where you might automatically assume they should be. It does however illustrate the point rather well that no public policy decisions should ever be made in isolation as all public policy is joined up!
Thanks for reading!
Best wishes to all,
7 December 2019
The Makeshift Manifesto – December 2019
1 – Taxation
Reform of HMRC to make it ‘customer friendly’
Tax the ownership of land, property and wealth rather than personal income
Tax Internet transactions at the location of the customer or the device they were using, not at the location of the company base
Simplify the taxation system, providing transparency and remove confusion
Aim for flat tax or limited tier system which is not based on the level of earnings, but where all earners pay proportionally the same
Aim to reduce and then remove VAT once all other parts of the Tax system have been changed and are working appropriately
New ethical ‘in the spirit of’ legislation to prohibit Tax Evasion or Avoidance where no preventative Law is deemed to exist or cover the abusive act, but where Tax Evasion or Avoidance has taken place nonetheless
2 – Industrial Relations
Reform union legislation to prevent and make illegal any strike that will or has the potential to effect transport and public service provision
Remove right of unions to have paid shop stewards or other union representatives on organisational or company payroll
Legislate to prohibit unions making donations to political parties, third party organisations or outside causes
3 – Defence
Reinstate National Service to ensure that all eligible young people qualify academically, complete parallel apprenticeships or undertake military training as a key part of their professional development and steps towards the workplace
Aim to bring all military hardware and software development and manufacturing into the UK or UK hands, outsourcing only where no other options are available
International Military Policy to be non-interventionist and non-aggressive unless directly attacked or there is a requirement to maintain an appropriate military presence overseas either to support UK Foreign Aid activities or as part of Partnership commitments with other Countries (NATO, UN etc)
Outlaw civil prosecution against any alleged military ‘crime’ – whether current, recent or historic
Continue with the Renewal of Trident
New Naval Ship Building programme to include adequate ‘at sea’ Fisheries Protection for all UK Waters
Rearm and finance the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Army to ensure that combined forces are able to cover all domestic and possible/likely overseas requirements at all times
4 – Communication
Support the telecoms industry to provide 100% Broadband coverage across the UK within 5 years
Ensure that all critical infrastructure and software is provided by UK Companies, managed and manufactured in the UK
5 – Education
Apprenticeships at 14 for non-academic young people as part of a change to ‘heads’ vs. ‘hands’ parallel routes to age 21 where education is based on experience, academic attainment or both, rather than just exam results and educational level reached.
Prohibit bogus or ‘worthless’ degrees
Remove commercialism from all places of learning to ensure that the focus is on teaching, not running as a business
Cap the salaries of senior academic and management staff in all publicly funded educational establishments
Remove ‘private’ interest in any publicly funded educational establishment or vehicle
Legislate to support Teachers first and foremost in the parent-teacher relationship
Add critical thinking to become a required part of all curriculums
Means tested paid tuition fees for further and higher education students for first time applicants of all ages
Means tested maintenance grants for further and higher education students for first time applicants of all ages
6 – Foreign Policy
Reform overseas aid to provide direct and meaningful support, rather than just funds or contracts to private companies
Contracts awarded to private companies as part of Foreign Aid should be given to business indigenous to that specific Country, with the focus that profits and employment end up in the pockets of local people and businesses – not simply back in the UK
Create a non-military foreign aid logistics and development service
7 – Brexit
Immediate rejection of any of the existing ‘Withdrawal’ Agreements made with the EU
A completely Clean Exit from the European Union on WTO Terms – as directed by the UK Electorate in the European Referendum Vote on 23rd June 2016
No negotiations on trade until the UK has formally Left the EU and is functioning with trade on WTO Terms
No further payments to be made to the EU after the UK Leaves the EU
No balloon payments made as part of the process of the UK Leaving the EU
Immediate start on the alternative Borders option for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to include the establishment of the Open Border Service
Immediate protection orders to safeguard British Farming, Fisheries and all areas of production at risk from foreign imports
Immediate implementation of a temporary protectionist policy on all trade with the EU where the products, goods, foods and services are already available in the UK, to stay in place until those industries can self-sustain
Immediate ban on the import of all EU derived products, goods, foods and services that are subsidised and therefore underwritten by the EU, unless they are not already available in the UK
8 – Business & Finance
Readopt an unashamedly protectionist, UK first approach to all industries and services
Adopt a non-global approach to supply chains and production
Require all UK Business to adhere to new Covenant of UK Environmental Standards covering all production, operations and purchasing within 2 years
Focus new trade deals on Foods, Products, Goods and Services that the UK has not historically provided itself or for the period it remains unable to do so
Reform and limitation of financial services and banking to restrict or where necessary prohibit the use of speculative (betting), futures and non-transparent financial devices in any form
Restrict the power of privately owned credit scoring agencies
Regulate and restrict current system whereby banks and financial institutions can effectively create money through system of leverage
Confiscation of all material assets law for all Bankers and Financiers who are convicted of financial exploitation of others
Sell here, produce here requirement for products and services in mass Public or consumer use
Anti profiteering laws to be introduced
Restriction of intervention and right of agency in any supply chain where no value has been added via the transfer
Punitive fines to be introduced for unethical business practices
Fiscal prudence law outlawing policy decisions based only on cost and/or spending
Reverse changes made by Gordon Brown and the 1997 Labour Government to Pension Funds
Legislate to restrict or stop Planned Obsolescence consumerism
Legislate to prevent private companies issuing fines for parking offences
Create new Parking Court
Legislate to remove the grey area where gig economy companies can employ people on sub-contract or self-employed basis without being a full franchisee to be banned
9 – The Internet & Social Media
Legislate to ensure that identities of all social media account holders/users to be known to publisher and anonymity of public user identity (usernames) only given for legitimate reasons
10 – Public Services
Create Public Interest Companies (Trusts) to provide all municipal services and services across multiple Authorities covering traditional County areas or similar
Create new standard or charter for public servants
End the role of ‘created’ and unnecessary add-on management, back-room and administrative roles
End policies which facilitate and allow redundancy and rehire
Reform Local Government & Civil Service Pension Scheme
Rescind independence in decision making of all QUANGOs making them answerable Nationally to Parliament and locally to the most appropriate Local Authority or tier of Government
Remove EU Tender & Procurement Legislation
Prioritise new, small and local business over corporate business for any outsourcing requirement that remains
New non-financial or indirect corruption laws for all tiers of government and public services
11 – The Courts & Legal System
Reform and reinstatement of legal aid with appropriate fixed fee format, legal professional sector pay and enforcement body to administer and clear penalties for any abuse of the system
Reform of legal profession standards monitoring and regulation
Divorce Laws to be reformed with first point of call becoming mediation in all civil cases where no Criminal Laws have been broken
Mediation to become licensed
Create Legislation to impede influence of obstructive and unreasonable Divorce cases not settled by mediation
Volunteer Magistrates to be excluded from all Family Law cases
Reform Magistrates Service to remove innate prejudice and political correctness from recruitment processes
Legislation against ‘ambulance chasing’ or ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ approach to litigation on basis of blame attribution
Dissolution of the Supreme Court and return to Law Lords or system that sits outside of political influence
Reform of litigation Laws to support David vs Goliath cases where small businesses could not afford to take on big business when in breech of contract
12. Law & Order
All convicted Terrorists to receive whole-life tariffs
Referendum on Capital Punishment
End to Police Community Support Officers
End requirement for Police Officers to be educated to degree level
End to direct entry for senior officers who have not come through the ranks
Resume system of Police Prosecutions
Aim for all minor offences to be prosecuted within 24 hours of arrest and before offender release
All young people from age 14 to 21 years convicted of criminal offences other than murder, manslaughter or terrorism to be immediately enrolled for National Service
Decentralisation of Police Stations and return to locality Policing
Remove all targets and statistical monitoring of Police work that incentivises behaviour or quality of work
13 – Freedom of Speech
Protection of the tolerant against spurious intolerance
Right to be forgotten to become automatic after 3 years
New law to support freedom of speech and right to speak with removal of right to inflict views on others verbally, in writing or through intimidation or threatening behaviour of any kind
14 – Animal Welfare
Rescind EU Laws on Abattoirs
Support construction of new local Abattoir network and mobile abattoir service for the most remote areas
No animal to travel more than 50 miles from farm to slaughter
Revise Hunting with Dogs Legislation to outlaw illegal or disruptive intervention by non-hunters, remove any right to prosecute for accidental Fox hunting, whilst tightening Law on prosecution against those seeking to flout Ban using birds of prey or other by-pass devices
RSPCA to lose charity status, be taken into public management and given evolved role to support work of DEFRA and all other Public Services and Agencies dealing with Animal Health & Welfare
15 – Nationalisation / Public ‘management’ of Everyday Essential Services & Utilities
Place all utilities and services essential for everyday public use into non-profit making status and/or create alternative public managed business providing alternative provider to all customers
16 – Transport
Remove Crossrail Company and replace with non-profit making commercial trust with reformed management structure
Build new terminus stations in London and expand number of platforms at existing terminus stations across UK
Reopen lines closed by Beaching Act
Public sponsorship or loans to new shipbuilding enterprises
Create new system of Bicycle & Rider Licensing
Focus technological development on Hydrogen and Battery Powered Vehicles
Rescind EU Legislation requiring Professional Drivers to do stepped tests for different vehicle sizes in same class (e.g HGV 3 and then HGV1 only afterwards following a qualification period)
Rescind Driver CPC Course requirement replacing current system with short online course and tests as part of first Licensing, then regular refresher courses and tests online thereafter to be provided and managed by DVLA for all UK ONLY commercial drivers
Professional Foreign Drivers required to undertake same short online courses and tests to drive in UK in ALL circumstances
Investment in new road surface technology research to extend lifetime
Fines for utility companies leaving temporary roadworks without work taking place at weekends and during daylight hours
Utility companies to be made liable for all road repairs where they have devalued the structural integrity of a road surface
17 – Welfare & Benefits
Institute a universally applicable basic standard of living rate for all persons
Create a people’s bank
All Benefits to be paid into a cashless bank account with restrictions on payments tailored to the recipient
Removal of assumed right to benefits for any foreign economic migrant
Return to common sense approach to disability payments
End the use of profit making back to work training contractors
18 – Poverty
Introduce a Basic Standard of Living level based upon what it costs to feed, cloth, house and transport a person or persons living in a household at a minimum realistic level
Base all benefits on the Basic Standard of Living Level
Base all future plans for minimum wage on the Basic Standard of Living Level
Explore validity of Universal Income set at Basic Standard of Living Level for the short term unemployed to restrict unnecessary exposure to benefits system and culture
Creation of blanket provision of hostels and services for the homeless with tailored approach to individuals and arms-length care and support for those who choose not to use any accommodation offered
All supermarkets and food retailers with 3000’ floor space of more to be required to provide and openly promote food bank donation bins
19 – Food & Farming
Unashamedly prioritise British Produce
Require that all publicly funded meal providers buy British
Incentivise local and ethical food supply chains to create a producer to retail industry able to compete directly with National Retailer supply chains with food travelling no more than 50 miles from farm to fork
Replace CAP with short term UK Farm Subsidies
Remove all EU-derived quotas and restrictions
20 – Politics and Government
Reform of electoral system
Reform of political Party system
Minimum age of Town & Parish Councillors set at 21 years
Minimum Age of District Level Councillors set at 25
Minimum Age of MPs set at 30
Removal of Allowances System for Councillors
Introduction of time-served, time-attended, effort-made ‘end of term handshake’ for Councillors
De-politicisation of lower tiers of Government
MPs barred from holding second jobs whilst in Office
MPs barred from holding non-executive directorships whilst in Office
MPs barred from holding consultant or sub-contract roles whilst in Office
MPs barred from holding any company ownership role with a shareholding of 51% or less whilst in Office
Politicians barred from holding more than 1 Elected Office at any time
End the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) system
Local Authorities to be barred from using fines from parking and road offences as revenue or as a source of income
Lords to either be dissolved or be reformed
Reform of the Honours List
Reform of Commissions system
‘Cronyism’ in Public Office to become a Criminal Offence
21 – Devolution & Localism
All powers that can be more effectively governed and implemented at local level to be devolved to the appropriate tier of Government from Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast
Create Parish or Town, District or Borough and County Level independent local authorities where none currently exist
Dissolve Unitary Authorities
Dissolve Mayor-led Authority Areas
22 – Climate Change
Create a Covenant of UK Environmental Standards for all foods, products, goods, services, manufacturing and other items to be published within 12 months and implemented within 24 months
Ban on all non-UK based Companies moving into UK Marketplace which do not meet UK Environmental Standards
Return public transport to ‘public’ ownership
Improve public transport to levels that improve passenger participation
Provide 50 free journeys on one form of public transport per commuter per year
Prioritise carbon capture technology both for industrial and domestic use
Stop pretending that House building is the only solution to the Housing Crisis
Invest in water capture, desalinisation and storage technologies, where possible ensuring a crossover with green energy production
Introduce Packaging Tax to be applied to all disposable or non-recyclable packaging on a per-unit basis
Rescind decision on 3rd Runway at Heathrow until expansion will be at least carbon neutral in current terms
Legislate to make better use of existing transport systems and infrastructure prioritising improvement over new construction
Tax commuter journeys taken by car
Incentivise reduction of car-to-school journeys for children of secondary school age and where adequate and appropriate educational transport or public transport provision exists
Legislate to restrict or stop Planned Obsolescence consumerism
Subsidise network of community car sharing pools
Tax ownership of fossil fuel resources on an annual basis
Ban imports of all products not manufactured to UK environmental standards
23 – Planning
Dissolve Local Planning Committee structure and remove politicisation
Legislate to create Local Planning Courts
Create new Government Planning Investigation Unit with remit to investigate historic consent, overturn decisions not made in the Public Interest and given the right to seize land and property where corruption of any kind has been found or to instruct the immediate return of land or infrastructure to the previous state it was in before the Application(s) was/were made at the cost of the Applicant.
Reform Planning Policy to remove anchors for interpretation and focus decision making on real-life effects and locality
Create National Framework of Planning Policies to be adopted and tailored locally and left as stand-alone except in times of National Emergency or need
24 – Environment
All flood plain building and restructuring to be immediately banned
Revision of Flooding policy to include equal weighting being given to Fluvial and Pluvial flooding
Return to regular dredging and clearance of all river systems
25 – Housing
Tax all multiple home ownership at increasing levels per unit and/or depending upon size and unused capacity
Introduce staggered and increasing stamp duty upon all multiple house purchases
Regulate profit margin per new house for house builders
Introduce Tax breaks and incentives for unused room letting
All local authorities to prioritise local applicants for social housing
26 – Employment Rights
Step away from all EU derived Employment Legislation and end Working Time Directive
Regulate to ensure minimum hourly wage in line with agreed contractual hours, overtime rates (minimum 1 x 1.25 minimum wage for all zero hours contract workers) and holiday pay on per hour basis
Legislate to ensure that all gig-economy-type roles pay ‘employee’ on basis of zero hours contract AFTER realistic costs have been deducted, whether technically employed or self-employed
27 – Licensing (Gambling & Sale of Alcohol)
Gambling industry to have new system of governance mirroring alcohol licensing where ‘point of transaction’ must be managed by a responsible, appropriately qualified and upstanding person who will be held accountable for the safety of all customers on the basis of legally backed right to refuse
Internet and/or app gambling to be regulated to reflect the above or banned if the industry cannot present workable solutions to support gambling supervision on remote basis
System of Alcohol Taxation to be introduced to encourage use of Pubs, Restaurants and Social Clubs for drinking
28 – Health & the NHS
Top to bottom reform
Removal of unnecessary or created backroom management functions
Ban on consultancy buy-in for management purposes
Devolution of management to ward level
Supply purchasing to be returned to strategic, cross-NHS level
Dissolution of all remaining PFI Contracts
Social Care to be managed by NHS
Regulation of damages payouts to cover legal costs
Creation of Damages Court to filter spurious complaints
Legalisation of ‘Right to Die’ under 3x ‘unknown’ doctor sign-off system
Sex Industry to be legalised, Regulated and managed as a Public Health concern
29 – Science & Technology
UK First Policy
Regulate ownership to restrict foreign influence and call upon new technologies
Subsidise development of real technology
New public managed pharmaceutical development company
Incentivise scientific development, automation and artificial intelligence only to improve production, output and quality – not purely for financial purposes
Revise policy on foreign investment to ensure that Companies and Technologies critical to the UK remain in UK hands
30 – The Monarchy
Immediate scaling down to preclude ‘shirt tail’ and no longer relevant Royals
Remove any obstacle to prosecution under all UK Laws for any Member of the Royal Family, whether perceived or otherwise.
Further Royal Palaces to be given over to Public use as museums and tourist attractions
Crown Properties to be returned fully to Public hands with no income paid to Members of the Royal Family from profits
Review of Charities and fundraising to remove unnecessary and unhelpful duplication of services
Create a centralised charity giving system or personal account, possibly managed by HMRC where money is deducted at source and then allocated according to the choice of the individual with gift aid automatically added
The list above is not exhaustive by any means. There is plenty more.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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?