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UK self-sufficiency and localisation of food supply chains from British Farms should now be the Government priority. Not vanity-led trade deals that undermine them

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.

Using Planning Reform to make it even easier to build houses is the obvious solution for a political class that always takes the easy option without view of the consequences first

Politicians are no longer big enough to tackle or even attempt to address issues that they cannot be sure they can control. It is a fool’s game.

Government has been blighted by very normal, overly ambitious people styling themselves as public leaders, whose greatest skill is sniffing out and repelling any meaningful response to the issues and actions that carry the greatest risk to themselves.

The irony should not be lost on many, that if governments were to apply themselves fully and without compromise to addressing the issues of their time and without fear of any electoral risk to them by doing so, they would have done all they need to get re-elected with a decent majority at the end of their 5-year-term.

Regrettably – and to the continued cost of the British Public, this is not how our politicians roll.

Our politicians take the easy and politically lazy route to managing public policy. They deal with issues in isolation, giving little or no consideration to the impact upon other areas of public policy. They focus on the consequences of their actions only for themselves when they should be prioritising the consequences for us all.

The suggestion that using Planning Reform to make it easier to build houses will solve the housing crisis is nothing more than the siren call of greed. A call to action that will line the pockets of the same financiers, builders and political chums as always, whilst people whose lives are being increasingly destroyed by the exponential growth of personal and private debt also see countless other factors that give quality to their lives smashed unnecessarily upon these hidden rocks.

No human being can be in two places at once. Therefore, no human being needs two places in which to live.

Just as is the case in every other part of life, there is ‘enough for everyone’s need, but never enough for everyone’s greed’.

Money, created by a monetary and financial system that is only fair and equitable to those who have no need for any more of it, should not enable anyone to obtain more than they need to facilitate anything more than the requirements of day-to-day function or living. Certainly not when doing so comes at the cost of preventing others with less from having the same.

With a growing population, there will always be a relative need for the country to build new homes. But increasing home building exponentially, just so the whims of some can be met and the profiteering and greed of others can be fed is no solution to a problem that can be solved politically with better, more appropriate and fairer use of resources that already exist.

You never see house prices fall in the area where a new development is built. But you do see problems with flooding. You see the negative impact on infrastructure like roads, schools and GPs Surgeries.

Excessive building leads to a fall in the quality of life for countless numbers of people, many of them everyday, low-wage people who grew up locally. Real people who are being pushed out by deliberately engineered inflation meaning that the new houses the government and media tells us are being built to help them will continue to be the prized lifetime asset they will never be able to afford.

Whilst the term ‘Reset’ or ‘Great Reset’ has been adopted by both the World Economic Forum and by those who love to hate them, there is indeed no better term that can be used to describe what needs to happen to the UKs and the International Monetary and Financial systems so that life and the ability of everyone to live it becomes something that we all can financially afford.

The disproportionate value of homes, relative to what they are genuinely worth could quickly be addressed to a significant degree by a revaluation and rebalancing of the way money is used and manipulated and how the economy works.

But money itself has to be viewed as nothing more than the unit of exchange that it is, rather than the god-like ‘thing’ that greed and selfishness has allowed it to become.

There are already a range of devices that the Government could use to address second and multiple home ownership. This would immediately improve housing stock availability and remove the need for housebuilding to increase or to continue in the forms that are destroying local communities and the environments around them – when there already exists a much more appropriate choice.

Yet our politicians will not use taxation or bans on multiple home ownership, because it would mean wading through a political minefield that they consider too risky to their chances of re-election. They are therefore deemed to be actions that they must do everything to avoid.

By making public policy decisions in this way, our politicians are failing to do the right thing for the people they represent. Meanwhile they are continually creating more and more troublesome consequences for everyone, which they will then once again do everything to avoid.

This lack of leadership in government and the rejection of responsibility by this political class means that the basics of life for many are simply too expensive to afford.

Leaving the EU is now vital to secure the future of the UK and will positively impact the long term of everything that we do

October 8, 2019 Leave a comment

Today has been signifiant. Boris has already achieved significantly more than his predecessor Theresa May, and the chronology of events when we look back on the whole of the Brexit saga is likely to be seen to have pivoted on events that have happened today.

With Merkel saying her piece to Boris, followed by outbursts by Tusk and then Coveney on Twitter too, few of the objective people who are observing this saga unfold will have been left with any doubt about the content of the message that we have collectively been told.

The EU is and never was interested in compromise upon anything meaningful with the UK over Brexit, unless it resulted in a permanent state of Remain.

That they and the Irish Government thought that leaving Northern Ireland behind would ever be acceptable to the UK in order to secure mutually acceptable terms with the EU before Leaving is simply breathtaking in the extreme.

But the EU is an organisation that has form. And if our MPs had been fulfilling their roles as our representatives better – and arguably as they should – we would never have got to the place that we are, where the behaviour of the EU has had to be pushed to become so open and obvious, that many People across the Country are today wondering exactly what it was that we elected these MPs for.

What should now be clear to everyone, is the UK cannot thrive as it should, could and would do in the future, if we are tied to the EU and any of its Member States by even the most trivial policy devices – if they resemble anything that looks like Remain.

We must be able to set our own agenda in our relationships with the World outside. Set our own tariffs and border requirements. And most significantly write and implement all of the laws under which we are governed and required to observed as people and as businesses within.

We must do this because we the British People and the people from amongst us that we ask to represent us are the only people capable of knowing how to serve the interests of this Country best.

Only British People have the understanding of what our communities, businesses and public services need. And we need to have genuine localism working in our Cities, Towns, Parishes and Neighbourhoods in a way that centralising everything towards unelected bureaucrats in a European City never could deliver.

It is only if we do this, and are brave with the decisions that we make along the way and as we do so, that we can begin to address the real problems that are affecting our society. Knife crime, poverty, disenfranchisement, the housing shortage, the climate crisis and a whole lot more besides.

People have been suspicious of it, but might have never realised that many of the problems that we have in this Country have been created because of the way our law making has been exported to the EU. Rules have been changed and the responsibility for doing so given away to people with neither the interest nor understanding of what we all really need in this Country – the same basic responsibilities that UK politicians and MPs MUST be equipped with as a basic step in future, if their UK Lawmaking is to really do any good.

We cannot achieve anything genuinely good in and for this Country or indeed any of the other Countries and their Peoples around the World that we care for, if we Remain tied into the EU monolith in any way at all.

The EU has today proven that they are not interested in facilitating democracy. That they have no respect for it and that they are prepared to do anything and everything possible to keep what they clearly see as the UK cash cow, tied into the EU Project for good.

Its time that we all not only see but also accept that the UK’s best interests and the best interests of the EU are not, have never and will never be legitimately aligned or in any way the same.

We must Leave the EU as soon as possible and then reform our political system too so that neither Foreign Governments, the bureaucrats that represent them, or sell-out politicians of our own can prioritise outside interests.

The British People and our Industries are too important to be left to the whims of anyone who is on their own agenda and drunk on their sense of self importance and control.

 

Restoring Democracy Pt 3: Communities & locality first

September 6, 2019 Leave a comment

Localism became a fashionable term during the Coalition years under David Cameron. Yet the Localism that we thought it was and the localism that it actually was are two very different things.

Like many of the miss-sold and misrepresented ideas about what serves the Public interest, such concepts are sold with sound bites cleverly constructed to give the impression that they will takes steps, if not leaps towards some form of natural justice. But they don’t.
For example, the creation of the Office of Police and Crime Commissioners and Metropolitan Mayoralties was presented to us as giving power back to local areas.
Yes, they give the appearance of having more money coming to benefit the areas. But this take on giving power back to us is a dubious representation at best. Worse still, instead of bringing power back in the direction of the People, it has instead focused it away from the lower levels of Government decision making – or rather those which are closer to us, and instead transferred it into the hands of one, rather than a number of Politicians.
Many People do not realise that there four different tiers of Government in this Country. (Five If you were to Count the European Parliament too)
They are from the lowest to the ‘top’, Parish & Town Councils, Borough & District Councils, County Councils (Unitary Authorities can include all of the responsibilities of the above) and Parliament or Central Government itself.
Like Westminster, Party Politics plays a significant role throughout these tiers of Government and we have the very same problems with Politicians at a local level as we do in London.
Far too many Local Politicians are motivated by self-interest, pursuing their own interests and furthering their own or particular causes.
In some ways, the injustice at work at local level can have an even more meaningful impact upon our lives. Because the decisions taken by bodies such as Planning and Licensing Committees can and do make changes to the environment that we experience every day around us.
When these local decisions are not taken in our best interests – as is all too often the case – the cost for all of us can be particularly high.
Federalism and the model of putting decision making in the hands of local people that the EU presents is even worse, rather than better. It gives the lie to this injustice even further.
Together, the real workings and methodology of Central and EU Government is to implement a set of rules that are so tight, the so-called decision making and democracy that tales place at a local level, is in fact no more than a tick-box exercise for the Officers and Politicians involved.
Removing the rot in Politics and getting good people into Political Roles where they will really fight our corner, will make an immediate difference to how decisions are made locally. It would make life much better for everyone involved.
But the real difference that could and should be made by good central Government – once we have removed the influence of the EU once and for all, is to genuinely give back decision making, influence and responsibility to us and put back as much of it as is possible, into the hands of Politicians and Representatives  at the most local level to hold.
There will always be policies and responsibilities that need to be accounted for at a higher and more appropriate level.
But that doesn’t mean that the Politicians at the top should be the only ones with real or meaningful control.
The reality is that today, the buck stops in London and in Brussels for far too many decisions. Laws are simply interpreted at local level – a process that leads to much misunderstanding and frustration for local People and locally minded Politicians that really don’t have the responsibility and influence on issues that are most pertinent to them – no matter what they are being told.
Getting decision making back to the point where it is as close to the People as possible is an essential part of giving us back a genuine feeling of community, re-enfranchisement and that we can have real and meaningful influence on the world around us.
A Good Government could begin giving us genuine localism by:
  •   Overseeing a clean, secure and permanent Exit from the EU .
  • Abolish the roles of so-called Metro-Mayors and transfer their powers back to more local control .
  • Abolish the roles of Police & Crime Commissioners, re-establishing the local Committee structure whilst taking measures to ensure that political influence is kept at the minimum and that Committee Members are drawn from outside privileged and insider networks.
  • Reverse all processes of centralisation within the Tiers of Government and/or restructure to ensure that decision making and influence is structured and administered in such a way that the emphasis is always upon the quality of service and experience of end-users – always ensuring that it is as accessible as possible, rather than simply being about money, the decision makers and the officers involved.
  •  Return final point of decision making to the level most near to the end user and only use frameworks as a guide unless there are very specific rules such as the minimum drinking age involved.
  • De-centralise powers that have been given to unelected and unaccountable bodies such as the Highways and Environment Agencies. Create more localised umbrella organisations where it is absolutely necessary to facilitate joined-up thinking, but above all ensure that no decision can be taken arbitrarily by any bureaucrat without local representation having genuine influence in the process and if necessary having a veto over changes to or that will affect local infrastructure or property.

Council Spending Cuts: Savings must be the objective, not simply the means to reducing Local Authority expenditure and without providing the tools to affect real reforming change, it’s beginning to look like Eric Pickles is wielding a lot of stick without even a hint of any carrot…

December 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Local government conference

I don’t envy the position that any Government Minister has in respect of either the Deficit – which the Government are all too happy to talk about; or the escalating mountain of Debt – which they are apparently not.

Cuts in public spending are and have been inevitable since way before the last General Election. But it always seems to be the same ‘soft’ targets that get picked, rather than the controversial policy areas that make most MP’s go green, even if they are just asked to talk about them. Therefore, the announcement of a 2.9% cut in the Local Government settlement in 2014-15 is surely one of the most obvious cases of ‘passing the buck’ that there ever could be.

As both a sitting Councillor and past Local Authority Officer, I have no doubt that considerable opportunities to make savings continue to exist within most Council administrative, executive and operational functions. However, I also realise that making such savings is far from a straightforward exercise and particularly so when some areas of service provision simply cannot be cut, or in some cases will even require greater funding in the future.

Whilst cutting spending to reduce the National Deficit and hopefully at some point, start tackling the National Debt is a sensible aim, it should arguably be used as the objective rather than the means itself, and the failure of Central Government to support Local Authorities by providing the machinery of reform – whilst restricting the tax-raising ability that Councils have, is doing little more than necessitating the removal of structural security from within.

Councils are after all left with little choice but to consider and engage in the sharing of services not only between departments, but also within other Authorities as well. Whilst local politicians can already speculate about a hidden agenda moving us all towards Unitary status, there is no question that any service shared, or even Officers being given cross-disciplinary responsibility is just another step away from the end user, in the level of quality of the service being delivered if nothing else.

That’s hardly Localism now is it Mr Cameron?

The reality of the situation is that the savings that will be required to sort out the mess that the UK actually is in may well necessitate a restructure of the way that all Local Government operates.

But we are not at that point yet and it would be far better that we be able to instigate the real processes of change right now in the hope of retaining as much in terms of local services delivered locally for local people, rather than waiting for a point where financial collapse makes even these possibilities we have right now unviable, simply because a Westminster Government decided that it would be easiest inflicting budget cuts on others in the wild hope that somebody else would be responsible enough to bring about change.

Image thanks to http://www.guardian.com 

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