Monday, 22 March 2010

Turning over a new Leaf or perhaps the End is Nigh?

I am very excited about the first mass-produced electric car for the European market being made in the North East. Hopefully this will be the first of many such vehicles. I will be saving up for one.

Of course I would not need a new car if the Grey Parties had invested properly in Public Transport. Here in rural North Yorkshire it is near impossible to hold down a job without a car. We should be cancelling all the big ticket road-building programmes and investing in public transport, especially in rural areas. Even the High Speed rail link between London and Birmingham, welcomed by many in the South East, in my view should take second place behind a massive expansion of ordinary railway services across Britain.

But if you are a motorist, one of the big mysteries of life is how the price of petrol always goes up significantly BEFORE the Chancellor's budget. Every year it is the same. Garages across the country all raise their prices at the same time. This year it has increased between 5p and 10p a litre in a matter of days. Then when the extra tax is put on petrol at the budget, the oil companies pretend the price hike had nothing to do with them.

Mind you, the value of the pound dropping has not not helped, pushing up the price of oil in Sterling. This is the direct result of "Quantitative Easing": the Government euphemism for printing money. Any GCSE Economics student knows that if you print money, you devalue the currency, causing inflation in the economy. We have not yet seen that inflation fully impact on the economy, but it is coming. Linked with the dip in the economy during the bad weather, with the VAT increase and the cessation of the scrappage scheme to come, I predict that worst of all possible worlds, stagflation (stagnant economy linked with inflation). Then of course, if, God forbid, the Tories form the next Government we will have massive cuts in public expenditure, deepening the recession even further! The End is Nigh!

Looks like I will not be able to afford my new Nissan Leaf after all. Unless of course, Sanity prevails and the country votes for the Green Party. We need Government investment in things that will create jobs in a sustainable economy. The Green Party are fighting for an immediate £44bn investment package, to create over a million new jobs that will start building the 21st Century infrastructure that Britain needs, with public transport that works and with warm, cheap to run homes. So, don't panic: just vote Green!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Parish Council puts County Council to Shame

The appalling inefficiency of Conservative controlled North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has once again hit the pockets of local residents. As we speak Council Tax bills are thudding through letter boxes, weighed down by the above average increases by North Yorkshire Local Authorities.

Not just the County Council, but also the District Council, Police and Fire Authorities have all abused their power to impose increases up to 60% higher than the national average. But the highest is the NYCC increase of 2.94%, compared to a national average of just 1.8%. This is despite the cynical increase by the Labour Government of the subsidy to Local Authorities by 4% this election year. (There will be no increase in this subsidy next year and probably a reduction in Government support for Local Authorities if either the Tories or Labour win the general election.)

Tory Councillors on NYCC are using the excuse of having to repair roads damaged by recent frosts to justify the Council Tax increase. But we all know that if NYCC had maintained those roads properly in the past, repairing those minor cracks which are later turned into potholes by the frost; then the pothole problem would not have been as severe. A more glaring example of a stitch in time that would have saved nine I cannot imagine.

But Tory incompetence does not stop there. Even in the good years NYCC have built up a deficit reported as £40m. It falls to North Yorkshire's most vulnerable residents to pay for this shortfall. They are now facing savage price rises imposed on vital care services to support them in their homes. Without the slighest sense of shame, NYCC has increased charges to those who pay for Community Services by 10 per cent in just one year.

These increases cover personal care as well as meals, transport, day care and laundry services. They were proposed in a NYCC report, "Fees and Charges for Community Care Services 2010-11", which was approved by Tory leaders but missed by the Liberal Democrat opposition at the time.

Even worse, the report suggests that people will soon be expected to pay the full cost of services, eliminating all council subsidies. There is now no maximum limit to what they can charge. The County Council currently supports 11,000 adults in the community and with baby boomers now retiring; this figure is expected to rise. It also supports 2,000 adults in residential care and 4,000 carers. But that support is being swept away to pay for Tory incompetence.

Despite these increased charges, the Council Tax rise and the increased subsidy from the Government, a pay freeze for staff and 500 redundancies are predicted. I can guarantee that the person most deserving of redundancy, Tory Leader John Weighell unfortunately will not be losing his job.

However there is some good news, for residents of Brompton on Swale at least. The Parish Council there agreed a proposal by Green Party Councillor and Deputy Chair Leslie Rowe which has led to a 0.7% decrease in the Parish Council Tax Levy. Well, every little helps!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

William Hague Disingenuous?

William Hague got Lord Ashcroft a peerage on the basis that he would become resident in this country for tax purposes in the year 2000. But in the ten years since William Hague, paid thousands of pounds for his speaking skills, has never asked Ashcroft if he had ever become resident in Britain for tax purposes?

Hague has been quizzed on this dozens of times in those 10 years. His answer has always been the same; “I have no reason to think he has not complied with the commitments that he gave.”

Disingenuous or what? Perhaps he did not want to ask the question, because he knew he would not like the answer he would get? It is not as if he did not have the opportunity for a quiet word. Despite not being part of the Tory foreign affairs team, it appears that Ashcroft, at his own expense, has flown William Hague to meetings with foreign officials no fewer than 5 times in the last few years. Apparently not even Hague’s wife, Ffion, accompanied him on these trips, so why, in the privacy of Ashcroft’s luxury yacht moored off Cuba last March or on Ashcroft’s private jet flying to China in 2006, did Hague not just ask Ashcroft the simple question, are you resident in the UK for tax purposes?

The former head of the Civil Service, Lord Turnbull has stated quite clearly that it was Mr Hague’s responsibility, as Lord Ashcroft’s “sponsor”, to ensure that the billionaire Tory donor fulfilled the undertakings he gave in return for his peerage. In a letter to Tony Blair, William Hague promised that Ashcroft would become permanently resident in the UK.

William Hague has always been good at promoting his own squeaky clean image and avoiding controversy. Even during the MPs expenses scandal last year, he avoided criticism despite receiving thousands of pounds of untaxed subsidy on his luxury home in London.

We residents of Richmond expect better from our MP. In former times, an MP would already have done the honourable thing and resigned. Unfortunately, in these cynical days, I expect that we will continue to see the unedifying spectacle of William Hague ducking and diving to avoid his responsibilities.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland Debate?

So the leaders of the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat parties have agreed to have a televised debate. A debate on what? I think the most difficult thing will be to spot the difference between them.

Frankly, a plague on all their houses. You will not get rid of sleaze in the House of Commons by voting for the same old MPs. You will not get change in society by voting for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. There is not a ha'pth of difference between the old grey parties represented by these grey leaders.

So its your choice. Waste 4½ hours watching 3 discredited politicians pretending that their policies are significantly different in front of a selected audience banned from clapping or booing, no matter how poor the content . Or use that time looking at the alternative and different policies of parties like the Green Party. Remember, the choice is yours. If you want to change the politicians, then change the way you vote.