Tag Archive | "credit crunch"

Big Brother Database or Tax Cuts?

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Big Brother Database or Tax Cuts?

Yesterday, I wrote an article suggesting how this government could reduce taxes to help stimulate growth in the economy. This was partly a Keynesian approach, given I argued that it was possible that these tax cuts could be self-funding, if my proposals worked. The reason for this was, if we do nothing, there is likely to be a significant surge of people claiming benefits, rather than generating income for government coffers. My proposal was, if the government was going to borrow to invest, they would be better off doing so, with a natural stimulus, rather than bringing forward capital building projects which would only benefit a small section of the economy.

My proposal, amongst other things, was that government should reduce the basic rate of personal tax by 5%. Over a period of 3 years, this would cost around £45bn, less than 10% of the cost of the banking bailout. However, by allowing us to retain more of our own money, we could decide how and where we would spend the extra money we were ‘permitted’ to retain. If we were to spend it in much the same was as we did before the crash, my argument was and is, that more small and medium sized business would survive and therefore more people would remain in employment. I noted that some 13.5m people were employed by small businesses and these same companies accounted for, just shy of 50% of UK Plc’s output. However, I also noted, that the Keynesian approach was that government should adopt a balanced budget, that is to say, they should cut back government spending in certain areas, to allow them to invest in other areas. Having read my post this morning, addressing the usual, inexcusable typos, I decided that I should expand on my own theory.

For example, my pet hate is the government’s proposed Big Brother Database, which I think is a massive attack on the civil liberties of every person in this country and an unforgivable intrusion into our right to privacy. That said, this government, if it goes ahead with this initiative, is expected to spend some £12bn on this massive Big Brother Database. Now quite apart from the fact that we know this government has never yet managed to bring an IT project in on budget, the figure that needs to be allocated is huge.

Therefore, the question I wanted to ask was:
Which would you prefer a Big Brother Database that infringes our civil liberties and intrudes on our privacy at a cost of £12bn or an immediate 4% cut in the basic rate of income tax for at least 1 year? From 20% to 16%? – I know what my answer will be.

Then I went on to look at other large government capital expenditure projects, this time I focused in on the much criticised NHS Database Project. It is worth noting that the original cost was estimated to be £2.3bn, by 2006 that had rocketed to £12bn, with some independent estimates suggesting it could cost as much as £32 billion. Most medical professionals question the viability of this project, the public have barely been consulted on such a massive project and even though some £2bn has already been spent, there is little to show for it. So, lets be generous, and take a middle figure between the governments estimate of £12bn and the independent estimates of £32. This leaves us with a likely cost of £22bn.

Therefore, my question is:
Which would you prefer, to shelve or cancel the NHS Database or receive an immediate cut in the basic rate of income tax of 5% for at least 18 months? The reason I have said ‘at least’ is because if this additional money prevents people losing their jobs and claiming benefits, then it would be possible to extend the period of the tax cut, perhaps indefinitely.

So what of the ID Database Project. Yes, I know, this government is completely obsessed with databases, it is a pity, they do not also consider the massive security risks associated with having all of this information on computers. However, I digress, this particular project, is simply aimed at having all of our personal ID information in one place. The cost, an eye-watering £5.4bn.

So, once again, my question is, which would you prefer, an ID database where only the government and its agents see the benefit, or an immediate cut in the basic rate of income tax of 2%, for a least one year, from 20% to 18%?

My basic premis is that this government has an obsession for massive information technology projects, most of which have been so poorly considered, specified and planned that they are either doomed to failure or massive cost overruns. This governments track record of waste is well documented and appalling. Most of these pet projects are not wanted by the public and it has to be said, the vast majority will allow government to know everything their is to know about every single legal citizen in this country. Because this government is obsessed with using IT to spy and control its subjects. At this time, the biggest threat to our security (apart from the government itself) and our well being, is the state of our economy, not terrorism. Yet no-one from government has suggested shelving, postponing or cancelling any of these Big Brother databases. Even though, combined, these 3 projects alone, will cost a staggering £40bn. If the government were to add an extra £5bn, we could all benefit from a reduction in the basic rate of income tax of 5%. From 20% to 15%, for a period of 3 years, if we are lucky, this would be able to see us through this period of recession. In addition, as I have argued earlier, if this money is invested into the economy by us, then jobs could be saved, government would benefit from the revenues brought about by indirect taxes, business taxes and fewer unemployed claiming benefits.

So, my final question, is which would you prefer? Government to spend £40bn on 3 highly questionable information technology projects at a time of this massive economic downturn, or more money in your pocket. £40bn on IT projects, or a 5% cut in the basic rate of tax for 5 years. QED!

I have also argued strongly for a significant, simultaneous cut in the Bank of England bases rates from 4.5%, to 2%, with all taxpayer funded banks being ‘required’ to pass on this cut to their customers. This will reduce the number of repossessions and/or increase the amount of money available to us, to reinvest into the economy. I am sure there will be economists out there that can or will pick holes in my arguments, well go ahead, someone needs to come up with some ideas, because it is pretty clear to me, this government hasn’t got a clue, the Conservative Party has backed themselves into a corner with their negative, one size fits all ‘austerity’ assessment of our economic future and none of the other parties have any influence. Sad, but true!

Posted in Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (7)

Gordon Brown, its time to introduce tax cuts

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Gordon Brown, its time to introduce tax cuts

At prime ministers questions time, Gordon Brown, once again, decided to take all the credit for “creating 3 million new jobs” and none of the responsibility for the ‘bust’ brought about by the credit funded boom that was his creation. Instead, he avoided all of the questions he was asked and once again, came out with the same old mantra, that the problem was the fault of the Americans and the bankers. Nothing new there then.

He did imply, however, that he believed that the government should invest in times of recession, a sort of embracing of the Keynesian approach. However, John Maynard Keynes did not suggest that government should simply spend, but that there should be a balance. He also argued, that it was possible that if government used borrowed money wisely, it could be self-financing. For example, most people want to work, which means that given the opportunity, they will not be a burden on the state, but an asset. In addition, companies want to sell their goods, at a fair price, employ people, succeed and therefore, be an asset to the state.

To achieve this, people need to have money to spend, yet the state takes nearly 50% of what we all earn. That is way, way too much. A reduction in direct taxation, would be much less expensive than building new schools and hospitals earlier than was originally intended. Moreover, a construction boom will be very limited in terms of assisting the wider economy. What we need is more money in peoples pockets, which they can invest in buying goods and services offered by retailers, service providers and manufacturers. In other words, a natural stimulus, not a false one.

If people feel poorer, then they will push their employers to pay them more, this adds a further burden to struggling businesses and places inflationary pressures on the wider economy. In addition, public sector workers, who account for some 20% of all employees in the UK are starting to get increasingly vocal about higher wage increases and they are backing this up with threats of industrial action. This is no good to anyone. Furthermore, if they succeed in getting higher wages, this will be a cost borne directly by the taxpayer and will inevitably result in a cut in services as the public sector attempts to balance the books.

We know that a boom based on easy credit is not the answer, nor does the equity in a property really amount to tangible wealth. The Keynesian approach advocated, amongst other things that borrowing to provide tax cuts can provide an aggregate increase in demand and, that properly targeted, it could be self-financing, because demand will create or save jobs and people that are employed, are not a burden on the state. In addition, companies that are selling goods, will be pay tax and sell goods that, for the most part, attract VAT.

A cut in direct taxation would have an immediate and tangible affect on the publics ability (not necessarily willingness) to spend. If this would was coupled with a substantial, perhaps 2 or 2.5% cut in bank base rates, then the benefits would multiply as would the potential speed of recovery. The government has indicated that they want to spend £12bn to create a database to spy on the public, apart from the fact that this is both unnecessary and a massive attack on our civil liberties, it is also something that is a nice to have, rather than a need to have. That notwithstanding, even if they proceeded with this database, the chances are, the contract would be awarded to an American company! Yet this £12bn, could ‘fund’ a 5% cut is direct taxation for nearly 3 years, if you were to ask the public what they would sooner have, there are no prizes for guessing their likely preference.

In addition, the government is intending to proceed with the £13bn NHS computer system. There is no proof that the system will work, nor has their been a sensible cost/benefit analysis. This project should be shelved and the money used to invest into small and medium sized businesses. I wrote an article yesterday, outlining some of my own ideas to assist small businesses. These companies employ 50% of our workers, some 13.5m people and provide nearly half of our output. An investment in this area, could secure jobs, companies and tax revenues.

It is true, governments cannot prevent a recession, but they can, through careful management of their (our) finances, targeted initiatives and the shelving of non-essential investment programmes, reduce the length and severity. Had the conservative party not nailed their colours to the mast, with an austerity assessment of the UK economy, claiming that “the cupboard was bare”, then they could have proposed this type of solution. Instead, they must either say that they got it wrong, or the Labour government, if they are bright enough to steal the initiative, will be able to come out of this smelling of roses.

For what it is worth, I am not convinced that this government, or the other political parties will want to endorse my suggestions, because they seem more interested in telling us what won’t work, rather than what might. It is this dithering and indecision that will damage this economy. Whatever action is taken it needs to be bold, decisive and meaningful. Therefore, in summary, my suggestions are as follows:

  1. Shelve the £13bn investment in the NHS computer system
  2. Cancel the proposed £12bn Big Brother Britain database
  3. Reduce direct taxation by 5% for a minimum period of 3 years
  4. Implement a package of incentives and tax reductions for small business
  5. Instruct the independent Bank of England to slash rates from 4.5% to 2%
  6. Ensure that all taxpayer funded banks pass on the full cut immediately, which should encourage the others to follow or lose

My suggestion will cost a tiny fraction of what the government has already invested into the banking system and provide a tangible stimulus to the economic activity of this country. Above all, it may just ensure that we can watch the news and receive some good news. If the government introduced, or the other parties proposed such an initiative, I do not believe anyone, other than a few discredited bankers and economists (who already got it wrong), would criticise the move. The bottom line is it is our money and we should be allowed to keep more of it and decide where we will invest it.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (3)

Government bailout, take a breather and reflect

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Government bailout, take a breather and reflect

Now that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have committed some £500bn to the banks in loans, guarantees and shares, it is time to reflect, to allow the city, time to digest the level of this intervention before going any further. There is now a real risk that the government could become its own worst enemy, by saying they “will do whatever is necessary to stablise the UK economy”, they are sending the wrong message to the city. Yes, I mean the wrong message, city investors are not uninterested parties here. Whilst the taxpayer is shoring up balance sheets, buying up shares, rescuing companies and intervening in the money markets, the ‘city types’ have their own investment portfolios protected. The government is continuing to speculate at our expense, with limited or no risk to the investors.

As I have said before, I am no economist, I am no expert, but I have been blessed with some commonsense. This tells me that if you are constantly running at full pelt, you don’t have time to see what you have passed, what you have left behind and whether you are still in the race. The government must stop NOW, before they bankrupt this country. They have oiled the wheels and reduced much of the investor risk through these interventions and the substantial injections of cash underwritten by the UK taxpayer. No more open-ended promises.

Government must also look at which stocks are falling. For example, most people accept that we are about to face a world recession, therefore, you can expect organisations that are involved in commodities to see their share prices fall. And, of course, these are some of the largest companies, in terms of value, on the stock exchange. Add this to banking and financial stocks and of course we will see a massive fall in the value of the FTSE. On top of the so called banking crisis, a recession means that city experts will be looking at companies that will do well out of a downturn and those that won’t, this will then be reflected in their share price. So, given there is a recession looming, it is fair to assume that stock prices would have fallen anyway.

Virtually from day one, this government has used taxpayers money as if they had been given their very first credit card. They have gone on a spending spree, thinking they are rich and there is an endless money supply. Then, once they realised they had overspent or reached their credit limit, they simply came after the taxpayer for more money. As a consequence, this Labour government has set a poor example to everyone else, now we must all pay for our excesses…but that includes government who must haul back on their investment commitments, they must learn to live within their means, just like everyone else must do.

My concern, is that the current banking crisis has them on that road again, they think they can spend more and more of our future tax revenues in the name of saving us all from some type of doomsday scenario. Now I accept, some form of intervention was necessary, but this must have limits and I am worried that this government has exceeded those limits with an intervention that is worth at least as much as that provided by the American’s, who’s economy is 3 times the size of our own. It is also worth noting, that £500bn is more than double all tax receipts, based on the 2007 figure. Given we are likely to have much reduced tax revenues because of company losses (they can carry these forward to offset against future profits), falling employment and lower sales, this £500bn might end up being the equivalent of 3 years worth of tax receipts.

Now the government have told us there may be some upside for the taxpayer. I don’t like the word ‘may’, nor do I really trust this government to negotiate a good deal for the taxpayer. It has been suggested that this government has lost close to £110bn in poorly negotiated contracts, mistakes and failed projects. This record does not bode well for the taxpayer, when the same people are negotiating with experts. Lets hope, this time they have learned some lessons, though I will not hold my breath. But in the meantime, I would like to advice Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown to STOP, pause for thought, look at whether what you have done has had any positive affect and stop offering the city a blank cheque, no-one could blame them for taking advantage.

Posted in General | Comments (5)

Banking Crisis and the responsibility of the auditors

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Banking Crisis and the responsibility of the auditors

At the moment one day pretty much blends into another, but on one of the evening news programmes this week, another fat cat, fee-earner had the temerity to say, when questioned, that auditors had played no part in the financial mire that is the bane of every UK taxpayer. I have to admit, that I wanted to throw something at him, because I have been arguing for weeks that the auditors have failed in their duty to the shareholders and worst still, shall be one of the few ‘industries’ that will make money out of this fiasco, through company administrations, receivership’s, consultancy fees and so on.

Lets look at the generally accepted definition of a Finance Audit:
The process of verifying a company’s financial information. Auditors are certified public accountants who are independent of the corporation. An auditor examines a company’s accounting books and records in order to determine whether the company is following appropriate account procedures. An auditor issues an opinion in a report that says whether the financial statements present fairly the company’s financial position and its operational results in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

And here is a common definition of an Auditor
Auditor is the person appointed to conduct an examination of the records, to form an opinion about the authenticity and correctness of such records, by verifying the correctness and reliability of the recorded transactions from the evidences available, opinion and inference reachable based on his expertise.

Most, if not all, stock market listed companies in this country and, for that matter, around the world, use the services of one of the so called ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms. These big firms charge huge sums for their audits, often running into £millions, and the audit teams are lead by high ranking ‘fee earners’. In other words, as the businesses, banks and financial institutions they audited expanded, so have the fees earned by the auditors and yet, not one audit firm appears to have asked any questions about what is now being described as “questionable accounting” practices within the financial services and banking sectors.

For example, do we know of any audit firm that qualified a set of accounts within the banking sector because of the heavy reliance on a particular financial model, such as in the case of Northern Rock? Has an audit firm raised any prior concern over the way that ‘bundled’ mortgage debt was traded, sold and then re-sold, with each party taking a profit or commission, without really knowing the risks or true value of the asset.

You would think that after Enron and Worldcom, auditors would be even more cautious, especially given investors and business people alike, will have increasingly come to rely on the expertise and the independence of the auditors before they make financial investment decisions related to the company being audited. It is absolutely essential that the audits of company’s that rely on external investors for funding are wide-ranging, thorough and probing, a failure to do this and ask questions, is, in my impinion a dereliction of the auditors responsibility to the shareholders. If an audit is not indepependent, or in-depth, why on earth do so many companies pay so much money out every year for their audits?

I personally believe that, when the investigation begins, as it surely will, the part played by company auditors also needs investigating. Given they will be the only party to have profited in the ‘boom’ as well as profited out of the ‘bust’, yet they were also the only party, other that the regulatory authorities, that had a duty to ensure that they reported the facts, discovered questionable practices and reported their findings in an open, direct and a frank manner. I do not say that any of these accountancy firms are culpable, because I would have nothing to back this up with (other than logic of course), but I can say that, I believe they have failed, for the most part, in their duty to appropriately and competently assess the risks associated with some of the more questionable practices adopted by the banking and financial industries.

I also believe that shareholders that have lost money should consider individual or class actions against any audit firms that are left wanting in this current mess. For them to be preening themselves in front of the cameras, whilst rubbing their hands with glee, behind the scenes, is stomach churning. If there job was not to highlight risks, operating and reporting practices, asset values and profit claims, what on earth were they charging such massive audit fees for? The Audit Firms must not be allowed to extract themselves from any form of responsibility whilst the rest of us are left to pick up the tab and the pieces of what is left.

Posted in General | Comments (2)

David Cameron, man with a plan?

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David Cameron, man with a plan?

Yesterday, David Cameron, in his address at the conservative party conference told us that he was a man with a plan. The generally accepted definition of a ‘plan’ is ‘A scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective’. Now, whilst I accept that he may have a plan, his speech was short on detail and therefore, he must either expect the electorate to take him at face value, or he intends to publish more detail in the future. If it is the former, then it is a very big ask, given few, if any politicians have earned the trust of the electorate. If the latter, then I would suggest that it be sooner, rather than later if he wants to be considered a heavyweight, rather than a lightweight.

It was clear that David Cameron wanted to come across as sincere, a man of depth, with honesty and sincerity at his core. Excellent values, but if I may be so bold? David Cameron adds little, when he simply repeats what we already know, that the economy is sliding towards a recession, the government has incurred significant debts and that the overall tax take is on a decline in line with the economic downturn. He tells us that we must fact a period of austerity and that he must make, indeed will make the tough decisions for the long term benefit of the country, “no matter how unpopular” that makes him. Really? Well I have got news for you mate, we have just had 11 years of tax rises and there is no point in the electorate voting in a Conservative government that is promising more of the same, No way sunshine, not in a million years.  

David Cameron may, albeit based on yesterday’s speech this is hardly guaranteed, win the next election simply because so many people are fed up with New Labour. But, if Cameron thinks he will be whisked into Downing Street on the back of tax rises, I think he is wrong. Okay, so he hasn’t said it in so many words, but isn’t that the point, we are all fed up with politicians talking in code, saying one thing and meaning another. However, if he tells us he is going to put up taxes, he would probably need to explain which one’s, by how much, when, and of course, why. So instead, we get coded threats about David Cameron being willing and ready to make the “tough decisions”. Sorry mate, that doesn’t make you clever, because we could all do that, even Labour. David Cameron doesn’t deserve to be elected on a principle of using higher taxes to prop up government finances, after all, surely a principled man like David Cameron wouldn’t approve if we all went and helped ourselves to more money from our employers pockets and lets face it, there is no difference.

With a bloated public sector employing one in five of the workforce, massive government waste on projects and initiatives that have gone nowhere, or are going nowhere, there is plenty of ‘fat’ that be cut before dipping into our pockets. Much as many of us want to get rid of New Labour, I would urge floating voters not to vote for David Cameron on a mandate, coded or otherwise, of higher taxes. This is because it really doesn’t take a very clever man to increase taxes, in fact, that is the easiest thing to do. Increasing taxes is what we would expect from a novice, a man of little experience and man short on ideas, ability, depth or lets face it, credibility. It takes a real man, or woman, to tackle the reason why so much of our money is needed in tax and that, is what we have come to expect from a conservative leader. There must be a war on government waste and excesses.

I believe Cameron is sincere, but I also believe his personal life is shielded from the real problems of the people in this country. He doesn’t have to struggle paying his mortgage, car payments or utility bills. Yet he meets a couple of people and think he knows what it all means. If I spend 10 minutes observing my car being serviced, does that mean I am a mechanic?

I have said, in the past, that anything is better than New Labour. But if I am honest, a new government, that still believes that they are entitled to increase their tax take from the British public, in spite of the hardship, before knowing how much they could save by cutting government excess and waste, doesn’t deserve our vote.

Think again Cameron….the LibDems have failed miserably for the past 3 or 4 elections because they thought the British public would agree to higher taxes. They were wrong and you are wrong. It is possible that the conservatives will get in because of the significant backlash against New Labour, however, if we know that the conservatives are going to put up taxes, we may just decide that it is better the devil we know and stick with experience.

I have always been a conservative, but I could not and will not bring myself to vote for any party that includes tax increases as part of its commitment, not least because this current administration has left enough fat within government to keep a butcher employed for 5 years without losing any of the meat. Think about it Mr Cameron, get rid of some of your Eton boys and get some real people in to advise you….before you cock it up!

Posted in Conservatives, General | Comments (0)

President David Cameron addresses conference

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President David Cameron addresses conference

Today, David Cameron provided what, for all intents and purposes, could be described as a ‘presidential’ address to conference, albeit the intention was to address the nation. Although this may described as political opportunism, he did, actually pull it off, at least insofar as to make it look as if the conservatives want to be an ally of the Labour government in this time of crisis, rather than an adversary.

What was interesting was, that Cameron came across as mature, thinking and determined, even though the content lacked real meat. However, he has promised to elaborate on this tomorrow. In his speach, he announced that he was going to drop his party’s minor objection to the current Banking Bill, in terms of who has the final say on the event that the Bank of England needs to intervene to save a bank, the BoE of the FSA, the conservatives originally favoured the former, whilst the Labour party the latter. He has also vowed to support the rapid introduction of further guarantees for savers money.

Finally, he suggested that he would support the government in its endeavours to address the complex issue of “marking to market”, a process whereby banks price daily their assets which, it is argued, is causing bank stocks to fall even further. The proposal is that this practice should be suspended. Quite how this would work, Cameron did not explain, therefore, we can assume that it will be challenging or perhaps, not even possible.

What is perhaps more important, is that the conservatives in general and David Cameron in particular, have, throughout this crisis, remained in the shadows, so to come out and make this type of statement is significant, if, perhaps underwhelming. Nonetheless, what was important was that Cameron emphasised that the conservative party was not a subsidiary of the CBI or the city, two areas where they are seen as possible lapdogs. One other very significant point, was that he made clear, that there must be a day of judgement for the bankers, not now, whilst all this turmoil is going on, but once the dust has settled.

Yesterday, I argued strongly, that the bankers and executives that have presided over this chaos and brought many very powerful, established and well-known companies to their knees, or worse and should be investigated. Further, this should be done quickly, in order that their assets can be frozen, less a small allowance, pending a criminal investigation, which could lead to the permanent sequestration of their assets. [Banking Crisis, a time for reflection and payback]

What I would like to see now, is David Cameron come out further on this issue, by providing a direct challenge to the Labour government to make a commitment, here and now on the issue of their ‘day of judgement’. If the government and other parties want the ongoing support of the public, they must agree to mount criminal investigations, into the actions of the bankers and city executives and they must not allow those same people the opportunity to salt away their assets through uneccessary or avoidable delays.

Well done David, timing was good, the tone was excellent, now you need to keep the pressure on and come up with tangible solutions, because of course, the offer of rapid passage of two acts through parliament is not going to fix things, more, much more needs to be done. Time to turn words into action and if necessary, show the government wanting if they fail to act quickly and decisively.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour | Comments (0)

Banking Crisis, a time for reflection and payback

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Banking Crisis, a time for reflection and payback

When the dust settles, governments around the world need to reflect on precisely how a situation arose, where taxpayers were required to bail out struggling banks and insurers. This should be wide ranging and lead to both regulation and prosecution.

It is insufficient in the extreme to state that the stock markets require regulation, the truth is that executives of some of the largest banks and insurers in the world have acted recklessly and in return, have profited through bonuses and dividend payments. They have manufactured products that could be traded for profit, even though 10 years or so ago, these types of trades did not exist, in fact, some are so complicated, that even financial experts and city observers have struggled to explain how they worked.

It must be remembered, that the executives of these banks and insurance companies were charged with a fiduciary duty to look after their shareholders interests and act responsibly. From what I can see, they have created products that allowed them to make short-term profits on traded mortgage securities and the like. In many cases, shareholders have lost everything, many of whom are pension companies, which means that the ultimate losers will be all those that have invested their hard earned money in a pension fund and of course, the taxpayer.

Few can argue, that the actions of many of these top executives has been reckless in the extreme, because previously solid businesses have now had to be bailed, whether through nationalisation or central bank loans. With the position, salary, share options, dividends and bonuses, must come the responsibility. Anyone who has been party to the decisions that have lead to the failure of the business they were responsible for, should be required to forfeit any profits they received.

During these tough times, there is a need for cool heads, particularly from government, but we will come out the other side. The government’s however, must act now, by freezing the assets of all executives who are believed to have been party to this reckless behaviour, before they are allowed to salt away their assets, as they surely will. The public will not forgive government, for allowing these people to protect their assets and avoid paying the price for their reckless behavior.

This is not about starting a blame game, nor is it a witch-hunt, both of which may even be justifiable. It is a method by which government, on behalf of the people, can make clear, that reckless behaviour, for short-term profit, which leads to business failure has a price. In the UK, company directors can already be held personally responsible if they have continued to trade whilst insolvent, based on some of the recent examples of spectacular business failures, it is difficult to see how some of the banking executives could claim that their business was solvent.

Government must use existing legislation to investigate and if necessary, charge reckless company executives. If necessary, they must introduce further legislation to increase their powers in such circumstances, but in a first move, they must seek to freeze most or all of the assets of these failed bankers and their cronies. It does not matter if they have been donors to party funds, politicians responsibilities are to the electorate, not a few failed bankers. The predict, that the first party to promise to freeze the assets of these bankers, pending an investigation, will receive a massive boost in the polls, so even if they don’t do it because it is right, they could try it for the poll boost!

Posted in General, World | Comments (6)

Tory leadership crisis, David Cameron lost at sea

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Tory leadership crisis, David Cameron lost at sea

Okay, okay, so this statement would be typical of New Labour, an attention grabbing headline and little of real substance below the line. But I will try and make up for it!

For the past 6 or 8 weeks and more specifically in the last two weeks, this country has faced one of its greatest challenges in a generation or perhaps more. The present Government has been further weakened by internal feuds and the leader looks as if he is on another planet, in fact, when he speaks, it serves only to confirm this notion. In this turbulent period, the government has shown no leadership and provided and there has been little or no suggestion that they event know what is going on, least of all how to steer this country through the maze.

There is increasing evidence that the people of this country are far more politically savvy than a decade or so ago and they are being far more vocal and expressive about there feelings. With the ban on smoking in the pubs and clubs around this country and the reduction in the cost of broadband, more and more people are expressing their views online. The people are saying, get it together man, you have failed, us, redeem yourself, show us leadership, confidence, depth and honesty. The leader, Gordon Brown, and his cabinet have scurried around at a great rate of knots but achieved nothing.  

The government even resorted to their old tricks of ‘smoke and mirror’ soundbites with the promise of help for all, on energy saving measures. But when the announcement was unravelled, it turned out that the nearly every penny was being put up by the energy companies and even then, they clearly had not agreed, because the government was threatening legislation if the energy companies did not comply. Worse still, the government sought no assurance that we would not pay for these programmes through higher future bills and they put less into the overall initiative than they deducted off the Warm Front budget. Evidently this is a government in turmoil, a rudderless ship, but with no other captain on board.

So what better time for the leader of the opposition, David Cameron to ride to the rescue, to show himself and offer up creative, tangible solutions and ideas? But the amazing ‘invisible man’ is nowhere to be seen. Here was a prime opportunity to set politics aside and come up with proposals, new ideas and the people to drive these initiatives forward. Programmes that could offered all party support, a united front at a time of crisis, after all, this country is at war, albeit of a different type to the conventional description. A self-deprecating speech, accepting that whilst New Labour was the primary entity responsible for our current predicament, he felt that all members of parliament should share in that responsibility.

So, here was a perfect opportunity for David Cameron to demonstrate true leadership and maturity, by offering to assist the government in any way he could, by coming up with alternative ideas, initiatives, programmes and interventions. Rather than using the opportunity to kick a man whilst he was down, the British public just don’t like that, he could have offered a helping hand. Allowed, the British public to see that he wasn’t simply a silver spooned, old Etonian, but a person with substance, initiative, depth and commonsense. A person ready to help when needed, to unite under the flag and tackle the issues head on for the sake of the British public. The so called ‘leader’ of the opposition has shown no such skills, he has become the amazing invisible man and in doing so has demonstrated political cowardice, something that is unforgivable in the current climate.

He is so worried about dropping in the polls, that he has said virtually nothing, he is so scared of getting it wrong, he hides in the corner and he is so petrified of New Labour stealing his ideas, that he prefers to see this country suffer, rather than affect his poll results. This suggests a shallow man, one that lacks the maturity and gravitas to lead this country and above all, one that is driven by polls, rather than actions. Well, the latest polls indicate that his strategy is failing, he has fallen in the polls and the LibDems have picked up the slack and quite right to. Those guilty of political cowardice should not be rewarded. Perhaps we should all be grateful that we found out early enough to do something about it.

Cameron might argue that he is keeping his powder dry for the Conservative party conference, perhaps, but this is akin to a life saver watching a drowning man struggle, whilst he puts his swimming cap on, to ensure that his carefully crafted hairstyle does not get wet! History tells us, that in a crisis, it is often the most unlikely people that end up being our saviours, with those that talk to the talk, rarely proving that they can walk the walk. Because a guy is relatively young and talks posh, does not mean he will be a good leader or for that matter prime minister. In fact, most of our better leaders have not been oil painting, so pretty boy needs to think on!

David Cameron, you need to come out of hiding, show yourself, stand up and be counted. Whatever the polls say at the moment, when the time comes, we will either remember your political cowardice, or the other parties will remind us, so when you need the British public the most, they may just desert the coward. I have always considered the Conservative party to be something of a powerhouse, but now, all I see is a quivering wreck.

Posted in Conservatives, General | Comments (6)

Gordon Brown, there will be no return to Tory Boom and Bust

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Gordon Brown, there will be no return to Tory Boom and Bust

There is an inevitability in politics that your unguarded, or newor that matter your carefully delivered words will come back to haunt you. Here are some of Gordon Brown’s.

During his Labour Party conference speech in 2000, Gordon Brown said “We will not put hard won economic stability at risk. No return to short-termism. No return to Tory boom and bust” and he went on to say “why did the Tory party give Britain twenty years of stop-go, twenty years of boom and bust. It is Labour that is now the party for stability and growth.”

Now we know that whenever anything goes wrong, Mr Brown always blames the “Tory party” or now, he prefers to say that our problems are as a consequence of “world economic issues and the credit crunch”. Okay, for a change, there is some truth in that statement, but that is only a recent phenomena, it does not really answer the question of how we got into this position of boom and bust.

On Gordon Brown’s watch, we have seen house prices rise some 200% (23% in 2003 alone) from 1997 to 2007, we have seen a massive increase in the availability of credit and people have felt relatively wealthy as a consequence of the increase in value of their homes. Easy credit meant that many people could remortgage their homes so that they could buy a new car or go on a fancy holiday. During the same period, 1997 to 2007, average wages rose by just 52%, so it was quite obvious that consumer spending had nothing to do with increased wealth through rising wages.

People were offered interest free credit for car and electronic purchases, 125% mortgages, equity release programmes and would receive credit card offers through the post every day. Because many people considered that the increase in their property value was a one way bet, they continues to borrow, believing that they could release equity as and when they needed to. Experts were telling us time and again that the level of consumer debt was at record levels and wasn’t sustainable. Gordon Brown chose to ignore this advice, in spite of the assurance he gave in his conference speech and on numerous occasions since, that he would not allow a return to boom and bust, what he termed a Tory disease.

Gordon Brown knew that the consumer boom was financed by debt, much of which was secured against property prices, which he knew could be volatile, he know that savings were down and debt has spiralled. But he did nothing, previous governments had put in credit controls to address these issues and risks, he sat there preening his feathers and claiming credit for growth figures, yet ignoring that one day it would all come to a dramatic end. It is unlikely he understood just how dramatic that would be, but he knew it would end up is a “bust”.

Gordon Brown’s relationship with prudence was a mere dalliance, personally, I am at a complete loss as to why political commentators and the tabloid press continue to refer to him as a good chancellor, an iron chancellor or one who places prudence first. At the same time as this country was experiencing an economic boom, financed on credit, he himself was, in spite of the fact that he had increasing tax revenues, on a government spending and borrowing spree. Fancy footwork ensured that the PFI initiatives, which will cost us £170bn between now and 2032, did not end up recorded as government debt, but it is still there and it has to be paid. In the good times he should have been repaying government debt, to place us in a better position when the inevitable “bust” came, he did not, he ignored it and continued to spend.

Rising commodity prices and the credit crunch have exacerbated the problem, but ask anyone with a little understanding of basic economics and they would have told you that the crunch was going to happen anyway, debt financed growth was not sustainable even in dreamland that was New Labour. Gordon Brown inherited, whatever he says, a steady and sustainable economy, he just blew it!

It is also worth noting, that manufacturing in this country has been in decline, yes, even under this government and our economy is heavily reliant on banking and financial services. Two areas that are under significant and sustained pressure. It remains to be seen how this will affect employment, tax revenues and our balance of payment deficits. With many banks and financial institutions making substantial losses, these will transfer, not just into an immediate loss of tax revenues, but, because they can accumulate these losses, a further reduction of tax revenues in the coming years.

Gordon Brown’s economic credentials and reputation for prudence is in tatters and we shall be paying the price long after he has left office.

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (6)

Fuel Poverty and the proposed government rebates

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Fuel Poverty and the proposed government rebates

Gordon Brown is right, the rumoured proposal that the government provide rebates or vouchers to those in ‘fuel poverty’ is simply not sustainable. With an estimated 4.5m homes in fuel poverty by the end of the year, this problem is of a scale that no government can realistically resolve without placing a massive burden on the public purse. Worst still, the problem will still be there in a year’s time, possibly even worse and those recipients will expect the government to step in again.

The government is right, investment needs to be placed into a long term solution, that both encourages and helps people use less energy. This is part education and part investment. It is estimated that home insulation and other energy saving measures can reduce energy bills by as much as a third. However, the government recently reduced the money available to Warm Front by a third, this does not provide much evidence that the government is practicising what it preaches. No doubt Gordon Brown will reverse this decision and then suggest that it is “new money”.

Whilst there are an estimated 4.5m people in fuel poverty, it is worth noting that everyone is suffering, irrespective of whether they have been labeled as such. Those that are not currently in fuel poverty are also having to contend with higher fuel bills, higher food bills and in some cases, higher mortgage costs. Many who are actually working have had to seek part-time jobs. If the government provides subsidies to those in fuel poverty, the truth is, everyone else will have to foot the bill, either through higher taxes or higher fuel bills. The government need to be creative rather than simply shifting the burden, not least because those that are in work have consistently, under this government, been expected to take up the slack and pay for those that are not prepared to look for part-time work.

The government should increase the amount of money available for energy saving measures such as insulation and low energy bulbs. They should persuade, rather than attempt to threaten, the existing energy companies to meet this additional investment on a pound for pound basis. It must be remembered that these energy companies will have to invest billions of pounds over the next 10 years to secure our energy resources for the next generation. They must stop talking about a windfall tax, but instead, use the carbon trading scheme to maximum affect to encourage the investment in UK based energy saving measures rather than those of third world countries.

There is no doubt that the energy companies have taken advantage of the current turmoil to increase their profits and therefore the dividend payments received by their shareholders. The government must provide the regulator with teeth, in order that the regulator can control and approve energy increases. If the regulator is not in place to keep a handle on such matters, then what is it there for? [Can Parliament control Energy Prices]

Another, perhaps more controversial solution, is to allow those in fuel poverty to seek part-time jobs. Yes, I am talking about lone parents, pensioners, the unemployed and the 2.5m in receipt of long term disability payments. There will be some that are genuinely not capable of work, even light work, but the vast majority could do something, stacking shelves, cleaning, washing cars etc. If those in work have to help themselves to keep their heads above water, then why not the unemployed, lone parents, pensioners and long term disabled? Many won’t because they have to declare the money they earn and so, for every pound they earn, they lose it in benefit. So in a way, their view is understandable, given it is a disincentive to help themselves.

Instead of just giving them another handout, which only encourages them to expect a bailout everytime they are in trouble, the government should give them a tax free allowance, that would allow them to earn, for example, up to £150 per month without having to pay tax or national insurance. Yes, we wouldn’t get any tax revenues from these earnings, but neither would the rest of us have to pay out a cash subsidy in full. Better still, it encourages them to stand on their own two feet, to stop looking at the state, or more accurately their working neighbours, friends and relations to subsidise their living expenses. There may be a special case for pensioners, but they, of course, do receive additional fuel allowances and many would work part-time if it were not for the complicated process of paperwork and tax they must endure at the hands of this bureaucracy obsessed government. Those in receipt of ‘tax credits’ could be provided with a special ‘work credit’ that would allow them, or their partner to earn a specified amount of money which would not be subject to tax or national insurance. This could be removed, if necessary, at a leter date as the economy improves.

Any allowances should be very carefully targeted at those that simply cannot help themselves, genuine cases, not the workshy. Those in receipt of benefits would have no excuse not to do what everyone else must do when things are tight, to go and get a part-time job, to help themselves. You reap what you sow.

A creative approache to government always has its critics, because there will always be those that believe it is wrong to expect people to help themselves, or it is just not the way things are done in the UK. Who cares, our greatest leaders have had original thought and a desire to deliver. But, desperate times require desperate measures. A government bereft of original thought, needs to be more radical, a government that believes throwing money rather than opportunity in the direction of the so called poor, needs to look at alternatives.

This government needs to look at its income much the same as the average family. In difficult times, the family will look at ways to economise, ways in which they can generate additional income and ways in which they can reduce or minimise the cost of their borrowings. Government needs to adopt a similar approach. There are countless examples of this government’s waste, excess and abuse of taxpayers money. They need to reign this in now. Government needs to look, not at borrowing their way out of this mess, or just dipping into the pockets of the hardworking taxpayers once again. They must be creative in their thinking, radical in their approach and understand that if it was not for the taxpayers of this country, the poor would be desolate, starving and homeless. But there is a limit to just how much you can redistribute wealth and most taxpayers have had enough.

The pound is low, which makes exports much cheaper, this government should have their best ‘salespeople’ lobbying leaders of other countries to buy our products, to improve our exports. It doesn’t matter whether it is the trade department or the ambassador, everyone should be put to work to help this country. Taxpayers funds, as the government has finally discovered, are not the bottomless pit they once believed. Be creative, be bold and stop worrying about your seats at the next election. This government must start to demonstrate respect, not contempt for the ‘have’s’ that have subsidised and supported the ‘have not’s’ and allowed you to spread our money around as if it were your own or an automatic entitlement. Above all, remember, there are 650 of you that have been entrusted with the future of this country, earn that trust by doing your jobs!

A good start would be to suspend or dramatically reduce our overseas aid budget. This could provide up to £5bn to invest in energy saving measures. Charity, as the saying goes, begins at home. This government ignores that at it’s peril.

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (9)

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