Tag Archive | "political opinion"

The great energy con and poor ministerial representation

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The great energy con and poor ministerial representation

Regular readers of my rantings will know that I have argued strongly against a windfall tax on the energy companies, which I felt was, in effect, a tax on enterprise. I also arguedthat Ofgem should either do its job or if doesn’t have the powers, then it must be provided with them, given they appear to be acting as the energy companies lapdog, not its regulator.

However it is a two way street, the energy companies were quick to announce large scale price increases, in virtual unison, yet they are deliberately vague about when the prices will come down, even though wholesale prices are now precisely what they were, before we had to accept price hikes of around 40%. Apparently at their regular meeting Energy Minister Malcom Wicks and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband “demanded” that prices should be brought down. But the boy Ed, and that excuse of a minister Malcom Wicks, accepted assurances from the energy companies that they would “bring prices down as soon as they can“. Pathetic, weak and completely unacceptable, the ministers should be completely ashamed of themselves, that is not progress, it is the energy companies telling government ministers to bugger off and the minister accepting it, the ministers should be sacked, here and now.

Energy companies argue that the reason prices have not fallen already is that they purchase at ‘forward’ prices, fair enough, I can completely understand this logic, however, it also means that they know exactly when the new prices will kick in, so to tell government ministers and for the ministers to accept, that they can only provide a vague indication is nothing short of a scandal and a con.

Energy is an essential service, not an optional commodity that the people of this country can elect not to purchase, therefore, any company choosing to invest in our energy sector should act reasonably and responsibly at all times. That is the nature of the investment, a guaranteed flow of business whatever the economic picture, in return for a measured and consistent return for investors. Clearly they are not acting responsibly and that is why a regulator was put in place, but Ofgem is nothing short of pathetic, either in terms of their leadership and/or as a lack of meaningful powers, either way, they are a complete waste, in their current form, of taxpayers money. The only other support the public can expect is political pressure from the energy ministers, but Ed and Malcom could not negotiate their way out of a paper bag, they are nothing short of useless. Sending boys in to do a mans job at a time when the cost of heating is going to be critical to the well-being of millions of British citizens is so shameful, I genuinely cannot express it in words.

Gordon Brown should replace Ed Miliband and Malcom Wicks, here and now and replace them with people that will negotiate hard, not act as the industry’s whipping boy. The energy companies have be told, that they must produce evidence of what their current wholesale prices are and when they expect them to come down, the they must be ordered to provide an immediate and proportional reduction in consumer energy costs. If they fail to do so, they must be informed that they will face future price caps and/or a windfall tax, for any amount that exceeds their previous years profits. Ofgem must be given the powers and a management team that is willing to regulate the industry, not capitulate. I do not believe in state intervention, however, if the energy companies will not play ball and legislation won’t work, then we must nationalise this industry. It is simply too important to ignore and the public most certainly deserve better than Messrs Miliband and Wicks representing our interests.

Without wishing to be melodramatic, the reality is many people will freeze this winter because they can’t pay their energy bills, by abdicating their responsibility to the public, this government and their ministers will have to ask themselves whether they did as much as they could have done in the circumstances. By their current record, I would argue they have not.

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (3)

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)

Gordon Brown receives some useful advice

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Gordon Brown receives some useful advice

Two of Gordon Brown’s cabinet colleagues have offered some excellent advice for the party and therefore, one can assume, for the party leader. Gordon Brown, not renowned for listening, should take heed, because in spite of where the advice came from it is both critical and relevant. In fact, if I didn’t know better, it would imply that the party is trying to reconnect with the British public, even though it is likely to be too little, to late. In fact, because of where the advice came from, I suspect it may be more about the speech writers wanting to make political headlines, rather than a new political style or commitment.

David Miliband was quoted as saying, “We’ve also got to be honest…this is a political point rather than a policy one,” he said, “We’ve been good about talking the language of priorities but how good have we been about setting and sticking to them?”

Very true David, but you could have added that when you put policies in place, you should also include a way in which the priorities can be measured, with timesscales, so that the public can measure how good you are at achieving your objectives. Of course, honest politics also means keeping to your word, such as the issue that sticks in the craw of most voters, and that is the failure of the Labour government to provide us with a referendum on the EU Constitution as promised in their manifesto.

What is interesting however, was that in spite of this statement by Miliband, just a few hours later, in an interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 news, he kept responding to questions by re-stating what the Labour party policies were, he repeated the same statement, 5 times! On each ocassion, he ignored the original question.

Hazel Blear said “We’re not going to win the next election by reading lists of achievement. They mean nothing. Nor will we win by denouncing the Tories record in government, because memories are fading and people have moved on.”

Spot on Hazel, the British public is tired of the same old rhetoric, of self-gratulation, of the Labour party carefully selecting which ‘achievements’ to tell us about, whilst carefully avoiding the many, many failures. And, after 11 years in government, the constant harping on about what happened under the previous conservative government. It is not relevant, but perhaps you should share your views with Gordon Brwn, whi in a later television interview kept telling us how much worse it was under the “Tory” government, made worse by his use of selective and in some cases, downright false statistics, what have become known as “Brownies”.

We are also tired of the prime minister at PMQ, side-stepping difficult questions by attacking the record of the opposition or LibDems, we want answers to the questions, not a game of ping pong that has no relevance to the original subject matter.

Gordon Brown has an opportunity at the Labour Party conference to re-launch himself, but I don’t think he will. If I were to predict what would happen, it will be the Labour party moving to familiar ground, old Labour if you like. A move to the left with Gordon Brown trying to secure his core voters with promises of freebies, paid for by me and you!

Posted in General, Labour | Comments (0)

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)

Gordon Brown’s energy saving measures do not stack up

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Gordon Brown’s energy saving measures do not stack up

Yet again, Gordon Brown fails to grasp the nettle, coming up with a weak package of measures, that once again, lacks real detail and as always, with any money pledged by this government, it is more ‘jam tomorrow’. If Brown was running a business he would have been fired long ago.

This government claims that they have been “negotiating” with the big six energy companies, if that is the case, why are they having to threaten to legislate to ensure that the energy companies and energy producers cough up the £910m? That notwithstanding, Gordon Brown says “I do not expect the £910m that we raise to be passed on to the consumer by the energy companies“. Really? That sounds like a typical politician’s answer, the statement should have read, “The energy companies will not be permitted to pass on the £910m in the form of higher bills”.

So, let’s sum up, the government says that following negotiations, the energy companies will put up £910m over the next 3 years. But, this is not guaranteed, because the government, by their own admission, may have to legislate to force them and, there is no guarantee that we will not be faced with higher bills as a consequence of this investment. It is estimated that we are already paying an extra £35 per annum for existing energy saving measures employed by the big six. So there is a precedent for passing on the cost. Well done Gordon, great job.

The government have announced that the package is worth £1bn. Okay, lets get this straight shall we? The Warm Front programme has had £250m sliced off its grant, but the government now offer an extra £30m per year over the next 3 years as part of its measures to reduce those suffering from fuel poverty. On this basis, Gordon Brown has announced £910m that he hasn’t got agreement on and put back £90m of the £250m he removed from Warm Front. Where, exactly, is the big news here? Also, does the extra £90m the government are putting in, include the extra winter fuel payments referred to in the same announcement. As they invariably say, whenever Gordon makes an announcement, the devil is in the detail.

It is estimated that the energy companies received their own windfall of some £9bn in the form of free pollution permits under the European Emissions Trading Scheme. Was there no quid pro quo when this was gifted to the energy companies, who agreed this figure?

The government has indicated that they have no wish to legislate regarding energy prices because they believe that competition will result in lower prices. Really, where is the evidence that this is so? The energy companies may raise their prices at different times, but, for the most part, they have all increased their prices more or less in line with the other energy suppliers. This does not look like competition. But regulation is not just about price increases, it is about preventing companies that are in a dominant position, with a product that the consumer needs to buy, abusing their position.

If Ofgem were given the powers through legislation they could prevent the big six energy companies imposing a penal charge on consumers who do not or cannot pay by direct debit. It is estimated that there is a difference of £144 per year between those that pay by direct debit and those using a prepayment meter, of which there are estimated to be 5m. Ofgem claim that it costs £85 per year to run a prepayment meter with 5m in use, this sound extremely unlikely and who’s side are they on anyway? At best, this charge is excessive and undoubtedly, Ofgem demonstrate how gullible they are by accepting this claim at face value. Given some 50% of the people with prepayment meters are likely to be on fixed or low incomes, it is appalling that they should be further penalised by the energy companies, who claim to be helping many of the same people with social tariffs, it really smacks of duplicity.

It is also worth remembering that the European Trading Emissions Scheme is a tax, therefore the government are also profiting from people’s misery. They can tell us until they are blue in the face that they “care”, but whilst they are effectively taxing essential commodities such as heating and lighting they are acting like hypocrite’s. Furthermore, our caring energy companies spend a tiny fraction of their revenues on social tariffs, just £50m per annum.

The bottom line is the initiative put forward by Gordon Brown & co in a very sensible one, certainly preferable to subsidising the fuel bills of those in fuel poverty, year in and year out. However, it is, seriously underfunded and as in commonplace with this government, spread over a long period, which means that some people will have to wait two or three years before they can take advantage of the savings.

As is usual, the opposition parties are, for the most part, silent on this issue. Critical, but offering no tangible solutions. Predictably, Cameron’s conservative party says little of any value, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to demonstrate what they would have done. As I have said before, Cameron doesn’t want to win the election, he just wants Labour to lose it, as they surely will. But it does clearly indicate that Cameron lacks backbone, new ideas, or more likely, both. At least Vince Cable comes up with some suggestions.

The government needs to be far more bold in their approach. They already collect more in green taxes than they invest back in ‘green initiatives’, they should substantially increase the amount of money invested in these energy saving measures, offering to match the energy companies pound for pound. They must also go back to the energy companies and renegotiate the current “agreement”, which needs to be doubled to have any serious impact.

Ofgem should have their powers increased to allow them to cap prices and restrict the energy companies from imposing unreasonable charges such as direct debit penalty payments and high premiums on pre-payment meters. The government should provide an undertaking that a fixed percentage of the income generated in green taxes imposed on the energy companies should be set aside and used for energy efficiency measures. By all means priorotise the most needy, but the government should not exclude everyone else.

The government must introduce legislation which requires the energy companies (producers and suppliers) to invest a minimum amount in infrastructure (based on their turnover), in the same way that the water companies are required to invest in infrastructure. This will avoid a situation where the energy companies can blackmail the government into submission by threatening not to invest in new power stations and so on. The government should investigate the generous £9bn windfall the energy companies received in carbon credits and if it was incorrectly assessed, then the difference should be clawed back. The Competitions Commission must launch an enquiry into competition in the UK market and publish their findings, based on which, the government must legislate if necessary.

The government should not be persuaded to introduce a windfall tax, this is far too crude and serves only to punish. There are other, more subtle ways of dealing with these types of challenges, such as suspending the carbon credits, whilst the initial £9bn is investigated and introducing emergency measures to increase the powers of the regulator. If the energy companies were to face a suspension of the credits they have priced into their share prices, a risk of price caps through the offices’ of the regulator and a Competition Commission enquiry, they will see a fall in their share prices and nothing is guaranteed to make them sit up and listen, than a fall in shareholder value.

This government is happy to fleece, bully and bellow at the people in this country, exercising ever more draconian powers over the individual, yet when it comes to big business, they seem at best impotent and more likely, incompetent and complacent. Come on Gordon, get you act together and fast.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (1)

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)

A UK recession and economic competence

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A UK recession and economic competence

For the past eleven years we have heard nothing else but, how Gordon Brown was going to put an end to “boom and bust”, how he was an iron chancellor, and how New Labour were beyond reproach in terms of economic competence. How does this correlate with a UK recession that, by all accounts, only those outside government could see coming?

How could so many British people be so naive as to believe that a government that increased taxes and borrowing during a period of significant growth and wealth creation could sustain this? Why did we allow a government to dupe us in terms of its true financial position, with the off-balance sheet PFI initiatives that leave us owing some £170bn, which must be paid off between now and 2032? Government pension deficits of £790bn and so on? All of this on top of the “official” debt figure of a tad under £500bn.

Gordon Brown and his government have been caught out in the lie that has become the legacy of their time in office. They have left this country vulnerable, with high taxes, high debt, long term financial commitment and, above all, lacking leadership. New Labour has become synonymous with spin and its ability to consistently dupe the public and manipulate the press. Inevitably, we will all have to pay for their incompetence. Tony Blair was a prime architect and whilst he may be basking in the fruits of his former position of PM, giving lectures and writing books, he shares responsibility with Gordon Brown. Alistair Darling is just cannot fodder, he knows it, we know it, he is just the fall guy for Gordon Brown.

True leaders show their ability it times of crisis, not the good times and as this government moves from crisis to crisis, relying on a sticking plaster to fix things, it is just going to get worse. True leaders know when their time is up and those with integrity and pride, will step aside and let someone else in. However, there are two large problems here, firstly, a new leader of the Labour Party will not make any difference, given they are clearly a spent force, who have substituted the so called Tory sleaze, with a programme of lies and inept ministers. The second problem is where do we go from here?

David Cameron’s conservative party has still not told us what it is they stand for, what their policies are and what they are about. Yes, Cameron has come up with some quaint new soundbites, such as a ‘broken society’, but so far, it is just rhetoric. This is not backed up by new ideas, proposals, policies or answers. So we still have no idea what they would do if they were in government, so why would the electorate entertain such a party? We could simply be going from the frying pan, into the fire. As for the LibDems, well do we know who they are? Clegg says some sensible things, but this is a party that a year or so ago proposed higher taxes, how many governments have been voted in with a promise of higher taxes? Vince Cable is very knowledgeable, but the party sidelined him, because they felt he was too old, so what does that say about them?

The future does not look so bright! There is no obvious choice, unless Cameron can start to convince us that his party has original ideas and, above all, people that are capable of delivering on them. The main parties have 550 or so MP’s between them, but how many of us could name more than 10 or 20? What does that say about the way the political party’s are run. Even if we can name them, how many would we trust, if any, to lead us through this mess and do we know what they stand for?

As we enter this uncertain time, perhaps it is also a period for reflection, we need to consider whether our political system is truly representative. For example, how many ordinary people have a realistic opportunity to get elected as an MP, if they are not already aligned with one of the principal parties? The Labour and the Conservative party select their candidates based on many things, which often includes, but is not limited to, race, gender and loyalty. Why shouldn’t they advertise to get the best candidate? Yes this is simplistic, but the best ideas often are, surely the electorate is entitled to the best man or woman for the job, not those that are already part of the ‘club’ that is party politics right now?

Over the past 11 years, we have witnessed an obsession with government control, from the 4.2m CCTV cameras, through to the right to detain for up to 42 days without charge. We have been told that we must have ID cards to help protect us from the threat of terrorism, yet the government are trying to include so much biometric data that it is difficult to comprehend the true justification. It is claimed that the UK government and its agencies have more access to our private details than virtually any other country including Russia and China. This obsession with state control is worrying in isolation, but when this is coupled with a dishonest government, self-obsessed ministers, weak members of parliament and a virtually non-existent alternative party, we must start to worry.

There is no sense in kidding ourselves that we have choice or that we live in a democracy, if our choice of ‘elected’ representative is limited to the whim of party leaders. This country was quick to criticise China for primarily limiting their choice to existing members of National Peoples Congress. What is the difference, surely it is only scale?

We need change in this country, we need to review our whole political system and above all, we need to look at the way much of the news media sets the agenda. British Politics expands on this argument.

Posted in Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems | Comments (12)

Gordon Brown you are seriously, seriously deluded

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Gordon Brown you are seriously, seriously deluded

In a recent statement, Gordon Brown said, “We are showing that,unlike previous governments that could not manage a way through these difficulties successfully… we are resilient in the way we are dealing with these problems.” What an arrogant, self-serving and belligerent remark from this man. He is passing judgment on previous government initiatives with the benefit of hindsight, whilst arrogantly assuming that his measures will succeed. Why, because he says so?

This is a prime example of a man that is deluded, one that believes he can do no wrong and one that is undoubtedly surrounded by ‘yes’ men constantly telling him how brilliant he is. Any decent leader will surround himself with people that will challenge him, test him and guide him. This ensures that the ‘leader’ keeps his feet firmly on the ground and does not start to believe his own spin, it is a dangerous cocooned world. Smart people recognise this; clearly some politicians and cabinet ministers do not. But it is the difference between leaders and truly great leaders. Take a look at Gordon Brown’s ‘inner circle’ can you see anyone that is likely to challenge him on policy without being crushed?

If this wasn’t enough, Gordon Brown has, once again said, “There are unique circumstances with the trebling of oil prices. That has not happened previously – and of course with the credit crunch”. In other words, it’s not my fault guv, I have done everything right; it is everyone else that is at fault. If your ministers and advisors don’t have the balls to tell you what you have done wrong, maybe it is left the public?

  • You have hiked our taxes through a series of stealth taxes, to the extent that you have nowhere else to go, you have little or no room for any further tax increases.
  • You have raised £billions in national insurance contributions and then recklessly spent this money on quick fixes rather than long term investments in the health service.
  • You have allowed government departments to squander £billions of taxpayers money on projects that have been curtailed, scrapped or changed.
  • You defied repeated warnings from your own officials in terms of the time bomb you would create by scrapping tax relief on dividends paid into pension schemes. As a consequence of your actions, you have devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of pensioners and what do we have to show for the estimated £100bn you have scored from their misery? As a result of your meddling, many final salary pension funds have been scrapped….and some companies have had to find £millions to top up the funds.
  • It is estimated that you cost this country close to £2bn when you decided to sell our gold reserves at the wrong time. On this occasion, you ignored the advice of the, Bank of England.  

Whilst the last conservative government may have introduced the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), you made it into a major instrument for the provision of public facilities and services, effectively forcing public bodies to use the PFI model. As a consequence, public bodies are committed to paying a total of £170 billion to contractors in more than 800 PFI schemes up to 2031-2032…not surprisingly; this figure is growing every year.

Of course, we know why you did it, because PFI debt is not usually treated as public borrowing for accounting purposes and therefore doesn’t contribute to the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR).  In other words, PFI debt is usually “off balance sheet”, even though the state is ultimately responsible for
repaying it. 

I agree you are resilient, there are not many people that could make so many mistakes, so consistently and still claim to be the leading architect of the success of this country. We have succeeded in spite of you, not because of you and one day the electorate and the newspaper editors will wake up to this fact. If you had been genuinely prudent, we would not have the level of public sector borrowing that we have, we would not be in a position where there in no money in the piggybank to allow us to weather the storm of this current downturn. And, we would not all feel so much pain as a direct consequence of your massive tax take from our current earnings, as well as the reduction in value of our pension funds affecting our retirement plans.

Let me remind you, that £400m was spent on ‘cost control’ for the Olympics, how can you honestly justify that level of expenditure with a straight face? Would a “prudent” chancellor allow expenditure of over £16 million on the creation and upkeep of VIP lounges in Heathrow and Gatwick despite the fact they are not government-owned?

You cannot abdicate responsibility by blaming Blair for the first 10 years either, because we know that, the Treasury, under your tenure, became the principal originator of government policy, rather than an evaluator of policy. Your personal obsession with micromanagement has lead to the introduction of thousands of targets aimed at directing policy; it also determined exactly each the departments should meet their targets. So when a department was or is failing, it is impossible to tell whether the cause is the policy itself or its implementation. This has made it virtually impossible for the Treasury to judge poor performance. Another tidbit for you, during your tenure, the Treasury was one of the largest spending departments, with a budget of £20bn. Is that prudence?

Let me remind you of some of the things you have achieved. Following your introduction of complicated tax credits, it is estimated that the taxpayer (no not the government, it is our loss, our money) loses £2bn every year through fraud and errors. In spite of your micromanagement, it is estimated that the planned NHS computer system will cost £6bn more than originally planned. 

I could go on, but it would take me weeks to list Gordon Brown’s “achievements”. Far from being a prudent chancellor, I am convinced that in years to come, we will look back at both his chancellorship and his period as prime minister and have a completely different take on this so-called iron chancellor. I am further convinced that we and our children will be spending the next 30 or 40 years paying for the mistakes of this government, the former chancellor, the former prime minister and the current prime minister. Gordon Brown should consider his words carefully, because they will surely come back and haunt him, no doubt at a
time when he is not surrounded by yes men telling him how brilliant he is.





Posted in General, Labour | Comments (1)

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