Posts Tagged 'Public Spending'

The Great Robbery Train rumbles along in Yorkshire

Once again, all bets are off once ‘government’ decides you have given offence by not paying the Council Tax they demand.

While ordinary people who fail to pay are considered law breakers, those who seek to hoover up our money continue to act in an illegal fashion, demonstrating that they refuse to be bound by the rule of law themselves.

We learn from the Darlington & Stockton Times that Hambleton District Council secured liability orders for non payment of Council Tax against 505 households, each being slapped with costs of £123.  Richmondshire secured 216 liability orders, again with costs to each household of £123 and a further 15 orders secured for non payment of business rates with costs for each of those imposed at £176.  Meanwhile Northallerton secured no less than 721 liability orders against households in its district – although the costs sought and awarded were not reported, we can make an educated guess that the same court also awarded those at £123 each.

We have no way of knowing if these cases are flat out refusals to pay, or whether the residents are experiencing financial hardship that makes it difficult or even impossible for them to pay.  But we can be sure that in each case the residents are being asked to pay ever more for ever fewer services, the quality of which are steadily declining.   We can also be sure that in this so-called democracy of ours, these residents have never been asked how much they think the councils should demand, or asked to give a mandate for how the authorities spend the monies collected.

In each case, the cost to the councils of securing a liability order from the court is £3.  Add on administration, postal charges and reasonable overheads and the figure would not exceed costs of £10 in total per case.  So in these 1,457 cases, councils which by law are only allowed to charge ‘costs reasonably incurred’ for liability orders to enforce council tax demands, have gone beyond what the law permits them to charge by around £113 in each and every case.

And the court, in allowing this to happen by not limiting the costs awarded to the councils to those ‘reasonably incurred’, have facilitated the law being broken.  As a result, in just one court sitting, over £164,000 of residents’ money to which councils are not entitled is being taken from residents illegally by a branch of the state, sanctioned by a court that has exceeded its authority by awarding costs far beyond what has been reasonably incurred.

We have returned to the age of the Robber Baron, where the serfs are fair game to be preyed upon and treated as cash cows by those who set aside the rules on a whim and break the law without sanction whenever it suit their own ends.  This is today’s establishment in action.  It is little different to the establishment of past centuries.  The only change is that people who are supposed to be our servants have morphed themselves into our modern slavers.  This is 21st Century Britain.

Ever wondered why the UK public purse is empty?

Let the good Dr North spell it out, using the taxpayer funded financial merry-go-round of the co-organisers of the infamous 2006 BBC Climate Change seminar, the International Broadcasting Trust, to illustrate the point:

… in this “trust” we have yet another of those networks of influence. It represents a coalition of international charities, the members including: ActionAid, Amnesty International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care UK, Christian Aid, Comic Relief, Concern UK, Friends of the Earth, the Media Trust, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Practical Action, Progressio, RSPB, Save the Children, Sightsavers International, Skillshare International, Tearfund, UNA UK, UNICEF UK, VSO, the World Association for Christian Communication, World Vision and WWF.

However, apart from the “usual suspects” such as Friends of the Earth and WWF, there is a particularly interesting member of the IBT – a trust which, as one will remember, lobbies the BBC. That is the Media Trust. And the “corporate members” of this trust are … the BBC as well as Sky, ITV, News International and Google.

Neglecting the other delicious members, and focusing on the BBC, it seems we have a situation where the state broadcaster is a corporate member of the Media Trust which, in turn, is a member of the International Broadcasting Trust, which is paid by the Government (DFID) to lobby the … er … BBC about climate change. And so the circle closes.

No wonder the establishment doesn’t want we ordinary people deciding how our money gets spent.  Overnight it would put an end to this outrageous abuse.  Read the whole piece on EU Referendum.

 

Our vital influence at the EU top table, shaping the Community towards our way of thinking

Britain’s contribution to the EU will have to increase by next year by another £350 million.

Britain, sat at the EU’s top table and as always supposedly shaping the community to our way of thinking, opposed this payment.

The result?  Britain was outvoted.  Not enough EU member states voted to block the increase.  The interests of the British people were trampled underfoot by foreign nationals, whose own interests were served at our expense by extracting more money from hard pressed British taxpayers.  As usual, the EU’s fans in the British press gave the impression of dissent whilst retaining their fetish for rule from abroad by unelected and unaccountable mandarins who pander to the corporatist interests of the media barons.

This is nothing less than the state sanctioned theft of funds which are generated in these islands and are needed for the benefit of the citizens of these islands.

Would it not be better to be free of this straitjacket?  David Cameron’s view is very clear:

I think it would be bad for Britain. When I look at what is in our national interest, we are not some country that looks in on ourself or retreats from the world. Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those markets. Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that.

If we were outside we would not be relieved of our money to benefit people elsewhere in Europe to the detriment of our own.

And in any case, if this country were a real democracy, those of us who are expected to foot the bill would determine how our money is spent.

Amnesia afflicts Wiltshire Police

October 2011

As reported by the BBC:

… Chief Constable Brian Moore urged the public not to call with things “clearly not matters for us to deal with”.

Mr Moore said cutting down on the number of irrelevant calls from members of the public was also essential.

“Don’t waste my time,” he said.

“Don’t call us for things that are clearly not matters for us to deal with.

“We don’t have the time to do that – we never have had but we particularly don’t have now.”

… The chairman of Wiltshire Police Authority, Christopher Hoare, said they were working “to ensure that the public only call the police when they need them for policing work”.

… Kate Pain, from the Wiltshire Police Federation, said officers want to get back to “core policing” and “can’t do everything for everybody”. [...] “So as a result of the cuts and our restructuring we are going to have to be quite clear in our message about what is and is not a police matter.”

The message seems pretty clear. Cuts are reducing the ability of the police to perform their role.  OK.

June 2012

Now fast forward now to a piece in the Daily Wail:

School truants are being hauled out of bed by police and escorted to classes in a patrol car.

Officers are clamping down on truants by calling at the homes of any pupils who fail to turn up to school without a reason.

If they are still in bed, police get the parents to wake them up before driving them to lessons.

Clearly those deep, far reaching, unprecendented cuts are having a major impact on front line policing. That or Wiltshire Police have forgotten all those things they were saying last year before telling the public how officers are being deployed to round up children and masquerade as school bus drivers.

The debt crisis Osborne says has been dealt with

It’s high time that this mendacity was exposed for what it is. Government has done very little about its spending, has appropriated three-quarters of all gains in economic output for its own use, has carried on piling up debt – and has tried to pass all this off as ‘responsible austerity’.

Those are the words of Dr Tim Morgan, the global head of research at financial traders Tullett Prebon, as reported in the finance section of the Failygraph. While the UK media prattles on in inane fashion about the ‘cuts’ – and retail the government line that they are addressing the structural deficit – the reality is that public spending is higher than it was when the coagulation formed this God-awful managerialist administration.

Don’t take my word for it, the official figures from the Treasury show the facts:

This is what Ministers have insisted is public spending being cut at a rate not seen since the Second World War.  But the total managed expediture has risen year on year, funded by ever higher taxation and, crucially, continued borrowing increasing the national debt.  This is the fact of the matter. All that has changed is how the money is being spent.

Yet against the backdrop of this reality we see the utter delusion of the political class, as exemplified by George Osborne on the day Britain announced a £10bn guarantee to the International Monetary Fund on 20 April 2012.

Dealt with the debt crisis?

Spending is up. Debt is increasing. Taxes are rising. Borrowing is continuing. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells the British public that the government has dealt with the debt crisis. This is not even parody, this is a claim that warrants Osborne receiving urgent psychiatric attention.

There was hardly any analysis in the media to get under the veneer of Osborne’s comment and tell the public the facts.  This leaves us with lies compounded by stupidity resulting in mass ignorance.  And it takes a bond trader to speak out before the media will take notice and run a small piece that is barely noticeable compared to commentary about the outfits worn to various events by celebrities.

They treat us with contempt. We should treat them altogether worse.

Met Office 1 Public Purse 0

And so, one year after MPs doggedly refused to examine the evidence of Met Office lies and deceptions, a group of them have determined that supercomputers are required because they want the Met Office to produce seasonal forecasts but be clearer about the chances of getting them wrong.

The long running saga of Met Office distortions, whitewashes and cover ups covered on this blog last winter started as a result of Julia Slingo bleating about the need for yet more public money to ramp up Met Office supercomputing power.  Thanks to the Parliamentary equivalent of the three wise monkeys, we have come full circle and her wish is almost certain to be granted.

Ignorant of the fact the Met Office does create seasonal forecasts (click on ‘lies’ link above for documentary evidence) and only renamed them and changed their location because of their poor accuracy, and ignorant of the fact that all the supercomputing power in the world is useless if the models used are populated with assumptions and biases that do not reflect the reality of natural and chaotic climate system, the politicians are readying themselves to hand over millions of pounds more of our money on a whim.

We know why it is happening, and that it suits corporate interests but that doesn’t make it acceptable.  Not one MP (and I engaged with a number of them at the height of the Met Office winter forecast scandal and provided them with evidence of Met Office lies to parliament and the public) has stood up for truth and probity, or defended the interests of the public.

When our elected representatives continue to set aside the facts and ignore reality there is no hope that we can prevent this raid on the public purse.  We can confidently forecast one thing, even with the new supercomputing power we will not see any improvement in Met Office predictions.  Their determination to push the AGW narrative and the man-made CO2 scapegoat means their models are biased towards rapidly increasing temperatures.  It’s why they got forecasts badly wrong before and why they will continue to do so.  At our expense.  Nothing has changed.

The folly of HS2 and government spending priorities

In its ‘wisdom’ the government has given the go ahead to HS2, or the second phase of the high speed rail programme.

The initial outlay of over £17bn is supposed to fund the HS2 line from London to Birmingham.  The line will be electrified because electricity is considered cleaner than diesel.  In the years that follow the plan is to extend the line to Manchester and then on to Scotland, increasing the cost to at least £33bn.

This is a shining example of the short sightedness, idiocy, ignorance, dogma, call it what you will, of the government’s spending priorities.  There is not a pressing need for this expensive rail line – although as Richard North makes clear on EU Referendum, there are certainly political pressures at play for it.  Yet there is real concern about the ability of this country to produce the power it needs to keep the lights on.

£17bn could pay for the construction and eventual decommission of at least five nuclear power stations.  One would think that would be a priority.  Instead the government chooses to construct something that will draw power from the grid, not something that puts power into it.

It is bad enough that this government has a fetish for unreliable wind power and puts huge sums of taxpayers’ money into subsidy for its provision.  But it is worse that the government refuses to subsidise new nuclear build that would benefit millions of people and instead chooses to channel huge sums of money into one small section of the rail network that will benefit a very limited number of people.

There is no shortage of tax pounds going to HM Treasury.  But there is a problem with the decisions about how that money is used.  Increasingly it is frittered away, diverted to whims and fancies of the political elite, rather than allocated to the delivery of quality essential services for the population.

No matter how much we complain or shout in protest, the political class is unmoved.  This is proof that we do not live in a democracy.  Elections may take place, but the decisions of the political class are not controlled by the electorate.  Consultation about the HS2 line saw an overwhelming majority of respondants reject the principles, specification and route selection for HS2, but their views were dismissed out of hand.

Democracy is about more than putting an ‘X’ on a ballot paper, it is about representatives who are elected doing our bidding.  In what way are the political class doing our bidding?

Update: If you use Twitter you might be interested in contributing to this – #betteruseof32bn

It’s ok, it’s other people’s money

With so many frustrating issues going on in this declining country, it is only to be expected that people often miss what’s going on right under their own nose.  This morning saw one of those ‘close to home’ issues thrust into consciousness at Mind Towers, with the arrival of an email from Mind Junior’s school that read:

Dear Mr Mind

Did you know that just by registering your child for Free School Meals the school gets extra money?

For every child registered, Xxxxxx Xxxxxx School will get £600.

Registering is quick, easy and confidential. Full details are given in the attached document. Please contact me if you have any queries.

If you qualify, your son or daughter will receive a free, healthy meal at lunchtime, you could receive other financial help, and the school gets an extra £600. If your child does not want to have a school meal, the school will still get the additional funding.

Please read the attached document and make an application if you think you qualify – the additional funding will make a real difference to the provision of education for your son or daughter.

Yours sincerely

And we wonder where our tax pounds go..?  A few moments of research revealed to my blind eyes that variations of this email have been sent to parents by schools up and down the country in recent weeks and that the scheme facilitating this is the Department of Education‘s ‘Pupil Premium’.

Its purpose is set out on the department’s website and explains:

The Government believes that the Pupil Premium, which is additional to main school funding, is the best way to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and their wealthier peers by ensuring that funding to tackle disadvantage reaches the pupils who need it most.

But the department also makes clear that:

Schools are free to spend the Pupil Premium as they see fit. However they will be held accountable for how they have used the additional funding to support pupils from low-income families. New measures will be included in the performance tables that will capture the achievement of those deprived pupils covered by the Pupil Premium. From September 2012, we will also require schools to publish online information about how they have used the Premium. This will ensure that parents and others are made fully aware of the attainment of pupils covered by the Premium.

However as experience has shown us when it comes to public spending, as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – if you will pardon the pun. Organisations often find ways around the rules in order to use the resources made available to them in a manner they were not provided for.  The style of the emails and letters sent out by schools show that effort is already underway.

If a family has financial difficulty and cannot afford to provide a meal for their child during the school day, then I feel it is right that the taxpayer funded safety net should kick in to provide for a meal.  It should always be a provision based on need.

But what we are seeing is that even if a family’s means – augmented by some form of credit or benefit that makes their children eligible for free school meals – enable them to provide a meal for their child, schools are encouraging them to register for free meals just so the school can claim more taxpayers’ money. Encouraging parents and carers to register for something they may not need – and implore them to do so even if they don’t need or want to take up the free meals – so it benefits the school, feels like fraud.

If a family is getting by without making use of free school meals, then do they really have the ‘need’ that free school meals are being used as a measure to gauge? Once again it seems the government have failed to think things through and a proportion of the £1.25bn of our money set aside for the poorest in our society will be hoovered up by schools for people who in reality do not fall into that bracket.  But as always no one seems to care because it’s other people’s money and the government can always pick our pockets for more of it in the future.

We haven’t a clue… starring Rotherham Council

When you consider the huge sums being spent by local authorities on their ‘fight’ against climate change, you would expect them to have a full understanding of their aims and what they expect to achieve.

They do things differently in Rotherham.  It is the town where everyone matters, but evidence that informs their actions does not.

An AM reader has kindly brought to our attention this Rotherham’s FOI response to a local greenbelt campaign group (posted on their campaign website) which asks a number of reasonable questions about  Rotherham Council’s consistency and understanding when approaching the issues of ‘climate change’ and ‘reducing carbon emissions’.

Rotherham Council proposes to build 12,750 new homes from 2012-2027.  But the impact of this would surely undermines their stated environmental policy. So the campaign group wanted to understand how Rotherham’s policy proposals of building on large swathes of scenic greenbelt land can be reconciled with their climate change and carbon emissions efforts.  The FOI response below shows just how vacuous and dogmatic Rotherham Council’s position is.

Asked if concreting over greenbelt land will result in an increase in CO2 emissions Rotherham MBC’s official response is that they do not know.  Incredible.

This begs the most obvious question.  If all they can cite is a graph and a generic link to the Met Office website, should they be spending massive amounts of taxpayers’ money on the fight against evil CO2 in the first place when their growth agenda contributes to increasing urbanisation which counteracts it?

Energy policy chickens coming home to roost

The negative effects of the dash for gas, to pick up the slack for poorly performing renewables, didn’t take long to kick in did they?  The failure of successive governments to develop new nuclear generation is writ large.  The people paying the price are the likes of you and I.  Meanwhile the renewables speculators get rich at our expense with their lavish subsidies, even though the output will have a marginal impact on energy supply in this country.

On 7th December last year, this blog mused on the great energy delusion, observing that:

After all, renewables are supposed to become our baseload power source if you believe the idiots in Westminster who are bought in to the power generation revolution. It’s easy to say that gas fired power stations will pick up the slack, but the dash for gas is forcing the price upwards as demand from China to western Europe is on the increase. While we are able to get gas from Norway we will increasingly be relying on gas from Russia and the middle east to meet the energy gap created by unreliable and over rated renewables.

Today we have British Gas announcing it is hiking its gas prices by an average of 18% in August. Why? Although these comments were carried on BBC radio the BBC web report leaves out some key details, so we defer to the Evening Standard for the full explanation:

British Gas said wholesale prices had increased by 30 per cent since last winter because of “increased gas consumption in Asia and the impact on supply of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa”.

Managing director Phil Bentley said: “We know there is never a good time to raise prices, but we are buying in a global energy market and have to pay the market rate.”

But what of our wind turbine adoring Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Lhuhne?  As always, he is off in the land of make believe where he is seeking to distance himself from the consequences of the policy he supports:

I refuse to stand by and watch this happen.

The UK electricity market has to change so we escape the cycle of fossil fuel addiction.

Alternatives, like renewables and nuclear power, must be allowed to become the dominant component of our energy mix.

Only radical reform now will give us the best chance in the long run of keeping the lights on at a price that doesn’t wreck our economy over and over again.

What we are experiencing is what has been caused by the approach he supports.  He shares the blame.  As a Eurofanatic he actively supports EU actions that are driving up our energy costs, yet is putting all the blame on the energy companies.  Lhuhne as a renewablesfanatic supports the exorbitant cost of renewables subsidies, and the forcing of the energy companies to purchase all power produced by the turbines regardless of their cost.  He has long been rigidly opposed to state subsidy for nuclear power and continues to be.  But reality is starting to bite and now he is calling for more nuclear which is reliable, despite putting our money into renewables that are not.

So where is this radical reform he speaks of?  It’s nice to see Lhuhne talking about the best chance of ‘keeping the lights on’.  According to his own party leader, Nick Clegg, there was no evidence that there’s going to be a terrible energy gap and that the lights are going to go out in the middle of the next decade.  Chris doesn’t seem to agree with Nick any more.  But the problem is the climate change lunacy, the obsession with unreliable and intermittant wind power, the regulations and obligations imposed on us by the political class  is wrecking our economy already and plunging millions of people needlessly into fuel poverty.

Huhne’s attempts to point the finger at the energy companies, who are forced to deliver on government policy, must not be allowed to wash.  The buck stops with him and his ideologue pals who have accelerated our descent into chaos and exacerbated the problems he claims to be refusing to stand by and watch happen.

Huhne does not have the solution.  He is a major part of the bloody problem.

Information Commissioner’s ruling against Bolton Council could be a gamechanger

Take a bow please, transparency campaigner John Greenwood.  This could become huge.

Mr Greenwood has been campaigning for Bolton Council to make public the outside business dealings of its senior town hall staff.  He asked for details held on the council’s register of interests in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, but was refused, so he took his case to the Information Commissioner and has won.

As the Bolton News reports:

The commissioner has now ruled that the details of the register of interests should be released. The register records the name of council officers and any personal interests they have, such as ownership of property, family associations, business interests, shareholdings and membership of organisations that may conflict with their decision-making role.

Mr Greenwood said: “This is a major victory for the public and those wanting open, transparent governance over Bolton Council who sought to keep the status quo of secrecy.”

If there is nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear, right?  That’s what we keep being told by government at all levels. So it comes as no surprise to learn that the public servants in Bolton do not want the public to know anything about the dealings of those who are charged with serving their interests and are seeking advice with a view to appealing the matter.

MPs and Councillors already have to declare interests and memberships so the public can see if their decision making is being influenced by a desire to seek advantage for themselves or their friends and contacts, so why not Council Officers? After all it is the officers who work up proposals and make recommendations for Councillors to decide upon and it is officers who are responsible for decisions that affect the local community and involve spending public money. This has been a black hole for years, but now there is finally hope that the floodlights can illuminate the darkest corners of town halls up and down the country.

Mr Greenwood’s victory could be a real gamechanger and make Freedom of Information request a more powerful tool.  The prospect is mouthwatering.  Imagine for a moment what would happen if Council Officers – and by extension civil servants in other branches of government – had to release the details of business dealings with developers, or reveal relationships with organisations such as Common Purpose – which Mr Greenwood tried to do in 2009.  There is so much that could be uncovered that would reveal to the public how government really works.

Another day, another IPCC report supporting vested interests

A report from the International Panel on Climate Change claiming that, within 40 years, nearly 80 per cent of the world’s energy needs could be met from renewable sources, most notably through a massive expansion of wind and solar power, is just the latest example of that body spreading disinformation in order to prop up vested financial interests.

One of the very few reasons for venturing onto the website of the pisspoor Telegraph these days is the fact Christopher Booker still writes there. And he has taken on the subject with gusto and a clarity that leaves other journalists in the shade.  As Booker explains:

What only came to light when the full report was published last week was the peculiar source of this extraordinarily ambitious claim. It was based solely on a paper co-authored last year by an employee of Greenpeace International and something called the European Renewable Energy Council. This Brussels-based body, heavily funded by the EU, lobbies the European Commission on behalf of all the main renewable industries, such as wind and solar. The chief author of the Greenpeace paper, Sven Teske, was also a lead author on Chapter 10 of the IPCC report, which means that the report’s headline message came from a full-time environmental activist, supported by a lobby group representing those industries that stand most to benefit financially from its findings.

Booker goes on the challenge the key claims in the report by resorting to the facts about wind power inefficiency and explaining just how much large corporations stand to make from wind farm developments, such as the one at Fullabrook Down in north Devon. Wind power is not about solving the energy challenge, it is about making vast sums of money at the expense of the taxpayer – first through the government subsidy handed out to make a wind farm financially viable, secondly through the law which forces energy companies to buy every watt of energy they produce regardless of the price and thirdly through the construction of conventional energy generation capacity that has to be on permanent standby to produce power when demand outstrips the supply due to the wind not blowing.

Step out of this foetid IPCC hothouse into the real world and consider what is going on at Fullabrook Down in north Devon, where they are constructing what will soon be the largest onshore wind factory in England. The developers boast of how the 22 giant 3MW turbines they are building on the hills between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe, at a cost of more than £60 million, will have the “capacity” to generate 66MW of electricity, and how they will contribute £100,000 a year to “community projects” to buy off the hostility of local residents.

In reality, this wind farm’s output is not likely to average more than 16.5MW, or 25 per cent of its capacity (the average output of UK turbines last year was only 21 per cent), an amount so pitifully small that it represents barely 2 per cent of the output of a medium-sized gas-fired power station. Yet for this, the developers can hope to earn £13 million a year, of which £6.5 million will be subsidy and of which the £100,000 they hand back to the local community will represent well under 1 per cent.

As always, we have to follow the money to understand how and why these wind farms are still allowed to be constructed. We have to identify the vested financial interests of big businesses and wealthy landowners who cash in at our expense to install wind turbines despite knowing the energy generation benefit to the consumer will be negligable.

We also need to be mindful of the state propaganda arms such as the Met Office which talk up and lend support to such projects, because rather than focus on getting on with doing their job better they prefer to focus on bandwagon jumping and pushing politicised agendas that support their own narrow commercial interests.

This is the reality of Britain today as our ‘representatives’ run riot with our money to line their own pockets and those of their wealthy backers. What defies belief is that there are still some useful idiots who want to deindustrialise the world, and who highlight examples in support of their argument that are shown to be false, who seem to think wind power is the way to go. Perhaps their vested interest is in candle making.

This glorious Development Superpower

A written answer to a question in the House of Commons puts some context around the priorities of this useless coalition of the incompetent.

In March this year the coalition announced cuts to the Winter Fuel Allowance in 2011.  The yearly tax-free payment to help people pay for their heating in the winter was worth £250 for the over 60s, and £400 for the over 80s.  However the cut reduces the payments to £200 and £300 for the two groups in the winter of 2011-12.

While the system is a farce with ex pats receiving the payments despite living abroad and financially comfortable pensioners also qualifying for payments, there is no doubt a large number of vulnerable elderly people need these payments to ensure they can afford some of the rapidly rising cost of heating their homes in the increasingly cold winters. Which is why cutting the payments on cost grounds is reprehensible.

But there was absolutely no need to cut the allowance because the payments are completely affordable.  It’s just that this grandstanding bunch of self serving politicians put the interests of the people they are paid to represent below their desire to appear virtuous on the world stage. Don’t take my word for it, see the evidence for yourself:

David Cameron announces plan to treble aid to Pakistan’s education system to £650m

David Cameron announces new £814m donation boost for vaccination programmes in poor countries

And so to that Commons written answer.  While there are people who will make compelling cases for these donations being made rather than spent on our own deserving poor, let someone try to defend this (click to enlarge):

These aren’t the actions of a development superpower.  These are the actions of a group of rich and privileged people who treat the people they have been elected to represent with utter contempt.

When elderly and vulnerable people in the UK die of hypothermia this coming winter, because they live in properties they cannot afford to heat, the responsibility will rest with a political class that has shown it values the lives of poor people overseas more than the lives of poor people in our own country… people who have long paid into the system to get just the kind of support they are now being denied, all because of some idiot’s wet dream of saving the planet from carbon dioxide.

There must be a reckoning.

What Tory commentators think of Northern Ireland

‘Criticise ye not’ seems to be the message from Tory commentator, pundit, sometime blogger and all round media personality, Iain Dale.  Dale got embroiled in a Twitter row with Belfast blogger John Collins, who writes the Politics NI blog. It followed a piece by Dale’s stablemate at Total Politics, Shane Greer, who wrote a piece titled ‘Northern Ireland is a beggar‘. which included words such as:

And let me be clear, as someone born and raised in Northern Ireland who now lives in London and will never return to the province, I feel sickened by the way ‘my country’ comes cap-in-hand; particularly at a time when the people in England have their own financial challenges to contend with.

and:

After all, what opportunity is there in a nation which wants nothing more than to live off the hard work of others. It’s pathetic, and so long as there are people like Bumper [Bumper Graham, the assistant general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance] around that’s how it will stay.

It seems Greer thinks the trade unions are Northern Ireland and therefore the entire province is a beggar. But of course that doesn’t generate a headline, so he has purposely chosen (wrongly) to tar the entire place with the same brush.  It is as lazy as it is dishonest. He would have been well advised to suggest the State should stop its incessant meddling in NI which is the reason so much taxpayer money gets spent there, buying off terrorists and bile filled interest groups of various stripes.

Greer likes to come over as controversial in order to get attention for his generally mediocre fayre and is the blue equivalent of the moronic Labour mouthpiece Laurie Penny (PennyRed).  Needless to say, an indignant Collins took issue with Greer’s blanket description of the province being a beggar. It was after seeing this that Dale jumped in to defend the CEO of his publishing company – even though he hadn’t read Greer’s piece. The row swept back and forth, but it was Dale’s last comment on the subject (at the time of writing) that underlined the low regard in which he holds Northern Irish folk:

Perhaps there is an awareness among Northern Irish people that this is the way they are viewed by the Tory talking heads, which possibly accounts for the dismal electoral showing for anyone professing to be a Cameron Conservative. After all, why would people in the province vote for a party whose visible supporters in the media demonstrate such undisguised contempt for them?

Now I am a supporter of the Union and also believe England should have its own Parliament within it. But Dale’s wrongheaded and arrogant comments demonstrate an ignorance of the contribution Northern Ireland makes to the Union and a desire to couch everything in narrow financial terms.  One wonders what CCHQ thinks of its vocal cheerleaders spouting such views.

The selfish vanity of the political class writ large

While the likes of Andrew Mitchell (Minister for International Development) and John Major (quisling former Prime Minister) urge the British people to rejoice in the fact our hard earned money is being sent overseas – while services at home for our own benefit are cut to reduce debt and subsidise follies such as wind power and extremist organisations who seek to do this country harm – we see a further squeeze in our disposable income as gas and electricity prices soar to even higher levels.

We are already at the point where poorer people are having to choose between spending money on food and spending it on heat and light. This round of huge energy price increases will dramatically increase the scale of that problem. Yet the wealthy (and therefore immune from their own policy agenda) members of the political class that has got us into our financial mess, with outlandish and reckless borrowing and insanely wasteful spending decisions, are reducing the help available for the most vulnerable in our society.  As EU Referendum observes:

“Nearly a million extra households face the prospect of being plunged into fuel poverty within months after one of Britain’s largest energy companies raised gas prices by almost a fifth and electricity prices by a quarter”.  That is from the paywall Times, with the Failygraph giving more details about the price rises.

And where one leads, the rest follow. We are in for a torrid time, and the timing is impeccable. Only a week ago, the Cleggerons announced a cut in winter fuel allowance, as they sought to turn us into a “development superpower”.

Superpowers, by definition, tend to have their own house in order before projecting their strength. Conversely our house is in ramshackle state, our landlord in Brussels is extracting more money from us year on year and forcing us to spend more of our dwindling resources on their latest wheezes, and yet we are pretending to be a powerhouse so politicians can look virtuous on the international stage.  It is perverse.

Here we see no more clear an example of how the interests of the political class are not our interests.

I defy any politician in this country to identify a single British voter who believes it is reasonable that we let people in our country die from malnutrition or hypothermia due to avoidable poverty, in order to spend money on people abroad whose own government prefers to spend billions of its own money on a new aircraft carrier and advanced fighter jets rather than alleviating the poverty of its own people. Why should we sacrifice our own fellow nationals to service the ambitions of a political class overseas?  This is a scandal, but it should be a crime.

Taking the argument a step further, it is no secret that there are pockets of extreme poverty in this country.  This was underlined in the BBC1 programme ‘Poor Kids’ last night.  While our money is being sent overseas and politicians speak of helping poor people whose lives are blighted, perhaps we should stop and think about these youngsters who live in squalid conditions and get nothing like the help needed for those who need the help of a safety net.

Consider that destitute family in the Gorbals in Glasgow that is desperate to move to acceptable accommodation because they are living in a damp riddled flat, their health suffering and lives a misery as a consequence. Then consider the spending priorties of that city’s council which focuses its resources on climate change strategies and spend money on its new Riverside Museum while that family continues to suffer. The city council’s ‘vision statement’ shows how low down its list of priorities its residents are:

We want Glasgow to flourish as a modern, multi-cultural, metropolitan city of opportunity, achievement, culture and sporting excellence where citizens and businesses thrive and visitors are always welcomed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the vision was to devote its resources to ensure no child in this 21st century lives in accommodation that livestock would be banned from inhabiting and that vulnerable people will not be allowed to go hungry or freeze to death? Wouldn’t it be nice if Glasgow City Council’s vision was a vision we could all identify with and its priorities put people before ideological campaigns and monuments to self glory?

The answer is to ensure government at local and national level cannot spend money on anything unless we approve it.  One wonders how many people would vote to spend money on climate change wheezes and new cultural buildings rather than ensure rubbish is collected weekly, people live in properties that are not covered in mould and elderly or infirm residents get at least one hot meal per day. It is time to make our priorities the ones our public servants focus upon.

How Cameron confirmed our democratic deficit

Those readers who have also been following Dr Richard North’s developing theme of Referism over at EU Referendum may remember his original post on the subject early in May.

In his piece, Richard made reference to a piece by David Cameron in the Barclay Brother Beano in April 2010 titled ‘My credo for my Country‘. Cameron’s piece is insightful as he underlines in his own words the fact that this country suffers a democratic deficit. Cameron actually validates the need for people to take back power from the insular, self regarding and self serving political elite. Consider these words from Cameron’s op-ed:

Thankfully, the gods were smiling on me that night in June 2001 and I was elected MP for Witney. Barely a week later, my party leader resigned and I found myself being canvassed by this paper on how to revive the fortunes of the Conservative Party following its second defeat at the hands of Tony Blair.

The party has to change its language, change its approach, start with a blank sheet of paper and try to work out why our base is not broader,” I told the reporter, with what was, looking back, alarming confidence for someone just starting out in Parliament. “We need a clear, positive, engaging agenda on public services.”

Did you notice what was missing? In describing what he felt the Conservative Party needed to do to revive its fortunes (i.e. win a General Election) nowhere did Cameron say anything about asking the people what they want.

This is not an example of representative democratic politics. Cameron knew then as he knows now that once safely in office there is no need to pretend to consult the people and seek to follow their wishes, hence his autocratic and arrogant pronouncements on issues such as the EU. As Prime Minister he presides over a Cabinet Government (junior to our EU government) that can basically do what it likes (within EU law and bureaucratic control) domestically until the next election. There is no need to refer to the electorate. That is why Referism matters.

Cameron went on to add:

Believe me, I’ve had some run-ins, but I never wanted to annoy party stalwarts or pick unnecessary fights. I just knew that unless we got in touch with the modern world, we would not get the chance to bring our beliefs and values to bear on the challenges of the hour.

Therein lies the problem. It’s all about internal party spats, control and personal agendas. In a referist system there would be no need to talk of getting ‘in touch with the modern world’ because politicians would have to listen actively and continuously to the wishes of the people before embarking on activities that require the spending of our tax pounds.

The political class would know our views, our concerns and our priorities and it would have to react to them and present plans to address them. Cameron rounded off his pre-election pitch thus:

So, I have the team, I have the ideas, I have the values and I have the energy to show you, to show Britain that a better future for our country is not only possible but is just weeks away.

Sadly what he did not and still does not have is a pair of ears, or a desire to listen to our wishes and take heed of them. Power must be wrested away from the political class and they returned to their proper role – that of servants, not supposed masters.  Until we have the power and politicians are required to refer to us to seek our approval for their legislative and governance agenda this country will not be democratic.

Taking back power and imposing discipline on our politicians

This is a subject to which I will turn my attention properly in the days to come.  But for now I offer this partial cross-post to remind readers that in order for the people to take back primacy we need to focus our power.  As Richard North has says in his thought provoking post:

To focus our power, we too need to adopt an ideology. In essence, we have one – one which underwrites the supremacy of the individual and positions the State as the servant, not the master. Referism – control over the budget – is a means by which we exercise our power. If there is a better way, I am open to offers.

The next question is: where do we start? The answer is here, on the blogosphere. We have a number of fine, independent blogs, written by independently-minded people. There is now a blog covering these – Independent Political Bloggers.

As if to underline their independence, I don’t always agree with everything that write.  But collectively, between us we reflect the views of our readers. If we did not, we would not have a readership. Now ask, from where does the BBC and the MSM get its power? Why do politicians listen to them, fear them and curry their favours? We are back to the numbers game.

Grow the independent political blogosphere. And if you have a view, start your own blog. We will support you. Want a voice? Either as reader or writer, or both, you have it … your call.

Met Office losing commercial customers

Earlier this month a report in the Sunday Express (published online late on 7th May) about the forecast for the Royal Wedding made a couple of interesting observations that prompted a blog post here on AM.

Firstly there was confirmation that the Met Office will pay performance-related bonuses this year which will push the total paid to its 1,800 staff in the last six years to almost £15million. Apparently these bonuses are based on profitability and when the Met Office meets its targets on forecasting accuracy.

Secondly there was a reminder that the majority of the Met Office’s £190million annual income comes from public funds by means of contracts to provide services to government departments and that critics say it is time to force it to compete in the open market against other forecasters.

It was these factoids that made me curious about the reality of the Met Office’s forecasting performance.  Do its executives really deserve the bonuses they are going to receive?

While the Met Office might like to aggressively counter stories like that in the Sunday Express, as it did on 9th May by claiming its forecast the day before the Royal Wedding was more accurate than the newspaper claimed, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Or in weather forecasting terms, seeing how many private customers are sufficiently satisfied with Met Office forecasts to continue buying services from them commercially.  So this blog submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Met Office asking them:

Please will you supply me with full details of:

1. The number of non-Governmental (private) customers purchasing
forecasting services from the Met Office in the years 2008, 2009
and 2010 respectively

2. The total revenue received from non-Governmental (private)
contracts for forecasting services provided by the Met Office in
the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively

Please note I am not requesting details of the individual customers
or specifics of their contract terms.

It was a clear enough request.  However, the Met Office’s reply seemed to be trying to conceal something:

The number of commercial customers purchasing services from the Met Office over the three year period would show us whether the customer base is stable, rising or falling.  The number of commercial customers is a fair reflection of customer confidence in Met Office forecasts.  But the Met Office clearly did not want to deal in specifics.

So a follow up was sent asking that they provide me with the exact number of commercial customers in each of the three years specified as per my request.  Their reply arrived today:

While revenues (for the years where figures are available) have remained fairly constant, we can now see that since 2008-9 the Met Office commercial customer base has shrunk by 17.3%.

We can now see why the figures were not provided in response to the original request.  And this is happening against a backdrop of independent forecasters adding customers to their books.

Customers generally don’t leave specialist service providers that deliver good performance, so it is reasonable to assume that faith in Met Office forecasting is declining due to accuracy failings.  If performance is on the wane the question that must be answered is how can the Met Office’s executives continue to award themselves bonuses year on year?

Without the cushions and comfort blankets provided by guaranteed government contracts funded with our tax pounds one wonders how the Met Office would fare operating exclusively in the private sector.

BBC Weather Test plugged again

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme may have heard Roger Harrabin holding forth about his little project to compare the accuracy of weather forecasters, the Weather Test.

We’ve covered the Weather Test’s multiple conflicts of interest previously and shortly after that we identified some possible flaws in the project.  But of course none of these have been given a public airing by Harrabin and the wheeze trundles along after a year of planning and a distinct absence of definition.

It was interesting that Harrabin referred to the Met Office’s nervousness about the project. Given that just about every outside agency and University involved in assessing forecast accuracy are Met Office partners in various meteorology and climate change, that seems to be over egging things.  Maybe the source of that titbit was Harrabin’s Met Office ‘deep throat’ who fed him the lie that the extremely cold early winter had actually been forecast to the government.

Perhaps the amount of time being devoted to getting his vanity exercise off the ground is the reason why Roger Harrabin’s reporting of the Met Office spin, disinformation and outright deception was non existant in December and January.  Or maybe it was simply Harrabin sticking rigidly to the party line in defence of his Met Office friends, thus furthering the BBC’s deeply entwined relations with the department.

Move along taxpayer, nothing to see here

A few weeks ago this blog was preparing a post about the Committee on Climate Change and fired off a FOI request for details of funding and Committee member remuneration (more on that further down).  But after consideration it seemed the post would not provide a great deal of value and it was not published.

So it was with interest that a scan through Thursday’s Parliamentary Written Answers from Ministers turned up a reply to a question about the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that offers the opportunity for a worthwhile post.  It was Craig Whittaker MP who asked:

…the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change whether he has made an assessment of the diversity of the range of scientific opinion on climate change that is represented on the Committee on Climate Change.

The reply was the kind of non-answer one would expect from the closed minds of those who are engaged in furthering vested interests, which singularly failed to address the point.  Surprise surprise, it is the Met Office’s protector-in-chief Greg Barker who is continuing the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) effort to shield the climate change true believers from proper accountability:

The Climate Change Act 2008 sets out a list of desirable expertise (including climate science, and other branches of environmental science), which is intended to broadly mirror the range of factors which the CCC is required to take into account in considering its advice. Taking this into account the membership of the CCC is kept under regular review with specific attention given to whether their work programme calls for additional expertise at either board level or by consulting outside when required.

I believe the current membership of the CCC contains a good mix of the relevant expertise (including scientific), and creates a committee which is focused and dynamic.

Whittaker had clearly asked about an assessment of CCC membership on the basis of the diversity of scientific opinion.  Barker’s mealy mouthed answer confirmed the composition of the CCC is based upon having a united outlook commensurate with climate change orthodoxy and the only mix being one of expertise rather than opinion.

This is the problem.  The government is not interested in scientific balance or considering viewpoints and evidence that run contrary to the so called consensus.  How can we ever have hope that new evidence or substantial doubt about the climate change creed will be looked at impartially when all the existing structures, such as the CCC, have been built on the premise that the science is settled and the debate is over?

What makes this situation all the more galling is that our tax pounds are used to fund the CCC and pay its members to maintain the status quo irrespective of anything that contradicts their beliefs.  All the members of the CCC are committed climate change advocates and have vested interests in furthering the policy agenda they themselves inform.  When you look at the CCC members you can see that science is the last thing on the mind of the government.

Take for instance the Chairman of the CCC, Adair Turner, now known grandly as Lord Turner of Ecchinswell. His biography on the CCC website describes him thus:

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell is the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change and Chair of the Financial Services Authority. He has previously been Chair at the Low Pay Commission, Chair at the Pension Commission, and Director-general Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Curiously, despite History being part of his degree, there is no mention of his previous role as a Trustee of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) who of course are infamous for their involvement in Amazongate. Turner also leaves out his role as a member of the International Climate Change Taskforce. He is doing rather well out of climate change for an Economist who also lectures part time at Bob Ward’s Gadaffi School of Economics (LSE).  Of course, any allegation of bias would be grossly unfair…

Or we could take the Chief Executive of the CCC, David Kennedy:

David Kennedy is the Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change. Previously he worked on energy strategy at the World Bank, and design of infrastructure investment projects at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He has a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics.

So we have the two most powerful members of an ‘independent’ committee on a scientific subject and not one molecule of scientific experience between them.

The LSE links continue with Dr Samuel Fankhauser, Principal Fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics and a Director at Vivid Economics (yes, another economist). He is a former Deputy Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but now he works with Bob ‘Mad Dog’ Ward, a specialist in hectoring, ranting and misinforming while failing to refute the points made by climate realists.

Continuing the LSE linkage (albeit loosely) the CCC also has as a member the Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change’s sibling organisation at Imperial College, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins.  Not only is Hoskins a Grantham man, he is also Professor of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

Significance? Reading is one of the Met Office’s partner universities tackling ‘the problems of climate change’ and trying to ‘understand the impact of extreme weather’. Hoskins is also a Fellow of the Royal Society, who of course are infamous for having been forced by a number of scientists to admit the science of climate change is far from settled, before being forced to correct their false statements about the length of time CO2 stays in the atmosphere.

So what is the butcher’s bill for taxpaying public?  That FOI request I referred to earlier lays it bare… Just click to enlarge the following.

First we have the funding from DECC:

Then there is other public funding given to the CCC:

Then we see how much the CCC members are getting for presenting their ‘ideas’ and wheezes for tackling CO2 even though there is no evidence it has caused any of the warming that records suggest has taken place:

It’s always nice to see our money going to such a worthwhile organisation that serves its own our interests… Move along now. Nothing to see here.


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