An independent source of of news on UK defence matters

The UK Defence Journal website provides an impartial news source on all things related to UK defence – sea, air, and land.

uk-defence-journalIt’s value as a news source is it’s objectivity and professionalism, a useful counter to the more sensationalist articles appearing in the press, online and TV based media.

Particularly useful is their reporting countering the view that the new Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will come into service without aircraft – see HERE, and HERE. [Click on image to link to the website].

Who’s had a good flood, and who a bad flood

Draining flooded drivewayI don’t mean this in an unkind way, as all floods are bad. Those people whose homes and businesses are flooded generally seek to organisations to blame as a focus of their anger. I know, as I’ve witnessed it.

Some individuals and organisations have has a ‘good’ flood, while others have had a ‘bad’ flood. Here’s my list, by no means exhaustive, and only from watching mainstream media,

  • Rory Stewart MP, government floods minister. Faced questions from the media and residents throughout the day of the floods in Cumbria. See more in the Daily Mail, and website HERE.
    • Very good flood: visible, knowledgeable, and does help, of course, to be the local MP in an area of extreme flood events which adds a bit passion.
  • Lt Col Hamish Cormack, CO of 2 Lancs – The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
    • In his Facebook message HERE, saying, “After 4 weeks of back-to-back support to flooding operations across the North of England the Bn is now back to being on standby to support whatever comes next. We have been at the forefront of the response to these unprecedented events, bouncing across the country to meet the next challenge. It has been an incredible experience; operating in the dirt and destruction of the flooding has been exhausting and often challenging but the way our people have approached it has been nothing short of amazing…..” 
    • Very good flood: visible, energetic, with terrific support from his battalion.
  • Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency. Chose to remain on a family holiday in Barbados while the Agency struggled to manage to flood situation.
    • Very bad flood: Important to be seen, and to meet agency staff at each of the flooded areas.
  • Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, government cabinet minister for the environment. Faced questioning from the media and locals in York and Tadcaster.
    • Good Flood: As cabinet minister responsible a tough call to face locals whose homes and businesses flooded. Depends on your point of view as to whether she’s had a good or an OK flood. Has promised the replacement of Tadcaster Bridge as a national priority.
  • Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, left visiting flooded areas for 5 days, and footwear not suitable for visiting flooded areas.
    • Bad Flood: A difficult role to be critical of government, yet supportive of volunteers. Tough call to visit or stay away – better to visit early in my opinion.
  • Pickering, a town in North Yorkshire in a deep valley has avoided flooding through careful and sensible flood mitigation.
    • Very Good Flood: to have avoided the floods.

Potential infrastructure improvements via Enterprise M3 LEP

Surrey Heath Borough Council’s External Partnerships Select Committee met this week, receiving presentations from Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group, Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, and Collectively Camberley. I’ve already written about Surrey Heath Clinical Commissioning Group HERE.

Enterprise M3 LEP areaHere’s my summary of the presentation by Geoff French, Chairman of the  Enterprise M3 LEP,

  • The Department of Communities and Local Government definition of a LEP,
    • “Local enterprise partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and businesses. They decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in the area.”
  • Enterprise M3 LEP covers 14 district authorities in mid and north Hampshire and South West Surrey, with a 1.6 million population.
  • The LEP has 6 staff and many private sector volunteers
  • There are 39 LEP’s in England, see list HERE
  • 39 LEP’s are competitively bidding for a share of £12 billion government investment, around £300 million per LEP
  • The government are looking for LEP’s to develop ambitious, multi-year Strategic Economic Plans
  • The LEP is lobbying for major transport schemes such as, A3 around Guildford, junction 9 on the M3 to start earlier than planned, congestion hotspots to be tackled such as, A30 Meadows Roundabout, and the M3 J2-3a. It’s also looking for improvements in train services from Camberley to Waterloo, a Woking rail flyover, and supports Heathrow Airport expansion.

To find out more there’s much to see on the Enterprise M3 LEP website, including presentations at their annual conference in February.

Let’s stop pensioners free degree courses

I happened on the case of Christine Armstrong who, aged 63, began a university course for a BA in English, and three years later is beginning a Master’s degree course.

Excellent, you might think. Not so. Her education is effectively free, paid for by you and me. It’s about never having to repay your student loan.

Merryn Somerset Webb, in her blog in Money Week, neatly describes how this crazy situation arises.

“From 2012, all student tuition fees [are] automatically paid by the Student Loans Company. When the students graduate, and are earning more than £21,000, they will start to pay 9% of their income over to the Student Loans Company via the PAYE system.”

“… no one on an income of under £21,000 has to pay back their student loans to the taxpayer. Armstrong has taken out a student loan to cover her tuition fees (the maximum is £9,000 a year). She has also received a maintenance grant (£3,354 if your household income is under £25,000). Armstrong’s pension income is under £21,000.”

“The result? Her loans aren’t actually loans. They are gifts from us to her. And rather large gifts too – if she has taken the maximum every year, she is costing us over £12,000 a year.”

Like Merryn, I think this loophole in the system needs to be removed quickly. We can’t afford to give pensioners degree level education for free. It’s simply unaffordable.  

Some years back, I took a year’s course in Garden Design at Merrist Wood College. Loved it. It didn’t occur to me to seek funding from the state. I paid for it out of savings, which meant keeping my car for 12 years, before changing it. [PS. I did pass the exams]

This is another question I’ll be asking the Rt Hon Michael Gove at his upcoming parliamentary breakfast in early February.

The shameless sense of entitlement of quangocrats

Leaving do’s. I imagine we’ve all had one, and probably a number. In all of mine, it’s been me who’s paid for food and drink. Occasionally, the organisation I was leaving allowed time for the ‘do’ on their premises.

What a shameless sense of entitlement that quangocrats exhibit. The departing chairwoman of the Arts Council has held her leaving ‘do’ this week, which has been paid for by the taxpayer. Not only does Dame Liz Forgan berate the government for cutting the Arts Council subsidy, but in the ‘so called’ straightened times of the Arts Council they can still find £8,000 for a leaving do.

I imagine that Dame Liz would have no problem funding that herself. Hell no. When the Arts Council asked government for approval for such an event, the government, is reported, to have said no. The Arts Council went ahead anyway and organised an event that they called a ‘thought leadership piece’. I’m indebted to Toby Young’s article in the Daily Telegraph, for his reproducing the quote from the Arts Council that appeared in the Daily Mail. Here’s the piece of drivel from the Arts Council:

“An Arts Council spokesman denied the event was a ‘leaving do’, saying it was a ‘thought leadership piece which will help stimulate debate’, and that costs were ‘kept to a minimum’.”


Population profile presents future problems

The Office of National Statistics review of the 2011 census has this table, showing the age profile of the population of England and Wales over the last 100 years.

There’s talk about the effect of an aging population on our society, and its concomitant costs. Seeing the data is a great way to understand that trend.

Seeing where your tax is spent

A lovely and simple idea from MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, that every taxpayer should receive a personal breakdown of how their tax is spent. He’s introducing the measure in Parliament tommorrow as a 10 minute rule bill.

I’d love to show you one of these personal tax statements, but those I’ve seen online are copyrighted. The best version is in today’s Sun newspaper – Where does it all go?  Click on their sample tax receipt to view in all its wonderous glory. Tim Montgomerie suggests that the ‘tax receipt’ could show the previous years figures. This would be a good way of showing changes to government expenditure. 

What an all-round great idea. I’ll be checking on the progress of this idea when it’s debated in Parliament tommorrow.

Debt the cause of an economic denouement

Is this the graph in Citywire that gives the reason for our likely economic denouement.

The grpaph is taken from McKinsey’s August 2011 report – Mapping Global Markets. I’ll need to read this report carefully, as it’s got some horrific graphs to pour over.

The value of David Blanchflower

It’s that man again, economist David Blanchflower predicting a thoroughly gloomy future for the UK economy in his article in today’s Guardian.

Now what was that old saw about economists – put 10 of then in a room together, and you’ll end up with 13 different opinions. Anyway, the value of David Blanchflower is that he’s a magnet for negativity on the UK economy, and therefore attracts the support of the left, who remain in denial about our financial plight. In my view, and of Fraser Nelson in The Spectator, David Blanchflower is wrong, and because he’s so wrong when GDP, hopefully, continues to grow, we’ll have all the Blanchflower supporters stranded in their negativity.

I wrote yesterday about how there are encouraging signs with in our recent GDP output figures that show there is evidence of change in the UK economy. It shows growth coming from private sector investment and not government debt-financed spending.

Of course, as an optimist I’m looking at the positives, and judgement’s about our economic growth are finely balanced. But, as I say, there’s evidence in the most recent figures that we’re moving in the right direction. Weaning ourselves of government financed growth won’t be easy. Over the last decade we’ve clobbered private sector risk takers, and I think it’ll be a quarter or two before investment confidence returns.

A budget to help businesses create jobs

Yep, I watched George Osborne deliver his Budget speech. My verdict is that his room for manoeuvre is severely constrained. We’re still living beyond our means as a nation, and having to borrow one pound in every four pounds that we spend. This remains unsustainable.

Given the constraint of the deficit, I thought he did a good job in getting the message out that Britain is a great place to start a business, invest in business, and to locate a business here. While possibly it could be argued that he could have done more, the key to the budget is that the message is being sent out to businesses around the world that Britain is once again a business-friendly country.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that business needs the confidence that they will be welcome, and that regulation and taxes are on a continuing downward path.

If we’re cutting back on public sector employment, then we must replace those opportunities with private sector jobs. My early business experience was in manufacturing in the West Midlands – the heartland of small manufacturing businesses. We need more of these companies.

And another thing, I like having business and housing cheek-by-jowl. The modern idea of zoning business away from housing misses out on many advantages.

Finally, I thought Ed Miliband was poor, plenty of invective, but absolutely no rapier-like analysis of the budget. I’d expected more.

Final note: I listened to Phillip Blond on Newsnight last night and was fascinated to hear his argument about a new plan for capitalism. Lots to agree with, but the sort of changes Philip suggests are truly long-term. What we have to do now is get the private sector motoring ahead – just as Osborne concluded, “We have put fuel into the tank of the British economy.”