What will happen in Cranbrook and Sidford if pavement parking is made illegal?

“Motorists should be banned from parking on pavements to prevent pedestrians having to walk on the road, ministers have been told.

A coalition of charities is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to fast-track legislation designed to bar drivers from mounting the kerb.

In a letter to The Times, the groups criticise the government for “stalling” over the issue and say that action is needed to stop cars on congested streets spilling over on to the pavement.

The issue is particularly pressing for parents with prams, the elderly, those with disabilities and people who are blind and partially sighted, they say.

The letter is signed by 20 charities including the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Living Streets, Age UK, British Cycling, Scope and The Ramblers. An open letter to the prime minister signed by 16,000 members of the public has also been delivered.

It follows a statement from the DfT this year that it was considering an overhaul of traffic laws to prevent vehicles from blocking paths. This would bring the rest of England into line with London, which has banned pavement parking, except where specifically allowed by councils, since 1974. Outside the capital, local authorities have long pushed for the change, saying it was a “nonsense” that those outside London were treated differently. It could allow councils to make it illegal to park on the kerb unless they expressly grant permission, potentially carrying fines of £50 or £70.

Almost three years ago the DfT suggested that a review of the law would be carried out as part of reforms designed to promote more cycling and walking, but it never materialised.

Today’s letter notes that it has been 1,000 days since ministers first proposed to take action. “Cars parked on the pavements force people into the road to face oncoming traffic, which is particularly dangerous for many, including blind and partially sighted people, parents with pushchairs and young children, wheelchair users and others who use mobility aids,” it says.

Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, said: “We strongly support a banning of pavement parking. It is particularly dangerous for those who are blind and partially sighted, other less able people and people with push chairs.”

The DfT said: “We recognise the importance of making sure that pavement parking doesn’t put pedestrians at risk, and believe councils are best placed to make decisions about local restrictions.

“Councils already have the powers to ban drivers from parking on pavements and we are considering whether more can be done to make it easier for them to tackle problem areas. It is important to get this right for all pavement users.”

Source: Times, pay wall

How much do you really know about the UK? Are you just making it up?

What is the immigration level (what percentage if people living in the UK are immigrants), crime rates (how many crimes per 1,000 population), teenage pregnancy rates (per 1,000 women under 18) and obesity rates in the UK (percentage of adults). Write down your answers, read the article and see correct answers at the end,

“We looked across 13 countries and over 50,000 interviews on 28 questions – asking people to guess at immigration levels, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, obesity levels and more.

Italians are the most likely to be wrong on key social realities about their country, with the US the next worst. At the other end of the spectrum, the Swedes are the most accurate, followed by Germany.

Those are the findings from our exhaustive ‘Misperceptions Index’, published in a forthcoming book on ‘The Perils of Perception’.

We looked across 13 countries and over 50,000 interviews on 28 questions – asking people to guess at immigration levels, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, obesity levels, how happy people are, unemployment rates, smartphone ownership, and many other social realities – to find out who was most and least wrong.

And the Italians are worthy ‘winners’. They guessed that 49% of working-age Italians were unemployed, when in reality at the time it was 12%. They thought 30% of their country were immigrants, when the actual figure was 7%. They guessed 35% of people in Italy have diabetes, when in reality it’s only 5%

The US is not much better. Americans thought 17% of their population are Muslim, when the actual figure is around 1%. They guessed 24% of girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is 2.1%

At the other end of the spectrum, Sweden is very accurate on some facts: for example, they guessed that 32% of prisoners in Sweden were immigrants, when the actual figure was 31%. But even the Swedes get a lot wrong: they guessed that 24% of the population were unemployed, when at the time it was 8%.

We also asked people who they think has the least accurate view of their own society. And the country that people picked out most often was the US, with an impressive 27% of the vote, way ahead of any other country.

And this is not just an unfair image from outside – Americans think this of themselves too: 49% of Americans expected their fellow country-folk to have the least accurate view of facts about their society.

The immediate question that springs to mind is… why? Why are some countries worse on these realities than others?

The main message from the book is that we’re wrong not just because of what we’re told – by the media, politicians and social media – but also how we think, our own many biases, for example, in looking for information that confirms our already held views, how we’re drawn to negative information and the way we think the past was better than it was.

But that still leaves the question of why misperceptions vary so much between countries. To help answer this, I looked at how measures of all sorts of national characteristics – on the quality of the media in each country, the openness of government, ratings of education systems, trust in politics and the media, and many others – related to our Misperceptions Index.

And the honest answer starts with a shrug – there are no clear-cut, full explanations for this global variety.

But there is one factor that does seem to be related: how ‘emotionally expressive’ people in the country are. This index was developed by Erin Meyer in her book The Culture Map and measures things like whether people in different cultures around the world tend to raise their voices, touch each other or laugh passionately when talking.

This may seem a strange set of characteristics to be related to how deluded we are about, for example, immigration levels. But we need to remember that our guesses at these questions are partly emotional – they send a message about what’s worrying us. If immigration is a big concern, we automatically pick a big number, even if in reality immigration levels are much lower.

Our misperceptions are about our emotions as much as our ignorance of the facts, and therefore it’s not surprising that more emotionally expressive countries have more exaggerated guesses. It’s the mental arithmetic equivalent of wild hand gestures and loud arguments.

Of course, we need to strenuously avoid stereotyping all Swedes and Germans as calculating and rational, compared with voluble and gesticulating Italians and Americans. Our emotional expressiveness is far from a complete explanation, and there are many exceptions.

Our errors are not completely set in our national culture, and we can do something about them. This is reinforced by one other possible explanation for why Sweden is the least wrong.

Sweden is of course the home of late, great Hans Rosling, where he is a national figure, and where his Gapminder foundation has been taking their teaching material on global realities into schools and workplaces for many years, to ‘dis­mantle misconceptions and promote a fact-based worldview’.

And this does seem to work, for some Swedes at least: in a follow-up survey among Swedes who got various facts correct, asking how they knew the right answers, ‘Hans Rosling’ was a common response.

Of course, not every country can have their own Hans Rosling, and it’s probably no coincidence that a culture like Sweden was lucky enough to produce one. But it suggests we can improve our understanding of our countries and the world, with effort and invention. Our misperceptions are important to understand, but they’re not inevitable.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/peril-perception_uk_5b86be25e4b0511db3d3cb50

For comparison:

At the last census 8.3% of the UK population were immigrants, West Yorkshire came top with 88.6 victim-based crimes per 1,000 people living there. Meanwhile, Dyfed-Powys was the safest place to live in the UK last year, with 36.6 offences per 1,000 people. Among under-18s, the conception rate has halved in eight years, to 21 per 1,000 women in 2015, data from the Office for National Statistics shows. In 2016, 26 per cent of adults were classified as obese. This has increased from 15 per cent in 1993 but has remained at a similar level since 2010.

“Land now 51% of UK’s net worth – a huge transfer of wealth to landowners, say campaigners”

“A dramatic rise in land values pushed Britain’s wealth to a fresh high of more than £10tn last year, highlighting the huge gains made by developers in property hotspots across the UK.

From London and the home counties to Cambridge and popular parts of Devon and Cornwall, land values have become the single largest element of wealth, dwarfing household wealth locked up in property and financial savings.

Official figures showed that the UK’s net worth rose by £492bn between 2016 and 2017 to £10.2tn, with the lion’s share of the increase accounted for by a £450bn jump in the value of land.

The rise continues a trend since 2012 that has pushed the average assets held by each Briton to £155,000, up £6,000 from 2016.

The Office for National Statistics said consistent increases in the value of land meant it accounted for 51% of the UK’s net worth in 2016, higher than any other G7 country that produces similar statistics.

In France, which has a land mass twice the size of the UK, land values account for 41% of wealth while in Germany they account for only 26%.

This week several landowners have outlined plans for developments, including the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Group, which said it was taking a growing interest in residential property outside central London.

It said it would build thousands of homes on greenfield sites around Oxford and Cambridge, which are to benefit from Treasury plans to connect the two university towns with a cross-country rail link.

Analysts said much of the increase in land values was in response to Britain’s rising population, which has put pressure on the government to back house builders seeking to develop green field sites and farmland in south-east England and other development hotspots around the country.

The price of farmland can increase by 100 times when developers succeed in persuading ministers to re-designate it for housing. Areas of London that were previously derelict, especially in the east of the capital, have seen huge rises in values as regeneration efforts and improved transport links have fed into property prices.

Commercial property has also enjoyed an upswing in value since Britain’s recovery following the 2008 banking crash, more than offsetting recent declines in much of the retail sector.

The ONS figures go beyond a study last year by Lloyds bank that showed that Britain’s net worth had climbed above £10tn for the first time, but did not single out the value of land.

The steady increase in land values is expected to trigger further calls for a land value tax or new rules allowing local authorities to reap the rise in values by allowing them buy land earmarked for development.

A growing number of thinktanks and politicians support imposing a tax that would take a slice of rising land values.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has urged the Treasury to develop a scheme, while the Green party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, has tabled a private member’s bill proposing a land value tax. Labour said in its 2017 election manifesto that it would consider a similar tax.

Mark Wadsworth, the head of the Campaign for Land Value Taxation, said: “The minority with a vested interest in high land values will no doubt celebrate higher values, saying that is shows the importance of land to the UK economy.

“In truth, land values are not a net addition to national wealth, they merely represent the benefits that accrue to landowners because of government spending on public services funded out of general taxation; land values are actually just a measure of ongoing transfers of wealth from taxpayers to landowners and a zero-sum game.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/29/uks-wealth-rises-as-land-values-soar-by-450bn-in-a-year

Greater Exeter Strategic Plan: consultation about consultation and Skinner has a pet project other councils are ignoring

Correctiin: headline changed from Diviani to Skinner as it is assumed it is new Deputy Leader who wants a sports venue. Well, he is known to be a rugby fan!

“The vision is about to start to decide specific issues in October, with the aim to prepare a draft plan for consultation in the summer of 2019 after the local elections.” …

For the GESP area, 2,600 homes a year are needed, meaning over the 20 years of the plan to 2040, around 57,200 new homes will be built. …

[Here follows a masterpiece of shooting down Diviani’s idea for a “major sporting venue” ncely!]

“In previous discussions regarding the GESP, the Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council has put forward the idea of developing a regionally or nationally significant sports arena and concert venue within the GESP area.

The consultation does not specifically refer to this concept as work in understanding the need for such a facility and how it could be delivered are at an early stage as it is focusesd at high level issues and does not talk in any detail about specific proposals.

It is however considered that the consultation asks about public aspirations for the delivery of infrastructure thus enabling respondents to raise the opportunity for such a facility and make suggestions for what it would be. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/could-57000-new-homes-exeter-1948541

Dis-unitisation: Bankrupt Tory council splits in two

Owl says: do debts go 50/50?

“Stricken Northamptonshire County Council has voted to abolish itself in the first of a series of meetings due this week to settle the authority’s fate.
Councillors backed the proposal to replace the county and its districts with two new unitary councils. These would be North Northamptonshire, covering Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough, and West Northamptonshire comprising Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire.

Each district has a meeting due this week to vote on the proposal, which will then go to communities secretary James Brokenshire.

A report to the county council noted that Max Caller, the inspector appointed to report to the government on Northamptonshire’s financial plight, had said: “The problems faced by NCC are now so deep and ingrained that it is not possible to promote a recovery plan that could bring the council back to stability and safety in a reasonable timescale” and that a unitary reorganisation should follow.

This week’s report said: “The county, borough and district councils are making this [unitary] proposal – not out of a positive ambition for this radical structural change, but instead out of a pragmatic and responsible approach to the Government’s clearly-signalled direction of travel.” It warned too that unitary reorganisation would not in itself solve the county’s financial problems.

“There is currently a very significant imbalance between revenue income and expenditure at NCC, and this will have an impact on sustainability of the new unitaries if the current financial position is inherited by them in 2020-21,” it said.

“It is essential that NCC delivers a balanced revenue position and sustainable services that can be inherited from day one. “

Northamptonshire in July took the rare step of issuing a second section 114 notice to limit spending.

The government in May imposed commissioners to run parts of the council after Mr Caller’s report highlighted serious flaws in its operation.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36537%3Anorthamptonshire-councillors-vote-for-plan-to-split-county-into-unitaries&catid=59&Itemid=27

“Grant Thornton [EDDC’s past and present auditor] in record fine as auditing scandal spreads”

“The scandal around City auditors spread beyond the big four on Wednesday as Grant Thornton was slapped with a major fine for serious conflicts of interest with two audit clients.

The Financial Reporting Council fined the professional services firm £4 million, reduced to £3 million after a settlement discount. Three senior staffers and a former partner had admitted misconduct in the handling of financial audits for Vimto drinks-maker Nichols and the University of Salford.

The ex-partner, Eric Healey, was slammed for “reckless” behaviour after taking jobs on the audit committees of Nichols and the university despite continuing to work as a consultant to Grant Thornton after retirement. The accountancy firm continued as auditor to both, creating “serious familiarity and self-interest threats”.

The FRC delivered the damning verdicts five years after it opened the probes, which cover 2010 to 2013.

The £4 million penalty is the largest imposed on an accountancy firm outside of the big four — PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY. The costs will come out of partner profits.

It is the latest in a series of reprimands for Britain’s biggest auditing firms — just last week KPMG was fined £3 million for its audits of Ted Baker — as the FRC faces calls to reduce the big four’s dominance.

Healey’s simultaneous engagement with Grant Thornton, Nichols and the University of Salford “resulted in the loss of independence in respect of eight audits over the course of four years,” said the FRC.

It added: “The case also revealed widespread and serious inadequacies in the control environment in Grant Thornton’s Manchester office over the period as well as firm-wide deficiencies in policies and procedures relating to retiring partners.”

Healey, who retired from Grant Thornton in 2009, joined the audit committees of the University of Salford and AIM-listed Nichols in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The former role was unpaid and he got £22,000 per year for the latter.

The FRC said it has issued a £200,000 fine (discounted for settlement to £150,000) to Healey and excluded him from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for five years.

Three senior statutory auditors at Grant Thornton, Kevin Engel, David Barnes, and Joanne Kearns, were reprimanded and fined £75,000, £52,500 and £45,000 respectively (after discount for settlements).

Grant Thornton said: “Whilst the focus of the investigation was not on our technical competence in carrying out either of these audit assignments, the matter of ethical conduct and independence is equally of critical importance in ensuring the quality of our work and it is regrettable that we fell short of the standards expected of us on this occasion. As we have since made significant investments in our people and processes and remain committed to continuous improvement in this regard, we are confident that such a situation should not arise in the future.”

Source: Evening Standard