“The dream of free buses still lives on”

Guardian letters:

“David Walker’s recollection of South Yorkshire’s publicly subsidised public transport system (Letters, 30 May) is only part of the story.

The aim of the cheap fares was to make the bus service totally free of fares by 1984 – a hop-on, hop-off service funded through a precept on the rates and savings made from not having to collect fares.

The South Yorkshire Freedom Riders are pressing the Sheffield city region mayor Dan Jarvis, the Labour and Green parties, locally and nationally, to give serious consideration to a publicly owned and run universal basic service with a zero-fare expanded bus service. For most people it will mean a minimum of a £30 uplift in disposable income as well as removing cars from our roads and reducing levels of pollution.

Motorists are facing higher costs to force them into buses. Let’s give them a viable alternative. Let’s give everyone access to towns, villages, friends, the countryside and work. Let’s give them a free-to-use bus service as was intended by a visionary authority in 1974.

Mike Smith
South Yorkshire Freedom Riders, Barnsley”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/may/30/the-dream-of-free-buses-still-lives-on?

“Peer who never spoke in Lords last year claims £50,000 expenses””

“A Labour peer claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting last year, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, a Guardian investigation reveals.

The former trade union general secretary David Brookman was among dozens of other lords and baronesses who never took part in a single debate, while almost a third of the 800 peers barely participated in parliamentary business over a 12-month period despite costing almost £3.2m in allowances.

The details have emerged from a new analysis of public data that will raise fresh questions about the size and effectiveness of the Lords, and the funds that can be claimed by those who fail to regularly contribute.

The findings show:

Eighty-eight peers – about one in nine – never spoke, held a government post or participated in a committee at all.

Forty-six peers did not register a single vote, including on Brexit, sit on a committee or hold a post. One peer claimed £25,000 without voting, while another claimed £41,000 but only voted once.

More than 270 peers claimed more than £40,000 in allowances, with two claiming more than £70,000.

The former Lords speaker Frances D’Souza, a long-term advocate of reform, said the findings corroborated “what everyone suspects is going on”, and that a minority of peers risked discrediting the hard work of their colleagues.

“There’s clearly a need to reduce numbers,” Lady D’Souza said, adding that the research “clearly shows there are people who are attending the House of Lords who are not contributing, and therefore they are simply redundant”.

The Guardian’s analysis covers the attendance, participation and allowances claims of 785 lords serving for a full year between 2017 and 2018. They comprise 244 Conservatives, 196 Labour and 97 Liberal Democrats, as well as 248 crossbench peers and various others.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/30/labour-peer-never-spoke-house-of-lords-claims-50000-expenses?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

The new “sustainable” villages – beware estate rentcharges

Cranbrook has not recovered from the arrangenent where developers imposed charges on residents of their estates for such things as gardening and maintenance. In the end, the town council took over these charges and spread them over ALL residents, many of whom were naturally upset at extra charges they had never signed up for.

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/25/estate-rent-charges-another-warning-on-new-builds-such-as-those-in-cranbrook/

Now, the new (brutalist architecture) estate developer in Exeter says it will severely restrict parking by having only 185 car parking spaces for 400 homes and residents will need permits to use the spaces.

BUT enforcement of these parking restrictions will be done by “a specialist management company which will patrol the site to ensure vehicles are parked within dedicated spaces and to ensure that non-residents aren’t using the site”.

And who will pay these charges? Just those who have parking spaces or ALL residents? And who will control escalation of the charges?

Swire says Exmouth deserves “a better museum” …

[corrected to show Exmouth Museum has a £1 entrance fee]

… and coincidentally, of course, thinks it should be on the seafront and incorporated into a tourist attraction that people pay a lot for. Exmouth Myseum charges £1 entry fee.

One must remember that Swire Swire was sacked in the July 2007 Conservative re-shuffle for suggesting his party would scrap free museum entry …

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Swire

Ever the privatiser!

Sounds something like the Seaton Jurassic Centre, where entry is from £8 (senior) to £22 for 2 adults and 2 children (entry for one year).

“Sir Hugo said Exmouth ‘deserves a better museum’ and thinks there is a place for it on the seafront.

He said: “That might be somewhere on the Queen’s Drive by developing a visitor centre which could educate people on the Jurassic Coast. …”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-mp-invited-to-exmouth-museum-1-6079409

Currently Exmouth Myseum is free. Seaton Jurassic is run by Devon Wildlife Trust, and the cost of entry at present is anywhere from £8 (senior) to £22 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children.

Greater Exeter: new Brutalism architecture the latest design fad?

New “mini-villages” are being planned throughout Greater Exeter, with East Devon’s being concentrated in the commuter belt just outside the Exeter City area.

Owl is struck by the similarity of the design of one mini-village in Exeter (close to the football stadium) to the design of squaddie accommodation at the Marine Conmmando base in Lympstone and student accommodation in Exeter.

Is this what we should expect “Greater Exeter” to look like in future?

New bed block for Lympstone Commando base:

New flats for “new mini-village in Exeter:

and student accommodation in Exeter:

Those optimistic “growth” figures from our LEP look even more unlikely

“Calling an organisation the “UK 2070 Commission” is not without its risks. Who cares what happens that far out?

But that, in a sense, is the point. The commission, set up to investigate Britain’s “marked regional inequalities”, publishes its first report today. And, as its chairman Lord Kerslake puts it: “If you want to understand what happens in economics, you need to look 50 years back and 50 years out.” Indeed, as the commission notes: “The reference to 2070 is an explicit recognition that the timescales for successful city and regional development are often very long, in contrast to the short-termism of political cycles.”

A Brexit-addled government nicely illustrates that — not that it’ll have been any surprise to Lord Kerslake, the ex-head of the home civil service. And in these distracted times, the report is doubly welcome. It kills the myth that inequality is not on the rise and helps to explain Brexit — or at least the disparity between Remainer London and the Brexiteer regions.

The report finds London “de-coupling from the rest of the UK”. And to nobody’s benefit. Research from Sheffield University professor Philip McCann finds the “UK is interregionally more unequal” than 28 of the 30 advanced OECD countries, the exceptions being Ireland and Slovakia.

Productivity in the capital is 50 per cent higher than the rest of the UK. Indeed, similar growth between 1992 and 2015 from cities outside London would have added at least “£120 billion to the national economy”. And, on present trends, half of the UK’s future jobs growth will be in London and the South East, which accounts for only 37 per cent of the population.

The effects show up everywhere. Healthy life expectancy in the UK’s poorest regions is “19 years lower”. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found in 2016 that dealing with the effects of poverty costs the UK £78 billion a year. And, even then, poor is a relative term. The children’s commissioner for England found that “a child who is poor enough for free school meals in Hackney, one of London’s poorest boroughs, is still three times more likely to go on to university than an equally poor child in Hartlepool”.

No one wins from such imbalances. People and businesses in the North “miss out on the benefits of growth” — forcing more spending on benefits. But those in “overheating” London and the South East find “increasing pressures on living costs and resources”, so reducing “quality of life”. That forces spending on pricey infrastructure, exacerbating the imbalances. Hence Crossrail, a phase-one HS2 skewed to the capital and an environmentally damaging third Heathrow runway.

So, what to do? Well, here the commission suggests a mix of regional devolution and German-style national planning. It points to the eye-popping €1.5 trillion spent post-unification to help to bring east Germany up to speed with the west. For Britain, it proposes an extra £10 billion spend annually for the next 25 years: a fabulous sum equating to 0.5 per cent of GDP. Lord Kerslake says it’s for government to decide whether it would come from borrowings, tax or such things as levies on uplifts in property values.

Yet he reckons “higher regional growth rates would over time offset this cost”. He emphasises, too, that this is just an initial report, seeking feedback. And don’t the divisions over Brexit underline that Britain needs to do something? Waiting until 2070 isn’t an option.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Government spends almost £100m on Brexit consultants”

Owl says: When people such as “Failing Grayling” (chaos in all departments he has run, the latest being transport) and Swire’s choice for PM Dominic Raab (the Brexit Minister who didn’t realise how much traffic to and from the EU goes through Dover) in charge – was it money well spent?

And how come these consultants had all the experts and the civil service didn’t?

“… The vast bulk (96%) of the Brexit consultancy expenditure under Cabinet Office arrangements – which accounts for £65m of the £97m total – has so far been handed to six consultancy companies: Deloitte, PA Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Ernst & Young, Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group.

Five departments: the Cabinet Office, Home Office, Border Delivery Group, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, account for the majority of spending via the Cabinet Office. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/29/government-spends-almost-100m-brexit-consultants