“Politicians may finally be catching on: towns now hold the key to Britain’s future”

“… Everywhere we go, people talk about the fate of their town centres with amazing passion, and frustration. Obviously, the Altrincham model of regeneration will not suit everywhere, to say the least. Labour now has a five-point plan for high streets that takes in an end to ATM charges, free wifi, a new register of empty properties, free bus travel for under-25s and reform of business rates. It sounds promising, though perhaps evades something that is glaringly obvious: conventional chain-store retailing is dying fast and high streets need to find new uses. Until this sinks in, the mood of resentment and political disconnection that characterises many of our towns will fester on.

With good reason, the political debate about austerity tends to focus on cuts to such crucial services as adult and children’s social care, education, libraries and public transport. But there is also an overlooked ambient austerity manifested in streets festooned with rubbish and the decline and decay of public space – and it has a huge effect on how people feel about where they live and what politics has to offer them.

… Obviously, young people who are not happy in towns tend to leave. It is the older generations who stick around, and who feel the changes to town life more deeply. Despite the fashionable idea that Britain’s current malaise will be miraculously ended once they begin to die off, they are going to be around for some time to come.

Wherever we go, with good reason, most people we meet have no sense of which bit of government is responsible for this or that aspect of their lives – only that the forces making the decisions are remote, seemingly unaccountable and rarely interested in where they live. Many urban areas have been recently boosted by the creation of “city regions” governed by “metro mayors”; in Scotland and Wales, devolution has brought power closer to people’s lives. In most English towns, by contrast, systems of power and accountability are pretty much as they were 40 years ago.

… What this does to people’s connection with politics is clear. To quote a report by the recently founded thinktank the Centre for Towns, “on average, people living in cities are much less likely to believe that politicians don’t care about their area. Those living in towns are, in contrast, more likely to think politicians don’t care about their area – and won’t in the future.”

There lies the biggest issue of all. The future of our towns will only partly be decided by the high-octane rituals of Westminster debate, and general elections. What really matters is whether they might finally run a much greater share of their own affairs – and, to coin a memorable slogan, take back control.”

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/commentisfree/2018/oct/18/politicians-may-finally-be-catching-on-towns-now-hold-the-key-to-britains-future

“Business rates: one John Lewis store will pay four times the tax of Amazon”

“John Lewis, the embattled retailer whose profits collapsed by 99% in the six months to July, will be charged £10.5m in business rates for its flagship Oxford Street shop from April, according to new figures — a 60% rise in three years.

A short walk away, Selfridges’ flagship shop also faces a 60% hike: its business rates bill will climb to £17.5m. That figure is almost four times the total UK corporation tax paid last year by the online retail giant Amazon: just £4.5m.

The looming threat to the high street will put pressure on the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to throw businesses a lifeline when he delivers his budget on October 29.

This weekend, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “These figures lay bare the shocking burden the business rates regime places on British retailers, who make up 5% of the economy and pay 25% of business rates — £7bn a year. The rates bill is leading to store closures, preventing the reinvention of our high streets, and is damaging communities the length and breadth of the UK.”
The BRC is lobbying for a two-year freeze in business rates until a revaluation in 2021, while the New West End Company, which represents businesses in London’s West End, is lobbying for a rates reduction of £5bn. This would be financed by a 1% tax on online businesses but would not apply to traditional retailers’ internet sales.

High street trading has been squeezed by online shopping, which now accounts for 18.2% of the market, with fewer stores surviving to shoulder the rates burden.

A phased four-year settlement in 2017 will bite hardest from April, with some stores facing huge increases. Burberry, which this month unveiled a new collection, faces a hike for its London headquarters of 186% compared with its rates in 2016-17.

In Manchester, Zara must pay £1.26m and Manchester City football club £2.4m, up from £1.7m in 2016-17.

Altus Group, the property adviser that researched the figures, found NHS hospitals will have to pay £386m and council-controlled state schools £957m.

Nickie Aiken, the Conservative leader of Westminster council, said: “Our taxes should reflect our way of life. I would ask the Treasury: do we want to continue the decline so that the only things left on the high street are charity shops and betting shops?”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Older people are NOT unproductive

EDDC’s CEO (rapidly approaching retirement age) was once heard to call the district’s retired people “unproductive” …

“Countries could economically benefit from people living longer and should invest more in health to raise life expectancy, a think-tank has urged.

The International Longevity Centre said that as people live longer productivity also increases, in terms of ‘output’ per hour worked, per worker, boosting the economy.

Improving health and ensuring that people live longer should therefore be a key goal for governments, the analysis, based on OECD figures from 35 countries [see graph below], said.

According to the analysis, Iceland, which has one of the healthiest populations in the world, has an employment rate of 83% for 60 to 64-year-olds. This compares to the OECD average of 48.9%.

Ben Franklin, assistant director for research and policy at the think-tank, said that as raising life expectancy results in improved productivity, countries will also be able to collect more taxes from the people in work.

He said: “Public policy and economic forecasters should consider how best to take into account the potential fiscal benefit of better health and not neglect it in discussions of our long run sustainability.”

The report said that the findings are particularly important amid “many debates about long run government spending” where health spending is seen as a “drain on fiscal resources”. …”

https://www.publicfinanceinternational.org/news/2018/08/economic-benefits-people-living-longer-says-think-tank

“CEO pay soars as working wages flatline”

“Pay for chief executives at Britain’s largest listed companies rose more than six times faster than wages in the wider workforce last year. The average boss’s pay packet hit £3.9m. A worker on a median salary of £23,474 would have to work 167 years to earn that.

Chief executive pay at FTSE 100 businesses surged 11% while average worker earnings failed to keep pace with inflation, rising just 1.7%, according to the High Pay Centre’s annual review. The report comes after years of workers’ pay being squeezed by weak pay growth and rising prices. The mean figure for female bosses was £2.8m – less than half the £5.9m average for men – and men got more than women in eight out of 10 companies and organisations that reported figures under government rules

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “Workers should get seats on boardroom pay committees to bring a bit of common sense to pay decisions. And the government should put the minimum wage up to £10 an hour to give more workers a fairer share of the wealth they create.” Meanwhile, unions have rebuffed a call from the transport secretary to cap train fare rises if rail workers agree to cap their pay claims accordingly. “As you will be aware, one of the industry’s largest costs is pay,” Chris Grayling wrote to rail unions. The RMT said rail staff would not pay for “the greed of the private train operating companies”.”

Source: Guardian e-briefing

Evo-North: 11 business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships unite to hijack funding formerly controlled by local authorities

Coming soon to a group of Local Enterprise Partnerships on your doorstep.

On 9 July 2018 it was announced that 11 Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships would join together as “Evo-North”:

“Christine Gaskell, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP and vice-chair of NP11, said: “To translate the Northern Powerhouse concept into increasing impact requires new types of conversations across the region and at the heart of this collaboration are common goals which transcend local interests.”

Gaskell noted that the The NP11 will serve as a “strong coherent regional voice” with national government about the potential of an innovation-led economy for the North.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/council-for-the-north-on-the-way-aimed-at-aligning-businesses-for-northern-powerhouse?dm_i=4WAR,1AG5,WEIUK,3PBB,1

Now we see the full take-over of former local authority funding by this new business-led UNELECTED group as a press release publicising one of its forthcoming events makes clear:

“Following last month’s announcement from Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry that 11 LEPs will form the government-funded body ‘NP11’ to act as a modern-day ‘Council for the North’, last week, a cross-party group of MPs called for £100bn investment to transform the north of England’s transport by 2050 and for the date of Northern Powerhouse Rail to be brought forward to 2032.

This makes EvoNorth the perfect opportunity to put your products and services in front of the budget-holders who are actively seeking them. You get the opportunity to ask questions and network with the people responsible for delivering the Northern Powerhouse by attending this exclusive event. You can benefit from branding and exhibition opportunities by contacting the events team on 0161 833 6320, and you can also submit an enquiry or click here to contact us by email.

EvoNorth is an important event and platform where the Northern Powerhouse is discussed and debated across a wide range of topics including skills, employment & apprenticeships; digital revolution and innovation; health and social care; wellbeing & fulfilment; and infrastructure, business and inward investment.

It stands out from the crowd with its immersive series of lively and engaging Q&As, roundtable discussions, workshops and exhibitions. You can be a part of this exciting opportunity by attending, exhibiting or sponsoring: just contact the events team on 0161 833 6320, submit an enquiry or click here to contact us by email.”

https://cognitivepublishing.co.uk/4WAR-1AG5-B6WEIUK95/cr.aspx

So, very, very soon our district, our county and our region will almost certainly be in the grip of these unelected business people who have already shown their conflicts of interest countless times.

And we can do nothing to stop them …. unless the Conservative government which has enthusiastically x nay zealously – driven this initiative is removed from power.

“Local council plans for Brexit disruption and unrest revealed”

Owl wonders what EDDC and DCC (and our Local Enterprise Partnership) have arranged for us.

“Councils around the UK have begun preparing for possible repercussions of various forms of Brexit, ranging from potential difficulties with farming and delivering services to concerns about civil unrest.

Planning documents gathered by Sky News via freedom of information requests show a number of councils are finding it difficult to plan because they are not clear about the path the government in pursuing.

The responses, from 30 councils around the UK, follow the publication of details of Kent council’s no-deal planning, which suggests thatparts of the M20 might have to be used as a lorry park to deal with port queues until at least 2023.

Bristol council’s documents flag up a potential “top-line threat” from “social unrest or disillusionment during/after negotiations as neither leave nor remain voters feel their concerns are being met”.

One of the fullest responses came from Pembrokeshire council, which released a Brexit risk register detailing 19 ways it believes leaving the EU could affect the area.

Eighteen are seen as negative, of which seven are deemed potentially high impact, including the “ready availability of vital supplies” such as food and medicines.

The one positive impact was that Brexit may drive people to move away from the UK, which could reduce demand on council services.

A number of councils, including East Sussex, are worried about the provision of social care after Brexit because of the potential fall in the number of EU nationals working in the sector.

According to Sky, East Sussex’s report says: “There has already been a fall in the number of EU nationals taking jobs in the care sector and the county council has great concerns that the end of freedom of movement will put further pressure on the sector that is already stretched and struggling to deliver the level of care required for our ageing elderly population.”

A number of councils have expressed concern about the disappearance of various EU funding streams and whether thethe Treasury would step in to replace them.

The local authority in the Shetlands released a document saying that tariffs on lamb exports under a no-deal Brexit would mean 86% of sheep farms could expect to make losses. The current figure is about 50%.

One common complaint, according to Sky, was frustration at the lack of central government information about which plan might be pursued. Wirral council said: “Given the lack of detail from government about any proposed deal or arrangements, it is difficult to carry out an assessment that is not purely speculative at this time.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/01/local-council-plans-for-brexit-disruption-and-unrest-revealed