Archives for posts with tag: George Osborne

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.



nuclear 2convoys near Loch Lomond

Day and night, military convoys carrying nuclear warheads travel regularly up and down the country by road – between the nuclear warhead factory at Burghfield, near Aldermaston in Berkshire and the Trident nuclear base at Coulport in Scotland. M6, M40, and M42, some of the most congested motorways in the country, are frequently used.

The West Midlands CND website adds that lorries which carry nuclear materials including those from decommissioned warheads, for new warheads and for nuclear reactors for submarines, can use the same West Midlands motorways as the warhead convoys, but travel faster (up to 60mph) and do not travel at night. They also travel to the Rolls Royce factory Derby, sometimes using the M42, M6 and A38, or sometimes the M1.

nuclear symbolWMCND believes that the public should be told of these dangers. No radiation warning symbols (left) are now carried and though the public nor local authorities emergency planners are not warned, at least the police are always told when a nuclear convoy is expected.

Rob Edwards wrote an article in 2012 about a report from the UK government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), commissioned by the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation. It recorded 38 incidents in 2011 and 30 in 2010 – the second highest toll in six years, which saw a total of 195 mishaps. Read more on this Nuclear Industries blog.

The locations of the incidents were not disclosed in the report and no evidence of more recent monitoring of the transport of nuclear has been found in the public domain.

nuclear mareials lorry labelledMP Paul Flynn recently highlighted heightening of risk, due to the influence of Defence Equipment and Support Organisation (a ‘trading entity’ and organisation in the MoD) over government decision makers who decided that MoD vehicles transporting special nuclear materials should no longer carry hazard warning signs (right) when transporting radioactive cargoes.

There is a possible health hazard and also a risk to security as there is a ready market for such goods, with the potential addition of George Osborne’s proposed small nuclear reactors which can be carried on a lorry.

Elizabeth Way [former secretary of Just Defence] and Hazel Neal, on behalf of the West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, wrote to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham in June 2012:

Birmingham’s population is endangered by the transport of nuclear fuel rods through the residential heart of the city by train, and the transport of nuclear warheads on major roads and motorways around Birmingham. Birmingham is a Nuclear-Free City. Can you Sir, as Mayor, demand the discontinuation of nuclear transport through the city and its suburbs?”

See in more detail, plus news of a few accidents/incidents and Brian Quail’s protest halting the convoy:






The three commentators looked at essentials, unimpressed by the headlines focussing on Jamie Oliver, the Budget’s impact on Irn Bru – or Jeremy Corbyn’s clothing. Pandering to the latter obsession we note Jeremy outshining Boris (below).

corbyn boris shake hands

The FT’s political editor, George Parker, describes the Budget as ‘a compendium of grim economic news deteriorating growth, bad productivity numbers and confirmation that the Chancellor had broken two of the three fiscal rules he set himself in July last year’.

Steve Beauchampé refers to George Osborne having given ‘the usual illusory and diversionary (think sugar tax) performance’ and George Parker recounts a list of policies ‘corralled’ by Mr Osborne to improve children’s education and help them save for a home or a pension and salutes “the sheer political appeal of a tax to tackle childhood obesity — with some of the revenues being spent on school sport”.

David Bailey in the Post draws on forecasts and data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in measured language, to chilling effect: “Robert Chote, the OBR’s director, succinctly noted that for every pound the chancellor found down the back of the sofa in November, he has lost two pounds this time. So borrowing will be higher than Osborne hoped for”.

Beauchampé highlights George Osborne’s selective use of ‘economic data, financial contortions and highly politicised blames and claims’ – strategies attributed by Parker to Cameron ordering the presentation of a Budget that did not inflame Tory MPs or voters before the EU referendum, which the PM sees as “the only game in town”.

Beauchampé, however, sees the chancellor as being driven primarily by a more personal goal: “(The budget) was not primarily designed to address the current economic realities facing the lives of ordinary people or those issues identifiable for the future, but . . . to coincide with Osborne’s anticipated accession to the office of Prime Minister”.

He points out that, though specific measures for London, Manchester and Leeds were announced, there were no references to Birmingham and the West Midlands, commenting:

“Osborne’s much-vaunted devolution of powers from Westminster and Whitehall to the English regions is part of an ideology that sees the dismantling of traditional local government as essential. Riven with unnecessary politics, authority is transferred not to democratically accountable institutions representative of a cross-section of local society but to business focussed organisations and those whom the Chancellor hopes will be malleable individuals”.

After condemning as a wholly political choice the austerity Osborne has ‘so brutally placed’ on those at the bottom of society, to fund capital gains tax reductions and abandonment of the 50p top rate of income tax for those at or near the top, Beauchampé quotes Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘lambasting’ of Osborne’s record:

“The budget…is the culmination of six years of failures.

He’s failed on the budget deficit,

failed on debt,

failed on investment,

failed on productivity,

failed on the trade deficit,

failed on the welfare cap,

failed to tackle inequality”.

A Birmingham reader on holiday in Devon takes time off to draw our attention to an article by Liam Halligan, who has a remarkably wide wealth of business experience. Is he remembering the council’s February commitment to the Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan and the planned £50m extension of the Midland Metro, to pass through Curzon Street HS2 Station?

State and local governments want showcase projects and councillors and ministers want “legacies” . . .

The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure

The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure

Last week, George Osborne, David Cameron and government ministers were photographed inspecting building projects across the country, wearing hard hats and high-visibility jackets. The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure.

The Treasury has published an updated list of over 200 major projects to be completed or started in 2014-15 – infrastructure spending will be £36bn this year, according to Downing Street, up from £15bn in 2013. But since 2010 the national debt has risen from £800bn to over £1,200bn. Government is still borrowing £100bn-plus annually, as it has for five successive years.

overcrowding on trains

Halligan’s view on the HS2 proposal: “What desperately needs addressing isn’t inter-city speed, but massive overcrowding on local commuter lines — not only into London, but Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester too, where passenger numbers have grown faster than those into and out of the capital.

He advocates placing a greater emphasis on cross-country train services. Instead of spending £80bn-plus on the London-Birmingham leg of HS2, there should be investment in the two lines that already run between the two cities. Rather than a marginally quicker service from London to Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield – the cost of which will limit its use largely to business travellers –a world-class and more frequent inter-city links between the great northern cities is needed.

birmingham city council header

The state of Birmingham’s municipal finances is also said to be parlous: the latest council audit records a £3.25 billion debt, with interest payments costing the taxpayers £165 million a year.

If HS2 – “an important catalyst for this ongoing development and regeneration activity” – is not built and does not fund Curzon St Station, as presented at the MIPIM property conference in Cannes, will the millions spent regenerate the area – or will they have been wasted?

The last word from Halligan could be applied to this city council: “The UK’s public finances remain in a critical state. Now is the time for cost-effective solutions to genuine problems, not grand vanity projects”