Archives for posts with tag: Theresa May

Five months after announcing a £2bn fund to build a new generation of council homes, the government has not released the money.

A country that works for everyone

Theresa May promised the state would get “back in the business” of building social housing to address the shortage in a speech at the Conservative party conference in October.

Actions belie words

Andy Bounds in the FT notes that despite this commitment to funding social housing, government regulations have merely required private developers to build or fund so-called affordable housing, with rents at 20% per cent below the market average.

The Ministry of Housing said: “We are delivering the homes our country needs and since 2010 we have built over 357,000 new affordable properties.

Paul Dennett, mayor of Salford, wrote. “We are concerned and frustrated that . . . we still being advised by Homes England and partner registered providers [housing associations] that the guidelines for the allocation of grants to build homes for social rent have not been published, and that no date has been set for when this funding will be made available”. The letter was addressed to Sajid Javid, secretary of state for housing, who has not yet replied.

Councils want to build social housing which would pay for itself over time through rental income and increased property value, but the government currently prevents them from using the proceeds of social housing sales to build replacement homes. It has also restricted councils from borrowing to build houses themselves, although some have used reserves for modest building programmes.

Mr Dennett said that across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, there are 84,000 people in temporary accommodation, with their rent paid for by local authorities: “Our housing bills are going through the roof. The government is making the right noises but we need action now.”

The Ministry of Housing said: “We are determined to do more and we are investing a further £9bn, including £2bn to help councils and housing associations build homes for social rent.”

 

When? And, if built, will they be alienated under the right to buy?

 

 

 

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On November 25 the Conservative Party held a convention in Birmingham attended by 100 invited people, which rewrote sections of the party’s constitution.

The Campaign for Conservative Democracy mounted a campaign: Last Chance to save the Conservative Party, prompted by a document sent out by Rob Semple chairman of the Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board (above, with Theresa May).

The Draft Proposed Rule Changes for discussion at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 25 November 2017 included plans to:

  • rewrite the party constitution to remove references to constituencies altogether;
  • limit the right of local associations to choose their own candidates;
  • scrap the annual meeting of the Conservative Convention where people could listen and vote for candidates for top posts and
  • use on-line voting for all top posts in the party.

Reporting this, David Hencke asks if final approval will be given for these changes in the Conservative Party constitution at a meeting of the 1922 Committee (the Commons parliamentary group of the Conservative Party) at the March 2018 meeting of the Conservative Convention in Westminster?

If so, as David Hencke comments, “the contrast could not be much starker. Labour will go into the next general election as a mass movement with a mass membership who can influence policy and decide on who stands for Parliament, the police and the local council”.

Apparently oblivious of this Conservative development, The Times’ Lucy Fisher alleges Labour are forcing out so-called ‘moderates’ (aka New Labour Blairites) in a ‘purge’.

Times reader James comments: “We seem to be living in a parallel universe where the party that is open to all to join and all members have a vote to choose local candidates and party leader is being regularly criticised for being oppressive”.

Gary Younge writes: “Corbyn emerged in the wake of a global financial crisis, in a country rocked by the phone hacking scandal, the MPs’ expenses scandal and Operation Yewtree. His ascendancy represents a desire for a more participatory, bottom-up kind of politics that takes on not only the Tories in parliament, but inequality in the economy, unfairness in society and power where it has not previously been held to account”.

 

 

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Theresa May has announced that the Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport. During a visit to a factory in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against. As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote”.

Is anyone surprised? What are the lives of a few foxes and the welfare of our least fortunate citizens to a person prepared to press the nuclear button?

Nicola Stavrinou writes about this repeal in Redbrick* (accessed via the Brummie aggregator):

She asks why: as 84% of British people are opposed to fox-hunting, would the Conservative Party back such an unpopular repeal?

Her answer: “Theresa May is using this repeal to gain back the hardliner Tories who wish to see the ban lifted once and for all. She is going for an electoral majority which could potentially remove Labour and SNP from the equation. The anti-hunting Labour and SNP MPs who voted to ban fox-hunting could potentially be replaced with Conservative MPs who are pro-hunting. May knows that she has the power to pass unfavourable laws because of the Conservative’s recent surge in popularity, most recently seen in the Mayoral elections from the beginning of the month”.

Wryly she concludes: “I have no doubt that if there is a potentially high Conservative majority win in the snap election, this ban will be lifted. Not that it has actually stopped anyone from hunting since then anyway”.

*Redbrick is the student publication of the University of Birmingham, established in 1936 under the original title Guild News

It has evolved to include eleven sections covering wide areas of student life, and expanded into the world of digital journalism. All content is produced by student journalists, including reporters, commentators, photographers and editors. As a student society, any student of the University of Birmingham can join and contribute to the publication.

The hard copy is published fortnightly and its website is updated continuously with regular content, videos, audio clips and photography. Events are covered through live blogging, providing a platform for readers to get directly involved with the debates. The website currently receives approximately 40,000 unique views per month.

Other recent articles:

The One Show: It May Never Get Cringier Than This

Labour Party Broadcast: A New Peake?

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So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.

 

 

 

may-trump

As ‘Desperate of Downing Street’ dashed with unseemly haste to Washington, Steve Beauchampé wrote in the Birmingham Press:With the UK’s pressing need for a US trade deal, the Prime Minister is unlikely to cite concern about Trump’s behaviour, views and actions on any of a whole panoply of issues during their meeting’. He summarises:

‘In essence Theresa May and her government colleagues are happy to look the other way, to ignore both Trump’s grossest outbursts and his most outlandish policies. It’s a response that increasingly describes the UK in 2017 (May also visits Ankara and autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday – cue more handshakes and smiles with a ruthless leader).

‘As we prepare to leave the EU we’ll sell anything to anyone, no matter the consequences, the morals, the ethics.

  • Weapons to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain? Kerching;
  • Got nuclear waste? … We’ll store it;
  • Looking for an unregulated offshore tax haven? You’re welcome;
  • Want a wall built? …We’ve got the builders.

‘Britain is open for business… and it’s EU regulation free business! The barriers are down and if we want free trade deals, particularly with the US, where Trump intends scrapping at least 70% of business regulations, then the UK may have to submit to importing dodgy overpriced pharmaceuticals, low grade food, unsafe consumer goods’. 

Are there different and acceptable forms of protectionism? Colin Hines thinks so. Here is the first page of his recently published book acquired via https://www.amazon.co.uk/Progressive-Protectionism-taking-back-control-ebook/dp/B01NCTTBA3

colin-snippet-2

We look forward to Colin’s visit to Birmingham on 22nd April – and meanwhile the writer will be reading his latest book on her PC’s Kindle app – the process: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201245960

 

 

 

 

“Last week’s announcement by Birmingham City Council that it was commissioning a feasibility study into whether to bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games was as surprising as it was welcome”.

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So writes Steve Beauchampé, co-author of ‘Played in Birmingham’, Former International Officer of the FSA and member of Birmingham’s Euro ’96 Organising Committee.

Beauchampé notes that in general there had been little expectation of any alteration to the local authority’s previously stated position that a bid was not viable, in a period of unprecedented cuts to council services and substantially diminished central government grants. He continued:

“So what has changed?

“Several things perhaps: Chancellor George Osborne’s departure from office, which has seen his Northern Powerhouse project downgraded, or at least reconfigured as a more balanced national approach to devolution; that new Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief advisor Nick Timothy is from Birmingham, which might result in the city receiving a fairer hearing in Whitehall than was previously the case”.

The backing of the recently established West Midlands Combined Authority, as well as that of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership may well have been decisive, according to Beauchampé, who points out that, “both of these organisations are potentially able to access the sizeable funding streams necessary to develop the infrastructure improvements required to put on a high profile global event and deliver substantial economic regeneration as a consequence”. 

To secure the tacit support of central government and then the nomination of Commonwealth Games England, Birmingham must forget the notion of an ‘austerity’ Games:

“The Games, and the physical legacy they leave, must be tangible, its focal point both visible and accessible from the city centre. And whilst most of the facilities required already exist, albeit with some needing to be adapted, expanded or upgraded, several new venues and facilities will both be required and desirable (including a competition standard 50m pool, a velodrome and an athletes’ village)”.

He emphasizes that the region’s history and culture – sporting, artistic, ethnic and otherwise – should be mined and celebrated both in advance of, and during, the ten day spectacular of competition; there needs to be imagination in each aspect of how the event is conceived and delivered, and in how its benefits are to be maximised and secured afterwards. A Greater Birmingham bid needs to show how the region would advance the concept of what the Commonwealth Games can be, as successfully as London 2012 did with the Olympics.

Beauchampé reminds us that Manchester did not see staging the Commonwealth Games as the end of a process, but merely the beginning: “It’s an approach and a mindset that we too should adopt”.

Read the whole article: Bring The Games To Birmingham here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2016/10/bring-the-games-to-birmingham-2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.playedinbritain.co.uk/authors.php

SAVE OUR BATHS!

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See: http://www.local.gov.uk/devolution/combined-authorities

Richard Hatcher, professor of education (Birmingham City University) has written an article, ‘Skilled and ready: what Combined Authorities want from schools’.

He summarised the argument made in his conclusion:

The purpose of Combined Authorities, driven by government, is private sector economic growth and public sector reform. Economic growth requires improved productivity. The main obstacle, it is claimed, is a “skills deficit”, which schools need to address.  Combined Authorities, driven by funding and governance imperatives, will seek to put pressure on schools to do so.

However, the evidence provides little support for the “skills deficit” claim. The real problem, I argue, is a structurally low skill low investment economy.

A local reference: Jaguar Land Rover, based in the WMCA area, is a case in point: it has an annual investment of approximately £2.75 billion a year but faces critical skills shortages in engineers, designers and technicians. The explanation for this shortage offered by Begley et al (Coventry, 2015, paywall) puts Wilshaw’s claim into context.  In part responsibility lies with the employers themselves: it is “a legacy of the engineering sector being locked into a low-skills equilibrium caused by a long-term failure to educate and train its workforce” (p594). It is also the result in part of the failure of government to ensure sufficient qualified maths and science teachers.

skilled-logoWhat employers want from “non-academic” school leavers are basic skills, “soft skills” and positive attitudes to work. But the Conservative government has a very different project for schools, exemplified by the dominance of the E-Bacc. This contradiction creates a space for “employability” programmes such as Skilled and Ready – more detail here.

The extent to which Combined Authorities will seek to extend their reach into the school system and how effective they will be in gearing schools more closely to their agendas, remains to be seen. In that context it also remains to be seen the extent to which schools, especially those which are not high-performing in terms of government targets, will turn to “employability” programmes such as that offered by Skilled and Ready, and the extent to which Combined Authorities may promote them.

What can be predicted, I think, is that as Combined Authorities spread and develop they will add fuel to the debate about the relationship between schools and the labour market, resulting in more questioning of the E-Bacc curriculum and more pressure to validate a pre-vocational and vocational pathway. But it also opens up the opportunity to argue the case for a unified and critical common core secondary curriculum for all.

Ed: a very different case has been presented by Theresa May in her recent speech about ‘new grammars of the future ’in ‘our increasingly diverse schools system’.

 

 

 

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Jonathan Walker in the Birmingham Post and Mail ‘Opinion’ column reports quite happily – even credulously – that Theresa May promises a government for the ‘strugglers’

But he will be well aware that many prime ministers have made appealing promises which were never kept and that a brief overview of Ms May’s record does not inspire confidence.

  • People struggling to find a trustworthy carers for their child or a vulnerable family member will regret that she suspended the registration scheme.
  • Those struggling with domestic violence find that Theresa May got rid of a scheme which banned abusers from the victim’s home.
  • Parents struggling with a child at risk can no longer be informed by the “ContactPoint” database designed to protect children after the Victoria Climbie child abuse scandal.
  • Anyone struggling to manage his or her financial affairs efficiently could find their financial and personal data less secure as Ms May’s Investigatory Powers Bill, has authorised the state to employ private companies to design hacking technology which can ‘create openings’ in devices, leading to the theft of such information.

As Guido Fawkes – no Corbyniere – points out: “There’s a vast gulf between being effective in office, and being effective at promoting yourself .

 

 

 

nick timothyNick Timothy, Theresa May’s joint chief of staff, has been described by Susannah Butler in the ‘i’ printed paper (article not found online) as a ‘proud Birmingham boy’. He was born in Erdington and attended a grammar school, which he feared would be closed if Labour won the 1992 election. She writes that this prompted him to join the Conservative Party.

In July, a Moseley reader emailed “Theresa May’s speech yesterday sounded more left wing than your mate JC!”.

She said: ‘Under my leadership, the Conservative party will put itself — completely, absolutely, unequivocally — at the service of ordinary working people.’

That speech, said to have been influenced by Timothy, was delivered during a visit to Birmingham, when she outlined her vision for social justice, praising Joseph Chamberlain. Henry Mance in the FT notes that Timothy’s political hero is Joseph Chamberlain, a businessman and ‘can-do’ Liberal mayor of Birmingham in the 1870s. In 1884 Chamberlain declared: “My aim in life is to make life pleasanter for this great majority; I do not care if it becomes in the process less pleasant for the well-to-do minority.”

our joeFour years ago Timothy, author of a book about Chamberlain, had written that he gave the Tories ‘an unambiguous mission: the betterment of Britain’s working classes’. Mr Timothy is proposing a “blue collar” Toryism that marks a clear break with David Cameron’s approach:

“We need to keep asking ourselves what, in 2016, does the Conservative party offer a working-class kid from Brixton, Birmingham, Bolton or Bradford?”.

Another journalist in the FT is unconvinced: Giles Wilkes comments that if all Theresa May produces is a gentle sprinkling of tax breaks over “industries of the future”, the results will barely touch the grievances she raised in her speech:

“Whatever has wrought such despair in those hostile to globalisation needs sustained attention across the whole range of policy: in how land is regulated and taxed, in workers’ rights and in the fiscal and macro economic approach”.

 

 

 

On 14th July a Moseley reader emailed to say “Theresa May’s speech yesterday sounded more left wing than your mate JC! ”

My reply was a one year snapshot of her actions in office which belied this humanitarian stance, published earlier on this site:

theresa may

  • In 2010 she suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
  • On 4 August 2010 it was reported that May was scrapping the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violenceby banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • This was followed on 6 August 2010 by the closure of the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbiéchild abuse scandal.

“Rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”

This is another of Ms May’s Corbyn-like soundbites made shortly after Corbyn’s description of what he saw as the difference between the  Conservative and Labour offerings, in the form of a question:

bbc kuenssberg 1

 “Do you want to be bargain-basement Britain on the edge of Europe, cutting corporate taxation, having very low wages, having grotesque inequalities of wealth? Or do you want to be a high-wage, high-investment economy that actually does provide decent chances and opportunities for all?”

We read that Theresa May has launched a cabinet committee on the economy and industrial strategy, which she is to chair; it will bring together the heads of more than ten departments and focus on “rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.

Is Corbyn the most powerful, though least acknowledged, of Theresa May’s advisers on the political economy?

If only she would heed him on nuclear and foreign policy issues.