Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hammond's chance

Assuming he is not replaced, UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, is shortly to present his Budget, outlining spending and taxation plans.  This will be the first time we have the budget in the Autumn.

There has been conflicting talk of loosening the reins and then of tax rises. 

First, let us  be clear, we have not really experienced so called austerity.  That is just a lie put about by Labour and its fellow travellers in the media and the self-interested grievance industry. 

So, spending must be cut and cut significantly.

The minor spending reductions that we have seen since 2010 have had some effect on reducing the deficit but zero effect on National Debt.  This continues to climb.  Not surprising really – we are now borrowing money to give away in foreign aid – of course, this is madness but what could we expect from Red Tory Chancellor Osborne and virtue signalling call me Dave Cameron?

I outlined, last November  the spending cuts that could be made.  These were the work of the Tax Payers Alliance (a worthy champion of taxpayers and very deserving of your support)  These are shown  here  (  The effects of some will take time to filter through but stopping HS2 must be an immediate action.  Spending £50, 60, 70 or 80 billion so as to save 20 minutes on a trip to Birmingham, is simply madness. 

In the post-Brexit world, Britain needs to increase its attractiveness for business.  This means lower Corporation taxes and lower personal taxation.  We need to become a low tax low spend economy.  Yes I have no doubt this will upset the other EU countries but that is tough!  We will once again be an independent sovereign nation and can do what we want.  Probably, such an approach might influence the Brexit talks – so be it.  We are a free nation and that freedom includes the ability to simply walk away from the talks if Barnier and company seek to hobble our ability to run our country as we see fi

The UK, for the benefit of future generations – your children and grandchildren – needs to urgently reduce public spending.  At the same time, we need a simplification of the UK tax code.  I would contend that one of the major contributors to the industry that has sprung-up around tax avoidance, is the current complexity of tax law.  Indeed, I would suggest that there are parts of it that no one really understands!

In addition to the cuts proposed by the Tax Payers Alliance, I offer the following:

Public Sector Pay
The 1% pay cap should be maintained, however, in the NHS Jeremy Hunt should be encouraged to take more direct control over hospital trusts.  Trusts should immediately undertake a complete review of all of their middle management positions.  That is, not doctors, nurses or direct support staff but those other roles that hold the NHS up for ridicule.  Posts such as Diversity Directors or Assistant Diversity Directors or Equality Directors or Nursing Management coordinators etc.  Any role, yes any, that is not involved in the direct hands-on care of patients or in the day-to-day support of them (porters, cleaners, catering staff etc.) should be terminated.  The funds ‘freed-up’ can then be used to fund increases for nursing and/or extra nurses.  An Assistant Director of Diversity can easily command a salary of £45,000.  Add in around a minimum  20% for other costs and you could have £54,000 to distribute – do three or four of those and all front-line nurses in a given NHS Hospital Trust, could have a flat £1,000 increase.   No extra cost to the taxpayer, increased efficiency for the NHS and happier, better remunerated staff – simples!

Talking of simples – end the translation farce which costs the NHS £millions each year.  Signs and pamphlets shouldn’t need to be translated into 12 or 14 different languages.  English is the language of NHS England and that’s it.  I know, you’ll say that’s racist and such but think about how many commercial, private sector businesses put up menus and price lists in 12 different languages.

Public Sector Salaries
In addition to the current 1% cap, set a ceiling on public sector salaries.  The level should be £140,000.  No public sector employee, none, should be earning more than the Prime Minister. May and Hammond should ignore all of the usual ‘pay the best to attract the best‘ clap-trap from self-interested civil servants and town hall employees. At just under 6 times the national average wage £140,000 would still give the country a wide range of candidates.  There is a strong feeling that many of the current crop of public servants would have a very hard time commanding salaries of 50% of their current level, outside of the cossetted public sector.

Time to ‘bite the bullet’.  Yes people are living longer and other such arguments matter but fundamentally, we cannot afford the current provision.  So, from 2037, increase the current pension age from 66 to 67.  Then from 2040 increase it to 70.  This will give people plenty of time to plan for the change – some will and some won’t but none can say that they didn’t have time and so on.

Also on pensions, remove the ‘triple lock’.  Pension increases should be linked to an agreed and then non-changeable, version of the Retail or Consumer Prices Index.  That’s it.  State Pension income shouldn’t be allowed to accelerate ahead of other incomes.

Finally on this subject, end so called Final Salary schemes for Public Sector workers or rather, end all new entrants.  We must honour commitments made to existing staff, even if those commitments are over-generous but we don’t need to keep digging ourselves ever-deeper into an unfunded pensions hole.

This is what a Conservative Chancellor should be proposing – cuts to expenditure, cuts to the deficit and cuts to National Debt and of course, to promote growth and invectives, cuts to taxation.

Don’t think it will happen though.  Hammond will be timid (maybe he would be less so if he focused on the economy and kept his nose out of the Brexit talks) and he will show his Red Tory credentials by punishing core Tory voters and rewarding the various special interest groups who make the most noise.

Shame really but that’s the likely outcome.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

GE17 - And we're off!

Britain’s Prime Minister has fired the gun on a General Election.  The vote will occur on June 8th and presents the electorate with a stark choice – competence and clarity or chaos and calamity.
Let’s see if we can analyse some of the issues facing the UK, at this juncture.
The ‘elephant in the room’ of course is Brexit.  It speaks volumes that Labour want to make the election about taxing and taxing the ‘rich’ and borrowing and borrowing so that they can spend and spend money we don’t have, however, intelligent people know that Brexit is key.
And that key is all about trust.  Does Britain trust Theresa May to deliver a Brexit that is good for the UK or do they trust a makeshift coalition of Labour, the Lib-Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens? 
Going into these critical Brexit negotiations, Britain needs a strong government with a clear mandate and Brexit policy.  Only the Conservatives offer this.
Consider, Labour doesn’t really know what its policy on Europe or Brexit is.  Prior to starting this article I tried to find out, where they stood.  I am still looking.  They are the party of mass immigration and failed multi-culturalism policies and so one can assume that they support ‘freedom of movement’ (FOM) and yet their position isn’t clearly stated but, simply supporting FOM without also accepting the other three ‘freedoms’, would not be acceptable to the EU. 
The Lib-Dems are rabidly pro-EU.  The media have continually allowed them to lie and lie, since the referendum.  They have repeatedly claimed that the British people weren’t told that voting Leave meant leaving the Single Market.  That’s simply not true.  We were told repeatedly – Cameron, Osborne et al – spoke on all media channels and made this crystal clear.  We knew and we voted the way we did, even though we knew.  Simply put, the UK doesn’t need the Single Market.  We will flourish outside of it.
The SNP are probably the most conflicted.  They are obsessed with Scottish independence.  Even to the extent that they want independence from the UK so that they can be subsumed into the EU super-state.  They have never explained how that equates in any way with a sane person’s concept of independence.  For the SNP, Brexit like Holyrood politics is all part of a game. They are serial mis-managers of the devolved powers for Scotland and now are very worried that Brexit will put a million watt spotlight on their ineptitude.
The Greens?  Well they look at countries like Germany where, through proportional representation (PR), Greens have differing degrees of parliamentary representation and sense that the EU offers them the best hope of the same in the UK.   Of course PR was rejected by the UK electorate, in a referendum but we all know that the Greens, and indeed the Lib-Dems are no respecters of referendum results.
Theresa May has laid out her twelve key Brexit issues in January’s Lancaster House speech. 
The first of these was Certainty and in some way, underpins her going to the country in spite of repeated assurances that she would not call a snap election.  I am often cynical about politicians – age and experience will do that to you – but I do believe that she has to go to the country and gain a mandate rather than be constantly sniped at and sabotaged by ‘Remainers’ and political opportunists from all sides.  I sincerely hope she is re-elected in June and has a sizable parliamentary majority with which to govern. 
To return for a moment to political gamers.  Theresa May has had to contend, on a constant basis with opposition politicians saying she had no ‘mandate’ with which to run the country or Britain’s Brexit negotiations.  They say that she ‘wasn’t elected’.  In part that’s true but then no Prime Minister is ‘elected’.  They are selected to lead the party with the largest parliamentary presence and then invited, by HM The Queen, to form a government.  All of them, exactly the same way.  Now though, that she is seeking such a clear mandate, she is castigated by these very same politicians, as being ‘opportunistic’.  See why I am sometimes cynical?
Inextricably linked with Brexit is the subject of immigration.  May, in her Lancaster House speech was clear on the need to control immigration.  And that is the nub – control of immigration.  Post-Brexit control of immigration will rest with the UK.  We will not be instructed, as some other EU partners have been, that there is a quota which we must take in.  The UK will allow immigration to meet our needs not to fulfil some lunacy that comes from the mind of a deranged German Chancellor or the fools in the EU headquarters.  The UK will control immigration.
Labour have always portrayed themselves as the protectors of the NHS and as being very pro-education.  Yet it is precisely Labour’s policy of uncontrolled immigration which has put such strains on the NHS. Leave aside for a moment, so called health tourism.  The numbers of immigrants that came in during Labour’s reign cannot be absorbed into a strained NHS – there simply are not enough hospitals, nurses and doctors.  Nor could we afford to have sufficient.  The same applies to schools – we cannot afford to build enough nor to train and employ sufficient teachers.  It is typically appropriate of Labour that their policies are never thought through.  They import millions of immigrants but fail to provide services like housing, health and schooling for them. 
And who suffers most?  Not the well-off or ‘middle-class’.  They don’t live in inner-cities.  They can send their children to private schools rather than over-crowded State ones. They can avail of private medicine rather than wait weeks or months for a GP or hospital appointment. No it is the traditional Labour voter that suffers – the White working class.  These voters see access to medical services as just about impossible, see their children crammed into classrooms alongside immigrant children who cannot even speak English and see their educational opportunities suffer as resources are diverted and they see scarce housing resources given to and funded for, immigrants rather than for native born people.  That’s Labour for you!
Another ‘elephant in the room’ seems to be whether or not Theresa May should/will participate in TV debates.  Firstly, these are an unwelcome American import that serve little to advance democracy or understanding of a political party’s policies.  The smaller parties, who have zero chance of gaining power, can simply make wild promises and score cheap shots off of the major ones.  Secondly, since the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists are not national parties why on earth would they participate? 
If I were Theresa May, I would recognise that with such a commanding opinion poll lead, I would have nothing to gain from participation and perhaps something to lose.  Just as importantly, I would continue to go over the heads of the overly self-important political correspondents and talk directly to the people.  Remember, my vote is as important as any of these jumped-up wanna-bes!

So I will jump the gun and offer some ideas, other than being strong on Brexit, for inclusion in the Conservative manifesto.
I will start with International Aid.  The 0.7% of GDP commitment should be scrapped.  I do believe that we should aspire to give this or even more but we must look after our own, first.  It sickens me (there’s that cynicism again) when I hear politicians talking about child poverty or fuel poverty in the UK and being somehow disgusted by food banks and yet the very same politicians are happy to send huge quantities of UK taxpayer money to oftentimes, corrupt regimes, elsewhere.  A saying that hasn’t gone out of date is ‘Charity begins at Home’.  Oh, and I view food banks as very positive.  These are set-up by British people, funded and supplied by British people and for the benefit of British people.  I know that this cuts out the busy-body charities with their over-paid executives but these food banks speak of the true and decent Britons that we all know.
Next, scrap H2S.  Britain simply doesn’t need this high speed rail system.  What we have is sufficient.  Instead, the government should spend a fraction of the money on dramatically improving broadband connectivity across the UK.  I am not especially ‘green’ but can certainly agree that we don’t need to be expending energy moving people around – we need people to stay put, when possible and to use technology not precious and finite fuels.
While I am in a ‘scrapping’ frame of mind.  Scrap the triple lock on pensions.  Instead, guarantee that State pensions will increase in line with an appropriate measure of inflation.
Controlling immigration will present challenges to certain industries.  These industries have benefited from cheap low waged immigrants.  These businesses have also been subsidised by the UK taxpayer who has provided Working Tax Credits and other Gordon Brown type wheezes which disguised the societal impact of a low wage economy.  Such benefits must be scrapped – not absorbed into the Universal Credit or anything like that, scrapped and the unemployed should have benefits withdrawn if they fail to take up available work.  Yes some will say that is harsh but why should some work to keep others who can work but choose not to?  People who say ‘I don’t want to pick potatoes’ or ‘I don’t want to serve coffees’ or ‘I don’t want to sweep the streets’.

Finally, EVEL!  English votes for English laws.  With the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is simply undemocratic that MPs from those countries can vote on matters that only affect the English.  In such cases, only MPs representing English constituencies should vote.