Those in poverty & councils left in Sunak’s £150 lurch

The link below to a Northern Agenda page is both revealing and informative:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719661254712zzzzz64ab6bfc1951a9ec9ce22b275a3623a2dbd1922a018ed047c176281f5d378977b6&varId=

It shows how, with a government made up of the wealthy, a ‘system’ to get a £150 fuel bill relief help scheme is actually aimed at those who pay their council tax bills by direct debit. The poor don’t use/can’t use direct debit so they and the councils who need to get the money to them are left in a bureaucratic mess.

I’ve seen this at first hand via talking to a Sefton Borough resident who is trying to get a payment process set up but who, due to being in poverty, is left to negotiate a methodology with the Council who seem unsure what to do. A number of telephone calls by the resident to the Council have yet to resolve the matter.

Basing a process on what the middle and upper classes do is crass and insensitive and it makes you realise how little the powers that be understand about poverty and the consequences of it.

And as an aside could this payment be seen as a one-off UBI?

Little regulation & minimal enforcement

I can’t say I was big on or even thought much about regulation and enforcement until after the turn of the last century, but that’s probably because for most of my life UK governments, of all colours, made a reasonable fist of regulating and enforcing things across our society.

What I think made me sit up and take notice was when Gordon Brown brought in his ‘light touch’ regulation of banks before the financial crisis hit. It struck me straight away as being a bad move to trust too much those who control our financial systems and my feeling is that the crisis, which soon followed, demonstrated why shutting one eye to the activities of banks and the financial sector, in general, was a really bad idea.

But deregulation and light touch/no-touch enforcement is now the thing across many sectors. It’s as though there’s now a general acceptance that ‘do as you please and beggar the consequences’ is mainstream in our politics! Yes, I realise that the austerity which followed the financial crisis will have brought with it a considerable reduction in the enforcement of regulations simply via the regulators and enforcers being reduced in number within government agencies/departments, councils, the police etc. etc. So my first question is, was austerity used as a back door by the libertarian right to get regulators off their backs to enable that ‘do as I/we please’ attitude? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is a rather obvious YES.

Our roads are a clear example of pretty much no regulation or enforcement leaving drivers to do as they please with little chance of any come back other than via retrospective enforcement due to an accident where someone has been injured or killed. But policing, in general, is surely now a process of reaction to events with prevention very much a thing of the past. Community policing has all but been abandoned and with it the local intelligence that used to be gathered by policewomen and men in neighbourhoods they knew well.

There’s little point in having laws if there are no effective regulators or enforcers of our laws. However, bit by bit over the years we have arrived at a point where those who wish to break laws and regulations have realised that there’s a high likelihood that they’ll be able to get away with whatever dodgy things they wish to. Human nature is to push at boundaries to see how far our luck can be pushed. Sadly, we’ve now created a society where those who want to push boundaries a long way are doing so because they’ve twigged that no one is likely to stop them or enforce action against them.

So whether it be a poorly regulated financial sector or no effective enforcement of bad driving (and there’ll certainly be other sectors too) this process leads to a wild-west approach to our society. You could call it an ‘every man and woman for themselves society’ where significant numbers of the population are beyond any effective control and they know it.

This libertarian right approach has been driven by Conservatives and other right-wing political groupings, yet it’s within living memory that there would have been significant numbers of people within the Conservative Party who would have been far from happy about our developing a lawless society. To me, this shows how much the Tory Party has changed from being the party of law and order to a party of spivs and chancers. Of course, those spivs and chancers have always been there but our politics ensured they were kept in the background; now they are upfront and running the show!

Once you start down the road of desiring government to be as small as possible, deregulation and a lack of enforcement is where you’ll pretty much always end up. That’s a challenge for progressives as it’s hardly a vote winner to tell the electorate that you want more inspectors, more police etc. etc. It’s easy to say pay less tax and we’ll get rid of red tape even if that red tape keeps us all safe and sound.

So do we need better regulation and enforcement? Yes of course we do if we are ever to have a fair and equitable society. The alternative is more spivs and chancers taking us all for a ride!

A battle – rekindle journalism

I was interested to read this piece (see link below) in The Post, Liverpool’s new(ish) online newspaper, which I’ve found very interesting:-

www.livpost.co.uk/p/bored-of-publishing-clickbait-the?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxOTMwNDk2OSwicG9zdF9pZCI6NDk2NzAwODEsIl8iOiJiQjllOSIsImlhdCI6MTY0NzI1MTQxNiwiZXhwIjoxNjQ3MjU1MDE2LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMTA3MDE4Iiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.nkHp8j3eYvMYEcob_DeiJcpPrKFG054XbqKWUCfSfCU&s=r

My response to Reach and the Liverpool Echo.

I do still visit your Liverpool Echo website from time to time but to be honest, your concentration on crime is really depressing. I want to read interesting, well-researched articles about the Liverpool City Region and some good investigative journalism digging into the dark corners of councils, companies and organisations who would rather such reporting was not happening.

I appreciate that your business model has been turned upside down because of online news and let’s face it who under the age of 65 buys a newspaper these days. A friend of mine who died quite recently was a journalist for local newspapers and he knew the community where I live very well. He immersed himself in the community getting to know all kinds of people and those who represented them. Yes, he was an old fashioned reporter but when he passed away our communities in the East Parishes of Sefton Borough lost a great deal.

I think it fair to say that news reporting (like policing) is done remotely these days and, like the police, reporters are not on the ground where things are happening and they’re not picking up important intelligence/stories. Indeed, this leads to superficial reporting without the depth to it that we all used to enjoy.

Frankly, I have seen the emergence of The Post as a very positive thing that may to some extent help us turn back the clocks with regard to reporting on local/sub-regional matters, if only to some extent.

Please don’t be opposed to what The Post is doing but find ways to work with it. If the reaction of Reach is as described above it sadly reminds me of how the Labour Party reacts to other progressive parties i.e. wanting to crush them. Progressive and open journalism should be a positive thing that makes those with power at any level and in any organisation keep an eye over their shoulder for fear of their not being seen to be doing things for the benefit of our communities and indeed wider society.

Do we in ‘the north’ really want a northern leader?

As readers of this blog site will know I follow what Jim Hancock has to say on his ‘Hancock’s Half Page’ blog, indeed I often agree with him. However, I was a little taken aback by this quote from a very recent piece on Jim’s blog:-

‘Public support for devolution and elected mayors is rising, but not spectacularly according to recent polling. People want more say over housing, transport, and crime. But to energise that lukewarm enthusiasm, voters want to see results and a strong leader for the whole of the North’

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone, politician or public, say they wanted a northern leader in my earshot. The north (of England) is not one homogenous place with clear and common objectives etc. so why on earth would folk want a northern leader? And if you take this idea on board, surely there’d also be a southern leader too, although in reality that would be the government of the day as it always has been.

Jim’s comment was based on polling* and the political demise of a chap clearly looked upon (by some) as the quasi leader of the north, one Nick Forbes, who’s recently been deselected as a Labour candidate/councillor in Newcastle. I must admit I’d not personally looked upon Forbes as our leader and to be honest, I think reading about him in Jim’s blog article was the first time I’d heard of him! I have been involved in politics ‘in the north’ since 1980 so you’d have thought the name would have rung a bell with me.

I get it that folks want more devolution of powers, indeed I’ve spent my whole political life battling for such; well I’m a Liberal so I would of course. However, I’m very far from being convinced that folks want more elected mayors, never mind a northern leader.

* I’d be interested in the detail of the polling data and how the questions were phrased as in my experience folks have never really taken to the Tory Americanisation of our politics via elected mayors. Indeed, often where they have them the post and indeed the post holders become quite unpopular.

And what about the UK’s Oligarchs?

There’s so much talk these days about the influence that Russia and its Oliagarks have on our country, our democracy and our financial system but don’t we have what are in effect our own home-grown oligarchs as well? Aren’t they running our country having burrowed deeply into our party political system?

Oligarch meaning – (especially in Russia) a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence.

Just look at the definition above and tell me we don’t have UK-bred very rich business leaders with a huge amount of political influence which like their Russian counterparts has been turned a blind eye to for far too long.

Is it not time for investigative journalists to turn their collective efforts and abilities into exposing how money buys power and position in the UK? Yes, I know, Private Eye is the obvious place for such journalism but sadly it’s unlikely to be picked up by our right-wing press as what’s uncovered will probably be a little too close to home if you get my drift.

Would it not be a great idea, when those responsible for polluting our financial systems and our politics, are exposed on the floor of the House of Commons by MPs with guts – Layla Moran comes to mind after her recent list reading of names she has concerns about but there are other principled MPs who may be willing to join in.

Our politics is all about money and it buys influence at the highest levels. Such may well have pretty much always been the case but the big difference now is that there seem to be no moral barriers as to how far this influence can go. Where MPs get their money from needs to be fully transparent as the present system just pretends to be so when in reality it is opaque at best. How come someone can be a big donor to a political party and then be given a seat in the house of Lords?

I suspect that our political and financial systems and indeed our national governance are far more corrupt than any of us realise. And if you’re still not sure have a look at this video:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qWTzkEraqA

Are you still unmoved by what’s going on?

Double Rating in Sefton – My letter to the Champion Newspaper

Dear Sir,

I support Independent Sefton Park Ward Cllr Andy Wilson’s campaigning for Double Rating payments to be reinstated from Sefton Council to those parish councils who maintain their own parks and gardens as without it the council taxpayers of those communities are paying twice.

When I was a Sefton Cllr. and Leader of Sefton Council I ensured that those payments were improved to reflect the real costs of maintaining parks and gardens in Lydiate, Maghull & Aintree Village. That was around 2007, but sadly in around 2013, after I’d stepped down as Sefton Leader, the payments were stopped altogether creating great injustice. I opposed the stopping of payments and wrote Lydiate’s Parish Council’s submission* to the ‘consultation’ prior to them being stopped.

Since then Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village Parish Councils have lost many, many thousands of pounds and have had to fund all their parks and gardens maintenance from the separate precept those councils raise on their council taxpayers. It has meant that in these communities residents have been paying their respective parish councils who do look after their parks and gardens and also Sefton Council who don’t!

What possessed Sefton to stop the payments completely, baffles me as the formula agreed in around 2007 was meant to be flexible in that the money paid (revenue and capital) to the parish councils was meant to reflect what the Borough Council would spend on those parks and gardens if it was responsible for them. So if Sefton reduced expenditure on the parks and gardens it runs, then the payments to the parishes would drop proportionately. Of course, the opposite would apply too.

The irony of some Labour politicians jumping up and down over the matter now is not lost on me though, as it was Labour-run Sefton that stopped the payments in the first place!

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson
Former Leader of Sefton Council

* My posting of 14th Feb 2022 refers

The letter was published on 16th March 20222