Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Empty Handed

Tonight sees the first Council cabinet meeting of the year and the supporting document in front of me is at least an inch thick with the many different agenda items. These include the important 2013 - 2014 budget, the Council's housing strategy, from now until 2016, Cllr Driver's next motion to Council on the Royal Sands development and the enforcement of the terms of the lease agreement on the Arlington site in Margate. I expect it to be a long meeting.

I wanted to share a few of the figures from the Council's own statistics, so that readers were under no illusions over the challenges that Thanet faces, regardless of who might be in political control of the island.

One statistic that immediately catches my eye is "Over the last ten years, there has been a notable increase (over 10%) in the proportion of people in their twenties, forties, sixties and nineties but a notable decrease in the proportion of people in their thirties."

I might speculate that we are losing an important proportion of the population, just as they become economically significant and that's a worry. I'm sure there are other reasons too.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, visited Cliftonville last week and I regret I had no opportunity to speak with him. Thanet has the highest rates in the country of children and young people living in social rented or private rented accommodation and at the same time we are also seeing homelessness "increasing rapidly." Council figures show that there were 18,808 vulnerable households on the island; a vulnerable person being one who is 18 or over and in receipt or need of a raft of services, which may include age, medical, mental or physical disability support. The headline figure is that of these vulnerable households, "62.2% live in non-decent accommodation."

The final statement, before I cease depressing you with local detail on this Tuesday morning, is that Thanet has the highest percentage of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) in Kent.

Let me attempt to put these figures in a much broader context. Imagine a Roman Galley attempting to row against a strong tide, through a narrow channel. With healthy oarsmen it might just make it but if only a third of those rowing are strong and fit enough to lift an oar and on one side of the galley, the majority are too ill to pull against the current or are disabled in one way or another, then the ship isn't going anywhere. For many small local economies across the country, the picture is much the same.

Our country is in a mess because our Government has been living beyond the productive capacity of the economy to sustain our public spending which, when the coalition came to power, was five times our economic output. In Britain, where we have approximately 4.9 million people living on benefit, we now hand out more in welfare cheques each year than the national income of Bangladesh, a country of 150 million people; in the UK, 900,000 people have been living on sickness or incapacity benefit for over a decade.

In 2011, Klaus Regling, the head of the European bailout fund, flew to China to ask for a loan of as much of $700 billion of the country's $3.2 trillion foreign exchange reserve. Regling was asking a country, with an annual income of $4,832 per head ($80 a week) to lend money to a continent with an annual income of $32,615. You can see the flaw in the argument here and the Chinese politely sent him away empty-handed.

What happened of course, is that interest rates everywhere were kept at artificial levels and governments attempting to kick-start the economy, started printing money; quantitative easing. with the result that for every $1 in circulation before the crisis of 2008, there are now $2.3. This remedial action has never demonstrated a successful cause and effect solution in the past and there is no good reason to believe that it will work to plan in the present. So, the coalition government here in the UK, is taking the sensible but painful step of attempting to cut the deficit before it buries us.

So what am I saying locally? It's that there are no easy answers and the brutal economic conditions that determine our future lie outside the control of simple district councillors and even member of parliament. We can hear hollow promises from Labour about fighting to reduce the impact of cuts on a local basis but in reality they are as meaningless as promising to stop the tide coming in tomorrow morning.

Politicians and councils everywhere simply have to work best within the narrow budget they have available. And if our welfare budget, like that of the United States and Europe absolutely depends on loans from elsewhere, then we have to ask what the future holds, if we can't run a balanced economy with a AAA status, when tomorrow's giants, such as China, aren't prepared to lend us the money to keep the great institutions of liberal democracy afloat?

7 comments:

Michael Child said...

Simon with Pleasurama or Royal Sands I think you may have got the motions muddled, I think what is coming before cabinet is the motion that Cllr Driver put to the council meeting on 6th December, the gist of which was:

“Council recommends to Cabinet that if SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd are unable to provide the information requested by the Council in A) and B) above by 31 January 2013 that Cabinet refuses to agree any new terms with this company and will robustly enforce the existing agreement including taking back the leasehold of the Royal Sands development if necessary.”
The motion you have linked to is I think a new motion to the next full council meeting, the gist of which is:
“that officers produce a comprehensive report which sets out all the options available to the Council to either facilitate the completion of the development or enable the council to terminate the existing development agreement.”
I think the result of the council voting not to discuss Cllr Driver’s motion form the December meeting means it comes before cabinet where they also decide whether or not to discuss it. I don’t think this would happen with the other motion put by the Conservative group, as it was only a motion to discuss the agenda item and had no other substance.

Simon Moores said...

Yes Michael.. it's "To debate the motion on notice referred by Council or not to debate the motion on notice referred by Council"

Based on previous form, Clive and company will knock this on the head pretty quickly and move on I suspect.

The link in the story was for reference and I agree, it's all rather opaque and confusing!

I'm not John Worrow said...

I'm going to be contraversial today, and point the finger at TDC/KCC for the local economic down turn.

My view maybe way off, but as I see it in Thanet. There are 3 repeat revenue streams to the local economy.

1st, is the normal business, paying local employee's who then spend there money locally.

2nd, tourism which has been identified as one of Thanets past main sources of annual revenue, sadly in decline.

3rd, surprisingly enough, is local government.

TDC/KCC is one of Thanets main sources of annual revenue/income to the local business's and population. If you look through the press/media, all the large lump sums of cash are being spent on companies outside of Thanet.

Because TDC/KCC is spending most of the money with out of Thanet companies, none of the local business's can grow and expand.

Example: I dont know the exact figures, but I believe Thanet received a ten million regeneration grant/loan recently. three to four million has been spent on a company from london.
They most likely wont be employing local workers, which kills of any revenue from that into Thanet.

Because local business's dont get the revenue, they cant grow and expand their services and invest in new services, local designers who could of designed and built the Turner Contemporary, the Dreamland regeneration project. Without the option of growth, local business's wont beable to offer new services and adapt as the market demands.

When you look at other cost cutting in TDC/KCC, the econimic revenue is annually flowing out of the local area with no direct return to the local economy.

If the TDC can do local business's a favour, then local business's could in return, do the TDC a favour in helping to balance the figures. Thus helping regenerate the local economy by employing local business's and people, who will spend their money locally.

Tom Clarke said...

The overall picture painted is indeed depressing, but our dire situation is not of the last Labour governments making in isolation. For decades British governments have seemed unable to grasp realities, all too often pandered to voters and have failed miserably to control the numbers of people coming into this country.

The European adventure has, in the most part, been a bad one for Britain yet successive governments have failed to listen to or consult the people as they have taken us closer to a federation. Referendums are promised and then not carried out on flimsy excuses or technicalities.

We are now seeing something of a kick back as UKIP, a limited agenda party, gains momentum and its leader was rapturously applauded on last week's Question Time. The failure by the main parties to listen to the people may yet bring a major shake up in the political scene.

We can but hope.

Simon Moores said...

12:08 Much of the problem is that Thanet has received millions in government aid to help deal with its high levels of deprivation. This, as ever, led to the involvement creation of more and more agencies, rather like aid to Africa, which absorbed much of the money which came our way without delivering the outcomes we required.

That said, if you look at the evidence in Black and White, our geographic position and our limited workforce skills base, in contrast with other areas of the County, make us far less attractive for inward investment and very attractive for inward migration, given our cheap rented property inventory.

In a nutshell, the weight of problems coming in, in addition to the existing population demographic in key areas, constantly overshadow our small and significant local victories, such as the steady regeneration of Margate's Old Town and teh port of Ramsgate.

What we need is a thriving local airport to act as a catalyst for service busineses much like Southend.

Gypsy Jack said...

South Wales has had grant aid essentially since the 1936 Special Areas Reconstruction Act and, since the 70s, Barnett Formula.

In the 80s their tech colleges gained dispensations to lower standards of HNC etc yet retain accreditation at HNC level.

Their argument being they are a screwdriver economy. Assembly plants for the Japanese. No need to educate engineers to proper standards .. they are never going to design or develop products.

Meanwhile in UK Reading College was trying to resist university pressure to lower the standards of their HNC. A Reading Colle HNC in Control Engineering was above University first degree standard.

On the mandatory management modules for engineering courses there were directives that engineers should not be awarded distinctions in management subjects. Even if they passed 100% they were to be awarded passes with a few being passes with credit.

The educational establishment seemed hell bent on labelling courses academic or vocational.

It was in the 19th century that this madness began with the imposition of state education. A system that had the choice. Educate to know your place rather than educate for excellence in your subject.

The league table still with us. The nonsense that Classics, Law and Medicine are more difficult than science or engineering.

I remember a Medical Physics Dept in the 80s where the physicists and engineers competed every day to make doctors and consultants feel foolishly ignorant.

And the physicists would at break times compete to find the highest number of fallacies in the most recent Judgment (Usually an "Important" human rights judgment)

Maggie failed to address the most damaging restrictive practices of all: management and law.

As I argued on another thread. I would love to see UK outa Europe. But before deciding to try playing in another league take a realistic look at the home team.

South Wales indicates to me that 76 years of grant aid, disproportionately high number of public sector jobs too, and it don't work ....

Anonymous said...

Simon,

Do you happen to know why it has taken so long for the Arlington breaches to be brought to Members. Iris has known about the lack of insurance for months and for the Council to have allowed the breaches to continue for so long is scandalous. Has this something to do with another deal being done behind the scenes for the current development proposals. If these get approval, how much is the Leaseholder going to pay the Council for agreeing to such a huge development on our land. I get the impression that the Lessees and Tesco's must be rubbing their hands with glee if McGonigal and Poole are going to be responsible for negotiating any uplift in value. They will probably give it away.