Monday, 29 May 2017

The general election in the West Country: the issues >>> role of the state

There seems to be something quite profound happening in the political landscape:

May maps out bigger role for state in corporate Britain

Fri May 19, 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May promised to clamp down on executive pay, give workers a say on strategy and make it harder for foreign firms to take over British ones, as she set out pre-election plans to give the state more influence over corporate Britain.

May's Conservatives have for decades encouraged a low-key approach to corporate regulation, but the prime minister said trust in Britain's biggest companies had been damaged by soaring executive pay and several mismanaged takeovers.

"We do not believe in untrammelled free markets," the party said in its manifesto for the June 8 national election, which surveys suggest it is on course to win by a landslide.

May maps out bigger role for state in corporate Britain | Reuters

In fact, this should not come as a surprise, as pretty much the same was being said last autumn:
Theresa May’s ’red Toryism’: tax justice, statism and attacks on cartel capitalism | Anne McElvoy | Opinion | The Guardian

The free market think tanks are worried:

What Will the UK Election Mean for Freedom? 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

In a column for the Telegraph, Daniel Mahoney of the Centre for Policy Studies analyzes this major threat to the U.K.

This week, the Office for National Statistics published figures showing the level of net dependency on the UK state. …The figure now stands at 50.5 per cent. In the 1980s and 1990s, this figure was just over 40 per cent – that is to say that around four in ten households received more in benefits than they paid in taxes. But this dramatically changed in the New Labour era, which left office with well over half of the population being deemed net dependent on the state.

…Labour’s enormous increase in spending on public services and welfare was equally responsible for this worrying trend. Public spending grew from just 34.5 per cent of GDP in 2000 to 41% of GDP just before the financial crisis hit the UK… There has been some progress in recent years, …but levels of net dependency remain too high. Over half of households are still net dependent on the state. …It is important for the next Government to reduce dependency further.”

What Will the UK Election Mean for Freedom? - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world
Will the Tories Take Advantage of a Golden Opportunity to Save the United Kingdom? | International Liberty

But what does all this mean at the local level of government?

Here's a very interesting analysis from Stoke-on-Trent:

Big Issue: Red Tory, Blue Labour - how the Tories redrew the party battle lines

By woodhouse67 | Posted: May 20, 2017

She's been described as the Red Tory, delivering a brand of Blue Labour. Will Election 2017 be remembered as the point the Conservatives tore down traditional party barriers? John Woodhouse reports

It's traditional these days for picture editors to portray images of Theresa May tinged in red. Her willingness to go against the grain of traditional Conservatism and into the realms of more resolutely Labour ideologies, such as capped domestic fuel prices, has seen party lines, and colours, blurred.

Not only that, but the Conservatives talk of taking the winter fuel allowance off the wealthiest pensioners, a group that traditionally makes up a hardcore Tory vote, and easing the burden of social care payments on those with low equity. She's not quite got the cloth cap, but she's certainly taken a look in the window.

These are not just occasional policies, the message is laid down in the party's manifesto. "Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists," it reads. "We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous."

North Staffordshire voters of a certain age may well be rubbing their eyes, not just at the declaration above, but at the regular appearance of senior Conservative figures in the region. Theresa May has been to Stoke-on-Trent twice in recent months. OK, David Cameron once popped his round the door at JCB, but Mrs May has done the city, first Hanley and now Trentham. Try as anyone might, it's hard to imagine Margaret Thatcher in a Screwfix depot.

The PM says there's no such thing as 'Mayism' and yet peppers her speech with such utterances as "it's time to put the old tribal politics behind us and come together", and "we want to reward talent and hard work, not where you came from."

Big Issue: Red Tory, Blue Labour - how the Tories redrew the party battle lines | Stoke Sentinel

Meanwhile, in Devon just before County elections, Conservative Councillors were blaming a Conservative government for funding issues:

Roads "vigilante" delivers his verdict on Devon's pothole crisis

By WMN_PGoodwin | Posted: May 04, 2017

A retired builder and Tory councillor-turned pothole "vigilante" says Devon County Council has failed to make any progress in tackling the county's crumbling roads. Reg Winsor, 74, got so fed up waiting for a huge pothole on his street to be repaired three years ago that he took matters into his own hands.

Officials have admitted that the huge repair backlog of £750 million – the amount it would cost to bring all 8,000 miles of Devon's roads up to scratch – remains unmoved.

The county council, which is responsible, received an allocation of £38 million from the Department for Transport last year. But this had to pay for maintenance of street lighting, traffic signals, bridge repairs, drainage, safety barriers, public rights and other work. This left around £23 million available to spend on roads.

Reg, a member of Teignbridge council who does not sit on the county council, said the situation was "not getting any better" and he thinks workers are not "doing it properly".

"Many years ago we just had two men in a white van driving around – now they have six people and all this equipment," he added. "I am getting really frustrated because we are being called out to do potholes that were done last year. It is not sorting the problem. We have just been awarded £2m [in the pothole fund] but where has it gone – they just put a some Bitmac down and stamp on it."

The county council blames massive underfunding by the Conservative government.

Last month, a county council cabinet report said it had been calculated that it would "cost £167 million to improve all roads currently rated as red" which means needing planned maintenance soon.

A Devon County Council spokesman said: "Devon's road network needs around £38 million of capital investment every year to maintain our 8,000 miles of roads in their current condition. Our busier A and B roads are holding up well, however, while we face an annual shortfall of funding from the Department for Transport, it unfortunately leaves us in a difficult position which particularly impacts on our urban estate roads and rural roads."

Roads "vigilante" delivers his verdict on Devon's pothole crisis | Devon Live

So, what's going to happen with the previous government's plans for funding local authorities?
Futures Forum: 'The Christchurch question' >>> 'Austerity has made local government financially unviable. Radical reorganisation may be the only answer.'

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