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MP’s to use new ‘Reasonable Discretion’ law to avoid prosecution

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A draft Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament on the 24th April 2009. This Bill is designed to exempt all public servants from prosecution, civil or criminal, if they can demonstrate Reasonable Discretion. In spite of the fact that this Bill, if drafted into law, will provide public servants with virtual immunity from prosecution, has anyone actually heard of it? Not me, that is for sure, so I would like to thank political blog, Power to the People, for highlighting this issue.

He is a summary of what the Bill (Exercise of Reasonable Discretion Bill 2008-09) aims to achieve:

The Bill aims to ensure that public authorities and public servants would not be subject to any criminal or civil penalty as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion in the performance of their functions. Its provisions would cover public authorities, public servants and contracts for public services. The term public authority is defined by the Bill and includes the NHS, the police, local and central and devolved Government and non-departmental public bodies. The formal intent of the Bill is to indemnify public servants, central government, local government and other public agencies from legal action if they take decisions in good faith, as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion, in the public interest.

The author of Power to the People says:

I would urge all fellow bloggers with an interest in justice to use their blogs to publicise this outrageous attempt provide public servants, especially MP’s with a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If this legislation gets through, as it undoubtedly will, then no public servant can truly be held accountable to the public, because a ‘good faith’ defence will always be available!

I am happy to oblige. Little wonder that more and more people believe that our Members of Parliament hold the public in such contempt.

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Government needs to reduce taxes not spend

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Gordon Brown & Co have indicated that they will borrow in order that they can spend their way out of this recession, but in all honesty, I think this is a bit simplistic. Firstly, I do not believe that you can spend your way out of a recession. But secondly and as importantly, any spend would be on infrastructure projects and this would, surely, limit any benefit to the construction sector.

In my opinion, recession is about people having less to spend and a lack of confidence in the economy. I am sure there are other factors, but these are the two that tend to come up time and again. Spending on infrastructure projects is likely to cost £100’s billions and will have to paid over the next 25 to 30 years. This option has limited appeal to the masses. On the other hand a bold government, or an effective opposition party, could propose something more significant.

One of the reasons people feel so poor, is that the money they have left over after they have paid their taxes and national insurance contributions buys much less. Added to that, millions more people today, than say, 20 years ago, are directly affected by the mortgage market and therefore, interest rates. My plan is a relatively simple one, because you do not have to have complex solutions to simple problems.

Government should reduce direct taxation by 5p in the £. This would cost no more than £8bn per year and would therefore be much cheaper than investing in infrastructure projects. This would immediately help people feel richer, more flush and they are therefore, more likely to spend their money. I do not think this should be done via increased allowances, or tax rebates, because these are seen as, respectively, something that can easily be eroded or a temporary bonus. Socialist should forget the fact that everyone would benefit from the 5p tax cut, who cares, if it means that those that need it most are included.

In addition, I would go for a substantial cut in interest rates, perhaps 2.5%. Inflationary pressures are on the eane and the benefit to households of a 2.5% cuts would be immediate, tangible and above all welcome in these difficult times. Banks should be instructed to adopt the 2.5% rate cut. Combined, these two move would provide the public with a massive confidence boost, they would feel more able to spend and the feel good factor would return. My solution does not rely on bringing forward PFI projects that are expensive in their makeup. Instead, it aims to put more money into peoples pockets, at a relatively low cost to the government, taxes could for example, rise in 5 years or so when the economy improves. Over 5 years, this measure would cost less that £40bn. And, lets face it, this is our money in the first place.

A substantial reduction in interest rates will aid a quicker recovery of the property market. To avoid another property boom, interest rates could be managed, but the initial boost in confidence would be incalculable. In addition, is the market starts to recover and property prices more affordable, then first time buyers will start bargain hunting, because they will feel that the decline has been halted. This would allow an exponential increase in property prices at a sustainable rate.

Simultaneously, the government needs to look its legacy of wasteful initiatives over the past 11 years. It is estimates that this alone has cost the taxpayers some £110billion. If they addressed this, then there would be no need to recoup the 5% tax cut at a later date: https://britishpolitics.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/gordon-brown-legacy-economic-competence/

I am happy for people to pick holes in my argument, but unlike this government which just want to spend more on projects no-one wants, or the opposition party that recognises there are real problems, but offers no tangible solutions, mine is simple and effective. If anyone has any better ideas, please feel free to post here! I made clear in a previous article that this country needs wholesale tax reform: https://britishpolitics.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/tax-benefit-reforms-uk/

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Mandelson recalled to save New Labour

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How ironic, if not surprising, that Gordon Brown’s nemesis, Peter Mandelson, should be called back from Europe to become part of the cabinet. It demonstrates just how desperate Gordon Brown is to remain in government and how unashamed Mandelson is for the controversy his past actions have caused when in position’s of trust and responsibility in the New Labour government.

As it happens, I believe that Mandelson did a very good job as EU Trade Commissioner, even if he was unable to pull off any form of success at the most recent international trade talks this summer. It was clear, that following this defeat, he was looking for somewhere to go, no doubt Brown saw this, or more likely Mandelson had been sounding him out, whatever, he is now back in cabinet.

Whatever his experience however, it is hard to see that Mandelson will be able to breath any new life into Labour. As one of the primary architects of New Labour, he is unlikely to have changed his views, nor is he likely to be objective about it’s failures. Mandelson is, however, a past master at spin, the avoidance of difficult questions and no one could argue that he is a survivor, so he will make a difference. But bringing back Mandelson is akin to giving a dying man, pain killers, it may reduce or remove the pain for a time, but it will not save the man’s life. Mandelson and his ideas may get New Labour to the next election, but he will not assist them to achieve another election victory, for New Labour is tarnished, found to be left wanting and above all, is a failed initiative.

Some Labour stalwarts, perhaps hanging onto any thread, believe that Mandelson will have a uniting affect and that Gordon Brown has peformed a masterstroke, but these are the same politicians that have failed the people of this country and for that, we shall not forgive them. They (New Labour) are entitled by law to serve out their last few months, then they will be banished to the political wilderness, where New Labour will be seen as failed initiative, the party will be in the political wilderness for perhaps 20 years and the people of this country shall be left paying the price of their period in government for many, many more years to come.

Boris Johnson sees off Sir Ian Blair

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Welcome news today that Sir Ian Blair has finally resigned. Throughout the last 2.5 years, he has been dogged by bad press, mostly of his own making. Virtually from day one, he could not resist the opportunity to get his face in front of the TV camera and we could be forgiven for believing that he had political aspiratations once his tenure in office was complete in 2010.

None of this is likely now, with the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, ostensibly because he did not have the confidence of London Mayor, Boris Johnson. He could also have added others to that list, because he did not appear to have the confidence of his rank and file police officers either, perhaps because he was too much of a political animal or the fact that there were persistent claims that he was distant and aloof. Whatever the case, in spite of himself, it is claimed that there have been crime reductions in London, but that says as much about his team as Ian Blair’s leadership skills.

The fact remains that there are some 167,000 police officers in the UK and we do not want to see them behind their desks, sitting behind the wheel of their top of the range cars or, or for that matter, senior officers in front of the cameras preening themselves. Our police officers or whatever rank need to be on the streets, policing our villages, towns and cities. For me, the fact that Sir Iam Blair was forever in front of the cameras claiming credit for his force, said it all, he simply did not understand what the public want, policing, not politics.

I am pleased that Boris Johnson has taken the initiative and spoken for the people of London. Lets face it, no-one can really have confidence in the claim that crime has fallen in London, because these figures are all too often incorrect, because of the crime that does not get reported. Why? Because the public know that in most cases, we shall just be given a crime reference number and sent on our way, that of course is not exclusive to London, but elsewhere as well.

The personnel problems that have come to light under Sir Ian Blair’s stewardship also plays testament to his leadership or management style, they can’t all be wrong, can they? It was his responsibility to manage his team and in my view, he failed and he has finally been made to pay the price. Let us hope that the next commissioner, will be a coppers, copper and one that understands that policing starts and finishes on the streets, not in front of the camera.

Fuel Poverty – The case for creative thinking and solutions

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Within the UK, there is no denying that there are a high number of people in fuel poverty. These include ordinary families on low incomes, pensioners, lone parents, the unemployed and those with long term disabilities and registered as unable to work. In fact, the problem is so large, estimated to be some 4.5m, that the government cannot wave their wand and make the problem go away. That is the long and short of it.

Union leaders and Labour MP’s can huff and puff as much as they like, but the harsh reality is, this government has squandered much of the income it has gained as a consequence of the economic boom, higher taxes and borrowing. This means that the cupboard is bare. The union leaders crying foul, are the same people that fought and succeeded in getter higher wages for their members and in the process, supporting this government. The MP’s bleating, are the same ones that thought the gravy train of higher taxes, followed by waste, was okay. They have themselves, New Labour values and specifically, this government to blame. So there is no point trying to convince us that you are fighting for the ‘people’ when you are as guilty as the rest for the position we all find ourselves in.

It is time to stop the whining and start thinking creatively. It is time to forget trying to fleece the ordinary taxpayer that has spent the last 11 years supporting those that cannot or will not work and propping this government allowing them to claim that they have successfully invested in our services, whilst failing to demonstrate any real tangible benefit to the majority.

The Labour government typically throw money and/or resource at problems in the hope that it will fix the problem, or at least provide a brief respite, perhaps with some good headlines. Their spendthrift ways have lumbered this country with an enormous mountain of debt, which includes official borrowings of £450bn and another £170bn that needs to be paid between now and 2032 on PFI schemes. This ignores the £800bn or so shortfall in government pension schemes. In fact, it is an utter mess, and demonstrates what a tardy bunch this government is. Many of the foolish press barons have hailed Gordon Brown as a prudent or successful chancellor, history will judge him differently.

With nothing in the kitty, ‘working’ taxpayers are so highly taxed through direct, indirect and stealth taxes introduced by this government and with realborrowings at an all time high, there is little room to manoeuvre, even for a government adept at screwing every last penny from the rest of us. Now is the time for new ideas, a bold approach, creativity and above all honesty.

Windfall taxes are a ‘one off’ short term measure with long term consequences, given the energy companies will get the money back somewhere, either by reducing necessary investment, increasing energy cost for the majority, or, most likely a combination of the two. Similarly, throwing money at the problem, assuming we had any, in the guise of fuel credits is knee-jerk and would then be expected every year. The answer is investment in ways to reduce energy consumption through insulation, energy saving appliances and bulbs and other such measures. Estimates suggest that these measures could reduce our energy bills by up to 35%.

The government should encourage the energy companies to invest their carbon credits in the UK rather than elsewhere. They should be incentivised, rather than bullied into offering more support for the Warm Front programme and the government should put back the money they withdrew from the scheme. The energy companies should, however, be forced, by legislation if necessary, to offer the so called ‘social tariffs’ to all those in need and should be prevented from charging higher tariffs for meters on non-direct debit customers. The energy companies have dragged their feet on social tariffs and the penal rates they charge people who use pre-payment meters, this in unacceptable. The regulator should be given more powers to mandate and control issues such as access to social tariffs as well as price rises.

The government then needs to be more creative. Lets face it, at a time like this, everyone needs to pull together. Those in fuel poverty should be encouraged to help themselves, not simply come along to the government expecting more money, which the rest of us will have to pay. Ordinary working families, whether they fall inside or outside the fuel poverty trap are feeling the pinch. Many have had to reduce their expenditure on non-essentials in order that they can meet the higher fuel prices, higher costs in getting to and from work, higher food prices, higher mortgage costs and higher local taxes. They too are suffering, even though they are working, some, many have had to also take on a part-time job in order that they can meet their obligations and keep their head above water. What of these people, the taxpayers that make it possible to support so many that are not working or are retired, don’t they matter?

No solution is going to be perfect, but you can be damned certain, that chucking borrowed money that this country doesn’t have at the problem is going to be much worse. Here are some ideas the government could consider.

  1. Determine which of those in ‘fuel poverty’ are capable of helping themselves with government assistance or encouragement and which are not.
  2. Allow those on fixed incomes, such as lone parents, disability allowances and the unemployed to take on a part-time job (stacking shelves, land work, cleaning houses etc) and retain the income, free of tax, national insurance and, most importantly benefit deductions. The limit for this extra income should be set at a level equivalent to what the government believes is the additional cost of living as a consequence of food and energy increases.
  3. Allow those in ‘fuel poverty’ and in receipt of some form of ‘tax credit’ to earn an additional income through a part-time job, free of tax and national insurance, albeit up to a pre-determined limit, set by the government or better still, experts!
  4. Remove VAT and any other forms of duties on items that are routinely used to save energy, such as, energy saving bulbs, insulation, gas boilers and so on.
  5. Reduce the amount of paperwork pensioners have to complete in order that they can take on a part-time job. Provide them with an additional ‘work credit’ whereby they can earn up to a pre-determined amount, free of tax and national insurance contribution, without affecting their pensions. Increase the work credit by an amount equal to each allowance they do not claim, such as the ‘winter fuel payment’, the savings could be reinvested.
  6. Stop paying the winter fuel allowance to pensioners that no longer reside in the UK and reinvest this money into support for the most needy or energy saving measures.
  7. Provide, if necessary, secured short-term, interest free loans to private landlords, housing associations and local authorities to allow them to bring properties under their control up to acceptable standards in terms of energy efficiency. – A large proportion of homes that need upgrading are in the private sector.

The policy of assuming that there will always be enough taxpayers that can be fleeced to support those that are actually capable of helping themselves in times of need has to stop, it is not sustainable. Yes, if they cannot work, through a genuine disability, age, or lack of mobility then we should offer support, but if they can help themselves, why should they get away scotfree whilst the rest of us pick up the tab through higher taxes and having to take on extra jobs? It is time to view the so called priviledged not as a gravy train, but as the conduit through which those less fortunate can have a better existence.

The truth is, many of those that are capable of helping themselves, probably would if they are in dire straits. However, New Labour has exercised and grown this culture of state intervention, the government will always come to the aid of those less well off. Little or no effort is put into finding out whether they can or are willing to help themselves. If someone on benefit tries to get a part-time job to cover the additional energy costs, they can expect to lose the equivalent amount in state benefits. Why, where is the incentive? I am not suggesting that we should let people abuse the system, just that they are encouraged to help themselves, within limits that relate to their assessed additional needs.

Similarly pensioners are penalised if they work part-time. Clobbered with paperwork and additional taxes, encourage them, don’t penalise them. Government should look to incentivise, cajole and if necessary bully people into helping themselves, rather than transferring the burden onto overburdened taxpayers who are suffering just as badly.

Okay, I accept there are flaws and risks in some of my suggestions, but then I am not an economist or a civil servant. What I do possess is commonsense and a desire to be constructive in my criticism, the former is something the government lacks and the latter something the opposition parties lack. At least my suggestions are a start, perhaps those better qualified than myself can come up with working proposals that encourage those that need help to do more for themselves, thereby reducing the burden on existing taxpayers already facing pressure on their own finances.

 

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