Monday, 21 June 2010

Hmmm, what can George cut (2)...

In town halls up and down the nation, our bureaucrats, fakecharity staffers and local busybodies have been organising themselves into curious, little known forums called 'Sustainability Partnerships'. Let's have a look at what they get up to shall we?
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Well Lambeth have "...established that a low carbon lifestyle was better for people both physically and mentally..." and came to the conclusion that "...there was a need to encourage a greater diversity of people to get involved [with growing food]" Que Guardian adverts for window box outreach coordinators etc.
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Ever suspected some local authorities don't like cars, well Cambridgeshire resolved "Getting people out of their cars is synonymous with safer routes to school." I wonder how they'll go about doing that? They also wanted to know "Is the Climate Change Partnership preparing the public for the long term effects of climate change?" Delegates then sat through a presentation from Sheryl French of Cambridgeshire Horizons on 'Carbon Activity' and asked some searching questions about 'carbon offsets', is this what they want to spend your money on?
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Bristol have produced a big glossy 'Peak Oil' plan where they imagine a future where we all wear clothes made of stinging nettles. "As part of this I got talking to my grandmother who was born in 1939. She told me about her mother who told her that in World War I they used to make soldiers’ uniforms out of nettles. I got very excited about this idea..." The traditional hair shirt not good enough for these people or something?
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If you're wondering how much these things cost, well I have no idea, but Durham gives us a clue as to how big they have got: "From the very first meeting of the Local Agenda 21 Partnership in 1994 supported by just 60 people, it is now made up of more than 2,000 organisations and individuals".
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If you want a proper figure, forget it. Because these 'partnerships' are made up of council officers, quangocrats and fake charity managers operating under all sorts of budgets, you can't find out. Check out the 2009/2010 local government budget document from CLG and see if you can find anything about 'sustainability partnerships'.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Que Guardian adverts for window box outreach coordinators etc."

And I trust "reach out to the window box co-ordinators" for those of us with short arms and living above ground level !

TheFatBigot said...

No no no, no one should have to reach out to a window box, if it is ever necessary you have clear evidence of a basic lack of understanding about the importance of diversity and equality in the provision of front-line public services.

There must be a thoroughgoing consultation exercise involving all delivery partners to devise a programme of pro-active windowbox facilitation for all stakeholders, ensuring a neutral environmental and carbon footprint results from this crucial innovation in contemporary societal existence.

JuliaM said...

I'm starting to think the most radical thing the ConDems could do is wipe out EVERYTHING, start with a blank piece of paper, work out what is needed, and implement it.

Tinkering around the edges gives these sort of people far, far too much wiggle room.

DBC Reed said...

Titter ye not.
Mies van de Rohe, the prestigious architect did not like occupants of "his" apartment blocks choosing
their own curtains.They ruined the integrity of his design.
He was right for the same reason you cannot have half-arsed attention seekers painting their part of a sweep of Georgian houses
silly colours "to show their individuality" .

Mark Wadsworth said...

What JuliaM says. It's the only way. Most coppers, teachers, nurses, street sweepers will be promptly re-employed, but the other three quarters can start panicking right now.

Woman on a Raft said...

Impressed. Many thanks. This is what I call "evidence". Saying that a local authority is wasting resources is easy, but the hard part in campaigning is to back it up by showing which parts are waste and can be cut.

Very well done. I'm going to have a bash at using this research.

Typo Setter-righter said...

Mark,
Probably a typo, but one seen fairly frequently: "Que" Guardian adverts...

The correct word is "Cue" as in autocue - ie a prompt for what follows.

Que is a French or Spanish word.

A "queue2 is what you occasionally see at a bus stop.

Hope that helps for future reference.

DBC Reed said...

What is the point of sacking a load of useful public servants and re-employing them in the private sector?This is substitution and achieves nothing.
If you take the case of the railways they sacked alot of drivers etc ,tried to re-employ them at lower rates (to provide the profit margin) and got into a hell of a mess.Our railways are now fantastically expensive and no more safe and reliable.

Or take the BBC. I tell you what- get rid of it entirely .It is right-wing and in my experience full of ex-public school rabble.Then,of course you can have Murdoch in its place!Adverts every ten minutes (one reason they have trouble showing football)and wonderful programmes .Though the quality of the programmes is a bit of a side issue.
I actually worked once in an FE college that was more or less privatised (taken out of local authority control).There was an explosion in the number of managers.(They had to take on the tasks previously done centrally by clerical officers at the LEA).Lecture rooms were taken over to be used as offices.

There is some point to the traditional Uk mixed economy.Getting rid of would be hopelessly naive and not in a nice way.

T S-r said...

"queue" - bugger.... pass my petard somebody

Joseph Takagi said...

DBC Reed,

What is the point of sacking a load of useful public servants and re-employing them in the private sector?This is substitution and achieves nothing.
If you take the case of the railways they sacked alot of drivers etc ,tried to re-employ them at lower rates (to provide the profit margin) and got into a hell of a mess.Our railways are now fantastically expensive and no more safe and reliable.


Balderdash. Anyone who thinks our railways were better before privatisation never went on railways before they were privatised. They're expensive and a bit useless now, but they were absolutely terrible before.

The main reason railways are expensive is demand. it costs over £100 to go from Swindon to London in the morning, but you know what? Almost every seat on that service is full, and by the time you reach Reading, it's standing room. On the other hand, a train to London for a night at the opera is going to cost me less than £15, which I consider as damn good value.

DBC Reed said...

A hundred quid to go from Swindon to London? And this is the traveller's Utopia?
I wonder how much it costs for a similar journey in Belgium.They of course persist with the dreadful heresy that if you have cheap nationalised public services like trains (and other natural monopolies) this subsidises the private sector.So the cost of these previously publicly owned national assets has to rise and submerge great chunks of the economy.UK is a plc and some parts should cross -subsidise the other more vulnerable parts. Public and private sectors are interwoven.
BTW the illustration you give of demand is the complete opposite of text book economics: huge demand price falls ; no demand price rises or service is discontinued ( I imagine the night train to the Opera -there's no opera in Swindon?!!-is part of some contractual arrangement so they have to run it making some kind of marginal money).

Joseph Takagi said...

DBC Reed,

No, I'm not saying it's a "traveller's utopia". I'm explaining why they're expensive, and to be honest, there's no better way of rationing rail than on price.

As for your economics textbook, I'd burn it for heating material, as it's just plain wrong. Demand does not lower prices, it raises them. The only way that you get a lowering of prices due to high demand is if more supply comes into production as a result of it.

DBC Reed said...

Exactly.As you cannot increase supply much because there is only one line between Swindon and London,they can charge what they like.It is a natural monopoly which should be in public hands like many other things but especially the land market where they ration the supply of houses to keep the prices up.Henry George saw the connexion so as well as seeking to tax land values to stop hoarding and increase the supply,he advocated the nationalisation of railways.

You may be skipping about Swindon station with delight on the night of the opera but you are cross-subsidising this low fare with all those 100 quid extortions.

Your explanation of high demand putting up prices only applies to collectibles (with no possibility of duplication) which rail travel is n't .

Mark Wadsworth said...

JT, DBC, if I may intervene here, OT1H price rationing is the best form of rationing, so the railways can charge whatever they like; but OTOH is it necessary for the number of railway lines to be rationed (by the NIMBYs)?

And if there is an inevitable monopoly*, the best way of dealing it is to rake off those monopoly profits with a tax on the value of that protected status (i.e. some variant of Land Value Tax).

* Unless it arises simply because one supplier is far, far better than others in a competitive market; or because the minimum efficient scale is more than half the size of the total market, in which case live and let live.

Joseph Takagi said...

DBC Reed,

You may be skipping about Swindon station with delight on the night of the opera but you are cross-subsidising this low fare with all those 100 quid extortions.

Well, I personally don't pay the 100 quid extortions. I schedule meetings outside of it, take the coach, drive to Hungerford which is a lot cheaper, that sort of thing.

The £14 fares aren't subsidised. It's just what the market will sustain. The late night trains only really run to get the trains back to Swansea for the various commuting/intercity services the following morning.

Mark,
You're absolutely right. The solution to railways is not bondoogles like high speed and electrification but more lines in areas of high demand.

The closest thing to a private monopoly around today is probably eBay. Microsoft maybe, but it's gradually slipping as the Windows desktop and Office become less important.

Mark Wadsworth said...

JT, sure, eBay and Microsoft may have what are effectively monopolies, but there are always competitors snapping at their heels, so there is a limit to the extent that they can exploit this via higher prices/worse service.

I'd say that they got to where they are fair and square (and I stopped using PCs and Windows about two and a half years ago because they are shit).

DBC Reed said...

@JT I wonder you sing the praises of the 100 quid commuter journeys if you do everything possible to avoid them.How do you judge them to be such a huge improvement on the basis of taking every possible
alternative?
@MW nationalisation is surely better than some variant of LVT.Henry George should know.To start with you can run the trains at cost,so freeing up pounds of saved exorbitant private sector train fares to spend in other parts of the private sector .It puts money directly in people's pockets while all LVT variants have to go through the tax system
with plentiful opportunities for skimming.
There is more than one natural monopoly though a lot of them stem from land.The rail monopoly stems from monopoly ownership of long thin corridors of land.I would contend that water supply is a monopoly stemming from there being only one mains pipe network (and we don't have a choice of taps).Ditto gas.

Steven_L said...

Wow, thanks for all the responses and debate guys (and girls)

DBC, the point of this isn't so much as what is useless it is as it is how opaque it all is. When the UK is having to borrow over £150 billion a year we have to ask ourselves where the money is going and if it could be saved or better spent.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, don't forget supply and demand.

For example, everybody whines that the Tube in London is crowded and expensive. Yes it is crowded but it is relatively cheap if you buy a season ticket (aka Oyster card). If they made it cheaper it'd just be even more crowded. But there is little you can do to increase physical capacity.

It is different with Swindon-to-London. Maybe we could nationalise it and only charge £20 for the commuter trip, but so what? JT explained that the train was packed even at £100 a ticket. So all that happens is that rents in Swindon would go up by £80 x average number of journeys travelled to London by residents of Swindon. The service would not improve. So it'd be a subsidy to landowners in Swindon.

Even if we doubled capacity and as a result tickets fell to £20, then it would still be a subsidy to landowners in Swindon.

We are a long way off imposing LVT in Swindon or anywhere else, so for the time being, as long as the state is collecting that £80 super profit from the railway operator in tax, well, that is the best we can do.

Ditto water, gas etc. I think we ought to auction off the right to scrap the Ofwat imposed cap on water prices. The proceeds of the auction get divvied out as a Citizen's Dividend. Water prices would go up, usage would do down a bit and for most people, their net income goes up accordingly.

DBC Reed said...

@MW
Naturally I assume the existence of LVT in all ideal scenarios,so I do not envisage savings on fares being dysfunctionally diverted by the property market.Indeed given LVT there probably would not be so much commuting into London anyway,since more people could live "in town".In my view the State in all its Orwellian horrifyingness should probably do something about the centralisation of England whereby all roads lead to London.(And London might be developed along the Thames estuary where Boris's artifical island should be built anyway with the airport or not and dreary bits of the estuary filled in. I envisage a barrier connecting the island to the mainland north and south so the a freshwater lagoon is created with drearier bits of marsh filled in for housing.(There are always the Dutch floating houses as in Maas am Bommel(?SP?).So the future is perfectly controllable with State intervention.Left to the private sector alone ,nothing much will happen I expect.

The London Tube is extensible.There was a 1930's plan for a deep tunnel network of which only a few points got built i.e Goodge St where Eisenhower hid out during the war.

bayard said...

It's all very well talking about building more railway lines, but the cost of doing so are so many orders of magnitude larger than the revenue generated therefrom, that it is impractical. The majority of railway lines in the country were built by companies that went bust or were taken over so the tracks were effectively paid for by the shareholders, who never saw their money again. Even increasing the amount of rolling stock is only marginally viable. Historically, most railway companies effectively subsidised their passenger operations from freight revenues.

DBC Reed said...

@B
Right.Building more railway lines ,even operating existing ones, is not commercially viable without cross subsidies.It is blindingly obvious that this subsidy should come from a land value tax on the raised land prices
that arise from the building of the railway or other transport infrastructure
That is what MW has been banging on about for years,me, more bad temperedly, for decades.
It was quite common for private sector railway companies to buy up land round their projected stations and make money for themselves.The Metropolitan Line was built on this basis: with subventions from raised land values.

Joseph Takagi said...

DBC Reed,

@JT I wonder you sing the praises of the 100 quid commuter journeys if you do everything possible to avoid them.How do you judge them to be such a huge improvement on the basis of taking every possible
alternative?


Because the improvement isn't just about me, or particularly, me travelling at peak times to London. It's about everyone who travels.

You could drop the fares to £30. But you'll still only transport the same, or very similar numbers of passengers to London. So, in terms of service delivered to the public, it's the same. All you're doing is maximising income.

But the other thing with privatisation is that it encourages more use of trains because it provides an incentive to do so. Government ministers don't really care about things being underutilised, because they have no incentive to do so. But someone who owns a train will make more money by getting more passengers on board. So, they'll discount seats or find other incentives to get people travelling.

And personally, I find that the difference in the cleanliness of trains, the pleasantness of staff, reliability and punctuality are on a whole different level to what they were in the late 80s.