Category Archives: Public Expenditue

CLIMATE CHANGE – THE MISSING LINK

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented…the atmosphere and the ocean have warmed…snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gas have increased… Human influence on the climate system is clear…” Climate Change 2013 published by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

So what is the link between between the proportion of total CO2 emissions that is man-made and global/ocean warming? The IPCC scientists say it is “evident” from the increasing greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. Other scientists (variously described as realists or deniers) say the human contribution to the overall amount of emissions is minimal. But even if there is a direct link, however tenuous, what can be done without causing disproportionate hardship in a society that is now totally dependent on mobility and the availability of affordable energy?

First of all, it’s important not to confuse the undisputed need to reduce pollution with the ramifications of changing weather patterns. Pollution reduction as an urgent objective is beyond debate but what seriously irks open-minded people is the Global Warming Industry’s habit of claiming every weather event as evidence of the need to reduce living standards and raise taxes.

Apart from a vastly improved strategy for waste reduction and pollution control, what’s needed is a realistic transition from the out-dated creators of energy to a new generation of efficient low pollution technology (unsightly and inefficient wind generators and solar panels are clearly not the answer). The majority of people will support a move to alternatively powered vehicles or the replacement of old coal-fired power stations with state-of-the-art low emission electricity generators – provided they are not confronted with punitive cost hikes in essential commodities or the impact of levies geared to arbitrary, unachievable targets.

Massive increases in the cost of energy and the prospect of power cuts caused by the seemingly shambolic management and communication of this issue (combined with deliberately alarmist predictions) have inclined open-minded people to view the link between climate change and their everyday lives as nebulous at best and probably a political sham – definitely not a vote winner.

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MPs’ PAY REVIEW – GOOD IDEA

IPSA is independent and in everything we do, we focus on our main duty: to serve the interests of the public. (IPSA website home page)

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is said to be advocating an 11% increase in [non-executive] MPs’ basic salary to £74000 a year. This can be compared to the average pay of £64000 which non-executive directors of FTSE 100 companies receive (thereby accepting collective responsibility for the actions of their boards).

Apparently, IPSA hopes that by increasing their package by such a large sum, MPs will be less inclined to abuse their generous expenses system. What an interesting message to send to the electorate. “If you’re not happy with your pay, follow the Westminster precedent and fiddle your expenses!” A further argument put forward in support of higher pay for MPs is “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Well, given the woeful performance of the last administration and the failure of the Coalition to respond to so many concerns of the electorate, monkeys could well be an improvement.

If anything, there’s mounting justification for a reduction in MPs’ pay. A large amount of legislation now emanates from the European Commission and the government just goes through a rubber stamping exercise. Also, MPs with constituencies in Scotland and Wales have a large amount of their representational functions duplicated or directly undertaken by members of the national legislatures. Shouldn’t less work and less responsibility mean less pay?

These issues and others raise a number of questions including do we really need 650 MPs? With modern communications and reduced empowerment of MPs , the rules of the Boundary Commissions should be changed to limit the number to say, 500. A reduction in the number of MPs as part of a pay and fixed expenses review might just be a vote winner.

HS2 Fastrack Fantasy

And to drastically increase the national overdraft.

The country’s finances are in a mess. The UK is borrowing the equivalent of over £300 million a day to finance its excess spending and incurring the equivalent of over £100 million a day in interest on the escalating national debt. The government’s stated policy is to reduce the deficit but how does that square with its support for HS2? Cost estimates for the project range from £40 billion to £80 billion and the main justification for this outlay seems to be ” it’s about changing the economic geography of this country…”

If it goes ahead, the outcome of this fantasy is beyond debate. Colossal cost overruns, massive disruption to the countryside and people directly affected by the route and eventually, a rail link requiring huge public money subsidies to remain in service.

“HS2 is about far more than a cost/benefit ratio … the wider benefits of HS2 are complex to quantify…” (Douglas Oakervee, HS2 Ltd)

“It has not been demonstrated that this is the best way to spend £50 billion on rail investment in these constrained times…” (Margaret Hodge MP, Chair, Committee for Public Accounts)

“A more convincing economic case for the project is needed. We need reassurance that it can deliver benefits … greater than those of other transport schemes.” (Andrew Tyrie, Chair, Treasury Select Committee)

There you have it. The country can’t afford HS2. The company behind it finds it too complex to justify. The chair of the public expenditure watchdog is decidedly unconvinced. And, the Treasury Select Committee sees no logic in it.

HS2 should be jettisoned now – tell your MP.