Net Zero – We came together to fight a referendum do we need a new one? – Part 4

As a group that came together to fight a referendum on membership of the EU, we thought we would ask you, what your views are on Net Zero, a possible Referendum, and more generally the environment.

Part 4 in our series of your views. More responses can be found from Part 1.

Thanks to Crispin Williams, Helen Spiby-Vann, and Mike Swadling for their responses.

“I can remember back in the 1960s when the doom-mongers were heralding the start of another ice age!  … so I am by nature and experience a sceptic”

Brexiteer Crispin Williams. Crispin has previously written for us on House of Lords Reform.

Is global warming a threat?

It is Boris Johnson’s (and others’) threat!

I can remember back in the 1960s when the doom-mongers were heralding the start of another ice age!  I have also lived through the panics of Aids and the Millennium Bug, both of which were supposed to ruin life as we know it but fizzled out as a major threat, so I am by nature and experience a sceptic.  However, I am inclined to believe the graphs that show global temperatures have soared since 1980.  Therefore, my proper answer to the question is yes, it is a threat.

1980?  Hmm.  The temperature rise seems to mirror the rise of industrialisation in China and India.  Anyone who has travelled to these and similar countries will have witnessed the high levels of smog and pollution, far worse than we used to have in Britain when we were renowned for our ‘pea-soupers’.  In short, we British are not the cause of the problem.

But should we be taking the lead in addressing it?  In practical terms, it is a waste of time us ruining our economy to shave off a fraction of the 1% of carbon emissions that we generate.  It is well documented that China can – and will – increase their output by this amount in a few weeks, if not days.  So it is patently nuts for us to be spending billions of our taxpayers’ money on reducing our miniscule contribution to the problem.

Should we have a referendum on net zero targets?

No.  That’s not how we do things in this country.  Switzerland can have one as it is part of their democratic processes but there is virtually no precedent here.  Referenda should be reserved for constitutional matters only.  Anyway, the subject is too emotive and the general public would not be given the full range of facts to make an informed decision.

What action should we be taking on the environment?

Buy lots of sun block, nice shades and swimmies and sod the next generation… 

Yes, that was a joke.  That said, what we could and should do is pressure the worst polluting countries into reducing their emissions.  How?  Well, as a suggestion, we could put a ban (or very high tariffs) on imports from them until they address the problem.  Of course, this would increase the cost of goods we buy but I suspect the total would be a mere fraction of what we are intending to spend on net zero.  And it would stimulate our manufacturing base.

Finally, if we are intent on reducing our emissions, this would best be done through market forces rather than government diktats, artificial target dates and huge subsidies.  Once electric cars are cheaper than petrol ones and heat pumps are cheaper than gas boilers, then we will naturally move towards lower emitting technologies.

“Kenya successfully banned plastic packaging in 2017, Rwanda in 2008. We don’t need plastic packaging. We have paper, cardboard, tin, glass, compostable and natural fibres”

Helen Spiby-Vann of the Christian Peoples Alliance party. You can also read our interview with Helen.

‘I’m not going to replace the polyfoam with paper food trays until the government makes me.’ Said the chip-shop man nonchalantly. Not so long ago I got into an uncivilised wrangle over a chip tray. My teenager left the shop in horror at my indiscretion. 

However unreasonable and hopeless it may seem, small changes will make a huge difference.

Is global warming a threat?

I believe global warming is a threat. However, as a Christian, my divine calling is unconditional advocacy for compassionate stewardship of the earth’s creatures and plants. Plus to foster equitable sharing of the earth’s resources.

Should we have a referendum on enforced Net Zero targets?

I think this would be a good idea as it will create awareness about the implications across the board. Open discussion and critique from a range of opposing positions will stir hearts into action. Assuming it is approved, it will strengthen the resolve and mandate of this movement. Unfortunately, there is so much ‘greenwashing’ at large, a person can be forgiven for thinking they are helping the planet by buying more plastic Petunias.

What action should we be taking on the environment?

Lifestyles:
More cherished, forbearing and Godly. Less materialism, disposable and excess.

Plastic packaging:
‘I was shocked, when I came to the UK, there’s plastic wrappers on everything in the supermarket.’ (Confessions of my Kenyan friend in London).

Kenya successfully banned plastic packaging in 2017, Rwanda in 2008.

We don’t need plastic packaging. We have paper, cardboard, tin, glass, compostable and natural fibres that are part of circular economies. Supermarkets are selling more and more items in plastic packaging. This is not acceptable. We can solve the plastic packaging problem simply by not producing it in the first place.

Moreover, we should be extending this to manufacturing by promoting ‘Cradle to Cradle’ type standards: healthy, socially just and authentically sustainable. Producing no waste and using natural energy flows that do not pollute.

Energy:
We have been building wind turbines and paying for them to be switched off. There must be a better way to manage our sustainable energy assets so we can phase out fossil fuels.

“we have a situation where the political/media classes all agree they need to lower our standard of living, which I firmly believe people don’t want (note they don’t seem to want to lower theirs)”

Mike Swadling one of the Croydon Constitutionalists.

Is global warming a threat?

Humans are exceptional.  200 years ago Global life expectancy was under 30, today life expectancy in the poorest counties is over 50, the global average is over 70.  When I was at school people starved in many countries, today hunger has almost disappeared except where war or governments stop food supplies.  Since the turn of the century the expanding economies of China and India mean China has a middle class the size of the population of Europe, with India only a few years behind. 

Despite expanding populations and doomsday predictions the number of people dying from extreme weather events continues to collapse.  Climate has changed for millennia before mankind, during our existence and will for many more to come without our interference.  For over 30 years ‘experts’ on hefty grants have told us of impending doom from global warming, rising seas levels, agricultural failures, and a scorched planet.  None of this has happened, and the planet is greening every year. 

Is global warming a threat? Maybe, but human ingenuity will not just rise to any challenge, we will excel and overcome it. 

Should we have a referendum on enforced Net Zero targets?

All of the major parties are in lockstep on Net Zero.  For all of the challenges of a referendum, we have a situation where the political/media classes all agree they need to lower our standard of living, which I firmly believe people don’t want (note they don’t seem to want to lower theirs).  Unless or until a party currently outside parliament makes a breakthrough, the people have no real choice.  For all of the challenges off a Referendum on Net Zero, today we have the people pitted against parliament, and like Brexit, I can only see that a referendum will allow us to set parliament back on a path of striving to improve rather than diminish our lives. 

What action should we be taking on the environment?

We should protect the environment we live in. In our borough, every small patch of land is being built on.  New blocks of flats out of character of the area they are built in keep popping up.  Council and government policies have made where we live a less pleasant environment, we need to change this. 

Globally we should protect at risk species of animal and plant.  I believe this is best achieved by balancing the environment concerns and economic concerns of the local populations.  Chickens are not at risk of extinction because they are good source of food and economically useful.  Horses are often well looked after because they work and are raced, so are economically useful.  Dogs are not at risk of extinction because they work and provide companionship.  There is no threat of extinction of lawn grass or corn.  Whether through tourism, food, work or altruism, animals and plants that are economically viable thrive. 

We can best protect the environment by making bio diversity an economic benefit.  To achieve this we should focus on raising the standard of living of the poorest across the globe to the point that they have the capacity to choose to invest in, and protect their local environments.

This is the forth set of your responses, further responses can be found from Part 1 and in Part 5.

Lockdown did more harm than good

On October 5th the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society debated the motion “Lockdown does/did more harm than good”.

Mike Swadling proposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society.  As always with this friendly group the debate was good natured, very well opposed and drew out some great views from the audience.

‘Lockdown does/did more harm than good’ – Proposing the motion

Lockdown, all of the lockdowns, were a challenging time for all of us, I’m sure.  As we thankfully move out of them, we need to be careful not to look back with rose-tinted glasses, for the price of lockdown is a cost we now are all forced to bear. 

“We had a shared sacrifice through lockdown, we don’t like to think that was in vain, but we must avoid what economist call the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.”

What surprised you most about your lockdown?

What did you do / stop doing that surprised you?  I would like to tell you about the great skill I learnt, or hobby I engaged in, but for me and this may sound a little odd, it was that I used aftershave more.  Now to avoid confusion this was not eau de toilette, perfume, or eau de Cologne.  This was cheap aftershave. 

Going into an office since I was a teenager I would shave ever day, or at worst every other day.  In lockdown, suddenly shaving a was much less common event and I needed some cheap aftershave to somewhat painfully help my face recover after a weekly shave.

I don’t doubt you have better surprise experiences from lockdown, but whatever they are, we should avoid confusing the revelation from adversity with a positive experience.  We didn’t see our friends and families for a long time. Many lost their jobs, and their businesses in lockdown, many lost hope. 

We had a shared sacrifice through lockdown, we don’t like to think that was in vain, but we must avoid what economist call the ‘sunk cost fallacy’.  This being our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.

And Lockdowns costs, way outstripped Lockdowns benefits.

I want to for a moment separate lockdown from the pandemic and endemic problem of Covid.  Many people lost their lives to this terrible virus.  But the virus is quite separate from the actions we take to manage or deal with it.

We have seen around the globe a mixture of measures to handle Covid.  Some countries have in effect locked Covid out of their land, this has worked for Australia and until recently New Zealand, some have staid in almost permanent lockdowns, some taken a very limited response like Sweden, and some like the UK, US and Switzerland with more federal systems have adopted different approaches across their countries. 

All of these counties took different approaches, to fight the same virus.  I will argue we should have taken a very different approach to fight lockdowns, and that Lockdown did more harm than good.

The idea of a Lockdown was such an anathema.  Government ministers telling you how long you were allowed out of your home, and police forces flying drones to check who is visiting beauty spots. The burden must lie with on those in favor of lockdowns to prove they had an invaluable and undeniable contribution to make in fighting covid. 

If the last 18 months have taught us anything it’s that lockdowns didn’t stop the virus, didn’t control the virus, but did cause untold damage to our society.

For lockdowns to be justified they must in my opinion pass the following 3 tests:

  1. That comparted to the society being free, a lockdown stops or slows the spread of the virus in the community and saves lives.
  2. That the impact of the lockdown is sufficiently mild on the economy, and general functioning of society, that the ongoing costs as still outweighed by the original benefit.
  3. That in the free society the benefits of lockdown is so significant that it justifies a transfer of our freedom to government, and that the government proves it has the moral authority to exercise control over out lives.

I will demonstrate lockdowns have failed all 3.

Did “comparted to the society being free, a lockdown stop or slow the spread of the virus in the community and save lives”?

The original plan for dealing with a virus was messaging to increase hygiene, some voluntary social distancing, and protecting the most vulnerable until heard immunity had built up to protect them naturally.  Indeed you will remember that we originally ‘locked-down’ for just 3 weeks to ‘bend the curve’, to protect the NHS.  This would flatten the peak number needing medical treatment for Covid, and ensure hospitals didn’t run out of capacity.  It was never expected that the total number who would need hospitalization, or who would die would significantly change as a result of lockdown.

We have now had 18 month of those ‘3 weeks’ and we can compare those countries who followed their original plans more closely with those who undertook severe lockdowns.  The comparison suggests frankly as a result of lockdowns, not much changed.

Now I am going to talk about deaths.  Death has so far proved to be 100% unavoidable.  People will die, and will die at a higher rate when a new virus is doing the rounds.  An individuals death is tragic, but for policy purposes, we need to look at which policy saw the least deaths, and ideally the least years of a fulfilled life lost.

“What does all this data tell us, frankly not a lot.  Which does show, that whatever the ingredient was that lead to a higher or lower death rates from Covid, it certainly wasn’t lockdown”

The Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker, collects systematic information on policy measures that governments have taken to tackle COVID-19. The different policy responses are tracked since January 2020, cover more than 180 countries and are coded into 23 indicators, such as school closures, travel restrictions, and vaccination policy.  They rank countries on how strict their lockdown policy was from 0 to 100, with 100 being the strictest.

The UK sits at 80 out of 100, France at 88, Spain 82 and Italy 69.  Germany comes in at just 64 and all the Scandinavian countries are in the 60s, with Sweden the lowest at 65.  How does this compare to the Covid death rate?

At over 2000 per million, the UK and Italy had the most death, with France and Spain not far behind.  Germany and Sweden had similar numbers of deaths at about 1300 and 1450 per million respectively, and limited lockdown Norway and Finland we’re bottom with both less than 200 deaths per million.

Incidentally Bosnia at the high rate of 90 in severity of lockdown and Hungry at a lenient 66, were the two countries in with the highest death rates from Covid in Europe.  Iceland with the least lockdown, ranked at just 50 out of 100, and had the least deaths per million, with just 33 deaths in total.

What does all this data tell us, frankly not a lot.  Which does show, that whatever the ingredient was that lead to a higher or lower death rates from Covid, it certainly wasn’t lockdown.

If you don’t believe the data from Europe or have some reason to dismiss it.  Let’s look at the US, a society, where different legal jurisdictions are more comparable.

It’s been widely reported the New York and California have had serve lockdowns, and generally high compliance rates among the population, yet they come in 5th and 33rd among the 50 states for death rates.

Texas at 20th and Florida ranked 9th by death rate, have had some of the least restrictive and shortest lockdowns.  Arkansas 10th, Iowa 25th, Nebraska 42nd, North Dakota 23rd, South Dakota 12th, Utah 45th, and Wyoming 35th, by rates of deaths, are the only states that did not issue stay at home orders in early 2020.

The very scattered nature of death rates shows once again that whatever the ingredient was that lead to higher or lower death rates from Covid, it certainly wasn’t lockdown.

In the first lockdown rates were falling before the lockdown was brought in, in the autumn rates continued to rise as lockdown came in and death rates peaked in the middle of the winter lockdown.  As we have opened up society we’ve not seen any increase in death rates as pubs, stadiums, theater’s opened and schools returned.

There is simply no evidence that ‘comparted to our society being free, lockdowns stopped or slowed the spread of the virus in the community or saved lives’.

Now to address the second test. 

Was the impact of the lockdown sufficiently mild on the economy, and general functioning of society, that the ongoing costs are still outweighed by the original benefit?

Now I believe I have demonstrated there was no benefit from the original lockdown, but even if you believe there was, does it outweigh lockdowns undeniable costs? 

I have said this before to this grand society, but it bears repeating.  The Great Frost of 1709 was the coldest European winter during the past 500 years.  It caused widespread crop failure and economic devastation.  2020 was the worst economic contraction since 1709.  Let’s just put that into some perspective.

In the intervening years we have faced, Jacobite revolution, a global 7 Year war with Louis XV’s France, fought in and lost the Americas, seen off Napoleon, fought two World Wars against Germany, seen massive economic changes with agricultural and industrial revolutions, introduced and repealed The Corn Laws, seen global economic depression in the 1930’s, formed a Union with and given independence to Ireland.  Gained and lost the world’s largest ever Empire,  Yet none of these created as big a fall in GDP as we faced last year. 

To remind you, Lockdown caused more damage than the Luftwaffe.

“Put simply the richer a country is the longer people live.  We have in one year for no good reason, destroyed more wealth in the UK, than any other year for the past 300.  How can that not have serious ramifications?”

The UK has an average life expectancy of 81, Uganda 63.  Canada is 82, Chad 54.  France 82, Fiji 67.  Germans with their love for beer and bratwurst, outlive Gambians by 19 years. 

Having spent some time working in Belgium, a country of endless rain.  I know it’s almost not possible to eat a meal there without a large helping of potatoes, yet even they live 20 more years on average than the people of tropical Burkina Faso.  Singaporeans, live on average 11 more years than neighboring Malaysians.

What separates these countries?  One word, wealth.

Put simply the richer a country is the longer people live.  We have in one year for no good reason, destroyed more wealth in the UK, than any other year for the past 300.  How can that not have serious ramifications?

“during the year to July 31st, Barnardo’s saw a 36% increase in the number of children referred for foster care. We know the NHS saw a 28% rise in children being referred to mental health services in late 2020”

But it’s not just an economic cost, it’s a societal one. 

  • We know for instance that during the year to July 31st, Barnardo’s saw a 36% increase in the number of children referred for foster care.
  • We know the NHS saw a 28% rise in children being referred to mental health services in late 2020.
  • We know the number of children in need of urgent or emergency care, rose by 18%, compared with 2019.
  • We know in the decade preceding the pandemic, the mean IQ score for children aged between 3 months and 3 years of age hovered around 100, but for children born during the pandemic that number tumbled to 78.
  • We are taught to socialize puppies but for a year we didn’t socialize baby children, who were at basically no risk from Covid.
  • We know as of June, there were 10,000 fewer patients in England starting treatment for breast cancer, than in the year before.  Either we believe breast cancer has disappeared or this will have long term consequences to their health.
  • We know rates of depression in early 2021 were more than double those observed before lockdown.
  • We know studies of school pupils show a consistent impact of the first lockdown with pupils making around 2 months less progress than similar pupils in previous years.

We saw people die alone in care homes, and hospitals.  We have given out two years of frankly guessed GCSE and A Level results.  We have supply chain problems globally and we have printed money like it’s confetti and inflation is once again rearing its ugly head. 

All of this was for lockdowns, that we can see when compared to the countries that didn’t lockdown,  made not a blind bit of difference to the spread of the virus.  Do the ‘ongoing costs, outweigh any original benefit’.  Absolutely not. The third and final test I passionately believe is the most important. 

In the free society are the benefits of lockdown so significant that they justify a transfer of our freedom to government, and does the government prove it has the moral authority to exercise control over out lives?’

If I may again repeat my words from a previous debate.  The income tax was first introduced in the Napoleonic Wars as a temporary measure and is still with us today.  Blanket restrictions were applied to pub opening times during World War One, and left largely unchanged until 1988 and rationing stayed in place for 9 years after the end of the second world war.

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program” to quote Milton Friedman.

Since 1215 with Magna Carta, through the 1689 Bill of Rights, to universal suffrage, freedoms have been hard won.  Those in power always want more, and by necessity will sacrifice your liberty to take it.  Any didn’t they just do that.

Lockdown broke articles 3, 5, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23 and 27, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

This is not a partisan point, as our supposed opposition parties were just as enthusiastic about granting politicians, civil servants, medical chiefs and the police ever more power over our lives.

Did the governing class justify this power grab?  Let’s look at a few cases.

  • Prof Neil Ferguson who’s alarmist and thoroughly disproven predictions sparked the first locked had to resign when it was reported that a woman he was said to be in a relationship with visited his home in lockdown.
  • At the time, then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, yes that Matt Hancock said it was that it was “just not possible” for Prof Ferguson to continue advising the government.
  • Matt Hancock of course was having a secret affair with his closest aide whilst couples, if living in separate households were not allowed to meet under rules his department was responsible for.  In his hypocritical case, ‘Hands. Face. Space’, were both health instructions and almost unbelievably a seductive technique!
  • The Welsh Tory leader resigned after he was seen drinking in the Senedd during a pub alcohol ban in Wales.
  • Scotland’s chief medical officer resigned after making two trips to her second home during their lockdown.
  • And of course Dominic Cummings drove 264 miles, and popped to Barnard Castle, whilst the rest of us were in lockdown.

Rules for thee and not for me, has been the mantra of those in power.

“Of course not everyone was unmasked, the staff, the people serving them, those not privileged to move in these lofty circus, needed to retain their muzzles when serving the great and good”

We saw earlier this year staged photos of world leaders in masks during the G7 Summit in Cornwall, next to photos of them all unmasked enjoying normal conversations.  Of course not everyone was unmasked, the staff, the people serving them, those not privileged to move in these lofty circus, needed to retain their muzzles when serving the great and good.

We saw the same at Wimbledon in the Royal Box, where only staff need to were a face covering, and again recently at the Met Gala in New York. 

Rules for thee and not for me, shows the moral bankruptcy of those who govern us, and show how ‘the government has proved it does not have the moral authority to exercise control over our lives’.

“The vaccines have protected many and saved a lot of lives, but in a free society people must be free to choose if they want them.  They must be free from the coercion of vaccine passports”

Freedoms are returning, lockdowns have in large part lifted.  But we must be ever vigilant.  The vaccines have protected many and saved a lot of lives, but in a free society people must be free to choose if they want them.  They must be free from the coercion of vaccine passports. 

We must free from the zero covid strategy being implemented in much of Australia which is seeing in, Melbourne of all cities Police use rubber bullets on people protesting lockdowns and coerced vaccination.

Lockdowns didn’t work, they did more hard than good, their harm is sadly enduring.  As frustrating as it is to know we wasted a good year in lockdown, we must acknowledge that due to their immense harm lockdowns must not be allowed to happen again.

Summary

I set 3 tests for Lockdown                

  1. That comparted to the society being free, a lockdown stops or slows the spread of the virus in the community and saves lives.
  2. That the impact of the lockdown is sufficiently mild on the economy, and general functioning of society, that the ongoing costs as still outweighed by the original benefit.
  3. That in the free society the benefits of lockdown is so significant that it justifies a transfer of our freedom to government, and that the government proves it has the moral authority to exercise control over out lives.

When we compare countries, who took different measures, lockdowns in no way demonstrate they worked stem the spread of Covid.

We know the impact of lockdown on the economy, on society, on children’s education, and on all our health in the long term.  In no case will it be good.

We have lost freedoms, that are proving slow to return.  The government and those more broadly in power have not demonstrated they are fit to govern, and take our freedoms.

Lockdown did more harm than good, and I urge you to support the motion.

Image from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/soil-health-mask-protection-corona-5935148/

To find out more about the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CoulsdonPurleyDebatingSociety/ or email them at coulsdonpurleydebating@gmail.com.

Independents For Liberty – Conference 2021

Independents for Liberty held their 2021 Annual Conference, ‘Restoring Liberty, Rebuilding A Free Country’, on Saturday, 25th September.

They are an association of pro-liberty individuals and influencers aiming to restore liberty and rebuild a free country.

Their mission as individual associates of Independents for Liberty is to make the case for freedom, promote political activism that supports your liberty and grow sustainable economies that enhances long-term freedom.

Michael Swadling of Croydon Constitutionalists shares tried and tested campaign strategies every independent libertarian candidate should be using for their local election campaigns.

Mike’s contribution:

  • On Council run events: “…why should the taxpayer be forced to subsidise my weekend?”
  • “All councils have to publish a report of everything they spend that’s over £500 …what’s really useful is identifying the budgets that have more controversial items …the payments councillors can award themselves…”
  • “We had a petition to make sure no one is paid more than the Prime Minister in the Borough. …to say no one in the Town Hall is doing a more important job than the Prime Minister. …you can start to call out some of those.”
  • “‘As poor as a Council Executive’ is not a common phrase people will hear.”

Christopher Wilkinson opens the first annual Independents for Liberty conference by outlining how the association will help rebuild a free country:

Harry Fone, Grassroots Campaign Manager for the Tax Payers’ Alliance, tells what we can expect from the Tax and NI increases, Government and Council waste, and highlights important points for independent libertarian candidates to campaign on:

Gareth Seward, speaking at the 2021 Independents for Liberty conference, explains the coming consequences of government economic policy. An essential primer for understanding current events.

You can see more on the Independents for Liberty Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/IndependentsForLiberty or their website https://independentlibertarians.uk/

Celebrating our town – Winterbourne Nursery and Infant School

Mike Swadling of this parish is Vice Chair of Governors at Winterbourne Nursery and Infant School in Thornton Heath, Croydon.  Many of us have found lockdown hard, too many of us have failed to put the time to good use, but one local school has used this period to good effect.

“Founded in 1906, Winterbourne Nursery and Infants School sits on a site with separate Junior Boys and Girls schools. The last remaining single-sex, state-funded junior schools in the country. Whilst the schools often cooperate they remain very much independent schools, with their own staff, heads, budgets and governors”

“ensure compliance with required regulations and the good governance of public resources. Following much hard work over the previous year the school received a commendable ‘Substantial Assurance’ audit”

“Teachers provide a warm, nurturing start to each day with a live online session. They give clear guidance and support to pupils and parents about the day’s learning tasks.”

“This past year has been a challenge for everyone, some of us have used the time to set goals, many of us have failed to achieve them, but one local school, Winterbourne Nursery and Infants, can rightly say, its whole community should be proud of its journey of self-improvement”

Full article: https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/nursery-and-infant-school-in-thornton-heath-reflects-on-a-year-in-lockdown/

The story was also picked up by the Thornton Heath Chronicle https://www.thorntonheathchronicle.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/TTHC-April21.pdf

You may also be interested in a follow-up from August 2021 on the schools graduation ceremony: Croydon nursery and infant school celebrates graduation after year of Covid disruption | InYourArea Community

Croydon council: Testing our better angels – TaxPayers’ Alliance article

The TaxPayers’ Alliance have published an update on Croydon Council written by Mike Swadling of this parish.

“Ambitious for Croydon” was the Labour Party’s motto when they were duly elected to run Croydon again in 2018. Certainly, the plans have been ambitious; as has the spending that went with them. Whilst the budgets that underpinned these goals have largely received cross-party support, things quickly spiralled out of control, as many had predicted”

“makes it all the more galling that the council was forking out vast sums of local residents’ money on things such as solar panelled bins – and now they need to close rubbish tips, which will no doubt lead to more fly-tipping!”

“Croydon’s councillors voted to reduce £300,000 from councillor pay from April 2021. Better late than never, but this will still likely leave Croydon’s councillors in the top 20 per cent best remunerated in the country and top six in London. Is this really fitting for cabinet members who oversaw only the second council bankruptcy this century?”

“Against this backdrop, Croydon’s hard-pressed taxpayers are bound to ask what has changed. Highly paid executives and well-remunerated councillors oversaw a fiasco that has left local households to pick up the tab for many years to come.”

Full article: https://www.taxpayersalliance.com/croydon_council_testing_our_better_angels

The article has also been shared by The Future Cities Project at http://futurecities.org.uk/2021/03/18/croydon-in-crisis/

Video:

End of transition: Brexiteers on Brexit – Part 6

Now we have left the Transition Period we asked Brexiteers if they feel Brexit is now complete, for their hopes and their predictions for the future. 

Part 6 below more (parts 7 and beyond) to follow….. You can also read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

“The TCA seems to offer better terms than EFTA/EEA membership, so it may be that more semi-detached countries like Norway, and maybe even non-Eurozone members like Sweden, see it as a better option. The Eurozone part could then integrate further”

Dr Lee Jones reader in International Politics at Queen Mary University of London and co-founder of The Full Brexit.

Did Brexit get done?  We have clawed back a fair degree of sovereignty, but the government’s hands remain tied in important ways. For me, this is a “minimum Brexit”. The Full Brexit’s full analysis of the deal is here: https://www.thefullbrexit.com/uk-eu-deal

How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms?  Two main things. First, we need wholesale reforms to increase democratic control over economic, political and social life. Brexit has exposed the UK constitution as fundamentally broken. Second, we need a proper industrial strategy capable of developing economic sectors fit for the 21st century, de-financialising the economy, and spreading prosperity beyond the Southeast. We will also need to develop a strategy for maximising our room for manoeuvre under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and for defying it where necessary.

What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? 

  1. Abolish the House of Lords, the royal prerogative, the monarchy, and the Supreme Court.
  2. Increase the size of the House of Commons to one Member for every 50,000 voters, elect MPs by proportional representation, and permit recall of MPs.
  3. Outlaw corporate donations to political parties and limit the maximum individual donation to £1,000 per annum.
  4. Abolish all restrictions on political speech (except that which directly incites a specific criminal offence).

What do you think is next for the EU?  If the UK makes a real success of Brexit, this will revive desires for leaving the EU, which have dampened during years of stagnation and difficulty. Possibly the “two-speed Europe” we are seeing emerging (between Eurozone/non-Eurozone) could further intensify in a formal bifurcation. The TCA seems to offer better terms than EFTA/EEA membership, so it may be that more semi-detached countries like Norway, and maybe even non-Eurozone members like Sweden, see it as a better option. The Eurozone part could then integrate further. But I also think the fundamental economic contradictions of the Eurozone will persist – it simply doesn’t work as a monetary union without a fiscal union. We’re seeing some efforts to fudge this with some new taxation powers for the Commission and the COVID-19 “fund” (which is really just a permission to rack up national debt). But it doesn’t overcome the basic contradiction, and Germany simply isn’t willing (or really able) to take on the costs and responsibility of centralised fiscal policy for the whole EU. So, all the basic contradictions and tensions will persist, and the EU’s neoliberal constitution will continue to curtail economic growth and exacerbate social inequality. In 20-25 years I doubt the EU as it currently exists will still be around.

“yes. I do, however, really regret the painful unnecessary ‘long and winding road’ we have had to go through but onwards and upwards now!”

James Bradley local Brexit Campaigner.

Did Brexit get done?  Bill Cash believes it truly makes us an independent country and I have trust in him, so yes. I do, however, really regret the painful unnecessary ‘long and winding road’ we have had to go through but onwards and upwards now!

How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms?  To become the wealthiest, most successful, inventive, happy and free major country in the world.

What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next?  Reverse Tony Blair’s disastrous devolution, reduce MPs to about 200-300 and Lords to have time limited terms, not for life. Lower taxes.

What do you think is next for the EU?  Initial greater centralisation, then resistance from the east and then eventual scaling back of the organisation when the price becomes too high for the Germans to justify, possibly to a level we could have been comfortable with in 2016 (or am I a dreamer?).

“We should trade more with the growing economies, this will allow us reduce costs of basic foodstuffs, and other products for the poorest in our country, and through trade help grow the economies of developing nations spreading wealth and freedom to those most in need across the globe”

Mike Swadling, Referendum Vote Leave Manager for Croydon.

Did Brexit get done?  Yes, take the win.  It’s not perfect, but nothing is.  We have faced a huge fight to ensure our country remains a democracy, after much of the political class, judiciary, and media, lined up to overthrow our vote.  It’s been a hell of a 4 years, but most us would have taken this position 4 years ago, let’s enjoy it now.  My main concern now is over Northern Ireland, and we need to work to ensure that the UK not just GB fully leaves the EU.

How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms?  On trade, lets use this opportunity to ensure we have the lowest possible tariffs with the developing word.  We should trade more with the growing economies, this will allow us reduce costs of basic foodstuffs, and other products for the poorest in our country, and through trade help grow the economies of developing nations spreading wealth and freedom to those most in need across the globe.

Domestically we should:

  • Undertake a massive set of deregulation to allow jobs to grow.
  • Reduce or remove green taxes to help industry.
  • Start an immediate rollout of free ports
  • Undertake a phased withdrawal of the Common Agricultural Policy subsidies.

What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next?  I’d like to see much more devolution, with powers residing at the most local possible level (when they can’t be held directly by the individual).  We see locally with Labour’s bankrupting of Croydon Council and nationally with the ineffective Scottish and Welsh governments, devolution in this country hasn’t work well.  The reform I’d like to see is tax raising as well as spending powers moved locally.  The authority that has to spend the money should also need to raise it, critically with this change we need to the ability to borrow money for anything but the strictest criteria removed from all except central government.

The Scottish and Welsh governments, and local councils will suddenly be forced into a position of justifying their poor spending decisions no longer able to hide them by taking on debt or by blaming central government for a lack of grants.  In the case of Croydon if the people wanted to buy a hotel or shopping centre the council would need to raise taxes to do so (I suspect that would have stopped these ridiculous schemes).  In the Scotland and Wales the governments would be forced into building more business friendly environments if they wanted to raise the taxes for their spending plans.  We would see governments compete for their tax base, benefiting businesses and us as individuals.

What do you think is next for the EU?  The Euro simply doesn’t work.  Southern European economies locked into the single currency, can’t currently compete with the productivity levels of the a Germany or the BeNeLux countries.  They can’t grow their economy and skills base, in part because they can’t lower the value of their currency to encourage export led growth.  They can’t flout away some their government debt through inflation, to allow the tax burden to be reduced.  Worst of all, their young and least skilled workers don’t have their opportunities for entry level work to gain skills, stopped by mass unemployment and limited opportunities in economies that operate with what is frankly the wrong currency.  I don’t know how or when the Euro will break but it has to, as the breaking of the Euro is the best hope for millions of Europeans and many countries future economic prospects.

“A full written civil liberty focused constitution detailing the individual citizens are sovereign, not Parliament or the Monarch”

Sean Finch former Libertarian Party Parliamentary Candidate.

Did Brexit get done?  No. It was a BRINO. Boris & the Conservative Party were never going to deliver an independent Britain. It would always be skewed where the EU would have more authority in some parts. This is because the Conservatives have always been a pro EU party. Remember, they were the party which entered the ECC in the first place and also the party to sign the Maastricht Treaty creating the EU.

So the logical question to ask is; why would a party which campaigned for years to remain in the EU, has more Remainers MPs & CCHQ officials in it than Leavers (including the current Cabinet), only gave the 2016 Referendum not because out of the kindness of their heart or that the Tories were die-hard Brexiteers but because of pressure from UKIP, ever be trusted to deliver a true Brexit? The logical answer is of course; they can’t be trusted and they won’t deliver it.

How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms?  They will do nothing. I believe they will at minimal attempt to mirror almost all laws to the EU and at maximum will quietly campaign to re-join the EU, as they are a pro EU party. In fact, it is ironic to think that the old party emblem of the Conservative Party was the liberty torch. It is right they no-longer use it as they as the governing party (as well as with the assistance from all the parliamentary parties) have currently robbed us of our liberties in this current expired pandemic.

What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next?  A full written civil liberty focused constitution detailing the individual citizens are sovereign, not Parliament or the Monarch. Preferably this document will be an updated version of the Bill of Rights 1688/1689.

What do you think is next for the EU?  It’s market and GDP will continue to decline. It will essentially quietly crumble due to mainstream media outlets not properly reporting on it due to political bias.

Back to Part 5 > On to Part 7

Nous avons terminé le Brexit

In the run up to us leaving the transition period with the EU, Mike Swadling was interviewed by Anaïs Cordoba of French radio station Europe 1 about the deal and how he would be celebrating us truly leaving the EU.  The broadcast (in French, with some of Mikes words audible) is available at https://www.europe1.fr/emissions/le-6-9/francois-clauss-avec-eric-coquerel-et-julie-neveux-4015705 starting at 01.38.20 .

In summary it presents Mike as ‘a Brexit campaigner for many years before and after the referendum, that tonight he is cheering with a glass of French champagne, with some of your campaign friends on zoom… that he is happy with the result but also relieved to move on’. 

Mike:  “I have never been so tired… As a nation it will make us good to put this behind us.. coming back to more normality where we can disagree on policies, but not on fundamental structures… also if you listen to a football or gardening podcast Brexit will be mentioned. It has been relentless”

The interview also features in regional newspaper Le Telegramme, available at https://www.letelegramme.fr/monde/soir-de-fete-ou-de-deuil-un-reveillon-particulier-pour-les-pro-et-les-anti-brexit-30-12-2020-12682086.php.

“Early Brexit activist in his commune of Croydon, South London, Mike Swadling plans to toast on Thursday night… “With a glass of French champagne,” he says with a smile. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 31 January. But for this computer scientist, who has been committed to the cause of Brexit since the referendum campaign, 1 January 2021 is also a date to celebrate: “We will finally regain our sovereignty. During the transition period, we had become a vassal state of the European Union, still under its laws, but without a voice. »

Mike is pleased with the agreement sealing the new relationship between the UK and the EU: “Certainly this agreement is not perfect. Big concessions have been made to the European Union on fisheries and Northern Ireland (which remains in the single market and customs union), but I am happy to put it all behind us”

Mike would like to note his local Aldi had a good deal on French champagne…

Debating Society speech – Why it will take more than a year to get back to normal

On December 1st the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society debated the motion “This time next year life will be back to normal”

Mike Swadling opposed the debate, and below is his speech delivered to the society via Zoom.  As always with this friendly group the debate was good natured, very well proposed and drew out some great views from the audience.

“This time next year life will be back to normal” – Opposing motion

What a year we have had, and expect to have for a good few months to come.  We have lost too many people, lost too many freedoms, and will continue to suffer from the economic consequences and health care losses of lockdown.

Meanwhile new ways of living have become part of our new normal.  Many people who had never held a conference call or video conference, now do so daily.  Millions have worked from home all year.

The knock at the door of an Amazon delivery is now a familiar sound, and if you’re lucky enough to get a slot, we have become used to home deliveries for our food shopping.

Now much, as I would like it to be so, I don’t believe this time next year, life will be back to the old normal.  Nor do I believe, we will be living fundamentally changed lives, but the way we live has seen a step change, and will continue to evolve.

“let me offer some hope, the pandemic levels of death ended in June, when death rates thankfully returned to the 5 year normal.  Life with Covid became endemic.  Predictions of a second waves of deaths have proved thankfully untrue”

First let me offer some hope, the pandemic levels of death ended in June, when death rates thankfully returned to the 5 year normal.  Life with Covid became endemic.  Predictions of a second waves of deaths have proved thankfully untrue, even as cases have risen.  Treatments are getting better, the NHS was not overwhelmed at the peak, and won’t be now.  We also have the prospect of a multitude of vaccines to build up further immunity in the population.  We can look forward to the future, where the true threat of Covid 19, is seen as no more serious than threat of a normal seasonal flu.

But the absence of Covid deaths does not mean an immediate return to a year ago.  For instance let us look locally for examples of how things are changing.

Most of us have gone a year without visiting a department store.  Debenhams in Croydon has closed, John Lewis, a flagship store for the new Westfield development, has closed its Purley Way outlet.  Arcadia, which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, based out in Valley Park is reported to be on the brink of collapse.  The Westfield shopping centre unlikely to happen before the first lockdown, is now almost impossible to believe.

With retail on the life support from furlough schemes, it’s hard to imagine the Whitgift centre ever truly reviving.  No doubt we will see something new in our town centre, but online shopping has ensured it won’t be the kind of all-encompassing retail centre, we have seen for all our lives.

Aside from retail, Croydon has been for many years a major office centre.  These offices have now largely stood empty since March.  Offices that cost millions to run are now being run from peoples spare rooms, dining tables or sofas.  Why would a business want their staff to return, to reincur those costs?

Now I don’t believe the world of work will fundamentally change so much we will never be back in the office.  Distant relations work in part because we have built up trust and connections from having physically meet.

But I wouldn’t overplay that fact, I like many now work with teams all over the globe, I have never meet the people I work with in the US, Malaysia, or Italy, yet we get on, we laugh and joke, and importantly we get the job done.

People are sociable, it would be handy to meet-up with my local colleagues from time to time.  Frankly it would be good to get out of my house.  I’ve not seen much evidence you can fully train people to do a job remotely.  Some office jobs require a higher degree of physical interaction, and of course away from offices there is a whole world of world that requires a physical presence.

But what does this mean for Croydon?

Well my prediction, and hardly an original one, is that we will move from a world where many work from home 1-2 days a week, to a world where people go into the office say 1-4 days per month.  Offices will have less desks and more meeting rooms and breakout spaces.  I firmly suspect enterprising coffee shops will be adding ‘work pods’ you can hire to get together with a few co-workers.

What happens to the plethora of office blocks in central Croydon?  Their use, can only reduce.  What will we need?  80% of what we have today?  50% maybe, or even just 20%?  I don’t know, but I do know the twin engines of our town and indeed our city of Offices and Retail have both fundamentally changed.

Now what to do with all these office blocks?  We are already building a large number of housing blocks in Croydon.  Many people have concerns about this making Croydon a dormitory town, and that these homes are not suitable for families.

With people traveling to work less and working from home more, needing space in their homes, and dare I say it, maybe even a garden, these home are not suitable for todays’ let alone tomorrows living requirements.

With a need for housing people will no doubt be cramped into converted office blocks, even with the problems that will bring.

This does however offer one possible future for the Whitgift Centre.  Conversion to a much needed central park for those living in the new high rises around it.

Our town will not be the same this time next year, although I’m sure things will feel far better than today, they will be far from normal.

From the local changes let us look at some national changes.  Great Frost of 1709 was the coldest European winter during the past 500 years.  It caused widespread crop failure and economic devastation.  We are now facing the worst economic failure since then.  Let’s just put that into some perspective.

In the intervening years we have faced Jacobite revolution, a global 7 Year war with Louis XV’s France, fought in and lost the Americas, seen off Napoleon, fought two World Wars against Germany, seen massive economic changes with agricultural and industrial revolutions, introduced and repealed The Corn Laws, seen global economic depression in the 1930’s, formed a Union with and given independence to Ireland.  Gained and lost the world’s largest ever Empire,  Yet none of these lead to the economic crisis we now face.

To put it simply, Lockdown has caused more damage than the Luftwaffe.

The Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts the economy will shrink by 11.3% this year, and we will borrow £394bn the equivalent of 19% of GDP.  We are in a hole, and with new tougher Tiers in place, we have just ordered new digging equipment.

We don’t know how bad unemployment will be, how many shops will shut down, how much the transport industry will contract, or how little of the hospitality sector will remain after furlough ends, and economic realities kick in, but we do know it will be devastating.

Recovery from an economic shock this size won’t come quick.

The income tax was first introduced in the Napoleonic Wars as a temporary measure and is still with us today.  Blanket restrictions were applied to pub opening times during World War One, and left largely unchanged until 1988.  Rationing stayed in place for 9 years after the end of the second world war, and we didn’t pay off our war debts until 2006.

This economic shock is bigger than any of them.  It will take far, far longer than a year to get us out of this hole.

“Pre-lockdown a 1000 people a day were diagnosed with Cancer.  That has largely stopped for the last 9 months….The consequences a year from now, of the shutting down of large parts of our health service don’t bear contemplation”

We also see health consequences.  Pre-lockdown a 1000 people a day were diagnosed with Cancer.  That has largely stopped for the last 9 months.  Many minor operations have been postponed and will become major operations.  The consequences a year from now, of the shutting down of large parts of our health service don’t bear contemplation.  On top of that the coming unemployment and lost prosperity, is a health crisis of its own.

Worse than all this I believe, and likely to have far longer consequences, is our loss of freedom.

I hope you all agree, Everyone has following the rights

  • The right to liberty
  • To not be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy or home
  • freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state
  • freedom of religion; ….either alone or in community with others and in public or private
  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • the right to work, and to free choice of employment
  • to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts

What I have read to you there are extracts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Articles 3, 5, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23 and 27, of which, are being broken right now by our government.  This is not a partisan point, as our opposition parties are arguably even more enthusiastic about the Covid Laws

Since 1215 with Magna Carta, through the 1689 Bill of Rights, to universal suffrage, freedoms have been hard won.  Those in power always want more, and by necessity will sacrifice your liberty to take it.

“If you believe these freedoms, all these freedoms, will be back with us, and life will return to normal in a year from now, I have a bridge to sell you.  Only under the current law I’m not allowed to trade”

If you believe these freedoms, all these freedoms, will be back with us, and life will return to normal in a year from now, I have a bridge to sell you.  Only under the current law I’m not allowed to trade, you’re not allowed out to see the bridge, and shaking hands on a deal will see us both severely fined.

Some genies have escaped their bottle, and won’t be put back.  The economy will take many years to come back, the NHS will be dealing with the health consequences of this year for much of the next decade and who knows, when we will simply be allowed to do what we used to think of as normal interactions.

Life won’t return to normal by this time next year, but we should do our damnedest to make it as normal as possible.

“We have no right to protest, the churches are closed, drones were following hill walkers and police ask you to report those breaking the rules, and government literally banned couples who live in separate houses from meeting up”

Summing up

It has become something of a cliché to say George Orwell’s 1984, was meant as a warning of a dystopian future not a how to guide for government.

In the book criticism of the state is forbidden, there is no organised religion, you are under constant surveillance, and intimate relationships are strictly controlled.

We have no right to protest, the churches are closed, drones were following hill walkers and police ask you to report those breaking the rules, and government literally banned couples who live in separate houses from meeting up.

These will be temporary measures, just like we’re still in last March’s 3 week lockdown, to flatten the curve.

A year from now we will be in the midst of a very real economic crisis.  Many shops, pubs and restaurants will be boarded up.  Hotels will be closed, tourist attractions behind shutters.  We will have empty offices being converted into the troubled high-rises of the future, and we likely see a massive reduction of choice of public transport.  Things will not be normal.

The human spirt will however prevail.  The economy will bounce back.  We will push to regain our lost rights, or much like we are seeing in this lockdown, many will just ignore those in authority.  Life will return to normal but it will be a struggle and one that sadly will take us well beyond next year.

Image: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/virus-covid-science-covid19-4937553/

Article in January 2021 CR5 Magazine https://cr5.co.uk

Why did they not find out? – further failings at Croydon Council

By Mike Swadling

External Auditors are under a duty to issue a report in the public interest when a significant matter comes to their attention which they believe the Council should consider or the public should know about i.e. it is in the public’s interest to know about this.(Source)

Croydon Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton have issued a damning ‘Report in the Public Interest’ on Croydon’s “deteriorating financial resilience”.

The full report available at https://www.croydon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/articles/downloads/Report%20in%20the%20Public%20Interest%20-%20London%20Borough%20of%20Croydon.pdf, details the past few years of the worsening financial position at the council and more worryingly the lack of response from the borough to resolve the problems, which statements like these demonstrate:

“There has been collective corporate blindness to both the seriousness of the financial position and the urgency with which actions needed to be taken”

“Had the Council implemented strong financial governance, responded promptly to our previous recommendations and built up reserves and addressed the overspends in children’s and adult social care, it would have been in a stronger position to withstand the financial pressures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”

I have written many times over recent years about what I saw as the council waste of public funds, be it on BoxPark, Cultural events or the Surrey Street Market refurbishment.  But these are political disagreements.  When the council has run out of reserves and is threatened with a Section 114 notice it is mismanagement, but still working withing the guidelines of the system.  With an Audit report, with the statements that follow, it is unclear if the council took notice of guidelines:

“Having a company dissolved by compulsory strike off is a failure of governance and we have not identified evidence that the dissolution of London Borough of Croydon Holdings LLP has been reported to Cabinet or the General Purposes and Audit Committee”

“Minutes of the Scrutiny Committee noted that the paper (explaining the Council’s proposed decision-making matrices) was produced after the first bid had been lodged and with this paper it would not have been possible to judge the soundness of the acquisition. Whilst opportunities can arise at short notice, good governance would require the strategy to be approved prior to the first purchase”

The full report is well worth reading, it makes 20 recommendations which we should all hope the council fully implement.  A number of themes come out in the report of systemic failure in the councils actions, which I have grouped as follows:

Lack of oversight

  • “The reports were accepted by Members without an appropriate level of challenge to continued service overspends”
  • “There was insufficient challenge from Members on the financial risks in the budget, credibility of the planned level of income from third parties and deliverability of the savings plan. The Council’s governance over the budget setting and monitoring has not been good enough.”
  • “In our view this was a failure of governance and showed a lack of understanding of the urgency of the financial position.”
  • “The strategy for investing in properties was approved at Full Council using guillotine procedures meaning there was insufficient time to discuss and challenge the strategy and the first purchase was made two months prior to approving the strategy”
  • “There has been collective corporate blindness to both the seriousness of the financial position and the urgency with which actions needed to be taken.”
  • “The budget was approved without evidence of challenge on whether the revised level of reserves was appropriate or whether the history of delivering services within the budget or delivering savings as planned had impacted on setting the appropriate reserves”
  • “it is difficult to determine how Members reached the view that the savings plan within the budget being approved was achievable. We do not consider the Council’s governance over the setting of the original 2020/21 budget to be good enough”
  • “Members of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee accepted the responses received and did not refer the matter to Full Council. In our view this did not demonstrate an understanding of the urgency of the financial position.”

Masking the problems

  • “The impact of the overspends has been masked by both the accounting treatment of the Dedicated Schools Grant deficit (which we disagree with) and the use of the flexible capital receipts. The Council has failed to deliver real savings in children’s and adults’ social care.”
  • “In 2018/19, the Council chose to account for the deficit amount as a debtor at the end of the financial year which we disagreed with as the Council’s approach was based on the view that the Government ought to refund the excess spending rather than any evidence that this would be the case.”
  • “When UASC service costs were seen to exceed the funding available, the Council’s response was to lobby government for increased funding”
  • “The 2019/20 Quarter 3 financial position reported to Cabinet in January 2020 reduced the in year overspend by £8 million. This is an unusual movement and there was limited explanation in the report and no evidence of challenge to understand the validity of the adjustments to achieve the revised position”

Lack of control of spending

  • “In the past three years, the Council has reported significant service overspends of £39.2 million within children’s and adult social care”
  • “the Council focused on: improvements in service delivery without sufficient attention to controlling the related overspends”
  • “the Council has not demonstrated that it can take effective action to either manage the cost pressures or establish appropriate budgets within Children’s and Adult Social Care services.”
  • “The Council failed to address the underlying causes of service overspends which during 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 had a combined overspend of £59.3 million. The overspends were reported in budget monitoring reports but there is little evidence of Member challenge or holding officers to account for the underlying reasons for the overspends or for taking action to address and mitigate the impact in future years.”
  • The 2019/20 Quarter 2 financial position reported to Cabinet in November 2019 showed an in-year overspend of £10.4 million. There was no indication that Members understood the implication of using the remaining general fund reserve on in-year pressures and this in our view contributed to the lack of urgency”

Brick and Brick and Investments

  • “The Council’s approach to borrowing and investments has exposed the Council and future generations of taxpayers to significant financial risk. There has not been appropriate governance over the significant capital spending and the strategy to finance that spending.”
  • “Despite heavy investment from the Council, the Council has not yet received any significant return.”
  • “The savings plan in February 2020 included additional income sources that were in our view optimistic including £3 million dividend from Brick by Brick, a company the Council has already lent almost £200 million to and for which the Council has yet to receive any dividend or any interest owing on loans”
  • “The interest receivable amounts continue to increase however the outstanding debtors indicate that Brick by Brick has not made any interest payments with £5 million owing at 31 March 2019.”
  • “The investments in The Colonnades and Croydon Park Hotel were not grounded in a sufficient understanding of the retail and leisure market and have again illustrated that the Council’s strategy to invest its way out of financial challenge rather than pay attention to controlling expenditure on core services was inherently flawed.”
  • “The Council has established a complex group structure and we found little evidence that the complexity and associated risk to the Council’s financial position is understood by members or officers”
  • “Based on our review of the loan agreements, £110 million of those loans were due for repayment by the date of this report and had not yet been received by the Council”
  • “At the Cabinet in July 2020, the Council made a decision to incur an additional £30 million of borrowing to purchase properties from Brick by Brick to increase the affordable housing supply available. This is not in line with the original business case for Brick by Brick approved by Members in March 2015.”
  • “The increasing complexity of the group structures, the interaction between different subsidiaries, the longer-term financial impact for the Council and how to safeguard the Council’s interests is not clearly understood.”
  • “London Borough of Croydon Holdings LLP was dissolved by compulsory strike off due to a failure to file accounts. The facts or progress in remedying the situation have not been reported to Members or subject to scrutiny”

The above are by no means all of the adverse comments in the report.

Where does this leave us?

We have a new Council Leader, a new cabinet and a new Chief Executive, all of which are to be welcomed.  All of those at Croydon Council, both Councillors and senior officer need to ask themselves how we have got into this position.  Within the new cabinet the 6 (of 10) members who are long standing cabinet members really need to step up and explain their part in these debacles.

No doubt much blame will be moved to those who have left and to the council officers.  Here I am reminded of a speech to house of commons by Diane Abbott.  Back in May 1998 the house was debating government policy towards Sierra Leone.  Ms Abbott was questioning the Labour Governments Ministers actions, and went onto say:

“In the tit for tat and media frenzy about the issue, a number of questions have been asked over and again. What did Ministers know and when did they know? I would ask a third question, which is why did they not find out?” (Source)

As the repercussions of this report become clear and further questions are raised from the newly published draft 2019/20 Annual Accounts, I expect we will see a focus on new changes, not the past problems.

To have confidence, to believe that Croydon Council will do better, what we need to know from the Councillors in office during this period and now serving in a new cabinet is simply – If they weren’t told about these problems, why did they not find out?

The Libertarian Listener interview – Mike Swadling

The Libertarian Listener is a UK political podcast reviewing the week’s major news stories, current affairs and events whilst providing original insights, public opinions and perspectives from the nation’s freedom lovers and liberty seekers.

For the 21 October 2020 episode they spoke with Mike Swadling about – Lockdown Rebels, CHIS Bill, NZ Labour Election, Croydon Constitutionalists.