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:

The article has also been shared by The Future Cities Project at


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:

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 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

“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.


Article in January 2021 CR5 Magazine

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 Report in the Public Interest 2020 | Croydon Council, 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.

Croydon Council – a tale of mismanagement

As Croydon Council’s financial crisis grows Mike Swadling writes for the TaxPayers’ Alliance about Croydon Council, a tale of mismanagement.

“Northamptonshire in 2018 when they faced a £10 million shortfall and debts of around £1 billion. Croydon has just over half the population of Northamptonshire, and yet still managed to exceed this”

“Given all this overspend, Croydon’s contribution to the Town Hall Rich List seems utterly obscene. The latest report showed the council has 23 staff on over £100,000 a year and 3 who earn more than the Prime Minister”

“it’s clear the financial challenges predate the crisis. Too much money has been squandered on schemes that have not paid off. Anyone can see that too little value has been provided for the people of Croydon”

“The Growth Fund, together with the Community Ward budgets awarded by councillors, gave over £35,000 to Croydon Pride in 2018, and over £59,000 the following year. They are great events, but is it really taxpayers’ job to fund my weekend entertainment?”

Full article:

Reclaiming Liberty

By Mike Swadling

Growing up in the 80s it was common to hear “I can say what I like,, it’s a free country”.  This has not felt true for some years.  We have seen growing control from the state over what you can say, the business you can engage in, the food you eat, and what you can stop your children being taught at school.  This gradual encroachment on liberty from governments, universities and Big Tech, has been little preparation for the tsunami against freedom we have seen in 2020.

Whatever you think of the initial 3 week lockdown, it was as an understandable response to a pandemic, and was imposed to simply protect vital health services.  5 months in, health services were not overwhelmed.  The introduction of further requirements for facemasks seems only to happen because politicians and advisors have too much power and too little willing to give it up.

When the Coronavirus Bill was passed giving sweeping powers to the government to lockdown society few other than Steve Baker MP showed any concern at what was happening saying in the House of Commons “For goodness’ sake, let us not allow this dystopia to endure one moment longer than is strictly necessary”.

Since then we have seen advisors, the mainstream media, celebrities, big business, Big Tech and politicians of all parties, complain the lockdown wasn’t imposed soon enough, wasn’t harsh enough, and that people mostly stuck indoors weren’t taking it seriously enough.  We’ve even had the police already given unprecedented powers, make up rules to tell people they can’t stand in their own front gardens.  There are notable exceptions in the media like Toby Young with his excellent Lockdown Sceptics site, but there is no mainstream objection or leading politician questioning the erosion of liberty.

“You don’t have to win general elections to exert influence.  If you can gain some support in the polls the major parties will take note”

What can we do about this?  How can we reclaim liberty?

The Green Party with foundations in 1975 (as the Ecology Party), hit a high point in 1989 with 15% of the vote in the European elections, has never had more than 3.6% of the vote in a General Election and never had more than 1 MP.  Yet all main parties are committed to net zero emissions and have we have a Department of Energy & Climate Change.

UKIP / Brexit Party whilst receiving 12.6% of the vote in 2015, and twice winning the European elections, managed only 2 MPs.  Yet we had a referendum and have left the European Union (and let’s hope we fully leave at the end of the year).  The SNP and Plaid Cymru were never major parties prior to the devolved assemblies in both nations.  The reason I point this out?  You don’t have to win general elections to exert influence.  If you can gain some support in the polls the major parties will take note, you will empower sympathisers in them, and make strategists look for opportunities to win back your support.

Imagine we had a group, even small group of major politicians who were vocal about liberty.  Politicians who could be invited onto mainstream media or write columns opposing new rules.  Politicians who make speeches on liberty in the House of Commons.  Mainstream figures who could be shared on social media.  This would start to make a difference.  It might not have stopped lockdown, but might bring about a quicker opening up, might stop further lockdown rules and bright ideas on advertising, or buy one get one free offers.

“a small group of MPs wanting to see off a threat from freedom focused candidates would likely be opposed to the governments next imposition on us”

Scared politicians are compliant

It would be great to be able to write that I believe a classical liberal party could start up tomorrow and with a little bit of advertising could capture 30/40% in the polls and be viable to form a government.  I’d even like to be able to write that I think they could get 15% and really shake the establishment to taking on their policies.  Nothing I have seen before or during lockdown makes me believe that.  But 1%, and up to 5% with the right issues in some areas.  Yes that’s possible.

Imagine we had a broadly libertarian party running at 1% in the polls and able to stand candidates in most of the country.  At 1% (about 500 votes per constituency), 12 MPs with majorities of less than 1% would know their seats we’re at risk.  At 3% a number quite achievable with some targeting of resources, 40 MPs would be at risk.  At 5% (again possible with targeting), 35 Conservative (almost half their majority) and 20 Labour (almost 10% of their MPs) would be at risk.

Whatever one of these numbers could happen, a small group of MPs wanting to see off a threat from freedom focused candidates would likely be opposed to the governments next imposition on us.  They would garner supporters in the mainstream and non-mainstream media, and be champions for the cause.  Long before anyone mainstream was talking about a referendum to leave the EU, we had a multitude of opt outs from the EU and never joined the Euro, in no small part due to a small number of eurosceptic MPs.  Imagine what a similar group could do for liberty.

Is this possible and if so, how quickly is this possible?’  At the 2019 General Election the Yorkshire Party proved to be the biggest of the small parties, running 28 candidates and receiving over 29,000 votes.  The Liberals (an actually liberal party unlike the LibDems) managed to run 19 candidates averaging over 570 votes per constituency.  Whilst economically more collectivist, strong on personal liberty, the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) managed 27 and 20 candidates respectively and the Libertarian Party managed 5 candidates averaging 356 votes a piece.  These relatively unknown parties, who all respect personal liberty managed a respectable 72 candidates (all of whom did and would have expected to lose their £500 deposits) and an average of 316 votes (about 0.6%) between them.

Based on the numbers above, and keeping in mind 2019 the Brexit Party took 2% of the vote, people who are likely to sympathise with this cause, it should be more than possible for a well organised party to run say ~200 candidates, get registered in polling, and make MPs take note.

What platform?

We have a Libertarian Party, a Scottish Libertarian Party, and a UK Liberty Party.  The Brexit Party is broadly libertarian, UKIP is by its constitution libertarian.  The Foundation Party, 5 Star party, and Time Party are all largely classically liberal.  Whilst more economically collectivist the Liberals, SDP and CPA all agree with many of the core values of freedom, run decent number of candidates and reach communities most libertarians don’t.

Too many parties chasing relatively few votes is a problem, and one very difficult to resolve.  People fighting for liberty are by their nature free spirited.  It may be over the next few years the parties shake out and we see one or two clear leaders, or as an alternative we might see parties work either formally, (realistically needed to register in polling) or informally, together.

Away from the parties what might be the platforms they agree on?  I believe they all agree on the following:

  • free speech
  • rule of law
  • democracy
  • devolution of power from the centre
  • value for money from what government does spend money on

Here you have the basis for domestic liberty, government spending (at all levels), constitutional reform,  and a preference for democracies in foreign policy.  Not a bad start.  The Stockport Declaration written by a group of former Brexit Party candidates is a good overview of much of this.  We saw in the 2019 election the benefit of a small manifesto for the Conservatives (62 pages), and even then almost no one can remember anything beyond ‘Get Brexit Done’.  A few simple ideas, well publicised, get votes.

“As a minimum, each time you stand you will raise awareness.  You may deliver or hand out some thousands of leaflets with a simple message supporting free speech, supporting free choice”

How to make progress?

As someone who has run for office 3 times without making much impact on the outcome I feel a little presumptuous writing this but please bear with me.

If the goal is to get support, copy the parties you are aiming to get support from.  What does your local Conservative, Labour and even Green Party do?  Do the same or similar.  Major parties build up support from local councils (from Parish to County and every type in between).  Down to just 11 MPs, you might wonder how the LibDems keep going, but when you know they have 2527 Councillors, and run 19 District councillors it’s less of a surprise.  District councils have limited but real power, and influence how we live.

To get elected you firstly need to run for election.  Council seats are free to run for and only need 10 signatures (2 for Parish) to stand.  In many parts of the country elections are held annually, and may include Parish, District and County elections for the same area.  There is an annual opportunity to run for election, sometimes multiple elections, all free.  All requiring just 10 signatures from local residents to run.  5000 leaflets (colour, double sided, A5, decent weight of paper) are £100 (not cheap but not generally unaffordable) from my local printers, it can be less online.  5000 leaflets would cover most council wards, and depending on the area you live in, give you about 40 hours of delivery exercise!

Granted not so possible at the current time, but once back to normal street stalls in a busy high street can be an effective way to get your name out there and speak to people.  Leafleting on public land, outside a primary school when parents collect their children or in the morning at a train station are great ways to get seen by many people and get a leaflet straight in their hand.

As Jordan Peterson says first ‘clean your room’, get to know your local community, if you can, volunteer locally.This improves name recognition for you, builds knowledge, builds your CV (political and professionally), is living by the rules you are proposing, and can be personally rewarding.  As a school governor for many years, it is mostly an apolitical role, but I have found on occasion I have been the sole voice for parental choice, or stopping a ‘bright idea’ that isn’t as apolitical as the proposer thinks it is.

When you have an event, issue a press release, local reporters emails are normally on their website.  The press probably won’t publish it (they might) but you can publish it and people are more likely to read an article titled ‘Press Release’ than one titled ‘street stall’.

Use social media as an add-on not substitute for physical activity.  A street stall where you hand out a 100 leaflets, speak to 10 people in some detail, get seen by a thousand, and followed-up with a Facebook post on the local residents Facebook group, or maybe advertised to the local area (normally about 1p per person reached, £2=200 people), backed with a few tweets to #nameoftown, is a really effective add on to your day, and reaches out to new support.  The Facebook post or tweet alone will simply speak to the echo chamber.  Public Facebook groups work best when they speak to the public, about real issues relevant to them, rather than ways to share in jokes, or the talk about the least mainstream ideas to the committed few.

If you do all this will you get elected?  Probably not, no.  Unless you live in an area with a Parish council where it’s quite possible you can stand unopposed.  You probably won’t win the first or even the second time you stand.  As a minimum, each time you stand you will raise awareness.  You may deliver or hand out some thousands of leaflets with a simple message supporting free speech, supporting free choice.  You might organise events, get more local Facebook or Twitter followers, get one of many press releases published, the key thing is, you will be building support for the cause of freedom.

And what if you are elected, even as a loan voice on a Parish council?  You get the opportunity to implement polices at a local level.  You get to build support for ideas.  You can write to you constituents, the press, or more widely as a Councillor.  An elected Councillor speaking for liberty, that would be a big improvement on what we have today.

Building consensus

Elections generally happen once a year.  Many of these parties are very small and the next member may live a few towns away!  It can be a hard slog when a few of you are out campaigning let alone doing it by yourself, but why not work together?

Often the main enemy of most small parties is a lack of name recognition, the main enemy of personal freedom, is I think, lethargy.  Why not work with other local parties to organise a debate or a local protest, an event, to jointly support a petition etc.  Anything that gets your name/s and the cause out there.

Find something your local council is doing to restrict freedom and work with others to make that an issue to campaign on.  Even simply organise joint drinks with another group as a bit of moral support and to share ideas.  When parties are running at 5% they can campaign against each other when they are running at 0.005% they gain more working together.

Right now we do have restricted freedom (a potential campaign issue) but unless under local lockdown you can leaflet.  If you have a local issue you can issue a press release or write a letter (and mention your party) to the local paper, and if they don’t publish it – you can.  You can write an article for a site like this or better still this site!  And most of all, if there are elections in your area, you can stand for election next May!

Image by TJSMIT10 / CC BY-SA (

Lording a better democracy – House of Lords reform.

Following articles by Crispin Williams and Jeremy Wraith, Mike Swadling has written his views on how we should reform the House of Lords.  Let us know what you think of these proposals.  Write to us at Croydon Constitutionalists to share your views.

We shouldn’t give up on Lords reform.  The current home for failed politicians is simply not good enough.  I believe the proposals below would control costs, whilst providing a separate chamber closer to the people and widen representation in our democracy.


Possibly the very best solution to resolve the challenge of how to complete House of Lords reform is simply to reverse the clock.  For all its faults and failings the undemocratic house, full of hereditary peers, frankly worked quite well.  Under it we extended the franchise for men and gave women the vote.  Passed multiple Factory Acts improving working conditions, legalised trade unions, had agricultural and industrial revolutions, and built and started giving up, an empire.  We won two world wars against Germany, and arguably two more against France.  It wasn’t democratic but it was a system that, albeit sometimes rather slowly, worked.

Of course we aren’t going to return to a hereditary second chamber, but what should we do?

Article 3 of the United States Constitution starts “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”

The Legislature chose the Senators to make them accountable to the state government rather than a party or other grouping.  Whilst in the US this has been amended with people voting directly for their Senators, as a model I like the idea for an overly London centric UK giving true regional representation in its legislature.

Alas the UK does not have the regional bodies in place to provide those senators.  The mixture of assemblies and parliaments we do have (Welsh, Scottish, Greater London, etc) are not exactly universally popular or respected.

Perhaps for all their faults we could use these bodies as an example of what we can do to build out a new house.  The Green Party and UKIP / Brexit Party whilst being diametrically opposed groups, have consistently performed well for the past decade but neither have managed more than 2 MPs.  Nationalist parties do better, but with the exception of the SNP in recent years tend to be under represented, and running or functioning as an independent candidate or member is a mostly hopeless task.  This is not so true in the regional bodies of the UK.  For instance Wales has;

  • 10 Plaid Cymru,
  • 2 Independent,
  • 4 Brexit Party,
  • 1 UKIP,
  • 1 Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party,
  • 1 Welsh National Party,

assembly members as well as the usual members from the Conservatives, Labour and the LibDems.  The Scottish parliament manages 6 Greens and 2 Independents on top of the SNP, Conservatives, Labour and LibDem members.  In Northern Ireland in addition to the main Unionist and Republican parties there are 7 Alliance, 2 Green, 1 TUV, 1 PBP, and 3 Independent members.  Finally in London the assembly includes 2 Green and 2 Brexit Alliance members.  In all these cases, the local bodies have managed more representative models of governance.  Why couldn’t we do the same for the House of Lords?

Our most recent general elections have been fought in large part on the basis that you have to vote for the Red or Blue team to block the other side, rather than because you agree with them.  After 10 years of coalition, small majority or even minority government I see no desire for a form of proportional representation for the Commons, and indeed in 2011 we rejected changes to the current system.


I propose for the House of Lords to elect members on a proportional system.  I believe this will be more popular for a revising chamber as it would not interfere with the requirement for stable government.  Importantly it would give the opportunity for more minor parties to have national figures, buildout a base, and democratically represent the people.

The new Lords would be elected using something similar to the modified D’Hondt allocation used in London.  London has a mixture of geographical super-constituencies with further members elected from a party list to make the total Assembly Members from each party proportional to the votes cast for that party.  In London a party must win at least 5% of the party list vote in order to win any seats.  That same measure could be kept for regional groupings or a lower national number could be used.  A consequence of this would be sizable groupings for the Green Party and Brexit Party.  You would also likely see a small number of Lords representing the Yorkshire Party, Christian Peoples Alliance, UKIP and even the Independent Group for Change (if you can remember them).  This would be great for democracy.  These parties have support, even when running in almost impossible first past the post elections, why shouldn’t they and others have the opportunity to build a national base?


An elected second chamber then raises at least 3 major questions.

  • How would an elected second chamber differ from the House of Commons?
  • Would it not feel it had its own mandate?
  • How much would it cost?

All three can be tackled by making the role of Lords quite separate from that of the MPs.  The Lords today has 777 members.  A new chamber similar in size to the commons at say 600 members would reduce what we have today, stop individual Lords being too powerful, and allow for a reasonably large grouping of Lords for smaller parties.  A party getting 1% would have ~6 members, a party getting 5% (attainable regularly by the Greens and revised Brexit Party) would have ~30 members.  These groups would provide a professional backbone to these parties, that could start to compete with the 3 main national parties.

600 Lords would be expensive, so I propose we make them part time.  Pay them half of what an MP is on, and reduce their hours accordingly.  A revising chamber needs time to study legislation and debate, but this is not the amount of time needed in the commons.  Have regular hours and sittings, and encourage the Lords to have outside work.  This way they will more closely represent us by working with us.  Have no expectation of constituency work.  MPs have become one part parliamentarian and one part social worker.  We don’t need Lords to undertake the same role.  They can be parliamentarians, working to set regular hours and have part time day jobs around that.

To reflect this legislative role, Lords would not need the expenses of MPs.  No local expenses beyond that to cover a home office, some travel and minimal costs for some public meetings.  Staff can work centrally and be attached to the grouping rather than individual Lords.  Additional specialist knowledge on legislation should also be available much as it is today.  Members would need to be able to claim reasonable expenses for staying in London but with dates fixed in advance these can be kept down and must not include paying for second homes.

I also propose the Lords do copy one idea from the US Senate.  That they be elected on fixed dates and terms, every 6 years with one third elected every two years.  This will ensure they reflect the changing nature of UK politics over time, rather than one snapshot.  It will give Lords time to learn the role and elections to multi member constituencies, with regional top up lists, could be held to coincide with the main local election dates to keep costs down.  Regular elections also keep parties more in touch with their voters and allow small parties opportunities to build support.


These proposals would end much of the cronyism and see a new House of Lords with elected members.  Members focused on parliamentary legislation, members who reflect the electoral wishes of voters and in doing so allow new parties and ideas a chance to grow.  The members would not be overpaid with many having second ‘normal’ part time jobs.  Expenses and overall costs would likely go up but be kept in check, and we would retain the strong government model the House of Commons generally (if not so much recently) delivers.

Main Photo by UK Parliament – @ 01:06, CC BY 3.0,

How do we recover? – Some ideas for the post Covid Britain.

Image © Acabashi; Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

Opinion Piece by Michael Swadling

Each day sadly the death toll keeps rising, and on any given day the economic news keeps getting worse.  We are in a lockdown with social distancing in place to save lives.

But at some point this will end, we will get back to normal and we must look to recover from the economic slump.  My own economics philosophy being somewhat laissez faire means I would like government generally to do as little as possible, however that is neither realistically what will happen, nor what is likely to be acceptable in our democracy today.  Rather than focus solely on what I would want, I intend to also look at some policies that might realistically be used to aid the recovery.

The new baseline

The lockdown will have already changed some things that will never change back.  The longer this goes the greater and more ingrained these changes will become.  Whole industries are successfully working from home.  More people are getting food and other shopping delivered.  Many of us are becoming heavy users of streaming media services.  We are getting out the habit of commuting or even just going for a drive.

With the loss of life, fear will drive many people to reasonably want to avoid unnecessary contact even when the lockdown is lifted.  It is reasonable to assume the lockdown will be lifted in stages, and quite likely it might be reintroduced if we see a second spike in contagion.  Many will find their normal routines disrupted for 6 months or more.

What might these changes mean?  Who are the economic winners and losers?  Here are some thoughts on how things might have already changed.

Economic winners

  • Whether for streaming media or working from home, we have all become super dependent on our broadband.  Companies often have duel supply for such a critical service.  It is reasonable to assume some households may do the same and that suppliers will start to provide emergency callout services as happens with many utilities today.
  • At one end of the broadband connection is the single point failure in many homes of the laptop or home PC.  Expect sales of small inexpensive thin client technology to go up as people require some home redundancy and capability for multiple users.  Companies have already been moving to ‘the cloud’ for providing services for customers and staff.  As it becomes apparent more of the staff are themselves in the cloud rather than the office these services will further take off.
  • Without the commute or as much international travel people expect to be ‘always on’.  This was already happening as more buses, trains, cars, and airplanes have network connectivity, and WiFi, expect this to intensify, and telecoms companies to benefit.
  • Also already happening was the move from the shopping centre to Amazon delivery.  This will only accelerate.  Many people like shopping and will no doubt rush back once the shops are open again, but will they spend much?  Will they make up for the many spending more conveniently online?  Amazon, other delivery services and delivery jobs are bound to grow.
  • Lots of people are facing and will face real economic hardship from this period.  Too few people and businesses have emergency savings to survive even the smallest setback.  In time, as people re-find work and as they can, expect more people to save more for a rainy day.
  • All high streets will be devastated with lost shops.  Pubs and restaurants may initially boom, but then struggle with the debts of the period of lockdown.  However in the medium to long term as more people work from home, as people rediscover their local shops, local high streets may do well.  A day working from home is greatly brightened by popping to see a friendly face in a local store.

Economic losers

  • If your workforce can operate from home why would companies pay for the upkeep of massive city centre offices?  Some offices are still needed.  There is no substitute for face to face meetings, but these could accommodate say 10-15% of your workforce not the 90-100% they do today.
  • The long term trend has been to move spending from products to experiences.  People want fewer physical items and more memories.  The lockdown has made many realise what really matters in life, and it isn’t things.  Between fear of further economic uncertainty, changing habits and economic suffering, consumerism could be on a steep decline.
  • Town centre shopping is on the decline.  Fewer big shopping centres are being built, people have fewer reasons to visit them.  With more people working from home, a move from products  to experiences, and economic uncertainty town centre shopping will continue to suffer.  In the same way the department store and supermarkets changed the shopping experience in the past, someone will need to reimagine the whole shopping experience to get people out to revive these centres.
  • More working from home, more people avoiding the commute.  How many will travel abroad or even far from home if they are worried about another shutdown of travel or period of confinement?  Travel, be it commuting or further afield is likely to decrease for some time to come.

At first glance more savings and less consumerism might look like positive outcomes, but our economy requires people to spend money to create jobs.  More savings means more supply or even an oversupply of money needing a home, and it is likely to be lent badly.  Some rebalancing is a good thing but ideally in moderation.

“Net Zero emission targets were economy killers before Covid-19, they won’t help now.  People are already changing their habits, with more working from home.  Carbon emissions are already falling and are likely to stay lower.  We will be in an economic slump, government should avoid making things worse with more punitive changes”

Avoid making things worse

The first step to recovery must be to avoid making things worse.  Net Zero emission targets were economy killers before Covid-19, they won’t help now.  People are already changing their habits, with more working from home.  Carbon emissions are already falling and are likely to stay lower.  We will be in an economic slump, government should avoid making things worse with more punitive changes.  The other reason to delay implementation of Net Zero targets is whilst people may choose to change their habits, after a few months of lockdown they will resent and likely rebel against being forced to change their habits.

Every year governments like to introduce more regulations and laws.  A few of the new laws for 2020 can be found here.  Many are good laws, no doubt all done with the best intentions, but stop, hold fire don’t do any more.  We have already seen further implementation of IR35 delayed.  Scrap it, and scrap any more bright ideas for the next couple of years.  Whilst we’re at it many government processes and regulations will have been streamlined or just removed to get vital products to the front line.  Keep them streamline, don’t revert, if the new processes are good enough for a pandemic they are good enough at all times.  Let businesses have a period of a freer environment, without the dead hand of the bureaucrat crashing down on them.

Enable opportunities don’t force change

Many people will struggle with mental health issues being cooped up.  Many will lose a business they have spent many years building, many more will lose their jobs.  People are broadly accepting the need to socially distance, although we saw a quick backlash to some initial heavy handedness from the police.  People will quickly resent the government trying to force the pace of change.

Many a public health civil servant will see the pub closures as a chance to change habits, many in Treasury will like the tighter control they have on the economy.  Many will think command economics work.  This needs to be resisted.  People and businesses will respond to light touch incentives and likely push back on heavy handedness.  I would like government to take next to no action, that may be too much to ask, but government signposting the way rather than forcing change will be the path to recovery.

Reinstate free speech

A huge amount of liberty has been given up during the lockdown.  Government needs to prove that our freedoms are not traveling down a one way street from us to them.  Health advice will dictate timelines for the returning of many basic rights.  But government could do more and do it now.  The Public Order Act 1986, The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 all impose restrictions on our speech.

Hate speech is wrong, people shouldn’t aim to insult others based on immutable characteristics but likewise government shouldn’t legislate against our most fundamental right to free speech.  Repealing these more egregious parts of these and other laws will send a message, freedom matters.  That message is important in itself, it’s important for the confidence of the nation, and a nation of clear and limited laws will encourage investment to rebuild our economy.

“Build toll roads, railways, bridges, ports funded by and with profits to the private sector.  As a result of private risk taking, better more effective projects are likely to be chosen”

Build, build, build, toll roads

The Conservative victory at the 2019 election had manifesto commitments to significant infrastructure investment.  The massive cost of the Covid-19 emergency and the reduced tax base will make further borrowing difficult.  But investment can still come and it can come in the form it always should have, from the private sector.  Build toll roads, railways, bridges, ports funded by and with profits to the private sector.  As a result of private risk taking, better more effective projects are likely to be chosen.  If some support is needed cheap borrowing could come from publicly backed bond schemes, which provide a route to encourage and soak up savings.  It also provides for a sense of everyone ‘doing their bit’.  We get the infrastructure we need and the user of it rightly pays.

Free ports

The government has already announced a consultation on Freeports.  The freeports would have different customs rules than the rest of the country, act as innovative hubs, boost trade, and generate employment opportunities in some of our most deprived communities.  Global trade is likely to reduce as a result of the pandemic.  Anything to increase trade is to be welcomed.  Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of delivering on these plans.

Supply chain sourcing, with a UK mix

In the US we already are seeing a reluctance to buy goods marked ‘Made in China’.  We have already seen French border guards impound trucks with face masks bound for Britain and India limit medicine exports.  Expect economic protectionism to return often directed by consumers rather than governments.

Many companies are now seeing the perils of long supply chains, and our national security is at risk if much needed medical supplies can only be sourced from abroad.  Lots of companies will naturally look to move more of their supply chain into the UK.  It may be prudent for government to work with suppliers to ensure some key industries source, at least in part, from the UK, or for the government to source from the UK for key items.

Manufacturing closer to home

If supply chains are likely to want to move onshore we need to make manufacturing cheaper.  The US saw a massive boom in manufacturing when energy prices dropped as a result of Shale Gas.  World energy prices are in steep decline, government should reduce taxes to ensure more of this is passed onto the end user.

The Annual Investment Allowance is used to deduct the cost of plant and machinery equipment.  The maximum deduction has already increased from £200,000 to £1,000,000 for 2020.  This is great news, but frankly why stop there?  Let’s see a real commitment by making a permanent increase of say £10,000,000 to really bring back manufacturing to our shores.

Support the high street

The  chancellor had announced a business rate holiday for retail and leisure firms.  This will bring relief during this period, rates are a problem but government’s long term options to reduce tax when they have a massive deficit are limited.  Reducing duty on alcohol in pubs could actually increase the tax take as it keeps business afloat and pubs act a magnets for their local high street.

With the ease of online deliveries, going shopping needs to be about more than just procuring goods and services, it needs to be an experience.  Travel to the US, Canada or Australia, and it’s much more common for bars, restaurants and shops to offer free WiFi.  Government through tax breaks, councils through helping to organise, and granting planning permission, can assist high streets and local business districts to provide publicly available free WiFi.  Give people a reason to stay, browse and buy, let them stay online and connected.

After the lockdown one practically free solution could be to encourage or better still instruct councils to provide 3 or more hours of free or cheap parking for all local high streets.  Stop the relentless drive to stop people driving to the shops, stop punishing people for wanting to park up and use local facilities.  Even use tax breaks to encourage private enterprise to set-up car parks.  Let people get to the high street so they can support their local community.

“It would be sensible for the government to make the capital spend on creating and possibly warehousing a significantly increased surge capacity in ICU equipment.  The equipment won’t be needed immediately, and can be placed on a longer procurement timeline with British businesses thereby securing many jobs”

Heightened health service surge capacity

We are likely to see a long tail to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Governments are warning of further peaks in new cases and possible further lockdowns.  It is likely in future years we will see calls for social  distancing in bad flu seasons.  We will also likely see ongoing greater scrutiny of available health care capacity.  At the start of the crisis the UK had a low per capita ICU bed capacity.  The capacity in normal times matters less than the ability to surge it.  It would be sensible for the government to make the capital spend on creating and possibly warehousing a significantly increased surge capacity in ICU equipment.  The equipment won’t be needed immediately, and can be placed on a longer procurement timeline with British businesses thereby securing many jobs.

We would also need staff for these facilities.  We have seen a nation respond to the great work of the NHS.  Let’s encourage something similar to the Territorial Army and help organizations like the St John’s Ambulance expand so we have more medically trained people who are ready to step into or backfill for others staffing these positions.

Tourism and travel

Airlines are on the brink, airports are shutdown, the rail franchises have been effectively nationalised.  People will be in the habit of commuting less.  People will be worried about overseas travel while Covid-19 still threatens the globe, and people will have discovered how simple and effective video and audio conferences can be.

How can people be encouraged back out?  Being at home people will become used to being always on.  Get buses, trains, airplanes, bus depots, railways stations, and airports flooded with free WiFi.  Make the traveling experience easier make it less of a chore and let people answer emails or stream a movie whilst travelling.  Government can again make tax breaks available for this.

As part of returning the rail franchises to private ownership government should look to remove barriers to providing more carriages on the railways.  Make the travel experience better, we expect to be crowded for a short commute in rush hour, there is no good reason why a long distance Sunday train ride packs people in like sardines.

As has been said before scope for reduction of taxes will likely be limited.  However charging punitive Air Passenger Duty when few people are traveling is counterproductive.  Sweeping cuts until the industry is back up and running will likely bring in more tax revenue than it costs.

A quick google of a few major airports in the UK and most offer no smoking facilities once airside.  Approximately 15% of people in the UK still smoke.  It  might be very bad for you, but freedom is the freedom to make bad choices.  Given people can be airside for up to 3 hours before a long flight, it is reasonable to offer smoking rooms, enclosed, well ventilated and away from non-smokers.  A small change in the law is needed, and government could encourage a set of people put off flying back to our airports.

5G and 4G for that matter

It is unlikely the prospect of Huawei equipment running our 5G network will be greeted with more glee now than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.  This will inevitably slow down the rollout of 5G in the UK, but government can help nudge it forward.  More tax breaks, grants, and sped up planning permission will all help.  We shouldn’t forget how good 4G is (it’s what most of us use now), and how much of the country has poor coverage.  Government can again work with providers to help provide greater coverage to rural and even some suburban communities.  Coverage will enable more people to work productively in their home or local communities, help us in the event of a further shutdown and help build productivity outside of London and the South East.

What’s next

We may have a long way to go, and things will change, but we need to get thinking about the future.  Relatively small amounts of government intervention can enable the private sector to grow and embrace the new future.  More home working with less commuting and a little help to build local high streets can go a long way.  Changes to procurement patterns can with a little help be a great opportunity for domestic manufacturing.  Make travel a little easier and encourage people back out.  With restrictions on government borrowing let’s get the private sector to develop the infrastructure of tomorrow.  And after a period of suppressed freedom, let’s go further than reinstating the rights lost at the start of the pandemic, let’s take dramatic steps to making us a truly free country once again.