Browse > Home / Archive by category 'Uncategorized'

| Subcribe via RSS



Pro-Homelessness Group Funded By Big Tobacco

By Sara Scarlett
March 14th, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Comments Off on Pro-Homelessness Group Funded By Big Tobacco | Posted in Housing, Uncategorized

Today, in a spat over a letter sent to the Observer by Chief NIMBY Shaun Spiers, of the rapacious pro-homelessness campaign group, CPRE, it was revealed that the CPRE is funded by big tobacco, a number of trusts, an anonymous trust, and host of anonymous donors.

This news was greated somewhat more charitably by IEA scholars than I imagine the accusatory Shaun Spiers would have taken the news had it been the other way around.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 22.49.30

In a somewhat pityful follow-up blog post, NIMBY High Wizard Shaun Spiers, explains CPRE funding, though did not reveal who the pro-homelessness group’s large anonymous donors were. The IEA also reveals the trusts who give it money but not the individual donors making it somewhat similar in transparency to the CPRE in this respect.

Regardless of their funding, the policies adovocated by the CPRE continue to contribute to the shortage of housing, misery, and homelessness which is currently plaguing my generation. They are a national disgrace.

'

The Postman Never Rings Twice . . . Reflections on the Future of the UK Postal Sector

By admin
February 20th, 2016 at 11:49 am | Comments Off on The Postman Never Rings Twice . . . Reflections on the Future of the UK Postal Sector | Posted in Uncategorized

Guest Post

Apparently, many moons ago, the postman used to knock on the door when he put the mail through the letterbox. Maybe in the USA it was a ring of the bell instead, which might explain the inspiration behind the title of the 1946 classic film-noir, starring the late John Garfield.

All that has long changed and further change is coming. Technology is advancing to a point where the daily sight of a Royal Mail delivery worker might be something we remember with fondness but rarely witness.

Following privatisation, the UK’s oldest, (and for a long time the monopoly) postal body, has struggled to adapt.

The mail that for so long was carried in the delivery satchel now increasingly arrives via the junk mail section of our inbox.

Those big customers who once exclusively used Royal Mail sorting offices to process their postings, often now present them presorted for onward transportation to delivery depots, cutting out the middle man.

Royal Mail’s core business of processing and delivering letter mail is in terminal decline.

Below I examine the current state of play in the UK postal sector and make suggestions for reform.

1. Royal Mail Today

Royal Mail had already gone through periods of significant change prior to its privatisation. The move to a single daily delivery and reduction in mail processing centres being two of the most significant.

The sell off, at what turned out to be an undervalued share price, gave investors looking to make a quick buck an opportunity, but for those wanting something longer term the situation is a bit more problematic.

Further rationalisation is unlikely given the cuts already made and costs remain high.

The postal union CWU has so far been able to frighten the RM board that it might strike if their demands aren’t met, resulting in above inflation pay increases and retention of generous redundancy terms.

Senior management appear to be shocked by their new environment . . Yes, they have overseen an increase in parcel traffic, but the decision by Amazon to use their own delivery force is a blow.

Their response has been to portray the Universal Service Obligation (USO) as a hindrance and complaints to the regulator that they (RM) are being treated unfairly.

2. The Competition

The competition in parcels is pretty long established. Royal Mail’s parcel division has operated in a deregulated market for many years and they are claiming some growth.

This is difficult to verify given their unreliable internal recording procedures.

However, the aforementioned decision by Amazon to facilitate their own deliveries is causing them problems.

Royal Mail are also behind on technology and customer service.

Many of their competitors deliver seven days a week, attempt redelivery, and provide detailed information via email to customers on their purchases.

When it comes to door to door delivery of letter mail, the regulator, OFCOM, is required by the Postal Services Act to protect the USO and promote competition.

The only competitor to emerge so far is Whistl who had started a delivery service in a few major cities, only to abruptly cancel operations quoting a lack of investment.

As for the USO, the regulator is often being told by Royal Mail that it is a burden on them as a business with mail volumes continuing to fall.

Given current trends it (the USO) is not likely to be sustainable in its current form.

3. The Universal Service Obligation

The USO has to change and quickly. The review outlined in the Postal Services Act scheduled for 2021 is too far off and needs to be brought forward as soon as possible.

The obvious first step would be to move immediately from a six day delivery and collection service requirement to five.

Saturday deliveries are largely unwanted by business customers (many of whom are closed at weekends) and residential addresses are unlikely to be unduly concerned.

Premium services like special delivery could be offered across the weekend to replace the USO requirement.

This change would enable Royal Mail to become more efficient by reducing headcount and also make it easier for them to compete in the parcel market.

Once these changes had bedded in, further annual reviews could take place to consider whether there needs to be any further reductions in the USO requirement.

4. Pricing

Currently the regulator has a fairly high degree of control over pricing. Royal Mail is unable to raise stamp prices without permission from OFCOM and companies using DA can request regulatory involvement to decide pricing for access to the Royal Mail network.

The latter is a necessary evil given Royal Mail’s near monopoly of the sorting and delivery infrastructure, but there is no good business reason for the regulator to control the price of standard postage.

This should cease with RM being allowed to set their own stamp prices just like any other business would for one of its main services.

5. Downstream Access

Downstream Access, the process whereby customers can access the mail centre network directly, is fairly well established having been introduced in 2003.

In the past Royal Mail has resisted any moves to allow customers direct access to their delivery offices.

There is simply no logical commercial reason for this. Access to DO’s should be allowed without delay.

Regulatory oversight of access prices would have to remain in the short term, to prevent Royal Mail abusing its monopoly position.

6. Ofcom

The Postal Services Act transferred regulatory responsibility from the largely ineffective PostComm to Ofcom.

Regulators and markets don’t really go together, but in a situation where a public monopoly is privatised they are probably a necessary evil.

In the UK postal sector the competive area i.e. parcels, is growing, while the old monopoly in letter delivery is declining rapidly.

This could and should enable government to reduce the role of Ofcom as already outlined above, saving the taxpayer money.

7. The Political Dimension

Politicians are not by nature very bold or forward thinking. This is particularly true in the field of postal services, where nostalgia, campaigns by unions and opposition parties, always feature if there are any hints at further liberalisation.

The fact is changes will have to come because the status quo is unsustainable.

If this does not happen in a planned way, then it will happen by stealth. There is already some evidence that Royal Mail is failing to provide a delivery to every UK address six days a week.

The regulator hasn’t spotted this because the task of checking is massive and way beyond their

capabilities.

Politicians, and in particular, the current government, need to act fast.

In Conclusion

The question on whether Royal Mail should be in the public or private sector was settled when privatisation was finally completed during the latter half of the last Parliament.

This followed twenty years of uncertainty in which both Conservative and Labour government announced legislation, only to later abandon it.

Things cannot be allowed to stand still, and the measures proposed here are designed to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Further liberalisation of the UK postal sector is not only desirable, it is essential given the pace of change ahead.

David Warren spent more than 25 years working in the Royal Mail and is now the Managing Director of his own consultancy company.

“Safe Spaces” Make Us Unsafe

By Sara Scarlett
December 5th, 2015 at 3:49 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

The defenders of so called “safe spaces” have reached a tedious impasse. So strident in their position that they should be spared being exposed to any views that they find mildly uncomfortable that some have gone so far as to threaten individuals who defy them with *actual* violence.

Not only do “safe spaces” render the whole point of Universities null and void but I doubt their effectiveness. I was brought up in the Middle East and in my early teens I was exposed to some very un-PC views in my mandatory Islamic Studies classes. I was a mild homophobe in my late teens and quite “small-c” conservative. Until University I had never met an openly gay person.

Yet as an adult I am neither a homophobe, a transphobe, a sexist, nor a racist. Being exposed to challenging view points and enlightenment values changed my mind. Until I was challenged I didn’t know that I was wrong. It didn’t take very long for that change to happen. Enlightenment values defeated the superstition and totalitarianism of feudalism and theocracy in Europe by consistently questioning the pre-existing orthodoxy.

To shut down the voices of those with un-PC views is a direct attack on Enlightenment principles. Enlightenment values are under sustained attack in overt ways all around the world. The fact that the “safe space” phenomenon is happening in supposed bastions of eduation and enlightenment, Universities and Schools, makes the situation even more disheartening.

What’s more worrying, however, is that this phenomenom may mean we are weaker against more overt attacks on Enlightenment values. “Safe spaces” may result in creating a generation of people who are less apt at challenging and defeating bigoted views. Ergo, if your goal is to rid the world of intolerance, ignorance and bigotry, so called “safe spaces” may create the very world you have sought to eradicate.

Corbyn’s Conversations Are Not Statecraft

By Editor
November 23rd, 2015 at 11:24 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Judging from the social media and blog feeds over the weekend. There is a Momentum campaign in operation to try and paint attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s unconvincing posturing as a vast media conspiracy. Even the BBC is being roped into the usual anti-Daily Mail and Murdoch rants as ‘wilfully not seeing, as the public does, the deep integrity and morality behind his position’.

The problem for this analysis, is that the public largely does see Corbyn for what it is, and they don’t much care for it. While many people have deep and sincere concerns about military ventures in far-off lands. And deep suspicions about the need for action, particularly as articulated by Government. They can also see Islamic State for what it is, and accept ‘no action’ in Syria has not been a wild success for peace and security, either here or in the region. People are dying either way, and the long and bloody Syrian civil war shows no sign of concluding soon.

They expect their wannabe Leaders to have a clear position on such things, backed up by a credible plan. Not beard-stroking incoherence, or a sense that whatever the Government does, he is against it, while having no Plan B.

Corbyn is not a liberal pacifist. Largely he’s an observer and oppositionalist on matters of state. He correctly sees the resolution of most conflicts as being based on dialogue not bombs. But incorrectly presumes that dialogue is always an option. Or an option right now. It should be self-evident but apparently isn’t to him that a death cult, with a moral vision based on bringing about a final conflict between civilisations is not a prime candidate for having a chat. If there is any prospect of that whatsoever it will require a radical change of vision, leadership and personnel in IS. This in turn will largely require beating them militarily. Some people do just want to kill you. And will if you let them.

However the even less attractive aspect of Corbyn’s statecraft is the manner he which does engage in dialogue when he can. His relationship with the IRA at the height of the Troubles was not admirable. Rather than coming across as the work of a sincere peacemaker, ahead of his time, he seemed to be wallowing in the association with those who would slaughter his political opponents at home. Feeding on grievances, not resolving them.

With Hamas, there is a line between a sincere desire to defend the rights of Palestinians – by questioning the decisions of the Israeli state. And apologism for acts of murderous aggression against Israeli citizens – by ignoring or excusing them. It is hard to see how the thinly veiled anti-Semitism of his fellow-travellers on the hard Left – or their aggressive relativism against Israel, is the former, not the latter. Hatred and wilful ignorance of one side’s concerns is a poor catalyst for facilitating peace.

And so it goes on. Corbyn’s preference is to be the man sitting on the sidelines preaching about how everyone else made mistakes, and how much better life would be if only some utopian peace plan had been allowed to succeed. That and pretending to be neutral while actually being ruthlessly partisan. That preference is not compatible with a job application to run the affairs of a member of the UN Security Council.

British Prime Ministers have to take tough decisions, often without any path being clear or right, and live with the consequences. They cannot just hope for a better conversation. The public can see that. Many Labour MPs can see that. The question is how long it will take Labour’s new intake to reach the same conclusion.

LDV Comment Section Winner

By Sara Scarlett
November 17th, 2015 at 8:50 am | Comments Off on LDV Comment Section Winner | Posted in Uncategorized

Usually blog comment sections are a place where nobody wins. I have decided to make an exception… The winner of the LDV comments section as far as I’m concerned is Rob:

Chris Rennard is to the Lib Dems what Lance Armstrong is to cycling. He is an embarrassment to the Liberal Democrats and his continued involvement demeans the party.

For people saying that Lord Rennard has been found not guilty, you are incorrect. The Lib Dems are not a judicial institution so the Guilty/Not Guilty analogy is an inappropriate comparison to make. The burden of proof (which for a non judicial institution was ludicrously high) was not met, but Alisdair Webber said the complaints were “broadly credible”. In most of other institutions this would have been more than enough for expulsion. Sadly our disciplinary processes were not up to scratch (a fact that pretty much everyone on all sides accepts). This has left the party in a difficult position. Especially since Lord Rennard has only offered a pretty substandard apology.

For those saying we should respect the democracy of the Lords in holding a properly constituted election, I say the Lords should accept the properly constituted decision of a greater number of members who disagree with their decision. This matter can be resolved by Lord Rennard standing down from the FE.

As a party we must do all we can to make sure that the Liberal Democrats is a safe place for women. The involvement of Lord Rennard in the internal running of the party would send a message that runs contrary to this vital responsibility.

This issue has been rumbling on for years and I am sick and tired of the party losing good and longstanding members who feel, understandably that they cannot remain in a party that commits to protecting women from sexual harassment publically, while apparently failing to act on credible allegations internally.

We must now act to deal with this issue. And this is the Ideal time to deal with this matter. The media pretty much pay no attention to us, we are 4 and half years from a General Election and most of the public are ignoring politics post General Election. If we don’t take actions now it could explode again as an issue during say an important and winnable by-election.

We spent five years in Government making compromises and look where it got us, we can’t afford to make compromises with regards to gender equality, its what we preach, it’s what we stand for and it is not good enough not to have our own house in order over this matter.