1. A Very Grateful “Thank You!”

I do not know how many “Gratefuls” make a “Thank You!” or how many “Thank Yous!” make a “Grateful.” What I do know is that I am once again deeply indebted to all ward residents who supported me in my third successful bid to be re-elected as a councillor at both Town and County Council levels on May 4th of this year.


In May and June, the electorate indicated its opinions and expressed its hopes and concerns. We shall see, as time passes, just how much notice is taken by the major parties involved, at town, at county and at national levels. At Town Council level, we now have 20 councillors against the 18 of previous years, with a smattering of newcomers, while at County level, 20 new faces have appeared out of the total of 70.


In my last newsletter at the beginning of the year, I did state, “Just how 2017 will work out for the majority of us in this great nation is difficult to predict. With the assorted uncertainties of Climate Change, the Brexit process, President Trump’s future policies, local elections and threats of fanatical religious terrorism extant, it will certainly be a lively one, in which all of us are likely to be called upon to play our part, greater or lesser.”


Those words were written of course long before Theresa May forgot the age-old wisdom about “A bird in the hand” and decided to venture forth into a seemingly un-necessary general election campaign. I have no doubt that the ill-advised lady has now joined the countless ranks of those eminent persons, which I did mention in my last newsletter, who have in past years, muttered, somewhat ruefully, after the event, “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
They were also written before the horrendous terrorist attacks in Manchester and London or the awful tower block fire in Kensington.

Our hopes and prayers must be that we see no more of such things as months go by.

 

2. Within The Ward:

(1) At Town Council level, there was no ward election on 4th May, because, with five seats up for grabs, only five persons put in applications to stand as candidates, meaning we were all returned, unopposed. At that level, the ward is now represented by Vivienne Blondek, (Labour), Julia Jones, (Independent), John Thornton, (Independent) and by Richard Jones and myself, both members of the Independent Alliance group at county level. In the County Council contest, it was Richard Jones and I who topped the polls for the two seats available.


Both being members of the same group and able to work together when the weight of two voices is needed is, in my opinion, of benefit for the ward.


(2) The Buckley Fun Day on 21st of May was another successful one and I am sure my fellow town councillors would join me in thanking everyone, from the ward, the town and from elsewhere, who took time to attend and support the event, one way and another. When classic car enthusiasts are willing to travel, year on year, from as far away as Nottingham, because, as they told me, our event is well-organised and the Buckley people are among the most interested and friendly they encounter anywhere, that is high praise indeed. That the event was a success is evidenced not only by the number of people who attended, but by the fact that the traders, stallholders and car enthusiasts all want to return next year.


(3) Richard Jones and I both hope that the new double yellow lines and car parking facilities on Brook Street at its junctions with Chester Road, Jubilee Road and Spon Green have made the area safer and easier to motor through. By the time this newsletter is distributed, the work on up-grading the old play area for children at Prince of Wales Court should have been concluded, in time for the school holidays. To families who might wish to use the play areas in the ward, but find them unsafe because of any broken equipment, or because unthinking persons have soiled them with litter or broken glass, please contact Richard, or me, or go directly to Streetscene Services at county hall, 01352 701234 during working hours, or 01352 752121 after hours, because staff are available at short notice, to put matters right.


(4) The long-awaited Vehicle Control Order on the Precinct Carpark, is, as I start to compile this latest newsletter, open for consultation, until 13th July, which date will have well passed by the time you, dear reader, get to read this material. Suffice to say that the order attempts to prevent the kind of late night/early morning hours activity and noise from cars and their enthusiastic owners, on the Precinct carpark, which has been a source of irritation, annoyance and disturbed sleeping, for houses around that location, for far too long. After that closure date, any objections will be considered by the county authority, before the Order is finalised and, in its final form, published, with advice of the date for the commencement of it. The real test of effectiveness of the Order will, of course, depend upon enforcement. On that score, time alone will tell.


(5) Edwards Homes have been granted Planning Permission to build their 14 new houses on the land between the disused Budgens Store and Manor Drive, with access from Jubilee Road. I have represented for some Section 106 money from that new estate to be used to create either a pedestrian refuge island on Jubilee Road, or another pedestrian crossing between that estate’s entrance and the junction with Precinct Way. Just how fast building work on the new estate will start and when the project will be up, running and fully occupied, is entirely dependent upon Edwards Homes.


(6) Mention of the now dis-used Budgens Store raises the question of what will be the future of that location? Presently, all that we councillors are aware of is that Messrs PriceWaterhouseCoopers are still handling the liquidation of the dozen or so defunct Budgens stores around the UK. In the current retail climate, it is unlikely that any Big-Name Retailer will step forwards to buy up the entire dozen or so stores, as a whole. More likely is a location-by-location disposal of the individual sites. Just how far PWC are along the road to a successful disposal, one way or another, we councillors have no idea.


(7) Watch out also for the appearance of a Totem-Pole type of advertising display by the entrance to the Precinct Carpark. It will carry advertising/information about what shops and services are available within the Precinct.


(8) We have also been advised by North Wales Police that, over the summer months, they intend to close, empty and sell off the currently un-staffed Buckley Police Station building, next door to the Town Council Building. The police officers and vehicles currently using that location will be re-located within the Buckley Fire Station building, adjacent to the Tivoli Night Club, in Bistre East Ward.


(9) Dotted around the ward, some associated with council owned accommodation, there are certain car parking areas which have no charges. Nearby residents who work away and use their vehicles daily, but need parking place overnight, have complained to me that they cannot find anywhere off-road to park, because certain vehicles seem to have been dumped permanently on the free car parks, which are full overnight.


Having received several such complaints, I bothered to circulate, late one evening recently to record the vehicle registration numbers of those apparently parking overnight on the car parks involved. A few minutes on my computer, checking the DVLA data, revealed that several of them do not have any current vehicle tax, that a number are without current MOT certificates and therefor without current insurance and a couple were actually registered as SORN.


Owners of such vehicles – and you will know who you are - please take note that some of those car parks fall within the definition of a public road. It is not wise for your cars to be there, because you are liable to collect a painfully heavy fine if this basically anti-social behaviour continues to be drawn to my notice and the matter reaches the point where North Wales Police are needed to be called in. If your SORN or otherwise “illegal on the road” vehicle is on one of those, kindly legalise the vehicles, please, or if they are irreparably incapable of passing an MOT examination, scrap them.

 

3. Around Buckley:

1) The High Street. The hottest conversational potato, locally, is the matter of whether the High Street should remain as it is, pedestrianised and closed to general traffic during much of the day, or be returned to a full-blown vehicle roadway, open to all traffic at all hours. I have been a resident of the town since 1988 and a Town Councillor since 1994. In the six years after that date, I worked with the many long-served and respected town councillors of those years, some of whom have sadly passed away and others who have retired, to get the town the by-pass, which was then being clamoured for, in order to create the pedestrian-friendly and safe shopping centre which has existed for the past 16 or 17 years. The changes brought about then were made to implement the wish of an overwhelming number of Buckley residents at that time.

 

My main concern over the present proposal to de-pedestrianise the High Street is that it should be the voice of Buckley’s residents that guides the decision-makers. To that end, perhaps I should set out that residents within parish and community council areas in England and Wales have the right to call for a “Local Referendum” on any issue such as this item now coming forwards. The procedure seems simple enough and could easily be invoked.

 

Those who are calling for the de-pedestrianisation of the High Street argue that the retailers there need the custom from passing motorists who would park outside, shop and go. I am not at all convinced that the proposals would achieve their intended aim. To me, rather than spend a considerable and, as yet un-quantified amount of public money on making our High Street a highway once again, it would be far more sensible and less costly for our county council if that body were to lift the parking charges on the car park opposite the Spar Shop and limit the permitted stay there to 30 minutes. That would create the desired turnover of traffic and increased number of potential shoppers, without burdening the public purse with the significant cost of de-pedestrianisation of the High Street and returning to the situation which caused the safety and inconvenience problems that existed years ago; all of which created the demand for pedestrianisation of the High Street in the first place.

 

I also reflect upon the situation that the traffic flow problem of the late 1990s pales into insignificance when compared with traffic numbers and potential flow problems of the present times. If any of you who are reading this have views, for or against the proposals now coming forwards, please make your views known, if not to me, then to other councillors and if you, like me, believe the issue should be subjected to a Local Referendum, please let me know that too.

 

2) Something for Nothing!

We are all delighted that the Etna Recycling and Waste Disposal Facility was saved from closure, has been re-vamped and is now being well-used. A small victory for people-powered democracy. However, somehow, the developers who re-shaped the facility managed to miss the fact that there had always been a skip there where compost produced by FCC was available for free, from a container. Having missed that small fact, they made no provision for any such supply to be available in the new facility.
A keen local gardener recently asked the staff at Etna about the absence of compost and was firmly advised that if he wanted a supply he should drive to the Greenfield Depot, where supplies were available. That, as the gentleman pointed out to me, meant it was cheaper and easier to buy commercial compost locally.


Having had the problem put to me, I asked some necessary questions within county hall, which, in true FCC style, went un-answered for a week. I then made some louder noises in the right senior-level ears and received assurances that free supplies of FCC produced compost would be made available at the Etna facility the next day. I duly passed that on to our keen gardener, who went along the next day, only to be told the same story he had been told before. “If you want it, go to Greenfield!” That was relayed to me, so I had a further conversation with Cllr Carolyn Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment, etc., who had a few words with Kevin Edwards, who swiftly provided some assurances, which, I am glad to say, resulted in the missing supply of free FCC compost re-appearing at Etna the following day.


It is presently, early July, in bulk bags, so you will need a bin or bags to fill and a shovel to help progress filling your container(s). Shortly, maybe by the time you read this, because of the popularity of the supply and demand for it, a larger container will re-appear. Whatever, the big thing is, another perhaps small, but important service for gardeners has been kept available at the Etna facility. Keen gardeners, please take full advantage of it; after all, it is not very often that your county council provides you with something for nothing!


Finally, on this point, if you do go there and discover that no compost supply is available, please let me know, the quicker the better.

 

3) Something Missing?

While trying to sort out the compost problem at Etna, I happened to see one of the employees there having an uncomfortably close encounter with a car on the road between the inner level and the outer level gateways. A question brought to my notice that the geniuses who designed the new facility somehow omitted to build into it not only a space for the free compost container which had previously existed for years, but also omitted to build in any stairway(s) which might enable staff to move safely between the two levels without a need to go out of one gateway, onto the road and into the other gateway, with all of that move’s inherent dangers.


I have now raised the issue, on behalf of the employees, with Cllr. Carolyn Thomas and Kevin Edwards, who are now both looking into the matter as an employee safety issue.

 

4) Community SpeedWatch

The small team of civic-minded citizens that I co-ordinate never ceases to be amazed at what we see of driver behaviour as we stand at the side of the road, monitoring traffic speed. Does anyone in the ward, driver or not, really feel that 74mph in a 30mph zone is a lawful, safe and socially responsible speed? I doubt it, but that is the speed which one vehicle registered, recently. In view of criticisms in the press lately, let me re-iterate, the team has no “powers” as such. We do not issue “Tickets”, nor will our activities result in points on any driver’s licence or £s disappearing from their pockets. We are there solely to monitor traffic flow and speeds, to gather information which is passed on to the North Wales Police and the Go-Safe teams.


Is it any wonder that I and other members of our small team are constantly being asked, both by Buckley and more distant residents, if the team can appear in their locality, because people are fed up with worrying whether they are going to be able to drive safely out of their own driveway, because of the excessive speed of vehicles driving past their homes, in daylight and in darkness?


Why should a loving grandmother be scared of presenting her only grandchild with its first bicycle because she would never forgive herself if the youngster were to be killed or injured my some speeding motorist travelling too fast for safety along a quiet urban estate road?


Children under 6 have no speed and distance measuring capability. It has not yet developed, yet we have many of such age, out of doors and rightly taking exercise and enjoying themselves, riding scooters and cycles, often in and out of parked cars. Older people, of which we have many in our community, no longer have the perfect eyesight or the nimbleness of foot that was theirs when younger. Many of them are only able to get out from home and about within the town, by using walking aids or mobility scooters, often on the tarmac roads and good luck to them for doing so.


Each of those groups and others, should be able to feel safe when outside of their homes, but that safety is constantly being threatened by those whose selfish and thoughtless driving flouts the written speed laws and the un-written laws of social responsibility. It would do many speeding vehicle drivers good to reflect that while they can easily increase the speed of their cars, vans and lorries, by pushing down on a foot-pedal, they cannot shorten their natural reaction time, nor shorten the braking distances needed at the higher speed.


For those ward residents who have received polite but cautionary letters from North Wales Police, generated as a result of CSW activities, please be grateful it was CSW and not GoSafe that you encountered. Finally, for the great majority of vehicle drivers in the ward or elsewhere, who have passed us at the roadside, probably time and time again, without us needing to start scribbling, thank you for being law-abiding and socially responsible. You are the glue that cements communities together, unlike the selfish speedster element who foul-mouth and criticise us, at the roadside, on face-book, or in the newspapers.

 

5) A Community Bandstand?

At Town Council, a suggestion has been floated that a Bandstand should be constructed where the car park exists opposite to the present Spar Store on the High Street. The aim being to enable the Royal Buckley Town Band to play there, occasionally, or even regularly. Part of the thinking would be to design the bandstand to replicate certain of the town’s historic industrial heritage. Without any guarantee that it will happen, your council agreed, on 27th June, 2017, that the possibility should be looked into by our town manager.

 

Accordingly, Andy White, our Town Centre Manager is now tasked to look into the matter and report back, in due course.

 

6) A Pay-As-You-Feel Café?

PAYF is a charitable activity, run by volunteers, all of whom are dismayed and concerned at the habit of the nation’s big-name retailers of simply binning perfectly good food because it has reached some nebulous and hardly sensible “Sell-by” or “Best Before” date. Marks & Spencer and other responsible super-stores have agreed to provide the charity with consumables that they feel they no longer wish to display on their shelves, but which are perfectly edible despite that. Such a café operates well in Chester and the organisers now have an agreement with your Town Council to operate from one of the empty offices above the Old Baths Building. There are no fixed prices on the goods on offer. Instead you are invited to hand over what you feel the consumables are worth to you, according to affordability. I first encountered the activity when the Chester team appeared, running a stall at the last Buckley Fun Day. I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed by the activity.


There will be a Grand Opening Day at the Buckley Town Hall location on Sunday, 13th August, starting at 11:00 a.m. and continuing until 1:00 p.m.


Full details of their days and hours of opening in future will be available then.

 

7) Retail Activities in Buckley

It is no use the local Facebook or Newspaper Letter enthusiasts clamouring that the decline in the town’s retail offer is all the fault of the Town’s Councillors, or those town councillors who are, like me, also County Councillors. I need to remind readers that Town Councillors, in their formal civic duty role, which is carefully outlined and constrained by legislation, are neither developers, entrepreneurs, nor venture capitalists. Apart from the Town Hall Building, its carpark and Coronation Gardens, your Town Council possesses no land or buildings at all.


Your Councillors cannot, as if by magic, increase the figures of footfall or the value of personal spend in the town’s Precinct, or along the High Street. Nor can we control the value of the British £ which makes imported goods cheaper or more expensive, depending on whether it is rising or falling. Footfall and spend are the prerogative of each of us individually.


Similarly, us Town Councillors cannot fix the level of rent for any existing or prospective retail outlet. Nor can we, apart from making reasonable protests to the District Valuator in Wrexham, set the level of Business Rates for any commercial activity. With limited footfall, high rents and the highest level of business rates in Flintshire, Buckley is simply not the most attractive town in in the county, in retail or commercial start-up terms. That does not mean that if the right, attractive, kind of retail offer appears, local people will not become customers, because they will. Take Aldi as the example on that point.


Unfortunately, at the end of June, we saw the closure of Stems, the florists. That regrettable closure was not caused by anything that the Town or County Councils did or failed to do. I understand that it had a lot to do with the increasing costs of importing flowers, due to the weakness of the British £. Against that, we see that our Opticians, previously located in the Precinct have made the move to the previous Barclays Bank building, to provide a presence actually on the High Street. I am sure we all wish them a successful re-location.

 

8) Christmas Lights 2017

Time to reach for your diaries for this year, please, folks. It has been decided, for several sound and sensible reasons, that the Christmas Lights in Buckley will be switched on, upon the evening of Saturday, 25th November this year. Your councillors hope that this will enable those who work during the week to be a little less rushed than they have been in past years of lighting-up on a weekday. Santa will be present of course, with other entertainments, to get Buckley’s Christmas and New Year period off to a great start. Do come along to be part of the fun – and don’t forget to bring your children!

 

9) Next Year’s Fun Day

An early marker for your 2018 diaries please. Buckley’s Annual Fun Day for 2018 will take place on Sunday, 20th May of next year. Keep fingers crossed for another dry day and do come along to join in the entertainment and general merriment.

10) The Old Baths Building Project

Cllr.Mike Peers has advised me that he and fellow councillors, who are the Directors of the company created to hopefully convert the building into a multi-purposes hall as a community asset for the town and area, are still negotiating with the Charity Commissioners over obtaining charitable registration for the enterprise. Where CADW, some few years back appeared entirely supportive of the intended effort to preserve and utilize the Old Baths Building, that august body now seems less enthusiastic, which is no great help to the Directors in their efforts to attempt to retain the building and turn it into a once-again utilised and valued asset for the town. However, the County Council has now agreed to assist the Directors in putting their case to the Charity Commission. Keep fingers crossed!

 

4) Flintshire:

1) No Change.
As frequently happens, the pollsters and tipsters got it wrong. There was, no “Anti-Corbyn” effect, no sea-change, nor political cataclysm.
In political make-up, Flintshire County Council is, once again controlled by a minority Labour administration, remaining in power only with the support of councillors who were, a few short years ago, in their stated unchanged Independent stance, content to be part of the then Coalition Administration, in opposition to Labour.


As I look back over the event, my personal sadness is over the high number of unopposed seats and the low percentage turnout of voters at Local Government Election level, not only here in Flintshire, but right across the UK.
With something like a minimum £11.7Million cash shortfall in support payments needing to be accounted for in the budget for 2018-19, to meet the legal requirement to balance the budget, there is likely to be more misery to be added upon the woes created by several recent years of staff downsizing and service cut-backs. Strangely, from where I am, I do not see the same level of “economising” being applied at Welsh Assembly and Wales Governmental levels. When I was Leader of council, Flintshire was 19th out of 22 in per capita funding from the Welsh Government. It still is. If this county received even the current average sum of per capita support among the 22 counties, it would be more than £17Million better off.

5) Wales:

1) If there is any figurative jewel in the UK’s crown of Social Provision, it must be the NHS. Regrettably, in recent years the UK Government seems intent on privatising that service, which intention needs firmly opposing, while over here in Wales, under the devolved arrangements for health services, we have seen something less than a robust, adequate and admirable situation.
Much of the problem appears to be caused by the dwindling number of GPs and GP Practices, with individual GPs retiring, or heading off elsewhere, for a less pressurised existence. North Wales has seen practices closing lists, as well as entire practices handing back their existing contracts of service. Along with those items the sheer difficulty of recruiting younger doctors is compounding the problem. Because of that scenario, including the fact that the independent health watchdog for North Wales - the North Wales Community Health Council – has had to be consulted on five different occasions when entire GP practices have given notice that they are surrendering their contracts, the NWCHC has spent a good deal of time and effort in lobbying the Minister for an essential “Free Flow of GP’s Across the Border to North Wales.”


Recently, Geoff Ryall-Harvey, Chief Officer of the North Wales Community Health Council stated, “In 2014, the NWCHC lobbied the then Health Minister to make changes to the system which prevented GPs registered in England from taking up posts in Wales and starting work immediately. In January of 2015, we were pleased to hear that the rules had been changed, to allow GPs based primarily in England, to work in Wales. We were later disappointed to learn however, that those changes have failed to alleviate the problems and continue to be barriers in place, preventing the essential “free-flow” of GPs between England and Wales.”
Mr. Ryall-Harvey went on to explain that, “It is widely known that Wales is facing a GP ‘recruitment crisis.’ We are aware that there exists a large pool of potential locums in the North West of England, who are discouraged from working in North Wales, in part by the ‘registration process’ which they must first complete so that they can work here. For example, consider a GP living in Chester, who might be choosing between locum posts in Blacon (England) and in Saltney (Wales), (which are both about 2,000 yards from the centre of Chester). Such a GP is likely to choose the Blacon job, rather than go through a further bureaucratic form-filling exercise, which would be needed to be completed, to enable him to work in Wales.”


In a recent letter to Vaughan Gethin – Cabinet Secretary for Healtth, Well-being and Sport, Mr. Ryall-Harvey pointed out that, “There is no other profession in the UK that has similar rules enforced upon it. If teachers, lawyers or architects from Wales were not allowed to work freely in England, there would be an outcry on both sides of the border – especially if those professionals were desperately needed. You should also be aware that Welsh doctors who qualified in Welsh Medical Schools, but who are currently registered and working in England, are also prevented from practicing in Wales until they apply to be on the ‘Welsh Performers List.’
If readers wish for more information on this topic, or wish to express their views, they are invited to contact the NWCHC on telephone number 01248 679 284, email them via admin@waleschc.org.uk, or visit their website at, www.bcchc.org.uk.

 

6. A Wee Bit of a Mess?

The mass media tub-thumps daily, that the nation is in a mess. Local conversations often rotate around the mess we are in. The global financial crash of 2007-08 hit us hard. Now the EU is threatening us with a hard time because we dared to Brexit, our national productivity is down; our trade balance is continually in the red; our infrastructure is becoming outdated; our NHS is in difficulties; land and house prices are becoming unaffordable to ordinary working people; the gap between rich and poor is accelerating, our university students are starting working life saddled with astronomical debt and even Mark Carney has now caught up with me by waving a red flag at our levels of personal debt.


Each of those factors, over time, has contributed to the downward spiralling of this nation, culminating in the dreaded “Austerity Measures,” the maintenance of which the current government believes are the key to eventually getting the nation into reverse gear and back on an upward economic spiral.


There appear to be, from my many conversations lately, a commonly- asked double-barrelled question. How the dickens did we get into this mess and how are we going to get out of it? The answer to the first barrel is that it clearly happened in stages, starting with the removal of regulations on overseas investment by former Tory Chancellor Geoffrey Howe in 1979. This was followed in 1986 by what has become known as the ‘Big Bang’, when a raft of restrictive, but stabilizing, old practices in the City of London were swept aside. Shortly after that, foreign banks flooded into the City, gobbling up venerable British minnows such as SG Warburg, Robert Fleming and Schroders. Then came Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who were so keen to keep in with big business that they refused to block any deals — even when the Russians eyed up British Gas. Indeed, anyone — like Alex Brummer, author of a very interesting and informative book, published in 2012, entitled “Britain For Sale: British Companies in Foreign Hands, — who dared question the great British sell-off was instantly labelled a xenophobe, out of touch with the reality of the modern globalised economy.


Alex Brummer’s excellent book was followed, in 2015, by the publication of Michael Hudson’s compellingly well-reasoned book entitled “Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism.”
Once you have digested both of their contents and contentions, a clear picture appears in your mind. The picture is that, for a few decades now, we ordinary people, the 99percenters, have continually been fed the mantra that it is we who need to be personally and nationally burdened, in order save the banks and the financial sector, rather than have government make moves to stabilize and improve the economy.

We must, so we have been told, bail out the banks when they become overly predatory and face collapse, of which the 2007-08 global financial crash was a typical example.


Going all the way back to the Bronze Age, almost every advancing society has realised that the great de-stabilizing force is finance, in the form of DEBT. That is so because debt grows exponentially, enabling creditors to ultimately foreclose on the assets of debtors. Creditors end up reducing societies to debt bondage, as happened when the vast Roman Empire ended in serfdom.
The second barrel can be answered equally readily, if you will kindly permit me to borrow a little Einstein-ism, by suggesting that it is clear we shall not get the problems solved by leaving it to the self-same people who got us into the mess in the first place, which were and still are, the big names and dedicated manifesto policies of all of the three main political parties. Each of which has had enough time in government since 1972 to have seen the light and started to look after the nation, its economy and the residents of it, instead of looking after the interests of banks, pension funds, global hedge-funds, venture capitalists and financial institutions in general.


If you feel that I am crackers, please remember that I have been around, by the grace of God, for a good few years now. I read with concern, at the time, the strategy of Geoffrey Howe, under Margaret Thatcher, to de-regulate the UK banking system. I have also bothered to read the two books mentioned above, which, to my mind, should be compulsory reading for all Britons. It is the sum-total of the information within the two disparate books which carries a really cerebral clout.


As Alex Brummer sets out, just for a moment, imagine being a tourist in search of the full British experience. Where would you start? Well, you might take a sight-seeing trip around London on a red double-decker bus. You’d possibly visit a quintessentially British store, such as Boots the chemist, Selfridges or Harrods, before having a proper English tea at the Savoy, Fortnum & Mason or the Dorchester. You’d almost certainly go home, via a British airport, thinking you’d seen a slice of the real Britain. But, in one sense at least, you would be totally wrong.


That bus you boarded at Trafalgar Square is run by a German company. Boots fell to the Italians in 2007. Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and the Savoy are owned by Canadians; Harrods has been bought by a firm based in Qatar; the Dorchester by one based in Brunei. As for our airports, most of them are now run by a Spanish firm.
Maybe a tourist wouldn’t care all that much, even if he knew. But should we? After all, does it make any real difference if a British company has a foreign master? For the past three decades, the UK has had a completely relaxed attitude about selling off its assets to companies based abroad. Indeed, most of the time, the swallowing up of yet another great British institution barely makes a headline.


As Alex Brummer also sets out, we may be a nation of homeowners, but we’ve lost our taste for ownership of our own economy and public services; from once-great manufacturers such as ICI to most of the companies that deliver our electricity water and gas. Even lately, it has become clear that the Government is happy to consider letting a Russian firm, the one behind the Chernobyl accident, run some of Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations. In fact, to date, we’ve sold off more than half our assets to foreign owners. In the face of political indifference, or maybe collusion, foreign companies acquired £30billion worth of British enterprises in 2009. In 2010, that rose to a value of £54.5 billion. Foreign corporations also currently control 39 per cent of UK patents. This is far more than the percentage of foreign-owned patents in the U.S. (11.8), Japan (3.7) or even the European Union as a whole. (13.7). It is evident that as a nation, we have been asset-stripped and, as a result, seriously set back.


Until we in Britain return a government more interested in the British People and the British Economy, rather than the interests of global Banks and Financial Houses, little is going to change, which appears the way the three main parties want it. Go on, read the two books mentioned above, I dare you!

 

7) Throughout the UK:

Way back in 2014, some genius in central government in Westminster had a flash of inspiration. “I know how we can save £3Million a year for government!” he or she declared boldly. “We have digitalised the annual renewal of vehicle tax so that it can be done conveniently on-line, to save administrative costs. How about we get rid of the paper tax disc completely and save about £3Million a year by doing so?”


“Good idea!” said somebody up the chain in the tea-room, so that was what they did. However, once again, those faceless and nameless civil servants and their elected bosses simply failed to thoroughly think the idea through. The result has been that with no need now to display whether your vehicle is, or is not currently up to date with vehicle excise duty tax, to give it its full name, the penurious and the unscrupulous quickly switched on to the fact that nobody could any longer tell, from a visual glance, whether the vehicle’s VED tax was current or not.


As a result, more and more vehicle owners began simply skipping their legal obligation to pay the VED tax, to the point whereby, the government’s revenue income has, so far, taken a £93Million hit.


Worse still, people are also skipping the cost and trouble of their legally required annual MOT certification, which situation means that even if they have bothered to properly and currently insure their vehicle, it is without insurance cover, if they care to read the small print.


From this little tale, readers will swiftly deduce that the Government needs to bring back the paper tax disc to go on display inside windscreens, or face a continuing and growing loss of income to the exchequer, year on year.

 

8) Meanwhile, over in Italy:

Bearing in mind what you read at item 6 and remembering that in 2015 the EU introduced its “Bail-in” rules to stop banks being “saved” by taxpayer money, readers can be forgiven for wondering at the news that the Italian Government has recently agreed a 17 Billion Euro bank rescue deal.


On 27th June, Vivienne Russel of the Daily Mail reported that, “The Italian government could be required to pay out €17bn following the collapse of two Venice-based banks – Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca. Under a deal agreed recently, the “good” assets of the banks will be transferred to Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s leading retail bank, which is taking them on for just €1.


Guarantees worth €12bn have been given to protect against any unexpected losses. Intesa will also receive €5.2bn from the Italian government to ensure its capital ratios are maintained. The European Commission has approved the measures under its state aid rules but the banks have been liquidised under Italy’s national insolvency procedures, avoiding the imposition of potentially harsher European Union terms.


In a statement, Intesa Sanpaolo said the deal “makes it possible to avoid the serious social consequences that would have otherwise derived from compulsory administrative liquidation proceedings for the two banks”. It added: “This intervention will safeguard the jobs at the banks involved, the savings of around two million households, the activities of around 200,000 businesses financially supported and, therefore, the jobs of three million people in the area which records [Italy’s] highest economic growth rate.” Italy’s economy and finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan said the deal was the best available option. "Those who criticise us should say what a better alternative would have been. I can't see it," he told reporters recently.
Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner for competition policy, said:
“Italy considers that state aid is necessary to avoid an economic disturbance in the Veneto region as a result of the liquidation of BPVI and Veneto Banca, who are exiting the market after a long period of serious financial difficulties.”
Given that barely a year ago the EU Commission was intent on taking to the EU Court some half-dozen countries which had not yet ratified the “Bail-In” arrangements, we now have that self-same EU doing a deal with Italy, in total contravention of their own “Bail-In” rules.

 

9) Finally, over in the “Beyond Belief” Department:

London to Edinburgh by train from Kings Cross can take as long as five hours. A plane journey can set you back by at least an hour and a half (excluding the commute to and from the airport). Well, this could be set to change soon. So, for those who really are believers in the false god Mammon and the mantra that “Time Is Money!” I offer you:-


“The Hyper Chariot”
This particular mode of transport, which looks like a cross between a capsule and a tube with seats, apparently works by launching car-sized pods into airless concrete tubes.


Hyper Chariot’s chief executive told reporters: “We are aiming to create nothing less than space travel on Earth; connecting cities and even countries in a way never before possible.”


According to the specifications, the tubes will accelerate the capsules – and their passengers - from 0 to 1,000 miles in just 60 seconds, using a form of magnetic levitation called “Maglev”. At full speed, the capsules will travel at 4,000 miles per hour. For optimum comfort, the seats will be similar to those in Formula 1 race cars. Each capsule will carry four to six people. Given the seating arrangements, it is unlikely there will be any toilet facilities. As for the cost of such a journey? Think in terms of £100 each way, all for the pleasure (?) and convenience of an 8-minute journey.


The scheme’s creators are hoping to extend the Hyperlink pod system internationally, interchanging between different cities. There are plans for the system to pop up in locations such as Australia, Brazil and China.
The Hyper Chariot organisation is currently aiming for a 2021 opening, here in the UK and to be fully functioning by 2040.

If you have problems and need a word of advice, or support over the coming weeks, I am always at your service and available, on my home phone number of 01244 549421, or via email at arnoldwoolley@outlook.com or arnold.woolley@flintshire.gov.uk. My website is available at www.arnoldwoolley.com.

 


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