Author Archives: Chris White

Speaking for England?

The term ‘governance review’ is designed to chill even the most ardent activist. It’s something other than campaigning for election. It seems to have little to do with fighting the Government over tax credits, surveillance or indeed anything else. It’s frankly a bit dull.

But it does matter that we have a Party which works, which costs as little as possible to work and which is accountable to its members.

In 1988 the newly merged ‘Social and Liberal Democrats’ had many more members than we have today. Its institutions were suitable to a wider spread of membership and nodded strongly to the …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 12 Comments

Opinion: Housing – yes, we can

It is probably (I am sticking my neck out here) the belief of most councillors that the power to build council houses was abolished by Margaret Thatcher. This, coupled with right to buy, has led to a crisis in social housing which governments fail to tackle and councils can’t.

But a report commissioned by the Government as part of the Autumn Statement in 2013 has challenged local councils to have more confidence in what they can already do.

The Elphicke-House Report (pdf) published earlier this week, following a review by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, contains 30 recommendations to both Government and Councils.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Not inevitable but not surprising either

Railway - Some rights reserved by freefotoukI was one of the ‘victims’ of the Network Rail engineering fiasco of 27 December.

I won’t over-encumber you with details but the experience has certainly shaken my faith in railways as a means of long distance travel. No doubt there will be equivalent experiences with roads and airlines to bring me back into line as well as the usual desire not to wreck the planet with my travel arrangements.

In fact my family of five (including 80 year old mother) escaped the train at Peterborough (unscheduled stop to offload some passengers who had boarded ‘by accident’) and used a taxi to get to the East Midlands line. Not cheap but much better than the active maltreatment waiting for us at Finsbury Park. But we had Twitter, which was more than East Coast railways seemed to have.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

Opinion: Shhh! Keep this secret

Everyone knows that the Federal Party committees do important business and that this business has to be kept absolutely secret. So I can’t really say anything about Monday’s Federal Executive meeting.

But if we are to move to OMOV (one member one vote – essentially the abolition of conference representatives) there need to be reports capable of being seen in the public domain and hopefully – unlike some reports I have seen within the Party about Federal Committees – uncoloured by the standpoint of the observer.

So let’s have a go.

We talked about OMOV itself. There is now a working party including both enthusiasts and sceptics and this has gone through the necessary amendments again and is hoping that this time it’s watertight. There are some very important loose ends, like how to ensure that people can afford to attend conference, and how the members of committees are to be held properly to account. There will be some consultation work on these at the spring conference.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Opinion: We can’t afford not to pay for social care

I had a visitor the other day – a resident who was her husband’s carer. Neither was elderly and she was coping remarkably well. I am honestly not sure I could perform her role. I suspect many of us couldn’t.

She had no complaint to make but instead wanted me to understand – for the purposes of local and national policy – what caring looked like in terms of costs. The simple point is that the care she provides comes cheap. She does most of the work so the local authority delivers only respite care at some thousands a year. But were she older, frailer or even simply smaller in stature this would not be possible. And then the cost of care would escalate as it fell to the state to provide it. Ultimately it would reach a six figure sum. Per annum.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Getting serious about localism

Local growth deals are a good thing. Of course they are. How could they not be? Now what are they again?

The mechanics of government finance never cease to amaze or bore. But we do need to care because when it comes to devolution, it’s a question of ‘follow the money’.

There are in fact, according to a Local Government Association report last week, 124 funding streams for local growth and regeneration. These are spread across 20 Government departments and agencies and account for a total of £22 billion, all to be spent in your local area on your local things.

So when the Government announces it is devolving £2 billion on LGFs, context becomes rather significant. As does the essentially pointless complexity, worthy of an abbey full of medieval theologians.

Those in the know are fully on top of the difference between the Custom Build fund, the Community Right to Build fund, the Beds in Sheds fund, the New Homes Bonus and the Decent Homes fund. And the difference between the Linking Places fund, the Local Pinch Point fund, the Local Sustainable Transport fund and the Better Bus Areas fund. I could go on. But I promise I won’t.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: Gove’s A Level reforms risk pushing many universities out of reach

I am not from the educational establishment and, having seen two daughters through state schools, I have plenty of zeal for major reform.

But that reform does not encompass sending a copy of the King James Bible to every school nor yet banishing the Arts from the nation’s principal academic qualification.

In so many ways Michael Gove uses the same techniques as his colleague Eric Pickles: pander to the right wing press, eschew evidence based thinking, make a splash.

The AS level announcement this week is just one more example. I didn’t have the option of AS levels. I sat O-levels in a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 32 Comments
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  • User AvatarGreenfield 26th Jun - 12:03am
    Agree with crewegwyn - but as our Leader at times they must move fast - we have to trust them especially at such fast moving...
  • User AvatarJohn Grout 25th Jun - 11:58pm
    Great piece. I would add a #12, however: 12) The truth on its own is not all that matters in politics. What matters more is...
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    I'm sorry to see both Remain and Leave people joining to perpetuate the notion that either a "do over" is possible or that there can...
  • User AvatarNeil 25th Jun - 11:31pm
    Not only should you pledge to fight the next election on a platform of rejoining the EU but you also committed to ignoring this flawed...
  • User Avatarmalc 25th Jun - 11:26pm
    I think once we are out we have to give it a try and see how it works - who knows things might be better....
  • User AvatarAlderman David Becket 25th Jun - 11:22pm
    To promise now to campaign in 2020 to return to the EU is very dangerous, and may not be deliverable (Remember Student Loans). We need...