Author Archives: Tahir Maher

Water Shortage Predictions are Deeply Disturbing

So why is water shortage predicted by 2050?  Each person on average uses 137 litres per day, and with the current UK population, the water companies supply, daily, at least 1.2 billion litres of water. The water supply is managed by 27 different companies and by law, they must produce a Water Resource Management Plan that forecasts supply and demand and has a plan to describe how they will deliver water to the public for at least the next 25 years. Water companies across the UK collect, treat and pump water to users.

The water companies need to curb water leaks and of the 9,500 billion litres of freshwater extracted in 2016 (in England), three billion litres a day was lost through leaks from pipes, (although this represents levels down by a third since the peaking in 1994/95). The water that leaking through pipes is equivalent to about a fifth of the water in the system and is equivalent to the amount of water used by more than 20 million people on an average day. Households also waste vast amounts of water. In total, a third of water taken from the natural environment is wasted through leaks, treatment losses, and in the home.

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The trouble with World Trade Organisation (WTO)

With Americas’ announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminium, there are fears of a global trade war. If a trade war starts is WTO strong enough to intervene and stop it?

Over the last decade, numerous stalled negotiations have beset WTO credibility. The Ministerial Conference in Kenya in 2015 for the first time failed to support the Doha mandate. An ineffectual WTO will hurt everyone, but the most significant impact will be felt by the poor. In 2010 the Millennium Development Goals achieved one of its objectives, and that was to cut extreme poverty by half. Achieving this objective was aided by economic growth in poorer countries that took advantage of low tariffs and open markets where WTO played an essential role in overseeing trade rules are appropriately negotiated, implemented and monitored.

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To Brexit or Not to Brexit – That is the Question

There is a lot of concern whether UK will be able to complete the Brexit process even though the Tories continue to push, somewhat aimlessly, for the March 2019 date to end our European Union (EU) membership. From the beginning, it was evident that the government was poorly prepared for the negotiations. There was some hope that a more pragmatic approach would prevail when they realised the enormity of the task and its impact on the economy. However, an ambitious yet weak Prime Minister who wants to stay in power at all cost with an ideology cabinet that she cannot control results in her obstinately pursuing a Brexit agenda that she doesn’t believe. May’s reckless government is making a bad situation worse.

There are circumstances in which Brexit could fail. First one is Europe itself. At the moment, the EU 27 countries have to all agree on the deal. No matter what the deal is, the Tories will sell it as a win-win for the UK. However, EU 27 won’t see it that way. They will consider the deal in the cold light of day and judge if it’s good for them (Spain, for example, is worried about the ramifications of any proposed deals for Ireland and Scotland re Catalonia and what happens to Gibraltar).

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Evening with Vince Cable

Wokingham Borough local party invited Vince Cable to a question and answer session on Saturday 12th May 2018. It was good to see members from Wokingham, Reading, Newbury, Maidenhead, and Bracknell who came to meet and listen to Vince. Councillor Clive Jones asked wide-ranging questions with supplementary questions from the audience.

Some of the main points addressed by Vince were: –

  • Vince mentioned his meeting with the head of National Union of Students (NUS) and how the NUS talked about the neglect of further education (FE);
  • Vince highlighted the importance of vocational education and giving people a second chance;
  • FE education was different to University education as you pay cash up front for FE unlike for university courses when you start to pay after you start earning money. Vince also said that he was looking at how to reform both further education funding and university education funding and he hopes to have a proposal ready for the September conference;
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Fantasy Frontbench – University College London (UCL)

University College London has started a Fantasy Frontbench to debate major current issues. The first in their series was “Should Climate Change be UK’s Top Policy Priority?”. The guest speakers were Natalie Bennett (previous leader of the Green party), Ahir Shah (a comedian), Professor Mark Maslin (Geography professor at UCL) and Dr. Emily Shuckburgh (climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey). About 120 people attended including children from local schools.

Before the discussion started, the audience was asked the question, and the result was 52% for Yes and 48% for No (to which Ahir commented that this was considered an overwhelming majority these days).

Each member of the panel had two minutes to put their case: for or against the motion. Interestingly Natalie started with “Climate change should not be the dominant policy priority but be one in a combination of high priority policies” – after a gasp, the indicator went to 43% for Yes and 57% for No.

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Playing Games While Telling

I find telling at a polling station quite fun. The fun is trying to determine how residents are going to vote or how they have voted. In Wokingham, we targeted two Borough wards (which we won): both were gains. We are developing two other wards in Earley for next year. My ward is one of the development wards.

There are two polling stations in my ward, and on polling day I spent most of the day knocking people up, but I also spent some time at the polling stations. The polling station in the west of the ward was inside a library (the status of the library was a matter of some concern during the elections). When residents came in to vote I tried to guess who they would vote for:

Posted in Humour, Local government and Op-eds | 2 Comments

The Tories are failing vulnerable children

Children entering the care system every day is at a record high of 90 young people a day. The increase has been put down to such factors as substance misuse, inadequate housing, poverty and problems in the household. To March 2017 children that were being looked after in England and Wales was over 72,000.

With so many cuts to Children Services, the services are at a breaking point. Funding pressures leading to gaps in services are putting children and families at risk. Figures show that three-quarters of English councils exceeded their budgets, by over £600 million for children’s services last year. Now, increasingly, vulnerable children are being moved away from their hometowns. 

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Student Contract with Their Universities

For at least some of the courses all but three English higher education institutions will charge tuition fees of £9,250. The average tuition fee at English higher education institutions will increase to £9,110 in 2017-18, up from £8,905 the year before (source: The World university ranking).

A leaked government document in 2016 revealed that our universities were not providing good quality teaching despite the increased fees. The leaked report goes on to say that even the Russel Group universities cannot justify the £9,000 fees for courses. A further disclosure suggests that the target of doubling the number of young people going to university will not be achieved. Open Democracy UK has calculated that the actual cost to teach an undergraduate for a year is about £4,500.

Posted in education and Op-eds | 5 Comments

Lords defeat a victory for common-sense

The Government have received their eleventh defeat in the House of Lords during the Report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The vote on an amendment to ensure our future interaction with EU law and agencies was passed by a cross-bench majority of 298 to 227

Commenting on the victory, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords, Lord Newby said:
This vote was a victory for common-sense. Of course if the UK wishes to remain in specific agencies, such as Euratom, it should be able to. This allows us to replicate EU law and means that we can continue our role in

Posted in News and Op-eds | 1 Comment

Will Brexit Affect the NHS

We all remember Boris’s epitaph on the side of the Out-campaign bus saying “Let’s fund our NHS instead”. This related to the £350 million a week that we supposedly pay to the Europe Union (the net figure was of course significantly less). The question is, is the NHS going to be worse off because of Brexit?

Currently, we don’t know how the negotiations are going to end. The government talks about leaving without a deal suggests that they can start trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation tariffs or the complicated agreement implied by May’s Florence speech. With no overall …

Posted in News | 14 Comments

I Can Feel it in The Air

Canvassing in Wokingham

Ever since the 2015 general elections, knocking on doors has been difficult; almost a chore. I can’t say that residents were abusive, but they were certainly challenging, very direct and uncompromising. I remember at the conference after the 2015 general election we had one of the largest attendances ever, and the general atmosphere was very positive. This was all the more unexpected because of the media’s scorn for the party (which was very unfair) and the loss of so many MPs.

The attitude of my friends who supported me and the party changed. We had many discussions where they were critical.  When I asked them why and then presented facts which in most cases proved their arguments were baseless, the poor attitude towards the party remained, although they conceded the point.

Posted in Council by-elections and News | 24 Comments

Helping the Homeless

A few friends and I decided about three years ago that we would raise funds to feed the homeless in Reading. Since then we have done that every Friday. I remember the first time we took food a homeless man pulled me to a side and said: “Listen, mate, I appreciate the food, but we do not do vegetables, only meat”. Over the weeks I got to know many of them and listened to their life stories, I can honestly say the difference between many of the homeless and me can be expressed by the proverb “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

From the induction on October 1980 of the right to buy the take up has been huge. In the Thatcher and Major years, the Tories sold off over 1.2 million council homes. Under the Blair and Brown years, Labour sold off over 420,000 council homes.

Posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

A Case for British Chapter 11

It takes many years to develop a business and for it to grow. Enterprises employ millions of people who support their families and are the building blocks of our national wealth. Should we not be more supportive, as a society, when a company fails?

Since 2000, the number of businesses in the UK has increased each year, by 3% on average. In 2016, there were 2.2 million more businesses than in 2000, an increase of 64% over the whole period. Businesses actual employment of people has fallen since 2000 from around a third, to a quarter. This decline is due to the growth in self-employment. The total number of company’s insolvencies from 2013 to 2016 was just over 70,000 (Office of National Statistics).

In most countries, there are two tests for bankruptcy:

  • A company that cannot pay its debts because there is not enough money in the bank (this would tip a company in the UK into liquidation);
  • A company with liabilities that exceed its assets (the company can avoid liquidation if it can negotiate a deal with its creditors).

The UK’s insolvency system, on the whole, returns more money to creditors (as it’s more creditor centric) and is faster and cheaper than the United States, for example. However, a common complaint among struggling firms under the threat of insolvency is that the time for decision-making is too short. Critics believe firms need a longer period to consider their options and take decisions without jeopardising the company’s supply chain and increasing pressure on their cash flow, both of which will accelerate the commencement of insolvency. Therefore, there is a desire to ask the government to copy the Chapter 11 system in the United States, where companies are allowed 90 days’ grace.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 24th May - 6:47am
    I agree with David. In fact I wasn’t really quite sure what he was trying to infer. Was it an example of irony or sarcasm?
  • User AvatarJoeB 24th May - 1:27am
    Peter, the former Portugese colony of Macau is one of the wealthiest regions of the world in terms of per capita GDP. It has its...
  • User AvatarGlenn 23rd May - 11:10pm
    Nick Baird I sort of agree, but I associate a lot of the language of identity more with American politics and campus culture than anything...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 23rd May - 9:41pm
    It seems to me there is a sub-text in the idea that 'we should help people in communities to take and use power'. I think...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:19pm
    I'm afraid it didn't have the impact of referring to Gordon Brown as Mr. Bean.
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 23rd May - 9:17pm
    @ Richard Underhill "The context could have included the fact that Heath’s predecessor Sir Winston Churchill had offered a Cabinet post to a former Liberal...