Vague ramblings

Housing: if only there was a way to encapsulate the problem….

Posted in Life, Urbanism by Ian Cundell on 10 February, 2017

So a housing White Paper came out. It called for a wider range of housing providers. Up to a point.

If only there was a single image that encapsulates where the real problem is. If only there were… oh. Wait.

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem


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England my England: no railroading, thanks, Prime Minister

Posted in Life, Regionalism, Urbanism by Ian Cundell on 20 September, 2014

The Journal, of Newcastle, asked a perfectly reasonable question. If much of the pressure for independence in Scotland stemmed from the argument that is is remote from London and therefore neglected, why should anyone suppose that Newcastle, which is a lot closer to Edinburgh than it is to London, be viewed any differently?

Or Liverpool. Or Sheffield. Or Plymouth.

With tedious predictability David Cameron decided to try to railroad a Tory vision of English government and the Westminster machine continues in its centuries long strategy of “Whatever it takes to avoid fundamental change”.

Simply excluding Scots and Welsh and Irish MPs from “English matters” does not address the problem of power concentrated in the Westminster Bubble, which is as big a problem in Newcastle (and Liverpool and Sheffield and Plymouth) as it is in Glasgow.

Never mind that what is an “English” matter is also not straightforward – HS2 would doubtless spawn HS4 (it has already spawned HS3) as the Scots seek to get on the Hight Speed Rail gravy…er… train.

Things tend to spawn.

And it is not just in the remotest outposts that London’s distance is felt. In my neck of the woods, about 23 miles from Charing Cross, there is growing resentment at “Londoners” moving in and driving out locals whose families have been in the area for centuries. There is a different set of issues to Newcastle (or Liverpool etc), but they are issues nonetheless.

In a world of multiple overlapping catchment areas, spheres of influence and trade and exchange flows, a bottom-up approach has merits, but can also lead to strong areas teaming up to exclude weak areas from decision making (see the experience of Local Enterprise Partnerships, if you are interested). It needs proper consideration, not off-the-cuff remarks on the steps of Downing Street just hours after a huge constitutional matter was considered by a huge electorate.

My view is that we need to revisit regionalism, but this time not in the half-arsed, moronic manner that John Prescott delivered on his watch – and which the North East rightly rejected.

Proper regionalism aims to remove power from the centre that does not absolutely have to be there, not to insert an extra tier. Some matters can be resolved by a parish council before the Rose & Crown opens, some can be addressed at the town level and so on up to supra-national. The counties are the useless tier, as the level of unitary conversion shows.

Decentralised governments must have, just like Scotland, revenue raising powers to give them the authority to go along with their responsibility and they must, of course, be democratically accountable. Central government should be the backstop – with enough clout to impose fiscal discipline, but otherwise the lender, court, arbiter and guardian of last resort.

You can probably work out that this points to a written constitution, with a proper statement of the separation of powers, along with wholesale electoral reform.

Call it a Constitutional Convention, call it a Royal Commission, call it Albert – change should only progress after proper consideration by, for and of all interested parties.

There’s only about 60 million of us.

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