[BroxtoweInfo] The Budget/prison reform/local blogs
I’d like to talk about the Budget and look again at prison issues. First a personal note: my current job is still taking me around the world from time to time. I’ll be in Vietnam and South Korea again later this month (so I’m reading with added interest the North Korean threat to launch a nuclear attack!) and in China in June. Embarrassingly, I’ve lost the details of the readers who very kindly showed me round when I was last in Beijing, but if you’re still there, do get in touch it would be nice to meet up again.
1. Health and social services
Something that I’ve never understood was the separation of the Department of Health from Social Services, way back in 1988. The two are intimately linked, since a good social service network eases the strain on hospitals. Conversely, without good social services, patients need to stay in hospital longer than needed for treatment, blocking the bed for others and running a higher risk of infection.
The Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, is going to talk about this in Nottingham on the 21st; if you’re free during the day, you might like to hear it and put some questions to him. Details are here:
2. What do we want in the Budget?
The Budget’s coming up in a week and as usual there is no shortage of advice. My view, for what it’s worth:
Globally, the economy is starting to look up a little. The US in particular is doing better, thanks to some energetic pump-priming by Obama, though the Congressional deadlock doesn’t help. But the Euro area seems to be off the bottom as well, and when/if the Italian political deadlock is resolved we should see confidence picking up on the Continent.
The UK is continuing to drift. Few of the Government’s objectives are being reached: debt continues to grow, inflation is above target and rising, the trade deficit is huge, productivity is stagnating and all the debate seems to be about whether growth is 0.2% (hooray!) or minus 0.2% (doom!). Ministers are preoccupied with brooding about what they should cut next, rather than looking at ways to encourage growth of revenues.
However, UK business sentiment is starting to pick up a little, especially among exporters, not least because the pound is weaker against both the Euro and the dollar. Potentially, we could see an export-led recovery, if we had enough competitive capacity.
Looking ahead, I can see a real problem in the next Parliament if interest rates start to climb back (as I think they will) there are a lot of businesses and individuals who have borrowed on the current levels who will be in real difficulty if we see “quantitative easing” going into reverse.
So what SHOULD we do?
I don’t think we can afford to cut personal taxes significantly at the moment the effect would be to suck more imports in, leading to further sterling decline and more inflation, so we wouldn’t end up better off. Nor do I think that we should try to solve the problem with yet more cuts for the poorest (especially not coupled with the high-rate tax cut that is about to kick in).
This is the time to bring forward investment, both public and private. Our manufacturing and service sectors both risk being left behind if we don’t prepare for the potential global revival. So I’d like to see the Budget earmark substantial amounts for shorter-term infrastructure projects (as The Economist notes this week, there are plenty of minor rail and road improvements that can be launched at short notice, rather than just debate what we’ll do about HS2 in 2028) and for allowances for firms who invest now instead of putting it off another few years.
Does that mean that I’d be willing to support continued borrowing for investment? Yes it will pay off in Treasury revenue. I’m against borrowing more to finance an artificial consumer boom, but we need to get out of the current flat-lining economic position or we’ll end up like Japan, with a “lost decade” or no growth at all.
I was one of the relatively few MPs who took an active interest in economics, serving on the Treasury Select Committee most MPs see it as a difficult and technical area best left to the experts, so policy doesn’t get scrutinised as much as it should. If I do get back in due course, I’ll hope to return to the Select Committee. Regardless of who the Chancellor is, it’s going to be a very tricky period and we’ll need all the good advice we can get.
As always, comments welcome!
3. Prisons and reoffending
I’ve written before about our horrific 70% reoffending rate and the Justice Select Committee report that I helped to prepare looking at which alternatives work. There was an interesting recent piece on a Norwegian prison for some particularly serious criminals, which has managed to get the reoffending rate down to 30%:
The problem, of course, is that this sort of treatment is hugely expensive. But it’s partly a question of attitude rather than just money.
4. Community websites
A natural development of the internet is separate websites for each local community. I know of three in Broxtowe so far:
The principle of all of these is the same: they will publish pretty much anything that seems interesting for people in the area, including material from all the political parties. They’re a Good Thing and if you live in one of the areas I’d encourage you to follow them.
More political but also full of news is Richard Robinson’s blog for Kimberley, Cossall, Awsworth and Trowell:
Entirely political sites from the main Broxtiowe parties are these;
The other local blog that I know of is well-known, but always an intelligent, entertaining read, so here’s another plug:
Beestonia is left of centre and not notably enthusiastic about the current MP, but not aligned to any party and willing to publish other points of view.
If I’ve missed any independent blogs out, please let me know and what about starting one in another area of Broxtowe?
5. Coming event
Car Boot Sale Saturday 23 March and Saturday 11 May
9 am to 11.30 am
College House Junior School, Cator Lane, Chilwell, NG9 4BB
50p entry (children free)
Refreshments and bouncy castle, sorry no dogs on site.
All proceeds in aid of the “Friends of College House Junior School” Registered Charity No 518492
Any queries call 0776 0237485
Sellers: £5 per car/ £7.50 per van limited to first 50 sellers.
Arrival from 7am. No items to be sold that are inappropriate for a school environment.