More free parking for shopping in towns

One of the reasons sone town centres are struggling is the difficulty and cost of parking. People can buy on the internet without stirring from their armchair. They can drive to the out of town retail park and park for free outside the shop door. Shopping in many town centres can require a difficult journey, can pose difficulties sometimes in finding  a car park  space, and results in a charge. It’s an important part of the background to the decline  of many a town shopping centre.

What can be done?

The first thing is to get the most out of the car parks we have. You can get more cars into a piece of land and it is easier to park if the  spaces are marked out at 45 degrees to the access and not  at 90 degrees as most currently are. Private and public car park owners could sort this out and benefit from doing so. Convention should dictate you park front in. A one way access and exit route then minimises loss of parking spaces.

Councils could increase the ratio of parking spaces to shops when authorising new developments or  improving their centres.There is often spare public land near a centre that can be used. In Council car parks they could allow a charge free period to encourage shoppers. Where this represented unfair competition to private car parks the Council could pay the private car park to make free time  available on a similar basis as public car parks from its town centre promotion budget.

You can’t easily go food shopping or shopping for larger items by bus or train as you need to get the goods back to your home. Councils need  to place sufficient spaces near to the shops. They also need to improve the main routes into the  cities  and towns so people can drive to these car parks more easily.

Getting business rates and rents down on more shops will be helpful to assisting town centres, but the thing they  need most is more customers. One of the most  important ways of boosting numbers is to help people get to shops, restaurants and coffee bars in the towns. Shoppers resent time lost in traffic jams  and money spent on car parks.

 

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Time to boost the economy

Interest rates have been cut in the USA, Brazil, India, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Turkey, Russia and elsewhere. The USA , France and others have offered some  tax cuts. Italy is seeking to make the country more attractive to investors and entrepreneurs through tax changes. The Italians are pushing to be allowed some fiscal reflation to ease the pain of their adherence to Euro disciplines against a background of very weak growth and high unemployment.

The UK economy has performed very well considering the severe monetary and fiscal squeeze administered  by the outgoing government. It is good to hear the new Prime Minister make clear his commitment to a prudent relaxation of the squeeze, with planned spending on police, schools, the  NHS, prisons, and infrastructure.  He should ensure tax policy is reviewed to make us internationally competitive and to maximise revenues around rates people are prepared to pay and which continue to attract talent, investment   and business to the UK.

The PM has pledged to accelerate the roll out of fibre to every home and business to increase capacity and line speeds. More and more business, learning and entertainment will be delivered by internet, so we need the capacity to compete and to handle the volumes of data and film, likely to be involved. We also need more to be spent on  roads to bust congestion, improve safety and reduce journey times. Road budgets were badly cut by the last Labour government and kept low  by the Coalition.

The latest German figures show that the world manufacturing downturn in general and the bad hit to the car industry in particular have dragged the German economy into a quarter of  negative growth, with poor prospects for the rest of this year. Italy was in recession last year in the second half, and remains very weak this year. The Eurozone as a whole is likely to avoid a recession but is widely forecast to record very slow growth. The internal logic of the debt and deficit rules and the inability to exploit the dugital revolution unleashed  by the USA will keep the overall Eurozone performance poor. Germany will still worry about the extent to which the whole zone is financed from German deposits of its surplus at the Central Bank for lending on to the deficit countries.

Now is the time for the UK to promote growth, more jobs and better incomes. New freeports, more development of the internet economy, and stronger global trading links with the faster growing parts of the world are all possible after October 31.The UK is better at  tec and services and well placed to be an important  global player.

 

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The tragic death of PC Andrew Harper

I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Andrew Harper while on duty in West Berkshire. I send my condolences to his family. The whole local community is shocked by the tragedy.

It reminds us to thank  all those in the police and our other uniformed services who put themselves at risk to help the rest of us to live in safety.

Posted in Uncategorized, Wokingham and West Berkshire Issues | 50 Comments

No to a Corbyn led government of national disunity and unreliability

The UK has given its word to the international community that we are leaving the EU. We have held numerous discussions with countries around the world based on our new future. Now Mr Corbyn wants to delay our exit and create confusion about what we might do. His own party remains riven between Remain at all costs MPs and accept the verdict of the people MPs. Now the Leader of the Opposition is showing he cannot reach out and attract the support of the Lib Dems or Change UK for a No Confidence vote designed to put him in Downing Street. The Lib Dems were right to pour scorn on the idea. If they change their minds they will be badly damaged by  the reality of “vote Lib Dem get Corbyn” .

Parliament’s choice this September is simple. Does it at last  want to do the right thing, honour the verdict of the referendum and allow us to leave the EU on October 31 as the government plans?  Or does it have a narrow majority of MPs who want to bring on an early election, going back to the people and telling them this Parliament is not fit for purpose, can’t make up its mind and needs to be thrown out? Were it to choose the latter it will be a difficult task for all those Labour MPs who stood on a Manifesto of leaving the EU to explain their about turn. It would mean any Conservative who had helped bring about such an election was unlikely to run again as a Conservative candidate. It means the near certain end to the Parliamentary work of those MPs who defected from their original parties and are now in Change UK in order to try to keep the UK in the EU.

This Parliament would go down in history as the worst ever if it opts to disband this autumn. Only getting us out of the EU as the two main parties promised in 2017 can now improve the reputation of this Parliament. This Parliament may anyway have left it too late to try to hold an election before we leave even if it could call one. Ironically only if the election is held after we have left does Labour have more chance of winning a decent vote share.

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Trade wars?

Trade is always  vulnerable to politics. Today we see a US/China  trade dispute on a grand scale, as the US responds to the growing strategic and military challenge of the emerging superpower. Pakistan  and India are in bitter dispute over Kashmir with threats to the trade from both sides of their troubled border. Japan and Korea have dismantled their framework of mutual trade preference and are imposing barriers on some items. The row resumed over Korean claims for war reparations.  Many developing countries charge high tariffs on imports with special dispensations from WTO rules to allow this. The US has  imposed sanctions on Iran which the EU has in effect to go along with. The UK refuses to sell various countries weapons and security machinery on strategic and moral grounds. Most advanced countries place security restrictions on the sale of certain technology products and services.

 

The main trend worldwide is for neighbouring countries to impose trade restrictions on each other for  wider political reasons. In the Middle East trade is disrupted as part of the wider Sunni Shia conflicts. Mr Trump threatened tariffs against Mexico to get better border policing on the Mexican side of the border. He seeks to stop the illegal drugs trade from South America and looks for  trade remedies. Japan have  difficult relations with its neighbour China. China, Pakistan and India have disrupted trade around their common borders in Kashmir. These common rows and anti trade policies are always with us, but the strength of the WTO trading framework means world trade continues to grow and stays at high levels.

Despite these common problems the bulk of our trade in or out of the  EU will be tariff free with relatively easy passage across borders. There are no current difficulties from government restrictions on the UK importing a large number of components, food and pharmaceuticals from non EU countries. The WTO Facilitation of Trade Agreement coupled with the enthusiasm of exporters to sell to us will ensure plenty of  imports  to meet our needs after 31 October with or with an EU Agreement. The UK so far has announced a major reduction in tariffs once we are out making it cheaper and easier to import from non EU places, and no dearer to import from EU.

 

We need to remember as well that the overwhelming majority of our trade is domestic. There is more  scope for growing UK businesses and farms to supply our domestic market more, and this may  well happen once we leave  the EU and can settle our own affairs. Our time in the EU has seen loss of home market share in a number of crucial areas thanks to EU regulations and EU economic  policies. Our early years in the EEC were  particularly  damaging with substantial de industrialisation. The ERM debacle hit our growth rate badly. Our growth rate has been slower in the single market than before we joined.

 

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Paying for care homes

Mrs May rushed out social care proposals in her 2017 General Election Manifesto, only to have to drop them during the course of the Election campaign as they were unpopular. The new government has also promised to produce proposals which will benefit from study of what went wrong with the May ideas.

It is first important to understand the tri partisan settlement we have lived under for many years over social care. The political parties have all agreed that healthcare must be free at the point of need for all, including elderly people requiring a lot of expensive care towards the end of their lives. They have also agreed that living costs are to be paid where possible by the people concerned. In particular, if an elderly person needs to be looked after in a care home then the hotel costs of providing a room with meals and service  falls to them if they have an income to cover it or if they have capital they can draw on.

The most contentious part of the current settlement for some is the fact that an elderly person needs to sell their home when they move into the care home and spend the capital from their home sale on the hotel costs of the care home. If someone does not have any capital then the state provides the care home place as well as the healthcare at taxpayer expense. Some say this is a tax on the thrifty and prudent. Others say the  elderly person no longer needs their former  home , so why shouldn’t its value be treated like all their other capital? Should taxpayers pay the care home costs of millionaires, for example? If not, at what level of capital should the state take over and pay for the provision? If only one person from an elderly couple needs to move into a care home then of course the couple’s home remains untaxed and available for the other person living there.

My elderly parents reached the point where they needed to move into a care home to be looked after, and wanted to do so. I helped them sell their two bedroom flat so they could afford a good quality care home. I did not think I had any right to inherit their flat and did not disagree with the policy that said that  money from the sale of their home had to be used for their living costs in the care home.

Do you think there should be a new deal on this matter? What is a fair solution over the costs of living for elderly people, when some elderly people have saved and have capital and others did not?

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A new approach to crime

This week the government made more announcements about dealing with crime.  They tell us that the Prime Minister has ordered an urgent review into the prison sentences of violent and sexual offenders to ensure the public are properly protected from the most dangerous criminals. The review,beginning immediately, will focus on violent and sexual offenders, assessing if their sentences truly reflect the severity of their crimes. It will look at whether we need to change the law so they cannot be let out if they have not served their full time. Finally, it will examine how we can break the vicious cycle of prolific, repeat offenders.

This review is part of wider attack on crime, recruiting 20,000 new police officers, creating 10,000 new prison places and increasing stop and search powers. The aim is to keep  dangerous criminals  off the streets.

The  new prison places will come from   building new modern, efficient prisons which will provide better opportunities to reform criminals, meaning less re-offending and a lower burden on the taxpayer. Offering  strengthened stop and search powers will give  the police full support in combatting  serious violence and keeping people safe.

The government  will also publish draft guidance on measures in the Offensive Weapons Act , paving the way for new criminal offences that will help to stop knives and dangerous acids making their way into criminal use.

Are there other features you would like to see in an effective counter crime strategy? Clearly strong policing of our borders to keep out international criminals would be welcome. I also favour more work on rehabilitation and non custodial sentences for lesser crimes where there is no violence involved and where there is good chance of avoiding re offending.

 

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Your favourite spending cuts

In response to my ideas on spending there were various  other suggestions from readers. The most popular with readers were :

  1. Costs of government. There was strong support for fewer peers and fewer expenses and allowances for peers. Some wanted fewer MPs and less generous expenses for MPs. There was widespread enthusiasm for a cull of quangos, especially those supporting politically correct causes.
  2. Cut public money to charities and arts where  this can be raised by voluntary donation and from admission charges
  3. Remove subsidies  for alternative energy
  4. Charge all overseas visitors who use the NHS
  5. Reduce numbers of migrants needing financial support
  6. Make the BBC a subscription service
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Commemoration of Brexit?

I asked the Business Secretary what plans there are to issue commemorative coins and stamps to mark the UK departure from the EU. I have at last received this answer:

“Matters relating to postage stamps, including commemorative stamps, are the responsibility of Royal Mail. The commemorative 50p to mark the UK leaving the European Union will be made available following the UK’s departure”

This is a curious reply as the Business Department is responsible for postal policy but not responsible for the Royal Mint.

 

 

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What wasteful public expenditures would you like to see reduced?

One of the strange features of the much discussed age of austerity has been the barrage of demands for lower public spending that have gone unheeded by Ministers claiming they want to reduce public spending.

Foremost has  been the £10 to £15 bn a year sent to the EU. A majority of the public voted to end this in 2016, only to find three years later some Ministers and MPs are insisting on still giving it away, with many wanting to lock us into more of the same for years to come.

Then there is the case of the world’s dearest new railway, HS2. Many have made proposals for much cheaper and quicker ways of increasing north south train capacity. Many of us want more spent on northern commuter rail improvements into the main cities as a priority. This could be done much more quickly than HS2 and at a fraction of the total cost of the large project.  Latest estimates of a total cost in excess of £70bn imply more than £5bn a year could be saved by cancellation, prior to allocating decent capital sums to faster introduction  of digital signals and by pass sections of track on existing main lines to boost capacity , and similar improvements on commuter routes into the main  northern cities.

There is the pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid. This Parliament is unlikely to want to cut that, but we should spend more wisely within that budget. The set up costs for the first year of a refugee or an economic migrant  from a poor country are allowable expenses to qualify. Given the continuing large numbers entering the UK, we should allocate substantial sums to the housing budget from the overseas aid budget to cover more of the costs of provision of additional homes for new arrivals. There should also be larger transfers to the education budget to allow for the extra school places needed and the additional language skills to teach new pupils who have little or no English on arrival. This would increase  those budgets whilst reducing total spending.

The new government should implement the agreed policy that any visitor to the UK needing non emergency treatment should have to pay the NHS. Visitors should be advised to come with health insurance or the cash. Migrant workers coming to the UK should not qualify for all the  benefits for a specified period, as Mr Cameron wished to do but was unable to get EU agreement.

 

 

 

 

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  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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