The NHS and the Brexit bonus

You may be familiar with the assertion on a red campaign bus (left) that Britain’s EU membership cost £350m per week (in 2016) and that this amount, equating to £18.2 billion annually, could be better spent on the NHS. Of course, by last year, that costs may well have expanded a little.

Well, here is the evidence that this is already happening. This graph shows the NHS budget in real terms (2020-1 prices) giving a figure of £137.2 billion for the 2016-7 financial year, which was in progress at the time of the Liberation referendum and £160.9 billion for the year that will overlap the referendum anniversary, a difference of £23.7 billion even before the £20.9 billion Covid funding is added.

So there we have it. The red bus suggested a real terms increase in NHS spending of £18.2 billion. Funding already allocated will exceed this increase, even after inflation. Here is the Brexit bonus for Britain.

Cllr. Phillips’ IBC speech on 18 November

For the 2nd time in a few months, we are being asked again to review the current and 4 year plan, so firstly I thank the officers and staff who have had to put together a complicated report in a compressed timescale.

None of us wanted to be reviewing our annual budget a 2nd time and now we are here for the 3rd time. Whilst we all have differences of political opinion, unfortunately the pandemic is not yet over, but there are lots of positive signs and rates in Ipswich are reducing.

This administration is mis-leading the public and the media including BBC Look East when they are crying that at the end of the 4 year period that they will only have £51k of reserves left. This is not correct as the normal emergency reserve of £2m remains intact.

I do question what this emergency reserve is for, and whether the administration might feel the need to temporarily dip into this at some point in the next few years. Whether they have the need for this, we will have to see, but please be honest with the public that it exists as a last resort. It is also wrong to be briefing the media saying the Council had already agreed this amended budget 2 weeks ago, when it is only being considered tonight.

We also know that the business rate reserve is being dipped into, to the tune of £1.5m, which I don’t disagree with. But we can see from a later paper tonight, the council’s usable reserves in March were £92 million, and although most of this falls under specified categories, it shows we are not about to go under, even if and when we only have £2.051m left in 2024.

There are some additional in-year budget pressures. Can you clarify why £125k of additional security costs have been occurred at Pond Farm? There is nothing there apart from an old farm house and outbuildings. Who are you paying this money to ? Are Stage Security providing this, and if not, why not?

I asked Cllr Ellesmere earlier to outline what other savings ideas have been considered and rejected. At the last executive meeting he also indicated that there had been a number of ideas turned down. He also implied that these could be part of future unidentified savings

[So far we have not really been given a clear answer.]

So I ask again him to outline some of the ideas on the table as it would seem possible that this Labour council will want to implement such further cuts in future years and lay the blame as usual on the Conservative government or county council. After all, this will affect Ipswich residents and IBC employees.

It would be more responsible and admit that maybe, just slightly even, for the labour administration to admit that it may not have got all service, income and spending decisions right in the last few years and take some responsibility for its challenging finances, with sports and leisure always being one of the top items I refer to annually. If they had turned services like this to at least into break-even from 2016 to 2020, then the income losses would have had a lesser impact.

In July, we debated the closure of the Tourist Information Centre and its threat to making Ipswich a place to visit

And now they are closing the Regent Box Office and Customer Service Centre. For the CSS, surely many of our most vulnerable and needy constituents need that face-to-face interview type service to investigate their various claims. It is these people who may not be very good on computers, if at all, and phone interviews would be difficult if hard of hearing or language barriers.

I feel closing the box office is another nail in the metaphorical leaking of the Regent’s finances. Of course many people do book shows online. But the sorts of shows we often have at the Regent and Corn Exchange attract a demographic which only wants to book in person, i.e. the Daniel O’Donnell, Russell Watson type audiences. So this core audience will be lost and they will go to shows elsewhere. We already know the council has trouble making money out of entertainment provision, and their determination to make this worse seems to be the order of the day.

We are some way from the end of the financial year, but planning cuts to services and job losses beyond the end of the year is part of their strategy. And then any improvement in income will not be used to reverse labour’s cuts.

We can be optimistic about the future, this country and town are going to bounce back and better and Ipswich will be part of that story, if labour doesn’t close down all of its public facing activities before then.

In the wake of the Trade Deal …

1) There was Frost outside my window on New Year’s Eve (right).
2) The UK has signed an additional deal with Spain to uphold Gibraltarians’ rights.
3) We have removed VAT from sanitary products in the UK, as we tried to do several years ago.
4) Instead of two parallel immigration systems – freedom of movement within the EU but a more restrictive system for the rest of the world – the UK will have a unified, fairer and more responsive system.
5) We have banned pulse fishing in our waters.

This is getting better and better.

Tom (and others) on the Trade Deal

Here is Tom’s piece on the deal that was finally achieved on Christmas Eve, after almost eleven months of negotiation, including the seven key points that illustrate the way in which it encapsulates the decision of the British people four and a half years earlier:
No more freedom of movement.
Freedom to strike trade deals, of which there have been more than sixty so far.
EU law has ceased to apply.
The ECJ has no jurisdiction.
No alignment with EU rules.
UK laws will be enacted solely by our own sovereign Parliament.
We will no longer fund the EU.

Sadly, Tom wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s debate in person as he was self-isolating again. However, there were just a few exceptional speeches and here is one, by Michael Gove, exposing the absurdity of die-hard Remoaners voting for a “No Deal” Brexit and of Sir Sneer‘s presence in the previous Shadow Cabinet. Now the UK can get on with rebuilding our fishing fleet. We have allocated £100 million to this over the five and a half years of the deal, not the ten to fourteen years the French wanted.

Hope for 2021?

As I was driving home from my late shift one Sunday night I saw this on the southern border of St Margaret’s Ward…
After poking and prodding Google I discovered that the Council sold the abandoned Odeon building to the evangelical Hope Church which plans to open next year. Forget all that – I want this as an icon of hope for our town in this time of great struggle.

Defending British interests in the twenty-first century

Last month, this Government was able to announce a £24.1 billion boost, over the next four years, for defence. As ever, the funding isn’t the whole point, because it needs to be spent efficiently. This decision will enable the creation of some forty thousand new defence jobs, many of them in shipbuilding, so that we can construct a new generation of warships and also meet our NATO target. Another important facet will be the creation of a National Cyber Force, an Artificial Intelligence Agency and a Space Command to deter every conceivable threat that the UK could face in the future.

Sadly, the Opposition is far less forward looking. Having voted against the Overseas Operations Bill that will protect our troops abroad, they are concentrating too hard on conventional defence priorities. Just like Captain Square, perhaps they would like to reintroduce the cavalry charge, like the BEF in 1914?
That didn’t end well.

Vintage politics (2)

Earlier this month, I was able to catch up on Ian Curteis’ The Falklands Play. It was interesting, just as Britain begins to emerge from another crisis of international origin, to see the events of spring 1982 unfold. Patricia Hodge took the role of Margaret Thatcher whilst Robert Hardy featured as our UN ambassador Anthony Parsons and Rupert Vansittart as Robert Armstrong. Other characters such as Whitelaw, Nott, Carrington, Foot, Shore, Admiral Lewin and Alexander Haig were well-portrayed and Powell’s memorable reference to the PM’s “mettle” was shown, although he always had more hair than this. Contemporary footage was included, from reporters such as Michael Buerk and Brian Hanrahan, but not the latter’s most famous piece.

All the more reason that this detailed production should have been shown many years earlier – it just wasn’t left-wing enough in its interpretation for the BBC in the eighties.

More news on Orwell Bridge

For most of this decade, Conservative MPs have been at the forefront of campaigning for Orwell Bridge to stay open for longer on windy days, as Tom explains here. As part of an integrated transport strategy, this would prevent traffic from south of Ipswich needing to use Wherstead Road, the town centre and Nacton Road to reach the A14 for Felixstowe.

This week, Tom was successful in calling another Adjournment Debate and here it is.
He added that: “It is unacceptable that the deadline for this had been pushed back further by Highways England to the end of March, unnecessarily causing further disruption for my constituents and causing the Town to grind to a halt time and time again. I am pleased that Government action is going to be taken on this matter to pressure Highways England to be more ambitious with the timeline for the new speed limit.”

Nadia on Examinations 2021

The Education Secretary has presented a package of exceptional measures to support students taking exams and other assessments next year, to ensure they are as fair as possible and students are not disadvantaged by the unprecedented disruption to their studies caused by the pandemic.

In my day job, I often coach young people who are going to take their GCSEs or other exams within the next few months, including focus, motivation and revision techniques. Students at the moment are at different places with their emotions depending on how resilient they are and how much commitment they have to their chosen career, but all have suffered in one way or another.

Governments can only do so much, teachers can only do so much and parents have only so much influence! But together, with the students’ own sense of self-responsibility, we can get through these difficult times.

I am impressed with these latest set of policies of which my favourites are outlined below and set out on the government website.

Building on the three-week delay to exams to free up extra teaching time announced in October, the new measures include:

  • more generous grading than usual, in line with national outcomes from 2020, so students this year are not disadvantaged;
  • students receiving advance notice of some topic areas covered in GCSE, AS and A levels to focus revision;
  • exam aids – like formula sheets – provided in some exams giving students more confidence and reducing the amount of information they need to memorise;
  • additional exams to give students a second chance to sit a paper if the main exams or assessments are missed due to illness or self-isolation; and
  • a new expert group to look at differential learning and monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country.
  • Students taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations to ensure parity between general and vocational qualifications. Some vocational qualifications will require more varied adaptations due to the different qualification types.

As a trainer I know every student takes in information in different ways so it’s really important not to have a one size fits all solution to catch up so I’m really pleased to see a new expert group set up to ensure that no one gets left behind on their catch up.

Sometimes people just need to give credit where credit is due and I hope any criticism of this policy is one that is constructive and useful not the usual barriers with no offer of alternatives.

Tom Hunt, on today’s Politics Live, gave a few home truths to a Teachers union representative. Closing schools would have been a disaster and not having exams at all next year would be unacceptable.

Pupils now know where they stand. Let’s stop the negativity. Decision made. Let’s make it happen.

Gavin Williamson has done a fine job in unprecedented times and we need to come together for our children and the future of this country.

The Negotiations with the European Empire -Some Reflections on the Last 5 Years

The UK and EU TRADE negotiations are nearly concluded at the time of writing. How many times have we heard that in recent months and years ? It’s been the story throughout this protracted process. By the time you read this, it is possible that these talks may have come to a conclusion one way or another.

The UK has been trying to negotiate with the EU since the summer of 2015. David Cameron failed, and got a minor concession of “opting out of ever closer union”, which David Lidington MP, his European affairs cabinet member, told me personally was basically a worthless soundbite as the UK was still subject to QMV (qualified majority voting).

David Lidington

If only David Cameron had trigged article 50 on the 24/6/16, then all these matters would have been truly resolved with a compressed 2 year period to agree a free trade deal like Canada by mid-2018. But he was so shocked, he resigned. Mrs May was too scared to press the button in July 2016 and then actually allowed time for Gina Miller to raise her case with the courts. If Mrs May had triggered A50 once she took over, there would have been no court cases, and no blocking of Brexit by Keir Starmer, the Dark Knight of Tony Blair’s round table and High Visionary Prince of Hindsight.

Theresa May had limited success but never got on to the trade talks (which she expected in October 2017, a month after her Florence Speech). Instead the EU tied her hands with the so-called divorce and forcing an impossible agreement on Northern Ireland in the event that the main agreement was never achieved. (Which was always the EU’s ultimate objective.)

Boris succeed in 2019 by appointing David Frost to lead the negotiations and got the Withdrawal Agreement altered.

David Frost

If he had not achieved this, then from 01/01/2021, the UK would have remained in the customs union and single market ad infinitum, since they would have been incapable of reaching ANY trade agreement.

However, the EU were not expecting even this to actually happen as they imagined the UK Parliament would carry on squabbling like rats in a sack, and any subsequent election would bring about the Arch Deacon of the Flat Cap Communism into Number 10, for whom Sir Hindsight had persuaded to Stop Brexit.

The Child Catcher (as in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in all of this has been that pompous Frenchman, Michel Barnier.

Rather a young looking Michel Barnier
The Child Catcher Failed with Boris and David Frost

All this delay gave the EU time to batter the UK over the head with its devilish pitchforks and appoint the most duplicitous and untrustworthy Frenchman to lead their so-called negotiations.

Ollie Robins was an EU yes-man and agreed to everything Barnier wanted. When Dominic Raab took over from David Davis, the civil servants on both sides were annoyed because an elected politician was finally getting involved and telling the EU what we wanted. But Ollie Robins submitted again to Barnier’s demands so Dominic resigned in late 2018.

In 2020, Mr Barnier has spent the entire year trying to bash David Frost on the head with his metaphorical shovel and fishing rods, saying “We want all your fish or no deal.”

The EU misled the UK back in March 2020. The UK wanted fishing to be a stand-alone agreement, but that slave of the empire, Barnier, was determined to follow his masters ensuring that trade and fishing would be all rolled into one deal.

The Transition or Implementation Period as agreed by Mrs May was meant to be a period of time for business to go from the old to the new arrangement. But here we are, weeks away from the end, and business have not known fully what the new arrangement will be. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was intended to sort out the future relationship during the 2-year period.

The problem with the UK and the EU is that most of the time in the UK we have simple majority single-party Government, which can achieve manifesto commitments and provide win-win solutions. But for the former nation states of the European Empire, most typically have weak coalition governments so win-win is not part of their philosophy. Instead it is “everyone has to give some ground”, concede, compromise and fudge, lose-lose all round.

Whatever the outcome of the final negotiations may or may not be by the time this is published, one thing we can be sure of. The UK was never comfortable with being a member of the European Empire and whatever “concessions” are agreed by either side (which both sides will claim is a reasonable deal), if any, at least in less than 2 months, the UNITED KINGDOM will be a fully INDEPENDENT and SOVEREIGN NATION.

God Save the Queen.