Time to address the growing disparities
The Wessex regionalists want to take the counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon and name them Wessex.
The BBC has asked if that Wessex could become independent from the UK. That plays to the BBC pro-EU agenda in which England is divided into numerous regions answerable to Brussels as parts of "Europe of the Regions".
A country the size of the regionalists' Wessex has some attractions on the level of democracy, but it has practical restrictions in the geographical context of England. For example, planning a railway network which was restricted to the eight counties would be difficult. The South Country consisting of the South West, South East and East Anglia would be a much better proposition to consider.
Even if Scotland were to vote for independence next year, the UK would remain one of the most centralised countries in the world. The poor public servant outside of London trying to deliver an integrated bus, tram and rail system has an almost impossible task, because of how London gets the giant share of England's public transport budget. Even if money were made available for transport in the provinces, there is little that can be done when shaping the structure of transport networks is firmly in the hands of Whitehall and London centric governments.
When it comes to transport, everything in London is done differently. Transport for London ensures that. In London bus use has doubled since 1986. Elsewhere it has halved. Billions are being spent on Crossrail and Thameslink. In the West, we cannot get improvements to services or stations reopened. The main line to Bristol will be electrified in 2016, but there is no sign of the local lines around the city of Bristol being electrified. The electrification is for the benefit of London not the West. And £50 billion and rising is intended to be spent on High Speed 2 rail to Manchester which will not benefit anywhere outside of London. It has to be recognised that there is a world beyond the M25.
The growing disparities between the three economies within England – the North, the South (outside of London) and London – will have to be addressed.
All The South Party
House builders need to rethink strategy
Most of what David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, says in his diatribe "Why The Housing Market Is In A Mess" (Daily Press December 12) is undeniably true, though he is being very picky with his choice of statistics and I take exception to his comments about "The hysterical reaction of the well-heeled and well-housed to the idea of more houses being built." I find such "sledging" usually comes from someone who has lost an argument but can't come to terms with reality.
However, I can find no mention in the article of the half a million homes that already have planning permission, that his cronies in the mass house building industry simply refuse to build until market conditions improve (i.e. prices go up even higher.) I use the term cronies because of course since 30 per cent or so of new houses built by developers have to be "social housing" then the interests of the National Housing Federation and mass market housing developers are inextricably entwined. Maybe this is why I have never come across any meaningful criticism of such developers from NHF in the media.
Nor indeed is there mention in the article of the existing "brownfield sites" that could hold 1½million new homes, should the mass housing developers turn their minds to those, rather than aggressively pursuing the unsustainable policy of ravaging green field, green belt or urban green lung sites that they so very much prefer.
Mr Orr might like to explain when, in the past 50 years:
People on average wages have ever been able to afford to buy their own house?
House prices have ever actually gone down in real terms as a result of increasing the supply of "market" housing?
Sufficient money from any government has been ploughed into providing decent housing?
Perhaps if the NHF is really serious about tackling the current "mess" in the housing market Mr Orr would like to meet up with people campaigning to protect the nation's ever diminishing green spaces and possibly even some open-minded parliamentarians, to discuss ways of getting these "frozen" social housing" units built, on available brownfield sites, within existing settlement boundaries and pretty darned quick. It might however mean cutting the ties that bind the NHF to the building industry and strengthening their ties with those people in desperate need of social housing!
A sustainable social house-building programme backed by both NHF and green space protection campaigners would be unstoppable in the run-up to the 2015 election.
Save Our Green Spaces
Is this a change of heart from our MP?
Neil Carmichael urges SDC to reconsider the tender arrangements for Stroud Farmers Market. His lack of support for the market competition to provide the best service is welcomed. Can we now look forward to his support of local and national government to provide and maintain other public services? His support for a fully public NHS would be a good starting point.
Under regulation introduced by both Tory and Labour governments, local governing bodies like SDC are often required to put services out to tender in this way. The council frequently does not have a choice.
Neil Carmichael is now requesting SDC acts counter to Tory free market philosophy. Is our MP considering jumping ship or merely indulging in a spot of early electioneering?
Councillor Sarah Lunnon
Green, Stroud shopper and supporter of local and national public service
We need to see some action from NGOs
This Christmas more than any other year I have been inundated with big name conservation money grabbing advertising – "Buy my bee tea towel", "adopt a snow leopard".
Its almost relentless badgering (excuse the pun). If I saw these NGOs actually tackling the serious elements of the subjects they are exploiting I would be supportive but I just have the feeling they are protecting salaries.