Wednesday 2 March 2016
Madam Mayor, Fellow Councillors, officers, ladies & gentleman
I want to start off my brief comments by commending the Labour Group – on producing a comprehensive and rational alternative Budget Statement. Something we never ever received during all the many years the Conservatives spent in Opposition at Broxtowe.
In fact It’s been over 20 years since a Tory controlled Budget presented to this council. Milan, me few others here witnessed that. Over 20 years, I had a full head of hair, Tony Blair was leader of the Opposition, Donald Trump was anonymous, Leeds United were in the Premiership, Howard Wilkinson Manager.
Some things have changed – fortunes of my beloved Leeds United, runners & riders American Politics my hair radically changed, somethings however remain exactly the same.
That is this, lack of leadership, lack of leadership shown by Conservatives in Broxtowe, controlled by a vocal yet manipulative inward aggressive looking elite.
Lack of leadership
Madam Mayor – Conservatives have had over 20 years to present a vision, work out where they want to take Broxtowe- yet their message from the early 90s, is just the same as today
- They don’t really want to build houses
- They don’t like public transport
- They want to close Durban House
- Close cash offices (hit poorest areas hardest)
So translated – particularly in the north of the borough – Broxtowe is closed for business. No vision, no plans, no asks. No willingness to be brave or think outside the box.
And it is particularly closed for business with regards to Oxylane. This is the starkest example of single lack of leadership.
Myth that the leisure centre in Kimberley can continue until further notice, – is that a myth. That Oxylane would spell it’s death knell is also a myth. Conservative members been told that.
Yes, you can turn around and say that we had several goes to see this development through. We ain’t perfect. We failed, failed because every single Conservative member voted to oppose. Some however, since very bravely and commended can see here an opportunity. They see what’s in the interests of the people of Broxtowe, and not in the interests of the Tory party.
Oxylane you have the Opportunity to invest, enhance environment, improve health sports provision for youngsters, and families. Boost council finances. That’s what Labour would do.
You have the opportunity to make life better, fairer residents Broxtowe, but you have failed after 1 budget.
This budget fails, fails though lack of leadership, lack of vision, lack of credibility, after over 20 years opposition people of Broxtowe deserve better.
Nick Palmer was Labour MP for Broxtowe between 1997 and 2010. He is sorely missed in Broxtowe.
I worked in a voluntary capacity for him for a number of years as both borough and county councillor. I don’t recall ever having met someone who worked as hard as Nick, yet he always had time for constituents. He was an excellent back-bench Labour MP.
One of Nick’s many attributes was being able to reach across the political divide, and especially in Broxtowe – which in large measure has a strong natural Tory tendency. He was able to reach out to many constituents (just over 3,000 at the last count) by in part, keeping in touch via email with detailed and regular newsletters.
Even though he now has no official ties with Broxtowe he still takes the time to write occasionally on matters of interest – his latest missive, on Europe is shown below:
Europe – decision day fast approaches
Hi all, I’ve not posted for a while, and I’m afraid it’s just that I’ve been taking a break from politics – travelling for pleasure, going out to the theatre and movies, sorting out some family issues, winning some poker tournaments. I’m sorry not to have won last May, but freedom has its charms too! However, with the referendum apparently just months away, I thought it might be helpful to post some comments on that. It’s a pity, in my view, that the debate is focused so much on whether Mr Cameron’s frankly modest renegotiation package is successful or not. It’s always been obvious to anyone in politics that Mr Cameron had a 3-point plan:
1. Offer the referendum as a way to bring UKIP leaners back and win the election
2. Get some sort of token package of reform
3. Declare victory and win the referendum
Older people remember all this – it’s exactly what Harold Wilson did in the 60s. You may think it’s cynical, though stage 1 certainly worked – if the Conservatives hadn’t offered the referendum, they’d have leaked a few percentage points to UKIP and we’d now have a different government. A good thing or a bad thing, it’s all history. But quite soon, Mr Cameron will also be history – he’s retiring whether he wins or not. I wish him many happy years, but it would be ridiculous to decide the future of Britain on the basis of whether we approve of a retiring politician and his manoeuvres. The fundamental issue is this – and it’s something which has struck me with increasing force in my present (animal welfare) job, which has taken me to 25 countries in the last few years.
The world is increasingly divided into regional power blocs. Nearly every continent has one now, in different stages of development, each with preferential trade internally and an attempt to form a common front to defend their interests globally. We do not have a choice of blocs – we can’t sensibly join NAFTA in North America or ASEAN in South East Asia or the African Union.
We can be in the EU, or we can be on our own. And to be on our own in today’s world is a risky and frankly unusual decision. If we think we can win global arguments on our own, we are deluded; what will usually happen is that we will bob along in the slipstream of decisions made by others. This is not to argue that the EU is a terrific example of good governance. It creaks. It’s not very transparent. It’s slow. It’s dominated by big business. But for this continent, it’s actually the only game in town. That’s illustrated by the difficulty that the Leave campaign is having in identifying the alternative. Broadly speaking, there are two variants. We can join EFTA, like Norway, or we can refuse to join anything. If we join EFTA, we will have almost exactly the same rules as now – for instance, we will still have free movement of labour from throughout the EU. In EFTA, I don’t think we’d see a big exodus of business. The difference is merely that we will have less influence in deciding what those rules are, and certainly no veto. Or we can be entirely separate. But that means being outside the EU free trade area, subject to tariffs. In that case, we really would see the big companies moving out with a big loss of jobs. Their European offices are going to be more important than the British market if we force them to choose.
I’ve heard the comparison that the EU is like an awkward marriage – there comes a point where you feel that the marriage is just too much hassle, and you’d be happier with someone else. But we need to be clear that there isn’t anyone else: the alternative is splendid isolation. To pursue the analogy, we would be choosing to be lone bachelors in a world increasingly dominated by families. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think we realistically belong in the European area, and we should work to make the best of it instead of grumbling from the sidelines. But I’m not saying that because I’m interested in Mr Cameron’s package, or any other politician’s stance.
It simply seems to me that we are best off staying in partnership with our neighbours, whether it’s difficult or not. In the end, Europe is going to sink or swim together, and we cannot opt out of that reality – only from being part of the decisions that will decide whether it succeeds or not. Don’t vote for tactical reasons, to annoy Cameron or reward anyone else. Instead, vote for a coherent long-term future for Britain as part of the continent where we live.
Best regards Nick
To contact Nick: twitter: @nick4broxtowe
What can be done to improve traffic flow, congestion and pedestrian safety in Hardy Street/Maws Lane, Cliff Boulevard & Swingate areas of Kimberley? Initial report.
Neighbourhood consultation – Swingate & Hardy Street/Cliff Boulevard Action Plan – January 2016
– Wednesday 27 January 2016 – between 3pm and 7pm
– Saturday 30 January 2016 – between 10am and 12 noon
Members of the public can meet with myself informally over tea and coffee to discuss the report that has been compiled following a questionnaire being issued last year. Two Kimberley residents – John Sykes of Swingate and Sue Page of Tewkesbury Drive will also be present as they have helped compile the report.
“What can be done to improve traffic flow and congestion, and pedestrian safety in two specific areas of Kimberley: Hardy Street/Cliff Boulevard and Swingate/High Street areas?”
Feedback from neighbourhood consultation – initial report
My name is Richard Robinson and I have been a Borough councillor in Kimberley continually from 1997 to date. In that time many issues have been brought to my attention by local residents ranging from housing and planning issues through to anti-social behaviour, HGV vehicles weight limits and restrictions, parking, transport and regeneration matters. Some issues remain relevant for a while for example anti-social behaviour. Others however have a much longer life span and tend not to simply fade into the background, or even if they do they soon come back to life at relatively short notice.
The following report is in response to long standing and ongoing local traffic related concerns which have been highlighted by numerous individuals over the years, and which continue to blight our community.
At this point I would like acknowledge the work of members of the local community. Lots of people have taken the time to get in touch and for all of the comments I am extremely grateful. I would especially like to thank Ros Broker, Mary McGuckin and
Rev Barbara Holbrook for their support. Additionally, and in particular two Kimberley residents Sue Page of Tewkesbury Drive and John Sykes of Swingate, have given up their time and helped to interrogate the survey data and compile the responses.
In compiling this report we have sought the support of many members of the public. Through our traffic survey we have identified what the main issues are and some thoughts on how they may be resolved.
As a community we need a forward thinking and collaborative plan to tackle these problems which have been plaguing our historic town for years. I know we can create a very positive momentum behind this initiative that involves all stakeholders, and allows us to continue to work together to ensure Kimberley becomes a better place to live and work in, as well as a place that people will want to visit.
Following on from the publication of this initial report I have arranged a number of meetings which the public are welcome to attend. The meetings will be held on
Wednesday 27 January 2016 at Rumbletums, Victoria Street, Kimberley between 3pm and 7pm, and on Saturday 30 January 2016 same venue between 10 am and 12 noon.
The purpose of the meetings is to discuss the initial survey findings, identify next steps/ ways in which we can work to enhance our community’s quality of life by defining and facilitating longer term effective traffic management measures.
This report advocates a different kind of approach to problem solving, a more collaborate and inclusive arrangement which is community-led and which puts the views of local people at the forefront of any changes.
Our aim in publishing this report is to provide a high degree of awareness of the problems and how they affect people, to invite local residents to join the discussions, encourage everyone who is affected to contribute to the development and implementation of a long term plan, and to provide regular updates and promote consultation events.
I hope you can take the time to read the information in this report and feel free to contribute in any way you can.
In moving this initiative forward, we will of course work closely with the statutory agencies and principal councils, as well as our own town council.
Labour Borough Councillor Kimberley
Background and Context to report
Between February and May 2015 last year in particular, some very specific problems of traffic congestion, pedestrian safety and traffic flow were specifically raised with me again by residents in two areas of Kimberley who were frustrated with the lack of any noticeable improvements to long standing problems. Those areas are Swingate and High Street, and Hardy Street and Cliff Boulevard, Kimberley.
For people living in the Swingate area the main problems related to a hold up on Greens Lane near Sainsbury’s which can lead to periods of frustration and delay for residents trying both to enter and exit this area. Swingate is said to be one of the longest and largest cul-de sacs throughout the whole of Broxtowe.
For people living in the Hardy Street/Cliff Boulevard area the main issues highlighted were traffic congestion and other driving related problems, ie drivers frequently mounting pavements, parked vehicles restricting visibility for turning at the top of Hardy Street, frequent congestion in and around Cliff Boulevard.
Due to the volume of concerns that were raised I wrote to residents in both areas in June 2015 asking for their feedback not only on what the problems were, but also what they would like to see done to address the issues. The main body of this report covers the responses I received.
This report is a true reflection of the views and opinions of those people living in these areas, and directly affected by the problems. It is set out in such a way as to allow those reading the report to have a greater understanding of the direct effect of these issues on people’s lives. There is recognition that many of these problems exist in many other parts of the country and the way forward to resolve or minimise the problem is to work closely with multiple agencies, including county, borough and town councils, highways agency, local schools, the police, health facilities, bus companies and public and private sector organisations.
Pages 5 to 8 set out the findings of the traffic surveys in and around Swingate area Kimberley
Traffic Survey – Swingate area
Responses to a letter from Cllr Richard Robinson to Swingate households delivered in June 2015.
Description of problem/contributory factors according to respondents:
- Swingate is effectively a cul-de-sac with two ways in (Greens Lane and High street) but only one exit (Greens Lane). Residents experience delays as traffic builds up on Greens Lane preventing their exit from, and also entry to, Swingate.
- Regret expressed that building of A610 meant that Knowle Hill became a no through road, thus reducing entry and exit to and from Swingate.
- Increase in traffic over last 30 years, new schools/nurseries, bigger Sainsbury’s store.
- Drivers use Kimberley as an alternative route (“rat-run”) whenever there is congestion on M1/A610 and this contributes to overall problem.
- Impatient driver behaviour coming out of Sainsbury’s store and petrol station, and the precinct opposite. Drivers get impatient and just drive out, ignoring people coming down from Swingate, or indeed up to Swingate. Suggested yellow cross boxes would help with this, but would have to be strictly enforced.
- Drivers straddle both exit lanes when leaving Sainsbury’s car park, thus right turners block people who wish to turn left up Swingate. A badly located bollard and poor road markings are the main reason for this.
- Drivers waiting to turn into either the precinct or Sainsbury’s cause traffic to build up. Poor entry/exit design causes this.
- Driver behaviour exiting two nurseries at Swingate/Greens Lane. Cherubs Day Nursery access/exit is abysmal, so many people just park on the road.
- Blind corner caused by high wall at Cherubs Day Nursery – cause of accidents. Also, the corner is almost too tight even for cars, let alone larger vehicles.
- Kimberley school parking problems – parking on blind bend, double yellows, school zig-zags (driver behaviour).
Opinions suggested from respondents regarding improvements
- Leave alone/talk to people to resolve situation/walk more. Not enough – there are serious problems that need tackling.
- Improve pedestrian experience, encourage walking, wider pavements, reduce dog fouling.
- Work with Sainsbury’s to find solution. Alter entrance/exit road markings and remove bollard. Provide space for a bus layby on Greens Lane.
- Work with schools to reduce school run traffic, discuss drivers’ behaviour,
- Scheme to encourage walking to school. Will require safer routes.
Specific suggestions regarding Parking
- Suggest bigger car park at schools. For drop off and pick up, or any car park where non currently exists (ie Swingate Primary School).
- Suggest parking restrictions at schools, double yellow lines to prevent dangerous parking on blind corner. Be wary of this option – double yellow lines outside the school would serious penalise residents.
- Parking restrictions outside both day nurseries. At least restrict to one side only, above the junction.
- Traffic wardens to pay attention to illegal/dangerous on-street parking rather than overstay in car parks.
- Strict enforcement of no parking on double yellows and school zig-zags.
Specific suggestions regarding High Street
- Change High Street to two-way traffic with priority flow given to traffic exiting Swingate. May need a lights system with traffic sensors. If Greens Lane is congested, all traffic from Swingate must use High Street, ie temporary No Entry down Greens Lane will keep junction clear. Also, no right turn into High Street when congestion exists.
- Change High Street to one-way traffic in the opposite direction to what it is now, that is from Swingate towards Church Hill and Eastwood Road. Previous arrangement may be better.
- Do not allow parking on High street and widen High street. Maybe, used to be that way. Most properties do have off-street parking or could park in streets opposite.
Specific suggestions regarding Speed limits
- 20 mph speed limit on High Street. From James Street to Greens Lane?
- 20 mph speed limit on Main Street from Broomhill Road to Nine Corners. Possible but in heavy traffic speed is already reduce and this maybe a problem when traffic is very light.
Specific suggestions regarding Bus stop/pedestrian crossing
- Reposition bus stop/change bus timing point outside Sainsbury’s as this contributes to congestion by blocking vision at Sainsbury’s exit. Maybe Sainsbury’s should give up a little space to enable a layby to be installed on Greens Lane. Also move the bus stop opposite the precinct, since both stops are currently directly opposite.
- Buses waiting at library bus stop causes congestion. This really should not be a timing point.
- Reposition pedestrian crossing at junction of Greens Lane/Main street (just by mini-roundabout) as this contributes to congestion. Crossing is too close to junction. This should be a pelican-type crossing with a repeater advisory control indicator at the bottom of Greens Lane.
- There are too many pedestrian crossings and they interrupt traffic flow. The new crossing on Greens Lane should be a pelican-type with traffic sensing. It does not supplant the bollard “crossing” close to the Main Street junction and simultaneous use of both crossings is a problem when traffic is already busy.
Specific suggestions regarding Road improvements
- A number of big road improvements suggested eg new slip road to A610, new road to Strelley. However, these ideas are then dismissed as causing more problems and too expensive.
Specific suggestions regarding Traffic lights
- Traffic light control of, or instead of, mini roundabout at bottom of Greens Lane. If installed, these would very much have to be traffic volume controlled and could also accommodate pedestrian crossing facilities. The downside could be causing traffic build-up on all approaches. Alternatively, a yellow box junction, possibly with roundabout rules, might be more efficient.
- Traffic light control needed on High Street if open to two-way traffic. Maybe, but proper controls should be implemented to ensure optimum traffic flow in both directions.
Suggested further research and Conclusions
How much of a problem does the fire and ambulance service actually have with Swingate? Probably not so much along Swingate, but certainly around the Greens Lane/High Street junction/corner, especially when cars are parked there.
What are their views?
What are the accident statistics for the area, particularly outside Sainsbury’s?
Is it known as a bad area for accidents? Important topic, but suspect very low and not the real issue.
What do the police think?
What are their views and suggestions?
Could Sainsbury’s mark the two exit lanes more clearly for left and right turners? They must do this, and remove the bollard.
Reposition Sainsbury’s entrance or the precinct entrance. Given the petrol station exit too, there is not much scope moving either the Sainsbury’s or the precinct entrances/exits onto Greens Lane.
Involve Trent Barton:
What are their views? Would they be prepared to move the bus timing point? This is critically important issue and should be strongly pursued with Trent Barton.
Involve the school and nurseries:
Can they work with parents regarding parking?
Could the school encourage parents to allow children to walk to school?
Strict enforcement of parking restrictions around school. But not to the ultimate detriment of local residents.
Many suggestions revolve around changing people’s behaviour including encouraging more walking, more considerate parking and drivers thinking about their behaviour.
A number of respondents suggested changes to High Street including two-way traffic or one-way traffic in opposite direction to currently. This is a key element for Swingate access/egress.
Introduce 20mph zones in Kimberley and Swingate. There is already a 20mph sign-controlled limit on Swingate during school start and finish times. Seems unnecessary at other times. Risk of backing up traffic in the centre of the town. When traffic is heavy, even 20mph is not usually achievable. When traffic is light, 20mph would be an unnecessary constraint.
Pages 9 to 11 set out the findings of the traffic surveys in and around the Cliff Boulevard, Hardy Street, Norman Street, Maws Lane area of Kimberley
Traffic Survey – Cliff Boulevard area
Responses to a letter to these households from Cllr Richard Robinson in June 2015
Problems and the possible solutions
Number one problem by far relates to parked vehicles: Respondents go to some lengths to describe what they see as unsafe, impatient behaviour from drivers. Vehicles mounting the pavement causes concern to several respondents. It is emphasised that parking at school times is a particular problem. Residents are concerned to find a solution as the new houses on the Brewery site will make matters worse.
- Parked vehicles create hazard on Hardy Street, Cliff Boulevard and Maws Lane by restricting visibility making it dangerous to turn right at junctions and by making it difficult for two-way traffic to pass.
Solution: Create more parking space on Cliff Boulevard by doing the following:
- Encourage people to use their own drives/garages. Sensible, but accesses must not then be blocked by others parking on the street.
- Properties on Cliff Boulevard have parking space to rear of properties which is not used – it this was used properly then it would reduce on street parking.
- Align parking slots on Cliff Boulevard at right angles to road to make better use of available space. There appears to be plenty of space for this and it would help reduce parking on the street.
- Create more parking slots on Cliff Boulevard by taking out some of the grassed area.
- Formalised parking bays on Cliff Boulevard, have build-outs with shrubs. However, these could be tantamount to chicanes.
- Widen Cliff Boulevard to allow two-way traffic and a parking lane.
- Solution: Restrictions on parking
- Restrict parking to residents only on Cliff Boulevard and Hardy Street – introduce parking permit system. Should include for legitimate visitors too.
- Restrict parking by extending double yellow lines along Cliff Boulevard to High Spannia, on Hardy Street at its junction with Cliff Boulevard top of Maws lane to Cornfield Road and on lower sections of Hardy Street.
- Enforce no parking on double yellows; police don’t seem bothered about it.
- Allow parking only on one side of Hardy Street (mimic Maws Lane)
- No parking allowed at all outside Hollywell school on either side of Hardy Street.
- Ask parents to use Ascot Avenue or Haydock Close to take pressure off Hardy Street.
- Ask parents to use Golden Guinea Car Park (not possible as it will be new Co-op)
- Encourage children to walk to school.
Other problems identified:
- Cliff Boulevard used as through route from IKEA island to B600
- Solution: Make Cliff Boulevard more like Maws Lane with parking lane and one direction having priority.
- Have 20mph zone on Cliff Boulevard, Hardy Street.
- Reduce speed by making speed bumps more severe.
- Cliff Boulevard used by heavy lorries and coaches
- Solution: Enforce weight restrictions, route coaches another way.
- Make Cliff Boulevard access only.
- Vehicles (4X4s in particular) mount the pavement; creates hazard to pedestrians.
- Solution: Bollards on pavement to prevent vehicles mounting pavement.
- Raise kerbs to make it difficult for vehicles to mount pavement.
Other suggestions made
- Make Hardy Street one-way (downhill) or access only.
- Make Maws Lane one-way (up-hill). Important to avoid Lawn Mills Road being used as alternative downhill option.
- Adopt Parkham Road (currently unmade road); this would allow access onto Hardy Street for Dorchester Road/Tiptree residents. This would take pressure off Cliff Boulevard.
- Link Tiptree Close with Coatsby Road (apparently in original plan for estate) to provide another exit without using Cliff Boulevard.
- Have traffic island at the bottom of Hardy Street at Nine Corners, this would slow down traffic coming into Kimberley and make it easier to exit Hardy Street. This is probably a very good idea in conjunction with a pelican crossing nearby.
- Have speed plateaus made of block paving sets as these have visual impact/change of level to reduce speed.
- Take out speed bumps and chicane on Maws lane and Cliff Boulevard. Congestion is the fault of hesitant drivers.
- Build a new road between B600 and IKEA island.
- Road surface on Cliff Boulevard is appalling, needs resurfacing.
Suggested further research and Conclusions
Get statistics for Maws lane, include exit from Maws Lane onto Eastwood Road, also
Cliff Boulevard, Hardy Street.
What do emergency services think, have they had problems with access?
What do police think about this problem?
Discuss with parents.
As with Swingate area work with the school to resolve parking issues around school drop-off and pick-up times.
Main issue relates to problems caused by parked vehicles, so give this priority,
Speak to residents to resolve parking issues.
Talking to people and changing people’s behaviour is worth a try before road improvements.
Next Steps / Way Forward
I am including in this report some further information which may be helpful in considering the next steps and a way forward for the development of longer term effective traffic management measures within the areas identified in this report.
In 2011 the government introduced the Localism Act which provided new rights and powers, and allowed local communities to shape new developments in their communities (in particular housing). One of these powers allows the local town / parish councils to develop a local neighbourhood plan. The opportunity exists within these plans for the local council to ask the question “what other aspects of living in the town need to be considered?”. Clearly there is a need as part of any neighbourhood plan, to create a series of policies which would address specific current and future traffic management problems, including traffic congestion and pedestrian safety. There is therefore scope to include traffic management issues as part of the development of a broader neighbourhood plan.
I am aware that Kimberley Town Council are currently moving forward on the development of a local neighbourhood plan.
Following on from our meetings in January I would propose to invite the various agencies mentioned in the body of this report to make comment on the contribution they can make to minimise the current problems and how they may contribute to a longer term strategy.
I have no doubt after having studied the information in the report that whilst new policies and close working relationship with many agencies will contribute to reducing the extent of the problem, the real challenge will be in reshaping or changing people’s attitudes and making them more aware of the affects of their behaviour on their fellow citizens.
I hope that that the contents of this report might make people sit up and take notice and that we can introduce an awareness strategy of how small changes in the way people behave can greatly improve the quality of life for many others.
Additional information updated from contact with residents during January 2016
Corner of High Street Kimberley – a number of residents are seriously concerned about people who are parking around the corner from Greens Lane to go into Cherubs Day Nursery – they park on the left hand side near the entrance (dangerous parking) on top of that people are parking opposite on the road and some cars are parked for a whole day. This really must be dealt with as a priority. There is probably a case for double yellows around the Greens Lane/High Street corner on the Cherubs Day Nursery side, as far as the BT exchange entrance. On the other side of the road, any parked vehicle results in traffic being on the wrong side when passing, and also being even less visible to vehicles coming around the bend.
Regarding Nine Corners
A growing number of people are asking about the possibility of a zebra crossing in this area, and additionally I have also had contact from Rev Barbara Holbrook on several issues who writes as follows:
I wonder whether there can be a way of coming down from Swingate and turning
left onto High Street and then down Church Hill? You would still want to
disallow a right turn for people coming up from Sainsbury’s. There would
need to be some priority setting in the short ‘one-way’ stretch to enable
this to happen. This would allow traffic from Swingate to get out of
Kimberley without having to go through the bottleneck on Green Lane and the
Town Centre. As I told you, we once had a bride turn up 25 minutes late
because the traffic was that bad on a Saturday. This would also require a right turn restriction from Swingate into Greens Lane whenever the latter is badly congested. Otherwise, traffic would block the junction making High Street inaccessible.
Re: Nine Corners;
As you know, both Kettlebrook Lodge and our Church Hall have playgroups
every weekday. A large number of families with small children walk to
playgroup, and cross over the road at Nine Corners. The reverse is true for
families with children at Hollywell School – who walk up Hardy Street. When
the school come to perform their Nativity play at Christmas, they have the
police there to manage the traffic. It is also the crossing place for
people using the bus stops. It is a difficult place to cross because of poor
visibility and a poorly defined pavement area by the Brewery gates. I know
that when I cross there, I am never certain about traffic, as there is no
clear distinction about what is pedestrian and what vehicular. Walking on
that pavement with a Guide Dog would be a nightmare. Along with that, the
‘hidden’ nature of the bend (I have congregation members who have been
coming to meetings at my house for years and hadn’t realised that there was
a right angled bend) means that drivers rarely allow for the lack of
visibility and slow down accordingly. The number of minor bumps on that
stretch of the road highlights that (I know of at least four in the last 6
months). This will only get worse as the new houses are occupied on Hardy
Street, and the main access to the Brewery Site development is added
somewhere along that stretch of road, especially as the only plans I have
seen have it between two blind corners. As yet, there has been no major
incident there while I have lived here, but it is an accident waiting to
Ideally, a mini roundabout and zebra crossing would be good, as would
ensuring that the access to the Brewery Site was via the existing gate onto
such a roundabout, rather than further down the road”. Any crossing(s) should be a pelican type and must have traffic sensors so as not to cause undue congestion. Also, a pelican crossing should be located maybe halfway between a roundabout and the bus stop, but certainly not close to the roundabout.
Jonathan Rutherford sets the scene at the outset of 2016 about how exactly the Labour Party can start the process of renewal.
Family, community & country – earning, belonging & culture, some hard truths and key challenges.
Click on the link below to read the full article, which is reprinted from the Winter 2015 Fabian Review.
Jonathan Andrew Rutherford, is an academic who is a Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Middlesex. Within British politics Rutherford is associated with the Blue Labour school of thought within the British Labour Party, and has been described as one of its “leading thinkers”.
Langley Mill Super Hub – Tram extension Line 4 phase III to Kimberley, Eastwood, & into Amber Valley
Papers have now being released for this first time showing some of the very detailed background work completed during the past year on the proposed tram extension to the Langley Mill Super Hub – click on the following link to get the specific details: aLangley Mill Hub 07-02-2019 draft 2
On 17 March 2020, Nottingham City Council’s Executive Board will meet to discuss support given to Broxtowe Borough Council’s in depth Feasibility Study into the tram extension from Phoenix Park through Kimberley & Eastwood: https://committee.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/documents/g7980/Public%20reports%20pack%2017th-Mar-2020%2014.00%20Executive%20Board.pdf?T=10
On 8 November, Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams (Leader Amber Valley Borough Council) & Cllr Richard Robinson meet with Cllr Barry Lewis (Leader of Derbyshire County Council) in Matlock to discuss the proposals for the tram extension – and in particular how they will benefit Langley Mill and further into Derbyshire.
On 5 September 2019 the Jobs & Economy Committee of Broxtowe Borough Council vote by a majority to support commissioning of an engineering study (referred to below).
Thursday 29 August 2019 – Broxtowe Borough Council publish their agenda for the next Jobs & Economy Committee on Thursday 5 September 2019;
Item 8 of the agenda – shows a report recommending commissioning of an engineering study demonstrating how a tram extension from Phoenix Park through Kimberley & Eastwood to the Langley Mill Super Hub (with a fast rail link to Hs2 at Toton) could be reliably delivered;
On 15 August 2019 Cllr Richard Robinson received an unsolicited request to talk through the Langley Mill Super Hub concept with BBC Radio Derby.
There is strong support demonstrated from local people in Langley Mill.
You should be able to find a recording of interview that took place on 16 August at:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07hw6h8 (if clicking on this link directly does not work – try copying and pasting into a new browser)
– two separate parts to the interview from the link above: 1:14:25 – 1:18
& then from 2:13:44 (for a couple of minutes).
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hw6h8 (click on 16 8 19 edition) – again if clicking on this link directly does not work – try copying and pasting into a new browser.
Meetings are held with representatives of Nottingham City Council, business leaders in Broxtowe, Amber Valley Borough Council, D2N2, East Midlands Councils and Broxtowe Borough Council to press the case for the Langley Mill Super Hub option as a key driver for economic growth, improving public transport, promoting jobs investment and meeting key environmental challenges during the coming years.
Very constructive and positive discussions were held and more detailed proposals for taking the Langley Mill Super Hub option forward should appear in the public domain from September onwards.
Pictured below, one of the meetings that took place in July – Cllr Chris Emmas Williams – Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council, Sajeeda Rose – Chief Executive of D2N2, Mrs Ruth Hyde – Chief Executive of Broxtowe Borough Council, Steve Barber (light rail expert) and Cllr Richard Robinson.
Formal support for the Super Hub proposals were received from IKEA, Cllr Alex Stevenson (Conservative) Derbyshire County Council and Nigel Mills – Conservative MP for Amber Valley – see respectively the following documents: Tram Extension Langley Mill Transport Hub
In addition two very detailed reports have been submitted supporting the Langley Mill Super Hub along with the documents shown above to East Midlands Councils/Hs2 for funding consideration as part of the East Midlands Hs2 Growth Strategy.
We are advised that more news will be available on the progress of the Langley Mill Super Hub bid towards the end of May this year.
On 25 January 2019 2019 Cllr John Handley, Cllr Margaret Handley & Cllr Richard Robinson met with IKEA representatives on Giltbrook Retail Park to discuss their support the proposed tram extension and integrated transport hub in Langley Mill.
On 22 January 2019 Cllr Richard Robinson and Andy Cooper make a presentation to Heanor branch Labour Party on the proposed tram extension and integrated transport hub in Langley Mill.
On Friday 14 December 2018 a meeting is held in Ripley with Nigel Mills MP for Amber Valley, along with Cllr Lydia Ball (Broxtowe Borough Council), Steve Bowers, Sales Manager Bowers Electrical Heanor, Cllr Chris Emmas Williams and Cllr Alex Steveson (both Amber Valley cllrs) and Cllr Richard Robinson. We presented to Nigel our vision for the Langley Mill Super Transport Hub.
Support is received from Heanor Churches Together & The Churches of Kimberley & Nuthall for the tram extension and proposed integrated transport in Langley Mill – click on the following document EPSON019 to see their support.
A meeting is arranged with Nigel Mills MP for Amber Valley and a number of key stakeholders for 14 December 2018 to discuss the Super Hub proposal for Langley Mill.
Cllr Richard Robinson had further meeting with IKEA representatives at Giltbrook Retail Park on 6 November to learn of their support for the tram extension.
On 2 November 2018, Gloria De Piero MP for Ashfield, Alex Norris MP, Cllr Dave Liversidge, Andy Cooper and Cllr Richard Robinson meet with Cllr Jon Collins – Leader of Nottingham City Council to discuss the tram extension from Phoenix Park, and economic regeneration along the A610 corridor.
a) Support is received from independent rail consultant on tram proposals out through Kimberley & Eastwood to Super Hub at Langley Mill, arguing though for an early completion on part of the route by 2023 – click on the following link: AJ kelm
b) On Thursday 11 October a new group in the community comprising current and former councillors from different political parties, and the local clergy, come together in Kimberley to work and support Economic Growth along the A610 corridor – including the tram extension and improved connected bus services.
In this photo, Conservative Borough & County Councillor John Handley (Broxtowe), Cllr Lydia Ball (Broxtowe Conservative), Cllr Margaret Handley (Broxtowe Conservative), Cllr Dave Liversidge (Labour, Nottingham City – Portfolio Holder for Transport), Rev Canon Barbara Holbrook, Andy Cooper (Chair Kimberley, Eastwood, Nuthall, Kimberley Action Group KENTAG), Bob Charlesworth former Liberal Democrat Cllr Broxtowe and Cllr Jim Dymond (Independent Kimberley Town Council):
c) On Thursday 18 October a presentation is made at St Lawrence Church Heanor (as part of Heanor Vision public meeting), outlining the concept of the Langley Mill Super Hub – providing a tram link directly from Langley Mill, through Eastwood & Kimberley to Nottingham, combined with a fast link train directly to the Hs2 hub station at Toton, with electric bus options from Langley Mill to Codnor, and Ripley.
d) On Thursday 25 October Bob Charlesworth, Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams (Leader Labour Group Amber Valley), Rev Canon Barbara Holbrook and Cllr Robinson meet together with Rev Lisa Shemilt (Associate Priest of Heanor, Langley Mill, Aldecar & Marlpool) to further discuss Langley Mill Super Hub and how to engage with and gain support of local clergy. A further session is arranged for Thursday 29 November.
e) On Friday 26 October – Cllr Richard Robinson met Derbyshire Conservative County Councillor for Greater Heanor – Alex Stevenson – to discuss how we can work collaboratively together to bring investment into Langley Mill and Amber Valley through the advent of the Langley Mill Super Hub.
Full link from BBC East Midlands today news (late bulletin) Wednesday 16 May 2018:
Press coverage of the latest work being undertaken is covered by clicking on both links below
Tuesday 20 March 2018
- A detailed proposal for a tram/transport link from Kimberley & Eastwood out to Amber Valley is submitted to East Midlands Councils, which specific reference to Amber Valley and connectivity with Hs2. Significant support & endorsement from business and the local community is confirmed including Peveril Homes, Bowers Electrical Ltd, New Horizons Church Eastwood (soon moving to Langley Mill), Heanor Town Council, Codnor Parish Council, Ripley Town Council & the Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire. This builds on existing support from Alex Norris MP, Gloria De Piero MP, Light Rapid Transit Association, British Land (owners of Giltbrook Retail Park) etc.
Friday 9 March 2018
Tuesday 6 March 2018
Wednesday 28 February 2018
- A meeting is held at Broxtowe Borough Council offices in Beeston with representatives from various bodies including East Midlands Councils, Light Rapid Transit Association, & Amber Valley Borough Council to consider how the tram extension could be linked with East Midlands Hs2 Growth Strategy.
- Monday 27 November 2017 – Cllr Richard Robinson attends East Midlands Councils Infrastructure Summit in Leicester and raises Amber Valley, Eastwood, Kimberley, Phoenix Park tram extension as an integral part of East Midlands Hs2 Growth Strategy with Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine and Maria Machancoses Programme Director at Midlands Connect Project Team.
- News clipping from Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser
- Broxtowe Borough Council Labour Group response Local Plan Part II consultation – the document is found at the following link – making a strong case for protection of the tram route to Kimberley Local Plan Part 2 response 03-11-17
Submissions are made to Broxtowe Local Plan (part II) https://www.broxtowe.gov.uk/part2localplan
to support protection of the proposed tram route to Kimberley and Eastwood, by Andy Cooper – Chair of Kimberley, Eastwood and Nuthall Tram Action Group, Cllr Richard Robinson and Labour MP for Ashfield Gloria De Piero.
The submission from Gloria is shown by clicking on the following link: Gtram
Additionally at Broxtowe Borough Council full meeting on Wednesday 18 October 2017 Cllr Richard Robinson covered the Tram Extension in his Ward Members speech covering Kimberley. He was very pleased to confirm cross party support from the Liberal Democrats at Broxtowe together with sympathetic soundings from some Conservative members in the north of the borough.
Readers of the Nottingham Post would most like to see Nottingham’s tram line to be extended to the Nuthall, Kimberley and Eastwood area.
A detailed investigation into the viability of a tramline extension along the A610 corridor is being called for by campaigners:
On Saturday 18 March 2017 Cllr Richard Robinson together with local residents visit Eastwood Town Council for the Eastwood Neighbourhood Plan public consultation. Members of Eastwood Town Council confirm that they fully support in principle the tram extension from Phoenix Park through to Kimberley & Eastwood. They have alternative suggestions for route through Eastwood.
Thursday 23 March 2017 – Labour MP for Ashfield Gloria De Piero and Cllr Robinson both formally write to Eastwood Town Council pledging to work closely with Eastwood Town Council on tram developments.
Eastwood Town Council (27 February 2017) deliver hard copy Neighbourhood Plan for consultation with local residents in Eastwood. A draft on-line copy of the document with the town council’s preference for the tram extension covering Eastwood is shown at the following link: http://www.eastwood-town-council.org.uk/images/NeighbourhoodPlan.pdf (page 25).
On 2 December 2016 the following article appeared in the Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser (click on the following three links): epson005 epson006 epson007 – I support the development of HS2 (with the important provisos that the fares are fully affordable and not premium pricing, and that there are no adverse affects on the proposed tram extension to Kimberley). On the latter point – there in fact should be some positive effects due to the need for increased connectivity by public transport in wider parts of Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire.
15 November 2016
Kimberley, Eastwood and Nuthall Tram Action Group (KENTAG) cautiously welcomed today’s announcement of the route that the northern section of HS2 will follow, including confirmation of the location for a station at Toton to serve Derby and Nottingham. This is seen as the seed which will deliver a network of light rail routes throughout the region.
Cllr Richard Robinson said; “Whilst today’s news is very good news for the prosperity of the East Midlands, we must ensure that construction is planned carefully and allows for other projects. We are particularly concerned that provision is made for the Kimberley and Eastwood tramline. I have received assurances that this will be allowed for at the design stage, and I want that set in stone.”
“Connectivity is vital for business and the creation of jobs. Now we know that the East Midlands will join the High Speed rail club we want to ensure that the prosperity it brings is shared out and doesn’t stop at Phoenix Park and the Nottingham city boundary”
“The M1, although vital for north-south connectivity, is a barrier to east-west development. The Nuthall roundabout creates a serious disincentive for firms to locate westwards. Just to the north is an underused bridge under which could easily carry a light rail line with the capacity of at least a dual carriageway road.”
(Andrew Braddock, Chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA), said: “Now the HS2 route has been confirmed it is clear we need to address means of getting to its stations. Toton is in a very fortunate position, not only being just one kilometre away from the current terminus of NET but also in a place where various disused mineral railways converged. These lines are ideal for light rail use and can reconnect several former mining towns and villages to the new prosperity. The proposed Kimberley and Eastwood extension to NET would uses parts of these mineral lines.”
Steve Barber (Vice President elect of the LRTA and chair of Beeston and Chilwell for Integrated Transport) added “There is no doubt that construction of NET phase 2 was a difficult process, but the extension to Kimberley would involves no street running and little disruption. Now Nottingham has the beginnings of a network the advantages are becoming clear. Beeston High Road has no retail units available for rent and the town has a shop vacancy rate of just 3%, against national and regional averages of around 10-12%. As happened in Manchester, now is the time for a big expansion to include lines to Kimberley, Eastwood, Gedling and possibly the airport.”
Jim Harkins (from the secretariat of the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group on Light Rail) said: “Nottingham is to be commended for its work on air pollution. For a city of its size it is punching above its weight and showing the rest of the country how it should be done. Research in Oslo has shown that around 50% of the most dangerous PM10 and other particulates don’t come just from engines but from the vehicle tyres and road surface wearing out and going into the low level atmosphere. Particles frombrake linings are a source of atmospheric pollution too.
Recent reports from the Universities of Oxford and Manchester amongst others, has indicated a significant link with Alzheimers Disease being caused by the Magnetite particles generated from the interface between wheels and road surfaces.
The steel wheels of electric trams running on steel rails (electric trams) do not emit any of this pollution.
Notes for Editors:
Satisfaction in Nottingham’s trams is running at 98% and exceeds other networks; http://thetram.net/net-is-number-one-say-customers.aspx
Construction of NET phase alone benefited Nottingham’s businesses by £100m; http://thetram.net/report-reveals-tram-projects-100m-economy-boost.aspx
this item appeared in the Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser in August 2016.
For the most up to date details please of ongoing campaigning work on the Tram extension please visit my “Work in Broxtowe Pages” – July and August 2016 updates: https://richardsrobinson.org.uk/work-in-broxtowe/
August 2016 – Gloria De Piero – Labour MP for Ashfield (covering Eastwood) gives her commitment to supporting the tram campaign “I am delighted to be working alongside Richard to secure popular support for the tram to be extended to Kimberley & Eastwood”. She added “it’s a fantastic way to travel and I will be campaigning hard in Eastwood to bring jobs, investment, growth and to reduce traffic congestion as a result of us getting the tram network extended”.
You may have read various reports in local newspapers and heard details on local radio about the tram feasibility study for Kimberley.
The full report presented at this stage by Mott MacDonald is now public and shown here – click on the following link: 305248-AC-DOC-001 (DRAFT)
As the report is 106 pages long (light bedtime reading), I’ve asked Steve Barber (Vice President elect of the Light Rail Transit Association) to provide a briefer summary – he writes as follows:
“Basically it looks at 6 possible alignments and immediately dismisses 2 of these. (see pages 60-61 for overview maps). I’ve made the following observations as I’ve worked through the document:
Option 1 is broadly the one Atkins came up with in 2001, we’ve investigated it in detail and frankly would seem to be the preferred option. I’ve concentrated my thoughts on that but just to quickly analyse (and in my view dismiss at this stage) the others:
1a) Too much street running, too slow, property and land acquisition needed and a disruptive build.
1b) Again too much street running, allows for a difficult park and ride site if one at all and disruptive build.
2) Loss of quality amenity, property demolition, time disadvantages.
2a) As 2 but also misses markets and can’t be extended.
2b) This could be a possibility if the tunnel is found to be unusable, but is inferior to option 1
· A number of residential developments are proposed along the route. In the past Kimberley Councillors have ensured a route through has been safeguarded.
· Other than these developments, around 6,500 homes would be connected if the tram runs just to Giltbrook (see my opinion below)
· Mention is made of future extensions into the Amber Valley
· HS2 is not seen as a problem to the alignment.
· The report doesn’t seem to propose as much re-use of bridges and tunnels as I would have thought. It is proposed to demolish the existing, but buried bridge at New Farm Lane, by the cemetry and an at grade crossing is proposed instead of using the tunnel at Watnall. It is vague about this tunnel, it does exist, I’ve been inside it (OK only by about a metre) and we took a railway engineer to investigate; he thought it could be lined and re-used. However, it is filled in and largely inaccessible so there’s currently an imponderable. An at grade crossing would be disruptive, expensive and involve land take with possible demolition. Investagative work definitely needed here.
· It would pass through a SSSI, which I understand is for geological reasons (the sides of the cutting) so shouldn’t present too much of a problem. However, further on it passes through a SINC which is a fairly low designation, Phase2 overcame such objections by mitigation.
· Beyond Kimberley, there is a compelling case that it should extend to at least a park and ride, involving an expensive structure over the A610. This seems unavoidable.
British Land were major contributors to this report costs so it is natural that it looks at serving their retail park, this is questioned on the grounds of cost on page 12. However, I would further question as to whether that is the best destination, after the Park and Ride proposed near Awsworth. I would have thought Eastwood with a population of 18,000 and a new major employment site under construction would be better. If the tramway remains on the western side of the A610 there are a couple of under used bridges which lead into Eastwood, the first via the residential areas of Newthorpe Common and Hill top. There may be a third option for this section.
Option 1 as proposed by Atkins and studied in considerable detail by KENTAG and associated consultants is the best option and should be taken forward. If the tunnel and bridges which exist can be excavated and re-used there is virtually no major disruption to the town or elsewhere, this is a totally different project to NET phase 2 through Beeston. Serious consideration should be given to extending the route to at least Eastwood. This is clearly a project for the combined authorities of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as the benefits to the ex-mining, steelworking and brewery communities are significant.
Independent experts have predicted an extra £300m of growth per annum into Greater Nottingham due to phase 2 of the tram. The A610 corridor should tap into and enhance this but is currently constrained by poor connectivity, due to the M1 acting as a barrier to east-west growth”.
On 7 September 2015 at a meeting of the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Committee, Broxtowe council members voted to ask Mott MacDonald to provide further information on highways and wider transport issues before coming to a firm recommendation on how to consider the Tram route to Kimberley any further. The committee above will then look at the issues again in December this year.
If anyone has any comments or questions please get in touch with myself or Cllr Andy Cooper (Kimberley Town Council) & Chair of KENTAG – Kimberley, Eastwood, Nuthall Tram Action Group – email@example.com
- We would envisage the first stop being Hempshill Vale, with then one or two in Watnall/Nuthall with Kimberley then being the final destination for the first part of the extension.
- (tram stops) Whatever our initial thoughts are the whole purpose of having a Feasibility Study is to ascertain where exactly the prime locations would be and for the experts to give full and proper guidance
- Concerning the Tram Walk – on 8 February 2015, this was the sixth. The last one before this was the best attended yet with 50 people walking the route. In the past Radio Nottingham have attended, and we have got good media coverage.
- We welcome those who are doubtful about the benefits of the proposed extension as well as those who are in favour to send in comments.
- The Feasibility Study is hugely important as the report that comes from there will confirm the best route, tram stops etc.
- Concerning the route KENTAG believe that the route would be as follows: it would leave Phoenix Park on colliery line – then joins up with Great Northern line, but then leave this and joins Old Midland route.
- The Great Northern route is unacceptable as a tunnel has collapsed there.
More information available from myself – Cllr Richard Robinson or Cllr Andy Cooper – Chair of KENTAG – Kimberley, Eastwood & Nuthall Tram Action Group.
The pithy remark by Eugene Peterson (The Message) in his introduction to the book of Habakkuk “living by faith is a bewildering adventure“, is probably somewhat of an understatement, but definitely something we can all resonate with. Indeed we rarely know what’s coming next and not many things turn out just how we anticipate.
There are of course many prophets in the Old Testament, with Habakkuk being just one. Yet as Peterson further states “most prophets speak God’s word to us, however Habakkuk speak our word to God. He gives voice to our bewilderment, articulates our puzzled attempts to make sense of things, and faces God with our disappointment with God”.
Whilst there’s only three chapters in total, I think it’s one of the most significant books of the Bible and it speaks so much into the heart of what so many Christians struggle with today (well certainly I do).
Probably the most famous verses are in chapter 2 where the prophet talks about waiting for God, and then at the end of chapter 3 where, despite innumerable problems – the prophet still praises God.
Here’s 10 lessons from Habakkuk I jotted down from a sermon I heard 20 years ago – we’ve looked at them in our Small Group at Trent Vineyard recently – I hope they help you.
1) Admit your confusion
2) Talk to God about your feelings
3) Give God time to reply
4) Establish a spiritual context in which to think through the problem
5) Recognise God may keep us waiting for an answer
6) Understand to live by faith
7) No matter what, God is in control
8) Worship God daily and open your heart to fervent prayer & praise
9) Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in the past
10) Face every situation with an attitude of joy
I first came across this talk: SCAN0100201140241010023100 (Faith in the Public Square) on 14 June 2014 when spending time with a few friends including Rev Dr Martin Robinson, Principal and Chief Executive of Springdale College: Together in Mission.
Martin talked warmly of Maurice Glasman and in particular his talk delivered in January 2013 – Faith in the Public Square.
I’ve read through Faith in the Public Square two or three times since the weekend; it’s a compelling read. I’m struck by its honesty, emphasis on relationships and willingness to stress the need to be radical.
Many salient phrases come to mind – “in the Labour Party we need to re-engage with our past in order to find any relevance in the present”. Then Maurice goes onto mention a new form of politics – one that will emerge from conversation, experience and engagement – being based on the core insight “there has been a fundamental lack of love in the system“.
This new politics does not claim that Labour by renewing its marriage vows with its Christian tradition will lead to a sudden utopia. However Labour’s mission to transform the destiny of millions of working people in this country will be better equipped when its sine qua non relationship with its Christian roots is renewed, restored and reinvigorated.
Read Faith in the Public Square.
It may change the way you think & act.
For more information on Blue Labour see:
For more information on Dr Martin Robinson – see: http://togetherinmission.co.uk/about-us/
The paragraph immediately below is extracted from Nick Palmer – Labour PPC for Broxtowe – e mail to around 3000 members of the public in the constituency. To contact Nick Palmer – NickMP1@aol.com
…..What follows is from Ed Miliband’s office. Adding a brief personal comment (Nick Palmer) what the proposals are effectively trying to do is trade off less price-gouging in the short term with a longer-term guaranteed market for clean energy, which will improve the standard of living in 2015-2020 but give companies a basis for a profitable longer term. Because it links into the clean energy targets, it also shifts the push for solar and other renewable technologies into a higher gear, which is part of the general effort to make the British economy more competitive in the medium term. What is doesn’t do is guarantee long-term low prices – I don’t think that’s a guarantee that could honestly be given by anyone in today’s world. But in the realm of the feasible the plan should work well.
Competition: the Big 6 supply energy to 98% of homes and run 70% of Britain’s power stations. Lack of competition means people can’t shop around to get a fair deal and so get overcharged.
Transparency: A lack of transparency with firms generating and selling electricity to themselves means that the Big 6 can get away with putting up bills when energy prices rise and not reducing them when they drop. When energy prices went up in 2008, bills went up. But when energy prices fell by 45% in 2009, household bills only fell by 5%. This overcharging is unfair and undermines trust in the market.
We will reset the market by doing 3 things:
· Getting energy companies to separate the parts of their businesses that generate energy from the parts that supply to the public with different licenses and separate operations.
· Requiring all energy companies to trade their energy in an open market by selling into a pool; and
· Introducing a simple new tariff structure so people can compare prices.
* Create a tough new energy watchdog
Despite repeatedly finding that the energy market is letting down customers, Ofgem has failed to start putting things right. In 2008, it identified 16 things that it thought needed to be improved for the market to work properly. In 2011 it admitted that 12 of these had got worse or stayed the same, but still took no real action.
We will create a tough new energy watchdog with new powers to police the market, including the power and remit to force energy companies to cut their prices when there is evidence of overcharging, for example when wholesale costs fall and the market fails to respond. Our reforms to make the market more transparent (‘the pool’, and separation of generation and supply) will allow the regulator to assess when action is necessary.
3. Freeze bills
Our market reforms will reintroduce proper competition and create a system based on fairness and public trust. But these measures will take time to kick in and we need to put an immediate stop to unfair rises in bills. It is estimated that by January 2017 the new regulator and market structure could be in place.
We will take immediate action upon entering office to freeze prices until January 2017 when our reforms start kicking in. This will save the typical household £120 and the average business £1,800.
We will introduce legislation immediately on entering office to give the Secretary of State the power to modify energy suppliers’ licences to require energy companies to freeze their prices.
The freeze would stop prices rising, but they could still fall and consumers could still switch tariffs to cheaper products.
4. Energy Save
To ensure that bills are affordable in the long run, we need to reduce the amount of energy we use. But the Government’s schemes are wasteful and not making enough difference.
The Government Green Deal has failed to have any impact. Since its launch only 384 households have signed up for a package and of those just 12 have been installed. That’s less than one for £1 million the Government has spent on its £16m marketing budget.
The government’s ECO scheme for the fuel poor is badly targeted and inefficient. Up to 60% of the funding available under ECO could end up going to people who don’t need it, and the cost of ECO is coming in well above the Government’s estimate of £1.3bn/year.
Labour will scrap the Green Deal and replace it with a new ‘Energy Save’ scheme. We will look at how we can offer cheaper loans for homes and SMEs.
We will do our part to reduce the cost of energy efficiency on bills by scrapping ECO and using the £1.3bn to tackle fuel poverty through an area based scheme. This will bring down costs by installing measures in multiple properties at once, reducing the upward pressure on bills.
We need to attract up to £110bn in clean electricity generation and transmission in the next decade. Yet under David Cameron, large scale investment has slumped from an all-time high of £7.2bn in 2009 to £3bn in 2012. Commentators from the CBI to industry and green groups have blamed this on the Government’s failure to provide the policy certainty needed to de-risk investment.
To support investment we will provide policy certainty by setting a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target and sticking with the new system of contract for difference in the Energy Bill.
To further bolster investment we will establish a new Energy Security Board to plan for Britain’s energy needs for the future.
And to deliver large scale investment in the green sector we will give the Green Investment Bank borrowing powers.
Won’t your reforms reduce investment?
No, by rebuilding trust in the market and providing greater investor certainty they will support investment. What any investor needs isn’t short term returns based on overcharging but long term certainty on returns. That is why we will commit to the 2030 power sector decarbonisation target which the industry has been calling for and we will stick with the system of contracts for difference which guarantees investors a return on their investment.
But don’t the Big 6 need profits to invest?
53% of investment in clean energy is coming from a whole range of sources outside of the Big 6. And profits aren’t being linked to investment – in fact the energy companies that have been making the highest profits are actually investing the least in new plants and paying the highest dividends. Centrica, for example, has had the largest profit margins over the last few years but has invested the least.
How will you actually freeze prices?
We will introduce legislation immediately on entering office to give the Secretary of State the power to modify energy suppliers’ licences to make them freeze their prices.
Why does the price freeze end in January 2017?
This is the amount of time that we think we need for our reforms to start kicking in. 20 months gives us enough time to bring forward legislation, create a new regulator and begin implementing are reforms to reset the market.
Isn’t this illegal under EU law?
No, this is a temporary freeze while the market is put on a genuinely competitive footing. European law allows price intervention to prevent consumers losing out. Many European countries have much more heavily regulated energy prices.
How will you stop companies just increasing their prices once the freeze ends?
The freeze will run until January 2017. At that point our market reforms will start kicking in and the new energy watchdog will be up and running. With its new remit and powers, it will be the job of the regulator to police the market and make sure that companies are charging consumers a fair price.
If you announce it now, what would stop the energy companies just increasing their prices beforehand?
Most energy companies realise that they have lost the trust of the public. These reforms and the price freeze are a chance to draw a line under this and restore trust. If energy companies opt to hike their prices in advance, the public would take a dim view of this. And we would hope that if this happens next year, David Cameron would stand up for people and put a stop to it. If he doesn’t, an incoming Labour Government would take action to deal with this as we implement the freeze.
Isn’t government policy to tackle climate change to blame for rising bills?
No, we’ve analysed what proportion of the increase in people’s bills is accounted for by investment in clean energy and it’s only a small amount of the price increases. The vast majority of increase in consumers’ bills has nothing to do with investment in clean energy.
Ed Miliband was Energy Secretary in the last government – isn’t he to blame for rising bills?
No, energy bills fell £100 when Ed Miliband was Energy Secretary, they’ve gone up £300 under the present government. And it’s because of the changes that happened when Ed was Energy Secretary that energy companies are now required to report on how much money they’re making, which has made more transparent how this market is leaving consumers being overcharged.
Aren’t bills going to go up whatever you do?
Growing demand and the cost of investing in new energy sources will put pressure on bills. But this is why it is all the more essential that people have a market that they can trust. So if bills go up they can see why and they know it’s fair. This is why we need to reset the market to end overcharging and deliver a fairer deal for consumers.
Broxtowe Labour Parliamentary Candidate Nick Palmer has highlighted some of the challenges facing a future Labour government at the 2015 General Election. The details below were sent to Nick’s e mail list in Broxtowe – which numbers around 3000 constituents.
To contact Nick: NickMP1@aol.com
Office for Budget Responsibility to audit Labour’s manifesto
Labour will ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to independently audit the costings of every spending and tax commitment in Labour’s manifesto at the next election.
In 2015 we stand to inherit a very difficult situation. After three years of lost growth, far from balancing the books, in 2015 there is now set to be a deficit of over £90 billion. So we will have to govern in tough times.
The Government’s day to day spending totals for 2015/16 will have to be our starting point. Any changes to the current spending plans for that year will be fully funded and set out in advance in our manifesto. There will be no additional borrowing for day to day spending. And we will set out tough fiscal rules – to balance the current budget and get the national debt on a downward path.
Ed Balls is today writing to Robert Chote, head of the OBR, asking him to independently audit spending and tax changes in our next manifesto.
Robert Chote has said in the past that he would like to do this and that it would help the independence of the OBR and lead to a more informed debate. The Conservative chair of the Treasury Select Committee agrees and so do we.
This is the first time a Shadow Chancellor – the first time any political party in Britain – has ever said it wants this kind of independent audit. A radical change from what’s gone before, we feel it will help restore trust in politics. It also undermines partisan myths if parties do this – claims that “the other party has a black hole of £x billion” can be exposed as propaganda.
Working parents to get 25-hrs free childcare for 3&4 year-olds
Labour will expand free childcare for 3 & 4 year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents, paid for by an £800m rise in the bank levy.
Childcare costs are part of the cost-of-living crisis families are currently facing. Last year nursery costs rose six times faster than wages.
High childcare costs are squeezing families and making work unaffordable for many parents, particularly women. ASDA’s recent Mumdex survey showed childcare costs prevent 7 in 10 stay-at-home mums working.
But currently some families are losing up to £1,500 a year in support through the childcare element of the working tax credit. In total, the Government have will have taken up to £7 billion a year of support away from families with children by 2015.
See also previous note on school age childcare
Labour will expand free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents. Around 440,000 children aged three or four years old and where all adults in the household are in work would benefit from this policy.
The extra 10 hours of free childcare (on top of the 15-hr early years entitlement) would be available to households with 3 and 4 year-old children where all adults are in work – either single-parent households where the single parent is in work, or couple households with both adults in work.
The 15-hour early years entitlement will remain universal.
As with the 15-hour early years entitlement, the new 25-hour offer is for 38 weeks a year. The value of this extra childcare support is over £1,500 per child per year.
The next Labour government will increase the bank levy rate to raise an extra £800m in order to meet the cost of this extra childcare support for families. In the last financial year, the banks paid a staggering £2.7bn less in overall tax than they did in 2010. Over the last two years the government’s bank levy has raised £1.6 billion less than they said it would. At a time when resources are tight and families are under pressure that cannot be right.
We will be consulting on implementation details such as the definition of being ‘in
work’, or how eligibility would be assessed, to make sure the package works for both parents and childcare providers.
Isn’t this unfair to stay-at-home mums?
Labour has previously created policies like the child tax credit and the early years entitlement to benefit all families with children. But at a time when we need to support jobs in the economy and resources are limited we’re saying the next step in our expansion of the childcare system will be focussed on supporting working parents struggling with childcare costs and parents who want to move into work but where childcare makes it unaffordable.
The Government say their new childcare proposals are better?
What we are announcing is in addition to other support for childcare such as tax credits and tax relief. It should be kept in mind that the Government will have taken £7 billion a year of support away from families with children by 2015.
In 2015 will you keep the Government’s proposed new tax-relief scheme?
Labour introduced tax relief on childcare so we support tax relief. The Government are consulting on their proposals and we’ll look to see what they eventually decide. What we’re announcing today is in addition to tax relief.
And a non-announcement, in response to a newspaper scare story:
Is Labour looking at taking Child Benefit away from families who refuse to give their children the MMR vaccine?
No. This proposal is not part of the Policy Review.
At the start of Labour’s penultimate conference before the 2015 General Election – one of the chief criticims of the Party is “you’ve got no policies”.
Well here’s a snapshot of what’s wrong with Cameron – and more importantly what Labour would do to make Britain better (and fairer).
Under David Cameron Britain’s families are facing a cost of living crisis…
- Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street
- Working people are an average of almost £1500 a year worse off under this Government
…and with a Government putting a privileged few before working people this doesn’t feel like a recovery for most people.
• David Cameron has cut tax for people on over £150,000 a year while raising it for everyone else
• Energy companies have been allowed to hike bills by more than £300 whilst making record profits
• They’ve wasted three years whilst prices have risen, wages have stagnated and borrowing has hardly come down
• While small businesses struggle to get credit, bankers’ bonuses are up 82%
One Nation Labour will tackle the cost of living crisis by building an economy that works for working people…
• Cut income tax for people on average incomes, with a new 10p starting rate of tax paid for by asking for a bit more from those with homes worth over £2m.
• End the abuse of zero hour contracts and strengthen the minimum wage, because Britain can’t compete on ever greater insecurity and lower wages. The fine for breaking the minimum wage law will rise from a derisory £5000 to £50,000.
• Dramatically increase the number of high quality apprenticeships by making them a requirement of every big company the government buys from
* Require medium and large companies to train one British worker for every non-EU foreign worker that they take on, so that where there are shortages requiring foreign staff they are addressed for the future. And we will ban recruitment agencies that only recruit overseas workers
… and as we deal with the cost of living crisis, the next Labour government will be different from the last.
• In tougher times, we will make tougher choices on spending. We will scrap winter-fuel payments for the wealthiest pensioners
• Our plans for day-to-day spending do not involve any additional borrowing, with fully funded plans to reverse David Cameron’s unfair Bedroom Tax.
Labour will introduce a ‘primary childcare guarantee’ giving all parents of primary school children the guarantee of childcare availability through their school from 8am-6pm.
Families are facing a cost of living crisis under David Cameron. By 2015 the Government will have taken up to £7 billion a year of support away from families with children.
Childcare is a key part of this cost-of-living crisis. For school-age children, childcare can become a logistical nightmare. David Cameron abandoned Labour’s programme to support school-age childcare, leaving many parents struggling to juggle work and family life
Today, while in many areas extended schools have survived, in other areas after-school clubs have been closing: last year Labour FOIs found that 37% of Local Authorities reported a cut in the number of after-school clubs and 44% reported that breakfast clubs had closed in their area.
62% of parents of school-age children say that they need some form of before-and-after school or holiday care in order to combine family and work but of these, nearly three in ten were unable to find it.
To give parents of primary-aged children peace of mind, Labour will guarantee in law that they can access wraparound (8am-6pm) childcare through their local school if they want it.
Parents of primary age children will benefit most from a new guarantee as this is when families most require childcare support.
Parents will still have to pay for this wraparound childcare, just as they do at the moment, but the guaranteed availability will make things that little bit easier. Those who qualify for childcare support will get help with the costs through tax credits and childcare vouchers.
Schools and local areas will be given discretion over how best to organise the guarantee locally, dependent on the facilities available. Primary schools would be encouraged to develop partnerships to deliver high quality childcare and a range of pre-and-after-school activities to local parents.
Scrapping the Bedroom Tax
Ed Miliband has today announced that Labour will repeal David Cameron’s bedroom tax, with a fully funded plan to do so without additional borrowing.
The Bedroom Tax is a cruel and unfair measure that hits over 400,000 disabled people. For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, hitting vulnerable people through no fault of their own. See
for an example of the sort of dilemma that results.
There is now a real risk that the Bedroom Tax will cost more money than it saves.
The next Labour government will repeal the Bedroom Tax.
But we are clear that there cannot be extra borrowing to pay for social security changes. So to ensure that it can be reversed without any additional borrowing funds have been earmarked from:
· Reversing George Osborne’s recent tax cut for hedge funds announced in Budget 2013;
· Reversing George Osborne’s shares for rights scheme which has been rejected by businesses, has opened up a tax loophole and will lead to £1bn being lost to the Exchequer according to the Office for Budget Responsibility;
· Tackling tax and national insurance avoidance in the construction industry.
These measures will more than cover the maximum £470m cost of repealing the Bedroom Tax.
Labour will deal with under-occupation by funding local authorities who are able to help people with the costs of moving to suitable accommodation, using the funding set aside by the Government through Discretionary Housing Payments for dealing with the problems caused by the Bedroom Tax.
This essay is written by my good friend John Milbank, Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics at Nottingham University
To contact John: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blue Labour Dream
Within the British Labour party, ‘Blue Labour’ is the crucial factor in the emergence of ‘One-Nation Labour’.
Such paradoxical combinations are characteristic of the new ‘postliberal’ politics in the United Kingdom, which seeks to combine greater economic justice with individual virtue and public honour. It rejects the double liberal impersonalism of economic contract between strangers, and individual entitlement in relation to the bureaucratic machine. Instead of the combination of contract without gift, plus the unilateral gift from nowhere that is state welfare, it proposes gift-exchange or reciprocity as the ultimate principle to govern both the economic and the political realms. This would restore in a new version the ancient and medieval idea of the political as ultimately an extension of friendship within a shared ethos.
But an ethos can only develop over time, and so postliberal advocates like David Goodhart have called for a new recognition of the role of tradition and the contract between the generations. The Labour party is grounded in the notion of solidarity amongst labour and it sees all human beings as workers, because, as Maurice Glasman has said, in line with Catholic social teaching, it is with respect to work that we see the personal origin of all of human society and culture. Yet work also takes time: it requires learning from the past, induction into inherited lineages of good craft and relating to fellow workers; an initial submitting to leadership if one is eventually to lead in one’s turn. It is for this reason that Labour affirmation of civil society in terms of solidarity and mutuality requires a linkage with certain Burkean thematics if is not simply to fade back into the current hegemony of liberal notions of isolated freedom of choice.
The same consideration applies to notions of equality. How can we decide to own some things in common and to divide up other goods equitably if we do not know what constitutes a good and what broad ends of flourishing human beings should agree to pursue? Of course we have no fixed or final knowledge of such things – but tradition gives us some intimation of their nature and education allows us to refine and debate this intimation. Without a concern for formation and virtue which is not in itself democratic — because the genuine good remains the good even if all vote against it — we lack the precondition for democracy and for democratic discussion which will further refine our sense of what it is that renders us human.
And without the possession of virtue whose key mark is Aristotelian phronesis or a kind of moral art or tact, we will remove social judgement from the hands of humans as workers or craftsman and assume that everything must be precisely legislated. Soon we will suppose that right and wrong can be precisely defined and that all that is wrong must be legally outlawed, while all that is not outlawed must be not only permissible but valuable. Soon after that we will imagine that we should only be allowed to do that for which we have a legal licence. These drifts can be readily seen to be at work in the recent debates over gay marriage and also in those over surveillance, whistleblowing and the indictment of military decisions before courts of human rights. All of this witnesses to the bankruptcy of the liberal rights perspective and the lack of attention to non-formalisable, non-legal judgement. For example, governments have no absolute right in the name of security to know everything, but neither are rights of privacy absolute in relation to the public good. Soldiers who reveal injustice in battle should not be treated as mere breakers of a contract, but neither can army commanders treat protection of their troops’ lives as an absolute (given that a soldier, by definition, has signed-up to possible sacrificial death) in the face of other considerations, like not alienating a civilian population.
These are some summary indications of what postliberalism might mean and why, in my view, the Labour tradition is naturally aligned with it. But to understand more deeply what this new politics involves, it is necessary to attend closely to the intended sense of both ‘post’ and ‘liberal’.
‘Post’ is different from ‘pre’ and implies not that liberalism is all bad, but that it has inherent limits and problems.
‘Liberal’ may immediately suggest to many an easygoing and optimistic outlook. Yet to the contrary, at the core of a searching critique of liberalism lies the accusation that it is a far too gloomy political philosophy.
For liberalism assumes that we are basically self-interested, fearful, greedy and egotistic creatures, unable to see beyond our own selfish needs and instincts. This is the founding assumption of the individualistic liberal creed, derived from Grotius, Hobbes and Locke in the 17th C.
Such a position sounds, as it is, secular and materialistic. However, another important root of modern liberalism, traceable for example in Adam Smith, derives from Calvinistic and Jansenistic theologies. For this theological outlook original sin is so extreme that human beings must be considered to be ‘totally depraved’ and incapable by nature of acting out of virtue to produce economic, social or political order. Instead, in a kind of proxy operation, divine providence must manipulate our egotistic wills and even our vices behind our backs, in such a way as to make will balance will and vice balance vice to produce a kind of economic and political harmony, even though this had never been originally intended by self-obsessed individuals. Here is the ideological root of Smith’s ‘hidden hand’.
In this way we can see how liberalism has been doubly promoted by both hedonists and puritans. Today the British Conservative Party, which has long since abandoned toryism for liberalism, remains something of an uneasy alliance between these two different character traits, even if the puritans are fast losing ground.
However, neither label would exactly seem to apply to the Guardian-reader type granola-eating liberal, whom we more usually take today to define liberalism as such. Why does the fit appear so poor?
The answer is that there is another, ‘romantic’ variant of liberalism that was invented in the late 18th C by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He inverted Thomas Hobbes by arguing that the isolated, natural individual is ‘good’, lost in contemplative delight at the world around him, satisfied with simple pleasures and provisions. She is not yet egotistic, because that vice arises from rivalry and comparison. However, Rousseau took the latter to be endemic once the individual is placed in a social context. Accordingly he transferred pessimism about the individual into a new pessimism about human association.
This encouraged scepticism about the role of corporate bodies beneath the level of the state: for it is only the state that can lead us to sacrifice all our petty rivalries for the sake of the common purpose or general will which will return to us, at a higher level, our natural isolated innocence.
The problem with this vision is that the state will not really stand above the interests of faction and sectional intrigue. And meanwhile the concentration of all power in the centre will just as effectively undermine the immediate bonds of trust between people as does the operation of impersonal market forces. Recent British governments have apparently exulted in this erosion of trust because it tends to increase their power to control individuals both directly and en masse. Accordingly they have increased the power of the market, decreased the power of local government and voluntary associations, and, as David Goodhart has related, permitted immigration without integration in such a way as tends to make the inhabitants of these islands more and more strangers to each other.
The invocation of Rousseau allows us more easily to locate the Guardian reader. While the Financial Times sort of ‘right wing’ liberal takes a basically gloomy view of the individual, the Guardian reader takes a basically gloomy view of society.
This verdict seems to have things back to front. Isn’t the political right suspicious of anything public and the political left unwilling to trust individual liberty very far?
But at the deepest level the contrast is the other way round: right-wing liberalism is so cynical about individual motivation that it entrusts social order to the public mechanism of the market and to an inflexible legal protection of property by the state. The liberal left, on the other hand, so distrusts shared tradition and consensus that it endlessly seeks to release chaotically-various individual desire from any sort of generally-shared requirements, which it always tends to view as arbitrary.
This is most of all shown by the ‘new left’, which ever since the 1960’s has pursued a politics not of solidarity but of emancipation. Such a politics endlessly seeks to show that an overlooked ‘exception’ – of gender, sexuality, race, disability, religion or culture – does not and cannot conform to a shared norm and therefore that its specificity (regarded at once and incoherently as arising both from given nature and pure preference) must be released. Equally, this politics misreads the necessity of hierarchically-organised care that is intrinsic to our temporality (as even Marx affirmed in the Critique of the Gotha Programme) and variety of formation and talents, as unacceptable patriarchal domination. But by doing so it cannot promote an extreme libertarianism (crossed with and confused by multiculturalism) without at the same time reinforcing and assisting the cause of rightwing liberalism which it claims to oppose.
In this instance, as in others, right and left liberals converge far more than they imagine. For in either case what is basically celebrated is random individual desire. And in either case human association or relationship is distrusted, since it is held that it is bound to be perversely motivated. The right holds that the remedy for warped relationships is the hidden hand of the marketplace; the left the manifest hand of the state. But in either case ‘society’ is bypassed and human beings are mediated indirectly, by a third pole standing over against them.
We can contrast this liberalism with George Orwell’s genuinely socialist trust in ‘common decency’. People have always lived through practices of reciprocity, though giving, gratitude and giving again in turn. By way of this process people achieve, in a simple way, mutual recognition and relationality. Most people pursue association, and the honour and dignity of being recognised in significant ways, however lowly, as their main goals, and are relatively unconcerned with becoming much richer than their fellows or achieving great power over them. Indeed, most people wisely realise that such things will only increase their anxiety and insecurity – they prefer a less spectacular but quieter life. They are basically hobbits. Nevertheless, the temptation to pursue the goals of pride at the expense of danger is there in all of us; in some more than others and in some to an overwhelming degree that can threaten the social fabric. Deep down people are ‘decent’ and rejoice in relationality, yet in all of us a destructive imp of the perverse always lurks.
Orwell suggested that a good society is one which erects safeguards against such perversity and especially against the overweening, reckless individual, and he pointed out that most tribal structures are built on just this ‘warding off of danger’. Inversely, the positive structures of a social order should seek to build upon our natural and given practices of reciprocity – not destroying, but augmenting our natural capacity for association.
For Orwell this more prevailing human instinct was the root of socialism.
But liberalism does just the opposite to what Orwell recommended: it tries to remove intermediate social practices of mutual assistance, while augmenting our tendencies to pursue wealth and prestige instead of human and divine love. It ignores the fact that human life as such depends upon a bedrock of gift-exchange and that it develops in time through the astonishing and gratuitous irruption of new charisms.
In the 19th C working people and some intellectuals started to grasp this. They were inspired by a spontaneous sense that something was missing from liberal modernity.
What was lacking was relationality, creative fulfilment in work, festivity and joy. They did not, like some conservatives of ‘the right’, wish to return to the bastard feudalism of the ancien regime, but they also rejected the individualism of the modern liberal ‘left’.
Now to pursue above all relationality is to risk being wounded by the other: thus the mood is often going to be indeed ‘blue’. The market and the state encourage us to think that we can be insulated from such hurt by the impersonality of economic and bureaucratic or legal transactions. But without embracing the likelihood of some or even much sorrow, there can be no openness to real joy either. Through a bland buffering, participatory power is removed from ordinary people.
A further problem with specifically statist buffering is that it is resigned to treating the market as an evil monster that can be partially tamed but never rendered benign and docile. This is one crucial manifestation of the liberal idea of the priority of evil to which I have already alluded. Within the terms of this assumption it is thought that the main instrument of social justice must be government redistribution. But that can only realistically be carried out in a period of guaranteed economic growth — for otherwise, within the norms of capitalist operation, it will tend to damage profits and so national productivity. Partly because strong, if any, growth is not in prospect in the UK for the foreseeable future, Ed Miliband is rightly abandoning this view for notions of ‘predistribution’ – or in other words attempts to produce a just economy in the first place as the major vehicle of material equity.
But only in part, because predistribution makes more radical sense in any case. An inherently just economy would provide more stable financial security for most people, providing stronger incentives to work effectively, and at the same time it would escape the logic whereby the social goals of the state and the supposedly amoral, wealth-increasing goals of the market are seen to be in inherent tension with each other. A further good consequence would be the removal of many people from welfare dependence — something that neoliberal policies only create.
What is more, ever since the 1890’s statist solutions have often been just as committed to the marginalist ideology of neoclassical economics as have those of the ‘free market’. According to this ideology human beings exercise ‘rational choice’ in terms of their calculation of utilities. Beyond Jeremy Bentham it is allowed that humans’ ideas of what makes them happy can be incredibly various, but it is still thought that in order to fulfil our desires we make a cold calculation of gains and losses. Inevitably this means that the typical object of desire is still thought of as a commodity consumable by the individual in isolation.
Such objects were deemed by the marginalists to be subject to the ‘law of diminishing returns’ — over time we get less satisfaction from consumer durables and their rarity value diminishes as other consumers catch up with us.
To propose this notion was to ignore those goods which are ‘relational’ in character – family, friendship, erotic unions, warm communities. Equally it was to fail to distinguish the enjoyment that we get from high-quality goods like works of art or literature or the exercise of artistic talents from other objects of consumption. High quality goods and the realisation of skill through long practice tend to deliver a more solid kind of happiness and also the kind of happiness in others which we most tend to admire and want to emulate. This ‘higher’ happiness Greeks like Plato and Aristotle dubbed eudaimonia or ‘flourishing’.
So, as Jon Cruddas has recently argued, perhaps the crucial question in contemporary British politics is whether the main aim of government should be to increase people’s freedom of market choice, largely in the sphere of measurable material happiness, or whether its main aim should be to seek to encourage human eudaimonia.
If this diagnosis is correct, then the real issue of contention is no longer ‘state versus market’. The central theory of neoclassicism is that when the individual calculators of utility are acting rationally, then markets will achieve perfect equilibrium, balance or clearance. To the degree that they fail to act rationally, then the state can make adjustments. This much is common to marginalists of both the right and the left – the difference arises in terms of how far it is supposed that the conditions for perfect market operation arise automatically through market processes themselves and how far they have to be engineered by the state.
Thus both the invisible hand of ‘providence’ and the visible hand of the state is deemed by this outlook to be seeking the same goal of perfect rational equilibrium, that coordinates egoistic wishes, without any mutual agreement as to the common good
But can a new emphasis on the common good and the promotion of human flourishing be truly relevant to hard economic questions? It can, because liberalism itself, as Adair Turner has hinted, is subject to that very law of diminishing returns which it has itself articulated. We can see this especially with respect to finance.
At first, as the history of the modern world attests, liberalisation of financial markets leads to growth, but in the long run, as we now see, too much financial liberty tends to anarchy. The components of this condition are over-abstraction from the real economy, self-interest that can truly (contra marginalism) be aligned to market failure rather than market success, the non-constraint of capital by labour and a multitude of transactions that are only about shifting around the existing monetary symbols of wealth, not about creating new wealth.
Generalising this point about finance to the whole history of liberalism, one can say that while, to begin with in history, the release of individual negative freedom removes many oppressions and allows for new manifestations of creative talent, in the long run it too much tends to stifle the exercise of trust that is crucial to all human association, while eroding belief in the objective values that creativity might seek to instantiate. A lack of trust and belief in objective metaphysical truth and goodness then engenders high-level criminality, greater inequality and fear-driven rivalry. Such an atmosphere actually starts to inhibit people’s inventiveness and entrepreneurship and therefore their capacity for freedom – even for freedom of choice.
In the same way the spirit of greed tends to replace small businesses with large and monopolising ones which are reluctant to pursue innovations for fear of damaging existing products.
Here one can note something that usually goes entirely overlooked. Anglo-Saxon capitalism is essentially passive and not dynamic, because it is built upon an enlightenment philosophy which only acknowledges the reality of impersonal givens like material reality and human reasoning power. It can only acknowledge the gift of human creativity as an abstract and valueless power of will. The primacy of capital over labour follows from this: it exalts an economy perversely driven by the willed stockpiling of the mere means of production in land, technology and finance. Eventually this leads to stasis, lack of products to invest in, excessive speculation and a cycle of debt – reinforced by the lack of grounding of money in any objective standard or disinterested legal system ever since 1944.
By contrast, two of the most successful economies in the last half-century – those of Germany and Italy (despite the recent problems of both) which tend to define our lifestyles in terms of automobiles, machinery, food, cafes and clothing – are not really the products of the Enlightenment but of a Renaissance that remained in continuity with the Middle Ages. What I mean by this is that they combine a Renaissance exaltation of the creativity of human labour with a medieval sense of constitutional corporatism that is neither statist nor merely free-market in character. Worker participation in management, control of entry conditions to labour by voluntary associations and high-status technical education are all predicated on the relative primacy of labour with respect to capital. And labour, not capital is the dynamic factor, because it is to do with release of personal, creative human power. This is quite different from the negative freedom of the Anglo-Saxon will – for creativity goes along with the power to judge and discern the aesthetic and social value of one’s product. This is exactly the difference between Italian cars, food and design compared to the American equivalents. Of course many American products are excellent – but then the Middle Ages and the Renaissance survive even in the United States.
So without trust and the primacy of labour it turns out that the economy as a whole cannot function. This is true also because an economy is comprised not only of markets, but also of firms which are inherently cooperative exercises. Recent attempts to run them on internally agonistic lines, setting employees at each others’ throats, have not proved a great economic success – least of all in universities.
So could it be that a more ethical economy, like a more creative and aesthetic economy, is also a more stable economy, more viable in the long term?
A crucial argument here is that this has in some degree always been the case. Anglo-Saxon and French economic theory has largely followed liberal presuppositions. But Italian economists, standing in a more classically humanist and Christian tradition, unbroken since the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, have often, ever since the 18thC, thought in much more associationist terms for which an economic contract itself can be a sympathetic negotiation about shared value and community benefit as well as self-interest – which is itself more socially and so realistically construed.
In terms of this more reciprocal model of contract it is arguable that much of the actual market economy of the modern world has operated more like the Italian theorised ‘civil economy’ than like the Anglo-Saxon fantasised ‘political economy’. This means that perhaps we have never been as ‘capitalist’ as we imagine, and in fact the more the market economy becomes dominated by capital the less functional it is shown to be.
It follows that the challenge now is to move away from neoclassicist utility in either its neoliberal or statist versions, towards a specifically recognised and deliberately augmented civil economy based upon reciprocal exchange and the virtuous pursuit of a true economic wealth that contributes to human flourishing. Such an economy will also be a more stable one, relatively freed from cyclical fluctuations that are ultimately to do with a clash of interests between capital and worker, producer and consumer, supply and demand. These clashes can be avoided or mitigated where economic contracts are the subject of ethical and sometimes legal negotiation and all parties feel that they have been fairly dealt with and share a common stake and pride in the success of an enterprise and the quality of its products. Human beings want recognition for excellence and social contribution much more than wish to pursue primal hoarding. This is a much more fundamental Anglo-Saxon truth, first articulated in the great Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.
Moves towards such a civil economy need to include amongst other things: 1. The sharing of risk in all financial transactions – including house mortgages — between lenders and borrowers, investors and owners, shareholders and managers, employers and employees; 2. The rewriting of company law to demand statement of social purpose and profit-sharing as conditions of trading; 3. A new public institutional ‘trust’ for the pooling of technological knowledge to replace the current patenting system; 4. Ethical as well as economic negotiation of wages, prices and share-values amongst owners, workers, shareholders and consumers who would all be given real political and economic stakes in every enterprise. Such practices would be encouraged by legal and taxation arrangements, while disputes over such matters would come more within the purview of the courts of justice; 5. Passing through vocational training and membership of various recognised but not-monopolistic professional vocational associations encouraging an honourable ethos being made conditions of entry to business practice. 6. A contributory welfare system whose mutualism would preclude any need for means-testing to ensure a safety net. Such a system would again enshrine reciprocity and have the further merit of encouraging people to take greater risks in business, in the knowledge that, if they failed, not all their gains would be lost.
To propose such things is to suggest a new ‘civil economy socialism’. And in this way, the Labour Party could start to reinvent the socialist and cooperative tradition itself. (Incidentally I cannot resist saying that this would undo the undoing of the misunderstood-as-necessarily-Fabian and nationalising old Clause Four.)
Of course such true economic equilibrium cannot be achieved by one country alone, because international capitalist forces would tend to undercut it. For this reason, the adoption by Labour of a civil economy approach would imply an unprecedented and more creative foreign policy. Such a policy would regard London’s geopolitical and geo-economic situation as a vortex of meeting and competing forces as an advantage rather than a drawback. With the EU and with the Commonwealth and the former French (and perhaps also Spanish) dominions together we could try to craft an alternative international network of expanded ‘fair-trade’ and legal guarantee whose ability and success could eventually bring even the United States and other countries into its orbit. If the EU could abandon its current commitments to neoliberalism and to formal regulation and absolute rights and support at an inter-state level the communitarian and constitutionally corporatist practices of Germany and Italy, then it could find the courage to cancel its own internal and external debts, fund more adequately its own scientific leadership and assume genuine power in the world for the good. Instead of an absolute free trade in capital and labour it could substitute reciprocal agreements for mutually beneficial protectionisms for certain things in certain nations and regions. Such a politics of shared sovereignty would be the international equivalent of subsidiarity within nations and could form the nucleus of a governing network that is potentially global.
In my view ‘One Nation Labour’ will fail unless it has this truly bold scope. As David Goodhart has argued, it needs a vision for Britain if everything is not to fall apart in the face of now extreme divisions between the British nations, between north and south, between secular and religious, between young and old, between men and women, between town and countryside, between culture and culture and between the EU and its constituent nations. I have already tried to indicate aspects of what this vision might be.
More controversially, I do not think that that vision can be simply a version of the American dream or an essentially postimperial ‘Little Britain’ one. For this would be to misunderstand who we are and how we have come to be – which is not out of a big revolutionary explosion, as David Goodhart has rightly noted. Rather, our slow-burning genius, as both English and Celtic, since before the Norman conquest (but always of a part-Christian inspiration) is political, it is to know how to govern, based on a flexible rule of law and on constitutional free association at many different levels. It is this long legacy of interweaving consent with leadership and freedom with community that has most of all given to the world modern democracy – and by comparison the revolutionary legacies are rather inadequate parodies, on which what is best in France and the United States does not really depend.
Therefore we have to tell a longterm story about ourselves – not simply a whiggish and capitalist recent story that is superficial and misleading. Part of this story is the strange truth that we have never been a nation state – have never been based on a narrow ethnicity, but also lacked for a long time and never completely acquired, as Carl Schmitt noted, the crucial marks of modern statehood – ‘police’ control by the state, juridical formalism, state-administered finance and civil politeness: this is why we are still so rude and robust in debate. Instead, the British Atlantic empire, like the Spanish one, arose in continuity with its medieval empire, where a group of diverse local territories, ethnicities and cultures was already held together by a common set of symbolic loyalties , values and acceptance of a certain jurisprudential horizon which was rather different from that, for example of France.
There is therefore a historic sense in which empire can be more benign, plural and inclusive a reality than that of ‘nation state’. Of course the British empire was overwhelmingly to do with capitalist expropriation and it eventually tried to impose precisely ‘statist’ features on a global scale. However, it also from the outset mitigated through politics, diplomacy and cultural negotiation a more naked exploitation on the part of freebooting entrepreneurs. Equally, given the limits of its military and personnel resources, it perforce had to encourage the emergence of more plural and indigenous modes of political control, while also fostering a certain cross-cultural and international modulation of an originally merely British ethos. This should be inversely contrasted with the fact that every nation state is as much the upshot of originally violent seizure as is every empire, while the obsession since the mid 19th C (thanks to the decadence of romanticism, which had originally, with Herder and Novalis, favoured regionalism rather than nationalism) with matching state boundaries to linguistic and cultural ones has led to all too familiar and bloody mischief both in Europe and in the Near East.
For this reason it is shallow to think that the legacy of empire has no positive and equitable potential, or cannot naturally be turned towards mutual and cooperative notions of international commonwealth – and in fact there are historical links between the emergence of the British Commonwealth, of Francophonia and of the European Community (originally envisaged in some ways as a substitute for recently lost Habsburg control in the East and a attempt to restore an ancient Carolingian unity of France and Germany in the west.) It is assumed that our international influence must necessarily wain, but those who assumed this in the 1960’s would be staggered by the degree to which it still persists today. Empire is always about finally to end and yet interestingly never does so and in certain modes – like the underwriting of foreign business by British law — reinvents itself in some positive new ways in contrast to the post-imperial corporate and oligarchic ravages which we have disgracefully supported. Indeed the most penetrating historians have argued that much of our loss of influence was down to miscalulations, loss of nerve and absence of vision on the part of a decadent establishment and not to historical inevitability. Today we are likely to be the most populous country in Western Europe by mid-century and the increasingly culture-dominated character of international politics considerably favours our global legacy and current global strengths.
Equally, it is shallow to suppose that the break-up of the UK follows automatically upon the end of empire. For a British and even a British Isles dimension in both culture and politics stretches right back to the early Middle Ages — as historians rather than Hollywood-made movies so clearly attest.
If British identity has tended to lapse in favour of Celtic and now English ones with the rise of UKIP, then this is not, I submit, inevitable, but rather the result of a southern English failure to offer a vision of British identity which has to include a new version of our looking outwards to seek to help others and ourselves towards political and economic equity in their own and our own unique terms, respectively – because without this maritime destiny we are just not being ourselves, in contrast perhaps to the Americans. That this destiny has often been pursued with brutality and was abandoned so recklessly and irresponsibly – with dire consequences in the Near East — only precludes us trying to pursue it in future more charitably and cooperatively if we act out of guilt, which is always to act in bad faith. Outside western Europe (which is itself not immune) the world now exhibits a general slide into corruption, criminality, state and corporate tyranny, the collapse of equity and the rule of law. To retreat to an insular powerlessness in the face of these things would be to betray our own identity and incidentally threaten our own longterm security.
It is here notable that Celtic articulations of the common good, such as that found in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter sequence or Bill Forsyth’s film Local Hero, tend to update an essentially conservative vision of virtue and the pursuit of the common good. They cling to older British values which the metropolis has abandoned. And traditionally the Celtic countries have if anything looked yet more outwards than England, and while they all require home rule, to cut themselves off from England and London would be to risk cutting themselves off from this vital part of their own legacy. For they could only then only pursue a futile liberal internationalism like Sweden or Eire, not a culturally-dense, virtue-orientated and therefore more effective one.
The reasons then for sustaining the UK are the same reasons for remaining in the EU, and yet for not abandoning our links to international Anglophonia (including with the United States). Here, as elsewhere, Blue Labour should call us to abandon false and dysfunctional either-ors in favour of strangely possible paradoxes. Not state or market, religion or the secular, Anglophonia or Europe, or nation versus the global. Instead, intimate reciprocities in ever-widening circles from your street to the planet, fusing economic, political and ecological purpose in the name of the flourishing of each and every person and their combination as workers to erect a shared and beautiful cosmopolis.