Friday, 22 October 2010


Recent Guardian headline: "Baroness Amos: Population growth could lead to non-stop food crisis . .
Returning from Niger, the UN humanitarian chief says education on family planning must be part of the development agenda."

Overpopulation causes poverty and environmental degradation and it is right to draw attention to this fact; but above all (surely) it's the other way round : poverty causes overpopulation and environmental degradation.

If there is no financial security in old age, children are your 'pension' and your support system in old age. If infant mortality is high, and you don't know know until your child has safely reached ten years old that it will survive into your old age, you have an incentive to keep having children. War and disease increase this pressure.

So although education and empowerment for women is essential, and there are cultural and religious pressures that are no longer appropriate, the most effective way of stabilising population growth is good health care available to all (but especially children), ditto support systems for the elderly.

Isn't this why population growth has slowed significantly in Europe. I believe that Italy - a Roman Catholic country - has a negative indigenous population growth rate.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A waste of time and effort?

I suppose councillors get used to it and stop questioning it, but reflecting on last night's Full Council meeting it seems to me that only about a quarter of the meeting time was spent doing anything that might make a difference to anyone in Oxford. Three quarters of it was largely a waste of time. That's if you include in the quarter reports from the administration telling us what they are doing or planning to do - but all the opposition can do is praise or criticise it. Such is the system, they're not going to change anything by doing so. A one-seat majority means the Labour administration will do it anyway. Probably the most productive time of the evening was sharing a meal together half-way through.

It's a far cry from the church meetings I'm used to where something more akin to consensus decision making happens. Does any actual decision-making actually happen in Full Council meetings, or is it simply a bit of political theatre?

I used to think that the advantage of political parties is that when people vote they can have some idea what they might be voting for. They might not know the individual whose name is on the ballot paper, but they would have some idea what they might stand for. Many who voted LibDem will be wondering about that, now. And when the elected renege on their manifestos within weeks of being elected . . That's where the other side of it - the candidate as a person with their own integrity (rather than as party stooge) - is important. Has the party system become so degraded that we'd be better off all standing as independents? Certainly, from last night's experience, we'd have had better decision-making if there had been no whip. (The Green Party isn't 'whipped'). Is it cynical to say that it wouldn't last, and that parties would inevitably re-emerge? They don't in my own national church - alliances and coalitions happen all over the place, but they shift according to the issue in hand.

I'm also used to more tightly-chaired meetings where people who speak at great length off the point are invited to either address the issue in question and not stray - or sit down. We had a lot of lengthy irrelevant speeches last night, and it's hard not to believe that there was filibustering going on, in the hope that my motion on Temple Cowley Pools would be 'talked out'.

By withdrawing my motion on the need for better cycle routes under the railway at Frideswide Square we were able to claw back the time necessary to address it. But the suggestion that closing, demolishing and selling off the Temple Cowley Pools site for housing - probably another hall of residence - will further downgrade a Temple Cowley District Centre that needs enhancing and improving, not being pulled to pieces, well - it fell on deaf ears. It's all about a quick fix and money, not about long term strategy for people and communities.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Myths about the cuts

short notes from Red Pepper Aug/Sept 2010 recirculated by Sarah Lasenby :

Economists have spelt out with alarming clarity the dangers of a double-dip recession increasing cost of unemployment benefit and lowering the tax take.

The International Monetary Fund has also warned that the proposed cuts are too rigorous and will lead to an economic crisis in the UK

Myth – the debt is the highest it has ever been
At 70% of GDP [the total of goods and services produced in one year] this is high but far from unprecedented.
From 1920 – 1960 our debt never fell below around 100%
At the end of WW11 our debt reached 250% and the Welfare State was set up plus nationalisation of the health service and major industries.

Myth – the UK's debt is the worst -
UK has the lowest percentage of Government debt of all the G7countries.

Myth – Our Government debt is unsustainable
Interestingly the nature of our debt is helpful as 70%- 80% of our debt is held within Britain and held on a long term basis – over 12 years on average. This makes our debts more sustainable than those of Greece and Portugal.

Myth – Public spending got out of control under Labour.
Levels of public spending are at the same level as in the early 1990s, during the last economic crisis. This is usual as spending always rises during a recession as result of welfare spending on unemployment and lower tax take.

Myth- UK has a bigger public sector compared to other countries
UK public spending is lower, as a proportion of the economy, than in France, Italy, Austria and the Scandinavian countries.

On Health UK spent 8.4% of GDP in 2007. roughly half of that spent in USA and well behind Germany and France.

Dr Alex Nunn of Leeds Met. Uni.+ Transpennine Working Group wrote the article this comes from.

Unison's Alternative Budget
£4.7 billion could be raised by a 50% tax on incomes over £100,00
£5 billion from tax on vacant housing.
£25 billion could be raised by closing tax loopholes. The Tax Office says its more like £42 billion and some experts say its £120 billion.
All these taxes would be progressive in contrast to the increase in VAT