Posted by: John | October 17, 2007

Chris Huhne is just Wrong, wrong, wrong!

From his Eastleigh website discussing the differences in pay between South East and other regions: 

 `The first would surely be the besetting difficulties of running the same public services that other regions take for granted, simply because of the pressure of unfilled vacancies when we still have a largely ‘one size fits all’ structure of national pay bargaining. It is no wonder that teacher vacancy rates in the South East are double those in the North West: look at the relative cost of housing. Don’t just look at housing: even a pint of beer costs more in the South East, though scandalously we still do not have regional price indices that would allow us to make overall comparisons.`

And? The point is not to attract even MORE people to that region but to entice them to other areas. I agree with Chris when he says that the dead hand of Whitehall should be lifted from planning etc to bring government closer to the people. However, that will mean thinking `unthinkable` things. Blue sky thoughts: Stripping Central Government of a lot of its powers and devolving to the regions, making Government answerable to Local Government, perhaps removing nearly all civil service positions to the Midlands or North, ensuring that local government keep 75% of its income to spend AS IT WISHES as representatives of the people. Banish the quangos, tear up the targets – simply have independent auditors sanctioned by Central Government so that voters can see and make a judgement. The benchmarks would be on social inclusion as well as other things.








  1. I’m not sure the two sides of your apparent argument match up. As President of ALTER Chris knows full well the potential for using the fiscal regime for encouraging a more balanced economic development of the regions of Britain, but on the other hand, while there are people in the south east with kids that need educating or illnesses that need tending there has got to be a mechanism for enbsuring they attract the right professionals to serve in that region and national bargaining is clearly an issue in that.

  2. Clegg=Cameron mark 2 or Blair Mark 3
    Huhne=Another man in a suit
    We need a woman

  3. Local control of public services isn’t really local control if there is national pay bargaining. I think Chris makes a good point. (But vote for the other guy)

  4. The point is how are we going to spread wealth geographically? What is our plan?

    That’s the only way we can get to the bottom of the democratic deficit.

  5. Which is precisely why Chris Huhne, who understands and supports Land Value Tax, would be the right man for the job. Nothing would be more effective in drawing real economic activity to currently underperforming regions away from high land value areas like the south east.

  6. Would this system itself deal with this – or is money enticements itself not enough. What about prestige and glamour? Wouldn’t they be enticements too?

    London and the SE has become an ever increasing swirling magnetic whirlwind sucking the wealth and talent from other regions.

  7. What is ture in regional policy is that certain regions don’t really compete with others in Britain at all. The South East always claim, for example, (via SEEDA), that if some business sectors weren’t there, they would instead be in Ireland, Frankfurt or Silicon Valley, and there is a certain truth about that with which we tinker at our national peril.

    But there are a lot of magnets involved – air transport is a biggie – much of the international corporate presence in Berkshire and north Hampshire and Surrey is claimed to be because it is within easy travel distance from Heathrow. If you applied LVT to landing slots/airspace you could make other gateways to Britain more attractive for business travellers for example and boost economic activity around those areas.

    Corporate wage costs could easily be 20% and more lower in less overheated areas under LVT *beyond* the existing differential. You don’t have to completely denude the south east of economic activity to make a huge difference to the overheating that’s been going on. Businesses operating at the margins of profitability in the south east moving would be sufficient to kick start other regions.

    Rather than just moving government departments, why not abolish as many of them as possible anyway. That would take some heat off the south east – not merely because of their operations themselves, but because people do put a premium on being located near the centres of power – if those are distributed that’s a huge disincentive to remain in high cost areas.

    It’s not a panacaea, and Chris is not, I suspect, four square behind all of our LVT arguments either, but he makes a good start.

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