John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
  Housing Benefit Changes
I am pleased that the government has made two changes that I asked for to the Housing Benefit proposals.

The first was to allow local authorities more discretion to pay Housing Benefit directly to Landlords. This will enable Landlords who charge a reasonable rent to be more certain that they get paid.

The second is to defer the percentile shifts for existing claimants. This will allow some market movement to occur before the new percentiles come in. It should result in a far smoother introduction of the percentile change with far fewer people having to move.
 
Sunday, November 28, 2010
  Stolen Children on Belgian Radio
The link is to a story (in French) about the stealing of children in England by the authorities.

The following figures give the number of children adopted from care as a proportion of those leaving care in the past 5 years (up to March 2010)


In care 42,510 42,550 41,930 41,290 42,900
Into care 7,700 7,700 7,400 8,200 9,500
Therefore out of care 7,660 8,020 8,840 7,890
Adopted from S20 280 230 220 200 180
Adopted total 3,700 3,300 3,200 3,300 3,200
Adopted from care 3,420 3,070 2,980 3,100 3,020

Proportion 40.08% 37.16% 35.07% 38.28%


These are the calculations the civil servants are avoiding doing. (see my PQs and also freedom of information requests that are refused)

The figures will be more extreme if we look at those leaving care under 10.

Quoting from the Ofsted APA document.
"A very high figure, particularly sustained over some years, should prompt
further enquiry. It may be the result from the prevalence of factors assisting
a council to achieve a high figure, but it may also be a result of a council
placing children inappropriately."

Note that for Ofsted over 25% is very high.
 
Friday, November 26, 2010
  Tesco note to residents
Dear resident,
As you know, we have been unable to start work until now on the new Swan Centre, Tesco store, road network and car park due to various legal and contractual reasons.
However, following final agreement with Birmingham City Council, we have now been able to resolve these issues and, I am pleased to say, we will be starting preliminary works on site from Monday 29 November to prepare for construction.
I would like to thank you for your patience over this past year – it has been a very frustrating time for everyone involved and I know that everyone in the area is eager to see construction work finally start on the site.
Local construction company, Bowmer and Kirkland have been appointed to build the store and will be on site throughout the build process. They have considerable experience of constructing Tesco stores and are members of the "considerate constructors" scheme.
During the next few weeks, the car park site on the Oaklands side of the development will be prepared and a temporary plant crossing will be installed across Church Road to help heavy construction vehicles move around safely.
Final alterations will also be made underneath Bakeman House, ready for the start of construction to the store in the new year. The new road layout is anticipated to be completed in September 2011.
Residents of Bakeman House will already know that the demolition contractors, DSM will also be back on site from Monday 29 November to complete the demolition works under Bakeman House including removal of the existing canopy.
If you wish to speak to somebody on site about the works taking place on site, please contact:
(details via my office)

I’d like to thank you once again for your patience and look forward to bringing you more updates on the new Swan Centre and Tesco store as building work progresses.
 
Thursday, November 25, 2010
  Photos of New Street Station Development
IMG_2161
Work in progress on Platform 1.
IMG_2166
Platform 11-12 on the Right are going to get a bridge at Xmas.
IMG_2164
Its a bit dark, but you have an example of a train supplying materials to platform 1.
IMG_2157
Stephenson Tower on the left and the Telephone Exchange on the right.
IMG_2152
The new Western Concourse taken from the Hill Street End (plus some people).
 
  Visit to New Street
On Monday I spent a bit longer at the station than I normally do. That was because I was looking at the development work. It is interesting seeing the redevelopment of the station progressing. This was a project I supported from its initiation.

The first stage of the development is to build a new concourse on the West side of the station. This is the Navigation Street and Hill Street side. A new "kiss and ride" route will be built which comes up from Hill Street and goes down into Navigation Street. Once the work on the West side is completed they can shut down the old concourse and redevelop that side as well.

The plan is to open the West side in Autumn 2012 and then the full station in 2015. The platforms are also being refurbished. Platform 1 is being worked on at the moment and hence is out of use temporarily. A train is being used to provide the materials for this. Once this has been done work will transfer to Platform 12. The real challenge is to redevelop the station whilst continuing to use it.

Around 7,000 tonnes of concrete is being removed from the old car park which will form the Western concourse.

Some challenges involve the demolition of Stevenson tower without disrupting the telephone exchange. Rather than blowing it up a crane will be used to take it down floor by floor. Over Xmas 2010 a new bridge will be installed by crane at the high end platform numbers. This will allow an entrance from the Hill Street side as well as Navigation Street.

I will hopefully upload some photos when I have some bandwidth. I am on the train at the moment.
 
  Student Finance - the analysis
There still seems to be a lot of confusion about the issue of student tuition finance. There always will be a cost for tuition whether you call it fees or capitation. Somehow or other the costs of the lecture theatres, lecturers etc will have to be paid for.

There are three potential sources for this. One is from general taxation, another is from individual students and/or their families and a third is collectively from graduates.

The government's proposals retain a proportion of funding from general taxation even though it goes through the finance system.

They reduce the proportion that is raised from individual graduates. Only a minority of graduates will ever hit the cap. It increases the proportion that is raised collectively in two ways. Firstly by increasing the amount contributed by those graduates who earn over £21,000 per annum whereby the net present value contributed over a lifetime increases because the additional annual cost increases until people earn over £41,000.

This is because the interest rate is really more of a tax calculation than an interest calculation. Normally interest rates go down as it becomes more likely that someone will pay for something. To ensure an equitable collective sharing of the burden the opposite is being done.

There is an argument as to whether it is fair to have a cap on graduate contributions. I think in fact that there is a good argument for this.

It remains, however, that this "fairer alternative" which moves on substantially from the current system is both better for the less well off graduates and moves towards a substantially different system - one in which the costs of tuition is split between the tax payer, graduates collectively and individual graduates.
 
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
  Office Closed
My office in Sheldon has closed today. This is because of threats against the safety of my staff and potentially also against constituents visiting for help with their problems. The police have advised us to close the office.

Those people who are making the threats need to recognise that the people who suffer are my constituents who may be homeless, destitute or facing arbitrary action by the state - where their last resort is to come for help from my office.

The demonstrators are arguing that we should not be making any cuts in Higher Education. It is clear, looking at the global financial situation, that we have to make cuts in some areas. Hence the demonstrators need to think carefully about what they are saying.

I support wholeheartedly protecting the more vulnerable members of society against cuts in services for them. That does mean that there are quite severe cuts in Higher Education. The alternatives are much worse.

We are proposing a fairer alternative to the current system of tuition finance. The demonstrators are particularly unhappy that I have argued for this publicly.

The threats against my staff in an attempt to silence me are fundamentally wrong. The demonstrators should be ashamed of themselves. They are hurting the weakest members of society in an attempt to protect privilege for themselves.
 
Sunday, November 21, 2010
  Christopher Booker on The Sims
The link is to today's story in the Sunday Telegraph about The Sims.

Those interested in the issue should see the effort that the Civil Servants are putting in to refuse to admit the truth about adoptions from care. Something like 40% of the children leaving care (defined as subject to a care order or police protection) are leaving through adoption.

When you consider the children under 10 then it is a majority. That is not supposed to happen.

See this written question as an example.
 
Thursday, November 18, 2010
  Stuart Syvret released
The link is to a story about Stuart Syvret being released a short time ago. I spoke to him a few minutes ago and he is now out of jail although the issue will be revisited later.
 
  Jersey's Political Prisoner
Stuart Syvret's new address is:
HMP La Moye
La Rue Baal
St Brelade
Jersey,
JE3 8HQ
Channel Islands

I am sure he would welcome cards from well wishers.
 
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
  Stuart Syvret Jailed
According to Channel TV Stuart Syvret has been jailed for 10 weeks.

Former Senator Stuart Syvret has been jailed for ten weeks and faces heavy fines after being found guilty of breaching data protection laws.

This looks like an attempt to put the frighteners on people critising the failures of the rule of law in Jersey.
 
  Tesco clears final board approval
I am pleased to hear that the main board of Tesco have now given the green light to the final phase of the Swan development subject to agreement on a S106 planning agreement and S278 roads development agreement.
 
Sunday, November 14, 2010
  Autism and Care Proceedings
The link is to a story behind The Sunday Times' paywall about an autistic boy whose parents were threatened with care proceedings because they were blamed in part for his behaviour.

This is quite a common problem.
 
Friday, November 12, 2010
  Axe-wielding man went on rampage at headquarters of 'wrong council'
The link is to a story about someone who was abused in care who attacked the wrong tier of government.

Much that this is futile and not in any way to be encouraged I wonder where else in the world it happens.

I know the USA has similar problems in the care system, but not as extreme as those in England. However, I wonder where else the children who have been through the system are often so opposed to it (not always of course).
 
Thursday, November 11, 2010
  Garbled Article in The Times about Mortgage etc
There has been a garbled article published in The Times today about the mortgage on my london flat.

It is based mainly on what I put on my weblog in May 2009 here

It gets a bit complex with me having a mortgage on Fletcher Buildings then clearing it and then getting another one.

It remains my view that what I did was not only within the rules and cleared by the authorities at the time, but also saved money for the taxpayer.

If you look at my posting of May 2009 you will find that my personal expenses over a period of years were £45,075 less than those of Khalid Mahmood MP.

There were other options such as selling and repurchasing or renting out my own flat and renting another via ACA. Those would have cost the taxpayer more.

What doing this achieved, as opposed to simply leaving the flat without a mortgage, was to enable me to put more revenue expenditure into the subsidy that I provide to my constituency activities.

I know that parliament now doesn't allow MPs to buy properties - so this could not be done by an MP elected in 2010. The concentration should be on reducing costs, but instead is on having a system that no-one can critise. The end result is becoming a mess.

I also stopped claiming second home expenses in early 2009 as a measure to reduce the deficit. (aka save the taxpayer money).
 
Saturday, November 06, 2010
  The Last Minute Labour Nasty
The link is to the story about the Oldham East and Saddleworth Election Court. This was a case about some last minute Labour leaflets making allegations that are clearly untrue.

It is a common habit of the Labour Party to deliver a last minute negative leaflet on the Wednesday before the election day (normally Thursday). Hence it is good to have them warned that they are not allowed to make things up about their opponents.
 
Friday, November 05, 2010
  Hollie Greig, Bill Maloney and Community Champions
This is a video that is worth looking at although it is a bit long and you don't get into the issues right at the start. I don't agree with everything they say, but it is clear that they have some things right.

There are some real problems in the system. To find out more about it you need to follow my questions about Secret Prisoners.

 
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
  A future tax liability
The two things I was pressing for as part of the funding of student tuition have been announced today.

The first of these was to make the scheme more progressive so that those graduates who earn quite a lot more pay more than those who earn more than average. The second was to have some system whereby those who wish to pay upfront pay a premium and participate in burden sharing on an equitable basis.

That makes good progress down the route that I am looking for as a "fairer system" as I am pledged to do.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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