I hope everyone is staying safe and well during this very cold spell we are enduring. The forecasts I have seen say things should pick up at the weekend but do allow extra time for journeys and check up on friends and neighbours if you can. Our thanks go to those involved with keeping things running in these challenging conditions. Also deserving of a special mention are all the school children and others playing outdoor sports when the pitches aren’t frozen; remember to have a good warm up!
Here in Somerset the Council is facing a type of bankruptcy where a Section 114 Notice may be issued, which would essentially mean their decision making powers and spending on non statutory services would be limited. The Lib Dem administration has failed to make the savings avaiable under the unitary council business case which is the main reason for this situation, and they are now asking both to raise council tax by 10% and saddle the County with even more debt to stave off decisions being taken out of their hands. It is well worth having your say on this by writing to your councillors and participating in the BBC phone in that I understand is being organised.
I think with running an economy, whether in Somerset or nationally, many have regressed into a way of thinking which is essentially, “this service costs X per unit and demand is predicted to increase by Y”. Things like school transport and social care are often thought of in these terms. We seem to lack the drive to question whether the cost needs to remain the same, whether economies of scale can be used, whether new technology can lead to cost cutting efficiencies and so on. A lot can be achieved by simplification both of structures and taxes and both need to be at the centre of policy making.
In spite of this drag in some areas, many companies are more innovative and productive than ever. Last week’s reception for Leonardo in Westminster was a great success and will have impressed many who are getting to know about the history and unique position of the Yeovil site. It was a very positive step in the bid to get the AW149 commissioned as the next fleet of military medium lift helicopters.
There have been some disagreements on the detail of the Rwanda policy for migrants this week and as usual the media have focussed on the politics and personalities involved rather than what is being considered. Without going into too much legal detail though, with a policy designed as a deterrent, you clearly need a quick and clear process which is completely under the control of the UK Government. The press coverage has also glossed over the fact that last year saw a 36% reduction in small boat crossings from the previous year, due to diplomatic efforts with Albania and others.