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Andrew Carter: An urban manifesto for the next Prime Minister

Andrew Carter is the Chief Executive of Centre for Cities

The race to be our next Prime Minister is almost at an end.

His legacy will inevitably hinge on his ability – or lack of – to deliver Brexit. But he must not allow this to distract him from the important domestic issues that have been allowed to fall by the wayside since the referendum. Social care, housing, education, and infrastructure are all in urgent need of attention.

Cities are central to addressing these issues. Despite accounting for just nine per cent of UK land, cities are home to 54 per cet of people, 60 per cent of jobs, and 62 per cent of Gross Value Added. The Conservative Party’s heartlands may be out in the leafy shires, but anybody hoping to govern as a One Nation Prime Minister must have a programme for government for Britain’s thirty six million city-dwellers.

Doing this will have an additional national benefit; studies have shown that the prosperity of Britain’s towns is intrinsically linked to the economic performance of their nearest cities, where many town dwellers work.

To improve the lives of people living in both cities and towns, here is what he should do:

Fix the council funding crisis

A decade of spending cuts has been hard on councils. Despite being home to just over half of the population, urban councils have shouldered almost three quarters of local government cuts. This works out as a £386 cut in services for every city resident, compared to just £172 per person elsewhere.

Some of these cuts have made councils leaner and more efficient. But they are now limiting their ability to deliver public services or support economic growth. Their social care responsibilities are also making a bad problem worse as councils are cutting non-statutory services to pay for care.

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have both pledged to spend more money on public services; this must also apply to local government. But councils’ funding problems are not just about money – they are also about power. Currently, local authorities have limited discretion in how they raise and spend money. The next Prime Minister should give them more freedom to manage their finances. This includes giving them the power to levy new charges such as tourist taxes, and allowing them to set multi-year budgets.

Improve urban transport

The transport debate is dominated by plans to better connect cities: HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and a third runway at Heathrow all serve this purpose.

These are important projects, but 85% of people working in England’s largest conurbations also live in them. Their commutes are all too often expensive, uncomfortable and congested; a reality that should not be overlooked by the next Prime Minister.

Franchising buses, bringing suburban rail networks under metro mayoral control, and simplifying fares may not offer politicians their high-vis and hard hat photo opportunity, but they are essential steps to improving the commute for millions of people. Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport will also improve cities’ air quality.

Target housebuilding where it is needed

The next Prime Minister should understand that the housing crisis is not a ‘national’ challenge, and plan new homes accordingly. The cost of living is relatively affordable in many parts of the country. But several high-demand cities have been unresponsive to the influx of new residents.

To address this problem, the next Prime Minister should overhaul the planning process and move towards a flexible zonal system, similar to that used in Japan. This will remove unnecessary bureaucracy and silence many of the Nimbys holding back the building of much-needed homes in high-demand areas.

He should also reassess the Government’s commitment to mass homeownership. I know that this will be a difficult pill for many Conservatives to swallow, but measures to subsidise homeownership, such as Help to Buy, are inflating demand and pushing up housing costs. It is time to step up efforts to build more affordable, secured, rented accommodation in high-demand places such as London, Bristol, Cambridge, and Brighton.

Sell cities as global destinations for investment

A final thing that the next Prime Minister must do to improve the lives of people living and working in cities is to champion them as world-leading places to invest and do business.

He should take advantage of the world-leading status of cities, such as London, Cambridge, and Oxford, and make clear that all of Britain’s cities are open to overseas investment – especially cities outside the South East. Encouraging more private investment into cities across the country will be vital if we are to solve Britain’s productivity problem. Currently just two cities outside the South East boast productivity above the national average. Supporting more investment in high-skill jobs and firms will help address this, and will deliver on the ‘Global Britain’ we have been promised.

It is ironic that, at the same time as Brexit distracted Westminster from the domestic agenda, this Government’s enthusiasm for devolution of domestic issues dried up. Encouragingly, both leadership contenders have confirmed their support for more devolution, and for the first time in history, the likely next prime minister is a former elected mayor.

Boris Johnson’s time as London Mayor gives us some clues about his plans for devolution: he was a vocal supporter of the need for greater fiscal devolution to councils. He should not forget this if he gets the keys to Number 10.

Irrespective of who wins this leadership race, the next occupant of Downing Street has a big to-do list waiting. If he champions devolution as part of the solution, then the challenge of dealing with it does not have to fall just to him – he should seize it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Damian Flanagan: What drives the Conservatives’ underlying problems? For answers, ponder our exile from the cities of the north.

So why am I even writing about this secretive group of no-hopers? Because they happen to be called “The Conservative Party” – and it currently runs the country. Also, I happen to be one of them, having recently taken over the running of the newly reformed Manchester, Withington Constituency Conservative Association.

The position of the Conservative Party not just in Manchester, but in cities across the North of England is so dire that it is probably beyond the imaginings of people in the rest of the country and certainly seems to be a blind spot for Conservative Campaign Headquarters. There hasn’t been a single Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for over 25 years, and until two years ago, the council was a hundred per cent Labour, with no opposition whatsoever – leading to zero scrutiny of any Council policies.

In the recent local elections,t he Conservatives sunk to a new low in Manchester, attracting just 6.5 per cent of the vote, half that achieved by both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, and barely 1/9th of the 58.8 per cent achieved by Labour.

The opposition to Labour in Manchester now consists of three Liberal Democrat councillors (who recently complained that the council was too “right wing”). There is also not a single Conservative councillor on the councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle…

So why should people elsewhere care about this? If Northerners like Labour so much, shouldn’t they just be allowed to get on with it?

You could argue that the local elections were an aberration and that people were venting their frustration with the Brexit stalemate in Westminster, that two unrelated issues – local government and national government – were being conflated.

Yet the crisis over Brexit and the full-scale retreat of the Conservative Party from many cities in the north of England are profoundly connected.

Think back to the last time that the Conservative Party enjoyed thumping majorities of over 100 in the House of Commons and was able to act decisively. You have to go back to Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s, a time when the Conservatives still had MPs in urban constituencies in places like Manchester, had a considerable group of representatives on the council there and could appeal to voters in northern cities.

Since being rooted out of those northern cities in the 1990s, the best the Conservatives have been able to hope for are slim majorities in general elections, leaving them highly vulnerable to party divisions over Europe.

Having the vision and doggedness to produce policies that re-engage with the inhabitants of places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Tyneside and Newcastle has seemingly not been in the mindset of anyone in the Conservative Party. That needs to change urgently.

The fact is that the Conservatives have for over 22 years been incapable of ruling without the support first of the Liberal Democrats and now of the Democratic Unionists. Parliament has been paralysed, Brexit frustrated and finally the Conservatives went begging to Labour for agreement with their policies. All these things are intimately connected to the fact that there has not been a Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for 25 years.

Imagine, though, that the Conservatives were to declare their determination to win back these “lost” Northern cities, starting by setting up a permament office in Manchester and sending some of their best people to find out what exactly is going on and to find a solution to the ingrained antipathy to Conservatives. Supposing we were to make it a marquee policy that we will not, as Conservatives, accept the age-old, north-south wealth divide – why should we? There is no reason whatsover why the north should be poor.

Let’s commit ourselves as Conservatives to those neglected northern cities by taking radical measures: offering tax incentives for companies to set up there and moving government departments north – the relocation of sections of the BBC to Salford and the creation of Media City there has been transformational in the economy of that area.

Let’s commit ourselves to the end of failing, inner city northern state schools which trap many children in a cycle of ignorance and poverty for life, and demand that minimal standards are met instead, and that we will closely monitor and put in targetted resources to these areas until that happens.

Imagine if people in the North began to think of the Conservatives not as the “Nasty Party” only concerned with their own interests and support base in the south, but rather as the visionaries who lifted them, once and for all, out of relative poverty and offered unprecedented opportunities, rediscovering the entrepeneurial drive and world-beating heritage of these post-industrial cities.

In Manchester, the populace are constantly told, over and over, that the source of all problems are “Tory cuts”. It is a matter of almost existential, religious belief.

The local governments of such cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle – cities which once led the world as centres of invention and industry – tend to focus on a culture of welfare. There is little sense that a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance and sense of public good is required to guarantee a prosperous future: it’s this compassionate and engaged Conservative vision that the North needs to rediscover.

As Conservatives, we need to support and nurture such a vision. But we are not going to manage it as a London-centric organisation that just views the cities of the north as largely unwinnable provincial backwaters.

The Conservative revolution that needs to begin in cities across the North should also transform the Conservatives nationally. The Conservatives cannot be merely a party of the South and the countryside: it must strongly engage with the interests and concerns of England’s northern cities.

Many people think the great irresolvable fault line in British politics lies between Britain and the EU or else on the border of the Irish Republic. But delve further into what exactly is causing the underlying weakness and reliance on coalitions in Conservative governments, and you will see that it is the long Conservative exile from the cities of the North which is a chief cause of what is stopping the UK advancing forward with decisiveness and unity as a nation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

George Freeman: Our new book. In which forty Tory MPs band together to help revive conservatism

George Freeman is the founder of the 2020 Conservatives Group, the Big Tent Ideas Festival and Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum. He is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

The Conservative Party is in a hole. We need to stop digging. And start thinking seriously about the real causes of the EU referendum result, the grievances it spoke to – and set out a plan to honour that referendum result by leaving the European Union and setting out a bold programme of domestic reforms.

The EU referendum was a massive vote to reject the political status quo and embrace radical, small c conservative reform. The 17.4 million Labour, Conservative and unaligned voters who voted Leave were voting for radical change. The genius of the Leave campaign was its call to “take back control”. It spoke powerfully to huge swathes of the country feeling marginalised by a potent mix of globalisation, post-Crash austerity, an influx of low paid labour from Eastern Europe, the decline of traditional market towns and high streets, fear of economic marginalisation from automation and the gig economy and a deepening despair at a sense of injustice at the gap between the “unaccountable elites” and the ordinary citizen.

Brexit spoke to – and has enshrined – the principle divide in Britain which is no longer between Left or Right, or North and South, but between those with comfortable lives and those on the margin.

This is hardly surprising. After eight years in office overseeing painful local public spending cuts, in the wake of the £700billon bank bailout, MPs expenses scandal and Blair’s dishonest Iraq war dossier which have entrenched a sense of Parliament dangerously detached from the people it serves, the Brexit referendum was a roar for reform. A number of us had been warning David Cameron and George Osborne it was coming.

Handled properly it could – and should – have been a catalyst for that most difficult of political challenges: renewal in office. But Cameron misjudged the mood and treated Leavers with contempt. Theresa May misjudged the mood as a mandate for a toxic combination of hardline anti-business UKIP rhetoric and bureaucratic Brexit bungling.

Now we choose a new leader in the teeth of a deepening public anger and pressure – whipped up by Farage and Banks – the Dick Dastardly and Mutley of British politics – to embrace the “kamikaze” approach of an anti-business No Deal Brexit.

Get this wrong, and we risk the destruction of the Conservative Party for a generation: losing our professional, business, metropolitan and liberal supporters to the Liberal Democrats, our Leave supporters to the Brexit Party and those who just want competence in office to stay at home in despair.

If we are to avoid gifting a broken Brexit Britain to Jeremy Corbyn, John Mcdonnell and Len McClusky, the next Conservative leader has to do three things:

  • Deliver an EU Withdrawal which a majority of moderate mainstream British voters in the centre ground can support
  • Embark on some bold domestic reforms to tackle the legitimate grievances which fuelled the Referendum vote
  • Restore some grip, vision, inspiration and unity to a divided country and Party.

The scale of the revolt against the status quo demands bold reform. Not the technocratic tinkering and endless self-congratulatory initiative-launching of Ministers looking busy on Instragram, but real reform.

This is a 1975, 1945, 1905 moment of profound disruption. The old order will be replaced by a new order. The only question is who will shape it? Can the Conservative Party make this a moment of bold and inspiring renewal in the same way that Mrs Thatcher and Keith Joseph did in 1975, Attlee, Churchill, Beveridge and Butler did in 1945, and Churchill and the Liberals did in 1905 to see of socialism by creating pensions and national insurance?

Too often, we forget that the great institutions we cherish as permanent were once mere ideas – whether the NHS, the BBC, the London Docklands, universal suffrage, the Right to Buy or the privatisation of the old state industries. They were bold ideas which reshaped a whole generation and quickly became permanent fixtures.

When was the last time any modern politician had an idea on the scale of any of these? We now face a genuine battle of ideas with a resurgent hard left and we need urgently to rediscover the power of political imagination.

So what would a bold programme of Conservative reform look like today? In our book Britain Beyond Brexit: a New Conservative Vision for a New Generation, published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, I and forty MPs from all sides of the party – Leave and Remain, North and South, left and right, urban and rural – have set out a collection of pieces to frame that programme.

Our book sets out a range of policy proposals across six defining themes we believe must be at the centre of a coherent and compelling narrative for the New Conservatism: identity, opportunity, enterprise, social justice, security and citizenship.

Of course, many may ask: is the Conservative Party capable of that task, amid the seemingly endless and deepening divisions of the Brexit civil war?

The successes and failures of a post-Brexit new conservatism will be based on understanding the profound societal, economic and technological changes coming at us. Not how we return to the old dividing lines of the 1980s or 1950s, but how we address the profound challenges of our age: issues such as globalisation, digitalisation, genetic engineering, sustainable development, religious extremism and the traumatic rupture of the crash and its legacy on our public finances.

We have got to be brave enough to tackle the big issues of the day. Low and fragile growth. A fragmented health and care system. Structural deficit. Intergenerational unfairness. Deepening anxiety, disillusionment and despair. Rising pressure on weary public servants in creaking public services. Stubborn ghettos of low aspiration and deprivation. Housing unaffordability, homelessness and small town decline. Sluggish infrastructure. Bad planning.

For our elderly – and the families and community of carers who look after them, we need a fair system of funding and providing elderly care. For the young, the urgent priority is addressing housing and the wider issue of economic disenfranchisement. Put simply, we’ve built an economy where the principal mechanism for building economic security – owning a home – is getting beyond the reach of all but the most privileged. Is it any wonder that a whole generation of millennial voters – with little or no chance of acquiring a house or any capital – are seduced by the rhetoric of anti-capitalism?

We face a genuinely historic challenge: are we going to make Brexit a moment of catalytic renewal of conservatism and our nation? Or a moment of annihilation by a new alignment of a new generation of voters?

To avoid a decade of decline in a post-Brexit Britain run by Corbyn, we urgently need a new conservatism for a new generation.

I hope our book will help light the way.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats

Westlake Legal Group poll-plurality-supports-releasing-detained-immigrants-into-sanctuary-cities-including-a-third-of-democrats Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum

Westlake Legal Group t-15 Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum

Go wake up Dan Scavino and tell him this is the poll he should be touting on Trump’s Twitter account, not the latest bogus approval numbers from perpetual outlier Rasmussen.

Imagine how much Democratic support there’d be for Trump’s proposal if a “permission structure” existed anywhere among their congressional leadership or presidential field in favor of tighter borders. Apart from occasional boilerplate about funding generic “border security,” every bit of rhetorical energy among prominent leftists is aimed at criticizing Trump’s immigration policies. And the further left you go, the more that decays into overt support for open borders. Beto O’Rourke, who’s by no means the most progressive candidate in the field, was lately heard attacking Barack Obama’s deportation policies for being too strict. If there were a-ny-one in a position of influence signaling to rank-and-file Dems that it’s not racist to agree with Trump that Americans should control how many people enter the country, this might be a 50 percent proposition even in that party.

It’s all down to Bernie, I think. He’s the only one still putting up even the pretense of a fight against open-borders lefties.

Westlake Legal Group s Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum

There’s more net support among independents than there is among Republicans! And there are no sharp racial divisions on the question. Whites split 48/42 in favor of dumping illegals on sanctuary cities. Nonwhites split 44/44.

If you’re thinking that the 31 percent of Democrats who support Trump’s proposal is a fluke result specific to this question, think again. Monmouth found a solid 30 percent or so of Dems sympathetic to other recent Trump arguments about the border crisis. Here’s the result when people were asked if they thought asylum-seekers are genuinely being persecuted back home or trying to game the system:

Westlake Legal Group gg Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum

Once again a plurality sides with Trump and the GOP, as do independents and 30 percent of Dems. How about the administration’s attempt to warehouse asylum-seekers in Mexico while their asylum applications are pending in the U.S.?

Westlake Legal Group fds Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum

A familiar result. Indies tilt towards the White House’s position along with approximately 30 percent of Democrats, handing Trump a clear majority this time among the overall population.

I’m left wondering here if Joe Biden, who’s scrambling to become the Great Centrist Hope for Dems spooked by Sanders and the DSA, would dare inch towards a *somewhat* harder line on border enforcement than the rest of the field. Obviously his platform would be mostly orthodox liberalism — DREAMers should be legalized yesterday, the rest of the illegal population should be legalized eventually, family separation at the border is obscene, etc etc. But if he added in a little rhetoric about making admission to the U.S. more “orderly,” with some low-key verbiage about catch-and-release being a genuine problem, how would that play? The left will be mad but Biden undertook this campaign knowing that they’ll spend every waking hour making him a hate object, the last intraparty obstacle to the socialist revolution’s path to power. If he thinks there are enough centrist Dems out there to hand him the nomination in a death match with Bernie, immigration should logically be a part of his message.

Be sure to skim all of the results from the Monmouth poll, by the way, not just the ones I excerpted in case you’re under the mistaken impression that all of Trump’s immigration proposals have majority or plurality support. Despite the obvious crisis at the border, the wall remains a 42/56 proposition. Just 21 percent of Americans agree with Trump that illegals are more likely to commit violent crimes; among independents it’s 19 percent and just seven percent among Dems.

The post Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group t-15-300x153 Poll: Plurality supports releasing detained immigrants into sanctuary cities — including a third of Democrats Trump The Blog survey sanctuary republicans poll monmouth immigration democrats Cities border asylum   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com