So, err, build some more?

The government is facing a fresh confrontation with the House of Lords amid new warnings that its housing policies will deprive rural communities of affordable homes and make them the “exclusive preserve of the affluent”.

With many peers already uneasy about the effects of extending right-to-buy to housing associations, leading peers are now raising concerns about the impact of the policies on country areas where low-cost properties to buy or rent are in short supply.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)demanded that country areas be exempted from the latest right-to-buy plans. “Rural areas already face a shortage of affordable homes and an ever-growing gap between wages and house prices,” said Luke Burroughs, the campaign’s policy adviser.

“As homes bought under the right-to-buy scheme are inevitably resold on the open market at prices way beyond the reach of those they were built for, families and young workers face the prospect of being forced out. The government has attempted to allay fears by arguing that restrictions are in place and that each home sold under the scheme will be replaced. Yet these restrictions do not at all prevent the sale of affordable housing in rural areas, and replacements are not guaranteed to be built in the local area.

In fact, if there’s a shortage of affordable housing in these areas, whoever owns it, the answer is still to build some more. Because that’s the correct response to a shortage: increase the supply.

No, this doesn’t mean concreting over this green and pleasant land. I would absolutely guarantee that you could increase the amount of housing in any and every English village, townlet and hamlet by 10% and after 5 years no one would be any the wiser. There is always a little pocket of underused land around. Simply because we don’t in fact plough, live upon nor forest every corner of this admittedly green and pleasant land.

Stop whining about it and just get on with it.

Ed Davey’s lying again

“North Sea gas didn’t significantly move UK prices – so we can’t expect UK shale production alone to have any effect,” Mr Davey said, pointing out that Britain is just one part of the wider European gas market.

He said it was “far from clear that UK shale gas production could ever replicate the price effects seen in the US”, where the shale gas boom has seen prices plummet.

The comments stand in stark contrast to those of David Cameron, who wrote in the Telegraph last month that “fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down”

But lying in a very political manner.

We’ve actually had two reports from Poyry into the effects of shale on prices.

It’s true that we don’t expect Cuadrilla’s announcement of Lancashire shale to change European gas prices very much. It’s also true that we don’t expect European shale to reduce European or UK gas prices from where they are.

But we do very much expect shale to affect prices and that’s why I’m happy to declare that Davey is lying here.

For what the two reports actually say is this. Currently the gas price is around 40 p a therm. If there is no widespread European fracking then this price will rise to 80 p a therm. If there is a decent amount of fracking (and the assumption used is essentially that the Polish fields become productive) then the price will not rise to 80p It will stay at 40 p.

This is a substantial effect on price as you can see: it halves the price from where it would otherwise be. It doesn’t halve it from where it is now, but it does halve it from where it would be.

The other report into Lancashire is about only one small part of Cuadrilla’s find. It’s not the original discovery, nor is it the current gargantuan claim. It is, rather, about an interim announcement that Cuadrilla made of the level of recoverable gas. And this will lead to a 2-4% reduction in the European price of gas all on its own. A reduction from what it would otherwise be of course, not a reduction from current prices.

So while it’s possible to support each of the individual pints that Davey is making he’s actually lying through his teeth. For the impression everyone comes away with is that producing vast quantities of shale gas won’t alter the price: a completely absurd suggestion. Of course it will alter it from what it would otherwise be. And in fact, we’ve all got the report that tells us: it’ll halve it.

As to why Davey is lying in this manner that’s simple enough. As soon as you look at all those calculations about solar and wind etc they all fall over as soon as you assume that gas isn’t going to rise in price. So no one must ever be allowed to make that assumption.

Nick Herbert is an innumerate tosspot

Everyone knows it. The countryside is integral to the definition of Britain. It is indelibly part our heritage. It is a national asset that should be prized. So why are we so criminally casual about its loss?

The vandalism of rural Britain isn\’t happening with ordered precision. Each year, an area of countryside the size of Southampton is covered with concrete. But we aren\’t building inspiring new towns or green cities.

No, this loss is horribly random. Dismal, identikit developments disfigure historic market towns. Precious green spaces between villages are thoughtlessly destroyed. We are told not to worry, that only a few percentage points of countryside will be lost.

Housing covers about 3% of England. If we were to lose \”a few percentage points\” of the countryside to housing then we would double the housing stock of the country. That isn\’t what is happening and it isn\’t what anyone is proposing.

And this seriously grates too:

England saw once before what random development would mean for the countryside. The great construction of the 1930s, which created millions of new homes, finally alarmed politicians when they saw that the suburban sprawl would not stop. The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 was brought in to end the era of unplanned development.

And where is it that people like living? What brings a good price? Those very ribbon developments that no one is allowed to build anymore. Because our Lords and Masters, most especially those who own the land inside the Green Belts, would prefer that we don\’t get to live as we would wish to, but as they insist we should.

Cunts the lot of them and they\’ve found their willing chamberpot carrier in the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs. Mind the stench Mr. Herbert: it sticks.

Yes, we\’re English: “You need more qualifications to look after a kennel than a nursery.”

Get over it. We\’re famous for treating our animals better than our children.

Every nursery worker will be forced to have basic Maths and English qualifications to lift standards among childcare workers.

Nurseries will also be allowed nearly to double the number of toddlers they care for under plans aimed at cutting childcare costs.

And which fucking idiot has decided that the way to reduce childcare costs is to increase the necessary qualifications to do childcare?

Christ alive we\’re ruled by morons.

Copying the worst of Africa

I don\’t think it\’s a surprise to anyone that Equatorial Guinea is a vile dictatorship but this little bit of copying of one of the worst ideas from elsewhere in Africa leapt out at me:

A teacher told me schools used to make a little money by selling uniforms to parents. Last year, however, Obiang\’s family opened a textile factory and insisted all schools bought uniforms from there, increasing their wealth a tiny bit more and further undermining a poorly resourced education system.

Wasn\’t it Bokassa who did the same, made school uniforms a family monopoly? Then imprisoned and killed those children who protested?

Nicely made point on poverty

So, on the official EU measurements there is “more poverty” in this country than in Poland. That is what happens when you misdescribe inequality as poverty. As Professor Saunders mordantly observes: “The people in Britain who get defined as poor actually enjoy a standard of living far higher than most Poles. Polish workers move to Britain in search of a higher standard of living, but, according to the EU, they make themselves poorer when they do so.”

Dominic Lawson

Just a thought

On teen pregnancy rates.

Hackney, one of London\’s most deprived boroughs, saw a 25% drop in its teen pregnancy rate; Blackburn, also with high levels of deprivation, saw a comparable improvement.

Have they controlled for a change in the local population?

This is very much a question, not an assertion, for I don\’t really know. But anecdotally I\’m under the impression that Hackney and Blackburn are two parts of the country which have had high immigration in recent years. Specifically Muslim immigration as well.

Now I really would not be surprised if in areas where the indigenous post-Christian population has been replaced by a culturally conservative (and whatever we might say about Islam, I think that culturally conservative over sexual matters is a fair description) Muslim one, teen pregnancy rates will drop.

So, does anybody know? Are these successes as trumpeted by Mad Mahdi actually successes of the programs, or of changes in the population the programs are being applied to?

Dodgy, dodgy statistics

I\’ve harped on this before but it\’s worth another little run.

Almost one in six children in Britain are living in households in which nobody has a job, according to a new report.

The UK average for children in jobless households is 15.3 per cent, but this rises to almost a quarter in London and 18 per cent in Wales, the North East, the North West and the West Midlands.

The study, released today by the Office for National Statistics, also shows that 22 per cent of British children live in low income households.

The figures are highest in the North East, where 28 per cent of people under the age of 20 live in families with an income at least 40 per cent below the UK average of about £34,000.

At one level of course this is true. We\’ve a national definition of poverty and it\’s a measure of relative poverty.

However, that national level grossly overstates the actual level of poverty (even relative poverty) if we were to measure it properly.

For, wage levels vary widely across the country (as do the costs of living). One notable number is that white collar female jobs in the NE pay 60% less than white collar female jobs in London. If we took London as our standard (we don\’t we take the national level as the standard, but bear with me) then every female in a white collar job in the NE would be poor as compared to one in London.

Which simply ain\’t the right way to be measuring poverty, even of the relative kind.

We need to be measuring consumption, adjusted for the regional cost of living, not money income adjusted for tax and benefits.

I\’m convinced that the supposed high level of poverty in the UK is in fact a statistical artefact, simply a measure of the way in which London and the SE (with high costs and high wages) dominate the economy in a way that happens in no other large European country.

Yes, yes,

I know the arguments and I know how the figures are calculated.

According to the DWP, the median weekly income in 2007/08 for a couple with two children was £601 before housing costs and £533 after housing costs.

Such a couple would be considered poor if their monthly income pre-housing was £361, or £322 after housing.

But this is hardly scrape the ground with a stick style African peasantry poverty, is it? Nor is it Dickensian. This is simply inequality, some having less than others.

I might disagree with those who insist that such inequality is a scandal, one which conclusively proves that taxes must rise to fund more redistribution, but that\’s a disagreement. What irks, if not angers, me is the co-opting of the word "poverty" to describe an income that is, by any historical or global standard, living extremely high upon that fattened hog.

Those \”Safe\” Drinking Limits

This won\’t surprise those with my level of cynicism:

Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.

The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.

An "intelligent guess by a committee" apparently. Some truth about booze:

One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

Yes, of course alcohol can be dangerous. Depending upon how the rugby goes, tonight\’s consumption could even be so. But isn\’t it lovely the way we\’ve been lied to over what is a dangerous level of consumption?