‘THIRTY years ago on what is today the M65 between Blackburn and Darwen there were simply fields – and mainly fields either side too.
Now, confounding the ‘environmentalists’ who campaigned so vociferously against connecting East Lancashire to the main motorway network, there’s a host of modern works, providing decent employment for thousands of local people.
I visited one such factory, in Davyfield Road, last Friday – the headquarters of Heritage Envelopes Ltd.
Firms generally get in touch with me because they want my help – which is part of my job. In this case, however, the CEO Mark Sears invited me along simply because he thought I’d be interested to see what they did.
I was. It was a real eye-opener. This modern plant employs about 130 people, round-the-clock, with a turnover of £24m.
Heritage does what it says on the tin: it makes envelopes. I was asked to guess how many they produced each week.
I thought I was wildly exaggerating when I had a stab at one million.
I was way off.
The correct answer is more than 50 million a week; more than two and a half billion each year.
We all keep being told that paper, print, is on the way out.
Indeed it is to some extent. Much physical communication has been replaced by e-mail and the internet.
But just as I believe (on good evidence) that real books, real newspapers, which you can feel as well as see, will survive and prosper, so this firm is sufficiently confident that their intention is, over time, to up their weekly production to 75 million.
Heritage’s envelopes are used for direct mail marketing. What’s really interesting, I was told, is that sending a proper letter remains an excellent and cost-effective means of increasing sales.
While there I presented a 25-year long-service award to Steven Morgan, from Darwen, an ‘envelope machine adjuster’ – a highly-skilled position requiring more than five years’ training.
By good investment, and increasing integration with electronic media, the firm reckon they have a sound future too. They’re right.
My trip to the supermarket last weekend.
Picture this. At a local low cost supermarket in Blackburn me, my wife and children witnessed a tragically distressing scene. Whilst waiting at the checkout we see shop security confront a guy who must have weighed no more than 6 stone; dressed in tired old clothing. They search through his pockets and find that he’s shoplifted some bread and mince meat. To their credit the security men were pretty sensitive. They clearly saw no point in calling the police as it was clear that the chap was without any money whatsoever to pay a fine. And judging by what he’d taken, I doubt very much that the goods were for anything other than personal consumption.
Apart from the distress of having to witness this humiliation of a fellow human being what is more troubling is that these are scenes we are seeing more and more of in our sad society.
You can come to all kinds of conclusions about what this person’s background is but here’s a reasonable guess – benefits sanctioned for six months because he was judged by the Jobcentre to be ‘not looking hard enough for a job’ or not providing the ‘appropriate evidence’, or perhaps not accepting a part time job on minimum wage that would make him no better off as he would lose whatever other subsistence benefits he was receiving – Housing to pay the rent; or perhaps the fact that he couldn’t find a job because he’d been fighting for the same low pay part time work that others recently made redundant from full time work with mortgages to pay are also searching for. With his benefits sanctioned and zero money coming into the house resulting in empty kitchen cupboards (empty meaning empty – there are plenty of people in this situation). In these circumstances it’s difficult to see many other options than shoplifting.
Benefit reform may have been needed – but not the way this heartless Government has chosen to do it – if you really want to get people back into work you need to provide the support to help them find work – the schemes previously in place were disbanded by this Government because public spending ‘needed’ to be cut. It’s clear that this Government’s only motivation is saving money to cut taxes for the better off. To really tackle unemployment and benefit dependency you need to invest in the people and make sure there are jobs for them to go for – two things that Cameron and Clegg are grandly failing on. Apparently the economy is picking up. Not round here it’s not! But of course towns like Blackburn don’t matter to Cameron and the Eton boys – as long as London and the home counties are doing ok that will do nicely.
After thirteen years of relative prosperity under Labour it saddens me that our country is heading back to the Victorian era. How long before the workhouse returns?
We cannot and must not allow this to go on. On Sunday 29th September there is a demonstration at Tory Party conference, opposing the cuts and the Government’s austerity policies. I’ll be there. I hope you’ll join me.
On this significant day in our country’s history it’s clear that lots of people have strong views about Margaret Thatcher. I certainly do, but I think the most powerful evidence of what people thought about her is the comments of people who lived through her term of office. Why don’t you let Blackburn Labour Party know what you think. Please let us know your views.
“It’s character building, supporting a team like Blackburn Rovers”, I used to tell my two children in the 1980s when they were young and we were bobbing about the old Second Division. “So much better than supporting a glory team. With Rovers you’ll learn about life, its disappointments, as well as its triumphs.”
Their faith was rewarded. Jack Walker bought the club. Kenny Dalglish was appointed Manager. Four years later, in 1995, we won the Premiership.
We’ve never repeated that wonderful, ecstatic moment of glory, when in the final game of the season we lost to Liverpool, but won the prize that mattered thanks to Harry Rednapp’s West Ham holding Man U to a draw. We dropped into the Championship in 1999, Jack Walker died in 2000. But we got back into the Premiership, and stayed there for 11 years.
Apart from the League Cup, which we won in 2002, top-flight success eluded us – as it did many “town” clubs, without the financial backing of the big city clubs. But players, staff, and supporters alike had pride, and confidence in the club. Pride about the Club’s history, as a founder member of the Football League, which had done much better than most clubs in comparable areas; and confidence, that whatever the set-backs on the field, Rovers was by common consent one of the best run football clubs in the whole of the professional game.
We all knew that the trustees of Jack Walker’s estate, who had owned the club since Jack’s death, were bound to sell it at some stage. When the Indian company Venkys purchased the club in November 2010 for £23 million there was great goodwill for the new owners.
Tragically, it did not last long. After the team had lost 7 -1 at Old Trafford to United manager Sam Allardyce was fired. I was at that game. Rovers’ fans just regarded a pasting by United as one of those things. There was no demand for Allardyce to go – far from it.
His removal was followed by the single greatest error of Venky’s – to fire both the Executive Chairman John Williams, and the MD Tom Finn. They were the reason for Rovers’ survival. It was a crazy thing to do.
With Venky’s main business being poultry, metaphors about headless chickens are best avoided. But that’s how it feels. There’s no sense of grip by the owners or the board. We’ve now had more managers this season than we’ve won away games. Yes, Sunday’s critical derby against Burnley sent all the fans – my family and me included – into a near clinical depression until David Dunn scored the equaliser five minutes into extra time. But there were no cries for Appleton to go. It’s too serious for that. We’re only four points above the drop, with nine games to go.
It’s the financial eccentricity of the decisions which is the most puzzling. Once gifted, but (in football terms) elderly players like Nuno Gomes (38), and Danny Murphy (36) on two-year contracts. Expensive disputes with the sacked managers. It’s now nigh-impossible to discern anything resembling a business plan being pursued by the owners. The fans’ fear is that our fate will be a fire sale, or worse.
Rovers’ predicament now is sad, and senseless. It could have been avoided, first, if Venky’s had understood that in purchasing the club they were not buying some soulless franchise, but buying into a loyal and committed community; and second, if our football authorities had tougher rules – and standards – on ownership. When will they wake up?
Imagine a government so incompetent that it designed a tax that hit soldiers but not prisoners; or a Department so useless it punished foster parents for the crime of giving a home to a child in need. Imagine ministers so out of touch they had to be told by others their plans hurt tens of thousands of pensioners – because they didn’t know.
Welcome to today’s Department for Work and Pensions. From the crack team that gave us a Work Programme that is officially worse than doing nothing, we now have a Bedroom Tax that we suspect may cost more than it saves.
Labour supports sensible welfare reform but the bedroom tax is crazy. Ministers claim they are trying to solve under-occupancy but David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have been forced to admit that it is impossible for their plans to work because there aren’t enough smaller homes for families to move to.
It is in black and white in their own impact assessment – they know this policy won’t work. So all the Bedroom Tax will achieve is making some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society event poorer. Two thirds of these families, by the way, are home to someone with a disability and the National Housing Federation say 200,000 are receiving Disability Living Allowance.
From the Guardian to the Sun, everyone is warning the government that this policy is a mess, but Ministers are burying their heads in the sand.
In fact the department is in such a shambles that DWP press officers were forced to slap down their own Secretary of State after he told the six o’clock news he was looking at making changes. The whole thing is descending into farce.
The scheme is now so chaotic it could actually end up costing more than it saves in many parts of the country. If families are made homeless or pushed into expensive private rented accommodation the tax payer could actually be left with a higher bill – and still the problem of under occupancy will not be solved.
“In the North West 43% of people living in housing association homes who receive housing benefit will be hit. This means 110000 families will be worse off by £728 a year when the bedroom tax comes into force.
The tragedy is this government’s plans won’t even succeed on their own terms. Everyone agrees the welfare bill needs to come down, but this government is now expected to spend £13bn more than planned because of they are totally failing to get Britain moving again.
The best way to bring down the benefits bill is to get people into jobs. That’s why Labour is calling for a tough but fair compulsory jobs guarantee. We would offer anyone who has been out of work for more than two years a real job – one that they would be required to take, no ifs and no buts.
Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works, not more chaos and confusion from this government.
The Bedroom Tax is now in total disarray. Ministers must now admit they have got this horribly wrong and think again – before it’s too late.
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”
- Winston Churchill
‘As a Conservative I have no pleasure in exposing David Cameron’s deficit claims’ – says Ramesh Patel, writing in the Economist recently. ‘However, as long as the party continues to talk down the economy via the blame game, confidence will not be given an opportunity to return. For it is an undeniable and inescapable economic fact: without confidence and certainty there can be no real growth.’
Patel then goes to set out why he thinks that Mr Cameron and his chums have got it so wrong. You could call it an ‘Eton Mess’!
‘Below are the three deficit claims – the mess. The evidence comes from the IMF, OECD, OBR, HM Treasury, ONS and even George Osborne. The claims put into context are:
The last government left the biggest debt in the developed world.
After continuously stating the UK had the biggest debt in the world George Osborne admits to the Treasury Select Committee that he did not know the UK had the lowest debt in the G7? Watch: Also, confirmed by the OECD Those who use cash terms (instead of percentages) do so to scare, mislead and give half the story.
Its common sense, in cash terms a millionaire’s debt would be greater than most people. Therefore, the UK would have a higher debt and deficit than most countries because, we are the sixth largest economy. Hence, its laughable to compare UK’s debt and deficit with Tuvalu’s who only have a GDP/Income of £24 million whilst, the UK’s income is £1.7 Trillion.
Finally, Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35% – a near 22% reduction page 6 ONS Surprisingly, a debt of 42% was not seen as a major problem and yet at 35% the sky was falling down?
Labour created the biggest deficit in the developed world by overspending.
Firstly, the much banded about 2010 deficit of over 11% is false. This is the PSNB (total borrowings) and not the actual budget deficit which was -7.7% – OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook March 2012 page 19 table 1.2
Secondly, in 1997 Labour inherited a deficit of 3.9% of GDP (not a balanced budget ) and by 2008 it had fallen to 2.1% – a reduction of a near 50% – Impressive! Hence, it’s implausible and ludicrous to claim there was overspending. The deficit was then exacerbated by the global banking crises after 2008. See HM Treasury. Note, the 1994 deficit of near 8% haaaaaah!
Thirdly, the IMF have also concluded the same. They reveal the UK experienced an increase in the deficit as result of a large loss in output/GDP caused by the global banking crisis and not even as result of the bank bailouts, fiscal stimulus and bringing forward of capital spending. It’s basic economics: when output falls the deficit increases.
Finally, the large loss in output occurred because the UK like the US have the biggest financial centres and as this was a global banking crises we suffered the most. Hence, the UK had the 2nd highest deficit in the G7 (Not The World) after the US and not as a result of overspending prior to and after 2008- as the IMF concur.
Our borrowing costs are low because the markets have confidence in George Osborne’s austerity plan and without it the UK will end up like Greece.
Yes, the markets have confidence in our austerity plan and that’s why PIMCO the worlds largest bond holder have been warning against buying UK debt.
The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because, savings have increased. As a result, the demand and price for bonds have increased and as there is inverse relationship between the price of bonds and its yield (interest rate) the rates have fallen. Also, the markets expect the economy to remain stagnate. Which means the price for bonds will remain high and hence, our borrowing costs will also remain low.
Secondly, the UK is considered a safe heaven because, investors are reassured the Bank of England will buy up bonds in an event of any sell off – which increases the price of bonds and reduces the effective rate. Note, how rates fell across the EU recently when the ECB announced its bond buying program. Thirdly, because, we are not in the Euro we can devalue our currency to increase exports. Moreover, UK bonds are attractive because, we haven’t defaulted on its debt for over 300 years.
David Cameron would like people to believe the markets lend in the same way as retail banks lend to you and I.
Overall, when the facts and figures are put into context these juvenile deficit narratives and sound bites (“mere words and no evidence”) simply fail to stand up to the actual facts. The deficit myth is the grosses lie ever enforced upon the people and it has been sold by exploiting people’s economic illiteracy.
So, David Cameron when are you going to apologise?
Cameron is playing the blame game to depress confidence and growth to justify austerity. Secondly, to use austerity as justification for a smaller state to gain lower taxes. Thirdly, to paint Labour as a party that can not be trusted with the country’s finances again. Therefore, we Conservatives will win a second term because, people vote out of fear. The latter strategy worked the last time in office (18 years) and will work again because, in the end, elections are won and lost on economic credibility. Hence, as people believe Labour created the mess they won’t be trusted again.
Finally, as the truth is the greatest enemy of the a lie I urge you to share this on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text and email etc etc. So the truth can be discovered by all. Finally, have no doubt, people have been mislead by the use of the following strategy:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” Joseph Goebbels.’
Mr Cameron – even your most steadfast supporters cannot accept the policies you are implementing – it’s time to say goodbye!
According to the Guardian’s analysis of council cuts Tory local government cabinet supremo Eric Pickles’ is presiding over drastic spending cuts which will hit the poorest in society hardest. Data compiled by Newcastle city council shows alarming divides in council funding: between rich and poor, north and south and rural and urban areas.
The analysis showed councils in northern, urban cities and London boroughs with high levels of deprivation predominately run by Labour have seen had their budgets cut by almost ten times the amount taken from mostly Tory-administered rural southern England authorities during the government’s first spending round, according to an analysis by officials.
According to the analysis Blackburn with Darwen is the sixth worse sufferer of cuts behind the London Boroughs of Hackney & Newham , the Cities of Liverpool & Manchester & the Borough of Knowsley . This is despite the analysis showing that over 1 in 4 (26.8%) children in BWDBC are living in poverty.
The figures show that every person in Blackburn with Darwen has lost £205.40 as a result of the savage cuts imposed by the Coalition Government whereas leafy Boroughs, mainly in the South, have been treated much less harshly.
For example, residents who live in Richmond upon Thames have only lost a paltry £12 each where as those who live in Cheshire East represented by the Chancellor George Osborne have only lost £20 & people living in West Oxfordshire whose MP is David Cameron have only lost £34.
If you were being cynical you could say that in the main the rich parts of the country have had the price of a takeaway or a night out at the Cinema taken from them, whilst in the poorer area families have lost the equivalent an entire week’s budget.
So much for Cameron’s claim about us all being in this together!
Commenting on the figures shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn has also pointed out that Labour councils on average suffer cuts of more than £107 per head compared with Tory authority cuts of £36 and Liberal Democrat ones of just £38. He suggests local government funding is being used to alleviate the impact of cuts on Tory voters at the expense of Labour voters.
For further information see http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/nov/14/council-cuts-england-detailed
‘Judge us on the economy’ say Coalition buddies Cameron and Clegg. Well, two and a half years into the shambolic coalition Government the economy is at best stagnant and at worst heading back into recession. An increase in women in part time employment may have stopped unemployment shooting above 3 million but we can all see the true situation around us. As I drive into work this morning I see that Staples in Blackburn is to close. Blackburn town centre actually had a good Christmas period unlike the rest of East Lancashire so if major stores are not even surviving in Blackburn what hope is there for the rest of the country. Yesterday I drove past the site of a well established car dealership – next to Darwen Vale High School. Any local will know the one I mean. It’s been there for ever. Anyway – not anymore – closed down and desserted. Try telling the former employees there or at Staples that our economy is doing great!
But of course if you say this to your local Tory we all know what they’ll come back with – ‘it wasn’t us it was Labour’ or ‘it’s a global recession’.
OK. We’ll judge you on the economy. You’ve had two and a half years so you’ve got two and a half left. But the fact is, when Labour left office, measures we introduced such as cutting VAT, and stepping in when the banks were collapsing had led the UK out of recession. You, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg changed those policies and now we find ourselves in a situation where there is 0% growth, the deficit is not shrinking, public debt is up and more money is being spent on benefits. So far you’ve failed the economic test. If things haven’t picked up by 2015 you’ll surely have to say ‘hands up, we were wrong’. I doubt you will though!!
It is rare that I see eye to eye with any Tory but last week Michael Hesletine , arguably the best leader the Tories never had, returned to front line politics with a report that is – if nothing else – a clear plan for economic growth. His hard hitting report is a clear recognition that the present Osborne / Cameron plan has failed. Instead Lord Heseltine argues that economic growth needs to be driven by a set of radical policies at a regional and local level.
The former deputy prime minister helpfully suggests the Government should pool £50 billion of Whitehall money into a single pot and advocates a network of strengthened local enterprise partnerships – coordinated by businesses and local councils – who could bid into the pot for funding to plan and stimulate growth at a local and sub-regional level.
Set aside that this almost mirrors the regional development agencies introduced by the last Labour Government that had success in regenerating areas like ours that were scrapped by Cameron, it is to be welcomed that a Tory grandee of such stature is championing the role of local areas to deliver badly needed growth.
Contrast that with the present Coalition Government’s record on growth where in the last twelve months there has been precisely 0% growth, even after last quarter’s bumper 1%. And that bumper quarter includes 18 months worth of Olympics ticket sales – meaning that we have zero growth, despite a surge of Olympic money into the economy.
After suffering cuts in public expenditure and a fracturing of strategic economic planning in our region places like Blackburn desperately need policies like the ones advocated by Michael Hesletine.
I don’t know about you, but I might just check the flight times and consider jetting off to the jungle to find Tarzan.
See you soon.
Predictions for next week’s Police and Crime Commissioner elections are that the turnout will be low – very low. An election in November for a position that’s perhaps not been properly explained or justified by the Government which has been determined to introduce it, and at a cost of almost £100 million at a time when police budgets are being cut. This and a number of other factors will contribute to many people saying ‘why bother voting’.
I’d share everyone else’s question as to why the Tory Government is so insistent on introducing police commissioners – Labour voted against them on the basis that we already have a good police service that has brought reductions in crime year on year for the past decade and more. Labour PM Tony Blair promised that we would be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. We didn’t need Police Commissioners to achieve that – we needed more bobbies on the beat and more real powers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour that was blighting our communities.
But the fact is we are where we are, the election is happening, and in a weeks’ time each area of the country will have elected a Police and Crime Commissioner with sole responsibility for setting local police policy and deciding where budgets will be spent.
As a politically interested person I actually enjoy voting. I love the feeling of ‘doing your bit’ when I go to the polling station and put my cross against the candidate’s name. Some people would probably say I’m a bit sad! I probably am! But voting in any election is important. It’s your chance to have your say. We have a democracy which means there are always winners and losers, but we know it’s a fair process and at least if we’ve voted we can say ‘I didn’t support that’ if our candidate doesn’t win. Those who don’t vote can’t make any comment or complain when they aren’t happy with the way things are run.
And whether we agree with Police Commissioners or not, they will exist and they will have significant powers. So your vote will make a difference as to how our police are run.
So my message to anyone who’s reading this is please vote and preferably please vote Labour.