Council tax: the new Poll Tax

March 5, 2013

The Poll Tax riots in 1990 famously brought down Mrs Thatcher and led to the hasty introduction of the Council Tax. Twenty three years later are the reforms to Council Tax due for implementation in less than a month, about to bring the Poll Tax back from the grave? From 1 April, instead of the […]

Reflections on how I came to be influenced by the politics and culture of William Morris

January 31, 2013

As a child in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s I was brought up in the village of Wootton near Woodstock on the edge of the Cotswolds, about 12 miles from Oxford. The village residents included a fair number of writers, artists, journalists and dons. Amongst them were Edmund and Meg Penning-Rowsell, who were great […]

‘City Deals’: a missed opportunity for green growth?

January 15, 2013

Today sees the deadline for the submission of the second round of ‘City Deals’. Twenty cities and city regions are putting proposals to DCLG based around four ambitious objectives to: • Boost local economic growth • Rebalance the economy spatially and sectorally • Decentralise the powers and levers cities need to drive local economic growth […]

Forbidden Fruit: a meditation on science, technology and natural history

December 29, 2012

  Heathcote Williams is a story teller best known for his epic poems such as ‘Whale Nation’ and ‘Autogeddon’. His latest collection of sixteen poems described as a ‘meditation on science technology and natural history’ reflects this story telling skill. It is by turns topical, political and personal. ‘Being kept by a jackdaw’ is a […]

‘Fracking’: America’s new gold rush

December 11, 2012

I was lucky enough to be in the United States for much of the final stages of the US presidential campaign and got to see all the presidential debates. Commentators noted that it was the first time since 1996 that the debates made no mention of climate change. Indeed the most notable reference to it […]

Nuclear power: no answer to energy policy in a changing climate

November 26, 2012

It is eighteen months since the meltdown of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power complex after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. Globally, reaction to this series of events has been mixed, with a number of countries including Germany reaffirming their intentions to get out of civil nuclear power generation, others like China and Indonesia […]

‘Edgelands’, urban agriculture and climate camps: towards a future of prosperity without growth.

November 13, 2012

My reflections on a  couple of great books on some of my favourite subjects,  by Paul Farley and Michael Symmonds Roberts  ‘Edgelands: Journeys into England’s true wilderness’, and Owen Hatherley, ‘A guide to the new ruins of Great Britain’. ‘Edgelands’ are those spaces where the veneer of civilisation peels away. They are the debatable spaces […]

Is this the golden age of co-operatives?

October 30, 2012

  As we celebrate the end of the first ever United Nations International Year of Cooperatives, there is a sense of the dawning of a ‘golden age’ for co-operatives in the UK. All the main political parties are signed up to co-ops. The buzzword is ‘responsible capitalism’ and there is a realisation that the existing […]

West coast mainline franchise bid had to go – it blew the case for HS2 out of the water

October 4, 2012

The Mandarins in the DfT have egg all over their faces. But some are very relieved. Finally the penny dropped somewhere near the top of the office that they couldn’t be saying both that there was shed loads of unused capacity on the West Coast Mainline (the basis of First Group’s up-till-yesterday successful bid) and […]

Local Government and the Democratic Mandate: An Outdated Model?

September 26, 2012

Local government could never be described as fashionable, yet today there is more talk than ever about the importance of ‘the local’. However, this has converted into less, rather than more, freedom to act locally. Whitehall’s desire to control is strong, as the current freeze on council tax rises demonstrates. Local government hasn’t suffered as […]