Sunday, 24 October 2010

Diana Watch

So, some very rich mostly men destroy our economy by not fully understanding how banking works (I hope that it was that and not that they did know what they were doing because would be very upsetting indeed) and now some rich people are telling us that we are all in this together and all our public services have to be cut. I over simplify (there are quite a few millionaires in the Government, 18 in the cabinet, but there were quite a few in the last one as well) but you get my point.
George Osborne told Parliament how we (and I say “we” because it certainly isn't “them”) are going to pay down the national debt that we didn't cause. Cutting child benefit, BBC to take on the cost of the World Service, the Foreign Office will see it budget cut by 24% and cuts to the armed services were all on the list.
The navy was hit quite hard in the review and will loose its flagship, the aircraft carrier the Ark Royal. It will be decommissioned this year, 4 years earlier than planned. However, due to “interesting” contractual reasons it is though that cancelling the 2 new aircraft carriers currently being built would be more expensive than completing their build so that order will be finished. We will then be the proud owners of 2 shiny, new very big boats that we can't afford to put planes on. Many ideas have been put forward on what to do with some flat topped ships, most seem to involve NATO aircraft using them, but can I make a suggestion? England is bidding for the 2018 World Cup and I think that we need some sort of gimmick or novelty idea to draw some attention to ourselves and that's where the Aircraft carriers come in. Yes we have some great looking stadia, like that one that Arsenal play in and the Manchester City one (I know nothing of football hence my support of AFC Bournemouth), but can you imagine a game of international football played on the deck of a moored, planeless Aircraft carrier? Or, for later round games, a boat at cruising speed in the English Channel? Come on, that would be entertaining. Ok, I agree there might be one or two problems but nothing that can't be sorted out. We are a resourceful people.
Back to the cuts. Various benefits will be cut and there will be yet another crackdown on benefit cheats. Whilst this plays well in the right-wing press, who think that no one should get benefits except them, it rarely saves that much money. Well, about £1 billion per year, ok, I accept that this is a quite a large amount of money but compare it to the amount that is paid out by the HMRC error. That is £4.2 billion.


And how does the government intend to help the HMRC sort out this problem and make it more efficient? Why, by cutting it's budget by 15% of course. Brilliant. Oh and this is the department that supposed to enforcing our tax laws and making sure that our biggest companies pay their tax bills, yes Vodafone I am looking at you.
Over all it was a spending plan the Margaret Thatcher would love.
A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that the spending cuts would affect the poor the most. They described it as “more regressive than progressive” but massive disappointment Nick Clegg claimed that the IFS report was “distorted nonsense.” He may have a bit of point but when it suits him, ie before the election, the IFS was a respected Think Tank that said that the LibDems economic plans were the most credible, well that's what he claimed in a speech to the RCN on Tuesday the 27th of April 2010. It's easy to accept peoples opinions when they agree with yours isn't it Nick.

One of the other things that was cut was the Severn Estuary Tidal barrier. It was going to cost £34 billion and provide about 5% of the UK's electricity or enough for all of Wales.
There were good arguments for and against the building of the barrier, it's a low carbon technology that would have been reasonable effective at generation Vs the cost (it is quite high but it would have powered an entire country) and some possible damage to bird life. Of course the reason it was dropped was the price and only the price. More specifically the fact that it was a Government backed scheme.
We will build some nice new big, expensive nuclear power plants instead because Government don't have to play for them directly. Not because they are safe or efficient but because the initial cost will be met by someone else. Well except for the £5 billion subsidy to fast-track the building of the reactors that was agreed by the last Government but will be paid for by a slight increase in ours bill. Oh and the cost of decommissioning the plants. On this point the estimate for the current stations is around £70 billion to be met by the tax payer. With the new plants there is supposed to be a scheme where by the companies running them has to put some money aside each year to pay for it but given the difficult to know nature of the problem and the unpredictability of long term costings, any short fall will be picked up by the tax payer. Oh and then there is Deep Geological Storage, an untested technology, which is estimated to cost £10 billion. It is not cheap.
The problem with comparing the various costs of different types of generating is that it is really hard to do. It is hard to get the information and, unless you are an expert in such things, when you have the information it is really hard to understand. Here for instance is a Nuclear Power Generation Cost Benefit Analysis. WTF? And so it is almost impossible for me (I don't know about you) to have an informed opinion. Which is best? I don't know.
David Cameron is slightly obsessed with his Big Society where he can see the chance to save money (getting people to do things for free that used to be jobs that people were paid for) but where it is actually a good idea he says not word. Why do we need massive central power generation? Oh of course, profit. Can't interfere with the making of profit of power companies can we.
I've said it before and I will say it again. Micro, not macro, generation is the way forward. A few changes to the planning regulations would save us thousands of tonnes of CO2 a year and a power station or 2. Simple things such as all new domestic properties to be triple glazed and to have solar panels on the roofs. We currently pay quite well for feed-in tariffs. All those pointless and wasted rooftops. How about all of that space on top of factories or super markets? Some solar panels and a few wind turbines and they are generating most of their power. It can be done and it can be done easily but there is inertia within Government. If we are all generating a bit then power stations will have to generate less. It's quite simple.
Shall I tell you of my invention? Well it's an idea for an invention really. All that water flows off of your roof and into your guttering and then into the down pipe. What if there was a series of tiny generators in the down pipe? Well it's how hydro-electric plants work, only smaller, but if everyone was doing it. Loads of power. Alright it is a bit crappy but it might work.

I have rambled on a bit as usual, sorry. And so to some awards,

The Award for Story Clearly Made Up By Script Writers of the Week,

The UK's newest and most sophisticated submarine was carrying out a crew transfer with a surface vessel in the Kyle of Localsh when it ran aground. It has the finest sonar and stealth equipment and is called the Astute. The name alone is funny enough but there is another level of humour. The tug that was used to pull the World's most advance submarine free is to be decommissioned under the spending cuts announced this week. Is this not a story line from Yes Minister?

The Award for Doing Well in a Minority Sport That Doesn’t Get That Much Coverage of the Week,

As there is still a persistent rumour that we are not very good at sport I feel that I need to carry on pointing out when we have done well. In that vein, well done to Beth Tweddle, Louis Smith and Dan Purvis who have all won medals at the World Gymnastic Championships.

That is enough I think for one Sunday. Have a lovely rest of week. Oooh, and don’t forget the podcast as well.


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  2. I think the only reason that Lady Thatcher has landed herself in hospital this week is by collapsing with sheer joy!!! Everything she ever dreamed of without even lifting a finger... who knows, she may have even thought she had died and gone to heaven! (If she dies soon after making this comment I will feel guilty forever...)

  3. It may be time for the Royal Navy to start naming their ships like Iain M Banks' Culture ships. The HMS Youthful Indiscretion and - especially in the is case - the "Just Read the Instructions".