A whole extravaganza of new rules and legislations went live with the New Year, and while this is nothing particularly new, there are some particularly odd things floating around on the radar this year. We’re not talking here about how as a business you can now get fined for making too many false alarms to the London Fire Brigade, or how you can now be an atheist Boy Scout.
Neither are we talking about how this is yet again another year with many claimed themes. 2014 is apparently the Year of Crystallography, of Family Farming and of Small Island Developing States – quite a lot to weigh on one year you might think, especially with Greece taking over the EU presidency (assuming the German Chancellor actually allows that to happen).
No, perhaps we should be looking more closely at the EU and US trade agreements that are edging closer to being in place that have the potential to allow private companies to sue national governments for loss of earnings if they don’t like legislative restrictions on their behaviours…
My hope is that we have a year of slightly less nonsense than we’ve allowed ourselves to credit from the powers that be. We’ve had a year of negativity and statements from the Conservatives that really could do with a bit of a challenge to clear the air. Little things like the claim that the Royal Mail, before it was so quickly and surreptitiously privatised, was a loss making enterprise, when in fact it made a four hundred and three million pound profit in the financial year 2012-2013 or that there are no plans to privatise the National Health Service, when some £120,000,000,000 of NHS contracts are already tendered out as contracts to private companies.
How about the claim that the Government has cut the National Debt? Well, no, not really – while the rate of increase has decreased a fraction, the National Debt is now estimated to be approaching ninety percent of the UK Gross Domestic Product. That puts it in excess £1,300 billion pounds as of Q3 2013, with some estimates expecting the debt to rise to 99% in 2014.
Claims of increases in house building on one hand seem at odds with reported falls in the number of new builds completed – with some reckoning that the number of new houses being built are now at a low not seen for nearly ninety years, which in turn makes the likelihood of new homes being available for people forced to re-home to avoid being penalised by the so-called Bedroom Tax even less likely.
Meanwhile, the number of Sure Starts – an initiative aimed at providing better healthcare and support for families with young children – has fallen. A claim by David Cameron that only one percent of the centres set up have been closed does not seem to match with a recorded closure of 581 centres, a fall in funding of around twenty percent and some ninety or so centres that have been privatised.
Instead, we have had hysteria over benefit tourism and the removal of restriction on Bulgarians and Romanians being able to find work here in the UK, leading to the somewhat amusing spectacle today of various politicians and news organisations looking rather red in the face. Their being unable to find many arrivals to the UK at various airports who were not returning to jobs that they already held or who were about to start new jobs has led to a number of interviews that resemble little else than people desperately back-pedalling.
By contrast, reports are coming in that some UK investment banks are apparently buying up swathes of property in Eastern Europe to sell back at inflated prices to people returning there in a couple of years from the UK once they’ve made a bit of money. Who says there’s no profit for the UK in economic migration? Given how this week’s rail ticket prices have gone up so significantly maybe there’s a hope of tapping the extra income before they all run away again.