Monday, October 01, 2007

Business Questions

Last Monday, I sat on a panel for a Business Question Time session organised by Sutton Council and Sutton Business Forum. The other panellists were local MPs Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, council leader Sean Brennan and Roger Mills, MD of Newsquest, the publishers of the Sutton Guardian.

Although it wasn't the bearpit of television's Question Time, there were clear differences in our approach to Sutton High Street. Tom Brake advocated taxing the pubs on the High Street. Whereas I believe that it is a good idea for the businesses to take on more responsibility in keeping their neighbourhood safe and tidy, simply taxing them smacks of the politics of envy. He explained weakly that the large pub chains make a massive profit, they could afford it. This fails to take into account that such a move only perpetuates these faceless corporations making our town centres identikit High Streets. How would a single landlord survive such a move? Back to the drawing board for that policy, Tom.

12 comments:

David Pickled said...

Unfortunately Tom Brake at a drawing board is likley to end up with pretty much the same result as Dan Quayle at a blackboard...

Trembling Sphincter said...

How interesting that Scully is worried about business. How about Post Office closures Scully? Know nothing about do you - because if you did you'd know that it came from an EU directive, and there's nothing that you, Burstow, Brake or anybody can do about it. Post Offices are being closed on the order of the European Union. So don't pontificate about it, and claim that you and your party and Burstow and Brake et al can do anything about it, because you are lying to the general public. It's not the government who are at fault on this, it's purely an eu directive - and if you pretend that the Tories can save the post offices then you are lying about it - pure and simple.

Stuart Courtney said...

Unsurprisingly this ill-informed individual - with a surprisingly apt name - seems to have got his politics mixed up yet again.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but isn't UKIP that great pioneer of the Free Market? Hasn't their leader, pin-stripped Nigel Farage, extolled his virtues as a Free Marketeer with nauseating frequency?

Isn't an essential characteristic of the Free Market - to which UKIP is allegedly wed - to dismantle state-owned monopolies, freeing business and services to the benevolent guiding hand of free market competition? Isn't that a critical hallmark of British liberty?

EU directive 2002/39/EC ended European postal monopolies, ironically one of the most Anglo-Saxon economic reforms which have ever emanated from it's crypto-socialist core. Thus this ended the Royal Mail's 350 year old monopoly, when the directive came into force in January last year, therefore freeing the United Kingdom's postal delivery market to full and open competition.

Surely UKIPers can't be agruing towards greater state-ownership of such services - I couldn't think of anything more socialist, quite frankly.

The fact of the matter is that the Tory Party is the only major political party promising to return powers from Brussels, and has a clear manifesto pledge to subject all future sovereignty transers to national referenda, almost inevitably resulting in a rejection by British voters. A sound policy if ever I heard one: allowing British subjects to have the say they deserve in turning back to the tide of European political integration and 'ever closer union'.

Seems the lazy poster above has yet again made a pig's ear of his politics indicating in abundance not only his identity but his lack of political nous. Or is he just a confused un-reconstructed lefty dying to come out of the closet?

Bob Briant said...

Isn't it time to focus anew on the grants to Sutton Council from central government?

Famously, Sutton Council does poorly out of the grant settlement, apparently because central government believes Sutton is unusually affluent.

Just how badly Sutton does out of the grant settlement was shown in a recent written answer to a PQ put by Paul Burstow on the ratio between central government funding and council tax revenues for all the London boroughs:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2007-09-17b.155553.h

Sutton didn't have the worst ratio (compare Barnet, Kingston or Richmond) but it is not far off.

However, figures for income distribution in the London boroughs show that Sutton is virtually the same as the London average - namely, 21% of Sutton households have a household income of less than £15k (compared with 22% for London); 53% have a household income less than £30k (53% for London); and 85% have a household income less than £60k (85% for London).
http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/doc.asp?doc=19944

By those figures, Sutton is very average and not unusually affluent.

Trembling Sphincter said...

No, but given that the bastard Lib-Dems never clean the drains, it is unusally effluent.

sean ludlow-harris said...

Whilst I shall side-step the more high brow elements of this thread, I would like to point out that I am concerned that Sutton's high street is becoming a soulless clone.

The quality of the high street clearly differs between the top end and the bottom end; the latter looking like an unpleasant part of more London.

Why has Sutton missed the opportunities which Kingston and Croydon seem to have capitalised on, with generally high quality shopping areas with genuine choice? And, ultimately, isn't it the local economy which will suffer as a result of this?

Where does the buck stop?

Bob Briant said...

I think the answer has to be that, sadly, not enough affluent shoppers shop in Sutton to attract more high quality stores to take root.

The link to income distribution figures I posted above shows that Kingston really is more affluent than Sutton. Overall, Croydon isn't although Purley in Croydon is and Croydon has a much larger population than Sutton along with a much larger office centre.

The quality of Sutton schools could attract more affluent residents to settle were it not for the "Greenwich judgement" of 1989:

"It was back in 1989 that what has become known throughout the education world as 'the Greenwich judgement' established that local education authority-maintained schools may not give priority to children simply because they live in the council’s geographical area."
http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/doc.asp?doc=12440&cat=1581

The result is that Sutton schools attract pupils commuting from a wide swathe of south London.

sean ludlow-harris said...

Bob, I think you're quiet right.

Sutton is a borough of relative affluence and genuinely a nice place to live, which is we moved here nine years ago from Wimbledon.

Its continuing grammar school system is one of its major assets and yes the legal judgement which prevents it given preference to local kids is a frustration.

Sutton could, and should, attempt to crave a niche between Croydon and Kingston as a high quality shopping centre for more affluent consumers. But I don't see any drive for that from the existing council and it is possible that the damage has already been done to such an extene that it is irreparable.

What better source of wealth creation for the local economy than a vibrant high quality shopping area?

All I see from the Lib Dem local government is complacency, self congralutaion and an obsession with abstract green issues. I want some genuine drive and vision, and that's where my vote would go.

Bob Briant said...

Sean,

I know some folk claim to be, or dub others, right-wing or left-wing but I've long regarded those terms as devoid of meaningful content. Some bozos still insist on regarding Hitler as right-wing, along with Hayek, the author of: The Road to Serfdom (1944), whereas Hitler was a Socialist of a kind while Hayek, a Nobel laureate, regarded himself as a Liberal.

I'd like to know the basis of claims that Sutton is affluent since all that I've read shows that it isn't unusually affluent, only middling. Sutton certainly doesn't feature among the more affluent places in Britain in these links:
http://www.personneltoday.com/Articles/2006/03/21/34523/is-the-north-south-divide-a-thing-of-the-past.html
http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2003/05/14/ukwealth.xls

According to this, local employment projections for Sutton don't look particularly encouraging compared with other London boroughs:
http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor/economic_unit/docs/current_issues_note_9.pdf

And by these official statistics, the percentage of Sutton residents with graduate (level 4) qualifications is above the average for England but below the average for London:
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/STA/t000747/index.shtml

Bob Briant said...

Update:

Try this Wealth League of the 100 wealthiest areas in England and Wales recently produced by Barclays Capital and published on 24 August 2007:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=477324&in_page_id=1770
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=477325&in_page_id=1770

For another link to the Barclays Capital league but to the wealthiest 50 areas in the country and in DOC format, try:
http://www.newsroom.barclays.com/imagelibrary/detail.asp?MediaDetailsID=5378

The Borough of Sutton doesn't even rate a mention in that league although South Croydon does. On the evidence, claims as in this official Sutton Profile about Sutton being "relatively affluent" are a load of cobblers obviously produced by folks who don't quite know what they are doing:
http://www.sutton.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/952D89C4-80CC-414E-9F64-3F7FECBF2A01/0/Sutton_in_profile.pdf

Trembling Sphincter said...

Rather than all this httping (which doesn't work on this link anyway), perhaps we should be asking the question why is Cllr Scully sitting in the same room as Messrs Brake and Burstow and trying to be "nice" to them?

Bob Briant said...

Because it creates more opportunity for enlightenment and constrains the scope for enjoying the bliss of ignorance?