I paid nearly £300 for two peak travel tickets from Newark to London this week. Whilst I was buying them on the website I was confronted with a notice saying several other people were “looking at this journey”. I felt literally railroaded. This article which provides evidence of yet more skewed planning in the context of the railways makes me reflect that there are currently few incentives to get rural dwellers out of their cars. The story tells us:
Labour’s leadership is under pressure this weekend to reconsider its support for the £56bn HS2 high-speed rail link, as concern grows among northern MPs that the plan fails to address their areas’ economic needs.
Several senior Labour MPs have told the Observer that the huge sum of money earmarked for the project, which will connect London to Leeds and Manchester via Birmingham in the first and second phases, would be better spent on connecting northern cities to one another.
They argue that other schemes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail (otherwise knows as HS3 or Crossrail for the North) – a project that would create a high-speed link between Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, York and Hull – would deliver far greater economic benefits and be far cheaper. It would also, as a result, free up funds for Labour to spend on other infrastructure and investment schemes.
Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, said: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue in favour of HS2 in my constituency. Much more important to our region is Crossrail for the North, which would bring desperately needed improvements to east-west connectivity.”
Nandy said journey times between London and northern towns and cities were already short compared with those between northern centres. “The journey from Wigan to Newcastle takes three and a half hours, without accounting for frequent delays and cancellations. From Wigan to London, which is a longer distance, it takes two hours.”
This article has helped me understand the increasingly sad phenomenon of a surge in rough sleepers in market towns. It explains how universal credit impacts both on the number losing their homes through arrears and those failing to find accommodation when landlords wont take people on Universal Credit. This should make us all reflect that providing incentives to work in this context run the risk of us returning to the world of Edwin Chadwick and Henry Mayhew. It tells us:
Government welfare reforms are fuelling a rise in homelessness in towns and cities across the country, an Observer investigation has found.
Interviews with homelessness charities across England reveal a support system in crisis as the rollout of universal credit and freezes to local housing allowance rates put even basic accommodation beyond the means of many. One shelter said universal credit was a factor in a third of its clients ending up in its care.
The findings put more pressure on the chancellor, Philip Hammond, as he prepares to unveil Monday’s budget. On Saturday night, Tory and DUP rebels threatening to force the government into a rethink over universal credit claimed that they had secured a £1bn injection for the programme.
Last week, the Commons public accounts committee said universal credit was responsible for increased debt, rent arrears and food bank use.
But it has also emerged that it is a significant contributor to both “invisible” homelessness – such as people “sofa-surfing” or living in emergency accommodation – and rough sleeping.
“Universal credit is a major issue for us now,” confirmed Malcolm Page, assistant director of homelessness services at the Salvation Army.
A National Audit Office analysis of one area where universal credit was rolled out shows that rent arrears for claimants jumped significantly after its introduction. The NAO stated: “In the Hastings area, a property agent told us that only one in 10 private landlords using their agency in the town will rent to benefit claimants.”
Bearing in mind the higher number of smaller and start up businesses in rural England than the national average it would be very interesting indeed if Philip Hammond were to deliver an approach which incentivized pension funds to look particularly at rural businesses as part of this change. This story tells us:
Britain's start-ups will benefit from a wave of investment from pension funds as Philip Hammond plans to unleash billions of pounds worth of cash to back promising businesses.
The Chancellor will use next week's Budget to make it easier for pension savings to power up new industries and generate extra returns for savers.
Mr Hammond indicated a review is on the way earlier this month, promising to "ensure defined contribution pension funds are able to make longterm investment decisions, for the benefit of both their members, and the wider economy," in a speech to the Investment Association's annual dinner. It is understood this refers to investment into start-ups and projects such as infrastructure.
After the dark perspective of Universal Credit our second budget preview story offers some much needed positive light. It tells us:
Philip Hammond is to launch an assault on loan sharks and payday lenders in Monday’s Budget as he unveils a government plan to explore a no-interest loan scheme for those on low incomes in Britain.
Taking aim at “problem debt”, the chancellor will reveal his plan to establish an alternative for the estimated 3 million individuals who currently use high-cost credit from companies such as the now-defunct, Wonga.
Ahead of the Budget, the Treasury said the government would partner with debt charities and the banking industry to help those on lower salaries “pay for life’s unexpected costs”.
The third positive salvo in a series of stories about another aspect of this week’s budget. This story tells us:
The chancellor will cut business rates bills by a third for almost half a million small high street shops in a £1.5bn spending pledge to fight the threat posed by Amazon and other online retailers.
In next week’s budget, Philip Hammond will order £900m of immediate business rates relief for small retailers in an effort to combat shuttered shops on the high street, where small businesses have been threatened by high rates and the rapid rise of online shopping.
Small retailers will be the focus of the business rates relief. A Sheffield pub with an estimated rental value of £37,750 would be likely to save £6,178 on business rates next year. A Birmingham newsagent would save £1,749 with a rental rate of £14,250.
The chancellor will hope the move gives some short-term relief for struggling retailers but the budget will include a £650m transformation fund for local high streets to help them transform longer-term, including supporting infrastructure and transport access.
I like the idea of fishing but I was a disaster when trying to take the sport up, all the hooks maggots and reels somehow got intertwined…. Anyway I would still be sad to see it go if, as this article suggests, that might happen. It tells us:
Angling is at risk of dying out unless youngsters are persuaded to take up the sport, campaigners have warned.
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, is launching a campaign to try to encourage young people to take up fishing amid growing fears the pastime has become the preserve of older generations.
The trust, which represents game, coarse and sea anglers in England and Wales, believes the sport’s failure to attract youngsters stems from the changing patterns in the way children spend their leisure time and parents’ fears about children playing unsupervised.
“There has been a significant decline in the numbers of people taking up the sport in recent years,” he said. “We need to recognise that angling will wither away unless we get more people fishing.
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