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MANIFESTO OF A BENEVOLENT DICTATOR

INFRASTRUCTURE 1 -Overview

This topic tends to disturb the logic of my positioning the spending priorities.  It is hard to justify spending on more rail or road improvements when the NHS needs cash.  But as I say in the NHS Section it will always need more cash.  More cash than society can possibly provide.

But the infrastructure is defined as Energy, Housing and Transport.  So let me solve the positioning problem by naming this Section as Infrastructure 1. 

Like Defence the Government must see to it that there is enough power to heat, light and keep the activities of the nation going.  There are no votes in power cuts and the impact on essential activities in hospitals and factories is disastrous.

Housing is also vital to the nation’s wellbeing.  But whilst Central Government should make sure that Planning Regulations are not an undue constraint and that banks a willing to lend freely, but sensibly, it is up to the building industry to respond to private and local government social housing demand.

Roads are by far the most flexible form of transport in this country.  Traffic routes itself around obstacles once it possess the information on a constraint.  It is road that covers for rail outages.  But I require that transport is a level playing field. 

Rail has needed subsidies for years.  Users object to paying for the modernisation programmes.  Road has been a cash cow for the Treasury.  Road tax and fuel tax receipts are far greater than that which Government spends on roads.  That should change.  By all means add in social costs (air pollution, road traffic accidents) into the equation, but then make it a balanced playing field.

This is the first of several areas where the market distortion caused by taxation policy should cease.

Air on the other hand pays more in taxes than is receives.  Arguably the demand for regulation is highest on this form of transport but it is undoubtedly covered by the inputs it makes to the State.  I repeat all forms of transport should be on a level playing field costing and paying the State nothing when all the sums are done.  My reason is that the economic movement of people is and the cost of moving goods is fundamental of the cost of living.

On this note any further discussion on Transport is deferred to Section 6.7 Infrastructure 2

Many networks are also essential to the smooth running of society.  They carry voice and data, electricity and gas, and water.  In my boyhood every sizable community had its own water company.  Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn wishes to take us back to those days, but we need a water grid as we have electricity and gas grids.  The market generally does maintain them.  Where we have problems is in the more remote areas for broadband.  Many gas and liquid fuels can be supplied by road, albeit it costs more, I have little sympathy for those who wish to live in rural or remote communities yet demand all the facilities on their doorstep that they would have in the towns that they have shunned.

It is where new technologies are emerging such as carbon transportation that governments have difficulty in grasping the significance of the technology and taking the steps needed to assist its viability in the early stages of development.  Government has failed, so far, in the case of carbon transportation.  It succeeded in subsidising solar panels and wind turbines.  The outcry when subsidies were withdrawn was incorrect as the otherwise the market would have been unduly distorted.  Subsidies are reverse taxation and can, as easily, distort the market.

ENERGY

The gap between installed capacity and maximum demand is the smallest it has been since the ‘50s.  Indeed the gap is equivalent to one major power station.  If one of our larger plants was to go offline at an unscheduled time, we could have brownouts.  Our generation industry is owned by the French and Germans who have no need to invest in capacity here unless they can see a better return here than in their own EU countries.  Successive UK governments have failed to fully comprehend the energy issue and they have not formulated as coherent policy and taken action to follow it.  It will only get worse if we leave the EU.  We are slightly better off than before with our Qatar and Norwegian gas but they have the same underlying problem as the Russian oil lines, the supplies have to come a long way to get here!

HOUSING

In the developed world it is indefensible that many, many people are living in sub-standard housing.  Good housing is a pre-requisite of good health and a happy stable family group.  But I see it not so much a government problem as political parties at election times portray.  Government should see that the planning and regulation frameworks are sensible and not overly restrictive, in terms of the release of land.  Planning regulations should make sensible building easier.  Road and rail planning must be kept in sync with housing plans and the mortgage lending system must be only sensibly constrained. 

After this it is up to the market to build homes that people want to buy and for local authorities to be free to finance the building of social housing.  They are empowered to have long range plans for their communities and I would require them to raise more of their local spend through local taxation.  This will make sensible communities start to take a great interest in the activities of their local governance.  The sooner this impact begins to take effect the better for the communities who do so.