Monthly Archives: May 2016

Should government redirect some of the billions in tax breaks currently being given to fossil fuel companies?

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On Wednesday the BBC reported that Edinburgh International Festival announced that, after 34 years, BP would no longer be a sponsor.

Dr Chris Garrard – musician and environmentalist – writes to the FT from London SE2, to say that Michael Skapinker was wrong to advise, on April 17th, that “The British Museum should accept BP’s money”.

Floodrisk towns, cities and statesMuseum labelled with names of floodrisk towns, cities and states

He points out the Carbon Tracker Initiative has calculated that more than $2trillion of capital expenditure by fossil fuel companies is already at risk if we are to stay within a 2C scenario.

And advises that the UK government could redirect some of the billions in tax breaks currently being given to fossil fuel companies, including BP.

chrisgarrardDr Garrard asserts: “Cultural institutions are far from being dependent on BP’s loose change for their survival . . . Rather than expect museums to find a ‘grove of money trees’ to fund themselves, the UK government could redirect some of the billions in tax breaks currently being given to fossil fuel companies”.

Readers would add other areas – including those of social deprivation and renewable energy generation – to which corporate tax breaks could be redirected.

He ends by saying that it is vital to delegitimise the fossil fuel industry,by divesting and denying it the PR benefits of sponsorship, in order to reduce its power over policymakers because with that obstacle to progress removed, we might actually have a chance of tackling dangerous climate change.

An unattributed article in the FT yesterday, however, urges cultural institutions to take money from BP and the like, because if deprived of corporate sponsorship they will end up charging for entry, sacking staff and diminishing cultural life. It did, however, admit that:

”In BP’s case, there are legitimate questions for debate. Unrestrained fossil fuel development will create an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change, and BP and its fellow oil companies will ultimately have to shift into other forms of energy or have their operations sharply curtailed”.

 

 

Making housing available and affordable for local people

st ives

The northern Cornish seaside resort of St Ives voted overwhelmingly, in a recent referendum, to prevent property developers from selling new homes to non-residents. Over 80% of people voted in favour of the “neighbourhood plan”. More information on the restriction can be found here. The turnout was just over 47%.

St Ives parish, which includes the nearby towns of Carbis Bay and Lelant, already has in place a target for at least 50% of new homes to be “affordable”.

The FT reports that prices had risen sharply in the past 15 years, after an influx of holiday home buyers. Average house prices are now about £400,000, 18 times typical local salaries, according to data from the Office for National Statistics and Rightmove — more than double the national average. Many locals also struggle to find affordable rented accommodation. The tourism boom has led to landlords choosing to maximise revenue during the summer months.

Mayor Linda Taylor has been fielding calls from her counterparts across the country, and from journalists as far away as Canada and New Zealand. This measure has clearly “struck a nerve” in some communities, she says.

st ives2

Similar measures have been introduced to make housing available and affordable for ‘local occupants’ in Exmoor, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and further afield in Singapore.

Business reaction

“The problem is so much bigger than any neighbourhood plan is going to address,” commented James Berwick, a local estate agent. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the country — home prices are out of sync with salaries.”

Noble Francis, economist at the Construction Products Association said that what they’re trying to do is restrict demand when the problem is chronic undersupply and that is not going to solve the problem.

Developers also warn that the plan and the affordability target will make construction in St Ives unviable and have threatened to halt new homebuilding. Dan Potter of Underwild believes the result will have a negative effect on the economy as builders look for projects outside the parish borders.

Will a judicial review get the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan overturned?

Cornwall Council confirmed that it had received notice that RLT Built Environment Limited is seeking permission for a judicial review. In a statement it said: “Following the positive result of the referendum we will be carefully considering the grounds on which the claim for the judicial review has been made and seeking further legal advice if required. We are confident that the correct process has been followed in this case and will be fully defending this claim.”

Localism?

Mebyon Kernow, the party for Cornwall asks what has happened to the government’s localism policy, as parliament is said to be rushing through a bill to prevent people from deciding how their communities will develop.

MK ends: “St. Ives Council have bravely grasped the nettle and said enough is enough. No more second homes until there are enough affordable homes for local people especially youngsters. They have done this by a strictly legal process via a neighbourhood plan and a referendum and gained overwhelming support. Many other Cornish Town and Parish Councils now want to join in”.