January 05, 2009

What North's been up to - and other jottings

Booker writes in yesterday's Telegraph that "in recent weeks, drawing on a wealth of published and unpublished sources, my colleague Dr Richard North has been compiling the first comprehensive account of this story, for a book to be published this summer as our troops beat their final inglorious retreat".

A few stories that caught my eye:
  • Taxpayers are facing a multi-million-pound bill to store 100,000 tons of waste paper and cardboard as the British recycling industry plunges into crisis.

  • An international rail interchange could be built at Heathrow to compensate for the environmental harm caused by a new third runway at the airport, the transport minister Lord Adonis has indicated. More bills for taxpayers, then.

  • Councils splurge £1m on junkets. More than just a silly story. Out of control councillors spending taxpayers' cash on themselves. Who will stop them? Nobody.

  • A Tory local council labelled 3,100 objectors to a proposed gipsy camp as racist.

  • Millions of middle-class home owners living in desirable neighbourhoods are facing higher council tax bills after the next election following a secret Government exercise to assess the "niceness" of different areas. Labour issued a non-denial denial., saying there were currently no plans to change the council tax system.

    "We have repeatedly made clear there will be no council tax revaluation during the lifetime of this Parliament and would not expect to consider it during the current three-year settlement for local government, even after that there would need to be clear benefits.

    "The Valuation Office Agency is responsible for the valuation of homes for council tax purposes and has a duty to maintain an accurate council tax valuation list. The VOA's powers have not changed since the introduction of council tax, by the previous Government, in 1993."

    So that's a Yes, then.

  • At least a million extra families have been caught in the benefits poverty trap under Labour. About 1.9 million low-income households face being worse off if a family member gets a job.

  • The National Grid chief says blackouts will be common in seven years.

  • Cameron starts to get his act together on the economy. The astonishingly ridiculous VAT cut has been an "unbelievable and expensive failure".

    He follows up the Civitas analysis that children can become more than £5,000 a year better off if their parents split up or choose to live apart - 'what a crazy thing for a country to be saying to people when we all know that family breakdown has such terrible consequences. Split up and be better off – what a crazy thing for the family to do – it is madness that we have this approach and Gordon Brown needs to change it.'

    And he says he would scrap taxes on basic rate taxpayers' savings and would increase the level of non-taxable income for pensioners by £2,000 a year.

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