Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Brits still emigrate to Australia

Australian financial journalist Noel Whittaker says salaries may be much higher in the UK but the cost of living is way above that in Australia. Although it is wildly at variance with the exchange rate, his suggestion that purchasing power parity is reached by equating one Australian dollar to one British pound is in line with what I have observed too

I have just returned from a fact-finding trip to Britain. Let me assure you, from a financial point of view at least, that this is the lucky country. Now I know that Aussies look longingly at the salaries paid in Britain and imagine themselves living handsomely on 50,000 pounds a year, which is equivalent to $116,000 here, but you have to understand that prices there have the same nominal value as in Australia. A main course in a restaurant may be 30 pounds in Britain and $30 in Australia, so the cost of living is more than double ours. Believe me, it's a shock to the system to put 40 litres of petrol in your rental car and discover that the cost is 40 quid or $A88.

But that's not the end of it. There is a VAT (value added tax) of 17.5 per cent on most things you buy, and many restaurants add a 15 per cent compulsory service charge as well. It makes our GST of 10 per cent look cheap.

I discussed wealth-creation strategies with a director of a British firm that specialises in financial planning for high-net-worth people. He was green with envy at our superannuation system, and told me that most of his work revolved around estate planning because Britain had high death duties [Australia has none]. This is a rapidly growing market because property prices have been rising dramatically and more and more families are facing death duties as the family home is not exempt.

We discussed borrowing for investment, which is one of the best strategies to create wealth in Australia because the interest is tax deductible, and income from both property and shares carries great tax concessions. I was amazed to discover that investment borrowing is rarely used in Britain because there are no concessions whatsoever. If you borrow to invest, you pay tax at your top marginal rate on the income from that investment, yet you get no deduction for the interest. Therefore, you may be losing up to 40 per cent of the income in tax while being forced to pay the interest from after-tax dollars.

Housing affordability is a hot topic in Britain, just like in Australia, and some building societies have even gone to the extent of lending far more man the value of the house. One newspaper gave the example of a couple with no deposit who were buying their first home for 152.000 pounds, the average home price. and who were able to qualify for a loan of 190,000 pounds to enable them to consolidate their other debts and get a foothold in the housing market. This means that they will have a negative equity in their home for many years and will be reliant on capital gain to get back to square one. This is a high-risk situation and, to make matters worse, the Bank of England lifted interest rates to 5.75 per cent earlier this month, putting further pressure on home-owners' budgets and increasing the prospect of a fall in home prices.

We had a break in Spain on the way home and the conditions are no different there. In Spain, VAT is 16 per cent and our tour guide in Valencia was bemoaning the fact that home prices had risen so much that she had been forced to take out a 40-year mortgage just to buy a unit [condo].

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 29, 2007

A sane moonbat?

A good email from a British reader:

I thought you'd like to take a look at these two articles. The first, by George "moonbat" Monbiot in The Guardian acknowledges that the recent floods in England cannot be attributed to global warming.

The second in The Daily Telegraph by Charles Clover asserts that the floods are evidence of global warming.

To be honest, I can't be bothered to read them in full. It does make me wonder though, that if the science is settled and climate catastrophe is almost upon us, why aren't the warm-mongers singing from the same hymn sheet?

There's something else that puzzles me. If, when it's hot it's global warming (the heatwave in France a few summers ago) and when it's cold it's global warming (Peru this year) and to prevent global warming we've to cut CO2 emissions, how will anyone know that the measures taken have had the desired effect?

Philosopher Keith Burgess Jackson makes a similar point to the above

Weatherman John Kettley isn't surprised by the current British floods

This year's apparently extraordinary weather is no more sinister than a typical British summer of old and a reminder of why Mediterranean holidays first became so attractive to us more than 40 years ago. Because, while we are being drenched, a heatwave has brought temperatures of 40C (104F) or more across other parts of Europe. To many people the disparity may seem to indicate some seismic and sinister shift in our climate.

In fact, temperatures are exceptional only in eastern Europe, where a band of air has been moving westwards from Asia Minor. Central Europe is experiencing temperatures of 30-35C (85-95F) - just what you'd expect for this time of year, along with the blue skies and light winds.

The weather patterns across Europe are all linked in such a way that the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean never enjoy, or suffer, the same weather at the same time. And now we are feeling the full force of two extreme fronts from the West and East that are usually modified by a third from the South.

While central Europe feels the heat from the East, we have always been influenced by weather systems generated over the Atlantic, picking up energy from this huge pool of water.

We also feel the power of the strong ribbon of winds known as the Gulf Stream - a highly energetic jet, fluctuating several miles above our heads and hugely important in determining our weather. As the summer evolves, the jetstream and rainbands above us are normally gradually pushed to the north-west of Scotland by a third weather system, a milder pocket of high pressure blowing up from the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Ultimately, this more friendly system plants itself across the rest of the country.

But this year that modifying weather pattern has yet to arrive. So the cold of the West has collided with the intense heat of the East. The result is flash floods and torrential downpours.

There is no particular reason for the sluggish movement of the Azores front. It's just one of those things. But a similar situation worked in reverse in 1976 when we enjoyed a fantastic hot summer and it was cool and wet in central Europe - such are the mechanisms of our complex weather machine....

In my view, none of the severe weather we have experienced is proof of 'climate change.' It is just a poor summer - nothing more, nothing less - something that was the norm throughout most of the Sixties and has been repeated on several occasions more recently. Going further back, history also shows that 1912 was an atrocious summer. It was so bad, in fact, that we are still some way short of the torrential downpours that happened that year. It seemed particularly bad at the time because 1911 had been such an exceptionally good summer.

So, taking a long view, there is a pattern of warming and cooling. The Edwardians were experiencing a period of significant warming (much like now) following a cold Victorian spell. There was a period of warming from the Twenties through to the end of the Fifties and, after a cooler period, there has been a further significant warming over the past 20 years.

In the final analysis, this summer may be just such a 'blip' in the charts. But we still have plenty of summer to go and it takes only one slight shift in the jetstream to change rain into sun and bring a late renaissance for holidaymakers here in Britain.

More here

Surgeon breaks cover over NHS beds crisis

Specialist wards full to breaking point. Patients with serious injuries denied care. A health service paralysed by arguments about funding. Martin Bircher, one of Britain's most senior consultants, speaks out:

One of Britain's leading trauma surgeons has broken cover to expose the scandal of a national shortage of emergency trauma beds which is leading to thousands of serious injury victims suffering in agony. In an unprecedented intervention by a senior practitioner in the NHS, Martin Bircher, a consultant at St George's hospital in London, one of Europe's leading centres in the treatment of major accident victims, has revealed a system paralysed by red tape and disputes over funding, which is putting thousands of patients waiting for treatment in specialist wards at risk. His revelations have prompted calls for a review of funding for A&E services and a shake-up in the management of Britain's leading trauma centres.

Mr Bircher says the problem is worsened by the bureaucracy of the internal market. He has become so frustrated that he has broken free of NHS strictures against speaking to the press and agreed to talk to The Independent on Sunday about the suffering patients are put through.

Every one of Britain's specialist trauma beds is full, which means some patients can wait up to three weeks after their accident before badly broken bones can be repaired. The delay, says Mr Bircher, can jeopardise recovery. With nothing but praise for frontline staff, he says patients who have been critically injured in road or other accidents have to wait an average of 12 days - often in agonising pain - before they can receive the vital specialist treatment. This is because only a limited number of hospitals have the expertise to repair smashed bones, and those hospitals have a shortage of intensive care beds. With the average cost of keeping a trauma patient at around 500 pounds a day and up to 2,000 a day in intensive care, this is also a false economy.

Reacting to the revelations Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, said: "It is vital that clinicians are able to prioritise patients according to clinical criteria. It's only if we dispense with central targets and the bureaucratic burdens of the Department of Health that we can give GPs and local hospitals the opportunity to make services more efficient." John Pugh, the Lib Dem health spokesman, added: "This shows how counterproductive the target culture is. Patients are being shunted in and out of A&E to satisfy the expectations of Whitehall. Medical staff should feel free to act in the best interests of patients."

Squabbles over funding

Mr Bircher, who risks censure from the NHS for speaking out, said primary care trust and bed managers are involved in making the final decision as to whether a patient can be moved. If they have to move them there is often a conflict or reluctance because the new area does not want an extra cost. So after initial admission to a general hospital's emergency wards, where lives are saved, patients can find themselves waiting up to three weeks before their real recovery process can begin.

Mr Bircher, 52, cited one patient who had a motorcycle accident earlier this month and was referred to him to decide if she needed surgery to repair her badly broken pelvis. However, he did not receive the request for a week because an initial referral to another hospital was "intercepted by the primary care trust" and rerouted to a hospital that did not have a surgeon with the expertise to make the decision.

He called for emergency medicine to be funded centrally. "These are basic core services that have to be provided," he said. "We shouldn't be sending each other little bills. Trauma and other emergency services like cardiac and stroke services should be top sliced. The money should come from central government funds." Mr Bircher added that doctors and nurses on the frontline in hospitals should not be criticised. He said they do their best but are hampered by layers of managers whose major concern is the budget rather than patient care.

Delays in treatment

He said: "The delays are caused at various levels. If doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, the treating teams, were left to communicate between themselves without bureaucracy, things would happen much more quickly. In the good old days somebody would ring me up about a patient, I'd say send them across, make one call to sister on the ward and it would happen. "Now I'm loath to accept a patient unless I'm sure their injury requires surgery. If I'm unsure I ask them to send X-rays. Even in this technological age this can take two or three days. It's not unusual for them to be delayed or get lost.

"It may be decided that the patient needs an operation and we decide to bring them in. There can still be a delay because bed managers are reluctant to accept a patient for three or four days before the operation is due because of the extra costs. So the patients often come in just hours before the operation. It is not unusual for a patient to arrive in the early hours of the morning, a very short time before their surgery.

"You suddenly find the patient may develop a problem and you can't operate. So you've accepted a patient for a slot and then you can't operate. A much better system would be to have a free flow of patients to the trauma centre where we can get to know them preoperatively. But because trusts all have separate budgets, though we're all playing for the same team, there seems to be a reluctance to accept patients at an appropriate time before the operation. "You can argue whether a patient needs a hip replacement at hospital x or y," he added. "As long as it's done in a reasonable time by a good team it doesn't matter. You can't have these petty squabbles. There just isn't time with trauma."

Patients in pain

His argument is illustrated by Lucy Lynn-Evans, a 21-year-old student from London who was severely injured in a road accident last month. She was riding her scooter to Brighton when she was run over by a 10-tonne lorry which came to rest on her hip. She is alive only because a laptop in her backpack took the full force when the lorry ran over her spine. Her life was saved a second time by the staff at Redhill hospital, where she was initially taken with a smashed pelvis, smashed knee and leg broken in two places. They gave her a blood transfusion - she had lost five pints - and wrapped her hip, described by doctors as a "bag of crisps", in a sheet which was then pulled tight to keep the fragmented bones together.

This is the correct procedure. But Redhill hospital did not have the expertise to repair Ms Lynn-Evans's bones. That would require specialist surgeons and equipment that can be found only in certain hospitals around the country. All they could do in Redhill was put her on morphine and wait for a bed - which at one point she was told could take up to three weeks.

Her pain was so intense, however, that the morphine "only took the edge off it". "I was in a lot of pain, especially when they log-rolled me to change the sheet," Ms Lynn-Evans said from her hospital bed at St George's on Thursday. "It took four people to turn me. The nights were horrible. The mornings were really painful. The three weeks of waiting is an extra three weeks of pain. You just feel like you're going mad. You feel black and despairing. You want with all your heart for someone to make it better. I asked Dad to leave me outside the hospital because then it would be more likely I'd get a bed, rather than waiting by the phone. I felt despair, lying there feeling empty and feeling that I had to tackle this day by day for weeks."

Lack of beds

Ms Lynn-Evans's problem was that she was stable and not going to die; when a bed became available it would go to another more pressing case. At one point a bed became available at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, but before she could be moved John Radcliffe's fund manager had to agree. The fund manager did not arrive at work until 9.30am. By the time Ms Lynn-Evans's case came to the top of the administrator's pile and permission was granted, the bed had gone. Fortunately for Ms Lynn-Evans her mother, Julie, is a psychotherapist who works in child mental health. She is also a broadcaster with a string of top NHS officials in her contacts book. She was able to make a fuss where it counts, and her daughter was moved to St George's hospital in London after only five days.

"Because of the problems with the beds I didn't know where to go to after the accident," Julie Lynn-Evans said. "Lucy was taken to Redhill on the Friday and they saved her life. I cannot thank the doctors enough. But they knew they didn't have the expertise to fix her so I was told not to go to Redhill because they were going to move her. Then at 4am I was told to go to Redhill after all. I'd spent the whole time living through a mother's worst nightmare and yet unable to go to my child. The same night as Lucy, a woman came in from a car crash. She was 63 and had a clot in her lung. Lucy was considered stable, so the woman got her bed. All the time Lucy's having no treatment. As a mother you'd do anything to help your child when you see them in so much pain. But I know that in securing a bed for Lucy, someone else had to wait longer."

Fortunately Lucy is going to make a full recovery, which she and her family put down to the excellent care they have received from surgeons, nurses and doctors at both St George's and Redhill hospitals. The delays, however, caused by bureaucracy and a shortage of beds, could have led to a very different outcome. "The delays not only cause distress to families and patient, but other serious medical issues - thrombosis, bed sores, chest infections and urine and wound infections," said Mr Bircher. "The longer the bone fragments are left displaced, the more the clot begins to form new bone, thus the harder it is to replace the fragment to the correct position.

Patients suffer

"The first step to dealing with the problem is an acceptance and realisation that the system isn't working with trauma and other emergency services in medicine. Sending each other forms and bills is not a good way of doing it. I'm acutely aware that resources are an issue. But basic emergency services should be of the highest quality. If we consider ourselves a leading nation we should have a first-class emergency healthcare system. We do not, and the situation is worsening. "It's pot luck where you go. There's not a defined system. We have to fight every day to get patients in. We have to break through the bureaucracy and develop a new system. There is a lack of intensive care beds in London and around the country which further magnifies the problem.

"Direct funding from the centre, perhaps cutting out the trusts, is perhaps a good idea. One must involve clinicians at the sharp end in the decision-making. Like the Bank of England the politicians should let it go. Doctors, honestly, know best."

Dermot O'Riordan, a member of the council of the Royal College of Surgeons, agreed that a number of services - not just trauma - needed commissioning at a higher level and in some cases co-ordinating nationally, although not necessarily centrally funding. Mr O'Riordan, the RCS council member responsible for the Delivery of Surgical Services Committee, said: "Commissioning of very specialist services, whether elective or emergency, needs to be done at a higher level than a primary care trust. Some need to be co-ordinated by the strategic health authority and some even at national level."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We recognise that a very small number of patients may wait to receive appropriate care. This is because they need very specialised treatment, and critically ill patients waiting for treatment is the exception rather than the rule. "Capacity in intensive care units has improved dramatically in recent years. We now have almost 1,000 more ICU beds than in 2000 and we are looking at ways to increase capacity further."


WE are to blame for China's pollution

The article below embodies the hatred of modern Western society that largely underpins the Greenie movement. Note the superior look on the face of John Vidal, the author of the article, below. We are so lucky to have such an all-seeing headmaster to impart wisdom to us

We've just had the first really big look at the environmental catastrophe now unfolding in China. Courtesy of the OECD, the club of 30 rich nations which was called in by the Beijing government to assess the environmental situation, a monster 260-page report has just been published, which draws together the work of China's leading scientists, the World Bank, and central and local government.

What we are witnessing is the mass poisoning of a people and the ecological devastation of a nation. If this were a war by one people against another, we would call on the UN to step in. But it's a war against nature so we turn away.

Yet it raises ugly questions for us, too. How much of this pollution and the destruction of nature is actually being done in our name? The rich west has moved its manufacturing base to China and all those smoking factories and bright green rivers reflect not just China's dash for development, but the face of western consumerism. Can we really blame the Chinese for all the pollutants being emitted to keep us in cheap goods? Should we step in immediately with better technology?

On the other hand, this is a tacit arrangement. This is not the 18th century European industrial revolution when the technology to limit pollution was undeveloped. The Chinese authorities may have great environmental laws, they have the world's largest current account of credit, they have access to the best pollution abatement equipment in the world, yet they have totally failed to protect their people from harm. We must assume the authorities know what is going on and do nothing because they are powerless.

There are truly brave people at every level of government desperately trying to clean up China, and there are enormous schemes to improve the environment. But the sheer speed and momentum of the dash for growth means no city or administration can keep up with the urbanisation and industrial developments taking place.

The official line is that the pollution will be tackled when enough wealth has been created. Funny that. Isn't that exactly what rightwing American thinktanks and western politicians say when asked why they do not try to protect people? But it just doesn't wash anymore. Let's hear it straight. The Chinese catastrophe is quite simply the product of greed. Ours and theirs.


"Ideal" weight for mothers promoted

Damned if you do and damned if you don't

Mothers who gain or lose a great deal of weight between pregnancies could be putting themselves and their babies at risk, experts have said. Even quite small changes in body mass index (BMI), of one or two units, between pregnancies are enough to have effects, say Jennifer Walsh and Deirdre Murphy, two obstetricians from Dublin. An increase of this size has been linked with a doubling of the risks of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and having a large baby. Greater increases in weight between pregnancies add to the risk of stillbirth and other complications, they say in an editorial in the British Medical Journal.

On the other hand, they add, women losing a lot of weight run a greater risk of having premature babies, or babies of low birth-weight. The message is that women should try to maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy ? and to be the same weight at any subsequent pregnancies.

Dr Walsh, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin, and Professor Murphy, Professor of Obstetrics at Trinity College Dublin, say: "Women of reproductive age are bombarded with messages about diet, weight and body image. "There is growing concern on the one hand about an epidemic of obesity, and on the other about a culture that promotes `size zero' as desirable, irrespective of a woman's natural build. "Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life, with an adequate supply of nutrients essential to support foetal wellbeing and growth. "With at least half of all pregnancies unplanned, women need to be aware of the implications of their weight for pregnancy, birth and the health of their babies. "We should ensure that women of low body mass index attain a healthy weight before conception to reduce the risk of preterm birth and low infant birth-weight. "We should also counsel women with a history of previous preterm birth to maintain a healthy weight to prevent recurrence."

The authors cited studies on the effects of weight gain and weight loss. The first, a Swedish study, followed 207,534 women from 1992 to 2001 to examine the link between changes in body mass index and the impact on a baby and mother's health. The second, which was published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found that women whose BMI fell by five or more units between pregnancies had a higher risk of premature birth than women whose weight remained stable or increased. The effect was heightened among women who had already experienced one premature birth.

Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, said: "I think these doctors are absolutely right. "It's fundamental that we teach girls at school not only to lose weight for their own health but also because of the risks to their child of entering motherhood being overweight." Being overweight was associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, which could result in difficulty conceiving, he said. "There is a known association between overweight and obese parents and the likelihood of a child being overweight themselves. "Women should be aiming for a normal weight before they have their second child. "Women also go the other way and starve themselves to plummet to a goal weight. They try to get down to a certain weight, and that is also wrong."


Britain's Orwellian vision of government housing

Allocated a silver-level needs certificate, Linda is unlikely to get into the most popular development.but after a year's acceptable behaviour she will be given a secure tenancy certificate. This, however, is a floating security given the owners will be able to insist she moves into one of their smaller premises if her needs change. Next door to Linda is one of six extra care homes.they include video monitoring and biosensors to allow 24-hour video supervision from the district health centre.'

Speaking is Jon Rouse, outgoing head of the UK Housing Corporation, which controls all social housing in the UK (1). The slide that accompanied Rouse's recent speech represented the family of four - Linda, Tom, Dick and Harry - as little lego people. Rouse was not warning us of an Orwellian dystopia; this is actually his ideal of what should happen with social housing in the UK.

In Rouse's social-democratic hell, people will not talk about `social housing' - they will talk about `different degrees of ownership'. Even new tenants will be `gifted' two per cent equity - except that this equity is conditional upon good behaviour, and will be recovered in toto if tenants fall into more than eight weeks' arrears. Furthermore equity in the leasehold is conditional, since the Housing Corporation would have the (until now unheard of) right of first buyback, and there is absolutely no right of succession (meaning you cannot bequest the home to your children). In other words, this `equity' is not ownership at all - except that it does come with responsibilities for the repair and upkeep of your home.

Prime minister Gordon Brown has announced that three million homes will be built and that the state will take up the slack left by the private sector's failure to build enough houses to match demand (2). For many, this is a sign that Old Labour is back. Council housing in particular is something of a nostalgia-trip for born-again Labourites like Jon Cruddas, commentator Lynsey Hanley and London mayor Ken Livingstone.

This nostalgia for council housing is hard to take. There is no principle that says that houses built and managed by the state are any worse than those in the private sector. But in practise, social housing has precious little to do with meeting people's needs, and everything to do with state control over supposedly anti-social elements. The Housing Corporation's thinking about dividing people into Gold, Silver and Bronze levels - imposing tenancy agreements, issuing secure (but floating) tenancy certificates, partial equity, video- and bio-monitoring, 24-hour surveillance, retaining the right of first buy-back - are all drawn from the real way that social housing tenants are intrusively regulated by the authorities.

Throughout its history, social housing has always been intimately related to the perceived problem of social order. In Nathaniel Rothschild's `Four Per Cent Dwellings', which opened in 1887, each landing had its own warden, usually an ex-NCO from the army who would enforce curfews and respectable behaviour. When philanthropists decanted tenants into the subscription-funded Somers Town estate in the 1930s, their bedding was burnt and furniture put into a mobile fumigation wagon.as part of a public ceremony overseen by local dignitaries, complete with the burning of papier mach‚ effigies of rats, fleas and other pests.

Similar things took place outside of Britain. In `Red' Vienna's much-trumpeted inter-war municipal houses, Social Democrat councillors enforced a `social contract' with tenants, which committed them to responsible parenting. Where this was lacking, social workers were on hand to remove children to the municipal Child Observation Centres (3).

In the postwar expansion of social housing in Britain, the charity-laden character of such housing was moderated: tenants were more like citizens and less like supplicants. Therefore, other ways of relating to the estate-dwellers had to be found. Labour's Peter Shore (1924-2001) oversaw the racial segregation of Tower Hamlets' Council Stock in the 1970s, as the London borough used divide-and-rule tactics to win the support of white residents with marginally better estates. Then, 20 years later, in the early and mid-1990s, the council turned around and started threatening white residents, who had believed the promise of preferential treatment, with being evicted for racism (4).

Between 1979 and 1997, the Conservative government stopped new council houses being built in Britain, sold off some homes and transferred others to Housing Associations. The declining stock of council homes shifted the social mix, as the more affluent workers moved out of local authority management. This was when people started calling Council Housing `social housing', meaning that it was primarily for housing people who were a social problem.

In the Nineties, local authorities pioneered the systems of social control that would later be generalised under Labour's Crime and Disorder Bill in the form of the ASBO: that is, the Anti-Social Behaviour Order. Before there were ASBOs there were tenancy agreements. On 24 May 1995, 2,500 council tenants in Cross Farm Road, Birmingham, were warned that they would have to put their children under an 8pm curfew. They were told that not annoying or harassing their neighbours - or allowing their children to do so - was a condition of their council tenancies. Breaches were to be heard by a subcommittee of councillors (5). Councils had expanded the terms of their tenancy agreements to include clauses governing social behaviour on top of keeping up rent payments and looking after the fabric of the home.

In June 1995, the Labour Party, then still in opposition, published a housing consultation paper titled A Quiet Life. It was influenced heavily by the thinking of the (mostly Labour) councillors who had enhanced their powers of social regulation through the issue of housing. A Quiet Life proposed special Community Safety Orders, which could be imposed to regulate behaviour, on the same model as the expanded tenancy agreements. These were later renamed Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. Just as the councils had done when enforcing their tenancy agreements, so Labour proposed dealing with `problem tenants' through the use of professional witnesses (that is, housing officers) and by the lower standard of proof that is normally used in civil proceedings.

Recently the courts struck down an ASBO that was issued in Manchester on evidence supplied by the council, when it came to light that the reports they had solicited against the unfortunate accused were entirely made up. Manchester City Council had told the courts that they had independent corroboration, which was not true - but it was in keeping with the local authority's contempt for the rights of their tenants.

Brown is right that we need more homes. The market is so restrained by bureaucratic controls that it cannot meet the real demand that exists. It does not matter who builds or manages the homes, private sector or government. But council housing was never just about providing homes; it was always about regulating social behaviour. Those who long for a return to council housing are either ignorant of what a trap it was, or more likely, they look forward to the day when they can tie up more of the people they imagine to be `problem families' in bureaucratic regulations.


US/UK relationship continues: "The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, would not unveil plans for an early withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in talks with the US President, George Bush, Mr Brown's spokesman said yesterday. The two leaders were scheduled to meet yesterday for the first time since Mr Brown succeeded Tony Blair last month. Speculation has been rife in British media that Mr Brown might distance himself from Mr Blair's Iraq policy.... The White House and Downing Street are stressing that little has been disturbed in the "special relationship" between Britain and the US since the elevation of Mr Brown. Although friction may lie ahead on issues such as Iran's nuclear program, US officials appear confident there will be no sudden departures from Mr Brown on the key issues - especially on keeping Britain's 5500 troops in Iraq. Officials in both governments said this week's summit would focus on building a rapport between the leaders, aided by the bucolic setting of Camp David, the mountain retreat where Mr Bush entertains his closest foreign allies. "This will mainly be a reassurance thing," said the British author and political analyst Peter Riddell. "They want to knock down any suggestion that there is distance between them. Yes, they are different people, but they are fundamentally on the same wavelength."

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