The priceless triple whammy

0
Have your say

IT goes without saying that Yorkshire’s countryside communities should not be immune from development. Small-scale schemes can make the difference between facilities like village schools staying open – or not. Yet there is a world of difference between modest proposals for expansion and those large applications that imperil precious greenfield sites and also put essential local services under an even greater strain.

IT goes without saying that Yorkshire’s countryside communities should not be immune from development. Small-scale schemes can make the difference between facilities like village schools staying open – or not. Yet there is a world of difference between modest proposals for expansion and those large applications that imperil precious greenfield sites and also put essential local services under an even greater strain.

It is why today’s report by the think-tank Civitas is likely to enrage those campaigners, such as the residents of Menston on the outskirts of Leeds, who remain perplexed that the Tories – supposedly the party of the countryside – who believe planning precedence should be given to redundant brownfield sites in urban areas. This position will be strengthened by the assertion of Peter Haslehurst, a top industrialist, that England has enough brownfield land for 2.5 million homes.

Even though each of the main parties advocates the regeneration of brownfield sites ahead of the local elections, why are they struggling to put their words into action? Having spent £10m decontaminating land, Mr Haslehurst believes there needs to be greater incentives to fund these environmental clean-up costs.

It is a point that Ministers need to heed as fears continue to grow about house price inflation – and how this could, in fact, stop Britain’s recovery in its tracks. The best remedy, according to CBI director-general John Cridland, is supply-side action to increase the availability of affordable homes and respond to the country’s changing demographics.

Factor in the Civitas approach and there’s an opportunity to create jobs, transform industrial wastelands and protect the countryside, a triple whammy which the Government should now be looking to embrace at the earliest opportunity.

Tax and honour

Take that OBE off Gary Barlow

THE fact that singer- songwriter Gary Barlow has been a prolific charity fundraiser offers no defence when it comes to his tax arrangements, and the growing clamour for the Take That star to be stripped of his OBE.

Even though David Cameron was at pains to highlight the difference between Barlow’s tax avoidance and, say, the evasiveness which led to legendary Flat jockey Lester Piggott losing his liberty, many ordinary taxpayers will not be so charitable.

They have every right to feel betrayed. While hardworking individuals can expect to feel the full force of the HMRC if they make a minor transgression on their tax return, Mr Barlow and his colleagues have been the beneficiaries of an aggressive tax avoidance scheme that saw them withhold tens of millions of pounds from the Exchequer, and which Mr Cameron now seems so powerless to outlaw. Charity work offers no indemnity to those who have minimised their obligations to HM Treasury, and there’s nothing to stop the entertainer from volunteering to forego his title.

At the same time, this episode – and recommendation that former Conservative council leader Lord Hanningfield should he suspended from the House of Lords for a year – reveals further flaws within the honours system. Why are peers jailed for expenses fraud, or perjury in the case of Jeffrey Archer, allowed to keep their titles when ordinary members of society can expect to lose their accolade if they commit a transgression? Such double standards appear to contradict Mr Cameron’s “we’re all in this together” mantra.

A reality check

England and low expectations

THE CHURCHILLIAN words that traditionally kick off every England campaign in football’s World Cup seem slightly incongruous as Roy Hodgson names his 23-man squad. Such is the low level of expectation that never before have so many expected so little of so few.

Perhaps this will be to the team’s benefit after their performances in recent tournaments failed to live up to the jingoism back at home. Yet, while Hodgson’s side does contain a number of fresh-faced players who could spring a surprise as well as experienced pros like Yorkshire-born James Milner and Gary Cahill, it would be wrong to solely judge this most cerebral of managers on the squad’s performances in Brazil.

He was appointed to overhaul the coaching set-up at the Football Association and its new St George’s Park academy. As such, the effectiveness of Hodgson’s reign will not be known for another 20 years and whether England are better placed to compete against the world’s best.

That’s the reality.