Saving baby Sebastian

  • 30 April 2015
  • From the section UK
Sebastian

Baby Sebastian should be the face of this election. But he won't be because his problem takes too long to fix.

I speak of the widening gap between the life expectancy of the richest and poorest in our country. Living in deprived central Stockton, Sebastian can expect to survive just 67 years. A similar baby boy in London's swanky Belgravia is likely to live to over 91.

I suspect the reason governments haven't dealt with this scandal is because of what might be called "the five year rule". Ministers are reluctant to spend money on things that won't yield results in a Parliament because credit may end up going to the other lot.

Reducing health and social inequality is a long-term project and the consequences of government action will almost certainly take many years or even decades to achieve clear results.

It is a similar story with housing. Perhaps the biggest reason Britain has failed to build enough homes for its people is it takes about five years from pulling the policy lever in Whitehall to a house being completed. No cabinet minister likes spending money that his shadow might benefit from.

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The vanilla-flavoured election

  • 29 April 2015
  • From the section UK
Vanilla ice cream

It seems odd. The most nail-biting election for decades and yet the campaign itself is deemed boring and uninspiring.

There is no contradiction here, though. For Conservative and Labour, the very closeness of the race means that they would rather be dull than bold. Better vanilla than raspberry ripple.

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Is this the worst graph of the election?

  • 28 April 2015
  • From the section UK
Graph from Liberal Democrat manifesto titled "Falling crime"

Is this the worst graph of the election? It is given a whole page in the Liberal Democrat manifesto but frustrates on so many levels.

PROBLEM 1:

The third column, labelled Lib Dems 2010, is for the financial year 2009/10 which finished a month before the Liberal Democrats joined the government.

PROBLEM 2:

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Westminster: Where houses earn more than people

  • 17 March 2015
  • From the section UK
Westminster home

Members of Parliament heading home are greeted by a poster at the tube station that reads "£30,000 wouldn't even buy you floor space the size of this poster in Westminster".

It is a graphic reminder of the affordability crisis affecting housing in London and the South East - a disparity that has turned home owners in the region into lottery winners while those not on the property ladder are denied a roof over their head.

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Pressure on a 'strained' social service

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section UK
Child on a swing

A week after the prime minister threatened social workers with jail if they fail to protect children, the man his government appointed to keep an eye on children's services has warned that growing criticism of social workers is adding to the pressure on a strained service.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw, uses his annual report on children's social care today to suggest that social workers and managers "do not always get the support and recognition they deserve".

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Savile: 'How could this be allowed to happen?'

  • 26 February 2015
  • From the section UK
Jimmy Savile

"How could this be allowed to happen?" That was the understandable question asked by the Prime Minister David Cameron when presented with details of Jimmy Savile's abuse.

The answers are many and various, today's investigation into his activities at Stoke Mandeville concludes, before adding that "one of the most compelling is quite simply that the basic building blocks of legislation, policy and procedure designed to maintain both public safety and probity were bypassed".

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Where's the evidence for Lincoln's legal high problem?

  • 24 February 2015
  • From the section UK
Lincoln at night

Are legal highs really causing anti-social behaviour in Lincoln's historic city centre?

The council insists they are and will rubber-stamp an area ban on their consumption at a meeting tonight. The move is being watched by local authorities across the country.

Read full article Where's the evidence for Lincoln's legal high problem?

Housing problems for the future

  • 19 February 2015
  • From the section UK
Derbyshire house under construction

With the release of the final housebuilding figures before the general election, we can judge how successful the coalition has been in its pledge to "unlock the housing market, get Britain building again, and give many more people the satisfaction and security that comes from stepping over their own threshold".

And the short answer is "not very".

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'Don't give up on us,' police tell ministers

  • 22 January 2015
  • From the section UK
Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino

With crime now having fallen to levels not seen since David Soul (Hutch from US cop drama Starsky & Hutch) topped the charts with "Don't Give Up On Us" in 1977, police are worried the statistics will cue even deeper cuts to their budgets.

The argument goes that, if crime remains historically low, we don't need as many officers.

Read full article 'Don't give up on us,' police tell ministers

UK government 'most transparent' in the world

  • 20 January 2015
  • From the section UK

The UK government is the most open and transparent in the world, according to global rankings looking at public access to official data.

But web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose organisation compiled the table, says the country has "a long way to go" before it has a fully open government.

Read full article UK government 'most transparent' in the world