Monday, October 20, 2014

Nothing doing

In the next plan period, we need zero new houses in Hart.  Here's why.

Declining fertility rate

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of children each woman has is declining rapidly.  The current rate is 1.85; the minimum number needed to stop the population from dropping is 2.1.  This means that in the course of a generation (all other things being equal) we might expect the a population of 100,000 to decline by several thousand.  In case the link on this page disappears with the ONS updating their web site, here's the key graphic:

This declining fertility rate will lead to lower demand for houses.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are loosely defined as those born in the 1946 - 1964 period: a period where in the Western World, the fertility rate leapt as couples started families after the Second World War.  Over the next 20 years, most of these will
  • downsize (frequently moving to houses away from the London commuter belt)
  • move into care homes (note: care homes are not counted when calculating the houses in the Local Plan)
  • pass away
In any event, the result will be that an unprecedented number of homes will become available.  The aging of the baby boomers will lead to increased supply of houses.


The divorce rate, which grew in the 1970s and 1980s, roughly levelled off in the 1990s and has been on a downward trend since about 2004.  Consequently, the expectation that divorce is leading to one household becoming two is less valid.  There were 165,000 divorces in 1995 (the peak) and just 118,000 in 2012.

Simply put ...

Based on Hart's own requirements, we do not need any extra houses in the forthcoming plan period.  Indeed, houses will become freed up over the next 10-20 years as fewer children are born, people stay together in marriages and the baby boomers downsize, move to care homes and pass away.  These houses will be available for immigration, whether from other countries or other counties.

So why are the government and Hart making us build thousands more?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Eagle has crash-landed

My word!  Two posts in one day!  But I couldn't resist.  After all the fuss about Lord Freud, it appears the general public can see though the political correctness to what really matters ...

Send in a gunship

In the jingoistic days of the British Empire, upon which the sun never set, it was apparently standard practice to send in a gunboat if there were local disturbances.  It's not clear how that might have worked in, say, Afghanistan, but let's move swiftly on.

It's tragically true that in the last few decades the the super powers has shown how easy it is to win a war but not the subsequent peace, whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq.  Short of conquering and holding the world, a notion both morally unacceptable and impossible in practice, it becomes necessary to decide a practical approach to containing threats.

This is, at least in part, where governments of the last few years have proven inept.  Our national defence forces have been reduced to the point where famously tight-lipped military leaders have started to raise alarms.  A few examples:
  • We are building two aircraft carriers.  Yet we have just six Type 45 destroyers in the Royal Navy: how will these defend the carriers while carrying out other missions at home and abroad, and allowing time for refitting and training?  (The original plan was for twelve Type 45 destroyers).
  • Our army has been shrunk so much that it is less than half the size of the forces evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940.  The Siege of Basra, where British forces had to withdraw from the city under attack from militias, shows how weak our forces have become.  The situation in Helmand province in Afghanistan was similar.  Smaller forces have meant that the Army has been assigned tasks with inadequate personnel and equipment.
  • The RAF has fallen below 40,000 personnel, its lowest level in decades.  Questions remain over the future of military aircraft: manned vs unmanned (remotely piloted vehicles); fighter vs helicopter; transport aircraft and heavy lift helicopters.  An indication of lack of UK military capability is that the Anglo-French effort to support the freedom movement in Libya depended on US armed support.
The new gunboat?
This is not to decry what our forces have achieved.  There are notable successes in the recent past but typically these have been in smaller, well-defined missions rather than prolonged conflicts; for example, Operation Barras in West Africa in which hostages were rescued in a classic operation.

As I have written this blog entry, I have become increasingly puzzled as to what we could actually use our armed forces for.  Are six destroyers and thirteen frigates enough to defend the UK, especially given their planned roles in foreign seas?  Can the RAF deploy enough power fast enough to turn a major conflict to the benefit of the UK?  Is the Army large and well-equipped enough to win convincingly against a significant foe and in counter-insurgency situations?  Can we fight and win wars rather than just battles?

The answers to these and similar questions are likely to be secret.  As a UK citizen, however, I would like to be confident of three things: that our armed forces will only be deployed where there is a vital national interest that cannot be secured by peaceful means; that our forces will be deployed in such means and numbers as to win overwhelmingly at minimum risk; and that those members of the armed forces (and their families) harmed in the course of duty will be properly cared for.

And if today's version of a gunship is an Apache helicopter rather than a frigate, so be it.