A global archive of independent reviews of everything happening from the beginning of the millennium

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The energy rating system is a disgrace designed to introduce inexpert people into the system and, for larger buildings, to give work to BRE when it was sold off by Labour. It should be scrapped.

Dump obligations on developers if you wish, who will fight back, but leave households alone and keep interfering council people away from them or lose votes.

The regulatory regime in relation to insulation prevents good design and is unsafe to boot.

It has not decreased building stock energy consumption.

We have an energy rating industry that does not need to be there at all when there are staff shortages across the economy.

Let the buyers impose conditions on developers : 'we want a dwelling with good environmental conditions in all aspects and with no use of flammable insulation'.

The persistent calls for domestic building retrofitting is throwing sand in people's eyes about the materials that will be used. Loft insulation and improved glazing are just about the only mass viable domestic retrofitting options that do not create environmental problems and displacement of residents just as fitting an electric engine to every old car is not viable.

Spot the older materials and those you would guarantee are not flammable? :

The identifiable items in the top skip are non-flammable and older. The blockwork, though thicker, is as good an insulator as the insulation in the bottom skip and if installed even thicker and more modern provides excellent additional structural strength, insulation and sound isolation.

The identifiable items in the bottom skip - the timber and the insulation - are flammable. The insulation burns faster and with more toxic fumes. Once flame and oxygen get to the yellow part it is going to roar away so do not put it on the Guy Fawkes bonfire.

There is limited obvious choice for non-flammable wall insulation in Britain - concrete blockwork and mineral wool.

Hemp and the like burns slowly.


If the same people conceived the slogan movements Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil how do they reconcile that over half of insulation materials used in Britain are made from crude oil feedstock?


It is better to give money directly to people than to subsidise the energy companies and pursue public works programmes a substantial proportion of the population are not interested in as Labour is proposing.

Labour has a tendency to pursue policies that have a bare majority in focus groups but which the minority, who are later proved right, consider crass.

Such a case was trying to incarcerate all travellers in quarantine hotels during covid.


Banks are estimated to have paid out in the region of £40 billion in compensation for PPI misselling.

To send out council employees with a clipboard and checklists street by street to 'advise' on energy efficiency risks exposing the public sector to claims that could dwarf this if the advice proves to be faulty.


Once again it would be better to make an energy efficiency and anti-water penetration grant (most mould problems are caused by water penetration) available to domestic properties, of £2k in the case of a house, approved online with a very simple approvals process operated by councils and biased towards getting things moving.

People will then turn to builders, and people in the professions if they can afford them, as sources of real knowledge and expertise, to keep work to what has most effect for the money.

The nation is fed up of assessment by checklist. There is a serious decline in respect for expertise in Britain.

The people interfacing with the public at NHS Test and Trace were in no sense experts and the outfit largely wasted billions. That this organisation was not personally conceived or designed by ministers or by the NHS bodes ill for an opposition thinking it can come to power, give orders and the civil service will sort it.

It currently cannot because recruitment significantly apes the private sector. The independent thinking is going in favour of order taking and groupthink. The expertise has already gone.

It simply cannot design the levers and when they are pulled they will not work as with NHS Test and Trace.

This bodes ill for overblown aims for public projects.

15 October 2022

Below the surface Labour's front bench has displayed two years of shallow intellectual capacity and gullibility to commercial interests which will be cruelly exposed with further passage of time.

Once policy is agreed it does not know how to trim its sails for fear of the ghosts of factionalism.

The new Secretary of State, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has already proposed a better alternative to reach the same energy efficiency goal - a reduction in externally sourced energy purchased by households - in the form of grants for homes to install solar panels.

We look forward to seeing how this can be implemented in the context of a growth policy.

People's homes have traditionally been their 'castles' and absent of interfering persons entering upon them offering unsolicited advice about their dwellings whether they be from energy companies, councils or, currently, dodgy sounding street-by-street companies, 'working with the council', offering internal insulation only, for which they will fill in all the forms.

10 January 2023

Local authorities fail to notify residents of planning applications, and vital proposed amendments, particularly Labour controlled ones, and so the idea that they represent centres of democracy is threadbare if they do not discharge statutory duties and descend instead into illegality.

They might be excused on the social care front for lack of funds but in planning, highways and even, in some cases, refuse collection they are not up to the job.

It is time they went.

Just as we have turnover in elected representatives, for the health of democracy we need turnover in administrators.

Deception does not wash.

Labour, for a party with currently little power, has a disturbing propensity for undemocratic administrative secrecy. This is not a solution to Britain's problems.

The civil service should build regional offices and administer regionally. It is the way forward for it to maintain its headcount.

16 January 2023

It should start with planning and urban roads, where local authorities have failed, and move onwards as successes are chalked up.

It will reverse the the loss of middle rank expertise in many civil service departments.

Since the civil service allows job rotation, it will prevent local areas being stuck with the wrong people for decades, as currently.



25 January 2022

Local authorities deserve some sympathy in having inadequate funding but it only go so far.

In the height of austerity during the coalition years, they showed gutlessness in resisting the cuts thinking that residents of their neighbourhoods could be squeezed and cheated of statutory rights and not notice or be treated as toothless.

A decade of this and centralisation has left society questioning whether they can fulfil the portfolio of their functions or whether those they have failed with should go elsewhere wholesale.

Some authorities have taken building control fees but failed to perform the function properly.

This is aggravating to the architectural profession who appreciate building control rigour adding to site safety.

Likewise, planning authorities have frequently failed in their statutory duties and performance.

How then can we say leave it to local authorities to determine the volume of development in their area and cut central quota imposition?

Sometimes both the officers and the councillors are not up to their legal duties.

This calls into question the whole structure of democracy.

Attempts to compensate for local authority failing by giving regional mayors power have been made but a truly democratic answer is not so often reached.

Quasi-prefects and quasi-governors do not add much to democracy, if at all.

Other ideas, like democratic consensus, may have to be considered.

If there is sustained or sizeable objection to something locally, not necessarily amongst politicians, even if a majority is available to push it through, the idea should be stayed as there is no consensus.

Accommodate the objection because the turn of those behind it will come as well in a local society.

Or maybe Britain is in the forefront of a new approach in democracy - the first democratic country to abolish local authorities?

It is not entirely fanciful. The best idea that New Labour produced was direct, non-party election to hospital trusts. Party positions cannot cover the waterfront of views.

Non-party election to local authorities, enshrined in law, might be an answer that has sufficient logic to stay abolition.

Or, maybe, the available majority will push through de facto abolition.

2 November 2022

Margaret Thatcher was never about austerity.

She used interest rates and monetarism fearlessly but she never balanced the budget.

Assets from the capital stock - large, nationalised industries that were in need of market discipline - were continuously sold to make the budget look nearer balance but she knew the dangers of actually balancing the books, especially with deflationary amounts of taxation.

Likewise the tangible balance of trade. Non-oil exports never balanced imports and would have struggled to do so given the dire and uncompetitive state of British industry she inherited. She had the nous to take the benefits of being a semi-petrostate to raise Britain's standing in the world despite uncompetitive industry. She started, and John Major continued, the process of bringing competitive industry to Britain, like the Japanese car industry.

Likewise the Falklands war. She did not swallow the media's jingoistic projection of how good British arms were. She asked did they work before sending them.

Targets were not the thing. Reality was.

She was not about what is now known as libertarianism. That started with concepts about freedom but has morphed into freedom for large corporations to exploit people in a near unlimited sense. Freedom especially for non-natural persons.

Margaret Thatcher was about freedom for people like her father - enterprising individuals and small company owners - knowing always that larger companies had the very considerable advantage of economies of scale in an open marketplace. Pluralism of market players was important and real in her time and competition law was the best it has ever been under John Major. It was hard to crush small players in the enterprise space; they had to fail of their own accord.

This concern with people and preserving the fruits of their endeavour in their individual ownership is very Conservative and a far cry from Clintonism, or centrist neoliberalism, that began the process of government cutting deals with big business as the default, consciously shafting individuals. Bill Clinton was the talented politician of his generation but the left has no great future until it properly examines the role of corporate profitability in creating what it likes to call inequality.

29 November 2022

Most of Britain's medium sized companies have long ago been sold to larger competitors or overseas or to private equity. There is no strata of companies that can become Britain's next multinationals even in the financial sector. This is what is called spending the capital for current consumption.

Though we deprecate casting everything in class terms as an excuse for not achieving anything - something Margaret Thatcher and John Major never did - the same has happened in central London.

The homes of the upper middle class have been sold off to larger competitors (aka very rich men), overseas owners or to private equity financed property accumulators - and the inhabitants have moved to the country or the suburbs. None of these three categories have tax structures that are caught by gobbledegook like Inheritance Tax.

We are not complaining about a societal trend other than this is what is called spending the capital for current consumption.

In the pomp of austerity under the coalition - it might have worked if it had been restricted to no more than 18 months but liberals can be obsessive idealists - the simple grants for loft insulation were abolished in favour of elaborate schemes encouraging people to borrow excessive sums to thicken out their walls with less effective insulation to be paid back through their energy bills.

Needless to say the take up was negligible. Politicians, Labour ones especially, regard the public as the possessor of a sponge - squeeze it and liquid money will come out at no cost to anyone. No one much has money to take up stupid schemes or pay more taxes. The sponge is dry. They ignore, unlike businesses, cashflow and cash in the bank.

Then Labour cry "but the sponge is worth money, sell it so everyone can be equal and so we can spend and we alone can decide who gets what" (the clear signs of a predatory and morally inferior ideology) or what is called spending the capital for current consumption.

So who is going to buy the public's houses and flats because there is insufficient cashflow to pay the taxes on them? People trading up? No. Virtually no one can afford to now. You got it - more very rich men (or, possibly, women), now mainly from overseas, and private equity financed property accumulators.

Another raid on pension pots or selling off gold at historic lows to pay for 'investment' in 'jobs' going door-to-door pushing products that require people to move out for weeks and less desirable than double glazing then?

Labour is so lacking in understanding markets and business that it is prey to anyone setting themselves up as a guru in them. Every strand of its programme is ideological. It is desperately hoping that the civil service might bail it out but Ofgem has been so indifferent in its regulatory understanding that consumers will be landed with the astonishing bill of £5.8 billion for the demise of the second rank energy supplier, Bulb, alone.

So what exactly is Labour's Great British Energy going to offer, other than absorb losses, that its whisperers in the energy industry will not cry competitive blue murder over?

Multinationals have genuine pricing power. After the winter they do not need their energy subsidised by government and the public do not need to be taxed for their sake. Unlike smaller companies they can hedge their energy costs against gas and electricity derivatives, in the financial markets on their doorstep in London, so that their costs are predictable. They will be able to price in relation to their peers' prices pretty well. Their profitability, as a group, is unlikely to be hit.

9 January 2023

Labour started the open chequebook idea of just subsidising energy companies' prices no questions asked.

As a minister has been quoted as saying: "It is not for the government to habitually pay the bills of businesses".