Roger Arthur: Poor decisions lead to unintended consequences

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Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened,” said Winston Churchill.

But not very often do we trip over the whole truth and we usually have to dig for more.

All too often decisions are based on a limited data or preconceived ideas, with unintended consequences.

I learned last week for example that planned West Sussex Fire Service changes should save around £1.5m pa, which is around the “nominal” value placed on a life (although most of us would no doubt put a higher value on ours!).

But if the fire risk is being contained through smarter working, then we don’t need to worry. The hard bit is to get data on the change in risk to life and assets, as it might not take many serious incidents to outweigh the expected savings.

We will need to pursue that data.

Also, how many times have we been told that a scheme such as the second Gatwick Runway, would be good for the Economy, when its wider impact has not been fully evaluated.

Indeed last week, I referred to it as the “Gatwick Takeway”, in which a few investors would make a killing, leaving many thousands of us to pick up the tab, in terms of noise, congestion, pollution and reduced property values.

I along with many others believe that such impacts would very likely outweigh the economic benefit.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is another concept that is based more on the triumph of hope over reality. That is because it requires councils to plan for house building rates and economic development, that they have little influence over.

In a vain attempt to do the Government’s bidding, HDC hopes that more highly paid workers will come to Horsham, if more business space is made available.

The logic is that such workers could afford a house locally and would not need to commute. That assumes of course that the right skills are locally available and that high value businesses will come to Horsham.

However, Gatwick Diamond Initiative’s (GDI) Local Strategic Statement indicates little need for more business space in the area as a whole - other than for warehousing or distribution.

So in addition to an unattainable housing target (750pa for Horsham District) the NPPF requires councils to “plan” for new jobs that it has little control over, whilst making the Council increasingly dependent on Business Rate income.

It should be clear that no plan is viable, if it seeks to buck the market.

If there is a realistic strategy to i) dissuade companies from leaving Horsham, or ii) to encourage other large companies to come, then we have not seen it yet.

But producing a plan, taking little account of market factors, is clearly unwise.

In another example of misconceived targets, people are sometimes asked to ensure that a budget is spent, never mind value for money.

Indeed, we have recently seen civil servants rushing to spend £1billion of an overseas aid budget, before a deadline.

Could that perhaps begin to explain the £120billion of public waste, identified by the Taxpayer’s Alliance? Just imagine what could be done with a spare £1billion, when we have a large NHS deficit.

Surely that is too big an issue for anyone to stumble over and then carry on regardless.

Roger Arthur is UKIP’s Horsham parliamentary candidate and district councillor for Chanctonbury.