While the cat’s away 2…

Posted on: 18th May 2011

Originally posted August 17th 2010

While the cat is away (in Cornwall, as it happens) the Deputy cat is running the country.

Conspiracy theorists are convinced that the Top Cat has left some carefully timed bad news stories to go off while he is away (e.g. another banking crisis, perhaps, an outbreak of the plague or some other catastrophe…?) which he will quickly resolve with a flourish when he comes back. Therefore cementing his popularity, whilst the Deputy is associated with bad news.

Those who hold this theory point to a succession of bad news announcements and apparent decisions to cut popular services which have been made by Ministers representing the junior partner of the Coalition Government whilst the more popular statements have been associated with the senior partner!

Let’s wait and see, but I have strongly welcomed the announcement this week by a Liberal Democrat Home Office Minister, Lynne Featherstone, that wheel clampers will at last be clamped;  and, if they don’t behave themselves, towed away. The practice of wheel clamping on some privately owned car parks and land has been variously described as “extortion” and even “theft”.

The British Parking Association, which represents wheel clampers, have on the other hand, claimed that “clamping provides a last resort to landowners where ticketing is ineffective”. Yet, there are hundreds of examples in this area of wheel clamps being used not only as a first resort but with such lightning fast speed that the ticket purchaser has hardly enough time to reach the ticket machine before they find themselves facing the extortionate demand of these just-off-the-highway robbers.

So, good news. Let’s hope it is implemented with the same lightning fast speed and zeal as the wheel clampers ply their trade.

Also, this week, I have been asked to comment on a celebratory report from a leading London based global property consultancy that new build second homes have been blossoming in recent years.

This is good news for the purpose built holiday industry, and we have a lot of successful local businesses in this sector who need encouragement. But, on the other hand, the trend towards increasing numbers of second homes at the expense of permanent homes for locals is a pattern on which the property consultants appear to be silent. A recent survey of estate agents in West Cornwall showed that nearly 5 times as many local homes were sold to second home buyers as to first time buyers.

As I continue daily to cycle the 20 miles between home, office and back again – sometimes quicker than the gridlocked holiday traffic – I reflect upon the tension between our need for a successful tourist economy and the policies needed to protect affordable homes for local people. Whilst I don’t think that the two need to be in conflict, we clearly still haven’t got the balance right yet.