Tuesday, December 16, 2008


What on earth is "diverted giving"?

Another rant about language. We have to say what things mean. Diverted giving actually means anti-begging boxes Let's not disguise it with a doomed attempt at pc language.

About 16 years ago, I was commuting to London. Begging was not uncommon then (and might it become less uncommon now). I remember passing a poster in Waterloo Station which said "There are professional beggars operating in this area. Keep your money and give it to charity when you get home." And so I did, walking past the people begging and vowing to give to charity when I got home.

Well weeks passed and I still hadn't given any money to any charities and my conscience started to protest. I came to the conclusion that the moment had been lost when I'd passed the poster. There ought to have been the opportunity to give to charity there and then.

I then had a variety of meetings with City Council Officers. Some of the intelligence gained was worrying. Apparently in some of the Cities, the low life and pimps were moving in and threatening beggars to give them (at least) half; making young women take their babies with them as they get more that way. No evidence of that in Winchester at the time, but scary that it could come in. There was allegorical evidence of people driving in to Winchester, changing clothes, doing a stint on the High Street and making a lot more than their petrol money.

Through the operation of the City Centre management initiative, the concept of the begging boxes was born. The good people of Winchester were able to continue with their compassion safe in the knowledge that the money they donated would go towards three good causes; the Night Shelter that provided beds for homeless people; Trinity Centre that provided support for people with chaotic lives and the local movement that provided hot meals. I'm really pleased that the initiative is being revamped now.

But instead of calling them “begging boxes”, the professionals adopted the name of “diverted giving”. Now, when you think deeply about it, diverted giving probably does describe what the boxes do. But the problem is, you have to think about it. And people don’t want to (think about it). They need an immediately recognisable title.

So let’s call them begging boxes, shall we?

Oh, and do stop to put some money in if you can.

When the initiative was first launched, there was virtually no criticism apart from one person who was quoted in the local paper saying “Well if they put these things up, I’ll tear them down. I have a £20 a day habit to support.”


Monday, December 08, 2008


What on earth is a "Negative Subsidy"

City Council's cabinet meets on Wednesday to discuss, amongst other things, the Housing Revenue Account. Fascinating paper for the aficionado and one of the aspects that is truly fascinating is the "through the looking glass" reasoning by HMG.

For all the time that I've been a councillor, governments of all persuasion have dedicated (part of) themselves to trying to ensure that everyone has a decent home. In this part of the world, especially since property prices went up so sharply, many people just can't afford to buy a place. So they're reliant on lower cost homes for rent provided by housing associations and by the Council. The difference between "market" rents and council house rents has typically been made up by a subsidy from the Government.

But in this topsy turvey world this is now a "negative subsidy" - to all intents and purposes a tax on those who can least afford it.

And it's now EIGHT MILLION POUNDS! This has increased from about £6m in 2005 and in that same time, rental income is said to have increased by only £1.7m.

I'm pretty gobsmacked about this and am now starting to research it further.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Tower Street Car Park flooding update - Brian writes

Winchester City Council has at last put in place some serious investigations into why this car park keeps on flooding.

At the last Council meeting a fellow councillor Lucille Thompson put in a question asking whether the council could stop the ingress of water. The portfolio holder replied that the drains had been cleared and the water was coming in through the roof and via the sides as the fins had been taken down. I remarked that this didn't "hold water" as I had seen the water bubbling out of the drains which seemed to be permanently blocked by the silt from the construction site above.

We didn't get anywhere and the responsible cabinet member wouldn't listen to our evidence.

So I went out and took at video the next time it rained. You can see it here. It clearly shows the drains overflowing and was described by officers as "pretty conclusive" evidence.

It now seems that another conservative has decided to take action even though the cabinet member won't and there's a scrutiny looking at the car park on Tuesday.

I hope to be there to put the case for proper maintenance so that we don't have to splodge through deep puddles in our wellies to get out of our cars.


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