Wednesday, 22 April 2015

How do ordinary people in Aberdeen buy a house?

Aberdeen has a buoyant economy but because of high salaries in the oil industry property prices have rocketed.   This has had several negative effects on recruitment of public sector workers and those not employed by oil and gas.

The effects of the wage disparity has been magnified by several issues to do with the supply of houses in Aberdeen.  Firstly the sale of council houses with no replacements being built. Secondly a lack of affordable housing on those private housing schemes that have been built.  Thirdly and most importantly a lack of land being released for the  building of affordable housing.  

So we have high house prices, rapidly rising private rents  and very little affordable housing or council housing.  This means that young couples on ordinary salaries really struggle to get decent accommodation.  The young couple then spend a large chunk of their money just on accommodation and this means they have little to save or spend on luxuries.  This has a knock on effect on the local economy.

Local employers not in the oil and gas sector struggle to recruit staff.  Schools are short of teachers and the council outsource work to other areas and to the private sector.

More on this can be found here:

Perhaps one way forward would be to encourage couples to self build affordable homes but so far Aberdeen City Council are quiet on this subject. 

Others areas of the country have encouraged self build projects and new house designs can be very cost effective:

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

PWC website: People power: an interview with Nick C Jones on Citizens’ Juries

What is the background to the Citizens’ Juries?

 It all started with our response to the consultation on the Spending Review when the Coalition Government first came into office in 2010. It was clear that it had some pretty tough decisions to make about where and how to make the spending cuts. We felt the public really needed to be heard in this process, particularly in terms of what criteria government should be using when making its choices. We felt that given our expertise on the public finances we were in a good position to make this happen. However, these are complex questions often with no right or wrong answer. So we partnered up with Britain Thinks to develop a Citizens’ Jury where people could really deliberate on the issues and get some meaningful responses. Since then, we’ve used this method in other research areas such as good growth, health outcomes and, most recently, the issue of risk and failure in public services.

Why did you choose to do this type of activity?

There are two characteristics of Citizens’ Juries which made them a really appealing method for us. Firstly, they offer the chance for informed deliberation. Although the things we debate are in the news all the time, the information isn’t always presented in a way that makes it easy for the public to really understand. In particular, we spend a lot of time helping people to understand the nature and complexity of an issue, such as the scale of the national debt and its implications. One of the things that really differentiates a Citizens’ Jury from some of the other methods that we’ve used in this context is the use of experts. We brought in a number of experts on public spending and fiscal issues who presented issues from different points of view. Just like in a court of law, it was then up to the Jurors to consider the evidence and come up with their own opinion. Secondly, a Citizens’ Jury offers a chance to explore trade-offs. For instance, you can’t ask the public questions about spending cuts and expect to get simple ‘yes, no’ answers. This is an incredibly complex issue, which involves trade-offs and which needs careful consideration. 


Have the Juries had any influence on policy makers?

The Juries and their results have definitely gained a lot of visibility in the centre of government. For the Jury on the Spending Review, the MP Danny Alexander came to hear the views of the Jury directly. This was before the Spending Review was announced so there was real scope for the public to have their views heard. We also held a follow-up Jury one year on, and the Jury again briefed the minister directly on their views. What we’ve found is that it’s most powerful if politicians and policy makers come along to the Jury’s discussions so that they can really hear what the public say in their own words.


Sunday, 12 April 2015

People's panel pitches in to advise Melbourne City Council where it should spend $5 billion

"It was a bold experiment in democracy: asking 43 citizens to help shape the Melbourne City Council’s $5 billion, 10-year financial plan. How did it go? Michael Green reports.

When Shuwen Ling received the letter from the City of Melbourne, she thought it was spam. Or maybe it was a fine? "It was on good quality paper," she says. "But when I read it carefully, I thought: 'This is pretty cool'."
Ling is nearly 20 years-old and it's three years since she left her hometown, a few hours from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She studies finance and civil engineering at the University of Melbourne and lives in an apartment near the Vic Market.
“If I hear one more person say Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city, I’m going to scream.”
Bruce Shaw
She was one of 6500 people who received the letter, 600 who responded, and finally, 43 who were randomly selected to reflect the city's demographics. Their task? To make recommendations on the council's budget for its first ever 10-year financial plan – spending that is worth, in total,  up to $5 billion.
Citizens' juries, such as this one, are being used increasingly often around the world. They're another kind of representative democracy, one that steers policy making away from the entrenched positions of political parties, lobbyists and squeaky wheels, and towards the considered voices of ordinary, well-informed citizens.

In Melbourne, the "People's Panel" was coordinated by the newDemocracy Foundation, a not-for-profit research organisation that says it's aiming to move our democracy out of "the continuous campaign cycle".