Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards of Canada

The enigmatic Boards of Canada make a welcome return with their first album since 2005. This collection of unique, atmospheric and brooding electronica is up there with the best of their work, Music Has The Right To Children (1998) and Geogaddi (2002).

BoardsHarvest2Many of the textures and stylings are recognizable from their earlier albums, but the overall feel is darker and more ominous here. The sounds of the seventies remain, with echoes of the likes of Tangerine Dream in places, but the rhythms are more from the nineties. Every track has something of substance to offer, although these ears found the clunking snare drum all the way through the track “Jacquard Causeway” a bit heavy going.

Tomorrow’s Harvest evokes a wide range of moods in the listener. Even though this album continues to explore the musical universe they created for themselves some years ago, it draws the listener in and is far from predictable. Mostly, it feels fresh and inspired – in a slightly disturbing way. Towards the end, “Come To Dust” sounds an anthemic note of something close to optimism, immediately followed by the simple sadness and deep bass of “Semena Merlvykh”. A great end to a great album.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

23Things Cambridge professor Hu-Joon Chang’s international bestseller is an accessible, balanced, warm and entertaining analysis of the myths of modern capitalism. Many books on the subject of what has gone wrong have been published since the crash of 2008, but “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” goes right to the very heart of the problems in plain language. It shows how the world really works.

Early on, the author makes it clear that this is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. “Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same thing as being against capitalism.” With countless examples from people’s everyday lives, aswell as the world of business and politics, different forms of capitalism are explored. Particular issues with the USA and UK model from the last thirty years feature prominently. To a certain extent, the chapter headings speak for themselves. “Thing 1 – There is no such thing as a free market” (government is always involved in setting rules and regulations to some degree), “Thing 2 – Companies should not be run in the interests of their owners” (running companies for the often short-term interests of shareholders risks destroying the entire system in the long-term), and so on.

Ha-JoonChangFor many, some of the observations in “23 Things…” may seem like common sense, but Chang can still be quite shocking as he slices right through widely accepted political and economic orthodoxies. In the conclusion he suggests ways to rebuild the world economy – build systems that acknowledge the limits of human rationality, ban complex financial products that don’t benefit society in the long run, build a system that brings out the best in people, take “making things” more seriously, “unfairly” favour developing countries – who have suffered badly as a result of free-market policies.

This is a great book that cuts through a lot of economic and political waffle like a knife.

MPs – please stop Sanctuary Housing

If you have had serious problems with Sanctuary Housing or Sanctuary Group, please join the independent facebook group Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group – Countrywide, which has over 800 members (December 2016). It offers support and advice from others who have suffered at the hands of Sanctuary Housing – the incompetence, the frequent breaking of tenancy agreements, the threats, the lies and all the rest of it.

Sanctuary GroupThe uselessness, lies, rudeness, threats, bullying and generally corrupt behaviour of Sanctuary Housing Group (includes Sanctuary Housing Association, Sanctuary Care, Sanctuary Management Services and others) over the last few years are extensively documented in a large number of personal accounts from people across England and Scotland on my previous blog Are Sanctuary Housing above the law? Sanctuary’s unprofessional and excessively corporate behaviour continues to affect many – tenants (including the vulnerable and elderly), relatives, students, property-owning neighbours, their own front line employees, and others. Common complaints are poor maintenance and a lack of repairs to badly neglected homes, “which are now becoming the new slums” as one observant Sanctuary employee put it. (“In local authorities, qualified staff are on hand all the time to give their professional advice, Clerk of Works and their teams. These were lost when the housing stock was taken over by Housing Associations, and their short term financial gain without costing out the total overall running costs of their acquired housing stock. Which are now becoming the new slums.” March 2011) Some examples in the press over the last few months:-

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Newquay-residents-plea-home-repairs-Sanctuary

http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/mp-highlights-complaints-over-social-housing

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2318800/Royal-Victoria-Hospital-Annexe-Bungling-decorators-left-red-faced-shocking-paint-job.html

In contrast to their neglect of older homes and tenants, Sanctuary is heavily involved in the increasingly controversial Affordable Homes Programme (affordable for whom?), having received £90 million from the government in 2012.

Sanctuary Group is a very big organization, now with 94,000 homes across England and Scotland, and of course some people have positive experiences of them. Also, I know from my own experience that working in areas such as supported housing and care can be difficult. But there is obviously a real and very serious problem with the culture of this organization and the attitudes of some of its staff. Many people’s serious complaints are often ignored and Sanctuary’s behaviour often appears to be completely immoral or worse.

DavidBennett2013

David Bennett, Sanctuary Group Chief Executive

Many people’s lives are being damaged by a registered charity that regularly makes over £20 million profit, that pays its Chief Executive over £280,000, and that pays no tax. It looks like Sanctuary has got too big and too greedy to function properly.

Last week, I read that the group of MPs that monitors the work of the Homes and Communities Agency has launched an inquiry into the regulation of social housing in England. The inquiry will examine the work of the regulation committee since it replaced the previous social housing regulator, the Tenant Services Authority, in April 2012. Unfortunately, as usual, this looks likely to be concerned with financial regulation only. The actual quality of services provided by a large and impersonal housing association such as Sanctuary rarely seems to be questioned or confronted.

Sanctuary Housing

As a result of complaints from constituents, many MPs are now aware of the widespread incompetence and dishonesty of Sanctuary Housing Group. Sanctuary often seem to be more concerned with building their empire through property speculation, rather than looking after tenants, their properties, and their communities. These MPs and others need to fully investigate Sanctuary (and if needs be, other large housing associations too) and declare them unfit for purpose. Current regulation is totally inadequate. This is a scandal.

The MPs pictured here, along with many others, have all either directly experienced problems with Sanctuary through the complaints of constituents, or else are well aware of the general issues with large profit-driven housing associations.

Is there an existing All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) or other Parliamentary Committee that can take this on?

MPs – Robert Goodwill and Ben Bradshaw in particular – PLEASE TAKE ACTION!

Robert Goodwill MP

Robert Goodwill MP

Tim Loughton MP

Tim Loughton MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Ben Bradshaw MP

Ben Bradshaw MP

Stephen Gilbert MP

Stephen Gilbert MP

Greg Hands MP

Greg Hands MP

John McDonnell MP

John McDonnell MP

Housing Minister Mark Prisk MP

Housing Minister Mark Prisk MP