UK
Housing
The recent credit crunch in the UK has been also seen a drop in the consumer confidence. The Government's mismanagement of the economy, and the media's Schadenfreude in the depression they helped to develop.
We have experienced this directly in our attempts to sell our house. The house selling process in England and Wales is archaic at best, and criminal at worst. The paranoia created by the media led too our buyers, who had to that point been pushing us to exchange contracts, suddenly to pull out citing fear of the economy.
The system in England allows someone to make a verbal contract, with an offer and acceptance (normally all you need for a commercial contract), but then to escape from it without any financial or moral repercussions - and the law allows this. So we had to complete surveys and mortgage evaluations, all of which cost us financially for our new property.
So the newspapers talked the market down, causing a slump not only in the housing market, but also the whole housing an property market. We have now found that buyers have been frightened off, with no new buyers looking. Buyers who are selling, are stuck, and people who have sold are waiting for the prices to fall further, because the media is telling us that this will happen. Other buyers are feeding off the misery of people who are being forced to move, by offering ridiculously low prices and further feeding the media frenzy for prices slumping.
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Government incompetence
OK, so I am stating the obvious! I know. Gordon Brown's Government is incompetent in almost everything it does.

The Sub-Prime credit crisis, the loss of personal data, the sleaze, etc., have all been badly managed by the Labour Government. It has been said that Brown's economic successes were the delayed result of the previous Conservative Government policies, and that we are now in the process of reaping Brown's incompetent fiscal management policies of 1997.

It is true that we have never had it so good - many millions of people sitting on huge nest eggs provided by the astronomical inflation in the house prices. The downside, of course, is that their children and grandchildren struggle to get onto the ladder. This is exacerbated by the increase in Buy-to-Let that takes up many of the properties that first-time buyers look to buy. The high divorce rates also take up much of that lower end market, as couples buy two smaller properties when they split.

The first-time buyers don't help themselves though. Many have little to no savings, and many live at home so that they can continue a luxury life instead of joining with friends to buy a property together, and get their feet on the property ladder. The Buy-to-Let market has grown disproportionately because of Brown's taxing of pension schemes - buying a property substitutes the pensions many people feel they have lost.

The greed of the institutions throughout 1990 to 2005 has led to the sub-prime crash. Salespeople in the banks and financial institutions have been pushing credit onto people with little or no security, and little ability to repay. Thankfully we are not at the 15% mortgage rates we saw at the end of the 1980's, were repayments are a struggle in themselves.
The average adult now owes £33,000 through mortgages, credit cards and personal loans compared with £17,000 in 2000, the international accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers claimed in November 2007 in the Daily Telegraph.

The data fiasco overseen by the Government is another disgrace. The loss of 25 million personal records by the Inland Revenue when they created an insecure data disk to send via the public postal system to the Child Support Agency has been blamed on a junior employee at IRCE. OK it can happen, but the pinball that ensued when the blame was being placed was disgraceful. One loss is bad, but a few months later, disks containing 6,000 learner driver details from Northern Ireland were lost at a data management company in the USA - supposedly under the Safe Harbour policy. A month later more Northern Irish names were lost on an MoD laptop.

This is all bad enough - but what do Brown and his cronies do - ignore it all. If they ignore it, they probably think it will all go away. If these were private companies there would be lawsuits, huge fines and prison sentences as deterrents for other companies. The Government, of course, make the rules, and therefore feel that they can break them at will. It is up to the public to demonstrate that this is not acceptable.

If I, or you were to buy the 'lost' data from the Inland Revenue, or DVLA, we would be charged with handling stolen goods, and breaching the Data Protection Act. The IRCE, however, bought data illegally harvested from a private bank in the tax haven of Liechtenstein, with a view to using it to prosecute about 100 UK tax evaders. Another case of double standards and illegal behaviour - after all, two wrongs do not make a right!

Following the lead of the Government, the banks, whose greed has led to the Sub-Prime crash, are now recipients of £50 billion in Government bonds to protect them from bad debts. My business is also at threat from bad debts, and for a lot less than the price of an average house! The bank's greed has been underwritten by a corrupt Government, and those bankers who live a blessed life in financial terms are now increasing their profits by keeping their rates constant despite the decreases in the central Bank of England lending rate. So who pays for their blunder - us of course, again!

If you get one of those credit card offers through the post, or the bank try to flog you additional insurance for a loan or such like, I would advise that you charge the bank for the rejection. Charge them the standard £10 - £25 for writing a letter rejecting their money grabbing attempts, and suggest that they operate ethical businesses so that they do not have to adopt such aggressive sales techniques. You can also cite the Sub-Prime fiasco as something of their own making cause by just these sorts of practices!
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South Downs National Park
The South Downs National Park covers one of the most beautiful areas in South East England, stretching from Hampshire to the East Sussex coast, along the historic ridge of the South Downs. The debate has been raging for years now, and the most recent development has excluded the Western Weald that includes a Greensand ridge north of Midhurst. The area they are excluding contains a large number of areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), that will be lost to the greed of developers if excluded from the park. The old boundary proposal is available at the DEFRA website.
Most of the area that is proposed to lie outside the park is in the Chichester District Council area, and this council has been very vocal in its opposition to the park - they will, of course lose much of their power of the area. For the north of the district, however, the people have long felt second-class citizens and a dumping ground of problems for the council, and the though of having a national park between the councillors and the towns and villages in the north is worrying the inhabitants.
Once a national park has been set up, it appears that AONB status will be removed from surrounding areas - because of the additional protection the park offers nearby. But I would argue that the Downs are nothing without the Weald, and it is the differentiation of the landscapes that make the Downs so beautiful. The views from the Downs escarpment, north over the Weald are spectacular, and much of this will be endangered when the park is established. I feel that it is vital that we keep at least some of the Weald, especially where it has already been designated an AONB, to provide this contrast, and maintain the important ecosystem of highland/lowland margins. We cannot have an island of highland Downs, surrounded by the millions of houses the Government wants to build in the South East.
The Government has now reopened the inquiry on the South Downs National Park, to revisit the issue of the Western Weald. I would implore you to sign up on the petition to get the area included in the park again - the website for the petition is:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/western-weald
An action group has been set up and their website is available at
www.southdownscampaign.org.uk
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