Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Spend More!

Today's Daily Telegraph reports that Charles Bean of the Bank of England is urging people to stop saving and to spend more.
I would like to assure him that my wife and I intend to comply with his request during the next couple of months. We  have looked at all the major household items which might need replacing during the course of the next year or so and are now busy looking at what's available with the intention of making the necessary purchases before the New Year and the impending VAT increase. We have already bought a new dishwasher (made in Germany) and have decided upon which TV we would like. Unfortunately, I can't see how these purchases will benefit the UK, as all the remaining items on our list appear to be manufactured in the Far East. Indeed the only benefit to the UK will be to those employed in road transport and the docks along with a major retailer who is never knowingly undersold.

No doubt we are not the only people doing this; it will enable the government in due course to boast that the economy did well in the last quarter of 2010, and of course they will have the ready excuse at the end of the following quarter that the downturn in the economy was due to the increase in VAT.

Of course, the Bank of England's request assumes that people have savings to spend, and begs the question of where do the banks and building societies get money to lend if no one is saving.

Oh silly me; I forgot that The Bank of England just prints some more!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

"Racist and Sexist" Union Dominated Labour Party?

Just imagine that the Conservative Party had held a leadership election in which there were four white male candidates and one female black candidate, and that the later candidate came bottom of the poll with a mere 7% of the overall vote and just 0.87% support from her fellow MPs.
Then imagine what all the Labour Party activists would be screaming about racism and sexism, about white male domination, about being unrepresentative of the country as a whole.

Stretch you imagination still further, and think about a Conservative Party, where in addition to MPs and Party Members getting a vote, representatives of the businesses in this country also got a vote. Now just go that little bit further still, and imagine what would be said if the eventual leader was elected, not by a majority of MPs and Party Members, who preferred another candidate, but by big business.

This is effectively what the Labour Party has just done, if you substitute the words "Trade Unions" for "Big Businesses"!

They have rejected the only female candidate, who happened to be black, and the choice of  the MPs and Party Members was over-ruled by the Trade Unions.

White male dominated, controlled by the Trade Unions, and totally unrepresentative of the country as a whole. 

The Tories now have some good ammunition,  let's hope they use it when necessary.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Vince Cable

When the LibDems were in opposition, Vince Cable used to be the face of Common Sense when addressing the financial situation.

Now we see that this was but a disguise.

Since becoming Business Secretary, whose main job, one would reasonably assume, is to promote and assist British businesses, he appears to have been doing much the opposite.
Having "Bashed the banks", which many would consider (wrongly in my view) to be fair game, he then went on to bash British businesses in general, and then yesterday turned his attention to property owners, proposing new taxes on property, as if Council Tax wasn't already excessive.

Having emerged from his previous disguise, we discover that he if nothing less than a socialist, and indeed quite a left leaning one at that. Perhaps, even yet, he has not revealed his true guise and we will one day discover that he is actually Gordon Brown, as there now seems very little difference between them.

It interesting to note that one of the LibDems biggest financial contributors has said that enough is enough. Paul Marshall, a hedge fund manager has said that Cable is behaving like "A minister who wants to make his mark" rather than "Doing what is important for the country".  (Today's Telegraph)
So a a senior member of the party when in opposition, he sees no objection to their being financed by someone who makes his money in the City, but now as Business Secretary, he finds the activities unacceptable. Will the Party be returning the donation and refusing any more in the future?

Cable might not like the idea of a coalition, but he has accepted a government post and should accept the principle of collective responsibility. If he doesn't want to do this, he should resign from the government, and as a back bencher would be free to express his own personal views. But as a minister, his actions are intolerable.

TV Licence

My TV licence is due for renewal, but this time it is different in that I will be 75 before next September, so I only need one for part of the year.
With the renewal form comes a leaflet, in which it mentions the subject in passing, but no-where does it tell you how to apply!
Reluctantly, I rang the number given for English speakers (there are several numbers offering a choice of language). After the usual "Press 1  for this and press 2 for that", (strange how the one you want is always last), and noting that the call would be recorded for "Training" purposes, I got through to an idiot a person.
Having asked him to speak a bit louder and clearer, he proceeded treat me as if I was stupid. For some reason he couldn't understand that I didn't have my old licence to hand (I wonder how many people can find it?) If he'd mentioned that the number was on the renewal form, it would have been more useful.
Then came the question "Do you know your date of Birth?". I explained, that after almost 75 years, I felt that I did know it, but of course it was only hearsay, as I was relying on what my mother had told me!
In due course he wanted my card number which I refused, pointing out that his organisation was one of those who were responsible for the closure of my local post office by no longer being prepared to pay them for doing the job, and that I would be paying by cheque as usual, which I hoped would cost them more to administer than they would have paid the post office! I await a revised renewal form, meanwhile my money is in my bank.

Grumpy? What me? - I felt quite happy after these exchanges. I resented the assumption that because I'm a bit deaf an couldn't understand his accent, I must be stupid.

Incidentally, I would urge anyone who no longer has a post office where they might have paid for their Licence to pay by cheque. This taking work away from the post offices by government departments, at the same time that they are being paid a subsidy to keep open, is typical of all governments' joined up thinking.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Health & Safety

I read in the Sunday Telegraph  that "the government plans to make an all out assault on the burdensome Health & Safety Laws".
I wish this would happen, but I suspect that it never will and that they will just tamper at the edges in view of the huge number of vested interests that there are in keeping them. As a start there are all the Lawyers who are making a comfortable living out of them, particularly by suing (or threatening to sue), and they are always very good at defending their own positions, particularly if their earnings are threatened. Then there are all the others employed in the Health & Safety Industry throughout the country. Most companies employ people to ensure that the company is safe, local councils and government employees employ lots of people, not only to protect the Council's interests, but also to stick their nose in other people's businesses. Just think of the unemployment that would result if people were actually allowed to use their common sense!
But then many councils and indeed other organisations don't use Health & Safety rules to protect people, they use them as an excuse for not doing something, or as a reason why you should not do something. Indeed, H & S combined with Data Protection are a perfect excuse for total inaction by local councils!

I feel that if someone believes that there is a health and safety risk, they should be made to quantify it. Nothing in this world is without risk, I take a risk every time I get out of bed (and probably a bigger one if I stay there).  The Head Teacher who banned a girl wearing a "Help for Heroes" wrist band on H & S grounds should be asked to explain exactly what the risks are, or risk being sued for infringement of the girl's human rights (yet another law designed to encourage inaction, particularly by police forces). Do any of the teachers or pupils wear wrist watches; surely these would be a far greater risk!
As for the two PSCOs who stood by and watched a boy drowned because they had not had the appropriate H & S training, I just can't imagine that they are fellow members of the human race. Even with my advancing years and total inability to swim, I'd have tried to do something. If it was too deep, I'd have looked for a flotation aid, possibly a fallen branch, or even my waterproof anorak which I'm told could hold air.
When it comes to this type of situation, and other "Good Samaritan" types of action, we need immunity from prosecution if someone acted reasonably, unlike at present when people are encouraged to do nothing for fear of being sued. Perhaps we need laws like in France where it is actually an offence to fail to do your best to assist someone in dire need of help.

I hope for the best from the proposed changes, but fear for the worst!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Child Protection

The farce a council threatening to take a 7 year old schoolgirl into care because her parents allow her to cross a village street and walk twenty yards to the school bus stop is typical of modern social services - attack the easy targets and ignore those like Baby P.

It brought to mind my my early school days when we lived in a village near Luton (now part of the expanded town). I was there from late 1940 until my family returned to London in 1945. From an age of five, I walked, by myself,  to school a distance of nearly a mile. I was given firm instructions that in the event of the air-raid siren sounding whilst I was coming or going, I must immediately knock on the door of the nearest house and ask to use their air raid shelter. I remember being in trouble one day (at school) because I ignored the instruction and continued to walk to school. Presumably it was the official policy.

I don't think any further comment is necessary ! ! !

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Public Spending Cuts

I am getting fed up with keep hearing about Government cuts and the Trade Unions telling us how we are all going to suffer.
I don't want cuts, I want savings! I hope that this is what the coalition also want, and if so, why don't they start to refer to them as such.
When we were hard pushed for money (when the children were young and my wife wasn't working), my wife didn't come home from shopping and tell me that she'd made a cut in her spending, she said that she'd made a saving by shopping around. The money from the saving allowed us to reduce our debts.
The government should adopt the same approach; I have absolutely no doubt that many departments could make considerable savings by better management of their budget and reducing unnecessary staff.  I also have doubts as to whether, with good management, it will actually be necessary cut all the things that the Trade Unions are claiming except staff,  and this will probably be achieved by natural wastage.
I am in no doubt that most departments are poorly managed and grossly over staffed. I worked in the Civil Service in the eighties, and at that time staff cuts were made by transferring my area of work to an "Independent Authority". A reduction of some 15,000 civil servants at the stroke of a pen, but of course it wasn't as there were now all the additional liaison and management posts, and we were still being paid by the government.

My daughter has had recent experience of staff reductions. Her small department had thirteen people and was reduced to six. I commented to her that she must be rushed of her feet, and she told me that she had less work than before. Apparently it seemed that the, now retired, boss had effectively been making unnecessary work. Regular written reports were demanded on virtually all aspects of the work in hand; meetings were held at great length invariably involving other departments. All this has stopped, when my daughter needs to talk to someone in another department, she simply phones them and only the two are involved; no meeting of maybe a dozen people, formal minutes and all the rest of the paraphernalia. As she says she gets the job done straight away and not several days later when all those apparently involved have managed to find time to talk about the matter for a couple of hours.

This, I believe is typical of public service as a whole, both central and local government and is largely due to poor management at the top anda n all-round tendency to involve as many people as possible to spread the blame if something goes wrong. No private company would tolerate such waste, and it is time such practices were stopped in government.

I repeat, I don't want cuts, I want savings! My daughter's experience has confirmed that this should be possible without any reduction of service.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

General Sir Richard Dannatt

I've just been reading skimming through what General Dannatt has to say in his memoirs, starting in today's Sunday Telegraph.
He categorises Brown a "A Malign Influence" and Blair as having "Lacked Moral Courage". Whilst I would probably agree with both of these statements, surely it is reasonable to ask about the General's own actions.
If he genuinely believes these statements, why on earth didn't he say more when he was in post, and not wait until now? He was Head of the Army, and it is the Army who is bearing the brunt of the present wars.  When ever I get involved in any discussion on Iraq or Afghanistan, even with people who are against the war, they all seem to be very well disposed towards the military. If he had spoken out very publicly, even if he did not have the support of the other Chiefs, he would, in my view, have had overwhelming support of the British public.

But he didn't speak.

Regrettably I have to say that I feel that Tony Blair was not the only one who "Lacked Moral Courage" in this saga.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Police Driving ! ! !

This report in today's Daily Telegraph say it all!

A driver was stopped for suspected drink-driving and arrested. The traffic officers concerned then apparently decided to go for a spin in the Mitsubishi sports car whist awaiting a recovery vehicle to take it to the pound and ended up by crashing and turning it over in a front garden. They have been suspended "from driving duties".

Traffic Officers are supposed to be the elite of the police drivers, trained to use high power cars at high speeds if necessary, yet it seems that these two couldn't even manage a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution on local roads. Perhaps, in fact, for all the hype, they are no better than the rest of us which is probably why they have been discouraged from getting involved in high-speed chases of late.

No one condones drunk driving, but it seems that we would probably have had one accident less if the driver had been allowed to go on his way.

And perhaps the Greater Manchester Police would like to explain why the officers have only been suspended "from driving duties", and not simply suspended from duty (without pay) as they were clearly not only breaking police rules (to use a recover vehicle), but probably acting illegally.

In view of the recent reports about complaints against police officers, I'd be interested to know if there have ever been any made against these two clowns, as surely there will be now.

Primary Schools short of 350,000 places!

Of course, the Labour Party is trying to blame the Coalition spending cuts for this state of affairs, which is much as might be expected. To me it illustrates the total incompetence of the previous government to plan ahead.
There are some things which take governments by surprise (floods, earthquakes, etc), but there is no way an additional 350,000 children can possibly fall within this category. All births have to be registered in this country, and unless these are 350,000 immigrants or asylum seekers who have arrived totally unexpectedly, the government and councils had almost five years to make the necessary provision.
So much for forward planning. If they can't plan for schools when the requirement is reasonably clearly known, no wonder the public services are in such a mess.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Customer Service - 2 - Carphone Warehouse

As I mentioned before, my trusty HP iPAQ personal organiser is getting a bit long in the tooth and needs to be retired. The advice that I have received is that the modern mobile phone can do all that it does and more, so I went into our local Carphone Warehouse to make a few enquiries.
There was an amazing array of phones at a wide range of prices, and after wandering around the shop browsing what was available, I went up to the counter to see the assistant who had been studiously ignoring me whilst doing something on a computer.
He said "I'll be with you in a few moments" whilst continuing to fiddle with the computer. Another assistant came out of the office, made a few adjustment to some of the display phones and disappeared in silence, carefully avoiding making eye contact.
After a few more minutes I walked out; If they can't be bothered to talk to a potential customer, what chance is there of getting help if one has problems?

Biased BBC

According to today's Daily Mail, BBC Director General Mark Thompson has admitted that the corporation was guilty of a 'massive' Left-wing bias in the past.

This is far from correct. The word "was" needs to be replaced by "still is" and "in the past" omitted!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Customer Service - 1 - Comet Style

I was talking to a friend of mine this morning. His ten month old TV, purchased from Comet, had started to "play-up". After ringing the Comet service phone a couple of times and hanging on for about ten minutes on each occasion listening to terrible music, he abandoned the effort and went into the Comet store where he had purchased the set. There were two females behind the Service Desk, one was on the phone and the other deliberately turned around as she saw him approaching and started dealing with some obviously very urgent important matter on a desk with her back turned towards him. After a while, the other female came off the phone and disappeared into the office. Somewhat put out by this attitude, my friend asked in a very loud voice whether it would be possible to see the manager, but was informed by the female, still with her back towards him, that he wasn't available (presumably he too was dealing with some other very important matter). However, in due course another female appeared who introduced herself as the supervisor. Avoiding the temptation of asking why she was not supervising, my friend explained the problem, and requested that she ring the service department on his behalf as he was unwilling to either spend any more on phone calls or continue to listen to the awful music.
Having countered "That's not possible", with "I'll bring in the TV and demand a refund under the sale of goods legislation", an appointment was eventually made for the Service Technician to come to and sort it out.

But why was all this hassle necessary? Do they really think that if they ignore problems that they will go away?