Monday, 25 November 2013

Might be the Worlds greatest something but 'Newspaper' is arguable

The Daily Express, never shy about blowing its own trumpet, has a blazing headline claiming that over 150000 have signed an anti immigration petition. Oh Wow !  Its own figures claim a readership of approx 1.2million on sales of 537,743 so it's not such a big number on the petition given the mindset of Express readers. And when you further consider that there are about 42million people over 19yrs old who describe themselves in the census as 'white British' the number becomes insignificant. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tory lies

Whenever there is an audience George Osborne sounds off about clamping down on unreasonable tax avoidance having brought in the General Anti Abuse Rule (GAAR) earlier this year. But it is not true. 'Private Eye No 1349 ' [20th September to 3rd October] devotes four pages to reporting on an investigation jointly with Panorama shows that the UK has now become one of the largest 'tax havens' in the world. What is even worse is that the HMRC has a mountain of evidence on tax evasion – which is illegal – only one very wealthy offshore tax dodger has been prosecuted. But more than 600 builders, plumbers, doctors etc have been nailed for cooking their books and of course all the Tory focus and that of its supportive press is on benefit cheats. No one condones benefit cheats but even handed & cost effective enforcement – no way. And before anyone questions the veracity of Private Eye remember how many times it has been sued. Nowadays it is very very careful. Finally it seems that the Government is trying to pretend it can't afford a scabby 1% pay rise for NHS workers. Perhaps if it tried a bit harder not to lie about taxing the rich such a rise could be more than afforded.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

It's putting policies into practice where the Government really screws up

Conservative Party Chairman , Grant Shapps MP, has barely been able to contain his rage at a UN inspector who criticised the so called 'bedroom tax'. She obviously touched a nerve. Without getting into the argument over the merits of the ' tax' David Cameron told his party conference in 2011 that 'We're bringing back the right to buy and using the money to build new homes'. Fine if it were actually happening – but it's not. The right to buy scheme was re-invogorated in April 2012 by bigger discounts to tenants since when some 8000 homes have been sold but only about 1000 new ones built. Rent is included in the capped Universal Credit. So where are people expected to downsize to? Into a totally unregulated private rental sector? It should come as no surprise that the National Audit Office describes the policy as being over ambitious & badly managed. Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, bangs on about building homes at a faster rate than for many years. Not actually difficult when next to none were built in recent previous years.. He makes less noise about having to call Britains biggest house builders to a meeting [FT 7th Sept] to try & accelerate affordable housing construction. There is nothing wrong with a POLICY of merging six benefits into one but so many of the coalition policies have been wrecked by breathtakingly crass & incompetent implementation. Keeping housing out of it – at least for the time being – and merging six benefits into two would have been good progress & saved a load of grief.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I'll tolerate most abuse but I do get very angry at being taken for an idiot

UK Dividend payments have risen by one fifth. Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies saw their median earnings rise by 31% to £3.5million in 2013. This is on top of one in four of them getting a 41% increase in 2012. Archbishop John Sentamu notes that “ The holes in millions of pay checks [for ordinary workers] are being plugged by in work support to the tune of £4bn a year” [of taxpayers money]. He quite rightly asks why is government having to subsidise businesses who don't pay their employees enough to live on. Meanwhile the EU haters & the Daily Express are getting all excited that the EU requirement to give equal rights to temporary employees is costing British business ' up to [notice the qualification] £1.5bn'. That sum is rather trivial I relation to the other figures quoted here. We are being treated as idiots by being asked to believe that this 'imposition' from the EU is harming our businesses? Some might say that if were NOT for the EU, Chief Executives & the Tory Party would be even more gleefully grinding the faces of us ordinary mortals into the dust.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Public pressure on corporate tax can work.

The good news is that public opinion is making several multinational companies adjust their tax avoidance plans. We should also note that Section 172 of the UK Companies Act 2006 requires directors to act in good faith in what is normally understood to be the business imperatives but also to have regard to : " the impact of the company's operations on the community" and " the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct".  So within existing law there is scope for HMRC to get a lot tougher with its approach  & the Government could resource HMRC to allow it to do that whilst the much more long winded & difficult task of getting international agreement grinds on.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

It's not the EU we should be banging on about. It's flogging the country to foreigners

On 13th April 2012 the Daily Mail published an article [extracted from Britain For Sale: British Companies In Foreign Hands by Alex Brummer, published by Random House Business Books ]. It pointed out that we’ve lost our taste for ownership of our own economy and public services — from once-great manufacturers such as ICI to most of the companies that deliver our electricity, water and gas. The Government is even happy to consider letting a Russian firm, the one behind the Chernobyl accident, run some of Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations. In fact, to date, we’ve sold off more than half our assets to foreign owners. Boots, Cadbury, our steel industry and much much more. In the face of political indifference, foreign companies acquired £30billion worth of British enterprises in 2009. In 2010, that rose to a value of £54.5 bn. Less than half of our Premier & Championship football clubs are British owned. 52% of all office properties in London's main financial district and 60% of all new homes in central London are owned by foreigners. There have been disastrous consequences for UK employment & skill base. No other country is quite so stupid. India has bought UK enterprises such as Jaguar Rover but it won’t allow British firms to take full control of Indian companies. Most other countries, including the USA have restrictions on who may own key assests. YET ALL UKIP & THE TORY RIGHT CAN DO IS BANG ON ABOUT THE EU. Do we still have any brain cells?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Too much hype & little substance

What justifies the extravagant hype all over the media about UKIP causing a 'Sea change' in British politics and all the rest of the exposure of Nigel Farage on TV and Conservative panic? So UKIP have a bigger share of the popular vote but under our crazy electoral system that is nothing new. It is 'seats' that matter. Plenty of Tory & Labour Governments have been elected on a minority popular vote. So let's look at some facts:
  • 9836 candidates competed for 2360 seats on 35 English Councils on 2nd May 2013
  • Liberal Democrats fielded 1756 candidates; UKIP fielded 1734
  • Liberal Democrats won 371 seats; UKIP 147
  • Liberal Democrats are represented on every Council except Staffordshire; UKIP have no representation on 12 of the 35 Councils
  • More than half (80 in fact) of UKIP's seats are in just six councils: Cambridgeshire 12; Lincolnshire 16; Norfolk 15; Hampshire 10; West Sussex 10; Kent 17. Note that these Councils are in just two geographic clusters in the South.
  • In Cambridgeshire (14) and Hampshire (17) Liberal Democrats have more seats than UKIP
So there is very little to justify the fuss. Just a protest group in localised pockets with no responsibility.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

UKIP and Tory MEPs are such patriots

This is all very complicated but let's not worry the fine details. The issue is very simple. The UK government has imposed (all by itself – no input from the EU) a new carbon floor price, which came into effect on 1st April 2013. Firms will be charged £16 per tonne of CO2 for fuels used for power generation this year. Europe's emissions trading system (ETS) is the largest in the world and can claim to be driving down CO2 emissions from power stations by 1.74% each year. The European Commission wanted to make adjustments to the ETS. This was expected only to raise the carbon price to the €8-10/tonne figure that existed last September. Note that even with this increase the price is MUCH LOWER than the UK and this puts British firms at a financial disadvantage. Nowadays this sort of thing has to go to the European Parliament. It should be a no brainer that UK MEPs would vote FOR the proposal thus helping UK firms to be more competitive. What happened? The no- brainers in UKIP and the Tories helped DEFEAT the proposal thus harming British industry, and, in the case of the Tories, going against the policies of their own Government. The ETS Carbon price promptly fell to €2. Well done UKIP & Tories – such patriotic action deserves obliteration at the polls.

Real economics

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has been leading the development of the Government's industrial strategy which is aimed at placing the whole of government behind support for British business giving it the confidence to invest, hire staff & grow. Speaking recently Vince said that there are worryingly high disparities between economic performance and employment prospects in different parts of the UK. Even after the major crisis and contraction in London's banking sector, the south-east maintains a more buoyant economy than most other parts of the country. He said: "Sustainable private sector growth is not going to occur spontaneously but will need support through infrastructure and training.I do not believe in managed decline for regions that are underperforming”. He said rebalancing was not just about switching to exports and manufacturing, but was geographical as well insisting that English regions need a strong voice to attract investment and employment, suggesting a parallel at some level with the devolutions driving growth in London, Scotland and Wales.The success of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) and the LibDem Manufacturing initiative are real economics. Not the fantasy land inhabited by UKIP.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Conservatives are claiming credit in some of their local council literature for the rise in Tax thresholds which is putting some £600 into the pockets of the lowest earners. Labour  has suddenly developed an enthusiasm for the mansion tax. Both are Liberal Democrat ideas or policies but we don't mind. We are used to it. The important thing is to get it right. What would be good is if the Conservative part of the coalition thought a bit harder before rushing off to do , usually, the wrong thing. Think of the so called 'bedroom tax' & the nonsense of how can you move when there is nowhere to move to?  Note also that Communities Secretary, Conservative Eric Pickles, has had to modify his policy on home extensions. In far too many cases the implementation of the policy has not been thought through and it is duff implementation that is causing most of the grief

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Epitaph for Thatcher

Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope”. So said Thatcher as she stood on the steps of No10 Downing St for the first time. If she really meant that as her political goal then she was either uttering a monumental lie or her reign was a monumental failure. That most particularly applies to the 'bring harmony' bit. The enormous disharmony that she created we can still see all around us this very day. To many millions she didn't bring much hope either.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tories in Trouble

An Ipsos Mori analysis for the Financial Times of a years worth of opinion polling reveals that female support for the Conservatives in the C2 socio economic group [ skilled manual workers such as hairdressers, factory workers etc] has slumped by 12% to its lowest level for 16yrs. Even worse news for the Tories is that in all other groups, except the very top such as lawyers, doctors etc., their female support has also fallen between 7% & 4%.  Can this be because it is largely women who confront the shake up in the benefits system against disproportionately large rises in the costs of essentials? An objective scrutiny of the welfare structure as it was in 2010 clearly indicates that something had to be done but the Conservative ministers responsible - especially Duncan-Smith & Osborne have completely bungled it. There are blameless claimants losing money they cannot afford whilst (for no better reason than vote grabbing) rich pensioners remain coddled & the wealthy get a tax cut they don't need.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Thatcher the destroyer

Paddy Ashdown, in an interview about Margaret Thatcher, says she was a better destroyer than builder and wasn't that true. At the beginning of 1981 unemployment reached nearly 3m peaking at 3.2m a few years later. Manufacturing capacity fell by a fifth. At the same time the top rate of income tax was cut to 60% and then 40%. OK so a major shakeup was necessary. I was in the thick of the industrial mess at that time with incompetent management on one side & unions being obstructive for the sake of it on the other ( apart from the Unions a bit like now really – so it makes Ashdowns point about destruction but not building). Her great error, one might almost say crime, was to reduce taxes rather than invest in training for those thrown out of work. It was still, in those days, hard to find a decent domestic plumber, electrician etc & it wouldn't have taken much to retrain a shipyard plumber etc to do domestic work. But no it was the scrap heap. For that she should never be forgiven and to spend any taxpayer money on her funeral is a disgrace.

Friday, 5 April 2013

George Osborne is a disgrace to politics

How low can George Osborne sink? Yesterday on the BBC he said: "Philpott is responsible for these absolutely horrendous crimes [the death of 6 children]and these are crimes that have shocked the nation; the courts are responsible for sentencing him. But I think there is a question for government and for society about the welfare state - and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state - subsidising lifestyles like that, and I think that debate needs to be had.". One man, Philpott, who was NOT living exclusively on benefits held up as an example of the alleged general evils of the benefit culture ! Osborne is a disgrace to politics. There is no doubt that the welfare budget needed attention and the policy of a single benefit rather than several has much merit. LibDems do not have a problem with that principle but the way it has been done is a complete shambles. Just take housing benefit. It is absurd to assume that people struggling financially to put food on the table will ring fence the rent money that will now be paid to them rather than to landlords. Reducing several payments down to two instead of one doesn't destroy the policy. It simply demonstrates that Iain Duncan Smith is possessed of a brain cell.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

All in it together? What a lie.

Must read book by ex-tax inspector Richard Brooks 'The great Tax Robbery' [272 pages Oneworld] is subtitled: ' How Britain became a tax haven for fat cats and big business'. Just a few gems. Osborne has allowed chunks of his corporate tax policy to be written by companies with the help of the same accountants who design avoidance schemes. Under the previous Labour regime penalties levied by HMRC on very large companies for transgressions had fallen to 0.01% of their 'error' – around 200times less than the fines imposed on small companies. Also, since a Private Finance Deal in 2001, HMRC's offices have been owned by a company in Bermuda. HMRC cannot therefore scrutinise the finances of its 'landlord'. Lots more. Read the book.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Defending Politics

I have just been reading a book called 'Defending Politics' by Prof. [of Parliamentary Government & Governance] Matthew Flinders of the University of Sheffield. His contention is that democratic politics delivers far more than most of us recognise and that “If more & more people are disappointed with what modern democratic politics delivers then it is possible that the fault lies with those who demand too much, fail to acknowledge the essence of democratic engagement, and ignore the complexities of governing in the 21st Century” and “Would politics be interpreted as failing a little less if we all spent a little less time emphasizing our individual rights and a little more time reflecting on our responsibilities to society and future generations?” These statements are taken from a summary on the dust cover but the book argues the case very readably and even handedly and I personally agree very much with him. You do not have to spend long on Facebook/Twitter to see how the 'debate' on pretty much anything is reduced in pretty short order to hysterical rants in which vicious character assassination is the prime thrust.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Some key Questions about energy security

Why are we British so allergic to having key energy utilities owned by [and making profits for]  the British Taxpayer when we are quite content to let the French Sate Owned EDF operate here? Is domestic energy security not as important as building dinosaur weapon systems like Trident replacement?  The defence industry gets about £40bn annually from the Treasury. Rail gets about £4bn [silly me I thought the point of privatisation was to get rid of taxpayer subsidy] and DECC gets £4bn of which more than half goes to dealing with old nuclear plants. Are our priorities right? Answers on a postcard.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A 'bog standard' £400k

The Observer 10th March 2013 interviewed eleven City of London finance workers to seek views on the EU plan to restrict payouts. What was weird was the fantasy land in which these people live - except it's not a fantasy, it is the reality. One man in his 30's said “If you are a bog standard trader you make maybe £400k of which £150k is base pay”. He went on to point out that the cap would reduce his total remuneration by £50k & that would not encourage him to move abroad. One other in his mid 40's queried whether, if his pay was drastically cut by this cap, he would want to go on getting up at 5a.m & not finishing work until 8p.m. Can someone tell us in what other job can a 'bog standard' 30yr old make £400k per annum? Anyone on average earnings has to work for 15yrs to make £400k. And as for working from 5am to 8pm a hell of a lot of cleaners, hotel workers & others do that for less than a total of £25k per annum because they need two jobs on mimimum wage to make ends meet. It is not the politics of envy to suggest that this delusion in the financial world about what a proper entitlement for effort is worth must be fixed.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Democracy in trouble?

From Australia: Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at Government House. One is from Cabramatta, another is from Marrickville, and the third is from Lane Cove. All three go with an official to examine the fence.  The Cabramatta contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900, $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."The Marrickville contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700. That's $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me". The Lane Cove contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the government official and whispers, "$2,700."
The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?"
The Lane Cove contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000
for you, and we hire the guy from Marrickville to fix the fence." "Done!" Replies the government official.

I do, in fact, find it a bit worrying that this sort of story has moved from being very amusing cynicism to pretty much mainstream expectation. Democracy in developed countries seems to me to be in deep trouble. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Computer says Nooo

I paid out some £3300 on my Halifax Credit Card, this showed up on my monthly statement. Two days later my card had a rebate of £2400. It seemed sensible to contact Halifax to see if my statement could be re-issued to reflect the real balance of £900. I'm told 'Our system doesn't allow us to do this'. Welcome to the nightmare world where humans are totally superfluous – the COMPUTER rules alone. Of course it's not quite that simple. Instead of being able to just pay off £900 & incur no interest I'm now obliged to either pay the £3300 and then next month I'll be shown a big credit which I can only eliminate by using the card all the time thereby making more money for Halifax from their levy on transactions or I pay off less than the full amount & incur Halifax card interest charge. Either way Halifax makes more money from their computer 'system'. I hesitated about this post because there is bound to be someone who comments about how lucky I am to have these options. That I don't deny but it is not the point. The point is that everywhere you turn computer driven business practices have the hidden agenda of 'rip off the customer'.Already this year I've had this experience with two insurance companies and an energy supplier where a rigid computer system, which cannot respond to their error, not mine, has caused me unnecessary expense to the benefit of the company concerned.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hooray for the EU - no wonder the tory 'Right Wing' wants out.

The European Parliament has agreed proposals that would prevent banks paying bonuses that are more than their fixed salary, unless shareholders holding two thirds of the bank's shares attend a meeting and agree to override that. Tuesday will see a needle negotiation between the Parliament and EU government representatives. It’s behind closed doors, but right now the UK is trying to get other governments to side with it to block the bonus ban. Go to: