Archive for the ‘Government’ Tag

Above Average Income? Have Some More!

News that £7.3bn has been over paid in tax credits comes as no surprise. A system that takes money from people with one hand then immediately hands it back with the other is totally barking. The system is inefficient and costly to administer, who ever dreamed up the idea should be sacked.

What makes situation even worse and costly is the level at which the credits are made. The minimum wage, which is around £11,950 a year, is presumably set at a level that the government considers sufficient to live in the UK. The national average wage is more than double this figure and therefore well above the level necessary to live in the UK. Working Tax Credits are paid to families with children at levels well above the national average wage. Why?

Why are we giving benefits to families who are earning more than double the minimum wage? Its madness. It instils an attitude that the state will always provide, what has happened to looking after one’s own family? We seem to have come to a situation where family life is being subsidised by all those tax payers who don’t have or want children, or who work hard only to see half of their salary taken in tax and national insurance. Its time the whole system was reformed, make it simple and only give benefits to those who really do need them.

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Money But No Strings Please

Catching up with the news of the Government’s increased stake in Lloyds TSB, I was astounded to read that the bank’s bosses were concerned at the planned level of political involvement in the bank’s activities. As a first step they have been instructed to help the country by providing £28 billion of extra mortgage and business lending over the next two years. It would seem to be a quite reasonable request in view of the level of commitment the Government has made to the bank.

The banks bosses apparently expressed the view that only they know how to run the bank and the politicians and Treasury should keep their noses out. What a bunch of plonkers. Err, who decided to buy a bankrupted bank in the first place. If they had done their due diligence properly in the first place, they would not have been bounced into a deal that has dragged them down such a long way.

At the time it was probably more about their egos than objective business decisions. Flattered at the approach from the PM they lost focus and basked in the limelight. Having now realised the mess they are in, they want the Government’s cash but not Government involvement. It would seem they still have not learnt their lesson.

Energy Nirvana Proves A Messy Option

I can remember the supporters of nuclear energy touting the idea that this new technology would provide us will cheap, pollution free energy for ever. The visitors centre at Doonray in northern Scotland proudly boasted that nuclear fission was safe and economic. It was the way of the future and we invested in new generating plants around the country. The doom and gloom merchants were derided as Luddites. How different it is now.

Nuclear energy has been at the dirty end of the market for years. New power stations are rare although there is a developing view that we may have no alternative as renewable sources of energy seen unable to much impact on our needs. Nuclear power stations cost billions to decommission and sit as potential hazards for thousands of years. We have taken a natural material and converted it into a deadly substance. One that could see towns and cities closed for years due to the contamination from a dirty bomb.

It not surprising that the Irish Government want to see Sellafield closed. There is no doubt it has polluted the Irish Sea and parts of the English, Scottish and Irish mainland for years. It is a legacy from the past that would be best closed down. Unfortunately for the Irish and those who live in the shadow of the site commercial interests are proving more important than the environment and human life. Its another example of how we continually get the balance wrong and bow down to Mammon instead of ourselves.

Sorry Would Be A Start

In 2003 Ruth Lea, the then Head of Policy at the Institute of Directors roundly defended way senior executives are being giver ever greater rewards when the companies they managed were seeing profits fall. The case she presented in support of the obscene payments being made was quite simple. ‘You cannot blame the directors for the down turn in the world markets and as the falling profits are not their fault why should they suffer’.

Six years later and the tide has turned, particularly for the finance industry. Having seen their investments drop like a stone and interest rates fall to almost zero the public’s outrage at the bankers bonuses is not surprising. Also back in 2003 Patricia Hewitt talked about changing the law is such a way that board rooms would be rid of the mutual back slapping and wallet filling. Well nothing has happened in the intervening years, probably because the chances of legislating on bonuses is nil.

MPs are very good at jumping on the wave of public opinion but useless at doing anything that would make a real and lasting change for the better. They are even worst at admitting their involvement in the causes of our current problems and would never dream of apologising. Gordon Brown is typical of the don’t blame me culture that has well and truly invaded the board rooms.

No Where To Go

The centre of our local town is being modernised, the bulldozers have demolished the raised beds and ripped up the paving slabs. In the corner of the market square were some public toilets which were closed many years ago as they were not accessible for disabled people. This meant the able bodied and disabled have to walk more than 500 yards to the nearest loos not quite the thing you want to do when you need to go. I’m all for non-discrimination but helping the minority should not involve disadvantaging the majority. From all I can gather the refurbishment of the square will not see the reintroduction of the loos.

The Victorians were into toilets in a big way; they understood the needs of the public and provided hundreds of facilities in towns and cities across the country. However, since the 1960s local authorities have closed public conveniences at an increasing rate. The problem has become so great that the Communities and Local Government Committee issued a detailed report in October 2008 recommending a whole range of actions for the Government and Local Authorities to ensure the situation improved. Unfortunately many of the more important recommendations have been rejected. It seems the need to pee has not been recognised by the Government.

Fortunately one recommendation that has received Government support is that ‘No local authority should use the Disability Discrimination Act as an excuse to close down public toilets for general use’. Let’s hope our Local Authority heeds the Governments recommendation and reopens the facilities, I’m not sure I can hold on much longer.

Boiling Frogs and Lost Freedoms

In response to the Committee on Un-American activities, the actor Gregory Peck said:

‘There is more than one way to loose your liberty, it can be torn out of your hands by a tyrant, but it can also slip away day by day while your too busy to notice, or too confused, or too scared’.

As has been pointed out by many pundits, it’s happening here today. Slowly but surely we are seeing our civil rights eroded and many of our freedoms being turned into criminal acts. It started with Tony Blair and the introduction of the all encompassing laws aimed at fighting terrorism that also served to give the police powers more usually found in dictatorships and countries run by military juntas. Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties), called Tony Blair a champion frog boiler for the way he had slowly changed the law to restrict our freedoms without anyone jumping up and objecting.

At the 2005 Labour Party conference 82 year-old Walter Wolfgang was ejected from the hall after shouting “nonsense” at Foreign Secretary Jack Straw . He was later prevented from re-entering the conference by the police under the powers of the Terrorism Act. Many examples of the misuse of the act can be seen here ‘Innocence is no protection against the government’s laws’. Dame Stella Rimington, former head of MI5 recently accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism by bring in laws that restrict civil liberties.

On 28 Feb 2009 The Convention on Modern Liberty was held at various locations around the country. Unfortunately, the proceedings have received very little coverage in the media. Until something major grabs the public’s attention the frog boiling will continue and we will all find our freedoms curtailed to a degree that may even prevent us regaining what we have lost.

Fair Pay

Perhaps the Government should start by setting an example to the ex-boss of RBS by giving up some of their financial rewards having presided over, and contributed to, the county’s current woes and a national debt that equates to over £33,000 for every person in the country.

Lets start with those over generous pensions. It only takes 25 years at 6% contributions to get a pension of half pay. If you contribute at 10% its only 20 years to half pay. It must be one of the best pension deals around.

And how about those poorly regulated expenses claims. No receipt is required for items under £250 and the range of items which can be claimed is extensive. The average expenses claim is more than twice a MP’s salary and the total for the whole of Parliment is almost £100,000,000.

Asking the bank bosses to give up some of their cash seems rather two-faced in view of how MPs have taken to the money grabbing culture. Just look at the official guidance below to see what’s on offer to MPs. You might just think it worth having a go at the next general election.

The Green Book [Guidance to Members on Fees and Allowances produced by the House of Commons’ Department of Finance and Administration]