Anyway, I won’t be blogging while I’m away but soemone will be keeping an eye on things so behave yourselves!
See you next week.
Technorati Tags: Holiday
Anyway, I won’t be blogging while I’m away but soemone will be keeping an eye on things so behave yourselves!
See you next week.
Technorati Tags: Holiday
The governer of the Bank of England has said that we might be entering into recession which is don’t panic the plebs code for “shit, how am I going to keep up the payments on my yacht”. Of course we’re in a recession, we’ve known for months that it was starting and that things were only going to get worse.
All of which means we need to tighten our belts and when I say “we” I’m including the state. We can’t afford to throw billions at banks but Alistair Darling has done it anyway. But it might not end there – El Gordo told the world that they’d look at letting banks that have had taxpayers money paying dividends after 12 months after investors told him what a crap investment a bank that can’t pay dividends for a couple of years is. But then Federal Europe poked its nose in and said that the banks can’t pay a dividend for 5 years otherwise they’ll class the money the banks have had as state aid and then the British government will get fined and the banks will have to pay the money back as a penalty for having been given the money before Federal Europe decided to move the goalposts.
But it’s not just bailing out banks by the Treasury that has got to stop – local authorities spend billions collectively and they need to do their bit to save cash as well. There was a story in the Shropshire Star last night, next to the story about Daisy the cow going missing (don’t worry, she was later found in farmer Jones’ field), was a piece on Telford & Wrekin council’s accountants warning the council that they’re facing a funding gap fo a couple of big projects.
Telford & Wrekin have committed to part funding a rail freight terminal to the tune of £3.6m. They intend to fund this by selling council-owned property. It’s a lot of money but they can comfortably dispose of £3.6m worth of property, even though the property market has fallen on its arse. But they’re also ploughing ahead with a massive “regeneration” programme from the Borough Towns Initiative which requires an investment from the council of £21.4m to be funded almost entirely from selling property and topped up with a load for about one and a half million.
You can see where this going can’t you? Shame the council doesn’t seem to be able to.
There are several large house building projects under way in Telford and they’ve all scaled back building to almost nothing. The council owns lots of land and property that’s ripe for housing or commercial development but the housing market has dried up and companies aren’t splashing out on new buildings because nobody has got any money. To raise that kind of money through property and land disposal is going to mean selling a damn sight more than they would have done as little as three months ago and in doing so they will have sold assets at a cut down price that will, in all likelihood, return to their previous value in a year or two.
I’m all for regeneration and god knows some parts of Telford desperately need it. I expect the promised regeneration of the estate I live on is all hanging on this Borough Towns Initiative money but we simply can’t afford it. The previous Labour administration pioneered the scorched earth policy they seem to have adopted nationally increasing spending, cutting council tax and spending a third of the council’s cash reserves once they realised they were going to lose the next election. There is very little money in the kitty, the economy is on its knees, the cost of borrowing is high and committing the council taxpayers of a borough with a mere 160,000 residents to £25m of spending on the day the governer of the Bank of England admits we’ve entered into recession is bordering on criminally irresponsible.
Sony has issued a worldwide recall of its new game, LittleBigPlanet, in case it offends muslims.
They were warned by a beta tester that one of the backing tracks, written by a Somali muslim, contains two phrases that are in the Koran and might be considered offensive by fundamentalist muslim nutjobs.
Sony release a game last year with a scene where you could shoot people up in Manchester cathedral but they didn’t withdraw the game after they got complaints. Yet here they are, without even getting a complaint, withdrawing a game because it’s got some words out of the Koran in it.
Apparently putting bits of the Koran to music is offensive because they’re words of god. But Jesus was supposed to have been one of Allah’s prophets so his words were the words of god as well so why is it that muslims don’t start jumping up and down when they puts Jesus’ words to music? Or any part of the Old Testament which is one of the holy books of Islam? Why? Because it’s not offensive, it’s just an excuse to have a fucking whinge and take the piss.
Manzoor Moghal, of the Muslim Forum think-tank, explained that words from the Koran should not be set to music because the words are seen to have come directly from God.
He added: “We must compliment Sony for taking decisive action by withdrawing these games immediately, and releasing a version that is not offensive to Muslims.”
Yeah, well why don’t you just fuck off and live in a cave somewhere if you’re that bothered about being offended by the infidels? If you don’t want to listen to the soundtrack of the game, don’t buy it. If you hear it and it offends you then go somewhere where you won’t hear it. Or alternatively, get a fucking life.
Someone remind me why we constantly pussyfoot around these people instead of depriving them of oxygen.
The British government is photographing every house from the air with infrared cameras and then knocking on doors and telling residents how much heat is escaping from their homes.
The figures will, of course, be stored in the obligatory database that will no doubt be linked to the council tax database at some point to tax people on their energy efficiency, or lack thereof. It will, I imagine, eventually be linked into the new energy efficiency certificate database and the home information pack database and the electoral register database.
I can’t find any information about this online. I’m particularly interested to know if this is happening outside of England because the environment is a devolved policy and the responsibility of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments in their own countries. And, of course, I’m also keen to know who is doing the photography so I can tell them I don’t want my house photographed or anyone to visit me.
I’m reading Taking Liberties again at the moment (well, not right at this moment, obviously) because it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself every now and again of the extent to which this bunch of twats in Westminster are destroying our rights and liberties.
So it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to learn that the British government intends to pass a law forcing everyone who buys a mobile phone to provide formal identification which will be logged in the new communications database to tie up all your phone and email records.
Come the revolution, there’s not going to be enough hemp to go around.
Well, what a bumper day this has been for letters.
First of all there’s this one in the Shropshire Star, in response to the council announcing that they’re going to put in average speed cameras on one of the safest roads, relatively speaking, in the borough:
Average speed trap not fair for motorists
Councillor Bentley wants average speed cameras for the A442 in Telford because they’re “fairer for motorists”? Fairer than what? There’s aren’t any speed cameras on the A442 in Telford and these new ones aren’t designed to be fair, they’re designed to catch more motorists than traditional speed cameras.
Will these speed cameras catch drivers that crawl down the outside lane at 40mph causing tailbacks and preventing other drivers from safely moving between lanes? Will it catch the drivers who undertake on cross-hatches?
Will it catch drivers who veer across from the outside lane at the last minute to exit the road? Will it catch drink drivers, erratic drivers, people weaving between lanes and cutting people up?
Like most drivers I sometimes break the speed limit and like most drivers I manage to do it without mowing down pedestrians or driving into other cars. The fact is, Telford & Wrekin Council changed the layout and speed limit of the A442 and made it more dangerous.
The number of accidents is down but the number of casualties is up which means that since they “improved” the road, the average accident is more serious and involves more people. Yet despite the best efforts of Telford & Wrekin Council, the A442 is still one of the safest roads of its type in the country.
Rather than install speed cameras at great expense to Telford taxpayers, the council should accept the fact that they made the A442 more dangerous by changing the lanes and reducing the speed limit and put it back to how it was a couple of years ago, complete with the 70mph speed limit.
Then there was this deliberately provocative letter in the Scotsman, in response to all the whinging letters about “Scottish banks being given to the English”:
If RBS and HBOS are Scottish banks and your average man on the street in Edinburgh is furious at losing “oor banks” to the English, can I respectfully suggest Scotland bails its own banks out?
It seems that when Scottish banks fail, the English end up paying to bail them out. It started with Darien and now the lion’s share of the £37 billion has gone to two Scottish banks.
We pay for your free prescriptions, your cancer treatments, and your free school meals and we pay to care for your elderly when they can’t look after themselves – all the things we supposedly can’t afford for ourselves. And what do we get in return? Anti-English bile and insulting, spurious claims that the Scottish oil industry, which English taxes paid for, even comes close to plugging the funding gap north of the Border.
If you want Scottish banks to remain Scottish then bail them out yourselves. If you don’t like the idea of relying on English money all the time, don’t take it. It’s not rocket science.
Finally, there’s this cheeky one in the First Post in response to some muppet who thinks the deputy editor of Prospect Magazine will be responsible for the Scots leaving the union because he upset them with an article about RBS:
Either Dave Bowen (above) has been on a really long holiday without access to news for the last decade or so or there is another country called Scotland that I was hitherto unaware of.
He says that if Scotland leaves the union then it will be because of “opinionated bigots” like Jonathan Ford. I wasn’t aware that Mr Ford had had such a long and illustrious career writing magazine articles dating back to 1934 when the seperatist Scottish National Party was launched.
I think that perhaps a generic dislike of the English and never buying into the whole “British” thing might have more to do with the Scots’ desire to leave the union. That and the belief that a few thousand barrels of oil will make Scotland the richest country this side of Saudi Arabia despite the gaping budget deficit the English plug every year.
And I did have a litle chuckle to myself when Mr Bowen said he wasn’t aware that being Scottish meant that you were automatically unsuitable for running anything more important than a chippy. If Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and the chief execs of HBOS and RBS are anything to go by then a chippy is probably asking a bit too much of them!
They should get a few people worked up.
… could someone not only consider suing god but actually manage to get a judge to hear the case.
Senator Ernie Chambers of Nebraska brought a law suit against god to get a permanent injunction to prevent “death, destruction and terrorisation” caused by him.
He says he has done it to expose the ridiculous legal system in America that lets you sue anyone for anything and may appeal against the judge’s decision to thrown out the case because god has no address so papers can’t be served on him. Senator Chambers says that the judge has acknowledged the existence of god which means they accept that he’s omnipotent and therefore knows about the law suit.
And this is supposed to be the most powerful country in the world?
Mrs Sane and the offspring have been members of the leisure centre at the Holiday Inn in Telford for years, despite the considerable expense of being a member of a hotel leisure centre but maybe not for much longer.
As regular readers will know, we have very good Dutch friends who are godparents to out youngest child. They naturally take an interest in how they’re getting on and were keen to know how they were getting on with their swimming so Mrs Sane took the camera to the swimming pool this afternoon and after making sure nobody but our children were in shot, she took a picture.
Perfectly reasonable, you would say. There are no signs saying that photography is banned and only our own children were in shot so there shouldn’t be a problem right? Wrong. The leisure centre manager came out and told Mrs Sane that she wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the kids because it was illegal.
Naturally she questioned it and pointed out that they are her own children and they know who her children are on account of them being members there for years and my wife having worked there a couple of years ago. But that, apparently, didn’t matter. According to two managers there it is illegal to take pictures of children swimming – including your own children – and if Mrs Sane took the pictures to Tesco to be processed they would phone the Police and they would shut the hotel down. She was unhappy, to say the least.
The duty manager was unable to tell me which law makes it illegal to take pictures of your own children. He said it was the protection act. The what protection act? Just the protection act, apparently. I asked him if he meant the Data Protection Act and he said yes. I told him that hadn’t been amended since the 80′s and he told me to phone the Swimming Teachers Association. So I did and they couldn’t tell me. So I phoned the Police as it was them that would apparently close the hotel down. The Police called me back and said that it wasn’t illegal, they certainly wouldn’t get involved in a complaint about someone taking pictures unless they were indecent and they had already phoned the manager of the hotel to tell him that.
Now, I can perfectly understand it being illegal to take pictures of someone elses child. It’s a civil matter, not a criminal one, so the Police wouldn’t get involved but I would certainly challenge anyone who took pictures of my children without my consent. However, this wasn’t the case and Mrs Sane offered to show the manager the pictures she took so he could see they were only pictures of her own children but he insisted that was illegal. It isn’t illegal, it’s just hotel policy and if the manager had said that then Mrs Sane would have accepted it – the hotel is, after all, private property and if they want to ban photography they have as much right to do that as I do in my own house. What they don’t have the right to do is misrepresent the law (a civil offence of fraudulent misrepresentation) and upset my wife.
Either the manager doesn’t know the law and shouldn’t be claiming that he does or he does know the law and wilfully misrepresented it. Either way, I think there is a training opportunity somewhere. Whether we go back to the hotel or not … well, we’ll have to sleep on that one – the hotel has our phone number, an apology is a good place to start.
Interestingly, this law/policy doesn’t seem to apply to the Holiday Inn website:
The Bank of England is loaning £100m to the UK arm of Landsbanki so that it can repay its UK customers.
Landisbanki was nationalised by the Icelandic government last week and its UK arm closed down leaving customers here unable to access their money.
The Icelandic foreign minister has responded to the economic problems there – national debt at 500% of GDP and their top 3 banks nationalised – by saying that their long term goal is now to join the EU and the Euro and get bailed out by the European Central Bank. No, that’s not a joke. He said:
In the short term, out defence is co-operation with the International Monetary Fund and in the long term EU membership, adoption of the euro and backup from the European Central Bank.
So what he is, in fact, saying is that the English taxpayer will be bailing out one of their now state-owned banks and then bailing out the entire country if it joins the EU and becomes a net recipient of EU funding. Not what I would call a good deal for the English taxpayer and if they do go down the route of joining the EU, not a good deal for Icelanders. Their economy is up shit creek now but if they join the EU their paddles will be confiscated and given to a French farmer to use as kindling to set fire to his fields. The Icelandic economy was, until recently, reliant on fishing, banking and services. Banking is a no-brainer from now on, services are looking a bit dubious but fishing will at least let them feed themselves. But not with an EU fishing quota though – they’ll end up throwing more back in the sea than they take home and that’s assuming the Spanish don’t get the quotas first like they did in our waters.
I wonder if the Icelanders have an equivalent phrase for “out of the frying pan and into the fire”.
The House of Lords has rejected 42 days internment for “terrorist” suspects by 309 votes to 118 – apparently the biggest defeat in the House of Lords in living memory.
If proof was needed of the importance of an independent upper house, unaffected by the whims and whips of party politics, this is surely it. Despite the hysterical wailings of Jacqui Smith, the power-mad fascist Home Secretary, the Lords’ vote not only reflected the will of the majority of the electorate but it was also the right thing to do.
Career politicians like Jacqui Smith will quite happily throw away centuries old civil liberties to appear to be doing something about the supposed threat from terrorism and to tighten the British government’s stranglehold over us. Thank god the unelected House of Lords once again showed our elected representatives how to do the right thing.
Quite often companies favour form over function – they design something to look good rather than work well. A bit like Cat Deeley – looks great but then she opens her mouth and she sounds like Ozzie Osbourne.
Our tumble drier broke on Friday which is a bit inconvenient because, with two adults and four kids in the house, it takes the whole weekend to do the weeks washing. So I nipped up to Curry’s yesterday and bought a new one.
I pushed the boat out and went for the second cheapest drier available (I don’t like spending money) which is made by a company I’ve never heard of called Beko and it’s great. The door isn’t round like they usually are on tumble driers and washing machines, nor is it a tiny porthole through which you have to surgically extract anything larger than a sock. The door takes up nearly half of the front of the machine and it’s a square hole (with rounded corners of course) so the clothes don’t get wedged at the bottom as you’re pulling them out.
All in all, it’s a very well designed tumble drier and at £149 it’s a bargain as well.
Technorati Tags: Tumble Driers
Lucky readers in the Peoples Republic of the West Midlands have the opportunity to see my ugly mug on the telly today.
It’s not Crimewatch, Britain’s Most Wanted Terrorist or a documentary on devastatingly handsome young bloggers (for obvious reasons).
I was interviewed the other day by the West Midlands edition of the BBC Politics Show on the Tory pledge to abolish the regional development agencies. I’ve only got a bit part but the main guest is Mick Laverty, the current unelected Chief Exec of Advantage West Midlands – the man who decides how they spend their £300m budget (yes, three hundred million – about £100 for every taxpayer in the West Midlands). I got interviewed because of the anti-regionalisation campaign I started a couple of years ago.
The programme is on at 12 noon today on BBC1 and it’s the usual BBC current affairs format – national programme with regional variences part way through.
Technorati Tags: TV
The second half of tonight’s game against Kazakhstan couldn’t have been more different from the first.
It took 7 minutes of the second half to score the first goal and they came thick and apart from a lucky goal by Kazakhstan, England dominated the second half.
But England still looked like they were going through the motions until Beckham came on and the team was transformed. Smiles on faces, a new-found confidence and they worked like a machine.
Beckham should have been on from the start, England would have made Kazakhstan look like Accrington Stanley.
Rooney was named man of the match and he deserved it, if only for shaving off his ginger hair!
What a bloody shambles. We should be 5-0 up by now at least but no – half way through the game and it’s still 0-0. Not only that but Kazakhstan look like they have about 30 men on the pitch.
There have been moments when England looked like a World Cup winning team but they’ve been few and far between. Very bloody far.
England have looked like amateurs for the whole first half. So amateur you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Scotland match.
For the last year or so El Gordo has been encouraging fuel prices to increase, rubbing his hands gleefully at the prospect of an extra few billion in bonus cash flowing into the slush fund.
But now the arse has fallen out of the economy and he’s spent a decade’s worth of slush fund on bailing out banks, he suddenly wants fuel prices down. The one-eyed wonder of wankistan decided to take five minutes off from rearranging deckchairs to feign concern for us peasants who are spending an increasing percentage of our income on electricity, gas and petrol. Hypocritical twat.
The price of oil is down to almost $80 a barrel but the price of petrol has only crept down ever so slowly and nowhere near in line with the drop in the price of oil. Of course, El Gordo wouldn’t think about dropping tax on fuel. Something like 80% of the price of petrol and diesel is tax but why would he care? He gets a chauffeur-driven limo paid for by the taxpayer. Thanks to Federal Europe we’re getting charged VAT on gas and electric but why would he care? He gets his gas and electric paid for by the taxpayer.
Reducing the cost of fuel will give the economy a bit of a kick but it won’t work by itself. Throwing taxpayers money at banks, paid for by increasing taxes, isn’t going to fix anything. What is needed is a wholesale cull of taxes and government. So much money is wasted shuffling round bits of paper and moving money from one place to another when what is needed is to get back to basics. Government has become like a cancer, multiplying at a terminal rate and spreading throughout society. Less government, less waste, less legislation, less tax. That’s a message that will stimulate the economy but until this bunch of faux-Marxists are dragged kicking and screaming out of Westminster, it’s never going to happen.
Come the revolution …
My eldest is starting secondary school school next year and we’ve been doing the school open day circuit.
Sunday was the Thomas Telford School, one of the best independent schools in the country. We won’t find out until March if he’s been selected to go there. Last night was the Lord Silkin School, the closest one to home and tonight was the Abraham Darby Academy. Monday it’ll be the Madeley Academy.
The Thomas Telford, as you would expect, had amazing facilities and the Sixth Formers that showed us round were really confident and genuinely seemed to love the place. The Ab Dab was great too – it’s got good facilities too and it’s a Haberdasher school so they’re really into good, traditional values.
About three quarters of an hour into the principal’s “20 minute” speech tonight my mind started wandering a bit and it occured to me that the Academy approach to failing schools is actually one half of a good idea. The only thing that’s missing from it is federation with a selective school.
The Abraham Darby is an academy which is partly funded by the local authority but mainly by the Haberdashers and is almost entirely free to run itself as it wishes. It’s federated with the Adams Grammar School, a fee charging selective school which is also a Haberdasher school. What it means is that the schools are run seperately but along the same lines, sharing management and facilities. For the Adams Grammar and the Abraham Darby, it means that the Abraham Darby sends their internationally-renowned music teachers to the Adams Grammar to train their teaching staff in music whilst the Adams Grammar send their languages teachers to the Abraham Darby to improve their language teaching.
The school we’re going to see on Monday is federated with the one we saw on Sunday. They went from being threatened with closure to the best performing non-selective school in the borough since being turned into an Academy and federated with the Thomas Telford.
I don’t know if these are exceptions to the rule but it’s clearly working here. If this success can be replicated throughout England then let’s start encouraging all schools to adopt the same approach!
Technorati Tags: Schools
Alistair McDarling has announced details of his master plan to save the banking sector. He’s going to loan them 50% of the GDP of the UK.
I kid you not. The taxpayer is stumping up £50bn now for the eight biggest banks and building societies and another £200bn is being given to the Bank of England for short term loans. That’s a quarter of a trillion pounds in cash now. Then a company is going to be set up – presumably along the lines of the DTI’s Small Firms Guarantee – to offer guarantees on £250bn of loans to banks and building societies.
Half a trillion pounds. In 2006, the purchasing power parity GDP of the UK was $1.93 trillion – just under a trillion pounds at todays prices. The Chancellor is loaning 50% of the Gross Domestic Product of the whole country to the banking sector.
Official national debt is £512bn. The Centre for Policy Studies says that if Northern Rock liabilities and state pension liabilities (they’re taking money to pay into the state pension, it should be reasonable to expect it to be paid out) are added to the official figure then it’s more like £1.3 trillion or 103.5% of GDP. Add this half a trillion on top and national debt is more like £1.8 trillion. Count the zeroes – 1,800,000,000,000. That’s 180% of GDP, 22% higher than Japan at the height of recession when banks were failing every few days and they were knocking zeroes off the Yen every couple of months.
What was it El Gordo said about not magicking money out of thin air?
But you know, when it comes to public spending you can’t just wave a magic wand to conjure up the money – not even with help from Harry Potter.
Quite. So where the fuck did you find half a trillion pounds to give to the banks, eh? Just to put a piggy bank-raiding session into perspective – half a trillion £1 coins weighs 2,090,000,000lbs. That’s a seriously big piggy bank.
Talking to a colleague about the money troubles this morning, I suggested that RBS might be the next big bank to fail in the UK.
Since then RBS shares have lost nearly 40% of their value and they’ve had to issue a statement denying that they’ve asked the Chancellor for a few billion to tide them over.
I worked at NatWest when RBS took them over and it came as a shock to a lot of people. RBS was a relatively small bank at the time but they were cash rich and the money was burning a hole in their pockets so they spent it. Quite a lot of it in fact and they threw in a boat load of shares to sweeten the deal as well. This was their first mistake – trying to absorb a banking group the size of NatWest was never going to be easy and NatWest was a traditional banking group, concentrating on banks and branches, whereas RBS was a more diverse group with distinct brands offering different services. Despite spending millions on rebranding for the last few years, the NatWest brand is still more recognisable and valuable outside of Scotland. Merging RBS into the NatWest brand would have made more sense and built a stronger brand but vanity prevented that from happening.
Their second mistake was over-extending themselves buying the Dutch bank, ABN Amro, with Santander and Fortis. They took on too much too soon after buying NatWest and divesting themselves of profitable non-core assets like Tesco Finance didn’t bring in enough cash so they had to spread themselves even more thinly and issue more shares.
RBS’ problem is that they’re a huge group with a weak brand. They’re quite heavily exposed to the US sub-prime problems – 20% of their turnover comes from the US. They’ve spent too much money and spread themselves too thinly and they’re losing the confidence of institutional investors. Standard & Poors have downgraded RBS’ credit rating which will make it harder and more expensive for them to obtain credit. I don’t know what odds Guido is offering on RBS surviving intact but they won’t be good enough to tempt me to have a flutter.