Monday, February 28, 2005

Extend House Arrest?

If the Government truly believes that house arrest will prevent terrorist atrocities by locking up individuals who are yet to be convicted of any crime, should it consider extending the criteria for house arrest at some indeterminate future period to proven criminals with previous form who are quite likely to reoffend?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

BBC fleeced for £60k by bird.

A London woman took the BBC for £60k in what amounts to first of many scams when she was paid for a small bird like structure sitting on top of a pole so that it looks even smaller. Well done Tracey and let's hope it's fireproof unlike your tent!!

PS I am happy to be commissioned for future sculptures as I have also loved Liverpool since my first visit. Just like Tracey, I don't love it enough to live there though but could do a sculpture for £10k.

Minimum Wage Increase

The BBC is happy to trumpet the minimum wage increase to £5.05 an hour from October 2005 as it will benefit more than 1m people (It must be election year!!). However, it will hurt a "hidden" number of people for whom the increased minimum wage will mean that for many employers, it will be better in the long term for those jobs either to be shipped abroad or to substitute machinery for labour.

If the minimum wage really does not affect the numbers of people employed or inflation rates, then why not just make it £100 per hour!?!

Council Tax Reform

Many people seem "rightly" concerned about the current Council Tax system in the UK and that it is worthy of wholsale reform. Currently, it is based on the value of the property that is occupied rather than the owner's income and therefore ability to pay. These are going to be revalued after the election and seem likely to increase.

The overiding problem is how council services should be funded. Should they be funded by the user, the local population or the overall taxpaying population? The Liberal Democrats and Isitfair take the view that a local income tax should be adopted as a fairer way to raise local council tax. That might seem reasonable but then this too becomes unfair, those earning higher incomes already pay taxes at higher rates and automatically disqualify themselves from any means tested benefits. If individuals are not earning a substantial income themselves, it then becomes very easy for them to demand more council services as only other people have to pay for them. What will ever prevent this from escalating? Individuals paying high local council taxes will always be outvoted by the people they are subsidising. The only surefire way would be to restrict local council elections to those paying the local income tax possibly on a weighted basis.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Education, education, education

Two very disturbing reports were published this week that highlight the same problem within the UK. The first report lamented the declining quality of candidates that employers discover when casting their nets looking for new employees. Secondly, the much vaunted rise in educational standards that Labour has been so proud to boast of in recent years may not be so great afterall.

This is going to have serious consequences for the future of the British economy in the future as the UK will never be able to compete as a low cost producer but only excel as a knowledge based economy. More importantly however, the only way to move individuals up social classes and genuinely away from poverty is through good quality education that improves their economic chances in life. Benefits are not the solution, hard work is. By preventing this economic mobility through a lack of quality education, Labour is condemning another generation to years of poverty.

Ironically, by condemning the masses to a poor education, Labour is actually assisting those parents who can afford to educate their children privately.Their children's life chances will improve massively as they will be competing for future jobs within a smaller pool of talent.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Enforcement of the Hunting Ban

The Hunting Ban has come into effect today so one would assume (rightly or wrongly) that foxes could feel a little safer today. However, on the basis that Police enforcement of the hunting ban is a "low priority" and that on a typical journey to work, you continue to see many car drivers using mobiles (a year after such usage was banned), reading maps or even, shock, horror, eating an apple then I suggest foxes remain cautious.

More incredibly, the ban seems to have so many loopholes, for example, hounds can still be exercised and a fox trail still be set that hunts look like they are sure to survive despite the protestors initial successes. Another classic fudge where neither side wins yet neither side loses.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The "McLibel 2"

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the British Government to pay £57,000 to two campaigners who were "denied the right to a fair trial" and "freedom of speech" when they libelled McDonalds in Britain's longest running in court trial. As to the rights or wrongs of this particular case, I'm not really concerned. However, it strikes me that as a result of this case, anyone can now libel anyone else with impunity. If the person or company you libel has a deep enough pocket to buy itself a strong defence team, then the libellor (Is there even such a word?) can now be supported by the even deeper pockets of the British Government!!

At least in the past you had to be reasonablly sure of your facts, even this is now no longer required!! The only true victors in this court case will be the lawyers!!

All power to the blogs

It seems that bloggers are becoming a force to be reckoned with according to "The Times"

Sunday, February 13, 2005

"Things can only get better"

Whatever happened to the 1997 Labour anthem "Things can only get better" by D:ream? Did things get better? I'm not too sure but I do wonder what campaign songs will be chosen this time by the main parties? "Suspicious minds" for Labour? "Another one bites the Dust" for the Conservatives?

Public sector retirement age increasing to 65

For once, the Labour government is trying to do the right thing!! It wants to raise the reitrement age for council workers to 65, the same as most private sector pension schemes. Naturally, the large public sector unions are up in arms (An indication that this is a sensible move) due to it's unfairness. The vast majority of private sector taxpayers who guarantee such pension schemes should go on strike if these reforms do not go ahead. The Labour government raided private pensions a couple of years ago when they removed the Dividend credit, it seems only fair therefore that public sector workers should share some of the burden of the pensions crisis too!!

Incredibly, I wish John Prescott the best of luck with his bold reform!!

Attacker fought off with crockery

Good to see a little old lady defending her property when someone tried to mug her as reported on the BBC. However, I am fearful that if the assailant is caught -highly unlikely of course-, he will then be able to accuse the old lady of grievous bodily harm (she bit him!!) and the Police will then have to prosecute the old dear in this topsy turvy world!!

Should Lottery Fund target disadvantaged groups?

It appears that the Lottery Fund is going wet behind the ears and only supporting "Disadvantaged Groups" according to The Times. The only disadvantaged group of people in the UK these days are the Middle classes. They tend to pay far more tax than most others yet manage to disqualify themselves from obtaining any benefits as they "Earn too much" and can therefore pay for the service themselves. As they tend to be better educated and healthier, they are not a net drain on the public purse at any time in their lives. It would therefore be refreshing if once in a while, they would qualify for a grant for one of their pet activities, whether it is a Scount hut or not.

As to never having funded the RNLI, it can be one of the few truly worthy causes that the Lottery Fund could support as they really do save lives. Presumably the Lottery Fund takes the view that if people need to be rescued from a sinking pleasure craft, they are middle class and should fund their own rescue services.

MPs retirement age

Why are MPs allowed to keep working way beyond the retirement age for all other individuals? Apparently it's because their allowances and salaries are so good. If they expect everyone else to retire at 65, and 60 for most civil servants. Then they should also be expected to retire at 65 if not 60. Ironically , if this rule had been in place in the past, Winston Churchill would never have had his "Finest Hour" as he was over 65 when he became Prime Minister in 1940.

Labour's election pledges

Labour has announced it pledges -not promises. They do look like vote winners too!!

"Your family better off". How many families will be better off? What about council tax increases, higher house prices mean that mortgages are still at high levels, even if rates are low. More people off benefits and into work normally sounds good as though they may be able to reduce tax rates, but it normally only means that the money saved on benefits is wasted eleswhere within the public sector.

"Your family treated better and faster". How? Will this apply in England only? Who will pay for the faster treatments and why can't it be done already. Labour has had eight years to sort out the inherited mess.

"Your child achieving more". Will the curriculum be dumbed down again? Are exams to be made even easier? Strong discpline? Is discipline currently weak? Whose fault is that?

"Your country's borders protected". Who from? The internal terrorist threat? External terrorist threat? Are we safer as a nation now than we were prior to the Iraq war? Will the EU allow us to protect our borders?

"Your community safer" Cracking down on yobs and then giving them community service orders. Sounds like a tough regime!!

"Your children with the best start" Great news for young families, pity about the rest.

What has happened to any pledges on pensions. Most families typically become better off over time anyway as they earn more money and hppefully wage rates rise faster than inflation and other costs.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

English National Anthem

Just been enjoying the Six Nations Rugby. At the start of each game, the national anthems are played for the two teams. Wales and Scotland have their own national anthems, why can't the English? We are stuck with "God save the Queen" which is surely the British national anthem. By rights then, the Welsh and Scots should request this anthem too. I guess it would get a little boring hearing the same tune played twice, but there we are!!

I suggest "Land of Hope and Glory".

Friday, February 11, 2005

Is National Insurance a tax?

Gordon Brown recently stated that National Insurance contirbutions are not a tax. Anything that is taken by the government, is not voluntary, rates can be changed and is taken as a percentage of your salary is a tax to me.

Charles & Camilla's forthcoming marriage

Good news for Charles and Camilla, they are getting married!! I have heard some pretty vitriolic comments on their forthcoming wedding but at the end of the day. If this makes them happy, and it certainly doesn't impact me, then they should do it. Hope it works out well for them. Adopting the title "Duchess of Cornwall" and "Princess Consort" in the future when she becomes Queen seems like a masterstroke.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Phone tap evidence

The new Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, is in favour of allowing phone tap evidence to be admissible in courts and, contrary to expectations, the head of "Liberty" is also in favour!! This does seem reasonable in the face of the supposed "terrorist threat". Why then is Charles "Lock them up without a trial" Clarke against the idea? Is it because the suspects will already be banned from using phones so therefore there will be no phone to tap.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

EU rejects £600m compensation to UK farmers

It's good to see that the EU is finally clamping down on fraud!! It has rejected UK requests for £600m of compensation to farmers in the UK who suffered following the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 saying that some claims may be overinflated or even spurious.

Unfortunately, this now means that the UK taxpayer will have to pick up the tab for these overinflated and spurious claims. If the EU aren't prepared to pay them, why should the UK government? Is the EU trying to recover the UK rebate covertly since the British Government always says "Non"? Finally, if the EU is not prepared to pay "dodgy" claims, should the UK continue to fund an organisation whose accounts have been qualified for the last nine years?