Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If I had any money, I know where I’d put it – in the mouth of Stephen Taylor Woodrow, who is surely the most annoying voice on TV!

The voice alone is annoying, but the combination of it and the puerile, hyperbole-filled script makes it almost unbearable. It’s reminiscent of the trailers for Saturday-morning cinema films and serials from my long ago youth.

As a final insult, the activities are dramatised to the point of absurdity, making the whole programme a farcical mess in the ‘reality’ genre rather than a factual one.

Grow up, BBC!

Identity Crisis

This is not a case of me being ‘unable to find myself’ or ‘not knowing who I really am’, it’s a case of many problems created by the lack of proof of identity costing everyone in the UK money that we can ill afford to spend.

I have a number of forms of identity, including my passport, photo driving licence, bank cards, etc. I also have an EHIC card, which I have had to use abroad to gain access to medical treatment.

I keep hearing that non-UK citizens use [abuse] our health service and don’t pay anything, partly because we don’t do enough identity checks and partly because we are lax in chasing up reimbursements from fellow EU countries.

Many years ago, I had private medical insurance and was once booked into a private hospital for a procedure. When I arrived at the hospital, the receptionist welcomed me and then immediately asked me how I was going to pay for the procedure. Some may think this harsh and ‘unfeeling’, but is it really any different than when I went to hospital in Spain and had to produce my EHIC card as proof of identity before I could be seen?

I am a signatory on a number of bank/building society accounts for various organisations of which I am a member. Whenever we want a change of signatory, or of ‘nominated account holder’, all the signatories have to sign documents and even on occasion go into the branch with proof of identity [again!]. If we have to go through that for a few hundred pounds, how do criminals manage to set up multiple accounts in multiple names to help manage their activities?

Of course, not everyone has a passport or EHIC card, so what do they do? I believe a utility bill is often used as proof of identity/residence; how pathetic!

Why don’t we have a photo identity card for all UK citizens? The main objections to having a ‘smart’ national identity card seem to be cost and privacy.

I don’t recall what the last estimate of the cost of such a scheme was, but am certain it is a cost worth paying. There would also be savings in other areas, since the smart identity card could replace other forms of identity, from driving licence to EHIC, and including benefits entitlement and possibly even bank cards. The scheme would probably require additional people to administer it. Good! We could train unemployed people and get them doing something productive and worthwhile.

As to privacy, I think every one of us already has a great deal of information recorded about us, and I don’t see how an identity card increases the likelihood of identity theft or of the ‘government’ snooping and finding out more about us. If you are an honest citizen, what difference does it make? If you are honest, you should have nothing to hide.

Personally, I’d be happy for the government to listen in to all my calls. Perhaps they would then do something about all those nuisance ‘cold calls’!

Shame on you Michael Parkinson!

I used to enjoy the work of Michael Parkinson as a journalist and TV chat-show host. I almost admired him for his down-to-earth approach. However, any admiration started to fade some years ago, when he started to appear in the ‘Axa Sun Life Over 50 Plan’ advertisements. I thought these had stopped, but saw the advert again recently, hence this post.

Parkinson is undoubtedly well off and I believe his wife earned well also, so why on earth did/does he need money from adverts for such unscrupulous schemes as the ‘Over 50’ insurance plans?

In general terms, this type of plan guarantees a modest amount of money when the insured person dies. The adverts play on the conscience of older people who don’t want to leave the ‘burden of funeral expenses’ on the shoulders of their family. What, to me, is not made plain enough is that, typically: a) the maximum level of pay-out is reached after two years (so the sum payable on death doesn’t increase after that, even if the insured person lives for years and years afterwards) and b) if the payment of premiums is stopped, then the policy is invalidated and nothing will get paid out. I reckon that the majority of people will get out of the plan far less than they paid into it and many will get nothing because they eventually cotton on and cease payment of the premiums. Even at today’s very low level of interest, they would be far better putting the money into a savings account, or even into a sock under the bed!

As they are openly advertised, such plans are obviously legal, but they are immoral as far as I’m concerned and if I was in power, I’d make them illegal. The fact that they are advertised by such trusted personalities as Michael Parkinson (who may no longer be in the public eye, but will be known to and probably respected by the target audience) just makes them even more immoral.

Overseas Aid/Julian Assinge

It really staggers me that, with all the shortfalls at home in the budgets of essential services, our politicians still insist on spending billions on overseas aid, including to countries who demonstrably don’t need it, others where it seems the money only lines the pockets of corrupt officials, and yet more where the beneficiary projects are so far removed from normal life that I sometimes wonder if they are factual or made up as a joke.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I now read that the Metropolitan Police say that it has cost an extra £10 million to “police” the Ecuadorian Embassy since Julian Assinge took up residence there. I see no reason whatsoever for us having to spend anything to protect Mr Assinge. As far as I know, he is Australian and has no connection with Ecuador. However, if the additional expense is deemed essential, given that both Ecuador and Mr Assinge’s home country are “overseas”, why don’t we take the £10 million (and any further necessary expenditure) out of the Overseas Aid budget, especially as I now read they are “struggling” to spend this year’s budget?

And Mark Carney agrees with me!

One of the many things that gets my goat about our ‘United  Kingdom’ is the Barnett Formula, whereby residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get considerably more public money spent on them per person that we do in England. I believe the current advantage to the Scots (versus English) is some £1,700 per person per annum. I think this is totally outrageous, especially since the measure was introduced as a short-term adjustment back in the 70s.

As if that wasn’t enough, the ludicrous bribes offered to the Scottish parliament and people around the time of the independence vote just make the disparity in ‘benefits’ even worse. It seems to me that, for a united country, there are a number of things which have to be common for all citizens of that country. I won’t list them all now, but certainly one of the key things that should be common nationwide is tax in all its forms. I just can’t see how it can be considered fair for tax to differ in different parts of the country.

It seems that I am not alone in this thinking, as the Governor of the Bank of England seemed to agree with me when he said recently (albeit about the EU): “Sharing a currency without also sharing decisions on spending does not work”.

If it won’t work for the EU, why on earth would it work for the UK?