WTF is “Anti-Austerity”?

The Greek and Scottish governments, and the SNP, are amongst the most vocal proponents of “Anti-Austerity”. (I assume that’s how it’s written, although it may of course be “Auntie Austerity”, in which case I apologise for misunderstanding and withdraw the following remarks.)

Apart from being somewhat alliterative and thus easy for mindless mobs to chant, what does it actually mean?

Amongst the many synonyms for austerity are: seriousness, severity, soberness, self-denial and economy. The most prominent antonyms are levity (lightness, flippancy, jokiness, etc.) and plenty.

I don’t think austerity can be defined adequately in a single word. What I think it means in our current financial situation is “living within our means and paying off our debts”. I think Charles Dickens had it spot on with the ethos espoused by Mr Micawber, which I would paraphrase as “Spend less than you earn and you’ll be happy; spend more than you earn and you’re heading for disaster”. What a pity the previous Labour government, and the Brown/Balls combo in particular, didn’t adopt this philosophy.

I don’t see how any sensible, moral [with a small ‘m’] person can advocate anything but the current “long term economic plan” [to use a much-maligned phrase!], so let’s keep on with austerity until we are in a position to make Mr Micawber happy!

So that’s austerity; what about anti-austerity?

In one sense, I’m sure we are all anti-austerity, and would like to work less, earn more and generally imrove our lives, but we have to earn that position, not expect “them” to get us there.

But what do the Greek and Scottish governments, and the SNP, mean by anti-austerity? They never seem to quite get round to telling us that; surely it’s not just a populist sound-bite; surely it’s not just a headline-grabbing, meaningless phrase; surely there are concrete plans behind it? 

Going back to definitions, the antonyms to austerity are surely the best ones for “anti-austerity”. In that case, perhaps the proponents have just been joking with us (levity, flippancy, etc.) or perhaps they have loads of money (plenty) stashed under their mattresses?

I think it’s time they all came clean and told us exactly what they mean!


Care Home versus Home Care? Ask British Gas!

I think we are all sure what a “Care Home” is, aren’t we?

I think it’s a home where people (usually older, frailer ones) are cared for, and is run by a charity or a commercial organisation.

So what is “Home Care”?

I must admit I’d never really thought about it before, but a recent event made me do so. So, my answer to my question is it’s something (or someone) involved in taking care of your home. Seems pretty reasonable to me; what do you think?

Well, it turns out I’m completely wrong, at least according to British Gas!

We are in the process of selling our house (it’s sold “Subject to Contract”). Our contract with British Gas to service and repair our Boiler and Central Heating expires shortly and I’ve received a renewal notice.

As we hope to be moving out soon, I checked with British Gas whether I could renew and then transfer the contract to the new owners of our house (intending to ask them if they would pay part of the contract pro rata).

“Not possible”, say British Gas.

Now, I thought the contract was all about the boiler and central heating (which, by the way, we are NOT taking with us when we move), but it appears it isn’t; it’s about us!

Apparently I can renew the contract and then transfer it to our new home when we move in (assuming of course it has gas central heating). I didn’t bother to ask what would happen if we didn’t have gas central heating, afraid the answer would be even more nonsensical.

So now you know: a British Gas Service Contract for a Boiler and Central Heating is not about the equipment, as you might have thought, it’s about the people!

My wife and I are both getting a bit frail, so I might contact British Gas again to check on how we stand for getting the contracted care when it becomes necessary. I hope they have a nice Home Care Care Home near where we are now so our friends and family can come to visit us.

It’s the DPA again – Data Protection Asininities

One of my sons and his wife have a one-year old and both now work in low-paid jobs on minimum contracts. Both changed jobs earlier this year because the situation they were in (living on the premises where my son worked) became intolerable. As a result of the change of jobs and lower pay, they now receive working tax credit and child benefit. Despite this, they still struggle financially because rents are high in the area in which they live and work.

Despite working with an organisation which is supposed to smooth the path through benefits, the agencies dealing with these benefits continue to f**k them about with continually changing, often conflicting, advice and information. Their income varies because of the nature of their jobs, so their benefits also vary. This week, their benefits were reduced to very little, and they are unable to meet their rent payments without help [which we can ill afford] from the ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’.

Why the reduction? Your guess is as good as mine [but I’ll tell you the real answer later].

As they don’t have a landline, and hence easy internet access, they are disadvantaged because it seems more and more government agencies [and commercial organisations come to that] insist that things are better done on-line. Certainly not better for my son and his family. Consequently, my daughter-in-law had to use her mobile to try to contact these agencies yesterday. She spent SIX HOURS on the phone, the vast majority of which was waiting to get through!

My daughter-in-law is due a tax refund from 2014-15, but still hasn’t got it. She is also being taxed on her current income, despite the fact that it is way below the tax threshold.

In the various conversations she had, it emerged that she was still recorded as having two jobs. This was true for about three weeks some months ago, and when she reverted back to one, she did inform HMRC and passed on her P45. Obviously, someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or they lost the information, something that seems to be a daily occurrence with many ‘government agencies’.

The other main thing to emerge was a statement that my son and daughter-in-law had not completed and returned some forms sent out to them. These were supposedly sent out in May, but had not been received. When my daughter-in-law asked where the forms had been sent (thinking they might have been sent to their former address, which they left in February), she was told that the address couldn’t be revealed because of “data protection”!

Have you ever heard anything so f***ing ridiculous? You are not allowed to know the address to which some forms were allegedly sent for your attention? Some incompetent ‘Civil Servant’ has obviously cocked it up (again) and the only protection is for the a**e of the idiot who did it!

So know you know; my son and his family are in financial difficulty because of some useless incompetent who probably would last about a week in the real world!

I know a little bit about the ‘Civil Service’ as I worked within it as an external consultant for a couple of years. The staff I encountered can be split into three categories: around 5% of them are really intelligent, high quality people; around 25% of them are reasonably competent, i.e. average. The remaining 70% are useless and pretty idle, with ‘jobs for life’ they don’t deserve. Never mind the long-promised cull of QUANGOs, we need a severe cull of the Civil Service, to get some real service back for the people who pay for it: the taxpayers.