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.

 

BT Customer (Dis)service – the DPA strikes again!

What a joke BT so-called “customer service” is! (But you knew that anyway.)

I’ve just logged on to the BT website to check when my current contract expires. Surprise, surprise; I can’t find the information! I suspect BT hide it so that when your contract expires, they just carry on as if nothing had happened hoping you won’t notice and thus not think of comparing with other potential suppliers.

I therefore needed to contact BT to find out the date, and didn’t want to go through their useless, long-winded “telephone tree”, that in common with all such other systems never has an option that actually fits what you want to ask!

Just like the “telephone tree”, the website tries to prevent you from sending an email or starting a chat, with offers of multiple layers and options; none of which even remotely came near my question. When I finally entered the “chat”, I got a message saying someone would be with me in approximately “00:14” and that the average customer had to wait “00:42”. Many years ago, my grammar school headmaster (and maths teacher) would have gone wild with such information: give him a numeric answer without specifying the units and he would say “Bananas? Bananas, boy?”

I assumed the BT units weren’t bananas, but what were they? Minutes and seconds, or hours and minutes? Whilst I was pondering this, the “00:14” message was replaced by one saying someone would be with me “soon”. This turned out to be four minutes; not bad really.

By now I had three questions. The answer to the first was “It’s minutes and seconds.”

My original two questions were when my contract expired and why I couldn’t see this after logging onto the BT website. The answers were a date in December and “because of the Data Protection Act”.

As an aside, which is the most misused act: the Data Protection Act or the Human Rights Act?

I told my chat contact that this was rubbish (very polite of me, I thought) as other companies do show such information (e.g. mobile phone/network suppliers), so why not BT?

He said he would pass on my comments, but even if he does, BT won’t do anything about it, will they?

Justice Joke

Whilst I’ve never been called for jury service, my wife has recently been called for the second time; the first time was about 30 years ago!

There are two things that amaze and really annoy me about this latest call.

Firstly, my wife is now over 70, and thus not eligible for jury service. So why on earth can’t the system that ‘picks the names out of a hat’ filter out those that are not eligible? With all the government systems that contain everyone’s details, it would be a simple matter to filter out on date of birth, and thus save time and money!

Secondly, and this is the one that really gets my goat: the documentation sent out with the summons to jury service contains a sheet, printed on both sides, with three paragraphs in seven different languages. As only one of the seven uses the Latin alphabet (it may be Polish), I have absolutely no idea what the other six languages are. Why on earth is this necessary? At one sheet, it won’t have cost a lot, but it is nevertheless a waste of money IMHO.

I (naively perhaps) assumed that only UK citizens could be called to do jury service, so would expect them to understand English. Even if they are now UK citizens, but haven’t bothered to learn English, why would they be chosen? If they can’t understand the leaflets in English, how on earth are they going to follow the proceedings at a trial; or are we going to start translating all court proceedings if we get a jury member who cannot understand English? Again I would have thought there was sufficient information, e.g. census data, to filter out people who are either not eligible or not able to serve on a jury.

Completely bonkers!

Political Prostitutes

I’ve never used the services of a prostitute of either sex, but understand that they use a variety of things, from make-up to clothing, to make themselves more attractive to potential customers.

Since the UK General Election, the Labour party, aided and abetted by their mouthpiece the BBC, have dominated the news with analysis of why they, to their immense surprise, lost so badly, who will be their next leader, and how they can make themselves more electable. It is the last point that reminds me of prostitutes.

It is said that one of the reasons Milliband lost was because he had abandoned ‘Blairite’ policies and moved to the left. It is interesting to note that many members of the Shadow Cabinet and Labour hierarchy are now telling us that they never really agreed with the policies being promoted by them just a couple of weeks or so ago! As an aside, it was said that Ed Milliband stabbed his brother in the back during the previous leadership election. Poor Ed now seems to be getting stabbed from every direction by his former Shadow Cabinet members.

To return to my main point, senior members of the Labour Party are returning to the ways of Tony Blair; they seem to be prepared to say anything that will get them elected.

I used to think that political parties had principles, long-term objectives and firm policies. That certainly isn’t true of ‘New Labour’ or ‘Milliband Labour’ or the current leadership candidates. They clearly aren’t thinking of what is best for the country, as illustrated by previously-mentioned about turns after defeat; all they really want is power, and cf Tony Blair, the wealth that they can achieve from that.

I’m not a fan of trade unions. However, it seems to me that Len McCluskey has more honour than the whole Labour Party hierarchy put together. I think his ideas would ruin this country if implemented, but at least he sticks to his principles.

 

We’re all in it together – NOT!

I’ve mentioned the Barnett formula before and it really gets on my wick. Even the person who ‘invented’ it agrees that it is no longer fair or relevant, but no-one seems prepared to do anything about it.

In case you don’t know what it is, it is something dreamed up in the 70s to ‘balance’ government spending throughout the United Kingdom.

Personally, I think that as we are all citizens of the UK, we should be treated equally regardless of which bit of the UK we happen to live in. There are many things wrong with the way we are treated in different areas, but for this note, I’ll concentrate on the Barnett formula.

Any ‘balance’ there might have been was knocked completely out of kilter by the bribes promised to Scotland leading up to the recent referendum. The powers and money previously devolved to Wales and Scotland were totally wrong IMHO, and the Barnett was perhaps the biggest problem of all.

Based on the latest available population figures, the extra amount [compared to England] spent by the government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is a staggering £16 Billion! This amount is broken down as follows:

 

Scotland                            £8.6 billion

Northern Ireland         £4.3 billion

Wales                                 £3.6 billion

Is that fair? NO! Is it justified? NO! Are we all in it together? NO!

The sooner England gets fair treatment within the UK, the better!

They’re at it again! (Politicians, of course)

Today, on BBC TV news, we had another instance of politicians making up policies for their opponents, instead of just telling us what they themselves propose.

 

I’ve commented before that politicians shouldn’t be allowed to make unchallenged statements about what their opponents are planning; how would they know? They should stick to their own policies and stop making up scare stories.

 

Today’s news clip showed David Cameron pledging to raise the inheritance tax threshold for properties up to £1 million, specifically saying it would be limited to that figure. This was immediately followed by Harriet Harman saying that the Tories wanted to give tax relief to owners of properties valued at up to £2 million. How does she know? Answer: she doesn’t; she just made it up, exactly like Brown, Balls, etc. did when he was ruining our economy when they were last in power.

I don’t recall who was in the equivalent Lib Dem clip, or what was said; after all the broken promises, reneging on agreements, etc. during this parliament, I wouldn’t waste my time listening to them.

 

WTF is a “supermodel”?

I’m probably not the person to talk about this (but it won’t stop me!), as I have no interest whatsoever in “fashion” in the sense of clothing et al. However, as I read newspapers and listen to and watch the news, some fashion models are known to me, e.g. Kate Moss & Naomi Campbell, although it’s for the ‘wrong’ reasons as I know them for their poor behaviour in public rather than as a fashion model.

 

Many years ago, there used to be a small number of people who were referred to as “supermodels”. They were almost ‘household names’ because they seemed to be the best at their ‘profession’. These days, however, the label “supermodel” seems to be applied to every model who gets her name in the papers or on social media. I’ve never heard of most of them, in any context, and don’t even know if they are models in the traditional sense.

 

In my dictionary, “super” means such things as ‘excellent’, ‘wonderful’, ‘superb’, ‘brilliant’, etc., so how the hell to these unknowns qualify as “supermodels”?

One current model I am aware of is the one currently married to (but splitting from) David Walliams, and I note that she was referred to as a “model”. Could that be why she and David are having marital difficulties – she simply isn’t “super” enough for him?

In other areas, such as sport or entertainment, the people who are referred to as “superstars” are usually instantly recognised by, and well-known to, the public around the world. Can we stop misusing “super” and for these people and refer to them as what they are, namely publicity-seeking, wannabe models?

 

Political Poppycock

As we move to wards to the General Election in the UK, we will be increasingly bombarded by promises of what this, that or the other political party will do to improve our lives.

At present, we seem to be in a “scare” phase, with a number of politicians (Labour seem to be the worst offenders) telling us of the dire consequences of electing their opponents.

Why do our media allow them to get away with it? They should refuse to print or broadcast statements such as the Labour ones about what the Conservatives are “planning” to do (and vice versa) unless they have clear evidence that this is the case. Our media should instead insist that THEY tell us what THEY are planning to do, and how THEY would finance it, not some scaremongering garbage dreamed up (i.e. fabricated, i.e. UNTRUE) about what their opponents “plan” to do!

If untruths, half-truths and downright lies were posted on “social media” about an individual or organisation, there would be an uproar about it, so why are politicians allowed to get away with it?