Monday, 30 September 2013

one in five people in the UK is paid less than £7.50 an hour

For the people at the top end of that range, that's earning of around £14,000 a year, before tax and national insurance etc.

The average income for someone working in the UK is around £26,000. But then we all ought to know that  there are averages and averages.

10 people, nine earning £20,000 and one earning £80,000 = average income £26,000
10 people,  five earning £14,000 four earning £20,000 one paid £110,000 = average income £26,000

Friday, 27 September 2013

Tax Cheats

As it keen support of at least the idea of a crackdown on tax cheats it is a disappointment to hear that HMCR have caught just 1 of the top 20 "most wanted" tax fraudsters on the list the announced last year.

Worse still though is the ease with which companies and individuals are quite legally able to avoid tax by thinking up tax breaks and lobbying behind closed doors for them to be implemented.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Preventing Crime

47% of prisoners have no qualifications - compared to just 15% of the UK working age population.

48% of prisoners have a reading age below that of an average 11 year old

65% of prisoners have the numeracy (maths skills) of below that of the average 11 year old

[in the general public around 23% of people have the maths and reading skills of less than an 11 year old]

41% of male prisoners and 30% of female prisoners have previously been excluded from school, rising to 52% of young prisoners.

Offenders who undertake prison education are three times less likley to reoffend than those who don't.

68% of prisoners were unemployed in the month before entering custody.

13% of prisoners have never worked

68% of prisoners beleive a job is essential in stopping reoffending

80% of prisoners are incapable of completing a job application form

Ex-offenders often make model employees as they are grateful to have a job and realise that their chances of getting another one are slim.

The cost of reoffending by recently released prisoners has been estimated as £11 billion a year in the UK.

So -  if the Government is serious about saving money as well as reducing the human misery especially for victims of crime it ought to be doing more.

Instead of overcrowded prisons, we need prisons where people can be educated and learn skills and obtain qualifications that will help them secure employment.

Length of sentances, parole and priviledges could be linked to engagement with the education system.

Upon release prisoners need to be found employment - paying employees to take people on could be cheaper than leaving ex-offenders unemployed.


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

TV in the 1970's

Nice to see it, to see it nice by Brian Viner (the 1970s in front of the Telly) isbn 978 1 41652 777

Is an excellent book, but only i guess if you used to watch a lot of TV in the 1970's.

If not, I expect even the programme title will past you by.  Viner is an entertaining writing and skillfully mixes just enough (not too much) of his own childhood in with his telly watching habits.

Fascinating to see a BBC schedule from October 1976.  BCC 1 came on at 8.50am and finished at 11.20.  BBC didn't even start 3.05 but did continue till 12.55 if you wanted to watch an old black and white film.  For me just Dr Who and the Two Ronnies stand out as something I would have wanted to to watch.  Probably Basil Brush and the generation game if I couldn't find something better to do and that made me nostalgic - today there is perhaps too much TV you can spend 10 minutes just flicking through the channels.  One theory is that programmes used to get huge ratings because there was nothing better on, but I am more sympathetic to the idea that for their time the programmes were the best that could be provided. Knowing one had to entertain a large part of the population was an incentive to make something worthwhile.  While there was certainly a lot of stuff that doesn't bera repeating, there was and is stuff of excellent quality and depending on ones taste in TV, entertaining viewing.

Perhaps my favourite bit of the book was Michael Parkinson saying "I don't believe in the honours system" Honours he explained should be for real heroes not  people like him did not deserve honours for "being highly paid and having the time of our lives. I've never ever woken up and and said sod it I've got to go to work."  He said too many celebrities did charity work in the hope of getting an honour.

That is the now Sir Michael Parkinson CBE.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Modern Conservatism

"we must advance our historic mission to free people and businesses from the state by letting them keep more of what they earn"

Given the scale of tax avoidance it is quite difficult to see how the super wealthly can pay less tax, and given the low level of wages and the high cost of housing, it is difficult to see how the Conservative Party intends to free ordinary people from the state.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Politics of Envy ? Wealth Creators or Greedy Rich ?

It is common amongst the Conservatives to trot out the line the other parties are all about "clobbering the rich" and "attacking the wealth creators" - this it is argued is bad for the poor as it will mean wealth creators are driven away, jobs will be lost and the poor will be worse off.

To those who might welcome the rich being clobbered, the first comment is to note how little either the Labour or Lib Dems have said about clobbering the rich - Labour rhetoric and more importantly policies have been little different to the Conservatives and while the Lib Dems talk alot about making the rich pay their fair share - fair seems to mean slightly more than they used to but not so much that you'd notice.

The Conservatives use the words "wealth creators" and "rich" inter-changeably, but by any normal usage they do not mean the same thing.

The picture painted by Chris Grayling (who's he ??)  one of the leading Conservatives is of the hardworking entrepreneur who puts their house on the line to launch a business for which they work 7 days a week.   Funnily enough that is rarely the kind of wealth creator or rich person people object to. 

Remember when Cameron did positive stuff ?

Matthew Parris calls for the return of Sunny Dave
"I persist in thinking, though, that another part of the answer lies in remembering what Britain warmed to in Early Cameron: a message of liking 21st-century Britain; of sympathy for hardship; and of confidence in the individual and in family; belief in a caring society where public-spiritedness was not expressed only through the institutions of the State. All right. You’ve got me cornered. I liked the Big Society. I’m sorry
the language seems to have been dropped. I want to see Mr Cameron return unapologetically to the tree, the clouds, the huskies — yes, even the hoodies — and, most of all, the blue sky. Last week Nick Clegg tried to cast the Conservatives in their ancient role of panto villains. For the party to confirm a stereotype that David Cameron has come so far in rejecting would be to walk straight into the Left’s trap." - Matthew Parris The Times (£)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Spoke to soon

Just days after posting on the life expectancy of a UKIP MEP, another one bites the dust.

Godfrey Bloom - once again showing the real face of UKIP called a room full of his own supporters "sluts" and they wonder why UKIp is less popular with women voters.

That's 8 UKIP MEPS down the plug hole in less than 8 years.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Plebgate - lies and injustice

The evidence of some of the Police lying and misleading people doesn't go away. Of course it is not all Police.

It is a scandal that what should have been a simple investigation has taken so long and will no doubt cost a fortune, which could have been spent on something more useful.

I even feel slightly sorry for Andrew Mitchell.

However, the people I feel really sorry for are all the other people who wait so long for justice.

The relatives of those who died at Hillsborough, the relatives of the Guildford 4 wrongly sent to prison, the relatives of the Deepcut Barracks victims - still waiting for the truth about their children bullied and killed by the army instead of lies about how they shot themselves in the head after they were dead.

For far too many people there is no way to right wrongs. Just a hope that perhaps it will never happen again or that someone else will be prevented from going through the same suffering.

That is what motivates people to keep on going, through the blocking, the bluster, the cover ups, the refusal to answer questions, the missing files, the legal wrangling, the lies, the rules, the financial and emotional hardship, the endless meetings, letter writing, publicity seeking, the impact on their lives, because some people will strive for justice - not just for themselves, but for everyone.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Life expectancy of a UKIP MEP

In 2004, 12 UKIP MEPs were elected - one resigned, one expelled for benefit fraud and one was jailed for false accounting and money laundering

In 2009 13 UKIP MEPs were elected 13 and so far 4 have gone and there is still 6 months to go!.

In 7 years UKIP have lost 7 MEPs for various reasons - probably more than all the other parties put together.  United Kingdom ? hardly a united party.

what of those who stay ?

UKIP Leader Mr Farage is ranked fifth in the league table of MEPs with the worse attendance record, while deputy leader Paul Nuttall is fourth, after voting just 46 per cent of the time.

Figures also show UKIP MEPs attend just 30 per cent of European Parliament committees

Mr Nuttall has turned up to only two of 56 meetings of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee since June 2010.

Mr Farage attended only just one of 42 Fisheries Committee meetings in the three years to January 2013. He has since resigned

You can starve on benefits

I fear there is too much emphasis on how to eat cheaply. Yes it is possible, yes I have done it, but there is a limit to how much an ordinary person can cut back on food.  Even a saving of £10 a week can be blown alway by misfotune.  I am not saying it isn't a help, of course it is, but you don't get  a fortune from eating more cheaply.

Rock Roadie - by James Tappy Wright

James 'Tappy' Wright worked with many of the 1960's rock stars - The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, and he met with Elvis and a number of Hollywood Stars.

This is a odd book in that it jsut stops in 1973 despite being published in 2009, so more a memoir than an autobiography.  It is an entertaining account of rock bands in the early 1960's, it conrain rather a lot of references to the sexual exploits of Tappy and various band members

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Why do people get so angry at someone havinge a 'spare' room ?

Even the supporters of the spare bedroom subsidy have to answer the questions.  What about people who have no money to move - how does leaving them with less money help free up 'spare' rooms ?  What about the people who want to move but have no smaller accomodation to go to - how does that free up spare rooms ?  What about the people who live  in properties adapted to cope with disabilities - how does that save the tax payer money ?  And why the obsession with bedrooms ? what about the other rooms in the property ? Why should a couple and child people living in a house with two bedrooms, garden, garage, conservatory, kitchen, sitting room, bath room, loft, cellar, utility room and get full housing benefit, and an identical couple  in a 3 bedroom high rise flat, including two box rooms and a single open plan living area  and shower/toilet get their benefit cut ?

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was really one of the most unusual historical figures.  It is startling to learn that she is one of the most documented figures of the middle ages.  For all that, like many famous people, the legend is better know than the reality.  Over time people reinvent Joan of Arc to fit in with their needs for a certain type of hero or certain reinterpretation of history.

The author goes back to original sources and meticulous research.

Joan wasn't a peasant or a shepherdess, not really, although she was from a modest background.
She did hear voices and was very religious. She did persuade nobles and the Dauphin (King) to follow her lead or at least let her get on with what she wanted to do, although only up to a point.  She was highly intelligent and her achievements changed the course of history.

Strangely, the main offence she was convicted of at her trail was the wearing of mens clothing.

The Virgin Warrior - the life and death of Joan of Arc by Larissa Juliet Taylor ISBN 978-0-300-16895-2

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

from the USA

I recommend a trip to the American Museum in Bath. The current guest exhibition is on gunslingers to gangsters - and has items that come from gunslingers and outlaws such as Jessie James to the gangsters of the 1920's and 30's such as Al Capone along with items that once belonged to robbers Bonnie and Clyde.