Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Special laws that only apply to some people are usually wrong

We live in a bizarre Britain where children are considered adult at 16 for some purposes yet treated as lesser people up to the age of 35 for things like housing benefit.

Labour in a typically confused announcement is saying that people under 25 won't have the same welfare laws as everyone else. There is a growing and alarming trend which has see special rules introduced for example for members of the armed forces.

Magna Carta as well as mentioning stuff like fishing weirs also started to establish the idea that everyone was equal under the law, but if you start having special laws that only apply to some people, that principle is undermined.

Brilliant example of people talking to the dead - and the human capacity to believe what they want despite the evidence

Oh my special powers are so weak the mere presence of a skeptic destroys them

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tudor Monastery Farm

Just started on BBC2 Wednesday Evenings 9pm - filming based at the Weald and Downland open air museum in West Sussex. Weald and Downland is a most magical place and has enchanted me since I visited on a school trip many years ago.

If you get the chamce to visit it, then do.

Dracula spectacular

Went to see the absolutely stunning Dance version of Dracula by the Mark Bruce Company.

The ten strong cast create the story in dance using a blend of contemporary and classical music.  You couldn't improve a single thing, the set, the performance the costumes and the choreography were all perfect.  If you want a chance to see something amazing checkout their website.

8.8 million household have savings of less than £250

I wish policy makers would take this into account when making policy such as paying housing benefit in arrears, taking months to process benefit claims and so much more.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Spending Money

One in 11 people, or 4.5 million British adults, have less than £10 a month left over once they have paid their essential bills, new research has found.
With many households struggling to make ends meet, the findings from budgeting account provider thinkmoney reveal the worryingly small amounts of disposable income people have left once they've met all their financial commitments.
Of the 2,149 people polled, one in four said they had less than £50 a month to spend after bills.
Across the UK, the average monthly disposable income was £224.50. However, there was a wide gender difference with men reporting having disposable incomes averaging £272.50, almost twice as much as women (£190.20).
Young people reported having the least disposable income, with 18-24 year-olds averaging £174.20 – some 22% below the overall UK average. Almost one in three people in this age group have less than £50 a month to spend after bills.
By contrast, the wealthiest in terms of post-bills spending money are people over 65, with an average of £269.50 a month available to spend.
The amount of disposable income also varies depending on where people live. It is highest in London, at an average of £261, and the South East, at £244. People in the North East and Wales have the lowest disposable incomes, at £199 and £181 respectively.
Worryingly, one in six people questioned in Wales said they had less than £10 a month to spend after bills.
“It’s stressful not knowing if you will have enough money to pay the bills and afford added extras each month,” said Ian Williams, director of communications at thinkmoney.

Benefit sanctions

60,000 people a month are having their benefits stopped. 

If you have mental health problems or perhaps just depressed about the job centre plus giving you 36 stupid things a week to do it is all to easy to have your benefits 'sanctioned' for not doing something such as missing and apointment or not sending your cv out to firms who don't want it.

Why is it that starving people has become an acceptable punishment ?  Why is doing something that aren't breaking the law worse than the punishment for breaking the law ?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

More spin doctors please

Has the Government no political antenna ?

When a respected cancer charity says terminally ill patients are waiting months to receive the benefits that are meant to help them cope with being terminally ill, how should the Government respond ?
My instinct is that on hearing or reading the story most people will assume that the charity is right and the Government is wrong.

If I was a Government Minister I hope that my response would be the same as the publics, that the charity was probably right, to show a bit of compassion and concern and say something like "My god that sounds awful, I don't think it is true but I will review the situation straight away and look into any cases that the charity can highlight to see what is going wrong or can be improved."

Instead what the Government trotted out is a rebuttal - the charity figures are not robust - which translates to voters as as the Government can't admit it is wrong and doesn't care about voters who will be dead in a few months.  Is that really what they wish to convey ?

Of course it is not just one charity, anyone involved with people on benefits have similar stories - whereas Government statistics - well we all know they pick and choose.

off the track

Trying to get some train tickets the other day I went through the usual hassle of looking up prices on line, going through the myriad complications of considering the pros and cons of booking a particular train but what happens if you miss it in the end the cheapest fare was £77. Luckily I didn't buy them on line but got them at the station where the very helpful member of staff found a better price of £43 !  The irony being that had they said £100 I would have accepted that as the price of not booking in advance. 

I love travelling on railways - especially for long journeys, avoiding parking etc but it seems to me the railways operators are doing their very best to put me off. Indeed, passenger journeys are at high levels and some lines at or near capacity at peak times. All of which means the companies have little incentive to encourage people to travel. 

If one looks at season tickets one might expect that buying a month would be cheaper than buying a week, 3 months cheaper than a month, 6 months cheaper than 3 months and a year cheaper than 6 months.   You will soon conclude that the only advantage of buying a longer period is that you don't have the hassle of renewing your season ticket. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

its a gas - and an electricity bill

It has been revealed that MPs are still claiming for gas and electricity for their 2nd homes.

You might like me wonder why MPs need any more money. 

You might like me wonder why when the average enegry bill is £1500 a year how it is some MPs manage to run up bills of £2000 or more for a property they only use part time (it si after all at least their second home)  especially as so many of them are busy in parliament and or being Government Ministers.

Maria Miller MP for Basingstoke managed to claim over £2000.  No doubt she works long hours as an MP and Government Minister - which makes me wonder - has she gone out and left the gas on ?
I expect she gets up, has a breakfast and goes to work, returning late in the evening.
Does she return home and turn every possible apppliance on ?

Its a mystery.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

from the people who brought you the spareroom subsidy reduction

A Conservative minister, Stephen Hammond, used an offshore company to buy his second home. 
By not owning the villa directly, in his own name, he was able to reduce his tax bill in both Britain and Portugal by an estimated £20,000
Mr Hammond has been the MP for Wimbledon since 2005. He employs his wife, Sally, as his office manager, paying her £45,000 a year from taxpayer funds.

How lucky we are that David Cameron has described legal tax havens as “morally wrong” and  George Osborne said legal but aggressive tax avoidance was “morally repugnant.

Lets hope they get to be in power one day and get the opportunity to do something about it.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Another reason to feel poorer

The Office National Statistics analysis shows the amount of our income accounted for by “essentials” – housing, water, sewerage, energy bills and fuel – has risen over a decade from 19.9 per cent to 27.3 per cent. Once food is taken into account, the numbers are more striking still. Cumulative inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index – the yardstick used by the Bank of England – has been roughly 30 per cent. Yet the Tullett Prebon Essentials Index – which takes in most of the necessities of modern living – has gone up by more than 60 per cent. Consumers’ discretionary spending has been eroded even more severely than that fall in disposable income suggests

Keep in mind these stats are averages - for very many people as we know - housing costs and other essentials can be way above 27%.