Posts Tagged ‘Power Bills’
There was a time when our allotment co-operative was an indulgence, an interest, a way of keeping active. For quite a number it has now become a means of reducing household costs. A regular supply of eggs and veggies helps to offset the seemingly endless increases in power bills, not to mention the constant rise in the cost of nearly everything. We are all on pensions of one sort of another but, since none of us worked for banks, they leave little to spare.
The changed, and in some cases straitened, circumstances lead to regular discussions about finding a nice little earner involving minimum effort. But the only one that comes to mind, given our lack of qualifications and energy, is that of an MEP. Since the general public pays little attention to the European elections, and has no real idea as to what members of the European Parliament actually do, it is conceivable that an old fogey standing as candidate for the Chicken Party would sail through.
The idea was prompted by the news that MEPs have refused to release audits on expenses. We already know that they are paid far more than Westminster MPs who have had their expenses wings well cut. But all we know about the Brussels brigade is that they spend expenses worth more than £300,000 each per year. And that’s it. Despite an EU court ruling that it is in the public interest the European Parliament is still refusing to reveal all. The argument is that internal audit reports are administrative documents for internal use only. It all sounds very similar to Fifa doesn’t it? Even MEPs outside the “bureau” of 20 senior European deputies, are not allowed to see the reports.
In the recent court case which followed legal action by Ciaran Toland, an Irish lawyer, the parliament’s lawyers fought off his demand for transparency by saying that “The use members make of the allowances available to them is a sensitive matter followed with great interest by the media”. So keeping it all under wraps is alright then!
Just occasionally the media has been able to shine a light into the murky Brussels gravy train. An example was the investigation by the Telegraph which forced the resignation of Den Dover, a Tory MEP, who was asked to pay back more than £345,000 in “misused” staffing expenses. But by and large the train stands undisturbed and silent in the sidings.
And what our MEPs do is an equal mystery to most of us. Our Westminster lot hold surgeries and deal with vast amounts of complaints and mail. They are whipped into attendance at the House and seem to attend more local functions than the Mayors. Have you ever heard of your MEP doing such? Do you even know who he or she is? Nor do I.
All of this may explain the hoo-hah now developing about the Brussels budget. David Cameron is doing his best to block the proposed huge increase but don’t hold your breath. The prime minister also had a rant yesterday about the planned £280 million headquarters. The plans were unveiled by the EU president, Herman Van Rompuy. He described the new building as a “jewel box”, it will be a “humane gathering place” containing a “diversity carpet”. Ye Gods, small wonder that Cameron said that the present building is perfectly acceptable. Not for the power builders, it isn’t. Be in no doubt, the leading lights in Brussels are still hell-bent on centralised control of almost every aspect of our lives.
Perhaps we should be thankful that Tony Blair went when he did. Only the intervention of Grumpy Gordon prevented his taking us into the Euro. Sadly he had already signed away a good deal else. Yes, like it or not, we are all part of the integrated Europe dream!
The old adage has it that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So come the next elections do remember to put a cross against the name with a chicken symbol alongside! Which of us it will be has yet to be decided but one salary plus the exes divided 20 ways will keep us all solvent. And there will still be plenty of time for the elected to look after his chooks!
TODAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; GENERAL KNOWLEDGE; 1. In which country were BMWs first made? 2. St Francis of Assisi is patron saint of which country? 3. Which Alan presented the TV programme “How to be a Gardener”? 4. Which Sally was British women’s team captain in the 1966 Olympics? 5. Which late comedian was the one with the “short, fat hairy legs”? 6. Which country was once called Cathay? 7. Which boy band had a No 1 with their version of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl”? 8. Which Dennis created “The Singing Detective”? 9. Which Buddy did Alvin Stardust sing about? 10. Which Irishman Colin starred in the movie “Phone Booth”?
Over many years the image of the professional expert and the mass of unskilled ‘nobodies’ has taken root. It is of course pure nonsense as the collapse of the financial sector demonstrated. People in suits carrying laptops filled with exponentially smoothed graphs no longer impress, we now recognise them as no more productive or skilled than the PR spin-doctors so beloved by ministers. But the damage has been done, we no longer manufacture things and many of the old skills are vanishing as artisans going into retirement are not replaced – apprenticeships having becoming virtually extinct. And yet if it is real skill you seek, you need to take a second look at those so derided by the Bullingdon set!
Yesterday I visited the home of a pal from the allotment community. Since retiring he has built the most spectacular garden I have ever seen. The layout is superb and incorporated in it are various buildings built of stone, and containing every comfort of a ‘den’ fit for a king. As I walked the walk I found myself wondering how we ever came to believe that manual skills are in some way inferior. And when we chatted I found that my pal has an in-depth view of the economy that sounds a good deal more sensible than that being put about by the ultimate whizz-kid in a suit, George Osborne.
Faced with a growing chorus of concern that his programme of rapid cuts will lead to disaster he constantly claims that it will lead to a huge growth in private sector volumes and jobs. He will have noticed that yesterday’s opinion polls show Labour on 45%, the Conservatives on 35% and the Lib Dems on 9%. But he will continue to believe that a new boom in growth is around the corner. For all our sakes let us hope he is right, but how can he be?
As my pal commented, if people are in fear of redundancy, are being squeezed as inflation tears into their disposable income, and face rocketing power bills the most likely response will be to switch from actual shopping to the window variety. Seems obvious doesn’t it? It prompted me to do a little research.
The 128- strong chain of Oddbins went into administration yesterday, blaming a poor Christmas and a difficult retail environment. Mothercare and Laura Ashley both warned that trading has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks while Easy Living Furniture, a 20-strong chain in the south went into administration. H & M announced a 30% fall in profits, the “result of a wodespread decline in consumer spending”.
On Wednesday, the boss of electrical goods group Dixons said that the ” government cuts were having a chilling effect on consumers” as the group announced that like-for-like sales at its Currys and PC World stores tumbled by 11% over the past 11 weeks. Signet announced weak trading at its H Samuel and Ernest Jones stores. DFS said growth had slowed and even Domino’s Pizza, the stock market darling, admitted to falls of up to 10%.
In the interest of balance I tried to find reports of rapid growth but found none. Everywhere in the retail sector there is doom and gloom. And as the cuts begin to really bite over the next few months it seems inevitable that the position will worsen. How can there be growth when no one, bar the rich, has money to spend on other than the bare essentials? In fact the situation is even bleaker than my amateur research suggests. The Bank of England has reported that the number of people defaulting on their mortgages has climbed sharply!
Yesterday I nominated ways of reducing costs without impairing growth. But the reality is that the coalition is being driven by inbred ideology. Only the Lib Dems can bring influence to bear and there are increasing signs that people like Lucas, Farron, and Kennedy are much closer to Miliband than to Clegg. But he holds the power and can be relied upon to echo his master’s voice.
To return to my opening point there are many highly skilled and perceptive people outside of the politicians. But the gulf is now enormous. As my pal put it the most dangerous people of all are those that believe their own bullshit!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ”Michael Jackson, also known as the ‘carrier bag’ -white, plastic and best kept away from kids”……..Angus Deayton “Rap music sounds like someone feeding a rhyming dictionary to a popcorn popper”….Tom Robbins “It’s called rap music because the ‘c’ fell off the printer”……Allan Bease “I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for those who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down’ “…..Bob Newhart “I wanted to be a country singer but I took the test and I had too much self-esteem”…..Brett Butler “The hardest thing about writing country music must be thinking up clean words that rhyme with ‘truck’ “…..Brian Kaufman “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings”…..Ed Gardner “I’m sitting at the opera, and I’m thinking ‘Look how much work it takes to bore me’ “…..Dave Attell “I went to watch Pavarotti once. He doesn’t like it when you join in”…..Mick Miller
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Jon Pertwee 2. Peter Bowles
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which singer was know as ‘Old Groaner’ ? 2. In which country did he die?
A leading politician recently referred to the need for a national ‘Dunkirk spirit’ to tackle the potentially ruinous situation enveloping our economy. No one already suffering redundancy or insecurity, severe cut in income on pensions or savings or difficulties in meeting power bills will disagree. Neither will the millions fearing the worst for the value of their properties or those simply too uncertain to book holidays or even a night out.
But the so-called Dunkirk spirit arose from a sense of common suffering and danger. From Churchill down everyone faced one threat and everyone threw their weight behind a single objective. This time everyone is not sharing the nightmare. The so-called fat cats are far removed from the common burden and there is huge resentment in the national air.
The new government is to be applauded for lifting the veil on public sector pay. Unfortunately the revelations are introducing a sense of national unfairness. Of course the flip side of that is that, if Ministers are brave enough, they can at a stroke make huge savings and inspire the rest of us to accept a heavy bout of belt-tightening. What on earth the outgoing government was thinking of in allowing such a scandalous situation to come about is right now beside the point but it has to be said the Brown/Darling reputaion for financial prudence has taken a severe retrospective blow.
We had scarcely recovered from the shock of learning that large numbers of senior civil servants earn fortunes plus gold-plated pensions before yesterday’s further revelations hit us. We now learn that the head of a housing association is pocketing almost £400,000 per year. Based on figures from last year John Belcher, chief executive of Anchor (which provides affordable homes for the elderly) was paid £391,000. David Cowans at Places for People was paid £297,000 and at least six other bosses of housing associations pocketed more than £200,000.
Although independent, housing associations are largely funded by the taxpayer, receiving millions of pounds each year to provide housing for those unable to fend for themselves. Little did we realise that a good deal of the funding was being used to grossly overpay those in charge.This latest bombshell was uncovered by Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, who described the pay packages as unacceptable. How right!
The published list is a long one. Even the lowest paid of the 51 executives named is paid £142,000 and the situation has clearly gone completely out of control. Mr Shapps said yesterday that there is no reason why housing charities who receive public money should be excempt from scrutiny. Vince Cable indicated that high earning public officials may have to accept pay cuts. Let us hope that he means it for an example is needed.
Predictably some have leapt to the defence of the pouring out of public money. The housing associations say that the salaries are necessary to attract executives of the highest calibre. Clearly they have drifted into fantasy land. Just where in the private sector would all these people go to earn such generous treatment? And the defenders of Civil Service fat cats are even more bizarre. Jonathan Baume, leader of the First Division Association, which represents senior civil servants, pointed out that ‘you have to remember that the Prime Minister’s salary has been held down for political reasons and David Cameron is a millionnaire’. What on earth does that have to do with anything, the rate for a job should not be based on the holders wealth or lack of it. As the Chief Executive of the UK the PM’s salary must surely be the highest paid.
The ferret breeders are usually somewhat isolated from the rest of the community. Suddenly even they are coming together in common cause with many who are looking for leadership. And they include many who work in public bodies and are paid very poorly!
Anger levels are rising.According to Spanish scientists who recently carried out tests on the effect of anger on the human body, a spot of rage is good for us. It stimulates that part of the brain associated with positive feelings, the left hemisphere. Thank heavens for that!
We in the allotment shed are becoming so outraged that I feared there would soon be orphaned ferrets galore!