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Yes – Taxi Driver Qualification could be tighter, but further centralisation of the rules will discriminate against good driver applicants as well as bad

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

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One of the most tragic ways that MPs and Politicians fail the Electorate, is by giving excessive weight to the advice and input from membership organisations that sell and portray themselves as representative of entire demographics or communities. For they are susceptible to the very same biases, tunnel vision and levels of self interest on the part of their representatives and leaders that the MP would be expected to consider if they were just talking to any one person alone.

All too often, Ministers who have little or no real-world experience of their brief or the wherewithal to understand at an intrinsic level, what someone is telling them who has, respond in knee-jerk fashion to what these organisations tell them. They are under the misapprehension that the words of such representatives genuinely reflect the will and desires of whole swathes of the Electorate, when reality is that they seldom do any such thing.

With four years experience as a Licensing Chair which ended in 2015, I was intrigued to hear the news that the Government is now to Consult on changing the qualification rules for Taxi, Hackney and Private Hire Drivers. The direction of travel suggested being to emphasise that the rules governing their Regulation should become more uniform, and therefore centralised so that an applicant or driver dealing with one Licensing Authority would now be effectively dealing with them all as one.

In principle this sounds good. There is definitely a disconnect between the reality that Drivers are often only Registered or ‘Licensed’ by one Local Authority, but in almost every case other than a large Licensing Area such as London, they will cross into the jurisdiction of at least one and possible many others perhaps as often as every day.

This does indeed leave grey areas over infringements in the regulatory sense. But more importantly where existing Taxi Drivers and their Operating Companies are concerned, there is a big issue over outsiders treading on toes. Vehicles from other areas are perceived to be stealing business from ‘local firms’ with the subsequent suggestion that the Authority Licensing that ‘outsider driver’, employs a policy where anything goes.

Because Taxi Licensing Policy is open to localised tweaks, additions and therefore non-adoption of policies which might have been adopted elsewhere too, it is easy to give fictitious credence to the arguments that roll away from myth that every Authority is run differently.

The reality is that the rules governing all forms of Licensing are already heavily centralised, have been set in London and in the main part with basic issues like qualification, are pretty much consistent wherever you might go.

Unfortunately, the Taxi Lobby has form when it comes to influencing Politicians to change rules for their own ends.

A decade ago, changes to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 closed a loop-hole preventing private drivers from gaining a fee for transporting Special Educational Needs Students between their homes, schools and colleges. Sold as a way to raise safety standards, the outcome of this ring-fencing of local authority contracts to a the closed audience which lobbied for it landed Local Educational Authorities with an average additional annual bill of at least £1 Million, without any indication that the benefit to the end user at larger was in any way improved.

Yes, there is always a need to make sure that the rules are tight. But rules can also be twisted to benefit those with the most to gain whilst there is a significant cost to others.

We should all be very concerned about the potential for further regulation which is being sold as being in the best interests of the Public, that may actually only favour particular types of operators, has the potential to price others out of the marketplace and put up prices for all customers.

All this at a time when Taxis themselves are increasingly the only lifeline available for people disadvantaged by the remote nature of their communities, where commercialisation of public services has failed them more than perhaps most.

Like Planning Law, which is often perceived mistakenly as being set locally by District Level Authorities, Licensing is predominantly set centrally already. It is just interpreted in the main part by Local Licensing Authorities.

In what is a typically quasi-judicial setting that some would recognise as not being massively dissimilar to the Magistrates Court, applications and reviews that cannot be determined by Officers under delegated powers are heard by a panel or bench of three of the Council’s Licensing Committee Members.

Within such a setting, there is regrettably always a chance that because of the inconsistency in the quality, approach and motivation of local Politicians – as with Parliament – that you will get a different outcome from a hearing. It is very much dependent upon who is sitting, who is chairing and facilitating, how they interpret the evidence given, how they are advised by Licensing Officers and yes – just because it’s the way that it all went that day.

It is here that there is real inconsistency within the Licensing system.

But this inconsistency needs to be tackled with measures put in place to ensure that there is consistency in determinations, that impartiality is the guiding factor in all outcomes and that nobody sitting in ‘judgment’ is allowed to influence a decision because of personal bias, experience or because they are on a power trip and want to get their own way that day.

The risk in moving towards a national form of Licensing administration is that it will remove what little flexibility is left within the system. Flexibility that needs to be monitored and improved, but not overlooked, forgotten or ignored.

Not everyone wants to be a Taxi Driver. Many people take on the role as an in-between to keep themselves working whilst the move between other things. Some take on the work because they do not like being employed but do not want the responsibility of being self-employed in the generally accepted sense and are as such making the very best of things that they can.

Yes, there have been some very serious cases of Taxi Drivers abusing the responsibility and the trust that they have been given. But whilst what those individuals have done is wrong, the cases that are now being used as a reference point for changing the whole industry are statistically very few, and like in many areas where Government Policy is being used to pursue the passions of the few, there is an inherent danger to this of the tail being used to wag the whole dog.

The signifiant danger is that by appearing to tighten up rules which are already working well – when you consider that you will never create the perfect system, there are many would-be Taxi Drivers who could be assets to an industry which itself is facing challenging times, which will be denied entry to these roles at an incalculable cost.

People who could now, through the further synchronisation of rules be excluded because of the already overzealous nature of decision making in the public sphere, where risk of any kind – which includes giving people the benefit of the doubt when they are turning their lives around or are leaving mistakes made in their youth a long way behind – would be in much shorter supply.

Dehumanising the system might be reflective of the world at large, but the disadvantage and cost of such steps will be much more far-reaching than what will only ever be a perceived and tangible benefit to very few.

image thanks to unknown

Rethinking the Railways: no Public Service should be in private hands, nor should it be under union influence either

January 3, 2019 Leave a comment

It’s January and once again, we are witnessing inflation-busting rises in Rail Fares with the same old media coverage, the same old political responses from all sides and the same old reality that it is the same people being financially worked-over as a result of the ineptitude of the Politicians who were Elected to help them.

As usual, the blame game is well and truly afoot, providing ever useful cover for those choosing not to be responsible as we focus on the beneficial myths which are privatisation of public services, public ownership, building completely new railways and the inherent suggestion that people can always afford to pay more.

Whilst championed by the various sides as Westminster takes a momentary breath from Brexit, the reality is that none of these approaches can solve the fundamental problems that exist within the railways, public transport or wider public sector services.

Switching from one of these methods to another to solve just one problem, will simply create many more.

As with most issues that now surround the ineptitude and incompetency of Government, the real solutions to these problems – that’s the one that tackle the actual causes – are simply too unpalatable for the spin doctors and marketing whizzes to contemplate on behalf of the Politicians who would have us believe that they are in control.

The Politicians themselves do not have the foresight to see that by taking the tough and difficult decisions that they are supposed to, the results and impact of that action will soon speak much louder than any sound bite, as the reality of doing things properly becomes manifest and finds a very loud voice of its own.

The problem with the options that we are told are available

It’s very important to understand that one of the key principles of the Public Sector and the way that it operates is involuntarily and often deliberately overlooked:

Public Services are not and never will be a commercial business.

The purpose of Public Services is to provide uniformity of service and/or access to the wider community, which is simply contradictory to the motivation for running private business.

The simple reason being that the universal nature of the requirement for Public Services necessitates that unless you cherry pick and introduce different levels or tiers of service or remove the provision of that service from some areas altogether, the guarantee of profitability from all those parts operated, if not all of the service itself would always be denied.

This is why even in private hands, the Railways are heavily subsidised by the Government.

The Railways today

Today the Railways are effectively operated by profit-making private sector contractors or operating companies. Contractors who are often large PLC’s that make substantial sums of money by operating large-scale services and employing the economies of scale to reduce costs, usually on an ongoing basis.

Operating under the auspices of being a regulated public service as the nature of the public ownership of the railway infrastructure itself dictates, the contractors do not have the flexibility to raise prices and change service structures at will.

This effectively means that to increase profits, the contractors have to reverse engineer the profit-making-process by reducing overheads and making more money from the cost centres which have been accounted for in their Contract with the Government.

In effect, they are adhering to the terms of their agreement with the Government in principle rather than spirit. The outcome being the shitty end of the stick that we all experience each and every time we get on a sweaty train and realise that we have to stand for at least significant chunks of a very long journey, unless we want to get out and run.

Because the margins the operating companies accept to gain a contract or franchise are often very tight, expectation versus the ability to back engineer those all-important profit margins can easily prove impossible to align. And when they do, this is when we experience ‘franchises’ being passed back to public hands.

No private company will pay for the privilege of operating a Public Service, and nor should  the Government expect them to do so. But on the same count, neither should they be able to milk profit by taking all the value out.

The only thing that literally keeps the train wheels spinning is the RPI linked rise in Rail Fares which comes into operation each January.

It’s a dubious way of calculating an annual rise to say the least. But without it, the current operating model simply wouldn’t work.

Return to Public Ownership

Jeremy Corbyn and his shotgun John McDonnell advocate a wholesale return of Public Services to Public Ownership. For obvious reasons which only a fool would overlook or dismiss, this is a principle that the Public would all too easily embrace.

What it doesn’t do is answer the big questions surrounding why the idea of privatisation gained momentum in the first place. Perhaps the biggest reason being one of the left’s own making; the power of the Unions and Employment Rights too.

The simple question for anyone who understands the reasons why Public Services are put out to contract and therefore placed in profit-making hands is this: ‘Why is it more cost effective to employ a profit making company to run an identical service to the one we could or have provided ourselves?

The answer isn’t one that the left likes.

But it is also the reason that wholesale return of public services to public ownership without reform would cripple this Country in no uncertain terms: The Public Sector wage and benefits bill is out of control, as are the regulations and rights that support them, and the Union’s will bring everything to a standstill under the guidance of their barons who will employ the very same self-interest employed by big bankers and pension funds who milk public services today, simply served up in a different and even more malevolent form.

Building new Railways

Building new Railways will not solve the problems of franchising to profit-led contractors or operating them in unreformed Public hands.

It will cost money that the Country doesn’t have and would be unnecessary for us to spend too, if the Government was prepared to make the decisions that it should do.

The existing Infrastructure

One of the biggest errors of Government in ‘recent’ times, was the dismantling of the Railways undertaken by Dr Beeching in the 1960’s.

There was a complete lack of foresight and understanding by yet another Government which was reacting to the effects of problems it was facing, rather than getting on and tackling the causes as any good government should.

The result was that much of the indirect capacity which had until that time existed, was removed and with it, a ticking time bomb created for the effectiveness of the reformed railway network which would soon be as restricted as the diminished number of lines.

Today, there are simply not enough platforms at key and terminus or hub stations to increase capacity on the network in the most simple and effective way:

Increase the number of trains.

Using the Public as a cash cow

Whilst the Government heads off a simmering crisis each year by putting up the Rail Fares in what can only be argued as an unrealistic form, it relies on what is in effect taxing the same people over and over again for using a substandard service. One that only appears sustainable because over many commuters the Rail Operators hold a monopoly – something public services were NEVER created for.

Solving the problem and not creating others instead

It occurred to me as I was thinking about writing this blog, that the whole idea of public-private sector partnerships is actually oxymoronic.

Man can only have one master, and if that master is money, the service will not be about providing a good experience to the public.

Whilst I like the idea of public services being fully in public hands, this idea itself is no longer possible.

The standing influence that institutional and regulatory bias towards employees and unions has, has already priced out this operating model in many ways. It is itself the elephant in the room that it remains dangerous to identify when the collapse of public services – particularly at local level – is ever discussed.

In respect of these two options alone, the complexity of solving the Rail Fare crisis is identified and as part of the wider cost-of-public-services is concerned, certainly comes into its own.

The only way that railways and all forms of public transport can be returned to a format of universal, uniform quality and experience is to do away with the current and previous forms of operation and accept that there has to be a new operating model, focused on public service but adapted to deliver for all against the flow of self-interested times.

We need more platforms and if necessary stations in key locations, but we don’t need to build completely new lines.

The technology now exists to run and manage many more Trains on the same lines at the same times and we should be both embracing and furthering this massive opportunity for the benefits to the public, rather than just the profitability that it was developed for.

Existing line-beds and heritage Railways should be put back into commercial use and we should be making the very best of the infrastructure that we already have.

The cost of doing so and the time it will take to deliver will be substantially less and with much less disruption than any white elephant project like HS2 would ever have.

 

image thanks to unknown

 

 

 

 

28 different people will always have and need a different relationship with money. So why would the UK be any different when it comes to the economy and 27 Countries in the EU?

November 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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Everything we perceive is relative. We often forget to see it that way. Or, we simply lose the grasp on individual perspective when we could and should be applying its use to many other things.

In everyday life, the consequences are often played out in our misunderstanding of others, just because we overlook the opportunity to at least try empathising and seeing a situation from the point of being stood in someone else’s shoes.

Regrettably, the relativity between one situation which appears materially different from another is much easier to overlook, even though once the similarities are thought through, the same principles are often easy to apply.

How this Government and the Remain contingent are treating our relationship with the EU is sadly no different.

It is regrettably too apparent that the care and consideration, coupled with the intelligence and common sense that fuel an objective reality for the future of this Country are in this case being dangerously denied.

Economics is the topic of the day for the Government’s denial over the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

We see Phillip Hammond being wheeled out as part of May’s life support, knowing that like the coterie of other fear-driven Ministers that surround her, in the Prime Ministers immediate future is where their own legacies and political destiny will permanently lie.

Like one person who earns differently to another, has different family commitments and needs, has different resources handed down, lives in a different place, has different tastes and has a different culture and approach to spending, the individuality of our approach to economics relates to what we have, what we are, what we can get and what our independent priorities are – or yes, are allowed to be.

It’s part of how we are defined, how we survive and is inescapable as a key ingredient of how within a world ruled by money, we can be flexible enough to go forward and survive.

Countries are no different. In fact they are far more complex and have an ongoing need to be able to respond malleably to the needs of the markets in which they operate, to the needs of the majority of everyday businesses which operate within them and above all, to whatever might be the requirements generated by their own population – i.e. their own domestic need.

If you have need of any example to illustrate how removing economic flexibility can go wrong when you have the idea that synchronising your economic system with other Countries is the place where you belong, you only need look at the cases of the EU Members Greece and Italy to get a very good idea of how the idea of harmonising economics between different Countries can go dangerously wrong.

We are fortunate that we were able to leave the ERM at that point that we did in the 1990’s when the Conservative Party was last on a downward trajectory after getting so much about its responsibilities to the Electorate so wrong. It could otherwise easily have been the UK today which suffering so catastrophically, as we would be unable to make our own rules on money and be ruled completely by the will of 27 other Countries when it came to everything financially that we did.

Put simply, we would already be the EU’s bitch, and if Theresa May is allowed to continue with her treacherous sell-out, that’s exactly where each and every part of our Country is going to be.

The scare stories being propagated by Ministers only interested in saving their big jobs and their own skins are a travesty of misinformation and bear no relation to the reality that it is only when you have control over the choices that you make, that you are fully equipped to adapt to each and every battle, and reach a position where as a Country, we can economically win.

There are already many Countries who want to do business with us, whilst remaining shackled under Theresa May’s Welched Brexit ‘deal’, will only ensure that all these massive opportunities will very quickly end up in the bin.

We must not be in fear of the EU. They have much more to lose by working against us, and everything to gain fro working with the UK to facilitate a genuine process for us to Leave, and then build a relationship with us which facilitates the same kind of access to each others markets that everyone but the EU itself wants and knows we can keep open – what is for all of us very much the ‘win-win’.

Growth and prosperity are only there for us as a Country to enjoy if we actually have and maintain control over them.

It will not be until we have recovered and used that Great British step into the unplanned unknown and broken all ties with the EU that we will again taste the real opportunities that meet and are open to our culture.

It is here that we will be able to achieve without restriction in our own markets, across the whole World including Europe, and be on a pathway to once again as a Nation being proud of who we are and appreciative that we are capable of so much more.

 

Image thanks to unknown

 

What the Carillion collapse tells us about the unspoken truths governing public sector contracts

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Carillion

Carillion is the big news this week, and is likely to remain on the media radar for some time, given the impact that the collapse of a Company of this size is almost certain to have on commercial relationships that are now an integral part of the public sector.

Moments like this are important for reasons which go way beyond the impact that Monday’s announcement is already having on jobs and the potential closures of many small businesses.

It is providing one of those very rare opportunities to glance inside the incestuous workings of contract delivery on behalf of government and gain an invaluable insight into why private interests working at any level within the public sector is in clear conflict with very ideals of what public service delivery is fundamentally about.

Regrettably, the clear focus of the media and political classes has already fallen upon the question and avoidance of blame. Yet if they were to begin to look just a little further and be open with what have for too long been the unpalatable truths, there would be just the merest hope that questions such as whether there can be a future for the NHS when it remains in a perpetual state of financial crisis could perhaps be genuinely answered.

So why are contracts going to private companies outside the public sector?

The best place to begin thinking about the contracting or privatisation problem is to look at why private business is really even involved in the delivery of government services of any kind, when government exists to operate for, on behalf of and for the benefit of only the public.

Man can only ever have one true master after all, and if money is the true motivator, then public service will at best become an oversight – the unwelcome relative left trailing way behind.

Whilst it may feel counter-intuitive to believe or accept it for many of us, the ‘privatisation solution’ has been in the main part created by Conservative governments in response to the consequences of policies created typically by Labour in order to enhance the rights, working conditions and influence of public sector employees.

Positive discrimination and rights, enhanced working conditions, gold-plated pensions and union indulgence within public sector organisations all cost an ever evolving sum of money in an increasing number of different ways, which usually create even more roles and dilute responsibility further and further still.

The cost of employing people within the public sector on conditions which exceed those of the private sector outside – even when salaries appear to be less, has simply made the delivery of services too expensive for government itself to provide.

Against this backdrop, all areas of he public sector have had to go in search of more cost effective ways to deliver services, and have had to do so in ways which also meet the rigorous requirements of providing services and employing staff as a government based organisations.

This has made the ‘marketplace’ fertile for the entry of private contractors who don’t have the same considerations as these former public sector based service providers.

When you consider that private contractors are providing arguably the same level of service, just without the same levels of bureaucracy – whilst making what in some cases is an outrageous level of profit besides, you can soon begin to see that something is inherently wrong with the way that the government system is now designed.

So how does public sector contracting by private contractors become a problem?

Business loves a contract. Contracts give surety. Contracts themselves can be used as a solid-gold guarantee – and particularly so when they are agreed and signed with government. This gives business confidence which can be misplaced, misused, abused and is almost certain to breed a feeling of complacency.

After completing what should be a rigorous ‘tender process’ – the company will sign a contract with the government organisation which agrees what, when and how the ‘contractor’ will provide a service, whether that just be 1 person to sweep a street or 32 bin lorries to collect your rubbish every fortnight for 5 years. On signing this contract, the company will know exactly what it will be paid, know what it will in turn have to spend, will have worked out its costs and borrowing, should have kept back a little for a rainy day and then know what it will make in profit – from which it will pay bonuses to staff and dividends to shareholders after it has paid any tax requirement.

Good managers know that some things change during the lifetime of a contract – such as fuel prices going up, which would be a real concern for a bus service provider or a private ambulance services. But contractual devices or clauses that allow for some variation in charges are usually built in to any contract to allow for this.

As such, genuinely unforeseen events or those which could not have been predicted by anyone within the contracting company itself are very rare to find.

What government contracts don’t allow for however, are lack of knowledge or understanding of the service delivery area on the part of those designing and agreeing a contract. They don’t make allowance for unmitigated trust on the part of either party. They certainly don’t consider the potential greed or indeed malpractice of a contractor or its decision making staff, which cannot be planned for or predictably defined even within the scope of a government contract process.

When a contractor has only a single contract, transparency is bizarrely much clearer and for the management, much more important and kept clearly in mind.

But when you have many more and perhaps and ever increasing number of contracts, the potential for complacency and overconfidence can lead to otherwise unrealistic opportunities, which in more focused circumstances would have been denied.

It may be as simple as paying senior executives massive, over-inflated salaries. But it has the potential to be much much more in terms of investment, questionable projects and big payouts for shareholders when little in terms of adequate checks and balances has allowed an adequate safety blanket to be retained from payouts and quietly put aside.

The overriding problem with a company which has grown to the size, reach and responsibility of Carillion is there is so much in terms of questionable financial activity that it has the ability to very easily hide.

The responsibility for contract design and management doesn’t just fall on contractors themselves however.

In the background to all this and within the protectionist culture in which contemporary public sector commissioning is currently enshrined, purchasing officers simply don’t have the motivation or willingness to do their jobs as effectively as they should. When the money you are allocating isn’t yours, public service and best value isn’t always the overriding priority. Sometimes it’s all about doing anything which proves to be easier, and who gets what doesn’t always work out exactly as it should.

Whether its building maintenance, bin collections, public transport, prison management, forensic services or interim and temporary staff services that contractors provide, contractors are all making unnecessary profit at the ultimate cost to us as taxpayers.

So what can be done to solve the problem and when will anything happen?

What has been outlined here provides little more than a simple snapshot of a very big and complex problem, which those in power are through their actions are continuing to deny.

For these problems to be addressed, it would first be necessary for politicians to accept that the whole system of government delivery is broken, riddled with management focused upon self interest, making decisions based on theoretical premise, and that there are simply too many people operating within the system who are ultimately being allowed to take us all for a ride.

The ‘too big to fail’ mindset has now permeated through political thinking to a level where contracts are being awarded despite very clear warning signals which would tell even very junior civil service staff that something is not right.

This is no longer a question of let’s bail them out so that they don’t fail like Labour did with the Banks in 2008; this is all about awarding contracts because there is a view that they never will.

Solving this problem is far from simple. It is not just about political thinking. It’s about getting the market’s to think differently. But just as much, it’s about getting employees to see their roles differently; to accept that they have a part to play too.

In simple terms, the free for all has to stop.

This bonanza based on self-interest is no longer sustainable.

The perpetuation of the lie that government genuinely works selflessly for everyone has got to be stopped.

No business can perform effectively on the basis that it prioritises the working conditions and needs of its staff before the priorities upon which it was created to deliver. Yet this is how liberalism and rights culture has manifested itself within all parts of government and the public sector.

Not only has the NHS become hamstrung by lack of staff and inefficiency, it is being cut up by the cost of the staff it hires through contracts – thereby being destroyed by the supposed solution itself; by the very respite that additional money is supposed to provide.

Meanwhile local government has its own substantive bogeyman too, finding itself tied up in knots by the cost of the local government pension scheme – the destination of the better part of our council tax, in many of the Boroughs, Cities and Districts where most of us reside.

Then there are the PFI contracts upon which the last Labour Government so heavily relied. A coarse, deceptive instrument designed to hide public spending, whilst fire hosing cash at private contractors over 30 year terms. Just another financial time bomb legacy like the raid on pension funds by Gordon Brown which we overlook daily on the basis that out of sight is very much out of our minds.

The power rests with government to change all of this, if only they would try.

Regrettably, the will doesn’t even exist to even begin doing so today, even if the Government could begin doing so – something that a hung parliament which could last until 2022 will simply deny.

With a good chance that the next Government will be based upon or built around a militant form of Labour, the chances are that politicians will only continue to try and hide the truth thereafter, because action which doesn’t just look responsible is not a pathway to which they are inclined.

As Jeremy Corbyn made clear in his questioning of Theresa May at Wednesday’s PMQ’s, the answer is just to do everything to return everyone to employment in government jobs. No doubt based upon further borrowing, which to those who don’t understand business or economics is a perceived as a policy which when sold looks bullet proof.

images thanks to independent.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, wiltshiretimes.co.uk

New houses never lower prices within their local ‘market’ and the Persimmon CEO’s £110 Million Bonus gives our ‘housing crisis’ the lie

January 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Money HousesHousing has become one of the hot political issues of our time. To read and hear about it in the media, it has become easy to conclude that the Government, our Councils, Housing Associations and Builders alike all share the view that we are in a housing crisis. The picture they paint suggests that they are all doing everything that they possibly can. But should we all really believe?

Laid bare, the lack of housing really does look nothing like the story we are being presented. Immigration inflating real need exponentially has become as much an unspoken truth across the whole country, as it has that 2nd homeowners are leaving seaside and rural property empty for much of the year, whilst they add nothing financially to the communities in which they don’t have time to genuinely reside.

“We need to build more homes” has become the mantra of the many. Yet the real beneficiaries of this process will not be the people who will end up living in many of them. Nor will it be the Government which is operating on the premise that money is the only way to solve any problem, no matter what it might be.

The real beneficiaries of the push to create housing will be the builders and the bankers who finance them, whose real take from all the public money which is being fire-hosed at them is only too well illustrated by the bonus payment being made to the CEO of Persimmon Homes.

Under the auspices of self-serving government at all levels and the ineptitude of policy making and long term strategy which has been rolled out in real time within current planning policy, Builders and Developers of all kinds have found themselves within what can only be described as a smorgasbord of discount and profit and the epitome of the one-sided win-win.

Deals are and have been done, not on the basis of what is best for us all. For if that were the true intention, there would be little need for deals of this kind.

Deals are being done, because the focus of this housing crisis is little more than money and profit itself.

People young and old are being out priced in all parts of the housing market, not because prices reflect the true value of houses and the market, but because the system and government policy is facilitating house builders, mortgage lenders and private landlords to take us all on one massive, great big bubble-building ride.

The evidence is not difficult to find. Wherever we may live, new housing developments are never far away. Yet when homes are released, we never see prices being lowered nearby.

Lower house prices within the communities in which these additional homes are built would be the logical outcome within any localised market which was genuinely left to itself to determine and decide.

Instead this so-called ‘crisis’ continually goes on unsolved, whilst we are being sleepwalked into a national travesty in the shape of an unsustainable housing price bubble which is guaranteed to explode.

When it does, those profiteering and responsible now will be the first to run and hide.

image thanks to unknown

Brexit and the influence of Corporate Business: Money talks and the rest of the business community walks

Brexit 2The result of the European Referendum was a surprise to many, and that includes a substantial part of the leave side itself. Yet over a year on, with Article 50 Triggered over 3 Months ago and David Davies now participating in regular sessions of ‘negotiation’ with the European elite, nobody seems to know what impact Brexit will have on any of the key issues, and whether any of what are being considered as the obvious problems which led to the ‘No’ Vote will really have been resolved.

With Brexit constituting a polysemic reference point which in the imaginations of everyone will look as different as the number of people you might ask, it is perhaps no wonder that there really is as much confusion as there appears to be about the whole process.

Some do of course interpret what is already the natural anxiety which is accompanying these early stages of our departure from the European Union as change in the minds of the majority that initiated this whole process. Yet they would do well to remember that none of the reasons which prompted that significant choice on the part of so many have as yet been resolved, and especially so in the case of the many more beyond those generally accepted and not least of all the spectre of corporate and political self interest.

It should really be of little surprise that things have looked like such a mess in these circumstances and genuinely forgivable given the lack of pre-Referendum preparation for its outcome and the chain of events including a change of Prime Minister and an arguably unexpected General Election which has distributed power in peculiar directions.

What is less easy to overlook, and perhaps should be of great concern to us all, is the readiness of former remain-backing politicians to focus upon the opinion and input of sources from the corporate world who also sought the same outcome when considering what will or wont work for business-full-stop, when what they appear to hope will be an indefinite period of transition commences in March 2019 and we formally leave the Union.

Input of organisations such as the CBI, whilst important in its capacity as a member-based industry voice, is nonetheless representative only of the executives and companies for whom they work, and therefore the highly subjective and specifically profit-led interests that they all have in conjunction with their own trading arrangements with Europe – rather than what is objectively in the better interests of us all.

Whilst it may be to some degree inevitable that UK-European trade will come at a greater cost to all businesses in the future, these changes will in real or financial terms be no different than the changes in costs of manufacturing, supply and service provision which have accompanied change after change after change which have been instigated by a continual flow of new European Laws and Directives when they hit relevant businesses. In fact, it is only the fact that this is an industry-wide phenomenon, rather than just another hitting one sector or another, which really marks leaving the European Union itself as being markedly different from changes that to real business, would really be ‘just one of those things’.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that the Government is listening to the wrong people, but it certainly does not appear to be taking into account the realities facing the complete range of the right ones either, and when the views of Remain-lite big business are put into their true perspective, the news is arguably far from as bad as the comparatively few companies which are big enough to swim in the pool with the CBI and have influence on its own Policy would like us and the Government to think.

Motivation is regrettably key, and whilst it is considered normal to talk about the individuals who give voice to CBI membership and the corporate business community as being representative of the ‘business view’, very few, if indeed any of the people who have reached the top of these large Companies will have really cut their teeth in the furnace of SME business start-ups, development and management. It is here where you ultimately have no choice but to accept, get on and work with legislatory change, or get out of the market and let someone else have a go if you can no longer make it work.

Small business, which suggested by Federation of Small Business (FSB) figures makes up at least 60% of industry, thrives on being adaptable and embracing each and every change that it will face, which for most will come to them pretty much on almost daily basis. What it doesn’t have – even with membership organisations like the FSB  – which are again only technically representative of the views of their members with a voice – is a seat, or what should be a significant number of seats around the ‘top table’ when it comes to getting the ear of Ministers and indeed our Government.

This is a travesty, as the business environment which they inhabit is the real engine room of our economy, and the place where industry feedback is most open and reflective of the concerns and realities which really do face all businesses.

SME’s are the business equivalent of the electoral grassroots and the only place to go if Government really wants to establish the priorities of British Business to inform our negotiations with the EU as we transition through Brexit to what may then prove to be a much more productive world for the British economy beyond.

image thanks to news.sky.com 

The Living Wage is as much Labours’ child as it is the Conservatives’ and their MP’s Band Aid parody highlights the political culture of creating policies which deny the realities of consequence

December 21, 2016 Leave a comment

labour-band-aid

The principle of the Living Wage or rather the concept that everyone should at least earn enough to provide them with a basic standard of living is a good one for many reasons. But in isolation, the coercive nature of such a policy being unleashed upon business and industry was always going to be seriously flawed.

The indirect impact and ripple-effect of this Policy – which have led to consequences outside of political control, were as poorly considered when it was launched and implemented by former Chancellor George Osborne as it was when it was first mooted by Labour Leader Ed Milliband.

That big business has adopted a rationalisation of employee terms and conditions as a method of offsetting the additional expenditure which the Government has effectively imposed upon them should not come as any surprise.

Profit is for many organisations a god after all, and whilst to many the implementation of the Living Wage appears to be a highly positive step in making life better for the lowest paid, it also overlooks many facets of its knock-on effects or indirect impact upon those it was not designed to benefit. Above all, it fails to consider the responses and choices that employers of all kinds would make as a result.

Whilst the behaviour of successive Governments and the City would suggest otherwise, for the rest of us, money doesn’t simply grow on trees. The impact of paying employees more money has many effects besides using up a company profit margin and whilst it may be a principled idea to expect business to warmly welcome such an apparently altruistic move, it is also extremely naive. Would these very same companies not already be paying everything to staff that these politicians expect them to, if the owners or managers making the decisions already believed the idea or principle was right?

Perhaps most concerning when considered in this context, should be the fact that in April 2017, the Living wage will rise by another 30p to £7.50 an hour, and that a further rise will follow the next year. The consequential impact of the Living Wage will become continue to become worse as it becomes more widespread, and the economies and efficiencies that have been made to service the inflation-busting rise so far, will simply become unsustainable as the costs escalate beyond where they are today.

There are currently too many factors outside of the control of government, such as the escalating prices charged for services and goods that are essential to a basic standard of living, for isolated meddling to have a genuinely sustainable positive impact. And that is without even factoring in whether the many marketplaces in which different organisations operate can sustain low margin companies paying their staff more.

As things stand, MP’s and activists can bitch about the injustices of the Living Wage all they like, as the story they are telling will in some ways certainly ring true. But until they accept that they must all think differently about how they address the impact of all that they do, it will continue to be the very same people they are telling us they are going to help who will be the ones who will ultimately suffer as a result.

image thanks to http://www.totalpolitics.com

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