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Why it’s time to end the Lockdown & how to let life resume and face whatever happens next

April 6, 2020 8 comments

img_551713 days into this brave new world and you can see that the novelty of the Lockdown and social distancing is beginning to wear thin.

A week from now, the news that 3 weeks of this was just the start of something much longer will be beginning to sink in.

But by then the pain will already be less about being kept inside our homes. It will be more about how people can continue to live and the question of how businesses will survive an indefinite Lockdown, just so they can get to the end of the Lockdown and still exist.

There is a disaster unfolding behind the media coverage and focus on equipping and preparing the NHS to treat a significant number of critical-case Coronavirus Patients.

This real crisis is much bigger than many could comprehend, even if it was something that they could now visibly see.

Already there are businesses that have closed for the Lockdown that will never reopen. Others will close as the Lockdown continues. Some will survive until it is clear they cannot service a growing mountain of debt that accumulates daily, simply because the Government did not think through the implications of what a full Lockdown would mean on so much of our business sector and industry.

The Government has simply failed to comprehend how businesses and the people who own and run them need to be supported so that they will be there to provide services, products and employment for the many others who will need them when the time comes to restart.

Yet to hear the media and read the non-stop commentary wherever you look, the only game in town is ‘Protecting the NHS’.

Don’t get me wrong, we need the NHS to be fully equipped and ready to do the best for people that it can. But with Field Hospitals like the London Nightingale now open and others around the Country clearly earmarked for opening very soon, the political focus needs to move swiftly to the unseen crisis that is beginning to evolve across our Country.

The hard truth is that deaths that will sooner or later become inevitable anyway should really be a lower level priority against what is now set to become a very extensive list of problems that people attempting to live their lives are having to or soon will have to face.

It feels very unpalatable to even think, let alone say that you have to accept and be prepared to let some people die, so that the majority of others can continue to live.

The problem is that it is also the truth.

The Government has backed itself into a corner by implementing the Lockdown. There is no risk-free way out.

Coronavirus Testing will be too slow to be any help in reducing the time it will take to try and manage the process of infection for the whole population.

Using tools such as Immunity Certificates would create massive social problems – if the Government then used the force that would be necessary to keep people who haven’t had Coronavirus at home – which is what they would have to do if they let those who have had it are able to have lives and everyone else does everything they can to catch it, so they can do the same too.

Whilst no politician wants to hear it said of them that they deliberately let people die when some of them could be saved, the harsh reality is that if we are to get out of this Crisis and the Coronavirus Pandemic in the best shape possible, we must all accept that in the world we live in, a life isn’t life if a person cannot actually live.

It is difficult for some to understand this, because in the form of the personal tragedies that we see rolled out continually on TV and the stories of he NHS in crisis that we hear daily, Coronavirus has given the intrinsic fear of death that we all share both a face and a name. It has taken on a very visual and highly emotive form.

The reality is that people are going to die from Coronavirus with or without the Lockdown and it would be much healthier for people, the whole Country and our economy if the Lockdown was ended and we got life restarted as quickly as possible and then dealt with each case of Coronavirus and its respective knock-on effects as we go along.

The genuinely vulnerable members of our society who are likely to be most at risk will continue to be at the same level of risk until a vaccine has been identified, tested and administered to them.

The time that it would take as a minimum to vaccinate everyone – given what will be a worldwide demand – will simply be too long for any civilized Country to wait for whilst keeping a shutdown in place.

Our high-profile Politicians like to talk up the Crisis as if it is like fighting a war. In the Second World War when Campaigns such as Operation Overlord and the D-Day Landings were planned, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the advising Generals around them literally worked out how many lives they would have to sacrifice on the battlefield to get the job done, so that the wider populations of their Countries and the World itself would win the fight against oppression in the end.

Such responsibility and leadership in strategic thinking is required of the leaders that we have now. The Politicians have talked the talk to win power. Now they must walk the walk to enact that power and see this through.

The implications of the Lockdown would not have been nearly so bad, had the Government taken an even handed and fair approach to mitigating the impact of the imposed standstill on workers of every kind and businesses alike.

But they didn’t, and this means that how the end of the Lockdown and the restart of life is managed must take into consideration where things are right now and where they will be rather than where they were before it started, because this whole situation is evolving each and every day.

It’s time for the Lockdown to end now. It’s time for life to restart.

There is no perfect way to plan the fight against Coronavirus, or to put together a strategy for ending the Lockdown, letting life restart and managing cases of Coronavirus either now or thereafter. There are simply too many unknowns and variables within what is a live and evolving Crisis for that ever to be the way.

However, we can ask that the Politicians do their best, and in terms of ending the Lockdown now and getting life back on track, these are some of the key things that they can now do.

Notification of Coronavirus Symptoms

Perhaps the key factor or source of information that the Government needs going forward, is clear and decisive record of who has experienced Coronavirus Symptoms – even if no medical intervention has been involved.

  • Upon first experiencing Coronavirus Symptoms, individuals should be able to Register using their individual identification data on the Government Portal.
  • This responsibility to register would become that of parents, carers and guardians for children and vulnerable people
  • Nobody should be able to claim Coronavirus Sickness Benefit without having registered first.
  • In the first instance and until such time as it is confirmed whether Symptoms of Coronavirus could be suffered more than once, individuals would be able to claim only once,
  • The data can then be used to distribute the Coronavirus Antibody Test once it is universally available and thereby technically available to all
  • On completion of registration, the Government Portal should allocate a unique reference number for every individual to use to claim benefits such as Coronavirus Sick Pay and payment holidays

The NHS

It will remain essential to keep resources flowing towards the NHS so that it can manage the critical stages of the Coronavirus related illness that some people will inevitable suffer – just as they are now.

Field Hospitals, Intensive Care Units, Ventilator numbers and the recruitment rate of staff will have to continue to rise until the natural infection rate and the number of people it will effect critically at any particular time has been reached.

This will not be long once the restart has begun. But there is likely to be a period of time where it doesn’t look like the NHS can cope and numbers of people are dying who might have been saved, had more resources been in place.

‘Protect the NHS’ is the Trojan horse argument that led to the shutdown as the chosen way to attempt to manage demand in the first place. It’s where the Government went fundamentally wrong.

  • Local Trusts should set up Designated Reception Centres, separate to GP Surgeries and Hospital Reception areas used for other purposes
  • Local dedicated helplines should be provided to field calls from those with symptoms
  • Dedicated Ambulance provision should be put in place for Coronavirus sufferers
  • The general emergency Ambulance fleet should be kept separate.
  • Serious consideration should be given to requiring benefits claimants to report for duty as healthcare assistants, with full pay, work and training options to be offered after a qualifying or probationary period.

The Restart itself

The way to lift the shutdown isn’t to try and overcomplicate things by using terms such as calling it ‘gradual’ or ‘taking things in steps’, or anything else that even hints at there being some form of managed delay.

Whilst we might all like to think that the world as we knew it before March could just be switched back on at 9am on Monday morning it won’t happen no matter what we do. The time it will take those businesses still operating to return to full operation will take a lot longer than it took them to shut down. That is before you take into consideration the natural trepidation that many people are going to have as a result of the negativity and scaremongering that has taken place on the part of the media.

Even now, barely a fortnight in to the Lockdown, things will have changed markedly and they will continue to do so each and every day until the new norm for life begins.

People and businesses are going to work differently, travel differently and think differently. So the resumption of participating in everyday life will take time under its own steam, without anyone or anything else being involved.

Social Distancing

Social distancing in areas where people are usually in close proximity will be a good measure to retain formally, even though people are likely to keep their distance for some time as it has already become an accepted part of life.

Even if social distancing plays no further active part in dealing with Coronavirus – given that there are very recent suggestions that the Virus can remain active in air for up to three hours – it will help address any social awkwardness that will exist for some people once the Media’s negative messaging campaign is over and done.

Sick Pay

  • Everyone working who has unable to work because they have caught Coronavirus should be able to rely on having Coronavirus Sick Pay
  • The Sick Pay should last a calendar month from the date of registration
  • There should not be a laborious process of application involving claims for Universal Credit or applications via Jobcentres or the DWP.
  • The Coronavirus sick pay should be claimed on behalf of employees by employers and paid as part of the monthly PAYE process
  • The self employed and/or contract workers should be able to claim their sick pay back as part of their next Annual Tax Return.
  • The reference number allocated at registration should be used by employers for PAYE purposes and on individual Tax Returns.

People

Fundamentally, it is essential that every member of the population is treated like an adult, trusted to do the right thing and given no excuse to do otherwise. To support everyone, the Government must ensure that all practical issues people may experience if and when they suffer with Coronavirus has been mitigated against adequately and given added value as an incentive too.

Put simply, if there’s no way people can lose out, they will do the right thing.

  • Any individual, their parent, carer or guardian will register Coronavirus Symptoms using the Government Portal
  • Upon registration, individuals should be required to immediately self-isolate and remain isolated for a minimum of 14 days
  • Upon experiencing escalating symptoms, individuals should report to local NHS designated reception centres or call designated helplines if transport or an ambulance is required
  • All domestic bills, rents, leases, loans, interest and debt repayments to stopped for a month as a ‘Payment Holiday’
  • Individuals to use the reference number provided when they registered with the Government Portal to confirm they are on a legitimate payment holiday with debtors or those they should normally pay.
  • A payment of approx £100 per week to be payable to every individual Registered in the ‘Coronavirus Window’ for a period of four weeks to cover food and essentials

The Vulnerable

  • The vulnerable have to be allowed to make their own decision about the risk, about remaining in isolation, or returning to ‘normal life’. They should not be pressured to go either way.
  • Benefits Claimants without medical conditions and unemployed should be tasked with providing the support currently provided by volunteers.

For Business

  • Businesses of all sizes should be protected from the impact of the Lockdown for the period of time it will take things to return to or find the new normal, once the Lockdown has been lifted.
  • Where necessary support should be applied retrospectively to the 23rdof March 2020, if not the point in time before that when levels of business within marketplaces are recognised as having began to decline in response to the early stages of the Coronavirus Crisis.
  • All businesses should have a 3-6 months ‘payment holiday’ from rents, leases, mortgages, repayments, interest, debt
  • Heavy fines and/or jail terms should be immediately awarded by a District Judge without trial or appeal, to any Creditor, Company, Director or Partner thereof refusing to facilitate the ‘payment holiday’ and/or attempting to recover any related sums using other or additional debt devices or levying additional payments or raising prices relating to that relationship

Funerals

For the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Government should intervene to ensure that the disposal of bodies is facilitated without delay, without price gouging or profiteering and is provided on the basis of a same-level, community service for all.

  • The Government should set a fixed, realistic cost for a ‘standard’ funeral with a transparent minimal fixed margin and no additional payments being made for anything not specified
  • The Government should pay the cost of ALL Funerals at the standard rate for the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic
  • Local Authorities should administer the allocation of care of the deceased and funerals to local undertakers on a take-it-in-turns basis
  • Local Authorities should administer payments to undertakers and make them immediately
  • All funerals should be provided on the same basis and not open to change or being ‘upgraded’ by additional payments from families etc
  • Funeral Insurance payouts to either be split with the cost of the standard funeral being returned to the Government and any outstanding balance returned to the family or estate, or simply paid out to the family or estate

The Media

Whilst free society needs a free press, the current approach, lack of ethical standards and reliance on dressing up subjective opinion as news requires that Government take a different approach and one that doesn’t play into the system as it is.

  • The forward briefing, advance copies of Government speeches and embargoed press releases need to stop.
  • Regulation needs to be introduced that requires news to be news, and for the mainstream media to promote the wider concept of the principle of charity in all things, rather than constantly looking for every opportunity to create negative spin.

#endthelockdownnow

Nobody else will ever compensate the loss of a good or viable business in circumstances out of the owner’s control. A Government that champions itself as the party of business should know better

March 29, 2020 2 comments

img_5431Watching events as they are unfolding is painful, especially when you know they are avoidable and that our decision makers have alternative choices. It has prompted me to write passionately over recent days about how our politicians should be mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown.

The ‘help’ that the Government is giving people is not only piecemeal – leaving holes for many that it is supposed to be helping, but for EVERYONE and specifically the people who need help that the response to the shutdown doesn’t reach, what the Government is doing doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

Everyone has something to say about all of this – especially those who have a platform on social media, in the press or on TV.

But the problem with the ‘profiled’ speakers who have been allowed to become too influential (Sadly there are too many to mention), and with it too fond of their own voices, is that the words they are giving us are usually little more than subjective opinion. What they pump out to every ear that will hear them is not based on experience or even getting out there and talking to real people, but how they look at the world and how they think things should be. It is based purely on the scope of the very narrow lens through which they see their own life.

Whatever our experiences of life up until we found ourselves at this point, we are all afraid. But we are afraid for different reasons.

My fear is not about catching Coronavirus and what it could do to me – as I’ve done the life-threatening illness thing before. It’s how the response to the Crisis is creating many more problems than it is going to solve, and that if we are together going to be able to make the best of the opportunities and positives that we have ahead of us once the critical stage of this Crisis is over, we do not have the right people leading us to make that either a practical or tangible option for us all.

The people I am most afraid for as I am writing this today, are the self-employed and the owners of small businesses who are likely to be sat somewhere right now on the verge of crying. Many are facing up to the stark reality that on one hand they have been stopped from trading for what in principle if nothing else is a good reason, but on the other they have had their ability to service bills, pay back debt and survive taken away from them without any bad decision on their part. This isn’t the result of something they have done, or could have planned for and there has been no opportunity for choice on their part.

What they are now experiencing is not happening in isolation. Many people will be affected by a chain of events that will start with them and cascade throughout our economy reaching every sector and every level of the supply chain.

People who work for them will lose their jobs. Suppliers and Service Providers will not have their bills paid. Customers will lose shops, their local tradesman and local services of all kinds that are not supplied by big business – because big business cannot offer the level of service and make the margins that their shareholders demand by offering customer experiences of this kind – whereas all these committed small business owners and self-employed people before Coronavirus did so willingly and by choice to build relationships with their customers and differentiate from the profit-led Corporate behemoths.

For those who have already lost or now stand to lose what was only weeks ago a good and viable business, no form of compensation will make up for the consequences of that loss, which will hit them very hard – especially when the responsibility for the loss sits squarely with our Government and the choices it has made.

From late 2010 I experienced what it was like to be in a very similar situation when the successful business I had set up and run for nearly 7 years had a key contract pulled from under me, simply because of changes to my customer’s marketplace. It was in no way related to the quality and value of the service I delivered.

Even though I had anticipated changes might come to the industry and I had negotiated clauses within our contract to make sure everyone would get paid and I would be left with enough to start again, I never anticipated that when it came down to it, a high profile customer like mine would refuse to pay a £six-figure final bill, simply because the legal system is such that it knew it could and would get away with it.

I was dropped completely, well and truly in the shit. Not because it was the conscious aim of the managers and lawyers responsible to get up and screw me, the people who worked for me and the people who supplied me that day. They did it, because the world we live in tells us we don’t have to think about the impact of what appears a sound business decision and has no downside or consequences for anyone else.

This is the kind of limited, self-serving and blinkered thinking that the Government is employing right now.

After months of fighting, I put my Company into Administration, not because I wanted to or felt it an easy way out. I did so because I simply didn’t have any other choice.

It’s because I’ve been in that situation that I can say openly that for many, that’s where the real problems begin.

Self-employment or owning and running a business is different for everyone and for different reasons we all find ourselves with the ability to contribute different things to what we do.

For some of those who are facing down the reality that the money the Chancellor has allocated won’t go far enough or won’t arrive soon enough, they will at least not have tied themselves into loans, leases or contractual arrangements of any kind to support their business.

The lucky ones -may have their day-to-day needs met fully.

But it’s more likely they will be met only in part by the money that the Chancellor has allocated to the self-employed.

All of the domestic bills like the rent, mortgage, phone and everything else still have to be paid.

But the people most likely to be able to manage on being given what is pretty much the average wage are the ones who are most likely walk away with a skill or trade still behind them that is always in demand by others. Put simply, if they’ve worked for themselves and had problems, it simply won’t be thought about.

However, as you scale up and away from the domestic bills that you may already be feeling left high and dry with when it comes to paying, for the self-employed who are directors, partners and company owners, there are further levels of commitment to meet and the reality they are facing is simply not the same.

Vehicles, Premises, Licenses, Fuel, Tools, Insurances, Loans, Vehicle Tax, Mortgages, Professional Fees, Bank Fees and plenty of other things need to be paid for – even if a business is standing still. So giving anyone what is the maximum of the average monthly wage who own and runs a business – if they qualify – is far from being a good start if the aim is to stop business falling over when you have told them to stop trading.

The people who own, run and set up small businesses without third party investor funding form the backbone of our business-based economy. They are the entrepreneurs and the people taking the real risks and there is a lot more to it than the tax status of being ‘self-employed’.

They are people who have really done something on their own who shouldn’t be treated like social pariahs or like they don’t exist when their business ‘fails’.

Beyond the financial hardship and turmoil that the Government is condemning them to face, there is a very harsh reality of how people in this Country judge what they inevitably assume to be failure, and in particular where the incorrectly but nonetheless interchangeable terms bankruptcy and administration are concerned.

Instead of looking further and more closely at the reality of why people may have found themselves dealing with the horrific process of managing their own bankruptcy or putting a company they own into administration, there is an immediate default assumption of wrongdoing on the part of those looking on, rather than even the merest hint of appreciation for the value of the experience and the lessons that will inevitably been learned.

Some businesses fold in ‘normal times’ because of stupidity or more likely because the person driving it is out of their depth and in a field they don’t understand. But for just as many if not many more, the reasons that have brought them to that place are simply out of their control.

These are people who would actually be an asset to any business because of their experience of dealing with these problems. Instead business all too often views them as being a risk and if there isn’t change in the way society looks upon the realities of business closure and what caused them, many brilliant people of exceptional understanding and talent will quickly join the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

It is not too late right now for the Chancellor and the Government to take a leap backwards, for them to review and restart the package of measures they are putting in place and this time get it all right from the start. I for one would certainly think it big of them if they do.

But as the days of this shutdown become weeks and the weeks then become months, good businesses and employers that were viable only days ago will be forced to close with companies going into administration and the owners declaring themselves bankrupt. Not voluntarily or because they didn’t know how to run their business. But because a Conservative Government didn’t understand the realities and consequences of the decisions it made in a crisis and wouldn’t consider the alternative choice.

Nobody in the supply chain of business, industry, services, property or anything else will lose out during a standstill, IF the flow of money throughout that chain is held up at every stage. Not just at the start.

Politics, political leanings and tribalism don’t count here. It’s simply about doing what is right.

The only way that EVERYONE who has lost their income as a result of the Shutdown can be treated fairly, whilst not being condemned to suffer or lose their livelihood too, is for the Government to stop ALL bill payments to ALL creditors, ALL interest payments and the accumulation of debt for EVERYONE – until such time as the Shutdown is over and EVERYONE has been able to return to work.

To not do so when it is a clear option shows an absurd level of inability on the part of Politicians to step out of their own shoes to taste and feel the reality of how the decisions they are making are going to manifest in our lives.

If businesses of the type, size and number that will be left to fail because the Government hasn’t taken steps to treat EVERYONE fairly, and above all THE SAME, the British economy is going to fall over a cliff in a way that will never allow business to operate in the same ways again.

What would be good to see right now is the politicians that we have elected doing the right thing and making the right choice. We are now in very different times, and if they do not do so, people will suffer the impacts of the choices that they have made for a long time to come.

When this Government falls or we have new Elections, the Electorate will not be forgiving.

The majority of the victims from the Coronavirus will not be the people who have died or have been personally touched by grief as a result of the illness it causes. Most will be created by the missed opportunities, poor decisions and the failure to act equitably on the part of politicians driving an avoidable tragedy for us all that would not have been necessary if the Government had thought differently and made an alternative choice.

To those reading this blog who may be staring down the barrel of the business closure gun, I sincerely hope that the Chancellor will have a lucid moment, grow a pair and reconsider his choice.

Please hang in there as long as you feel that you can do so, because we have to hope that this episode will be shorter than we all quietly suspect that it will be, and that the shortness of time will therefore make closure something you can avoid.

If it doesn’t, please be assured that there are many of us out here who care. Closing down your business will be tough for many reasons that days ago you would never have even dreamed of. But it will be easier for you to deal with and recover from if you are honest with yourself about what you can and should do, and take all the steps you can to see the process through in the right way.

I believe that the experience that we are all now commonly sharing is going to change the way that most of us view the World. The communities we live in, the businesses we work in, the people we interact with and how we interact with them are all going to change as a result.

I am hopeful that when we come out of the other side of this, we will all consider the impact of the way we think about other people and the way that we then treat them and we will all be open to an appreciation of the different circumstances people find themselves in, that they may not be responsible for and were never there by choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Payments going contactless, loans and interest increased by Government Policy instead of being put on hold: look at the flow of money and where this is all going when there is and always was a better way than what we are being told

March 25, 2020 Leave a comment

Coronavirus 1

The Banks, big business and the finance sector must be thinking that all their Christmases have arrived at once.

We are living through what in time will surely be seen as perhaps the biggest overkill in history of political leadership.

But instead of the same thinking, the same approach and the same rules being applied the same, equitably and with consideration for everyone, the Government is in the process of setting up the majority of us to fail, whilst it is creating the perfect conditions for the few or the usual suspects so that they can clean up and win.

The inequitable nature of what the Government doing looks more like a strategy to divide and conquer than a plan to bring people together in the way that it now should.

Yes there are grants. Yes there are subsidies. Yes there are loans.

But none of these responses are addressing the size, virility or indeed the longevity of what is already the supersize elephant in the room.

The best way to tackle a loss of income and trade for people, businesses and the self-employed during an event of this magnitude is to put the bills and interest that they ALL have to pay on hold.

EVERYONE who has lost out should then be given the same to pay for the food and essentials that won’t be covered. That way nobody gets less and nobody ends up able to take more.

For a hint of the undercurrent of what is going on around the world and who is happiest with the way that politicians are creating both unnecessary and avoidable pain, look how the US Money Markets responded yesterday when they heard that a $2 Trillion fiscal stimulus was on its way.

Making money or profit is a non-essential activity and no business whether it is purely financial or not shouldn’t be able to continue rolling on with charging and levying fees on the people who cannot. It certainly shouldn’t have these activities endorsed by Government by the public policy it promotes.

To be clear, we are not talking about cash handling, cheque cashing or card services which are essential to keep everyone fed in their homes. Its this ridiculous idea that an economy cannot stop or be mothballed – which the Government has inequitably already done to employees and many businesses – just because it hasn’t been done before.

By listening to economists and the people of influence who have their own agendas in every way, the Government is showing us that it is happy to store up a world of long-term problems for anyone who doesn’t have a name, and that it will continue to so so for however long it refuses to take a balanced and considered approach to EVERYONE involved.

If these Politicians want to remain credible and be forgiven for the unavoidable things that have gone wrong during the Coronavirus Crisis, the only way they can do this is by stopping bill payments for anything that is not itself essential to life or living.

They must put a hold on each and every form of interest too.

Above all, they must give EVERYONE who has lost income the same amount for food – and yes, £94 a week would be enough for one person if they don’t have to pay any of the other non-essential bills that they normally would.

The Government has the power to do this now and this is what they should so.

Stop all the nonsense based on what it looks like for you, think it through for EVERYONE and for once get it right!

 

 

 

 

 

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