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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 Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This. Is. Not. Enough.

March 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Everyone needs the Government to do more.

What the Government has done for us financially is not enough.

Paying people just enough so that they might be able to service their bills only helps the banks, the finance sector and whoever owns property and capital further up the chain.

This isn’t fair. It is making profit from misery. It is going to hurt many more than it will save.

It isn’t fair that so many people are riding the clutch on debt and just about managing in normal times.

There is no way that prioritising or showing preference to creditors during a national crisis is in any way fair on all of us now.

The madness has to stop.

The Government must ditch the complicated solutions and lack of consideration for the impacts and consequences that the decisions they are making will really have.

EVERYONE MUST BE TREATED THE SAME

It doesn’t matter if you are Self-Employed, Unemployed, a Shareholder, Zero-Hours Worker, Professional, Key-Worker or Business Owner.

EVERYONE MUST BE TREATED THE SAME

The only way to deal with this crisis equitably and in a way that will work for EVERYONE and put us in the best place possible for us ALL to pick up our lives and resume them as near as possible to how they were before, is to shut down the normal flow of money until normal business can be resumed.

STOP THE BILLS, THE INTEREST AND THE ACCUMULATION OF DEBT FOR EVERYONE

Don’t piss about with clever ideas that sound great when they are shared from a lectern during a TV briefing, but only end up helping some, and then in too many cases only part of the way.

EVERYONE WHO HAS LOST INCOME DUE TO THE SHUTDOWN SHOULD RECEIVE EXACTLY THE SAME 

£94 a week is enough for any one person to feed themselves and buy the necessary essentials IF THERE ARE NO OTHER BILLS TO PAY.

KEY-WORKERS, ANYONE else who is able to continue working or ANY BUSINESS that continues to trade will get the immediate bonus of having a payment holiday – which is a very fair and balanced way for the Country to say a big thank you for all that they do.

Anything else is simply setting us ALL up for a great fall.

Businesses are already closing and will not reopen.

Jobs that have been put on hold will never return.

The Crisis DOES NOT need to be made worse for any of us than it already is.

The Government can do this and it can do it quickly.

THIS IS THE HELP THAT EVERYONE NEEDS!

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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

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

If ever there was a right time to tell the EU to bugger off, that time is now

March 22, 2020 Leave a comment

I make no secret of my concerns over how the Chancellor is currently setting in motion a chain of events that will start off by short changing some and end up short changing everyone.

I don’t agree that the policies he and Boris are chucking out each day go far enough and have little doubt they are going the wrong way. I certainly don’t agree that they are equitable, fully considered or that they will help us collectively as individuals, communities or as a Country in any meaningful or sensible way.

What I do acknowledge and support is that no mater whether the measures they are taking are in effect wrong for us or right, they are at least being taken by this Country’s current Leaders with at least the aim that some if not all of our population are the priority – which is at least along the right lines.

What We nor they needed right now is interference or posturing from the EU in any way.

Yes, the UK may technically still be operating under the rules and terms of Membership of The EU whilst the interim, negotiation or transition period continues and goes through.

But as we effectively left the EU on 31st January 2020 – before all of the Coronavirus issues really began, there is no reason why the Supranational Government of the European Continent should now have any right even to attempt to impose its will in this way – when that interference could prevent at least some of the people in our Country from receiving some form of financial help.

Our Government may be right or it might be wrong in the way that it has so far chosen to subsidise businesses, give them grants, underwrite loans or simply pay or take care of at least some of the bills.

But in a time of nationsl Crisis like the one that we are now in, it is essential that our Government has the agility and freedom to make its own decisions and the best ones that it can for the People it is there to represent, as the government of any independent country should always be able to do.

The reality is that the Brexit debate and the issues of Leave vs Remain have now been given a very different perspective about the benefits of localisation that our own policies provide, the disadvantages of quasi and full globalisation that the values underpinning the EUs open borders promote and why independence and sovereignty as a nation doesn’t stop us from having a healthy working relationship with our neighbours and the rest of the world, but does leave the decisions which should always be taken by us in our hands for us to decide.

If there was ever a right time to tell the EU to bugger off, that time is now.

 

 

Neither the Public or Business can service debt without income. The Chancellor’s Coronavirus ‘help’ is yo-yo politics that flashes in the face but simply doesn’t go that far

March 18, 2020 Leave a comment

img_5330The ineptitude of our politicians is stunning.

The problem that millions of people and businesses right across our country are facing is that their income has already stopped, soon will do, or at best is going to be severely reduced.

So what does the Chancellor do?

He sets them up with a loan.

And that’s for the specific people he has actually identified – certainly a long way from being them all.

We don’t know how long the Coronavirus Crisis will take to complete its course. We don’t know when ‘business as usual’ for any industry or occupation will be able to resume. We certainly don’t know if trading levels for any company will then have even the remotest possibility of returning overnight.

So when faced with losing either your wage or your business losing at least some, if not all of its trade, the last thing you need is a loan – even without interest – that is open ended in its value because you don’t know how long you will need it for; loans that will already be unaffordable to pretty much everyone because it’s not something that you have either made allowance in your monthly domestic outgoings or business income vs expenditure budgeting for.

img_5329For a Chancellor of the Exchequer – and a Conservative one at that – to not understand the implications of what would be no more than a cynical headline-grabbing plan in normal times would itself be very profound. For him to do it at a time of National Crisis, when people and business need genuine help to survive, whatever the duration, and then be able to return to their own normality at some point in the future whenever that might be is profoundly ridiculous at very best.

Whilst the Tory troops are lauding the whole effort and shouting plaudits suggesting that this is the best Chancellor we’ve ever seen, the reality is dawning on many people that the measures he has announced is little more than yo-yo politics, where what appears to be given to those in need at speed will just as quickly return to the hand of the giver on what is a deliberately transparent, yet firmly fixed string.

Regrettably, the approach that the Johnson government is employing in the handling of the Coronavirus crisis is akin to something that would fit right into the conspiracy theorists playbook.

Talk of confining the public to their homes for many months on end; the shutting down of public events, gatherings, and pubs and now a series of financial measures dressed in the rhetoric of being there to help and support us, whilst in its cold and hard reality does anything but.

At best, it all points to a disproportionate level of control being levied upon the public at large by an inept Government living in fear of its own responsibilities and driven by the interests of a very close cadre of financial and business interests that it feels unceasingly obliged to prioritise and serve.

God help us all in a few weeks if the Public become tired of what may well quickly prove be a misdirected overkill and people then take to the streets. Because all of this ineptitude on the part of a Government that thinks that with an 80 seat majority it can do no wrong, really will give currency to the words and actions of those who will prove themselves to be far more dangerous than fruitcakes and loons.

The Government has a level of power and the responsibility to use it at a time of National Crisis like this that it never has before.

We may not be at War. But the circumstances are potentially as severe nonetheless.

This means that the Government and in particular both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have an incredible opportunity to step beyond the restrictions and shibboleths of so-called peacetime protocols and carry out the real functions of the Offices of State that they are there for.

But to do this they must lead and not be led.

No civil servant, no adviser, no specialist, no expert has the knowledge, training or experience to come up with the comprehensive solutions that will factor in everything that needs to be considered.

They certainly have no way to know if what they do suggest, advise or contribute will turn out being right.

That means listening to ALL of the advisors, specialists and representatives whilst keeping in mind that all of them will have their own bias and self interest in the solutions that they offer. But that even when the solution they offer might appear to work, it wont work for the many if it prioritises financial or other benefits to the few.

In the first instance, to be equitable and to be fair to EVERYONE and not just the usual suspects and same old few, our Leaders MUST instruct the Civil Service, Industry and the Financial Sector what the solution will be and not make it voluntary for them to support or options that they can choose on the basis of it being like advice.

Breaking completely new ground it might be, but if Boris wants to go down in history as the PM who saw this thing through the right way and got the job done, this talk of £300 Billion in the underwriting of loans and grants needs to be scrapped immediately and replaced with radical Standstill Legislation with key points like these addressed fully in clear and unhindered view:

What the Country needs:-

  • People and businesses don’t need debt relief or loans for the duration of the crisis. They need the payments to completely STOP.
  • We ALL need payments for non-essential services and items to STOP.
  • People who have been laid off need surety that their jobs will continue to exist.
  • Interest payments of any kind need to STOP.
  • People who are self-employed or working in the gig economy need the same basic income as everyone else affected too.
  • HMRC needs to go on holiday and open the VAT window for collections to at least 6 months from 3 or even more – WITHOUT levelling interest.
  • People who have been laid off or have had their wages reduced need the surety of a basic income just to pay for food.
  • We need the Government to step in takeover every service that was formally in public hands so that essential utilities and services can be provided to EVERYONE who cannot work, trade or keep going as normal for the duration of the crisis FOR FREE – Not paying the retail bill for every household and business, but by taking over and underwriting the whole supply chain so that there is no profit taking at any level remaining involved.

What we don’t need:-

  • A Government unable to look beyond the restrictions of what advisors advisors tell it is possible, what it has done, or what history tells us that it can do.
  • The same pockets being lined with profit now during this crisis as they are in normal times

Above all, the solution that will work now and for the future must be applied on a blanket basis.

By taking over and underwriting essential services and ensuring that EVERYONE has at least a basic income that will cover the cost of a weeks food, the Country and everyone not working within it will be in the best place during the crisis to financially survive and then thrive once this terrible chapter has ended and is over.

The benefit for those who continue working in roles like the emergency services and in our hospitals, the benefit in kind will be that they receive a payment holiday whilst they are working. That’s a sensible and fair bonus for doing their bit for community whilst we all do our bit for each other to ensure to survive.

 

images thanks to dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Living crisis: – It’s those money men, stupid

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment

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Hypocrisy has become an artform for many of today’s Political class, and talking up politically expedient issues, spinning away inconvenient truths or criticising others for doing no more than they would do themselves has become the apparent norm.

After a media splurge targeting their inactivity in the sun whilst Cameron has been busy making hay under his, Labour have returned to the stage this week focussing their less than lacklustre performance on the ‘cost of living crisis’, giving every indication that this is the ‘issue’ that will steward their return to majority Government in 2015.

If tackling every issue were seen to be as simple as giving it its own branding or strap-line like this and waiting for it to go viral, we would have a marketing man in Number 10 already – which of course we actually do.

Sadly, the ‘cost of living crisis’ is probably the most dangerous issue that any of our Politicians could ‘play’ with, in the run up to the 2015 General Election, and we should perhaps all be concerned by its apparent adoption by the political left in order for it to be manipulated as a vote-winner. After all, the future of most of us is tied up with it, and its genesis reaches far deeper into the fabric of our society than any of our leading Politicians seem willing to contemplate or have the moral capacity and determination to deal with – even if they have apparently now acknowledged it for their own political ends.

The reality for most of us outside Westminster is that we don’t need posturing Politicians and media hype to remind us of the fact that wages are effectively standing still whilst the cost of paying our bills just seems to keep on going up and up, month after month, year after year without any sign that it will ever relent. Many hard working people simply struggle to keep themselves afloat even before they start to consider some of the luxuries that those very same politicians and newsmen probably take for granted.

Real people living in the real world already know firsthand what it is they are experiencing when the letters hit the mat; the e-mails arrive, the phone rings and when they go and shop. When the pay rises, tax breaks and bonuses that they desperately need aren’t coming to middle England and those hovering either above or below Britains poverty line– simply because the Government’s Pot is already exhausted and the Nation simply cannot afford it – these same people need politicians to drop talking up the effects of the problem and start tackling the cause head on.

This task is not one that will lend great comfort to any politician who values their place in history more than they do the lives of the people who elected them and this is problem enough with British Politics today in itself.

Facing the reality that the free market has surpassed its point of balance and therefore the good for which it was intended is not a thought that many in power will want even to contemplate. Therefore accepting that increasing freedom within the markets to pursue infinite profit, whilst that very same action is effectively enslaving great swathes of the normal population within fiscal misery is not a pill that many of today’s Politicians will swallow willingly. But it is there in front of all of them just the same.

Through the creation of the virtual monopolies which are the utility and energy companies; private businessmen, shareholders and pension funds have been given seemingly insurmountable power over the lives of everyone by being able to dictate their own paydays, whilst they go unhindered by Government and Regulators – who have nothing really but the interests of their Industry at heart.

Likewise, ever growing convoluted supply chains, often reaching the length and breadth of the Country or even across Continents allow many different traders, dealers and agents to add their cut to the margins which you would normally expect to see only from producers and retailers, then inflating prices way beyond what they should realistically be.

Further still, those businesses without control or a sizable share of their markets are also having their margins forcefully squeezed by the companies and organisations who do and many of these businesses are the same ones that cannot afford to recruit or pay more than negligible wage rises to the very same people who are now being affected financially from almost every angle you could imagine.

Whilst no reasonable person would argue that businesses exist to make a profit, it is simply beyond logic to add layer after layer of profit onto the most basic and essential of items or services and then expect end users to keep picking up and meeting these overinflated bills without any real additional income of their own to cover these exponential and wholly unrealistic rises.

Companies, traders, financiers and all manner of individuals and entities are in effect ‘vacuum profiteering’, making money ex nihilo or basically creating something from nothing in a manner which could be akin to having the midas touch, were it not for the misery that it is increasingly inflicting upon those who are wrongly being expected to pay for it.

Without those who hold this power over our economy taking steps to regulate and restrict the way that they make profit, they are through their very actions writing an agenda for Government over many years to come – whatever its Political make-up may be, that has the potential to create social and financial problems of a size and scale across our Nation that Government itself won’t be able to afford to put right – simply because the Taxpayer has no money left to fund it.

Such levels of responsibility over the health and wealth of a Nation should never have been placed in the hands of money men in the first place without sufficient safeguards in place to protect the many who could be affected by the unscrupulous profiteering of a few. But it has.

No Political Party should be seeking to take the moral or politically philosophical high ground on this issue as it is a problem which can only be tackled one way. That is by Government stepping back into the free market and taking an actively pro-market or even interventionist approach to regulating market behaviour – should it be so required. The UK needs to retain capitalism but it must also maintain it in a responsible and considerate way that doesn’t destroy the ability of consumers to consume in the process.

By taking just the key players such as the utility, energy and finance companies to task, Government could go a considerable way to putting safeguards in place that would ensure a basic standard of living can be maintained against the minimum wage, and that the minimum wage would then itself reflect a living wage and one that should keep many more people safe from harm and therefore from being a potential burden to the State.

Regrettably, action of this kind does not reflect the creed of contemporary Politicians and the point continues to be missed that wealth creation only works effectively when there are benefits – in whatever form they may be – for all.

Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour don’t want to embrace the answer and neither does UKIP, which is riding high on the tide of discontentment and disenfranchisement that the lack of connection with reality amongst the other Political monoliths has created within the Electorate itself.

It’s time for Politicians to wake up and smell our overpriced coffee before it’s all too late.

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Zero Hours Contracts: Government needs to improve them; not remove them

August 3, 2013 Leave a comment

images (44)Zero hours contracts have been bounding along in this week’s news with a series of stories covering the alleged exploitation of workers by high profile Companies such as Amazon. But what would the real impact be for business and workers themselves if there was no legal provision for what is today’s version of a casual contract?

By their very nature, businesses that have an operational or service-providing side to them have to manage and address variations in sales or workload, depending upon any one of a number of different influences that can dictate how busy or quiet they might be. These could be as simple and regular as seasonality, like the run up to Christmas or perhaps the unexpected changes in customer shopping habits that some retailers and travel companies have experienced as a result of unpredictable factors such the recent hot weather.

As customers in any respect when we are out and about, we will rarely even begin to consider the processes behind the scenes which ensure there are an appropriate number of staff on hand to serve us when we need them, or how things would actually run if Businesses such as hotels, shops and pubs were not able to call upon flexible staff to fill gaps caused by absence or are ready to drop what they are doing – and get paid – for covering those extra hours when more hands are required.

Many extra shifts will of course be covered by the additional hours of existing staff. But the variation in operational need can be far more significant than that which can either sensibly or legally be met by ‘regular’ staff through overtime alone, and businesses must have the ability to cover such eventualities without employing and paying staff for hours that they simply aren’t needed.

Naturally, there are those opposed to the idea that employees should have anything less than ‘proper’ contracts of employment and that rubbishing the ability of firms to engage what are essentially casual staff will force companies to provide would-be employees with much more favourable terms.

But whilst this may sound like a call to arms and the raleighing cry of voices who care about the people who often need these jobs, such impractical views manifested in laws which would prevent use of Zero Hours Contracts or their equivalent would leave many unemployed people without the opportunity to work. They certainly wouldn’t get the chance to demonstrate what an asset they could be to a potential employer, and that employer could itself become even less sustainable because of the costs associated with taking on staff to deal with unpredictable growth when at times they have to behave as little more than a charity to do so.

Sadly, media portrayals of the unemployed and the dependency culture have left many of us with the idea that every person without a job or income is the same as the next and that each of them is basically looking for a free ride at everyone else’s expense.

Whilst this may be the case for some, the reality for many more couldn’t be more different. They see the value of having work and fully appreciate the opportunities that might follow. For others, having an arrangement where they don’t have fixed hours but go in to work at times which are mutually convenient with an employer is actually a positive lifestyle choice and one which many – for instance semi-retired people – may well be very pleased to embrace.

The harsh reality of all this is that like so many other areas of our over-legislated and bureaucratic governed lives, ill-considered solutions or changes brought into being simply because of media tittle-tattle or quixotic rhetoric will cause more harm than than it ever will good for all of the people and businesses who actually need practical and thought-through options most when it comes to the employer-employee relationship.

There will always be a small percentage of businesses that exploit people in every way that they can, just as there will be work-shy people who will manipulate the system to work best for them wherever it will let them. However, these are relatively few in number even if they make it into the press, and it is simply wrong that opportunities are closed down for the many businesses and workers who need them  just because of the self-serving actions of a few.

Responsible companies should be able to employ casual staff without recourse to temporary staffing agencies that cannot offer the same level of continuity as staff who have an ongoing relationship with the business, and the unemployed should be able to take up casual work and make a contribution whilst they work without fear of losing benefits or having a bureaucratic struggle to justify why – especially when it might just be the step that gets them into full time work and helps the sustainable growth of British businesses.

Sustainable business growth requires access to a casual workforce, just as many of the unemployed benefit from access to casual jobs. The Government has the ability and power to deal with this unnecessarily complex issue fairly and imaginatively to the benefit of all concerned.

But do they really want to?

 

image thanks to itv.com

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