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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

Payday Loans: Profit from misery and the throw back to the age of the Debtors Prison – but this time without brick walls

July 1, 2013 1 comment

payday-loansDesperation, the emotion it brings and the knee-jerk response to any opportunities that might even just temporarily stop the cause of that pain, can lead those of us experiencing it to do what others may consider to be some pretty illogical things.

The prospect of escape at any level can certainly lead to the failure to consider detail that any one of us would normally think about. And when events feel like they have brought our lives to the edge of a precipice and no other answers are coming, would we really care anyway?

The point is being tragically missed in Government that disposable income is falling fast for everyone who is unable to obtain anything beyond standard ‘cost of living’ pay rises; that  ‘standing still’ or ‘treading water’ financially has become all but impossible for a great many people, and that this downward slide is hitting those with the smallest incomes hardest of all.

In some cases, cutting back on luxury items simply isn’t enough to counter the escalation of monthly, weekly and even daily costs which must be met just to survive. Prices on items like fuel for travel, car parking, travel tickets, basic food, clothing, utilities and communication escalate with what feels like jaw-dropping regularity and very few of us other than those charging the fees actually believe that such inflation is genuinely sustainable.

Even those with comparatively good household incomes have cut back and whilst some would argue that reducing the regularity of nights out, buying new clothes or downgrading the annual holiday will hardly make a difference, many of these same people are now using savings or high street credit cards to balance their household books in the hope that things will soon change. But for some of those with less, hope of that kind simply isn’t an option.

Living hand to mouth is a phrase that many will consider an anachronism and borne of a different era. But for many on the lowest incomes, the reality that money is gone as soon as it comes into their hands is very real indeed, so the prospect of ‘a couple of hundred quid to keep things tied over til the end of the month’ coming at you from the TV screen can for many seem a very easy, perhaps timely and almost certainly an attractive way out. But a quick yes followed by the receipt of cash within minutes can easily overshadow the realities of what may be sold as a ‘Payday Loan‘.

With interest charged at a rate of let’s say 1000% calculated as an APR against a loan for a year (per annum or P.A.) of for example £100, the charge without any repayment over one calendar month would be a fee of £83.33. And when you take a quick visit to the internet and see that ‘Representative APR’ or interest rates go up to nearly 6000%, you can see how easy it is to make a difficult situation one which will quickly become completely horrific.

With perhaps as many as one million UK households using Payday Loans each month, you would hope that the Coalition would be doing much more to address the financial issues which everyday people are facing generally. At the very least it would be more than reasonable to expect them to take real action to address what some would argue as being a sanitised form of loan sharking by casting a legislative net across this very dark and murky pool.

But with a Government which has gravely missed the point that real savings in the long term requires the pain of real and meaningful reforms in the short, they also appear to have very little idea how passively influential they are being in guiding ever more people towards the first steps of the negative debt spiral, that in today’s economic climate seems all but impossible for many to then escape. Put simply, no action is action all the same and this action is helping nobody but the loan companies themselves.

There is no simple or isolated solution which will solve this growing problem and protect many more people from the virtual enslavement which is experienced through being the victim of what is arguably a legalised form of crime. However, Government could:

  • Regulate the Payday Loan ‘product’ and enforce a ceiling on interest rates to a manageable level. The fact is that a £25 charge for £100 over a month would still equate to an APR of around 300%. Even at half that if you give generous consideration for what are probably very small administrative costs via the Internet, that still leaves a profit of £125 on every £1000 lent every month or £1500 over the course of a year. Pretty good money even then!
  • Take greater control of the credit assessment processes run by the finance industry which have disqualified many Payday Loan users from gaining mainstream credit and effectively pushed them into the hands of the unscrupulous.
  • Push for mainstream lenders to begin offering the Payday Loan ‘product’. If necessary develop a method to provide a level of guarantee through direct access to the users source of income and Legislate accordingly.
  • Create a Government owned ‘Peoples Bank’, run as a not-for-profit on commercial lines, which has an appropriate level of altruism in its approach to support those who really need it, whether they are domestic users or even small businesses who need the financial leg-up that nobody else seems willing to provide.

There are many more ways that Politicians could help the people in need who Elected them to Office if they really wanted to try.

The biggest step they could take would be to acknowledge that the power of any Government extends way beyond the services that it pays for and then act, knowing that this influence should and must be used to its fullest when the behaviour of any person, group or business is having a negative or detrimental effect on any part of our wider community for no other purpose than making unreasonable levels of profit.

The reality is however that increasing numbers of Taxpayers are now paying for a system which is failing to support them when they need it most, and then paying way beyond the odds for an alternative form of support which isn’t actually supporting any one of them at all.

Without the Coalition even talking about the need for Britain’s lowest wage earners and genuinely-benefit-dependent to be able to maintain a basic standard of living between payments, it is not only finance companies who should be branded for irresponsible practice.

Failing to deal with just this one of so many different problems facing this Country is simply storing up more trouble for yet another day and in all likelihood another Government. And whilst the absence of an overall majority may suit Politicians who don’t have the heart to do their job, everyone else is still suffering.

If you have found and read this blog because you are experiencing financial hardship in any way and are looking for help, please know that there are real people out here who care; who want to help; and that some of them might even be Politicians!

There are some really helpful Charities and Debt Advice Organisations who will do everything that they can to support and guide you through the issues you are facing, or possibly help you to find even more people who can.

A couple worth trying are the Citizens Advice Bureau who may have an office you can visit near your home and the Step Change Debt Charity (Formally the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or CCCS) who can also be called on 0800 138 1111.

If things already feel like they have gone too far to try and make sense of, there are also the Samaritans. Contact any of these Organisations and you will speak to real people who are genuinely there to try to help and are not there to judge you in any way.

image thanks to http://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk 

Tax avoidance, foreign companies and the real influence of Utility providers on our cost of living

Utility companies are in the news again and this time for exploiting the foreign ownership loopholes that are allowing an increasing number of monopolistic companies to avoid paying sizeable sums in tax.

Were it not for the near exponential rises that we seem to experience from energy and water companies alike on regular basis, you might be forgiven for having a little sympathy with a company which is struggling to make money.

But these are companies which are not only achieving great success in securing stratospheric profit margins from the services they provide using what appears to be increasing levels of media-friendly scaremongering; they are arguably doing so without making any real contribution to the wider society that pays them whilst customers also seem to pay for all their upgrade work as well.

This situation has of course been in the making for a considerable time and whilst it would serve the political interests of some groups to blame the problem on the process of privatisation in its basic sense, it is pretty certain that the sale of shares to everyday taxpayers was never intended as a direction of travel which would result in foreign ownership, or to the cartel like behaviour which has contributed to the creation of rip-off Britain.

Coalition Government or hung Parliaments don’t lend themselves well to dealing with issues of any real importance when they are in power as we all continue to witness each and every day. But that of course is when they face issues that we as a public are openly aware of because Politicians have chosen to acknowledge them for whatever politically expedient purpose that it might serve.

The real travesty with the issues regarding utility companies and the influence that they are having on the true cost of inflation to us all – which has this week been suggested to be as high as 25% – is that there is not even the will to talk about the true impact of their actions upon us all in Westminster.

With the economic fall-out of credit-card government and the continuation of spending with money that the UK simply doesn’t have, reality suggests that negligible or zero percent rises in wages for the workforces operating within the commercial and public sectors alike are here to stay. That benefit and service cuts will remain the uninventive and ill-considered weapon of choice used by a political elite which seems bereft of any consideration for the mechanics of life outside their own societal bubble.

However, there are choices for our leaders and within the constraints of Coalition Government or not, Politicians taking their responsibility to the Electorate seriously would and should all be using them.

Before anything else, acknowledgement that companies providing what are in fact essential services are profiteering and are misusing the opportunities that they have would be a significant step in itself. People would at least begin to feel that leaders are identifying with what real life is really like.

This would by its very nature have to been done with clarity and purpose and with much more than a mere suggestion of what action lies ahead. Another mealy-mouthed effort like that on the part of Politicians when it has come to addressing the previous actions and future behaviour of bankers simply will not do.

It has become clear that self-regulation in such key industries isn’t working for anybody but the companies themselves, and this is where those with Government responsibility should really be taking a lead.

The next step would be to regulate pricing to allow the true cost of service provision to be reflected in the prices that we pay and dictate the formula under which such Companies can raise funds for new and improved infrastructure which in most other industries would rightly come from the bottom line.

Because the services that these Companies provide are essential to everyone, profit should be capped and systems put in place through vigorous auditing processes  to ensure that clever accounting methods cannot provide a conduit through which different cost centres or budgetary areas can be manipulated to provide an enhanced dividend.

Company owners wouldn’t like this approach, but the fact remains that with services that customers have no alternative to use, profiteering before doing what is right has created a cash-cow for the few, whilst inflicting financial misery on the many in circumstances where people cannot even earn more just to compensate. That’s why foreign owners have been so happy to throw cash in the direction of companies in the UK that governments most other Countries would at least keep very close to State control and why our Politicians must now recognise the power and influence that these industries actually have in our everyday lives.

Finally, the time has long since passed when simplification of the Tax system was required on a comprehensive basis to stem the flow of revenue from leaving the Country that we desperately need and to which we are entitled.

Tax should be applied at the point of sale; not at the location where the account managers and owners  are based. This one simple and realistic change could find tax raised from the tills where coffees are physically bought; from the sale on the actual computer and screen where products are purchased; and from the meters where our power, gas and water are measured and supplied inside the houses in which we live.

Scary as the prospect of taking on the industrial and financial monoliths might seem, it is for reasons just like these that Politicians are Elected and why Governments are given power. It might not be easy, but if those who seek our votes at Elections take the trust we have given them seriously, it necessarily follows that they will use it for our benefit too.

Isn’t it time that they started living the mantra ‘action speaks louder than words’, rather than simply just paying lip service to it?

image thanks to source unknown

The 2013 Budget has created more perspiration than aspiration for those who keep on paying the Nations bills. It’s about time the Coalition Government started growing balls on their own Bench, rather than gifting their Opposition the opportunity to do it for them

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s Budget has been received differently by us all and in a manner which illustrates all too clearly how shallow Policy making has now become when imbalance and impact are considered.

Talk of support for working mothers with young families, tax free loans for first time home buyers and even a 1p drop in duty on a pint of beer have done little to disguise the fact that there are so-called  ‘winners’ and then real losers at every turn. The Chancellor has done little to give any credence to his ‘Budget for an aspiration Nation’, other than the complexity of the words he used to speak this statement.

As a culture which now thrives on the use of labels and stereotypes, we have happily painted ourselves into a set of social pigeon holes where many of us hide from the realities which we share with many others. Successive Governments have formed policies on this basis which has left very few of us with any immunity from the pros and cons of a Taxation and Benefits system where the only thing universal is its level of unfairness and the disparity that now fails us all through its application.

Getting to grips with economic problems which are continuing to grow at an alarming rate will not be achieved by tinkering around the edges. Nor will we as a Nation be insulated against the gathering storm of explosive financial issues within the European project, such as those in Cyprus, unless Government begins to consider all Policies in terms of how they will impact upon all others and not just in the isolationist manner that they have continued to do so up until now.

A truly balanced and fair approach to formulating Government Policy now seems to be the most alien of concepts to our Politicians, particularly when party politics has been the long accepted means by which to target benefits to those whom are considered to be your bread-and-butter support.

But until the time that Politicians accept the principle of fairness in a meaningful way as a guide to Policy making, and particularly where Taxation and Benefits are concerned, nothing for anyone else outside the Westminster Village is going to change.

Government will soon have no option but to use systems such as a Flat Tax and wholesale simplification of the Taxation System if they genuinely want to treat everyone fairly whilst encouraging growth, prosperity and ambition in a way which balances the books.

Benefits must be targeted and restricted for the use of those who genuinely need them using common sense as a guideline, rather than the culture of tick-boxes which allows so may to play the System within a politically correct and fearful age.

Above all, Politicians must now accept that Policies created on the basis of improving rights in the workplace have now gone so far beyond their point of good, that they have made some of the very jobs they were created to improve unaffordable to the employers who at one time provided them.

Whether Westminster likes this as a truth or not, each and every Government Policy in existence today interchanges with almost every other, through the impact it has upon the lives of us all. Policy implementation may have its benefits to some, but this has for far too long been at the unacceptable cost to the many. This has to change.

Until Bankers and those within in the City regain some sense of what is right and wrong, Government must intervene so that the many in the world outside do not continue to suffer because of the profit hungry few left within

March 21, 2013 Leave a comment

images (52)The Banking Sector has become an object of hate for many. The accepted perception is that it equates to a world of greed; that it represents all of the bad things that we associate with money in its worst form and that the Sector is immune from the impact of its own actions; a fact demonstrated only too well when private Banks are bailed out with Public Money and bankers get bonuses even when the businesses under their control are failing.

Recent headlines and the role of bankers in the financial crisis and Libor scandal demonstrate a clear need for real and meaningful reform, even before the impact from the domino-effect of unethical practices is considered upon our lives elsewhere.

With Finance and the role that Banks play being so important within our lives, bankers can no longer consider banking services to be ‘products’, as it has never been a ‘product’ that they are providing.

Services are themselves measured by the direct and indirect impact of customer ‘experience’ and the physical risk to all others, and the Banks must now begin considering this in the same way that any other service industry is by its nature required to do so.

There is nothing truer than the phrase ‘money talks’. But the Banks and Financial Sector have failed to take a long view of their actions and now Government must legislate to provide a Regulatory Framework which allows profitability, but does not do so without consideration of unnecessary impacts and the unacknowledged consequences for businesses and individuals within the wider economy.

Here are a few thoughts:

RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland)

In response to the Banking Collapse, the Government at the time provided money to a number of the well-known Banks to prevent their closure, primarily because of the risk to the money that we all have invested in them.

One of the Banks which was ‘bailed out’ was RBS and this Bank is now effectively ‘public owned’.

Recent talk in the media suggests that the Government is now looking to sell off the Bank. However, with a significant need for a Bank which is not profit, but rather service-led, and can therefore take a more altruistic approach to lending and the provision of the banking services that it provides, Government should now take the opportunity it has to provide a ‘peoples bank’.

By doing so, they can provide the options for everyone that other Banks and Financiers are not prepared to provide such as ‘payday loans’ and higher risk start-up lending without unreasonable levels of interest or surety being required.

This will surely help the economy to progress forward by providing lending and support to small business in a way that other Government-backed schemes simply fail to provide.

A publicly-owned, people-centric bank would provide a cornerstone to people, to business and to Public Services alike when run only with the end-user and sustainability in mind. This is what Britain needs.

Credit Rating Agencies

In a recent blog, I talked about the unrealistic level of influence that Credit Rating Agencies now have upon us all.

Ironically, the UK had its Triple A Rating downgraded soon afterwards and Politicians really must now consider the influence that 3rd parties have in dictating the levels of interest that people pay to borrow from lenders, or indeed if they will be considered ‘credit worthy’ in the first place.

Government lending aside, nobody would sensibly deny that different levels of lending risk exist depending upon the financial history of an individual or business.

But it is often poorly managed lending which contributes to higher risks in the first place and improved regulation must therefore be used to restrict this process.

Through the Bank of England, the Government currently defers the setting of the base interest rate in a way which reflects needs in the wider market. All lending should reflect this rate; be realistic; be proportional and Government should drive Regulation to support this.

Pension Fund Management

Pension Funds are significant Shareholders of well known PLC’s across the Globe.

In the UK, their influence is felt by many of us each and every day through the profits we provide to Companies such as the big Supermarkets and Utility Companies, which is reflected in what few would disagree is a continual and disproportionate rise in the Cost of Living.

Businesses are of course created and managed for profit. But it is not normal for profit to be guaranteed within any business, and neither should the circumstances exist where any business can manipulate a market in order that it can be so.

It is therefore essential that Government Legislate to limit the influence of Pension Funds (owners) on the Management of Businesses which provide essential goods and/or services.

Prices of such goods and services should reflect their true value and not a level of profit that businesses of smaller size and with less influence through market share would not be able to reasonably sustain.

Futures

Buying, selling or speculating on products which do not exist would sound like madness to anyone but those who are actually doing it.

Gambling in its most basic form, futures offer a guaranteed level of income for producers, and the promise of significant profits for those who are prepared to invest in what is little more than thin air over a period of time.

However, they also extend the number of links in each ‘virtual’ supply chain along with the number of businesses or agents looking for a profit. Basic prices for commodities and food are inflated way beyond their true market value as a result and the end-using customer suffers most.

Government must legislate against the misuse of Futures in goods which are essential to daily life such as crops which have not even yet been grown, or energy which has yet even to be created.

Doing so will remove speculation of this type, which always has an adverse affect upon the end users who inevitably pay the most. It will also protect producers and the markets from unforeseen circumstances that nobody can control.

***

As with many other industries, the Finance and Banking Sector has simply lost its way. Growing distance from the customer leaves decision makers without any true master other than profit, and this situation can only get worse if it is left unchecked.

Bankers must ultimately be left to make their own decisions. But until they regain ethics; a sense of what is right and wrong and the responsibility not to abuse their position, Government must lead by example and intervene where necessary so that the many in the world outside Banking do not continue to suffer because of the profit hungry few within.

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

Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one

AU491810_942longThe word ‘business’ conjures up different meanings for different people, depending on their background and of course what exposure they may have had to its use or application.

Most will agree that its use as a term suggests enterprise and methods of working which would sit snugly within a commercial environment. But should this word actually be applied to the modus operandi of any form of Government when the two terms are completely incongruous?

Much is made of the idea that the best people to run Government at any level are those who have a business background. One of the current arguments against the demographic makeup of our MP’s today is the substantial lack of solid business experience possessed by those who lead the Country from Westminster, with the accompanying notion that MP’s who have run or owned businesses of their own would somehow automatically have an almost esoteric level of understanding and midas touch which would solve just about any problem. They wouldn’t; they don’t and they never have.

With years of Local Government experience as both an Elected Member, an Officer and from working within 3rd Sector Organisations alongside, I have also often heard the term ‘business case’, ‘business plan’ and the idea often suggested that Councils are now run ‘like a business’ in meetings.

The problem with this is of course that the political leadership and members of Councils rarely have ‘hands on’ experience of running any kind of business you could draw reasonable parallels with themselves, and when they do, it is often the case that it has been so long since they did so, that any lack of an appreciation that time moves on or that things continually change will soon erode any tangible benefit.

Perhaps worse is the ability that Officers and Civil Servants have been gifted by political demographics and the opportunity to use such terms in plans, which are then taken as read by those who simply don’t know any better as being a true ‘business case’, when such ‘business’ cases could never be any such thing.

Recognising the differences between running a business in its purest sense, and running Government under the delusion that it can be run as business has never been more essential for today’s politicians, because neither Central or Local Government are businesses, and the people running them have to stop believing and behaving like they are.

A business is of course run for the profit of an individual or shareholders. All decisions will normally be made with the form of pay-off that they will receive firmly in mind. It can be expanded or changed to meet the demands of customers as it sees fit, and a business can choose which customers it may wish to target and how much profit it will seek from delivering any particular product or service. Its revenues are never guaranteed.

On the other hand, Government does not run to make profit, but to provide services and support for all those which it has been elected to serve.

Run properly, Government would not actively target any particular group of customers to provide a different quality of service depending on the feedback or profit that it gets from that group, and would work to meet demand for services as best and prudently as it can, well knowing that it has a duty to do so without seeking payment from one customer to pay for the benefits of another, or to irresponsibly borrow money from lenders that it knows it doesn’t have the appropriate levels of revenue to comfortably repay.

However, Government revenues – as long as they remain sensible – will always be guaranteed, and it is with this significant difference that come the even greater levels of responsibility than no one business should ever realistically be able to have.

One of the greatest dangers facing us as a society comes from the fact that politicians at all levels of Government have either failed to recognise these basic differences and therefore maintain them, or have willingly abused their ability to raise revenues to cover badly managed services or implement policies without any due regard to striking the balance for every member of this society or in applying fairness to all, while they have given every thought to political expedience and electability.

The British political system is broken, because it has adopted those very same values of a profit-making business, which are to further the interests of that business. For politicians, this comes in the form of power, whilst they have ignored the basic rule of business as they have done so; the rule which states they must deliver profit to every single one of the shareholders rather than to themselves. Profit in this sense should always be seen as the delivery of the same results for all.

So if our politicians really feel that they have to treat Government like a business, they then must also realise that if they continue to keep raising the fees on the same old products time and again without offering new products and value for money, they will soon price their offerings way beyond the purse of the people who normally pay, and the cash will soon start ceasing to flow.

Government is not run for a financial profit, any more than it should ever be so for the bottom-line benefit of just the ‘staff’.

Whatever their backgrounds, experience and level, politicians must remember that they are the managers; the facilitators; the decision makers; not the beneficiaries themselves – and especially so where the end profit is not even perceptively the same as what it would be for a business.

The time has long since passed when the electorate could continue to live decent lives, whilst those within Government continue to focus on the end result for themselves. Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one.

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