Posts Tagged ‘Milk Prices’

The commonalities between bankers, blame-based lawyers and union bosses that touch us all and can only be dealt with by a change in the mind-set of Government first and the policies which will then follow afterwards

February 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Crazy as it may seem, many of the problems and fears facing society as a whole are inextricably linked and propagated by us all through a mesh of similar behaviours and actions. These are marked apart only by simple interpretation, knowledge, and the differences of public perspective that are all too often profitable for politicians and activists to retain.

One such example of this within this libertarian age is the ‘feel-good’ which comes from targeting those who most openly profit through the exploitation of others, and the apparent greed and avarice of high-level bankers and wealthy tax-dodgers has captivated ill-feeling within many. But is it really possible for just those few to ride off the backs of many others within a society which paints itself as being considerate of all others; or is this just the one end of a predominantly passive chain slowly strangling the UK as part of an evolving something-for-nothing and therefore self-before-all culture?

As unpalatable as it may seem, there is a distinct thread of commonality which runs from the profiteering of the hated fat-cats, through the behaviour of politicians, the influence of those promoting and making blame-based-claims, to the actions of union leaders and their seemingly strike-happy members to beyond in a way that very few would outwardly wish to knowingly associate. The sad reality is that each and every one of the self-beneficial acts that we probably at some point will have all pursued, goes on to have a negative impact upon others and usually so in a much greater number than just ourselves.

At one end of the spectrum, bankers and pension fund managers sat in plush London offices think little of the impact that pressure on retailers or energy providers to raise profits will have on end users – a point which may turn out to have been very well illustrated by the horse meat scandal and the continuing issues surrounding milk prices for farmers where margins are squeezed to unsustainable levels.

A few miles down the road, ‘career’ politicians make decisions which will affect 60 Million people based upon their chances of getting re-elected or promoted, whilst the oversold age of austerity does little to deliver any real reduction in deficit but leaves the very same people paying a higher price just the same.

Meanwhile clever animations with manipulated pop-songs and actors posing as glamorous lawyers promote the resignation of any self responsibility in accidents and the idea that somebody else is always fully to blame and must therefore pay in a very easy way, whilst the prices of almost every insurance policy in the land rises as a result.

Then in the papers, public sector union barons tell us that the Government is to blame for the slashing of services up and down the Country, when it is actually the unrealistically beneficial working conditions, wages and the limitation of responsibilities they have ransomed for their members over the course of many years which have contributed most to the destruction of a once enviable system which is sadly no longer able to sustain itself.

It is indeed ironic that it is the rise of ‘rights’ for the individual in the workplace and in just about every other part of life thereafter that strangle the rights and lives of others at every turn, and then come back full circle to a point where it is the jobs of those who sought those rights in the first place which are no longer sustainable because of the costs of the legislation and conditions that those very same enhanced rights have come to impose – generally because they have long since surpassed the point of doing good.

In every case, the public and customers at large end up paying through higher prices for food, fuel, taxes, insurances, lessening standards and losses within public services which are destroying quality of life and in some cases will probably lead to deaths if they have not already done so.

The true impact of the rising cost of living itself and the growing impact it will have upon low-income families and those in middle England who end up subsidising just about every other part of life has yet to truly manifest itself. But without change in each and every part of life and the way that every one of us approaches it, what we consider to be painful now, may soon become truly horrific.

Most of us do of course read every situation we face in life in terms of how it makes us feel and how it will impact upon us personally, rather than how it will affect the others involved, irrespective of how near or how far from us through a chain of resulting reactions they may actually be.

So in the same way that the banker raises profits by indirectly pushing the price of food up by continually pushing for better margins from the retailers that they own, union bosses demand higher wages for members so that they can afford to keep ahead of cost of living rises, with the ultimate effects being pretty much the same whichever way you choose to look at it.

Getting to a point where the balance is redressed in every sense is not a journey that any of us can toy with lightly, even though it would be politically expedient for any one of the groups discussed or their libertarian or profit-hungry apologists to do so.

The complexities brought into being when people prioritise themselves or manipulate others to do the same are enormous and much easier to embrace than they are to replace. Sadly, those who have become emotionally tied only to themselves without due regard to the result of their actions upon others are caught in a spiralling trap. One which is increasingly negative and encourages the growth of the ever evolving paranoia which accompanies the concept that all problems are of someone else’s making and that others must be made to pick up the tab.

Tackling a problem which is now cultural and has become so through many years of conditioning via the self-serving leadership of successive Governments is no easy task. Fundamentally, this is a problem which does not discern between demographics or social class and is defined only by the medium in which it is applied by the individual. It has been enhanced by the perception of close proximity, delivered by ease of communication through distance and propagated by the ease of buy-in which has itself been empowered by the two-edged-sword which is the media age.

Ultimately, self awareness and therefore responsibility of the individual has to be the aim of real Government as it will prove to be far more liberating and beneficial to everyone than the fleeting benefits any impractical plot cooked up by politicians as an easy and profitable crowd-pleaser.

It is the responsibility of those who led us here and are most likely to be happy with the status quo to lead us away from it and that is where the greatest difficulty arises.

Politicians can not only make the necessary policy changes to bring about a change which is much bigger than being about policy itself; they can also lead us in a way that advertisers, union reps and bankers simply cannot or never will be able to.

The real question here is where a change of this magnitude is going to come from when it is the political system itself which is responsible and politicians themselves who attain most benefit from maintaining the status quo.

After all, it is only politicians who have a genuine and meaningful mandate who will be selfless enough to take the risks to make those long overdue changes which nobody in Government today seems willing to outwardly contemplate. And these are indeed changes that are needed as a beacon for all to demonstrate a better way of living where a thought for all on the part of one is seen for its benefits to the one as a consequence of its benefits for us all, rather than for us continuing to live a life where the self must always come first and it seems ok for us to do so.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all. Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Leaps in utility prices touch just about everyone’s lives either directly or indirectly. No less so because of the growing paradox which appears to be a guaranteed bottom line for shareholders, whilst customers continually carry the can for everything that any non-essential business would have no option but to absorb within what are today’s unalterable margins.

Public services such as Trains run under much the same guise, and the question really should be asked if the time has come when any provider of a key or essential service should remain able to have a free reign over charges and their levels of profit when the end user simply has no choice but to buy?

Similarly, margins drawn from the production and retail of essential basic items such as milk, bread, meats and vegetables must surely now be protected from City speculation and the stranglehold of the big retailers who are together endangering various food producing industries in what is little more than an obligation to sustain and build upon profits, laid down by the purely financial motives of their masters.

So what exactly is stopping the long needed change in direction which would embrace a true form of moral or rather responsible capitalism, which in its boldest form would serve to protect a basic and affordable living for all, whilst delivering an arguably much reduced cost for Government?

One of the key failings of many of today’s politicians is a fundamental lack of understanding, will and fortitude to deal with the deep rooted causes of the problems that we as a nation face; instead choosing to do little more than dalliance in dealing with the effects of bad or flawed decisions, then going on to repeat the very same mistakes when that latest remedy itself begins to demonstrate its flaws.

Be under no illusion, this process is not unique to any political genre or ideology. It is a deep seated and inherently progressive condition, made all the worse by a political party system which now serves only to propagate itself and those within it who effectively function to do the very same, placing electability before delivery.

Successive Governments, whether they have been Conservative, Labour or even Coalitions have done the very same things, albeit with a different wrapper. But with little more than a ‘fire and forget’ mentality, the consequences are plain to see and there for us all to share and experience in our everyday lives.

The commonalities within privatisation, right-to-buy, the evolution of the free market and even political parties themselves are that they were arguably all political creations with a great and beneficial purpose in mind for those who were the driving forces behind them.

However, like most great ideas in Government that come to be manifest, they have progressively moved beyond their point of balance or what some might choose to call good, and have gone in another direction entirely. One which has benefited the unscrupulous and cost those of us dearly who have the right to expect the protection of our everyday interests by those who we put in place to take that responsibility on our behalf to do so.

Acceptance that the evolution of policies can and will continue beyond their point of good is no enviable task. This is particularly so when many organisations, NGO’s and even Government Departments have been created simply to deliver upon questionable policies and their lucrative spin-offs. In many cases they arguably continue to exist for the sole purpose of existing.

Trades Unions, Health & Safety Legislation and European red-tape are all examples of well-intentioned principles which have gone way beyond their point of good. Even UK Taxation and Benefits no longer represent the equitable and fair approach that we should all be able to reasonably expect from a 21st Century Western Government and the implementation of truly fair systems such as Flat Tax are long since overdue.

Fear of driving the watershed of change needed in an age where we have laws for the sake of having laws; where blame is a national industry and where everyday people feel that Government of all levels has no understanding of the lives that they lead, is no longer excuse enough in itself to avoid it.

Painful as it will be, somebody will soon have to be big enough to take on big business, the City and the insidious money men who are continuously elevating the breadline, all in the name of profit.

Selfless politicians must set about the change of policy after policy which may well serve their political masters today, but remain lifetimes away from serving those for whose benefit they were apparently intended.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all and not least the most vulnerable in society and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted does little to help after the event.

Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

Giving the responsibility of getting the Housing Market on its feet to Supermarkets will ultimately give money men a level of power which could make future Governments even less relevant to the bankers than they are now…

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment

You quickly learn in management that many of the things you do are down to process – even fire fighting – and this will inevitably take a certain amount of time to do properly unless you are happy to accept little more than a quick fix. So when you see Government Consultations dropping into the mix from nowhere that have all the distinct hallmarks of a ravenous siege engine working at speed, you would probably find yourself asking questions about its drivers, just like I am.

Over recent days, the Estate Agency Industry and The BIS Consultation on Encouraging new business models – the ‘Proposal to amend Estate Agents Act 1979’ has started to come into sharp focus, not least of all within the Industry itself, where the rat knocking at the door appears to be the Supermarkets.

As I recently wrote on this Blog, like many people, I am no great fan of Estate Agents and believe that as an industry, they already carry much of the burden of responsibility for the ridiculously high values which accompany property these days and which in turn has effectively priced many new entrants out of the market.

However, opening the door to the Supermarket Industry is far from the answer to getting the Property Market moving and could itself be one of the most deadly time-bombs that any visionless politician could unleash on an unsuspecting public that just wants money in its pockets once again.

It has been proven time and again that the big Retailers play a very long game as they move further and further towards a level of monopoly in goods retail. And as a monopoly, property sales is one that would have very far reaching consequences indeed, should the day ever come when Supermarkets control the prices we pay for the houses we buy.

Make no mistake, as proven with their dealings over Milk prices only recently in a process which actually took many years, dictating values within such a market would be of untold commercial value to them. So playing the loss-leading game whilst they remove the balance of standing competition from the market – as they have done with many small retailers – would be a process willingly embraced by homeowners, but at what real cost to us all in the long term?

We already have the model in place to show how little more than commission led sales within the Estate Agency Industry has contributed to the very position where a Government Department is attempting to address the effects of the problem rather than the causes. But once again, political idealists may be about to open a whole new can of worms as they blunder into doing so, which could so easily turn what is the disastrous position of the Housing Market today into a full scale catastrophe for us all tomorrow.

Gutsy decision making that will have an impact on the cause of the problem is what is required, rather than assuming that the answer to one problem will be just as suitable for another. After all, you wouldn’t use a sticking plaster to dress a broken leg and send the patient on their way with nothing more than a sweet, unless of course you had no grasp of the impact from doing so.

To get the Housing Market moving, there has to be an appreciation of the gravity of the situation. It is one which will not be solved by inviting in a new set of players onto the board who will play by the very same set of rules, but on scale which means the whole game cannot so easily be controlled.

The Estate Agency Industry needs to change its way of operating and adopt a position of responsibility to both its customers AND to the economy, particularly as the impact of having so far failed to do so has had an arguably unique impact on the economic position that we all experience today.

To play their part, Estate Agents have to move away from commission-based selling and focus upon the process of doing a good job at a fixed price, which relates to house sizes, demographics, location and all the tangible factors which should dictate the price of such a service to domestic and business customers alike. Perhaps they will then sell houses for what they are worth, rather than what they aim to get.

However, today’s Estate Agents are unlikely to make the required difference to the whole Property Market alone and devaluation of the UK’s property portfolio may be a step which no Westminster Politician will ever be prepared to openly consider, even though it may turn out to be the only solution which genuinely works . But giving the responsibility of getting the Housing Market on its feet to Supermarkets will ultimately give money men a level of power which could make future Governments even less relevant to the bankers than they are now.

Is the distance created by modern communication and business methods removing basic humanity from our relationships and has the time come for a whole new set of rules?

August 1, 2012 1 comment

So what motivates you at work or within your business? Is it doing the very best job that you can; or is it simply to earn the greatest amount as quickly as possible and perhaps keep yourself in that lucrative job that you already have, maybe progressing you to an even better paying or profiled position?

Whilst admitting that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth just as soon as the realisation dawns that other people may have noticed; for a growing number today it will be the latter and for very practical reasons that they may never really have even considered at that. Perhaps strange then that it’s a feeling of guilt which often accompanies that understanding when it arrives, as few will ever argue that we would all like to earn more or have a better lifestyle if given the option to do so.

The reality is of course that people feel bad about making money when questioned, if they hadn’t realised that it has become the purest motivation or aim in what they do, rather than being the very healthy side-effect of a career undertaking or vocation, and then doing it damn well.

With a growing concern about the ethics employed within business, not least of all illustrated by the Libor scandal, one must ask if a loss of conscience is one of the very negative aspects that the distance created by increasingly elaborate supply chains and the rise of the Internet have created?

Many of us have simply adapted and in many cases thrived from the changes and opportunities brought into being by the rise of the Communication Age.  So workers within Internet and information technology reliant businesses are perhaps excusably less aware of the fallout hitting customers they may never even see from decision making which is without a tangible fear or concern for the ‘human factor’. One also wonders if they are therefore insulated from the future catastrophes they now have the power to create in what may seem little more than parallel lives, which to the more aware would only ever be dressed as distant elephants that look less than the size of a gnat on their horizon.

To perhaps emphasise the downside of distance more effectively, I will take a step back to an industry that we all love to hate. A profession that has always had the benefit of distance between business and customer once they have been commissioned; but a distance which is also created by time and process rather than by the remote contact of a broadband cable.

Within the property market, many are quick to become cynical of the inflation-setting-overpricing of houses and wonder how they find themselves unable to afford even a modest home.

Some would blame the gargantuan super-tanker that was ‘right-to-buy’ as set in motion by Margaret Thatcher, but can quickly forget how it was that very act in the first place which encouraged massive property ownership within parts of society where people would never have dared even dream of being homeowners before her tenure, and perhaps led to those very same people being able to aspire to making such dreams their reality to begin with.

Others would look perhaps more accurately to the realms of Estate Agents who have ruthlessly pushed prices up and up, month-after-month and year-after-year in order to secure greater and greater percentage based sales fees.

Estate Agents actually do a job that they could choose to do very well on sensible margins – even in a good market. But repeat custom is to them a very long game and if someone else is saying they can sell a house for more, it doesn’t take much excuse to follow or to lose out because the risks to them seem very distant indeed.

After all, very few owners will willingly lose many thousands of pounds on a sale just because one agent tells them what its actually worth, when another says different. The agent who ‘does what it says on the can’ will have ‘priced to sell’ and done what they were commissioned to do, whereas the second agent plays the long game, watching the market rise to the price they suggested, thereby getting the fee they want but paying little note of the pain that their customer experiences in the meantime. No wonder then, that so many Estate Agency businesses have stopped trading or been forced to make substantial cutbacks during the economic crisis.

The long-term effects of such business practices are potentially incalculable and one can only speculate on just how overpriced our homes now actually are, and how far back in time standards of living and subsequent social mobility could actually be pushed as a result of the out-pricing of starter homes for young people; a situation created purely on the basis of making higher and higher margins for just a few without any apparent risk to the many from doing so.

So with the rise of the Internet and information technology, many more businesses now find themselves enjoying a distance between themselves and  customers which is to such a degree that the abuse of such apparently lucrative opportunities could create all manner of future problems, which may only ever become apparent much further down the line.

For instance, a once heavily hands-on recruitment industry which only a few years ago interacted with perhaps every candidate who made the effort to post them a CV, has been replaced by one which has discovered a seemingly bombproof level of security from risk of losing fees by targeting ‘perfect fit’ or tick box candidates, simply by focusing on electronic advertising and administration techniques. 800 applications through an Internet Job Board sounds a lot to handle; but not if you have set up a machine to identify perhaps a minimum of 8 ‘keywords’ or phrases from 10 in those CV’s before the hand of a human with any kind of feeling will go anywhere near them.

Nobody talks about the longer-term threat to hiring businesses of all shapes and sizes that comes from recruiting candidates from what by default effectively becomes a closed field of applicants who only know and understand a specific discipline within business, illustrated by the use of a series of words. Words which may themselves actually just be buzzwords or the esoteric ensemble of a recent graduate.

And why in purest profitability terms should recruiters care when today’s bottom line is secure and they achieved it with the benefit of never having to even speak to perhaps 3 times as many candidates as they actually did. Candidates who may have provided the recruiter’s customer with benefits and untold added value which they never had the chance to see but paid for nonetheless.  A situation leaving perhaps the best candidates finding themselves removed from the running by a software package that reduced the time involved for the recruiter to all but a mere fraction of what they would have ‘wasted’ otherwise.

It is quite concerning that labour and cost saving technology for one business can itself create the opposite effect not just for one, but potentially many others. But then if you also look at the dark-art-creativity of the financial sector and money-making ideas such as cereal futures and funds that own shares in supermarkets and dairy processors, you can quickly begin to see just how the mechanics of distance and its ability to negatively affect the lives of many people actually are. After all, what is 1p on the price of a pint of milk every couple of days when you had a £1 Million bonus last year?

On the one hand, technical advances and the heralding of an information-based communication age encouraging openness and sharing is driving a potentially buyer-led age where businesses have no option but to sell on the basis of making ‘just enough’ profit and delivering quality on time every time.

On the other, the opening of doors to many more  ‘golden-egg’ opportunities which are great for those picking up the product as it is found, but like the ever expanding and deepening ripples from a tiny stone tossed into a still pond, can cause mayhem and disaster in places that they had never even considered.

So the question needs to be asked; Is the distance created by modern communication and business methods removing basic humanity from our relationships and has the time come for a whole new set of rules?

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