Category Archives: Our money

Gay activism, Unmarried Rights and Retired Police

Ugandan gay activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has been given the prestigious Martin Ennals rights award.

In Uganda being gay is such a terrible thing that some people are trying to bring in special laws against it.

In October 2009, an MP introduced a bill that proposed increasing the penalties in Uganda for homosexual acts from 14 years in prison to life.

It also proposed the death penalty for a new offence of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender”.

Nabagesera has campaigned against anti-homosexual treatment despite the murder in January of her colleague, David Kato.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in fear of my life for simply loving someone. It is really good that she has been recognised and that this issue continues to be in the news.

This may have something to do with the prevalence of Anglicanism in Uganda. Traditional Christian values aren’t too supportive of The Gay.

Did you know that “Common Law” marriage is a complete myth? I did (but then I am very clever) but what I didn’t know was that the law gives better treatment for couples if they aren’t married. At least at the moment.

A couple, Jones and Kernott, lived together for several years. During this time they bought a house and had a couple of children. Then they split up. Ms Jones decided to keep the house and continued to pay the mortgage but Mr Kernott remained on the deeds.

Years later he decides that he wants a share of the value of the house. Now if they’d married the law would have given him the proportion of his contribution back (about 10%) but as an unmarried couple they are simply subject to contract law and he gets half.

For unmarried couples though, the court had to apply strict legal principles, so joint-ownership meant the property was shared 50/50.

So now you know.

Nicholas Francis QC, head of London family law chambers 29 Bedford Row, said the judgement would be a very important precedent and would underline the importance of unmarried couples deciding how much of the home each owns in a declaration of trust.

That should make things a bit more equal. Another nail in the coffin of marriage too.

Source BBC News.

Her Majesty’s Government continues to make austerity cuts. Some West Midland police are being forced to retire after 30 years of service. What of age discrimination laws I hear you cry? Apparently the police aren’t covered. Anyway David “Call me Dave” Cameron has so carefully planned his austerity measures that he’s taken the issue of forced retirement seriously. NOT.

Oh yes, all you coppers who were forced to retire, come back and work for free. Ha, I imagine that will go down like a lead balloon.

Tony Fisher, who was forced to retire as a detective specialising in tackling robbery, said the cost-cutting move was a “slap in the face” after 33 years in the force.

The former detective constable is among hundreds affected by the plan as part of efforts to save tens of millions of pounds in the wake of government spending cuts.

“I was a detective for 26 years and I just don’t see how that role fits in any way as a special constable,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a slap in the face to get rid of you and then say ‘do you want to come back for nothing’. It was adding salt to the wounds.”

But he added that the force was “between a rock and a hard place”.

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English Baccalaureate and Bureaucrats

It was only last month that we were at the younger Tadpoles’ school and listening to teachers go through Options. They spoke about the brand spanking new English Baccalaureate and about how they hadn’t yet had any guidance from universities, colleges or the Department of Education as to how important they were. For those of you who weren’t at the parent teacher event (and where were you?) the English Bac is comprised of English, Mathematics, a language, two sciences and either geography or history.

Back in the Iron Age when I did my options I dropped French like a rancid garlic sausage covered in flies and I didn’t have the option of learning German (which I wanted to do) or Spanish, Italian or Japanese. These are the only six languages that are spoken in the civilised world as you know and English is the only important one. At least that was how it was back in the day. Another thing we had, along with Technical Drawing, was the choice of doing Chemistry, Biology or Physics rather than Science but times change. You generally had a split between science and technical types (boys) and art and humanities types (girls) and I must say that I’m really glad that kind of silliness is behind us.

What concerns me though, on top of the seemingly never ending interference in education from state, is the setting of apparently random targets. Granted it is state education so they should oversee things but politicians are not educators and educators are the experts here. Someone in power might try listening to them. Just a thought. The Beeb reports that the English Bac is too narrow in scope. It ignores the efforts of those who are less academic and more vocationally oriented and it ignores those who do subjects like Music, Art or Ethics and Philosophy (the old RE).

It seems too that the universities are going to be pressured into altering admissions criteria to look for people with the broad education of an English Bac rather than those who specialise early or those who take alternate routes to their education. The Tadpoles’ school offers GCSEs but it also offers vocational courses like Mechanical Engineering and almost half the Options choices were BTECs. A BTEC doesn’t count towards the English Bac so are students who work consistently through coursework rather than take exams going to lose out on university places? Who knows? The government aren’t saying.

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Green cars

The first “green” cars that qualify for a government subsidy of up to £5000
were unveiled yesterday. The state is spending £20 million (or £43 million depending on which story you read) of our money to get electric cars on the road. The sum is paid to the vehicle buyer.

I think that electric cars are a good idea as long as the fuel cells aren’t tapping electricity generated from fossil fuels and even £43 million isn’t a lot of money for a nation. It is scarcely the price of two first class stamps per head of population. However even with a £5000 subsidy these cars are really expensive. I wonder if it would not have been better to spend the money on having these cars made in England or in in the cost of research. Surely that would net the tax payer more in the long run. Surely our money would better be spent on building a manufacturing industry in the UK or in groundbreaking science that leads to new industries rather than subsidising expensive cars.

It may be me but it seems that governments see a good idea and want to get involved but really don’t have a clue where to begin. These subsidies are a “nice to have” but they aren’t a good way of spending our money. We industry and we need innovation in this country, not payouts and bureaucracy. Where is the return on our investment?

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How are they spending our money?

Last week “Call me Dave” Cameron spoke about a Green Investment Bank, a bank that is government run and government funded (aren’t they all?) that would be able to leverage more investment than a private bank. A government bank isn’t a “bank”. It is a “fund”. A bank is supposed to take the money invested and make a profit for the shareholders. A building society is made up of shareholders so makes a profit for its members. A fund is a pool of money from many investors that is used to grant loans and make other investments. Given that the government is using our money to make this Green Investment Bank then what it is really doing is making a fund out of our money. Another example of government doublespeak? Well what do you expect?

What do we need a state run bank for anyway? Isn’t the market already saturated with banks? Oh hang on though. They aren’t lending are they? They’ve been hurt and some of them nearly went down the toilet because of their irresponsible lending practices. Well that’s what you get for taking risks with other people’s money and not having a government that’ll regulate the industry. Rather I should say “many successive governments” because it would hardly be fair to blame it on just one or even two or three. No, it is decades of neglect and unnecessary risk with our money.

So the banks aren’t lending and the government decide that somebody has to or the economy will freeze over like the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Hell. They decide that they’re going to lend our money out to investors. They’re tying up our money, money that we don’t actually have, in order to stimulate the economy. Now they can’t just come out and say that because it would look really bad when they are making “austerity” cuts to public expenditure. That is where I think that this “Green Bank” idea comes in. It looks better if the state is doing something good with our money rather than just ripping us off and making yet another quango to keep boys in the City happy and rich.

There are other ways to stimulate the economy of course without creating a fund to lend back to us our money. They could just tax us a bit less. If we had an extra £100 per month in our pockets we’d spend that money or save it. If we’re buying things then someone has to make things to buy and shops have to exist to sell them. That means more jobs and more tax payers. If we’re saving the money (or paying off our debts) then that means the banks have more money and can pay back their creditors (us again as the bail outs came from our money) and lend money for people who want to buy things like houses. More money is in the economy rather than tied up in the state.

Of course if taxes are cut then that means that less money can be spent in the public sector. That means fewer services, fewer civil servants, etc. Then again the public sector is made up of tax consumers and needs to shrink anyway. Quite a lot. If they taxed us less then they could pay out fewer benefits to workers. If they paid out less in benefits then they would need fewer staff in the benefit office to administer benefit payments.

I do not like the way that this government is spending our money. Unfortunately no other party seems to have an alternative.

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Public Sector

According to the Office of National Statistics just over 6 million people work in the public sector. This is 53% of the economy. 523,000 of them work in the civil service.

What does this mean? Well it means that for every pound in the economy 53p of it comes from the state. Hang on though, the state doesn’t earn any money does it? It doesn’t make anything or sell anything. In fact the only way that the state gets money is from our taxes. So that 53p comes from money generated in the private sector. Our money.

If I earn £100,000 in a year (I wish) I will pay about 50% of that in direct and indirect taxes. I say “about” because I’m just using the figure to illustrate a point. Some of the money comes from direct income tax and some from tax on my savings (I wish), investments (I wish), VAT on good and services that I buy, etc. In fact for the UK we pay 42.6% on average in direct and indirect taxation. Soon to increase. The rich pay less as a percentage but more as a sum.

Anyway that £50k in taxes ends up in the pot of the state: the treasury. There they decide how to spend our money. Presumably this is loosely based on the policies that they made while running for office but I wouldn’t bet on it. Of this hypothetical £50k the wages of a civil servant or two are paid along with health and social systems, welfare, pensions, defence, rubbish collection, firemen, the BBC, science research, foreign aid, everything really that the state spends our money on.

If the wages of the public and private sector are equivalent then you can see how this might cause a problem. For every £100k earnt, £106k has to be generated to pay for public sector pay. Some of it is redistributed from taxes paid by public sector workers but there isn’t a perpetual motion machine that gets more out than goes in. Our money from the private sector doesn’t cover the money needed in the public sector.

The public sector is too big.

Not just a little bit too big. It is hugely inflated. It is paid for by borrowing against money that we might make in the future and in our children’s futures. Does that sound fair to you?

Now I do think that some things are really worth paying for. I want an NHS in case I get ill and need treatment. I want a benefits system as a safety net in case I find myself out of work. I want my rubbish collected. I want firemen to be around in case my house catches fire. I want an education system to teach our children so that the next generation becomes an educated and productive work force. There is a lot that I’m willing to contribute towards. If you tot it up though it only comes to about 2 million people of the 6 million employed in the public sector.

What do the other 4 million do? What are they spending our money on? Why isn’t something actually being done about this?

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Wellbeing. Do you know what would make me happy?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/25/david-cameron-defends-wellbeing-index

David Cameron insisted today that the actions a government takes could make people “feel better as well as worse” as he announced plans to introduce a wellbeing index from next year.

Cameron said that it was “high time” to recognise that GDP was an “incomplete way” of measuring the country’s progress as he used a speech to confirm that the government was asking the Office for National Statistics to devise ways of measuring wellbeing in addition to tracking economic growth.

A wellbeing index. Seriously? Do you know what would make me happy? Spending our money on getting this country out of the £4.8 trillion debt that we’re in. Cut 5 million public sector jobs and half the size of the the state expenditure. Create some jobs with that money. Some actual jobs, not civil service jobs paid for by our money but private sector jobs that create wealth and create goods that can be exported so that we bring wealth into this country.

Cameron rejected claims that the initiative was a “bit woolly and impractical” as he insisted that finding out what could help people live “the good life” and acting on it was the “serious business of government”.

The serious business of government is to govern. According to one dictionary (a wonderful book that everyone should get) a government “is the organization, or agency through which a political unit exercises its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects”. They work for us. They spend our money. Every politician, every political decision, every penny spent on frivolous, obfuscating schemes is money that comes from our taxes. Our money is being spent so they can see how happy we are.

Let me tell you Mr Cameron. Give me the money instead of spending in on a wellbeing index and I’ll tell you how happy I feel. Remember, it isn’t your money. If it were your money then you could spend it how you like but it isn’t your money. It’s our money.

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