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Time for a rant

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Monday 1 August 2005 5.54pm

I pay at least 25% in income tax and 17.5% of the rest in VAT. Then there is Council tax, National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Congestion Charging Tax, Business Rates etc etc ad infinitum.

Then Lord Coe and Ayatullah Blair win the 2012 Olympics for London and tell us how its going to be paid for - 650M on Council Tax and 1.75Bn from the Lottery (ie all the other taxpayers).

Then I watch as Southwark's traffic wardens slap ticket after ticket (followed by clamp after clamp) on BT trucks who are trying to put new cabling into the area around Tanner St. What will BT do with those charges? Pass them on of course.

Then I watch as Big Brother is hoisted into position on Tooley St and the hoister tells me that its for Congestion Charging.

Then a neighbour gets a 50 penalty charge notice because they put a business letter into their domestic waste.

And then I realise that, naively, I used to believe that our traffic wardens were there to improve the environment. Equally, I thought that fines for littering were about improving the environment. And Congestion Charging and speed cameras etc etc etc.

But now I realise that its just about revenue and indirect taxation. We don't produce anything in this country except tax. Phew! thank heavens thats over.

Kisses to everyone.

Tuesday 2 August 2005 7.41am
We should meet and rant together. Let's have a Rant Party.
Tuesday 2 August 2005 8.12am
What always puzzles me Niall is what happens to the pensions of people who die just before retiring age? A friend died several years ago two weeks before his 65th birthday, something that happens accross Britain on a daily basis I should imagine..

So what ' pot ' or bottomless pit do those would be pensions go to? after all the treasury would not have allocated that already to other budgets......

just curious...
Tuesday 2 August 2005 1.17pm
>>So what ' pot ' or bottomless pit do those would be pensions go to? after all the treasury would not have allocated that already to other budgets......

Except they will have, as they anticipate that a percentage of all people will die before they reach pension age, so they don't have to provide any pension for these people.

Niall, you sound like a natural Tory. Good on you.
Tuesday 2 August 2005 4.27pm

It gets spent on more beaurocracy, what other job does government have?


I'd rather slash my own throat. They are all the same, red, blue or yellow, they are all bound together by a desire to exercise the power that is confered by the 'taxpayer's pound'. That's the confidence trick that is 'democracy'. I listened to Ms Blears at lunchtime and she was being pompous about how we protest, here, in the cradle of democracy. We do it 'properly' ie not with bombs but through the process. Ah yes, the process of democracy. Once every 5 years we all get a chance to be influenced by pernicious claptrap (see M Howard/immigrants) and to vote with our basest fears. And then its business as usual as our 'elected representatives' have another 5 uninterupted years to spend the taxpayer's pound without accountability.

I look northward to my countrymen in Scotland and laugh at the poor saps. The Parliament building in Edinburgh will end up costing 500m+ which is, I believe, 85 for every man woman and child in Scotland and all it will do is create an ever bigger beaurocracy that produces nothing except self justification. Where did the Scots get their reputation for caution in matters fiscal? Maybe we should look more closely at Mr Browns figures, his being a Scot.

Here in London we have Portcullis House, the most expensive office building in Britain per square foot. I believe that it has cost 1.5M to house each MP who uses it yet not one of them has refused to use the offices. As if 1.5M is quite acceptable to house their desk, PA, Pa's assistant, researcher and uncle Tom Cobbley. Oh yes, then there is the subsidised (at the taxpayer's expense) bar where our MP's can obtain one of their drugs of choice.

No, I actually think that 'value for money', when its other people's money, is not a political issue. Its a moral issue. Anyone making decisions which result in the expenditure of other people's money has an obligation to ensure that by any reasonable standards, they obtain 'best value' and there is a much abused phrase.

Did you hear John Humphries 'On the ropes' earlier this week when he was interviewing the Chief Police Officer responsible for the area where the Soaham murders took place. Blunkett suspended him because he refused to resign and the reason he refused was because he did not feel that his officers had done anything wrong. He did admit deficiencies but he was explicit in his statement that the deficiencies were "service wide" and a function of failings in systems which were in place across the service.

Now, three or more years ago I would have been sceptical about that 'defence' but having just finished 3 years working for a Local Authority I believe that I more fully understand what was being described. 'Information Technology' or IT in the jorgon-speak of today's society, simply doesn't work across large organisations. Oh yes, billions of pounds are being spent on IT and, yes, it does work across small areas of large organisations but it doesn't work across large beaurocratic organisations. You just have to look at the NHS or Local Government to see that.

And all of these IT systems are subject to 'best value review' and the very fact that they survive that process tells you everything you need to know about the process and its objectives. 'Best value' is not 'best value' with regard to the taxpayer's investment. No, 'best value' is 'best value' with regard to the individual beaurocratic feifdom who implements the review. Its smoke and mirrors, nothing more.

Lets take an example. Lets look at information held by, say, a planning department. Now, they hold files on individual addresses or groups of addresses. Those files are meant to describe the planning and development history of a property or properties. So a planning department might give a particular address a particular identity.

Now, lets go to the Business Rate section of this mythic authority. They keep records of addresses upon which they make Business Rate charges. Some of those records will be common to the records held by the Planning Department.

Now, lets go to the Inland Revenue's Valuation Office where they have a direct interest in the addresses that are recorded by the mythic Local Authority's Business Rates section.

Now lets go back to the Housing Department of the mythic Local Authority where, again, they have an interest in addresses which appear on the records of the Planning Department because there are flats above shops.

Now, I could go on but the point is that, with some types of information, there are a large number of organisations who could share key elements of information and then add specific and specialist information to their own needs. This might suggest the development of a common standard for information systems across local and national government to make sure that information is visible. But it won't happen. Why not? Because middle and senior managers and civil servants know that knowledge is power and they need to compartmentalise their information to protect their own feifdom's, powerbases and pension prospects. And to hell with the cost.

At the same time, the IT industry actively aids and abetts the maintenance of different standards because they all have their snouts in the trough - the trough that is filled and refilled by the taxpayer.

Another example of miss-selling is the way that IT systems were sold as a final solution to the storage of documents. You see, IBM, ICL, Fuj Itsu etc all sought to propose that their mainframes (then desktops) would take care of the filing. So many local authorities binned all their filing clerks, thinking that they would be able to retreive their documents at will, just as the IT people said they could. And that would have been in the 1970s.

Beaurocrats, at local and national level, were gagging to believe this fantasy because they saw a way to cut their overheads and they marched resolutely down the road of reliance on electronic storage. Now, it just so happens that no-one had agreed any common formats for these new 'wonder machines' so information started out being stored on mainframe disks, then tape reels, then the 7.5inch floppy came about then the desktop arrived with its hard drive and then the system server and the CD and the DVD. Earlier information was on microfiche and microfilm with the result that information may be stored on six or seven types of media and, in some cases, the formats may no longer be accessible. Incidentally, the American Standards Association will not offer an archive period for a CD because they don't believe that they are stable. But microfilm, correctly processed, washed and stored, is good for between 125 and 500 years.

In marching down this road to reduced staffing levels, the beaurocrats not only put their own records at risk, they disconnected themselves from the history of their own organisations and they lost contact with the culture of record keeping. As a result, many local and national government organisations do not have any active archiving which means that the maintenance of records is very much up to the individual staffer, which makes it something of a lottery.

The appalling events investigated by the public enquiry into the Climbie case in Haringey, and the Soaham murders for that matter, describe the failures of the systems that the taxpayer is funding. And I am sure that they are just the public tip of a very big iceberg.

So, for all of these reasons, I believe that our political system sucks because it isn't accountable. Politicians owe their allegience to their party first then, somewhere after that, the electorate. Politicians don't have to address the electorate as a whole, they just have to get more votes than the other parties. Thus we have the politics of division and the taxpayer is abandonned by them all.

Phew, I feel better after that, must do it again sometime.

Love and kisses


PS Jan Any government should send flowers to anyone who dies at 65 as a thank you. Equally it explains why government has been so slow to crack down on smoking - cancer kills and every little helps.
Wednesday 3 August 2005 6.50am
Mapmaker, how depressing to think they have a budget funded by anticipation of someones death...:-( your right I did not think of it like that, still I wonder where the average person could get these figures in language that some old dumb cluck like me could understand?

Niall I loved your bit about departments/i.t. etc., not sharing information, after all they have to justify the salaries they receive!

I have even printed your bit out 'cos paper lasts a lot longer than some governments! and I can read it at leisure without staring at a screen!
Wednesday 3 August 2005 12.42pm
Well, actually, there's a whole industry devoted to analysing when people are going to die. In fact, to be a chartered actuary is quite an esteemed profession to aspire to.

Life assurance companies determine how much premium to charge based on the likelihood of your lifestyle cutting short your life prematurely. Conversely, pension companies would like you to die young, so that they can pay higher annuity rates. They anticipate how long each person will live (again, largely based on occupation and lifestyle) and set annuity rates accordingly.

Hospital provision, doctors, etc, all take into account whether the catchment area has a higher or lower incidence of intravenous drug users, for example.

Even estate agents get in on the morbidity game: The three D's of realty: Debt, Divorce and Death keep the industry afloat during housing market slumps.

death death death.. what a fascinating topic.

Nice rant, by the way, Niall. If I wasn't a one-fingered typist I would add my own rants about people who rant about how bad our political system is, but don't suggest an alternative. I hear the political system in Nigeria is quite good.
Wednesday 3 August 2005 4.26pm
Gosh Niall, you have got a lot to get off your chest haven't you! Started reading your self-proclaimed rant but couldn't make it past paragraph 10 I'm afraid. You must be exhausted!
Wednesday 3 August 2005 5.04pm
Not "all the other taxpayers" have to pay for London 2012

A lottery is a taxation,
Upon all the fools in Creation;
And Heav'n be prais'd,
It is easily rais'd,
Credulity's always in fashion;
For, folly's a fund,
Will never lose ground,
While fools are so rife in the Nation

Henry Fielding The Lottery 1732
Thursday 4 August 2005 7.04pm

You refer to many follies that have been erected by the current lot (Portcullis House; the Edinburgh thingy).

I don't hold up the current Tories as skilled budget cutters, but they would not have succumbed to those particular follies.

<rant> The past 10 years or so have seen a one-off economic miracle. The combination of the dotcom boom (which whilst it may have deflated considerably HAS brought millions to the people of this sceptr'd isle) and the availabilty of cheap imported mechanical goods from China left this nation with a one-off opportuntity to benefit from unprecedented prosperity. And what has Brown done with this wealth? Frittered it away on pointless public-sponsored projects.

So now, we have increased Government debt; we have a pensions crisis; we have an over-staffed public sector; we have unaffordable housing*; we have a recession waiting to happen (and the longer we wait, the worse it will be); we have a stock market that is no higher than it was in 1997(the only true and honest reflection of the country's state)... etc.

Oh yes, and the reams of tax legislation introduced by Gordon Brown, just to keep tax accountants in a job.
* a housing boom extended by the Government which is desparate for it not to end so has introduced various policies to keep up house prices:

1. 'shared ownership' to make it easier for people to afford 'overpriced' housing, thus stoking up a boom.
2. The ability to put buy-to-let housing into pension funds, thus reducing the effective cost to rich people by 40%, so further stoking up a boom
3. Increases in stamp duty to put you off moving house by introducing a huge economic hurdle or 3 or 4%; so that the few houses that do make it onto the market are hard fought over, thus increasing house prices.

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