Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat - So What?

News today that Ofgem have fined SSE £10.5million for miselling their gas and electricity products. To make up for 'their bad', SSE had already established a £5million 'mis-selling' fund to compensate affected customers - they've paid out nearly £400,000 from this already, but no mention of what hoops you need to jump through to make a claim i.e. get compensated for them dishonestly exploiting your need for gas or electricity, whilst presumably you remain a customer being bled dry to feed the near 40% rise in profits they made last year (£397.5m in the 6 months from April to September 2012). As if that wasn't enough they lumped a 9% price hike upon us which we simply take on the chin.

What happens to the fine money though? Well, it's paid into the Exchequer's Consolidated Fund - a single bank account. That's now George Osborne's money, presumably he'll use it to further bribe his rich pals in the banking sector not to abandon us... No, it doen't go back to the customers or get fed into the network for these improvements which they apparently need (that's why the companies need so much profit don't you know!).

So here it is as I see it. A private company uses the networks which our forefathers paid for and built, to leech as much money as they can from us. They make eye-wateringly, huge sums of money in profit and yet still come back to the well for more. If they get caught telling porky pies to steal our custom from the other suppliers who already have us by the short & curlies, they get a fine equivalent to approx 1/80 of their annual profits - which goes straight to the government - I always think our money which goes to the government should be classed as tax. They can raise prices pretty well as they please - hmmm, Wonder how they'll make up that missing £10million from this year? As they raise prices, our tax contribution also rises linearly - so no real reason for the government to object, but if the government do want to make a show of punishing the companies, they 'fine' them - which increases the government take, but does nothing to mitigate the flow of money from our wallets...

Have I missed anything? This is capitalism. This is S.E. England economics.... Better together? Aye Right!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

March Misery Makes Maggie's Monster More Meaningful

Back in November I convinced (perhaps even cajoled) 2 of my oldest friends into joining me in the Maggie's Monster Bike & Hike. An altogether excellent sounding adventure up the Great Glen starting with a 31 mile mountain bike trail from Fort William to Fort Augustus, then a hike to Inverness. My angle was that this would be a nice way to mark the 25th anniversary of our leaving school. As a Fair-Trade evangelist, Ewan possibly leaves Finlay & I somewhat in the shade for his efforts to make the planet a better place than when he found it, but Finlay and I haven't exactly been barbecuing baby seals either, so supporting the Maggies centres fits nicely with all our philosophies.

To be honest, the appeal of our entry lay more in the challenge and the opportunity to take on a trip which we know will be rewarding in itself, but the month of March has given me plenty to think about.
I've been sick. Not terminally sick, not even uncomfortably sick 24 hours a day. Just a low level discomfort caused by a chest infection that didn't clear on it's own, then didn't respond to anti-biotics, and is now probably responding to a 2nd set of seemingly more powerful anti-biotics, which are in turn making me feel pretty average. I'm not the only person in this boat - apparently there's a lot of it going about. Certainly I know a few folk my age who have had viruses and bugs this year which have seemed to take an age (4-6 weeks generally) to clear. The thing is though, it only takes about 3 days of low level crappiness to make me forget what it was ever like to feel well - I know, I'm a whinger!

After a week of bleugh, I just want to feel better, but life is going on around me. My children need my attention, my wife needs my attention, my work needs my attention, the bills need paid, the house needs tidied, the garden needs tidied, the washing needs done, the ironing needs done. All I want to do is lie on the couch in peace, feeling sorry for myself and all I've got is a bit of a chest infection, not pneumonia, not pleurisy, not ... dare I say it and tempt fate... cancer. The scariest of words! I can't begin to imagine the difficulties someone faced with such a prognosis goes through and that's just the start of their woes, for as I say. Life doesn't stop when you're not well. Things carry on and they start to get on top of you. That's the issue that the Maggie's centres were created to address.

I hope you'll feel able to help me help those who definitely need a wee helping hand at a most horribly difficult time.

Visit our Just Giving page and spare what you can.

A Fair Point - Worth Remembering

Now, I'll admit that i don't necessarily keep myself up to date with the minutiae of council affairs. I have my expectations on the service levels I expect to be delivered for the tax I contribute. Most of my expectations revolve around the norms for a civilised society that wants to avoid outbreaks of bubonic plague and likes to see the young educated to a point where they will make a decent contribution to our continued existence. I have my issues with the various services offered and might just contend that some of the council workers could do with a reality check, but just to be clear, I have never in my life before this con-dem government even heard even mention of the 'issue' that is people on welfare having more rooms than the government or council think they realistically need.

I have never considered it unfair that some welfare recipient, housed by the council in the first place, might be in a gaff that is deemed to have more rooms than the recipient actually needed-I'm just delighted they have a roof over their heads and hope it isn't too horrific a neighbourhood.
I have never, ever heard any council ever complain that the difficulties they have could be made easier by suddenly having to re-house thousands of the poorest people in society just so that they can continue to receive the benefits they need to survive.
Let noone forget that the Tory argument here is that the £1.31 billion pounds raised by the 50p tax limit is being cut - in order to gift those of us (it is us, as we're all in this together apparently) lucky enough to earn over £1million, at least an extra £42,295 per annum, whilst an estimated 660,000 of the poorest households will be denied an average of £14 per week - the argument is one of fairness. (figures courtesy of the excellent Ian Bell in his most recent Skewering of Millibland and the Clones).
Given that the 3 mainstream political parties have essentially become identikits of one another, vying for the centre-right spot owned by Blair, managed by public schoolboy, media, politics & marketing graduates who've never held down an honest job in their lives, but who all hope to emulate the illustrious
non-war-criminal former leader, to ultimately access similarly lucrative after-dinner speaking careers once they've embued us with their brilliance, I had almost forgotten what a shower of cunts the Tories actually are...  Hopefully none of us will be making that mistake again too soon.