The BBC have just reported on the government’s advertising campaign (at what cost?) in their attempt to cut down on ‘benefit fraud’.

Here is that article.

The BBC doesn’t look into any factors which contribute to the government’s claims they lose £1bn a year. Why is the BBC so faithfully publicising the official line without any investigation into facts or proper research?

This BBC report is blatantly biased towards the government and against the people who fund it through their TV license. It lacks any sign of balanced journalism. It is probably a government issued press release faithfully reported without any editorial input.

Where are the journalists seeking truth who take the wider view to ask why there is a higher amount in unclaimed benefits that people are eligible to than the amount lost in fraud (see previous blog)? Surely the BBC should be asking, for all us license payers, why is the system is failing everyone so grotesquely?

Here is an article in the Guardian which gives a more researched and investigated look at the whole picture, by looking at figures, trends and behaviours, such as the strong work ethic found in people from families with a generation of worklessness.

A position of responsibility is needed to see why benefits are not reaching the right people. The government plumps the blame for its failures squarely on people who have no power over its methods.

Is the system more accessible to people with time, leisure, comfort of mind and a lack of urgency? Is this a state of being that a busy person, short of income, juggling family and work and struggling to make ends meet and focus on matters in their day-to-day lives, or is this the profile of the exact kind of fraudster who has worked out how to play the system to get more money?

Do conditions and requirements from people get clearly communicated so that it is fair on honest people, or is the system so tricky to navigate that it consistently catches out honest, trusting people and leaves the system open to people who are out to learn how to play the game?

The BBC quotes the Work and Pensions minister saying there are “new and better” methods of detection by police and officials. That sounds like increased bully-boy tactics to me.

What are these new and better methods? And why is the focus always on wrongdoing in a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ way?

None of the conditions of receiving benefits are helpful to people who are honestly and diligently seeking work. As it is so much harder to get from benefits into full time work, people need:

* Attention space to look for work.

* Enough money to live on without the distraction of undue stress and worry.

* Means to travel in order to reach interviews on time and to get to work on time and be able to get home without impeding their health.

* Confidence to do their best in interviews.

* Encouragement to seek out work that will sustain.

* The means to dress according to expected levels of smartness and dress codes for work applied for.

Where is any proof that these calls are done honestly? Surely a person committed to getting free government money is going to do whatever they can to protect themselves from detection, including shopping in anyone they think might report them?

The whole system is based on hearsay, not on proof. That means it is one person’s word against another’s. That could not be more open to fraud if it tried.

(If you want the gist, and can’t be arsed to read the following rant, to doubly check you are registered to vote and have given all (newly, quietly introduced) required info, go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and give NI number, date of birth etc).

MPs must have a laugh amongst each other on the District Line from Wimbledon on their way into work, about what they are going to do that day to squeeze more money out of the nation.

This is a result of the Electoral Registrations and Administrations Bill that has just passed through this year. Read more about the change from household to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) via the Three Rivers Borough website.

Betterment

You’d hope there would be betterment schemes being planned, problems being solved, funding being allocated into places that will save other costs across the board etc. But no.

Government departments and local authorities have become like the Sheriff of Nottingham, turning law abiding citizens into Robin Hoods by the dozen.

Despite the proliferation of media, social networks, technology etc, the recent introduction of a fine if you don’t register to vote is being so badly communicated that chaos is surely going to break out (and give ebola a run for its money).

To do councils jobs for them, this is what to expect:

1. If you are new to your address or a new voter, you get a generically addressed “household enquiry form”. This looks like the already (previously known) recognised quick, simple electoral registration process, which only asks for the names of the people over 18 in the household.

(There was mention on this form of a possible up to £1,000 fine).

2. Then (no publicity, no media, no awareness campaign) you get an individually named form asking for NI number, date of birth and optional contact details.

electoral registerThis is where councils should be sanctioned for their inability to choose the correct words to put on their letters. Therefore:

Mention

Even though this is the FIRST mention of wanting NI numbers, (NO publicity, NO media, NO advertising, NO awareness campaign) in italics in the first paragraph it says:

“If you have already responded to a previous letter inviting you to register, please ignore this reminder – there is sometimes a delay processing applications.”

This could not be more incorrect, misleading and confusing, therefore causing people stress and distraction. That’s what we pay council tax for? Cheers.

Why:

1. ‘Already responded”. Yes, to the household enquiry form asking for names of voters in the household. But this one is individually named and the names came from the “previous letter” (see below). Downright confusing, misleading and distracting. (Deliberately to collect those fines off the honest but unwitting?).

2. What “previous letter”. Could they not NAME or DESCRIBE it? Surely it’s a “form” not a “letter”? It could be anything. Is this deliberately misleading to rake in all those fines??????? The only “previous letter” I had was the  “household enquiry forms” (you only get this description when you PHONE UP to ASK)  which DIDN’T tell me that it would be followed by another step in the process in which new information is now being requested. therefore:

3. “Please ignore this reminder”. It’s a REMINDER is it? Reminding me what? I have filled in one form. (Should have said you will receive ANOTHER FORM, not act as if that is that, you have now registered to vote. NO. “We have changed the system and you will receive another form.” NO, OF COURSE THOSE WORDS WERE MISSING IN ACTION.

(Instead of the word “reminder” let’s call it a “form” and for clarity, the words “we have just changed the system and now want your NI number, so if you haven’t already provided this please fill in the form or go to the website.” should appear. Clarity? The only thing in common with councils and clarity is starting with the letter c, which is also the start of another word for councils).

4. “There is sometimes a delay in processing applications”. No. They are totally not on top of the paperwork they have caused by confusing, misleading and distracting EVERYONE. EVERYBODY. It also means “there is another step in this process when we come back and ask for more info, so your application isn’t completed yet.”

Then it says: “to make sure you stay registered to vote…”. No. What is means is (but could never in the fucking world say anything close) is “we now want your NI number and date of birth. We didn’t warn you on the previous letter and therefore now you need to give us those details.”

Why they now have to do this is in 2 whole separate stages is beyond me. In most people’s point of reference, there is one form that provides the names of people old enough to vote. If there IS more info wanted, why didn’t they send out the new form in the first place? We CAN ACTUALLY fill in our own details.

The problem is, we now have no power over the way the public sector spends our tax money. Had it been me, I would have written to each household saying:

Dear occupant:

We have introduced new rules to make everyone over 18 vote, using a fine if they ignore the electoral register.

Now we want you to tell us your name, address, date of birth, national insurance number and, if you want to but don’t have to, your contact details.

Fill in this form and return it in the prepaid envelope or go online and the system will walk you through.

Thank you for your time.

How much public money could THAT have saved us in time, postage, paper and printing?

None of this bollocks about ‘staying’ registered to vote (requiring more details) or a remind (compulsory form, first sighting too) or ‘delay in processing’ (you haven’t finished the process and we want more info but are incapable of saying anything remotely close to this).

And I expect an awareness campaign in the press so that councils are acting responsibly about ensuring the new information and changes to the system have landed in everyone’s worlds so no one can say they didn’t know, thought they were already registered, had ‘responded to a previous letter’ so didn’t complete the process or didn’t realise they had to register to vote or would be fined.

If these mailings have not reached everyone that is the RESPONSE to the council’s communication impact, and they need to grow the ABILITY to take this as evidence of a massive fail on THEIR part. That would be RESPONSE ABILITY. ABILITY TO RESPOND AND TAKE A RESPONSE. Not put the whole onus on the other person who had no control over what councils chose to do or say to correct their mistakes.

electoral rollThere is of course the usual concerned press about these quiet and sneaky changes that ripple underneath the skin of generally accepted public perception.

Rant over.

Actually, N.B. Are there REALLY enough people for this question:

Just shows how patronising the public sector is about the nation.

The Scotsman

As a music blogger, it seems to me that the music industry has been drying up, particularly since July just gone.

Please be aware this is only conjecture. My intention is to seek out solutions to get around the obstacles mentioned below.

Each week I visit a series of new music websites to hear and comment on releases as soon as I can find them on YouTube.

IMG_1216

Nick Mears, Frankie and Amy take to the stage in Falmouth.

There were some good ones such as Ella Henderson’s “Glow” and others by Gorgon City, Sigma with Paloma Faith, Kiesza and Charlie XCX, but these started to dwindle after mid-July to very few in the last 3 months.

People will continue to want to listen to, buy and play music, but what if it has become so difficult to make music in today’s economic conditions, such as:

  • Student fees.
  • Benefit sanctions.
  • Housing benefit limitations.
  • Abolition of council tax benefit.
  • Greatly raised basic living costs due to widespread new “basic essentials” such as mobile phones and Internet access, without which people would face a degree of exclusion.
  • Constant monitoring, requirement for travel, obligatory courses and work schemes for those on benefits.
  • Fierce competition for even the most basic jobs.
  • Lack of employment.
  • Lack of variety in employment opportunities to match variety of academic qualifications.
  • Lack of realistic or helpful careers advice.
  • The health, productivity and mental effects of stress such as constant distraction on people not meeting their living costs.
  • The distraction and costs imposed by the welfare state, which reduces time and attention spent on looking for work.
IMG_1170

Kosheen performs at Motion in Bristol, showing how stage presence, contemporary sound, good songs and definite arrangements rock.

Someone with creative talent leaving education today probably faces an assault course of barriers in the way of their path into a creative career that best meets their skills and abilities.

When you consider the constant demand for creative output by the general public, this seems disjointed and the backlash is very much against the economy because:

  • Many people are out of work due to a shortage of jobs.
  • Money spent, or even wasted, by the benefit system on unproductively dealing with the unemployed while not improving their employment chances.
  • Therefore the time, costs and attention required to be on benefits greatly reduces the same spent on producing and developing creative output.
  • Everyone is being forced to focus on the narrowing pool of opportunities to earn a living before getting involved with any other activities.
  • Lack of surplus income to get out and meet other people to be creative with.
  • Closure of places that gather people to carry out creative activities.
  • Closure of creative activity in the education system.
  • Emphasis in the education system on academic activities, even in the creative arts, which excludes the skills and learning styles of people with a creative profile.
  • The resulting loss of taxable income from the lack of opportunity for creative output.
  • The redirection of money away from the creative industries due to lack of creative output.

Out of these conditions, I would personally say that someone wanting to enter music, art, drama, film or any other creative industry may want to consider a life course by replicating the life conditions of those who have become successful from previous decades.

This could mean avoiding some of the widely accepted pathways, which won’t result in the best circumstances to pursue a creative path.

In the days of the Doors (pictured: Doors Alive) economic conditions were doubtlessly more helpful to young artists

In the days of the Doors (pictured: Doors Alive) economic conditions were doubtlessly more helpful to young artists

Unfortunately, it seems, a lot of learning is tied up in the formal academic process, with a huge reduction in City and Guilds, HNDs or apprenticeships. Even the Postgrad certificate I did in 1997 was skills based, not academic.

Therefore, how would the creative, non-academic person fare best today? How can we ensure we have a productive, creative industry for the future?

As Cath Kitson said in an interview, to paraphrase, while her friends were at college (this is before the introduction of course fees) she was out working in retail earning £100 a week.

I, personally, having thought about this a lot, would suggest:

  • Getting involved in your local radio station who might offer some free training and experience doing a radio show.
  • Fully exploring work opportunities to get into any job as soon after leaving education as possible. (Reading: Stephen King’s book on writing, in which he was doing 2 jobs until his writing started to take off).
  • Don’t just follow the herd to university. Seriously weigh up all the factors and ask other people for their ideas open mindedly. Don’t make your mind up because of peer or parental pressure. Become good at making your own choices best on what you find is best for you.
  • Finding places to meet other people with same interests and abilities to start working with.
Fab girl group The Eyelids return to Jakes to delight core fans in Falmouth.

Fab girl group The Eyelids return to Jakes to delight core fans in Falmouth.

Applying Yourself (list continued):

  • Applying yourself to your chosen creative activities.
  • Put any money you acquire into the things you need for your creative work (rather than spending it all on drink etc).
  • Don’t get sidetracked by too many fun but unproductive activities in your precious free time.
  • Have realistic expectations of your bread and butter job, but of course learn how to not be exploited or mistreated. (Useful throughout working life).
  • Tip for above: learn how to ask questions in interviews to find out about your employer and working conditions to see if you would like to work for them.
  • (When you get good at tip above, interviewers will start falling over each other to get you as they will be in the hot seat having to sell themselves to you).
  • Review the factual (not media) histories of established artists in your chosen area to look for clues on how to find your best way forward.
  • Become good at working with other people.
  • Become good at empowering other people to help you by finding out what they want to achieve/what they can get out of working with you.
  • Gauge the stage you are at accurately.
  • Stay humble and don’t assume anyone owes you anything.
  • Get good at doing everything as economically as possible. This doesn’t mean cutting corners or employing false economies. Learn the difference. This again involves team work.
  • Set up events, get people involved, publicise these events, create your own opportunities.
  • Have a steady output of work in 3 stages: 1. to get a reaction, 2. to widen your audience 3. to reach success.

Well that’s all I’ve got time for. Please send in comments as this is all just an open debate of ideas.

 

I’ve recently heard about sanctions, when someone has been kicked off benefits after 3 months, despite their efforts to find work and their circumstances.

There have been reports in the broadsheet and tabloid press about people who have starved to death in their homes due to having nothing to live on.

Here’s a fictional scene (from my imagination) of MPs being sent to the job centre.

INT. DAY. JOB CENTRE.

At first glance you might have thought you were in the recreation room in the House of Commons as several men in suits and ties and some plump women in twin-sets or skirt suits, all approaching or past middle age, fill all the chairs in the centre of the room.

AGENT: Montgomery. You’re next.

A dark suited man sits opposite a spotty man in his early twenties.

AGENT: I see you want to work in politics. We don’t have anything like that here at moment. What other experience do you have.

(A long silence)

MONTGOMERY: I cared for my elderly mother for a few years. I did cookery, electrical works, set up the home entertainment system for her and bought her groceries.

(A long silence)

AGENT: OK. That’s a start. What certificates do you have?

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 14.50.41MONTGOMERY: Here’s my degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from King’s College Oxford.

AGENT: No, I meant Hygiene for cookery, CORGI, People Handling, that kind of thing.

MONTGOMERY: No.  How would I get those?

AGENT: They can be bought through the regulation bodies. You just need to prove your work is up to a reasonable standard to apply.

MONTGOMERY: Can we look at other options. I don’t have much money to live on at the moment.

AGENT: Let’s see. Retail…..Retail…….what about becoming a parking attendant?

MONTGOMERY: This is ridiculous.

AGENT: I would take it as there are plenty of others over there who will if you don’t.

MONTGOMERY: And if I hold out for something more suitable?

AGENT: You would run the risk of your benefits being stopped.

…..

See next blog on the effects of the welfare state on the creative industries.

I’d like to gather up some factors of things going on at the same time and put them together in one list, to see how contradictory they look side by side:

Then:

  • Department and Work and Pensions figures which show billions in unclaimed benefits. See the BBC News report on this here. (Amongst many other reports).

If the government took responsibility for this, they would be asking themselves why and how this discrepancy would come about. They may wonder:

  • Do we tell people what benefits they are entitled to?
  • Do we make our information about benefits accessible to the people who are eligible for them?
  • Do we create systems that fit into people’s lives so we give them the support we promise?
  • Do we scare people off applying to benefits?
  • Are we providing clear enough information so that people who claim benefits can benefit from them and continue to improve their lives through government help?
  • Do our departments create too much chaos amongst enough people to put others off claiming benefits they are entitled to?
  • Have we created a system that favours people who are not entitled to benefits over those that do, because only those people have the time and peace of mind to find out how to claim and keep claiming without falling into problems with system?

For example, see this article about Working Tax Credits over payments in the Guardian.

Firstly, MPs have reported that 90% of their time is used up helping members of the public try to deal with their difficulties in dealing with government departments.

To clarify some hidden information about Working Tax Credits:

  • They work entirely from hearsay, in other words information about hours worked and amount earned that you give them, without asking for evidence.
  • By ‘telling us about any changes’ they mean
    • Having a month to tell them about a new job, unless
    • You changed jobs within 7 Calendar days.
  • This is even though you meet the criteria they provide of
    • Earning under £22,000 a year.
    • Working over 30 or 35 hours a week.
    • Having a disability.
  • A WTC ‘over payment’ means the whole year’s tax credits they pay you if they find you have changed your job without telling them in the time frame they want (but don’t tell you)
  • That all their terms and conditions are only published in their Code of Practice COP26

Council Tax Discrepancies:

It seems to be widely reported that councils send out summons to demand council tax and charging people up to £120 for these, which cost them £3 to produce, and claim these costs are the result of fees to a court, See the Telegraph comment on this here.

While there are billions in unclaimed benefits, then the difficulties with council tax since the government abolished Council Tax benefit, councils are spending on private debt collectors, bailiffs and even using bankruptcy to punish people who don’t pay them the council tax they ask them for.

Private debt collection is used for:

  • Council tax arrears
  • Working tax credits over payments
  • Income tax
  • Parking fines

In fact anything they want to use bailiffs or harsher means of collection, they will do, without consideration of the people’s lives.

This is all in light of the billions in unclaimed benefits.

As reported by the BBC, here are the figures for 2009-2010

  • Up to 620,000 people failing to claim up to £2bn in income support, and employment and support allowance
  • Up to 1.6 million people failing to claim up to £2.8bn in pension credit
  • Up to 1.1 million people not claiming up to £3.1bn in housing benefit
  • Up to 3.2 million people missing out on up to £2.4bn in council tax benefit
  • Up to 610,000 people failing to claim up to £1.95bn in Jobseekers’ Allowance

Yes, it says 3.2 million people missing out on council tax benefit. This has now, of course, been abolished.

The BBC report was made in 2012, where as the Telegraph also reported this back in 201o. There have been plenty of reports about unclaimed benefits, however the government aren’t looking at themselves to ask why this is. Is it because the systems are just too tricky to navigate?

Meanwhile, here is the uncollected council tax:

Therefore, it would be interesting to find out how much councils spend, lose (or how much they add the cost onto members of the public) on council tax collection via:

  • Solicitors (or their own internal legal people)
  • Court fees (if they do actually pay courts)
  • Bailiffs
  • Debt collection agencies
  • Insolvency Practitioners
  • The Insolvency Service
  • Lost money (such as asking tenants to with-hold rent, not claim it into an estate)
  • Building societies (when homes get repossessed)
  • Auction houses.
  • Other services brought in such as police time.

Unpaid council tax, cuts to local services, Working tax credit over payments and unclaimed benefits are all a result of government actions, efficiency levels and communication standards and when they start to look at what they can do to improve the lives of thousands of people, they might find answers by finding out what is really going on from voters themselves, instead of blaming thousands of people for their own mistakes.

It is very difficult to find out about people who have been made bankrupt by councils chasing council tax arrears. There is an article in the Guardian from 2008, another from 2007, both raising concern, but not a lot since then.

Apart from reports by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Local Government Ombudsman and Local Government Lawyer, all asking how fair the bankruptcy process is for council tax collection, there is little other information out there, apart from on councils or the Insolvency Service’s own websites.

Which way to go? Once a process starts snowballing it becomes impossible to stop.

Which way to go? Once a process starts snowballing it becomes impossible to stop.

Mr Woods, mentioned in the 2007 article, was said to owe £1,500, but ended up losing £18,000, the fees to the insolvency practitioner appointed by the insolvency service. An investigation into these ‘insolvency practitioners’ was aired on Newsnight earlier on this year.

If councils are allowed to petition for someone’s bankruptcy if arrears are £750 or over, and cases in which this had happened were publicised as a warning of how someone such as Mr Woods can lose his entire inheritance, wouldn’t this work as a cost-effective deterrent to put off non-payment.

Secrecy?

So why are cases in which this has happened, and I’ve heard from people who have lost thousands of pounds over a relatively small demand for council tax, so hard to find on the Internet? Are councils and the Insolvency Service being secretive about making people bankrupt?

Victorian times. Are they gone? There is no debtors prison anymore.

Victorian times. Are they gone? There is no debtors prison anymore.

And how much money is being taken from people in this way?

Surely if a council was using bankruptcy as a last resort in the case of someone who ignored their demands and refused to pay their council tax, and the council had tried every other method and finally resorted to using bankruptcy, they could would announce it to warn other people to not avoid paying their tax?

It seems we hear more about cuts than ongoing local services which council tax is funding. Does that instill confidence in people about what their money is being used for?

Council tax could double the average basic monthly household out-goings on water, electricity, gas, wi-fi, phone and perhaps including Sky.

Legitimate

Therefore, if this process is legitimate and fair, why don’t we hear about people it is happening to and how much it has cost them?

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 23.23.26

People could go from wealthy, through a series of removals of assets to penniless and homeless without recourse to any discussion.

Why also don’t we hear about where this money is going?

The Financial Times reported that the Insolvency Service may themselves be in the red. Therefore they’ve probably cut staff and other costs. How efficient can they be now? And if they get funding from people who creditors make bankrupt, does that motivate them to target people with large assets, supposedly on behalf of councils? Insolvency Practitioners definitely cost a bomb.

If council tax is a ‘priority payment’ and councils are complaining about shortages of tax income, why aren’t councils using examples where council tax avoidance has ruined lives to help encourage people to pay as a priority? This seems to be a cheaper way of getting people to pay rather than using private contractors.

Deterrent

If someone read or heard about a fellow citizen losing thousands over a council tax bill of £1,000, wouldn’t it scare them enough to pay promptly? Wouldn’t this deterrent save the council tons of money in chasing up council tax arrears?

If councils claim to want to be fair to people who do pay their council tax, wouldn’t fast, cheap and effective ways of collecting council tax be fairer to these good payers than squandering their hard-earned cash on private debt collectors and bailiffs, courts, solicitors, insolvency practitioners and others? The police get involved even though debt is not a criminal offense.

Would responsible tax collection include inspiring people with service improvements they can contribute to?

Would responsible tax collection include inspiring people with service improvements they can contribute to?

So why are the increasing numbers of cases where bankruptcy is being used for chasing up council tax arrears only visible on the Individual Insolvency Register and not even in the London Gazette?

Pickings

Is it because the rich pickings for the council, Insolvency Service, insolvency practitioners, solicitors and others such as auction houses is more important than just collecting council tax?

What is the cost of collecting council tax without using bankruptcy, ie:

  • By applying to courts for a legitimate liability order within the required time period.
  • Setting up a viable payment plan or debt relief order, giving the person a fair chance to pay.
  • By discussing the amount owed without involving solicitors to ensure it is the correct amount,
  • Ensuring that the correct liable party is approached, ie the tenant, not the landlord.
  • Ensuring that the council have informed people of their rights, such as discounts due to uninhabited properties and what forms they need to fill in.
  • By not sending demands for arrears dating back more than 6 years.
  • By just resorting to private debt collectors as the Working Tax Credits office does?

Once the Insolvency Service gets involved, the may make an insolvency practitioner (IP) the trustee of the bankrupt’s estate, and the IP could charge up to £600 by the hour.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 22.49.59

Do we see cuts to public maintenance rather than where our council tax is being spent?

Trustees snatch rent and deposits, which could be worth ten times the original debt owed, without giving the individual sufficient time or warning about the bankruptcy process, which could lead them to selling a property to pay off any debts.

Why does the Official Receiver demand ‘co-operation’ if the whole estate can be taken without the previous owner’s consent to bankruptcy? If someone is poor, they are warned to avoid bankruptcy at all cost.

Properties

In the case of a landlord (who is no longer responsible for their tenants’ council tax), removal of rents could send mortgages into arrears, leading to repossession, costing the individual many tens or hundreds of thousands more than the original payment demand. A lot of people’s hard-earned cash can be squandered in this way. The council’s responsibility would be to chase the tenants for their tax and it is their fault if they lose track of these people.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 22.59.06Once the council have made someone bankrupt, it seems that the Insolvency Service can flatten all their assets and refuse to account for what they have taken. People are treated worse than criminals. Debt is a civil, not a criminal offense.

Warned

So shouldn’t people be warned about this to avoid it happening to them?

If these processes are totally above-board, and this was irrefutably proven, wouldn’t councils want to warn people of how severe the consequences are of not paying their council tax?

Is this process hidden because it makes councils look so much worse than the cost of putting a charge on their property, so the debt can be repaid when they sell or mortgage it?

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 23.00.40

Do we see where council tax is being spent or just hear about cuts to blame ourselves?

Is part of the level of council tax spent on administration, possible errors and the costs of trying to meet targets for receiving council tax?

These costs could be cut and targets reached if people knew what could happen to them if they don’t pay, and possibly even the amount required from each tax payer could be reduced.

Maintenance

Perhaps if services and maintenance of public spaces were kept up and council spending on their areas was reported or visible, council tax wouldn’t be so hard to chase up as people could see what they were paying for.

When you hear about nothing but cuts and complaints about non-payers it is hard to see how councils could ever create a trusting partnership with the public that provides their funding.

Finding out what people think about this and why percentages of people can’t or don’t pay, therefore getting some feedback from their communities, would be a step towards being responsible for things that don’t work in their area.

The worst thing I find about the ease of use from computers is how much organisations make use of ‘automated mailouts’ or reminders that only subtract and do not add to existing communications.

Councils do it like mad: letters to actually confirm a payment, made to worry you by saying ‘please see the back of this letter to see any outstanding payments.’

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 15.53.26Firstly, these unnecessary mailings cost us, the taxpayer. The senders never see the brunt of their confusing, sometimes stressful and downright unnecessary mailing. Do they have a deal to keep Royal Mail in business or something?

I got a parking fine through the post before the weekend. I pay it on Monday and get another notice today. Just to let off steam, I write to them:

To info@parkingeye.co.uk
Today at 2:20 PM
I got letter on Friday 8 August. Paid on MONDAY 11th August. Thursday 14th August I get a second demand for payment. NO mention of ‘if you have paid this in last 3 days please discard this notice’. The eventuality of someone having paid should be covered! Adding those words COSTS NOTHING.You guys are (probably deliberately) very poor communicators. When I got the 2nd notice (only a weekend and 3 days after last one) it worried me because:
1. I’d paid 3 days ago online (this is the digital age, not horseback post)
2. I worried it was another charge, as it didn’t say ‘If I have paid please discard…’
3. I had to call an automated 0844 number to double check. More on phone bill.

A parking ticket by a beach at 9am is ENOUGH. No further punishment required. Thank you for added and unnecessary extra stress and DON’T send out reminders without ‘if you have paid in last 3 days please discard this notice’ on if it takes you THAT LONG to process and you send out reminds THAT QUICKLY.

Rant over
I got a reply confirming payment but without any response or acknowledgement to my feedback that a few words could have saved stress, inconvenience and loss of time.
Letters letters everywhere but not a word to comprehend. You'd have to be a wizard today to communicate with our public sector.

Letters letters everywhere but not a word to comprehend. You’d have to be a wizard today to communicate with our public sector.

I get to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau a couple of minutes before 10am, when the weekly drop in is open, and it’s already heaving. Two visits because citizens, however intelligent, are prevented from sorting out issues with public authorities without legal representation, due to the unfathomable “communication” style now favoured by the public sector when it wants money from people, or more accurately, decided it doesn’t want to give out the money it has promised them, and made them jump through hoops to attain.

The papers are full of the same old stories. 75% of people on disability are fit enough to work. 4 million families are “scrounging” (ironic that) from the welfare state. They’re living the life of Riley, getting on with their own creative projects, popping out babies, going down the park, installing Jacuzzi, hiding their private income, getting razzled every night and buying all the latest mod cons to deck out their manor houses on their public sector hand outs? Sounds more like public sector employees to me.

The only way politicians can imagine these lives must be based on their own personal experiences. They receive public money, not performance related, and claim expenses and they can afford holidays in Cornwall, second homes, holiday cottages and expensive cars.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 12.40.26Perhaps the odd flashy Merc brightening up the pot-hole ridden cement next to a deliciously inviting wall for a bit of kick about (splattered indifferently with anti-climbing paint and “Ball Games Strictly Prohibited” notices) would likely be from the black market, where the urgently disposable income of people who have too much is going.

Empire of The Sun Newspaper

Now the outer reaches of the British Empire have shrunk much pretty much back to our shores, rulers only have us here back in Blighty to colonize.

And Colonize they do.

The Insolvency Service is struggling so much and begging the government for more funding that their only source of finance is the assets of people they make bankrupt. This article first appeared in the Financial Times. Jolly useful when Councils can petition for someone’s bankruptcy if they owe £750 or more in Council Tax (as a “priority” payment that doubles standard household bills).

As for living on benefits: There are nowhere near enough jobs to go round so why not imprison all the unemployed in the welfare state? Make it so impossible for them to get into paid work and off benefits that they won’t trouble the jobs of the smugly employed. Those lucky enough to earn a living wage are then free to be “professional” by doing the minimum required in the longest time possible.

When an intelligent, qualified, eager-to-work person does escape the trap or maze with the hint of a hard-won “working holiday” of 6 weeks employment and declare it, the Job Centre will tangle them in “automatic replies”, interrogations, fines and humiliation in the press so they just give up and shut up.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 13.32.24

Click for Nandinispeaks Blogspot – source of pic

With all the press about benefit fraud, the very people who can fathom the system to get hand-outs from Working Tax Credits are not hard-working people juggling families and surviving each day on low-incomes because the system requires far too much attention to make work.

The people who have the time, leisure and freedom of mind to go online and find the instruction manual for free money (the hidden from view Code of Practice or COP15, which is first revealed to you when you’ve broken its rules) are surely the people not entitled to it. But to navigate this system smoothly, you must have plenty of time to know exactly what and when to tell HMRC anything (plus an empty week to get through on the phone and a few quid stashed away to pay for the calls) by finding and studying their secret dossiers.

Payments are calculated on information you provide to HMRC – information they make so vague you have to read COP15 to know about) so people with no scruples about getting handouts can work the system (the 3% with sufficient lack of social conscience to be fraudulent), not honest people calling in to volunteer information to find it didn’t fit the rules and they have to pay every penny back in one lump sum. That’s before the bailiffs are called in. (Guardian Article)

In conclusion, the public sector is spending money like water, unchecked and ungoverned, on bailiffs, courts, legal people, insolvency practitioners, administrators, paper, envelopes, postage, debt collectors and any other means to make the Great British Public (to paraphrase 2 pictures above) “lose our self-esteem, our native culture, become what the government want and become a truly dominated nation”.

 

 

Breaking News: The longest tennis game in history is still taking place on the Court of Wombledon, between two novice players who are an impeccable match for each other.

This is despite the oppositions being not just on opposite sides of the net, but also of gender. One is a man and one is a woman. Neither have a backround in tennis but the rallies keep coming.

On the Court Centre are Mr Randy Woo facing Rachel Wriggleroom. Both are solicitors by day.

A report from a close insider to both opponents has come in, to reveal the secret of their stamina and why they are so well-matched against the odds. Harrington Green, 45, divorced of 18 Kidlington Manor Estate, Oxford, OXON OX1 1AP reveals exclusively to Dairy of A Nonny Moose that “Each and every shot they play, even when the ball doesn’t fall in the court is instantly earning them £180 + VAT).

5th February 2014 the match commenced:

Where all the action is taking place

Where all the action is taking place

Mr Woo serves. Rachel returns the ball. The rally tots up over 20 shots before Mr Woo takes the point.

This carries on for a month.

Rachel serves an ace. Game to Wriggleroom who is now in the lead at 6 games to 5. First set. The ball-boy picks up the ball and returns it to Mr Woo to serve.

Oh this looks like an easy one after her previous performance. No, that was a bad miss. It is now 6 all.

They go for a tie break. Wriggleroom to serve.

Nice serve. Woo returns deep. Rachel does the same and runs up to the net. My God! She’s taken 8 volleys in row. This is unheard of. Mr Woo goes for an overhead shot and that’s point to Mr Woo.

Opposites sides of court, table and gender - this extraordinary match continues

Opposites sides of court, table and gender – this extraordinary match continues

Another month later.

The score is 2 sets all. 5 games to 5.

Wriggleroom serves. That clocked up over 100mph on the meter. Mr Woo returns with a dolly-drop over the net which Rachel just catches. 30 love to Wriggleroom.

Wriggleroom serves and loses the point. And another point. It is now a tie at 2 sets all, 5 games all and 30 all. No one knows who will win this but Mr Woo of course has the advantage of being the more aggressive player.

It is now 6-5 to Woo but Wriggleroom looks like she may have a last burst of energy up her sleeve. She is prancing back and forth while Mr Woo prepares his serve.

She’s done that before, placing the ball in the far back-hand right corner and Woo does another drop just over the net. That is match point to Woo.

She’s saved it. Deuce.

Woo looks like he could play another match while Rachel looks painfully exhausted and wants to take the match or admit defeat.

Rachel serves. That’s an ace. 15 love. Look at that play! They softly tap the ball back and forwards, neither listening to their coaches or taking any risks now. This could go on forever.

They are neck and neck. Who will win. Who knows. Find out soon.

Voter apathy? They’re all the same? What’s the point? All vitally good inquiries we should all be making about who to vote for when the next election comes round.

To make life easier for you, take this quiz to find out:

Who should you be voting for in the next general election?

Question 1.

What does NQOSD stand for?

A). Never Query Our Serious Daughter

B). Neither Queer Or Straight Darling

C) Not Quite Our Sort Dear

D). Never Question Our Salad Dinner!

Question 2.

What hangs in your windows?

A). Lace.

B). Blinds

C). Burgundy velvet curtains

D). My laundry

Question 3.

What do you think about Screaming Lord Such?

A). Mad

B) Crazy Genius

C). Dead

D). Genius

Question 4.

When would you get solar panels?

A). When the sun is extinguished.

B). When I win the lottery

C). When I have time, ie never.

D). I’ve already got them you presumptuous cheeky patronizing idiot. Get your own.

Question 5.

What do you think of the English Weather?

A). Nowhere near enough sun. But if we had enough sun we wouldn’t be who we are would we?

B). It should go away and come back when it’s made its mind up.

C). A pain when so many events take place outdoors.

D). Better than Africa’s.

Who would you like to work here in the future?

Who would you like to work here in the future?

Question 6.

Choose a quadruped for your garden:

A). Llama

B). Goat

C). Horse

D). Donkey

Question 7:

What causes extreme weather events?

A). Sexual proclavity

B). Grandmother’s spells.

C). How the hell should I know?

D). The weather system/probably climate change.

Question 8.

The Queen announces she will be coming to yours for tea. What do you do?

A). Sell your house and buy a better one.

B). Quickly put together a business plan Powerpoint Presentation.

C). Brush up on trending conversation topics.

D). Clean your home and do some baking.

Question 9.

What is your favourite drink?

A). An exotic cocktail I had once in Geneva, which you wouldn’t have heard of. Mwah!

B). Whatever you’re having.

C). Gin and Tonic with a slice of lemon with ice.

D). You can’t beat the treat of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Question 10.

Where would you live if mainland UK was converted into a giant prison as on the Johnny English film?

A). The Ascension Islands.

B). Wherever they give me the best deal.

C). The Isle of Wight. Need you ask.

D). Ireland.

That’s all the questions. Now for the answers. Below you will see who you should vote for.

If you mostly answered A:

You shouldn’t vote.

If you mostly answered B:

You probably wouldn’t know how to.

If you mostly answered C:

It’s your bloody fault we’re in a coalition. Snap out of it.

If you mostly answered D:

Whoever takes your fancy.