Tuesday, 31 December 2013

How to claim your free food

I always thought that you needed a referral from a GP, Job Centre, or social worker in order to be eligible for assistance from a food bank. Not so apparently:
The Bristol NW Foodbank voucher holders are care agencies, charities and other organisations who come into contact with vulnerable families or individuals in our local community, who may find themselves in crisis and in need of a food package from the Foodbank. This is intended as a short term help, until the agency is able to help their client resolve their situation.
If you are part of an organisation that is working with people in crisis who would benefit from this service and you would like to become a voucher holder, see the contacts page for contact details.
Agencies registered with us working across NW Bristol
  • 1625 Independent People
  • Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA)
  • Age UK Bristol
  • Big Issue
  • Bristol Black Carers
  • Bristol CC Tenancy Support Service
  • Bristol Central Job Centre
  • Bristol Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Bristol Crisi Prevention Fund Team
  • Bristol Debt Advice Service
  • Bristol Drugs Project
  • Bristol Early Intervention Team
  • Bristol Health Trainers
  • Bristol Home Start
  • Bristol Hospital Education Service
  • Bristol Intensive Team
  • Bristol Later Life
  • Bristol Mental Health Crisis Team
  • British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service
  • Bristol Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service
These are only the first 20 organisations on the list. There are loads more including schools, a cafe (yes, really!), and unbelievably churches. Given that the Trussell Trust franchisees tend to be church-run, this is hardly an independent check for eligibility. Worse still, one of the big players in the poverty industry, the Child Poverty Action Group can issue vouchers. They wouldn't exist without so-called "child poverty" so it's obviously in their interest to perpetuate it. They can claim an increase in child poverty by an increase in food bank referrals, referrals that they make themselves.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Cure your hunger and your gayness

In Central Liverpool and a bit down on your luck? Can't afford food (and that's your story and you're sticking to it)? Well then maybe the Central Liverpool Foodbank could be your saviour?
Feeding the hidden hunger in Liverpool
Central Liverpool foodbank provides a minimum of 3 days emergency food and support to local people in crisis.
Yep, it's another Trussell Trust franchise run by a church, in this case the Frontline Church:
All of our pastors share a vision to see the city of Liverpool impacted with the good news of Jesus through:
  • A growing network of Missional Communities, giving church members a place of belonging, and reaching out to every man, woman and child in our city region.
  • Church Services in various locations across the city, so every man, woman and child can be part of a vibrant local congregation.
  • Good works bringing social and economic transformation to every man, woman and child in our city.
Which is perhaps most famous for this:
A Liverpool church seeking to help gay men and lesbians "break free" with a 'Homosexuality Fact Sheet' has attracted widespread criticism.The Frontline church said homosexuality was caused by "childhood pain" and offers advice on how to recognise someone struggling with their sexuality.
Note that the police and a housing association have gone to efforts to distance themselves from the church. There's a full copy of the "fact sheet" on the Mail website that's worth a read.

It's pretty backward stuff and does make you wonder just how many other Trussell franchises are out there with similar views...

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Foodbank closures

Ha! Only kidding. Given The Trussell Trust's ambitious expansion plans, I'm of the view that the future of foodbanks is looking pretty good. But this perpetuation is a problem; if you are going to offer essential goods free with few or any checks for need or eligibility then the demand will always be there.

Surely it should be the case that a foodbank success story is one that has to drastically scale back its operations or close because of lack of demand? This can never happen now as expectations have been set; the foodbanks will provide.

I personally don't like the politics around foodbanks. Labour might make political capital out of it now but if elected in 2015, the foodbanks will still be there, still be expanding, and there's only so long they can blame the "Tory's savage legacy" before the fingers are pointed in their direction.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Free food

The Tories are driving the poor into starvation and reliance on food banks to survive apparently. At least that's the impression you get should you read anything in the Left-leaning press or hear a quote from a Labour MP on the matter. Now food banks are for emergencies, perhaps the most common being a delay in receiving a benefits claim. Not great, but the help is there. But then a new benefits claim is going to be an irregular event so being reliant on them is unlikely, which fires up my inner cynic...

You need a referral from the Job Centre, your doctor, social worker, etc. to be able to get help from a food bank. Now faced with a request for a food bank voucher, what do you think that the Job Centre staff, doctors, and social workers are going to do? Get the requester to state their case and challenge their story, or knowing they face an argument and have limited time, just write out the referral? Of course they're going to chose the latter option and take the path of least resistance; of what benefit to them is to refuse? Knowing that free food is on offer, is every claimant going to be 100% honest if there is no disadvantage or sanction for a false claim? I'll leave that for you to decide.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about food banks is the "charity" behind a lot of them, The Trussell Trust. Every article you read about food banks will have a quote from a spokesman about how the brutal and heartless Tories are trying to exterminate the poor, who are only saved from this fate by one of their food banks. So what does The Trussell Trust actually do? Well it's actually a franchise operation masquerading as a charity. Want to set up a food bank in your area but need some help? £1,500 to The Trussel Trust should sort that out with ongoing fees every year. They are very keen on your money as:
The Trussell Trust partners with churches and communities to open new foodbanks nationwide. With almost 400 foodbanks currently launched, our goal is for every town to have one.
Yep, so this is yet another "charity" concerned more with perpetuating itself rather than trying to deal with the underlying causes for its existence. It doesn't even get its hands dirty, that's the job of the franchisees who are volunteers, and not to mention that half of its income goes on staff salaries...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Voluntary work experience not slavery shocker - part 2

Today, the Supreme Court have ruled on the "Poundland" case:
The government has lost a Supreme Court appeal over a ruling its flagship "back to work" schemes were legally flawed.
Ministers failed in a bid to overturn an earlier ruling that regulations underpinning the schemes were invalid.
That second sentence is important because:
But the Supreme Court rejected a counter-appeal against the scheme and upheld the Court of Appeal's ruling in the government's favour that the regulations did not constitute forced or compulsory labour.
And that's the crux of the case the likes of Boycott Workfare or whatever union front were making; that workfare equals slavery. The highest court in the land says otherwise.

Part 1 here.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Spending your donations wisely

I've written about 38 Degrees before; lazy, ill-informed "clickivism" in my view, but they seem to bring in the donations. And speaking of which:
Where do donations go? 
38 Degrees keeps costs low by maintaining a small staff so the majority of donations can fund campaigns. We rely on donations from individuals to help pay for the technology, the research, the equipment and the small office we need to organise campaigns.
 So this seems rather odd:

So out of the £1,401,175 donated, £353,389 is staff costs! That's more than 25% and they've more than doubled since the previous year. And look at the average salary! There's clearly good money in activism.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Labour tax dodgers?

I suspect not, rather just another story in this silly, sorry corporation tax "debate":
Charlie Elphicke, a former tax lawyer, has written to HMRC to ask whether it will open an investigation into Labour Party Properties Ltd (LPPL), a property investment firm wholly owned by the party which operates a £6.3m rental portfolio.

Yesterday the Daily Telegraph revealed the firm, whose directors include Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary, received £8.7m in rents between 2004 and 2011 but paid no corporation tax after reporting a string of losses.

In the two years where the company made a profit, carried-over losses meant it paid no tax. It last paid tax in 2003.

The Labour Party insisted the firm had done nothing to intentionally cut its tax bill. Ed Miliband has frequently attacked corporate giants including Starbucks and Google who are accused of failing to pay their full share of tax through artificial structures.

Mr Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, has asked Lin Homer, the chief executive of HRMC, to investigate a series of “administration expenses” that wiped out the company’s profit.
In short then, a Labour Party subsidiary is frequently loss making due to its expenses being greater than income. The contention is what those expenses are and the amounts involved. Of course, the accounts are not going to give us a line-by-line breakdown of their spending but by looking at them in a bit of detail and making some assumptions based on the nature of the business, we can form an opinion as to whether or not they seem reasonable. LPPL is a property management company that not only owns investment properties rented to third parties, but also owns properties for use by the Labour Party.

Expenditure is broken down into the following categories - numbers are the 2011 figures ('000s):

Property maintenance and repairs - £97
Rents, rates and other costs - £1,043

And then the these are administration costs that Elphicke wants investigating, claiming that they are rather high for a business of this nature:

Administration charge - Labour Party - £36
Interest charge - Labour Party - £70
Legal and professional - £100
Audit - £2
Bank charges and interest - £49
Staff costs - £37
Bad debts charge - £11

OK, so the Labour Party have made a loan to LPPL who are paying interest on this. Both are UK entities so this is hardly in the league of loading up companies with debt from a related company in a low tax jurisdiction. As for the administration charge, I can only speculate, but I reckon it was for the use of Labour Party resources, most likely a charge-back for time and expenses spent on LPPL business. These interest and administration charges will go towards the total income for the Labour Party and any surplus may give rise to a corporation tax liability for them.

As for the other expenses, the issue here is that are Labour getting the best value for money or are they forking out inflated prices for legal advice to their mates? This is an internal issue for Labour Party members and not a tax issue at all.

I'm seeing two things here; the first is that the media, pressure/activist groups, think tanks, and the like have got into a strange habit of trawling through company filings looking for a story on corporation tax. These tend to be written in a way to fire up controversy where none exists, and I think that this is exactly what we've got here. Unless entities publish their line by line expense items and supporting documentation, contracts for the supply of goods and services, and tax returns and calculations, such stories will run as this is the way the debate has been framed. Of course this is completely impractical, not least because of costs and commercial sensitivities.

The second is that rather than defend the laws that they make or do anything about them if they don't like the consequences, MPs have taken to attacking the entities for the amount of corporation tax they pay, often from a position of extreme ignorance, e.g. Margaret Hodge. Elphicke doesn't have this excuse though; he's a former tax lawyer so should know his stuff. His letter demanding the HMRC investigate LPPL for making losses because of some fairly normal looking expenses and conflating revenue with tax paid says to me that his motives are party politicking and publicity seeking rather than righting an injustice.

What is truly daft is this; if HMRC were to investigate, invalidate every pound of the £305k expenses as tax deductible and to disallow any losses brought forward, LPPL would owe something in the region of £9,800*. I suspect that the actual and opportunity costs of an investigation would far exceed any tax recoverable.

* The quick and dirty calculation was to start with the £256k loss, take out the £305k expenses to give £49k profit. Corporation tax on this at the small company rate of 20% would be £9.8k.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Knee-jerk reactions

Fourteen year old Hannah Smith killed herself the other week over alleged online bullying. That's tragic but I was disappointed in the response from the father, the media, and politicians in calling for clamp-downs, bans, and restrictions on social media. I can understand the father's reaction to some extent; he's trying to make sense of what is probably the worst thing that could happen to a parent but this is not the right way to go about things, especially when not of all the facts are out there. This sorry tale has now taken a rather odd, and perhaps sinister twist:
Bosses at Ask.fm, the social network on which hateful comments were posted to Hannah Smith, have controversially claimed that the vast majority of the messages were sent by the teenager herself. 
An internal investigation at the Latvian-based website is understood to have analysed the user profiles from which the messages were sent.

They reportedly now believe the teenager set up a string of anonymous profiles and posted hate messages to herself.

They claim 98 per cent of messages had been sent from a computer with the same IP address as Hannah's with only four posts coming from elsewhere.
Leicestershire police are also said to be investigating a theory that Hannah's ask.fm profile could have been hacked.
I'm not sure why this is controversial if true. If it is then the girl was deeply disturbed with ask.fm being the vehicle for her troubled thoughts rather than the catalyst or the cause. However, just because the messages were posted from the same IP address, it doesn't necessarily mean that Hannah posted them, it would just narrow it down to someone from the same household; a family member perhaps? The hacked profile theory is not plausible at all unless someone has not only gained access to it but also known and spoofed the IP address.

But who really posted the "hateful" comments to Hannah's ask.fm profile won't be known until ask.fm and the police have completed their investigations. What this case demonstrates well is that judgement should be reserved until all facts can be reviewed in the cold light of day; to have a better idea of the truth and to take away the emotion. This is particularly pertinent to politicians who frequently come up with crass and unworkable laws as a knee-jerk reaction to such tragic cases.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Bullies and cowards

For whatever reason, UK Uncut's next target is HSBC. That's the bank that wasn't bailed out by the taxpayer and paid $9.3bn in corporate taxes globally in 2012:
Don’t just sit at home getting angry. Join UK Uncut’s national day of action on Saturday 20th July, where we’ll be occupying and transforming HSBC branches across the country into our own UK Uncut-style food banks, because it’s the banks that should be targeted, not ordinary people.
Once again, they are going after the soft targets of the branches. They are staffed by workers on average to below average wages, who are tasked with pushing credit cards and loans to anyone who walks in to meet tough sales targets. Failure to meet target leads to disciplinary action. These are ordinary people working hard and under pressure; they are not the decision makers, they are not the fat cats. To stop the guys at the bottom from doing their job is perverse.

But it gets better...

UK Uncut have rather cosy relations with trade union Unite. It has frequently come out in support of the organisation and their actions. You might recognise Ellie Mae O'Hagan, who is employed by Unite and is a frequent attendee at the front line of UK Uncut's "direct actions". She also writes about UK Uncut in the Guardian. So it seems strange that:
Unite exists to protect and improve our members’ interests. Within HSBC and first direct, Unite is the only union recognised by the bank for this purpose. We regularly negotiate and consult with HSBC and first direct to get you a better deal at work.
Yep, so Unite's buddies are going to disrupt and harass their members at work in yet another pointless protest. Seems a funny way to protect and improve their interests.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Why we can't have nice things

I'm having a well deserved week off so looking for things to do, I'm planning to break the habit of a lifetime and venture into Bristol city centre to see the Gromit art trail that's just been put on show:
A series of giant Gromit sculptures, decorated by well-known celebrities and artists, are being "unleashed" in Bristol.
Eighty of the 5ft (1.5m) tall models of Aardman's famous canine character will form a "grand" arts trail.
Designs include those from Sir Quentin Blake, Cath Kidston, One Direction's Zayn Malik, The Beano and Harry Hill.
They will be on display for 10 weeks before being auctioned off in aid of the Bristol Children's Hospital.
And while I'm wandering about, no doubt I'll stop off in a cafe or restaurant for lunch and maybe do some shopping. Other people will probably have similar ideas. That's good for local businesses. However, it looks like I might have to get in quick due to the sculptures getting some unwanted attention:
A second giant Gromit sculpture has been vandalised in Bristol a day after it was installed.
The sculpture called Carosello by artist Giuliano Carapia was located outside The Spyglass restaurant on Welsh Back in the city centre.
It had been prised from its plinth. It is the second of the sculptures to be damaged over the weekend.
Smashing up stuff that's going to be used to raise money for charity? Nice one arseholes.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The cost of a frivolous judicial review

Perhaps some people reading this blog entry have seen my previous posts on the UK Uncut Legal Action v. HMRC case? I've been pretty critical of misleading statements by UK Uncut when trying to raise funds to cover the legal costs of a pointless court case which they lost. Here's a quick reminder of the basis for the judicial review from their skeleton argument:
8. The Claimant does not seek an order quashing the settlement itself. Simon J refused permission to seek a quashing order because of the potential effect on the Interested Parties (see [2012] EWHC 2017 (Admin) at [14] [that's two Goldman Sachs group companies by the way]). However, HMRC continues to assert that that it acted lawfully and that it would be entitled to act in a similar way in the future. This claim is brought to correct that misapprehension.
Yep, it's grandstanding with a view to giving HMRC a bollocking, but at what cost?
9. The Claimant is a campaigning group. It campaigns against the harmful effects of tax avoidance and the use of tax havens. It supports the protection of health, education and social welfare services funded by taxation. It brings this case with the assistance of a protective costs order limiting its liability to £20,000 (which has been fundraised from the public, the vast majority from numerous individual donors offering small sums).
And HMRC's costs in all of this? Well, I requested that information under the Freedom of Information Act which they declined due to the costs involved. However, they were kind enough to provide some information that they had to hand:
In litigation HMRC does record some of its activities which are chargeable in accordance with Civil Procedure Rules. HMRC Solicitor’s Office calculates some chargeable litigation costs using the Guideline Hourly Rates which are published by the Judiciary. HMRC's chargeable costs for this case amounted to approximately £149,000, of which approximately £51,000 related to external costs.
So if we assume that the full £20k was awarded to HMRC, UK Uncut, campaigners against government spending cuts, have cost a government department (so ultimately me and you as the taxpayer) something north of £129,000. Good job, well done.

Full HMRC response to my FoI request is below with personal information removed:

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Some bucks from Starbucks

Starbucks have caved into pressure from bad PR and coughed up a voluntary sum of tax:
Starbucks has only reported taxable profit once in 15 years in the UK. 
It announced late last year it would pay more corporation tax after a public outcry and an investigation by MPs. 
"We listened to our customers in December and so decided to forgo certain deductions which would make us liable to pay £10m in corporation tax this year and a further £10m in 2014," a Starbucks spokeswoman said.
How exactly it has created a liability remains to be seen.

After waking up late and only picking up the story an hour ago, UK Uncut have issued this:
This is just a PR stunt- who is to say these funds won't come straight out of Starbuck's marketing budget? Such desperate attempts by Starbucks to deflect public pressure will get them nowhere. The government must force Starbucks and every other tax dodging company to pay their fair share, instead of inflicting brutal cuts on those least able to shoulder the burden of austerity."
And they are right about the PR stunt bit; it's money to try and kill off bad publicity but Starbucks are damned if they do and damned if they don't. It also looks like they've had a bit of a revelation. Yep, they've finally realised that it's the government who can change things so that companies pay more tax. So there's your target UK Uncut, not the companies that just follow the law.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

So what's the problem here?

A donation to the Labour Party:
John Mills gave the party shares in his shopping channel company, JML, valued at £1.65 million in January. In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Mills said that the donation was made in shares rather than cash so the tax on the deal would be significantly reduced.

Describing the donation as “tax efficient”, he said the form of the donation was agreed with figures in Labour’s fund-raising team.

Mr Mills said that if he had given £1.65 million from his own income he would have had to pay nearly half of that sum to the taxman.

Asked why he made the donations in shares, Mr Mills said: “To be honest with you, it is the most tax efficient way of doing this.
It seems pretty sensible to me, at least the tax efficiency part. Labour will end up with a regular income through dividends until such time as they are sold or the company goes bust. Long term, it'll probably be quite lucrative for them and make their cash flow a bit more predictable. Quite why you would voluntarily hand over a share of everything that you'd worked hard for to Labour, or indeed any political party I find rather odd though, but each to his own I guess.

The problem here though is that it's started a minor pissing match with George Osborne. It's pure politicking rather than trying to make a serious point but shows just how daft that this whole tax debate has got; that now, not taking a course of action that would maximise revenue to the Treasury is being termed tax avoidance.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Finally, policies from Ed Miliband

And tax-related as well:
But, in a major policy announcement, Miliband says a Labour government would engender a more responsible capitalism in the UK by changing those rules with or without international agreement. Miliband would: 
■ Pursue a new global system where multinationals must publish their revenues, profits and other key corporate information useful to revenue authorities in each country in which they operate. 
■ Force multinationals to publish such information in the UK even if international agreement cannot be found on the issue, as they do in Denmark. 
■ Make it a legal requirement for multinationals operating in the UK to disclose details of any tax avoidance schemes they are using globally. 
■ Seek reforms to "transfer pricing" rules to stop companies from shuffling money to other parts of their firm based in tax havens in return for spurious services. 
■ Open up the ownership of companies sited in Britain's tax havens to the UK revenue authorities, but also seek to allow developing countries access to such information.
That's all well and good, but this is about transparency rather than trying to raise revenues to plug a black hole in the budget. Transfer pricing transactions can already be challenged by HMRC, so unless Labour plan to erect trade barriers or somehow disadvantage intragroup transactions over those between unrelated parties, then no change here.

What none of this does is deal with the likes of Amazon, long complained about by the likes of bricks and mortar retailers, UK Uncut hippies, and Margaret Hodge at the PAC, for their tax arrangements. As a brief reminder, Amazon trades with the rest of Europe from Luxembourg, with orders fulfilled from local warehouses. It can do that because of the EU Single Market and a long-standing (in the UK at least) double taxation agreement that excludes warehouses as creating permanent establishment.

Now there is plenty of talk from Miliband, Cameron, and others about fairness and morality in taxation, and how big business must pay its way; this is all a distraction, and Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman, when interviewed in the Observer today summed it up nicely as:
"Politicians – not companies – set the rules."
For the politicians, the big business bashing has been useful in diverting blame from themselves. UK Uncut, probably unwittingly, do them massive favours by haranguing Vodafone shop staff rather than standing outside of George Osbourne's house demanding that he change the law. They are useful idiots and are tolerated, perhaps even welcomed.

If the finger of blame starts shifting away from the companies in question and pointing towards the politicians, then there will be calls for them to do something. Unfortunately for them, they can't and it's not for technical reasons...

The Tories are squabbling over referendums on our continued membership of the EU, and losing votes to Ukip. Risking going against public opinion but rather more united on the matter, Labour and the Lib-Dems both see a bright future with the EU and could do without making a hard sell even more difficult. There's evidence out there that they've also lost votes to Ukip. To then come out and say that the reason they can't tax the likes of Amazon or Google, is because of Single Market, a key tenet of the whole EU project, will only drive an already Eurosceptic public further in that direction.

The message to the voters would be simple; we can't do anything because of the EU, and at the moment, it's a vote loser and therefore a political impossibility to come out with such a statement.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

"Not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue."

This is the soundbite being quoted by the press and Uncutters out there in relation to the judgement on HMRC's "sweetheart" tax settlement with Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately for UK Uncut, context is everything, because they lost. The full judgement is here.

Reading through it, there really are no surprises; anybody familiar with the case will know that the settlement was reviewed by Sir Andrew Park, a retired tax judge, as part of a report from the National Audit Office on settling large tax disputes. The result of this was that yep, HMRC fucked up by not following procedure, but ultimately the settlement was considered reasonable, and compatible with its Litigation and Settlement Strategy. All other grounds for challenging the settlement including claims that it was made to save Hartnett, HMRC, and George Osborne from embarrassment were thrown out.

All of this hasn't prevented accusations of conspiracy, corruption, and claims of the "capture" of the courts by big business. UK Uncut are even spinning it as a win! However, if they really had won then the end result would have been the same; murmurings of "lessons have been learned" at HMRC and no additional revenue to the Treasury.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

It doesn't matter

UK Uncut Legal Action finally have their day in court:
A controversial "sweetheart" tax deal between HM Revenue & Customs and Goldman Sachs, worth up to £20m, was agreed in part to avoid embarrassment to George Osborne, according to the government's former head of tax. 
Dave Hartnett wrote that he decided to settle the long-running dispute after Goldman Sachs threatened to pull out of a prized new tax framework a week after the chancellor had announced that the bank had signed up to it. 
The disclosures have emerged in an email and a witness statement placed before the high court on Wednesday where the campaign group UK Uncut Legal Action is asking for a judgment to declare that the 2010 settlement between Goldman and the tax authority was unlawful.
Indeed. But it doesn't matter, no really, none of this is important because:
  • The deal is done and dusted, and isn't going to be undone. Goldman Sachs will not be parting with any money as a result of the judicial review.
  • Hartnett left HMRC last year and can't be fired, disciplined, or whatever if the deal is found to be unlawful.
  • The NAO report contained a list of recommendations to help enhance the governance of large value tax settlements. Presumably, someone from the NAO is following up to see if they are being implemented.
The best result for UK Uncut then is that the deal is declared unlawful, HMRC say lessons have been learned and point to the NAO report recommendations, and the lawyers get paid. So apart from publicity for UK Uncut, what is the point of this court case?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sodding corporation tax again

Looks like the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by the dreadful Margaret Hodge, isn't going to stop throwing rocks at the Great Satan anytime soon:
Technology companies that hold lucrative government contracts but avoid tax could be grilled by MPs later this year.

Accounts show that nine of the largest government IT suppliers made £62billion in sales in the UK over the past five years – but paid just £527million to the Exchequer in corporation tax over that period.

The likes of Microsoft, IBM and Dell could now be probed by the influential Public Accounts Committee, which last year explored the tax affairs of Google, Starbucks and Amazon.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge confirmed that the PAC was planning to investigate government contractors in the autumn.
And the reason for this is:
Microsoft is one of the biggest government contractors, accounting for almost 2 per cent of the entire IT budget. 
In 2011 the software giant made £1.8billion in UK sales, including £700million from government contracts.
However, its corporation tax bill was a miserly £19million for the year, because the majority of its sales are made from Ireland or Luxembourg. It also funnels money to a subsidiary based in the tax haven of Bermuda*. 
Its rival Dell sells PCs, printers and vast amounts of other equipment to government arms. 
In the past five years it racked up £1billion in sales – but contributed only £6million in corporation tax.
It says it only made a profit of £12million, but the largest part of its income comes from commission – which is paid in Ireland.
Right, so it's the European Single Market in action again working exactly as intended; where a company can have it's HQ in one member country and trade with all other members through it.

In terms of what can be done, well there's no way that government procurement rules could exclude those multinationals with their European operations based outside of the UK from contracts such as these as it would be against EU law. So what will ultimately happen is a whole load of hot air and grandstanding from Hodge, and a load of companies left wondering if they should bother investing in the UK and creating jobs if all they get in return is a public shit-kicking for obeying the law.

* On Bermuda, if Microsoft ever want to pay any of that money out to shareholders, then they have to transfer it to the US where they will end up with a tax liability. To avoid tax otherwise, they can either invest it back in the company or leave it sitting there.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Free coffee

What could possibly go wrong?
The idea of "Suspended Coffee" is simple: When you buy yourself a coffee at a participating cafe, you also pay for a second one - which can then be claimed by someone who cannot afford it themselves. 
They don't have to "prove" anything to claim one, but the scheme relies on the good faith of everyone involved.

Now I know that the intention is good and it might work in a small community with an independent shop, but the idea simply does not scale up to branches of Starbucks on the high street and here's why; as soon as word gets around that free coffee is on offer, the queues are going to be stretching out of the door and they won't be made up of just those who've fallen on hard times...

Also worth mentioning is that the idea of suspended coffee originated in Naples. Now if you go to most cafes in Italy and ask for a coffee, you're going to be brought what we would know as an espresso shot and be charged a Euro or so for it. Contrast this with our £3.50 double-skinny-soy-fuckachinos and the prospect of paying double for it doesn't look so great.

Finally, it's self-defeating as it will inevitably attract the homeless, often tragically afflicted by mental health issues and substance abuse, who just want somewhere to keep warm but will drive away paying customers. And then there will be no suspended coffee.

Monday, 22 April 2013

And for my hundredth post...

...I've added a blogroll. This was done in five minutes of the top of my head and is work in progress. Give me a shout if you want to be added.

Blogging...a year on

Self indulgent post, so please feel free to ignore.

It's been a year since my first blog post and here it is in all its glory. I wasn't really sure where I was going when I started blogging and I still don't, so I guess I'll just keep writing on my despair of lefty ignorance, ranting about stuff that pisses me off, and occasional oddities that interest me.

Thanks to everyone who has read or commented on my blog so far - please keep visiting!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Fags, illegals, and pikeys

Further to a previous blog post, this from the Mail:
The teenage girl forced to resign as the country's first youth crime commissioner after offensive rants were discovered on her Twitter account will not face police action, it was confirmed today. 
Paris Brown, 17, was appointed to the £15,000-a-year role to help Kent Police 'stay in touch with young people' by providing their views on policing, but stepped down amid claims tweets she posted on her personal account were homophobic, racist and violent. 
The teenager was questioned over the posts by officers from Kent Police's Special Branch, but the force said today it would take 'no further action' after concluding the case 'does not pass the evidential threshold for prosecution'.
Now it is worth pointing out that the police were investigating because of complaints made by the public, more than 50 of them in fact. They are duty-bound to do so, although I have my own views on how they should be dealing with similar situations. What's also worth pointing out is that:

  • No one died
  • No one was injured
  • No threats were made
  • No one was deceived, conned, or lost money
  • No one was deprived of their property
  • There was no incitement of violence
  • There was no incitement of hatred

So what it really boils down to is fifty bedwetters with nothing better to do than to waste police time have grassed up a teenager for saying "nigger" on Twitter a few years ago based on reports that they saw in the papers. What sad times we live in.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

When is an eviction not an eviction?

When UK Uncut have anything to do with it, it seems.

Here's shameless self-promoter and lefty gob almighty Owen Jones at today's "bedroom tax" protests:

Collins defines eviction as:

eviction (ɪˈvɪkʃ ən) 
the act or process of forcing someone to leave a house or piece of land by process of law.

What it doesn't define eviction as is hanging around outside someones house holding a busted placard with a misleading statement on it. Lord Freud still owns the property and can do with it as he wishes. In fact, if this Mirror article is anything to go by, Freud wasn't even in at the time:
Lord Freud owns a huge, historic country pile – one of the oldest in England – in Kent, which he uses for weekends and holidays. 

Just like "bedroom tax" (which as we know is a reduction in benefits and not a compulsory contribution to government coffers) and "the 1%" (which isn't actually 1%), the left are resorting to doublespeak to get their message across. Ignorance is strength and all that.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

On being young...

Paris Brown has thrown in the towel:
The UK's first youth police and crime commissioner, Paris Brown, has resigned from her post following criticism of messages she posted on Twitter.
The 17-year-old said she was quitting in the interests of everyone concerned, in particular the young people of Kent.
Police are investigating her over tweets she posted between the ages of 14 and 16 which could be considered racist and anti-gay
Now I have no intention of defending the youth police and crime commissioner role and the salary that went with it but what the girl has been put through over the last couple of days I find rather troubling - the press dragging out stuff that she posted online a number of years ago, the spiteful comments about her left by Mail readers, having cameras shoved in her face whilst tearfully apologising, and now the police investigation.

I don't think it's unreasonable to put the Tweets that have been quoted down to youthful folly and crude banter. We are after all talking about the ramblings of a school child and quite honestly, looking back at myself in my teenage years, I've said and done regretful things, made colossal errors of judgement, and pissed off a lot of people. 

At least from all of my fuck ups, I've been able to learn something from them though. Unfortunately, the only lesson that Ms. Brown will learn here is that if you put your head above the parapet, then you'll be pulled apart in public, slagged off, humiliated, and grassed up to the coppers for your troubles. So I doubt that she will bother in future.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The people are revolting

From Owen Jones in the Indy:
On Tuesday, I’ll be helping to launch the People’s Assembly with Green MP Caroline Lucas,my fellow Independent columnist Mark Steel, disability rights campaigner Francesca Martinez, Labour MP Katy Clark, and leading trade unionists. The aim of the Assembly is to unite all opponents of the horror show being inflicted on this country. On 22 June, there will be a 3,500-strong meeting at Westminster Central Hall, but in the meantime, I and others will be touring the country, encouraging local groups to be set up in every town and city.
So it's going to be yet another protest collective in a race to the furthest reaches of the left then.

Noting the union presence, we can expect a few strikes gaining about as much attention and public sympathy as the last lot, i.e. fuck all, and Ed Miliband held to ransom over Labour party funding. Looking at the electoral success of union candidates in previous elections, it's fair to say that there is unlikely to be much support for them at the ballot box should they go down that route.

The winner in all of this then is Owen Jones; supported on his grand publicity tour of Britain by friendly left wing newspapers and bloggers, he'll be awarded his campaign organiser wings and no doubt a cushy union job to supplement his Indy column. Up the workers comrades!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Occupying the ballot box?

The Common Councilmen elections took place in the City of London on Thursday and that's a timely reminder to revisit two blog posts of mine to see how Occupy fared in it's attempt to "bring democracy to the City".

Let's go back to July 2012 and failed Common Councilman candidate Bryn Phillips; he was promising some big things:
"We want to renew the balance of power in the City and then the country at large," he said. "There will be full elections on 13 February next year and Occupy will be fielding a full slate of candidates at that point. We hope today will be just the starting point."
What this boast has morphed into is the City Reform Group, which denies having anything to do with Occupy, although having the same activists, supporters, and conspiracy theories behind it say otherwise (as do the papers).

So let's check out this "full slate" of candidates - 100 seats were up for grabs across 25 wards. However if I'm not mistaken, they've only managed to scrape together 21 candidates covering 16 wards to take "the pledge".

How did they do? Well only one candidate, Paddy Streeter, described by the Guardian as "the poor man's Boris Johnson and would-be Lib Dem London mayoral candidate", was elected to the last seat in the Bishopsgate ward by a margin of eight votes.

Sounds like a resounding "no" to hippy politics then.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Minimum pricing U-turn

Good news - it looks as though the idiotic minimum pricing of alcohol is going to be dropped:
Drinkers are to escape a new minimum price for alcohol after David Cameron was forced into a U-turn in the face of a revolt by most of the Cabinet.
Home Secretary Theresa May has led criticism of the Prime Minister’s proposal to ban the sale of alcohol at less than 45p a unit in England and Wales.
The whole point of minimum pricing is to go after the problem drinkers but has two fatal flaws:

1. The problem drinkers will still drink. Either they will go without something else like food, brew their own hooch at home (apple juice, yeast, sugar, stick in the airing cupboard for a week), resort to stealing, or a combination thereof. Extra costs will not solve a drinking problem.

2. It hits the sensible drinkers and not just the poor ones. Check this out. It's Aldi's award winning Toro Loco at 12.5% alcohol and 9.4 units per bottle. It's a very drinkable red, goes nicely with a roast dinner, and astonishingly is only £3.59. It certainly isn't tramp juice but under minimum pricing plans it would be £4.23, an 18% increase. 

That's not the end of it though. The price differential between budget and premium brands would undoubtedly have been maintained pushing the price of alcohol up for everyone.

Looking back on it, with no public support outside of the usual lobbying organisations and no plans to introduce it as a means to raise revenue, what on Earth was Cameron thinking? 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Naming and shaming

HMRC published yesterday a list of the names and addresses of tax defaulters which it defines as:
...people who have received penalties either for:
  • deliberate errors in their tax returns
  • deliberately failing to comply with their tax obligations
 And where:
  • HMRC have carried out an investigation and the person has been charged one or more penalties for deliberate defaults
  • those penalties involve tax of more than £25,000 
However, their information will not be published if the person earns the maximum reduction of the penalties by fully disclosing details of the defaults.
No everyone is happy about this though:
Richard Murphy, of Tax Research, said the list was ‘plain, straightforward hypocrisy’ which was simply ‘identifying plumbers and hairdressers when it should be naming global corporations’. 
‘The people named are easy targets. There are clearly different categories of tax crime, with small businesses who put cash in HMRC’s pockets named and shamed; but banks, wealthy lawyers and global corporations offered anonymity.

'It seems that only little people pay tax and only little people are named and shamed.’
To be clear, these are people who have evaded tax and failed to come clean when investigated, with all avenues of appeal exhausted.

Murphy also states on his blog:
Builders, coach operators and hairdressers feature, but no one, rather oddly,who looks as though they might go near transfer pricing or intellectual property, even though HMRC say they collect billions a year investigating such issues.
Those on the list in question have lied about their tax position and there's a big difference between this and outcome of a disagreement over the tax treatment of a transaction falling in HMRC's favour.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Coalition success on tax avoidance

On 8th December last year, members of UK Uncut protested at various branches of Starbucks due to their "tax avoidance practices". Here's one of their banners:

That's a pretty large figure for avoidance but there's some good news; it has come down:
Margaret Hodge: tax avoidance costs the Treasury £5bn a year
The exchequer loses at least £5bn a year because the taxman is failing to crack down on "morally wrong" tax avoidance schemes similar to the one used by comedian Jimmy Carr, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee warns today.
A £65bn reduction in under three months is quite spectacular and the coalition government should be congratulated on this achievement. Or instead, perhaps we should be taking UK Uncut to task for telling fucking lies again.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Fizzy drinks and fruit juice

Hot on the heels of this, we now have:
Fizzy drinks should be heavily taxed and junk food adverts banished until after the watershed, doctors have said, in a call for action over obesity.
 Eh? I thought that half of the population was starving and relied on food banks. Silly me.
Its [The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges] recommendations include:
  • A ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
  • Further taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20%
  • A reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres
  • A £100m budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery
  • No junk food or vending machines in hospitals, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools
  • Food labels to include calorie information for children
My bold. Perversely, pure fruit juice with all the nice vitamins and natural sugars that go with it, attracts VAT at 20%, just the same as fizzy drinks full of corn syrup. Now despite extensive lobbying by Innocent, ASDA, and the British Soft Drinks Association to get the rate of VAT reduced, nothing ever came of it. Of course it would never occur to politicians that making a good thing cheaper would benefit more people than making a bad thing more expensive.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

More burning of our money

Towns handed £100,000 to save their ailing High Streets in Mary Portas rescue scheme 'have squandered cash on Peppa Pig costumes'
Say the Daily Mail. OK, I sort of understand where they are coming from - they want a draw to the high street, get the families in spending money and the kids get entertained by a popular cartoon character. Everyone is happy but...
Elsewhere, Dartford Council spent £1,160 hiring a person in a Peppa Pig costume, £317.46 on items from Waitrose, £5,983 o newspaper surveys and £1,317 on surveys.
The spokesman said: 'The council hired Peppa Pig for the day as it's a proven way to draw in families to events.'
£1,160 for a day? How on Earth have they managed to spend that much? It's a bloke in a costume for goodness sake. To put that in perspective:

Two lowish grade council workers, one in the costume and one acting as a minder, both on double time - £300. Peppa Pig costumer hire £25. Total - £325. 

Of course, it's very easy to spend money frivolously when it's not your own.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Labour Language

Guido Fawkes on Order Order says:
The so-called “bedroom tax” will see tenants in social housing who are deemed to be under-occupying their homes lose part of their housing benefit. See the difference? 
The “bedroom tax” is not a tax at all, but actually a welfare transfer. If you are under-occupying your social housing you do not have to pay the state any money, you will simply receive a smaller handout from the taxpayer.But then Owen, and Kevin and Ian and Ed and Rachel all knew this already.
And he's right, but consider this also; Labour are using the word tax for a good reason. If they say that they will reverse the "bedroom tax" they are trying to imply that they would be cutting taxes. What they would actually be doing is maintaining or increasing welfare payments. Now which spin on it is more palatable to the voting public I wonder?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Something must be done

So we've dealt with the smokers and we're trying to sort out the drinkers, but when that's done we need a new target:
Leading medical bodies are calling for a 20p-per-litre levy on soft drinks to be included in this year's Budget. 
More than 60 organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, are backing the recommendation by food and farming charity Sustain. 
They say it would raise £1bn a year in duty to fund free fruit and meals in schools to improve children's health.
What we actually have here is lobbying by yet another fake charity:
But Sustain says the tax is a simple measure that would help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising money to protect children's health. 
It says the UK consumes more than 570 million litres (125 million gallons) of sugary soft drinks a year. Adding a 20p tax for every litre sold would raise more than £1.1bn.
No it wouldn't because it takes no account of the cost of collection or behavioural changes, the latter being what Sustain actually wants to achieve with this tax.
"This modest proposal goes some way towards making the price of food reflect its true costs to society. Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life threatening diseases and misery for millions of people. It is high time government did something effective about this problem."
Look at that - not a word about personal choice, just that the government must step in and take control.

The BBC article ends on a damning note though:
Over the past 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has increased by 15%.
So it's actually the health puritans looking for another target rather than sweet fizzy drinks being a problem then.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Royal Institution in a spot of bother

It's sad, but not unexpected to me at least, that the RI has had to put it's historic headquarters at 21 Albemarle Street up for sale due to financial difficulties. This is the building known for being the place where Michael Faraday carried out his work, where ten elements including sodium were discovered, and most famously, where the rather wonderful annual Christmas Lectures are held.

A lot of these financial difficulties have been attributed to an expensive refurbishment of the building in 2008 which added a restaurant and conference facilities for hire. This was in part funded by the sale of a number of investment properties, but the new facilities have not been generating anything like the income that the properties were.

So the organisation has a problem and over the last two years has been trying to find a solution in the form of  long term sponsorship and endowments but to no avail. I can't offer much in the way of financial support but I'm good at stating the obvious which is thus:
Opening times
Monday to Friday 9.00am to 6.00pm (excluding public holidays) 
Museum opening hours
Monday to Friday 9.00am-6.00pm 
Café and Bar & Kitchen opening hours
Café: Monday to Friday 8.00am - 3.00pm
Bar & Kitchen: Monday to Friday 10.00am - 10.00pm
Yep, unbelievably it's shut at the weekend and bank holidays just when most people have a bit of spare time to head over and have a look around.

Now if I had a grand building in central London with a museum, lecture theatre seating over 400, and a bar and restaurant, I'd be making damn sure that it was being fully utilised and that means being open at the weekend. Like most in London, entry to the museum is free but then there's an opportunity to sell guides, membership, solicit donations, or whatever. Hold events and talks in the lecture theatre and conference rooms all day and charge for them - check out this lecture on the science of fireworks; who isn't interested in setting fire to things or blowing up stuff? That's exactly the sort of thing they need to host on a regular basis to get people, especially families, through the doors, and afterwards directing them towards to the bar and restaurant. You've then got a total "RI experience" and visitors can make a morning or an afternoon of it.

I doubt very much that my suggestions are the complete answer to the RI's financial woes, but putting my business hat on, I see some quality assets not being used to their full potential and missed opportunities not just to raise money but to also inform and educate.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Not the whole picture

I'm always suspicious of articles like the following, especially in the Guardian:
'Stealing to eat' cases increase as austerity bites
The data may still be sketchy and the evidence largely anecdotal, but there are signs that shoplifting food is becoming an austerity-era shoplifting phenomenon: more people stealing to eat because they cannot afford basic groceries.
Which renders this article next to useless if it's based on hearsay. Being the Guardian, it's an attempt to extrapolate a few anecdotes into a bigger story with which to bash the coalition government, one of which being a grand total of four people, dealt with by one police force in a year for shoplifting. It's hardly conclusive proof of George Osbourne starving the poor into a life of crime to feed themselves.

Of course if you were caught red-handed, saying that you were stealing to feed your children is likely to garner more sympathy than saying you were stealing to feed a smack habit...

The problem I have is that we know little of the circumstances that have led to someone going out and nicking stuff. Perhaps they've had some unexpected bills come in or they've gambled and lost it all on the horses. Maybe they have no idea about budgets and priorities like this couple. It's actually very unhelpful and also lazy to blame Tory Cuts™ when there may be an underlying reason that needs to be addressed that won't be solved, regardless of how much money you throw at it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Thoughts on recent high street failures

We're half way through January and three major high street chains, Jessops, HMV, and Blockbuster, have gone into administration. I'm sad that a lot of people will probably lose their jobs but apart from this, I'm really not bothered about their demise and here's why:

I'm busy with two demanding young children, a demanding wife, and my company with all the hassle that involves. Time is precious and money is tight so I want to make the most of both. It therefore follows that the last thing that I want to do in my spare time is to spend money driving to the shops, spend even more on parking, and then traipse around looking for something that may or may not be in stock. My alternative is to go online, find exactly what I want for the best price, and have it delivered to my door in a day or two; the process taking all of ten minutes. Now I hate shopping so this makes me happy, but not only that, I have more time to do what I want to do and I've probably saved money as well.

That's not the end of it though; I can download most music, video, or software that I want. Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, and Ocado all deliver to my house. Quite simply, I have no reason to venture out to the shops to buy stuff when someone will bring it to me cheaper - the internet retailer of my choice will give me what I want, when I want it, at the best price I can find. That the high street chains can't compete with that is tough - they've failed me as a customer.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Transsexuals should cut it out

Below is the text from the Julie Birchill article that the Guardian/Observer thought fit to remove after an outcry from the Left. I happened to still have the tab open before it was pulled. You can still see a Google cached version at the time of writing but suspect that will disappear shortly:

It's never a good idea for those who feel oppressed to start bullying others in turn.

The brilliant writer Suzanne Moore and I go back a long way. I first met her when she was a young single mother living in a council flat; she took me out to interview me about my novel Ambition (republished by Corvus Books this spring, since you ask) for dear dead City Limits magazine. "I've got an entertaining budget of £12.50!" she said proudly. "Sod that, we're having lobster and champagne at Frederick's and I'm paying," I told her. Half a bottle of Bolly later, she looked at me with faraway eyes: "Ooo, I could get to like this…" And so she did.

I have observed her rise to the forefront of this country's great polemicists with a whole lot of pride – and just a tiny bit of envy. I am godmother to her three brilliant, beautiful daughters. Though we differ on certain issues we will have each other's backs until the sacred cows come home.

With this in mind, I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on Twitter, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority – transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks' clothing.

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I'd imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.

Here's what happened. In a book of essays called Red: The Waterstones Anthology, Suzanne contributed a piece about women's anger. She wrote that, among other things, women were angry about "not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual". Rather than join her in decrying the idea that every broad should aim to look like an oven-ready porn star, the very vociferous transsexual lobby and their grim groupies picked on the messenger instead.

I must say that my only experience of the trans lobby thus far was hearing about the vile way they have persecuted another of my friends, the veteran women's rights and anti-domestic violence activist Julie Bindel – picketing events where she is speaking about such minor issues as the rape of children and the trafficking of women just because she refuses to accept that their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women – real and imagined – are facing right now.

Similarly, Suzanne's original piece was about the real horror of the bigger picture – how the savagery of a few old Etonians is having real, ruinous effects on the lives of the weakest members of our society, many of whom happen to be women. The reaction of the trans lobby reminded me very much of those wretched inner-city kids who shoot another inner-city kid dead in a fast-food shop for not showing them enough "respect". Ignore the real enemy – they're strong and will need real effort and organisation to fight. How much easier to lash out at those who are conveniently close to hand!

But they'd rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one's nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it's all most of them are fit to do. Educated beyond all common sense and honesty, it was a hoot to see the screaming mimis accuse Suze of white feminist privilege; it may have been this that made her finally respond in the subsequent salty language she employed to answer her Twitter critics: "People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them."

She, the other JB and I are part of the minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that's a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as 'Cis' – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff – they're lucky I'm not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.

It's been noted before that cyberspace, though supposedly all new and shiny, is plagued by the age-old boredom of men telling women not to talk and threatening them with all kinds of nastiness if they persist in saying what they feel.

The trans lobby is now saying that it wasn't so much the initial piece as Suzanne's refusal to apologise when told to that "made" them drive her from Twitter. Presumably she is meant to do this in the name of solidarity and the "struggle", though I find it very hard to imagine this mob struggling with anything apart from the English language and the concept of free speech.

To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don't know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.

Shims, shemales, whatever you're calling yourselves these days – don't threaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we've experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain't seen nothing yet. You really won't like us when we're angry.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The effect of closing a tax loophole

So Low Value Consignment Relief has been scrapped by George Osbourne which has led to Play.com shutting down its retail business. The impact of this is that 67 British jobs have been lost and consumers will pay more for their DVDs, that is if they still choose to buy them elsewhere. So that all worked out well didn't it?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Free Breakfast

There's a problem and the council are here to help:
Free breakfasts for all primary school pupils are to be provided by a council, in a three-month pilot project to stop children starting the day hungry. 
Blackpool council says teachers are finding too many pupils coming to school without having any breakfast. 
Council leader Simon Blackburn says a healthy meal before lessons will help pupils "focus on learning".
I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Blackburn but what exactly is the root cause of this problem?
"In many families, parents are leaving children to fend for themselves in the morning. This is because some parents simply don't have the time or inclination to prepare breakfast, let alone supervise their children or encourage them to eat it," says the report into teachers' experiences of children who arrive at school unfed.
So it isn't "Vicious Tory Cuts" but once again it's shite parenting. Some parents don't have the time or inclination to feed their children? Seriously? That's part of the job description of being a parent. You fail.

The council, being fully aware of this, is not tackling the root cause of the problem and by providing the breakfasts is reinforcing that the behaviour of the parents is OK. After all, if they know that their children will be fed at school then there's zero chance of them shifting their chav arses out of their beds and putting some cereal and milk in a bowl for them.

On a final note, I wonder what Andy Burnham would make of councils providing free Frosties to children whose parents can't be arsed to feed them?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Mary Fucking Whitehouse is back from the dead

And is going by the name of Margaret:
Channel 4 and the sick show they call comedy: Comedians guzzle wine and egg each other on to trade obscene jokes about the Queen, Philip and Susan Boyle
Margaret Morrissey, founder of campaign group Parents Outloud, said: ‘It is amazing this programme was ever broadcast. This was not live television, someone made the decision to allow this to go out at 9pm during the holidays when young children will still be up and watching television.
Fuck off Margaret Morrissey. If you can't control what your young children are watching on telly then you're a shite parent. That's your responsibility and nobody else's. Trust the Daily Mail to bring out the professionally offended.

It gets better though as there is an article on her Parents Outloud website with more comment from her:
It was actually at 9pm and whilst I agree with you totally in an ideal world yes I personally would switch off life is not so simple. Given the red light these things become the norm after 25 years of working with parents and PTA’s experience shows there are those parents who do allow children freedom of the media and they then discus with your children , they now have the ability to record etc and share so best not to broadcast it surely.
Some crude humour is broadcast after a well known watershed. That offends her puritan sensibilities or might be seen by her children (won't somebody think of the children?) because she can't be arsed to keep an eye on them. Therefore the solution is to ban it. Margaret Morrissey offends my sensibilities, so she can go and fuck herself.