Monthly Archives: July 2012

Thieving bloody (fill in the blanks)

It appears that this coalition has an agenda of vilifying different groups and attempting to demonise them to the rest of us.

Today’s group of evil, society-wrecking scum are plumbers.

You know the bastards that come out and fix your waterworks, burst pipes and blocked toilets.  Or install your gas central heating.  You know, pointless shit like that.  That stuff you can obviously do for yourself.

David Gauke, a treasury minister (hard to believe, I know) says these villains are making the rest of us proles pay higher taxes by sticking our tenners and twenties in their hip pocket and not always telling the taxman.  How dare they give us a discount and not pay the tax due to HMRC.

Those bastards are the root of all evil, they are the black economy.  Just wait you sparkies, you’re next.

What a load of utter drivel.

The amount lost to plumbers (of which there are 22300 registered (and maybe half again not registered in the UK) must be immense.  IF they all avoid a little bit of tax every week (say one cash in hand £200 leak or the like then the amount of tax lost to a leaky economy is…

£200  (job paid cash for the purposes of evading tax) – costs (materials / overheads / petrol etc) 100 est  = £100 taxable profit so £22 (ish) Income tax.

(Assumption here is EVERY plumber evades a £200 job EVERY week – obviously they are all at it)

so 22 x 35000 x 50 = £38.5m per year.  (or 0.11% of the tax gap figure used in the article (35bn))

OMFG the economy is fixed.  Well done Mr Gauke and I thought it was people like Vodaphone, Arcadia, GSK, and banks who were the problem.

What do these plumbers do with this cash?  Aha says mr Gauke – they hide it offshore obviously. (needs to get out more)

They spend it.  And they pay vat on what they spend it on (usually).  Plumbers will probably have a marginal propensity to spend of about 0.95 (in other words they’ll spend 95% of their earnings)

What would this Government have done with that money from Income tax? given it to millionaires in a tax cut?  perhaps? Or used it to pay down the deficit?

Now, the ridiculousness of this announcement attacking plumbers is the same approach they have used to attack other groups.  Teachers are scum (obviously), The disabled are all scroungers and cheats, The Unemployed are benefits junkies, The OAP’s are hogs with their nose in an entitlement trough.  The list could go on and on.

Gauke then tries to mire the BBC in a smearing of their policies of paying some people through service contracts.  The very same thing that hundreds of execs are doing in the Civil service.  If they are using these contracts to solely avoid taxes then by all means get after them.  Do the Civil service first I would suggest.

This Coalition Government is as rotten to the core as the last tory government.  Divisive and with the inner belief that the proles are the enemy.  Divide and conquer is the approach from this manky, illegitimate government, ramming through a medicine that the electorate did not vote for.

As a college lecturer, we have had our turn (lumped in as substandard with the teachers).

Next week it might be your group….

(Gauke might go after the paperboys, tax avoiding wee shites…)


Energy policy? Do we fracking have one!

As a wired in junkie and waster of energy I have a cheek commenting on Energy policy (or the lack thereof).

I routinely leave lights on, computers running, everything on standby, boil full kettles all the time, heating on too often and drive when I probably should walk.

Energy usage and generation are very large issues to be tackled in the years ahead.

We are starting (as a people) to get to grips with the energy issue, or we should be, as the price of Gas, electricity and petrol continue to go up and up and up.

So shouldn’t there be a full and well thought out plan to deliver energy that will keep the lights on for the foreseeable future?  I would have thought so but then again I am often surprised by what isn’t planned.

The drive to green / sustainable energy is a good thing.  BUT does this mean a free for all in planning that will see turbines sprouting up all over the place?  To meet the green energy goal of the Scottish Government (100% generated from renewables) there will need to be loads of them.

Hunners of ’em.  And they will change the face of our landscapes and around our towns (Donald Trump doesn’t fancy it).

To me it seems all the eggs have been stuffed in one basket, wind power.

What about tidal energy? twice a day the tide goes in and out, reliable and Scotland has many suitable tidal races that could be used.  Biomass seems to be popular too.

Now as an environmental neophyte the energy extraction method called fracking, didn’t mean much to me.  This is probably the same for most people.  Not anymore, I had a vague notion of what it meant but until i researched further I had no idea of how much environmental vandalism it requires.

Fracking – Hydraulic Fracturing, is a method for extracting Shale Gas, Tight Gas and Coalbed Methane.  It involves drilling into the gas bearing rock, pumping millions of litres of water and fracking fluids into the well and fracturing the rock to release the gas.  Sometimes the process involves mini explosions to rubbelise the rock to release the gas or chemically ‘melting’ the rock to get the gas out.

I don’t know about you but the idea of turning rock to rubble deep beneath our feet (and water tables) and pumping in thousands of litres of chemical soup (including many carcinogens) seems a bit suspect to me.

The Fracking industry say its safe and tried & tested.  The protestors say its environmental vandalism to extract yet another dirty fuel.  The evidence of the protestors seems pretty compelling to me and the statements of the industry seem to be the usual corporate assurances.

Now hobby horses notwithstanding (and fracking is one of mine), we need to keep the electricity supply up for an increasingly energy hungry and increasing population.

So where is the cohesive plan? well hidden and not cohesive at all.  The current wrangle over ROC’s (renewable obligation Certificates) and the rate of subsidy for green energy generation show a lack of linked up thinking and a lack of coordination.  Add to this the Nuclear generation debate, the difficulty with Carbon Capture & storage and the stick a turbine or solar panel anywhere and everywhere and we can see that the policy area is somewhat confused.  Never mind a dysfunctional oligopoly of an energy market.

The big strategic aims are there (reduce carbon impact / CO2 emissions / renewables targets by 2020 / 2030) but the delivery and implementation is a enviroshambles.  Changing subsidies and the like create a reluctance to invest and a slowing of technical R & D.

We need to have a public debate about energy and where we need to go.  With no hysteria and doom mongering.  It will need a mixed approach for a long time yet but the composition needs to be considered.

One thing is for certain, we should stay the frack away from fracking.


Why Libor fixing is more than money

I had a twitter exchange with a young man who felt sure that the fixing was limited to the 14 bad boys on the Barclay’s trading floor. I argued that it was highly unlikely and was like the fig leaf of ‘one rogue reporter’ that we all had to swallow for a while.  He reckoned I was wrong.

However the LIBOR fixing turns out, and however many more are implicated, the important issue centres not on the money (well, not solely on the money).  It is the dishonesty.

I have been known to rant about the system that brought us the subprime mess and collateralised debt objects. The lack of scrutiny and the light touch regulation that allowed the liberalisation of the financial markets that brought us to the brink with Lehman Brothers.
However, at its core, I still held to the belief that the main problem was greed. Good old-fashioned pocket-filling greed. You know, nose in the trough profiteering and massively over-inflated bonuses.  A Gordon Gecko Wall-st ‘Greed is good’ kind of thing.
I was wrong.

LIBOR rates are used in approximately $800 billion   trillion of financial instruments and messing with these is fraud on a massive scale.  The courts will be busy with claims and cases over this for the next decade.  The perpetrators should  be found and punished on a scale comparable with the hunt for Bin Laden but we all know they wont be.
The fixing of LIBOR  by Barclay’s (I’m sure they won’t be alone) is the game changer.  In the same way as Milly Dowler changed the press game irrevocably.
They aren’t greedy (well they are) but they have also been found out as dishonest.

Honesty which needs to be at the heart of the system, an honesty that has been found to be an illusion. The British Bankers of the past, whose reputations were built on integrity, probity and trustworthiness, will be spinning in their collective graves.  Trust once broken takes a long time to be recovered if it ever, actually, is.

The reputation of British banks has been dragged through the mire damaging much of UK PLC’s future income and its standing in the world.

Add to this ‘bad behaviour’ the mis-selling of PPI and other little gems (dodgy tax avoidance schemes for example) and we get a pattern of dishonesty not just a one-off (or a Madoff – sorry).  A pattern of behaviour that renders the game a bogey.  Bob Diamond was sorry.  Sorry they got caught?  Certainly not sorry to have pocketed £100m over the last five years.

The pathetic attempts to justify the dishonesty and misreporting of LIBOR by Barclay’s and the subsequent use of  ‘Big boys made us do it’ by Bob Diamond and his chums just highlights part of the problem.  The fact that the political establishment are embroiled in this mess isn’t shocking to anyone.  It is almost a given.  Afterall they have been involved in everything else recently.

The political classes are mired in their own mess ( expenses scandals, links with the press, donations), the press are curled up in a post #hackgate ball, the churches are continually being sued and now we find out the banks are not just greedy hogs but they are lying, robbing hogs.

The roof of our societal institutions is falling in.

With this in mind, who do we expect (or accept) to hold the banks to account?  Another #Leveson and Mr Jay?  Anything less will be a whitewash or politically tarnished.

Dave (By the way) is terrified at the thought.

Sponsored silence over

Over the last few months I have been guilty of procrastination.

I have put off posting until the right issue came along.  (More a case of up to one’s ears in it.  I have been distracted as I come to grips with my new role as a local councillor.)

Anyway, I digress.

I have been feeling an increasing level of irritation.  The economy, the Tories, the SNP, the Greeks, the Germans, the Banks have all started to increase my grumpiness levels.  The final straw was the Barclay’s thing.

They (and by they I mean Bankers) just couldn’t help themselves.  Well they did but you know what I mean.  Filling their pockets at every legal opportunity and when that wasn’t enough a scam dreamt up when the Bollinger was running low meant the use of a few illegal ones.  Match fixing – sorry rate fixing.  To quote John McEnroe ‘You cannot be serious’.

Corruption running right through the industry.  When cricketers do no-balls to order they get the jail.  When bankers fiddle the rates, well it’s almost expected.

Anyone caught calling for accountability on this scam gets directed to the FSA regs and a diplomatic immunity style response.  Can’t be prosecuted loophole drivel is spouted by the hand-wringing do-nothing-about-it brigade.  Piss off.

Fraud is clearly defined, as is theft as is conspiracy to defraud etc.  I am showing my red knickers here but we should (as a nation) be all over these people like a rash.  The law needs to be applied swiftly and in full force.  There is no excuse (apart from the obvious political cowardice and self-interest).

Facebook riot inciter got 18 months for being a dumbass (conspiracy element in there somewhere), Gary Mackinnon faces extradition due to the addition of conspiracy charge.  Yet some would lead us to believe it doesn’t apply to Bankers.

The application of the law by our honest Boys in Blue and legal system is being severely found wanting (yet again).

Unlikely to be applied to bankers though.  Unlikely to be many dawn raids for computers etc.

Bob Diamond has earned over £100m in the last 5 years.  Just read that again.  £100m or (800 average salaries). Banks have brought us to the edge of ruin (and reason too) and he has stockpiled wealth like a good ‘un.  Are we seriously saying that the banking industry doesn’t have a problem.

It does.  It is called greed.  Pure and simple greed.  For the top bankers there is never enough .  Bonuses, options, salaries are all inflated and out of control and whenever anyone is daft enough to question this we are warned off with doomsday messages of flight of banks to somewhere else.  If you want the best you have to pay. etc etc etc.

What a load of nonsense.  They are here to fill their pockets and bury their noses deep in the trough.

Sadly many of our politicians have the same problem.

It is this disconnect with reasonable remuneration that has spiralled over the neo liberal decades and has unbalanced the expectations at the top.  The pay spiral for Ftse 100 execs is a prime example of this (up 49% in 2010) when many workers received pay cuts and freezes.  Totally out of control and no longer bears any relation to performance of the company or the individual.

Share holders aren’t happy either but seem unable to break the shackles of fear that these captains of industry will leave if we don’t let them gorge themselves on the very dubious profits.  Governance has failed in a wholesale fashion.

PPI mis-selling, Credit crunch, Quantitative Easing, LIBOR scandal, Collateralised Debt objects the list gets longer and longer.

The lack of political will on the banks is understandable.  No country wants to be the first to say enough and risk a capital flight to another financial hub.  I get it.  It irritates the hell out of me.  Couple that with political funding flowing from these banks to governments of all hues.

Coordinated action  is equally unlikely in the near term as the Eurozone struggles along bailing out the leaky boat.

The Bankers know this and their behaviour is only likely to intensify before the shutters truly do come down.  They will weather a PR storm while filling their pockets leaving you and I to cough up when the time for bailouts returns.

It’s good to be back.