Are Families Being Ripped Off?

Family Misfortunes

And here we are, British Summertime. Clocks forward, more sunlight, less moonlight, more colour and what a glorious day 30th March 2014 was. Let’s book a holiday.

Who would have thought that all it would take to forgive a long, miserable, wet winter is one sunny warm day. I waste no time and immediately begin fantasizing about a modest retreat, a stone’s throw from one of the many beautiful sandy beaches England has to offer. For the first time I’m forced to take our family summer break at the same time as everyone else.

Motivated by the weather I grab my iPad and pigeon peck my way to Google Maps. This would be one of my most rewarding missions of the year and could only be achieved with a full satellite view of the South West of England.

At a click and a tap I was in Cornwall. Here I found the slightly yellow grey outline that promised golden sandy coasts with clean blue sea. Hovering high above the country I typed “Holiday Rental” and soon my panoramic view was filled dots of all sizes. Holiday houses everywhere, unlimited choice, this was going to be easy peezy.

My Google flight had begun to cause vertigo so I dropped attitude and zoomed into the detail of a village or two. Soon I found promising cottages with sea views and teasing sea “glimpses”.

The search. With my focus on Cornwall I began to find lots of ideal locations, much availability but something was amiss! Whenever I selected the week I wanted prices shot up. Not by a hundred pounds but by hundreds of pounds. I couldn’t understand it. The same property was £400.00 one week and then £800.00 during the school break! As soon as the kids went back to school the prices returned to normal.

Looking across Cornwall I could see that some were better than others but most searches resulted in rocketing prices when people had less choice. Hardly fairness at work. So I waved goodbye to ‘Conwall’. Even If I could afford the accommodation, I found it difficult to part with my money when I felt “they” were taking advantage of so many families. Lucky for me I found something much better. Wales!

For many years we had holidayed in Devon but had decided we needed somewhere new. The escalating cost of a Cornish holiday had put me on a new course to Pembrokeshire, Wales. I had heard many good stories but had always overlooked it. So glad I didn’t this time because what I found was honest Welsh value. No escalating rip off rates, no greedy proprietors and lots of choice.

So if you need a good value holiday during the school break do your bank balance a favour and go to Wales. I don’t advertise but I do share fare deals. If you see something on a website you like and the cost exceeds your budget ask for a discount. I did and I was able to save £80 just because I asked.

 

Further reading:

Where, When and HOW MUCH?
Where Pre May 23/24 Post May 23/24 Extra Charge
Cornwall, Sennen 699 1199 500
Devon, Bigbury on Sea 605 1273 668
Cornwall, Gorran Haven 440 926 414
West Wales 270 390 120
Wales, Pembrokeshire 468 556 112
 What does the UK government say:

What someone tried to do:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46455

The Wet South West

Flood Plights

 

Weathermen report the wettest weather in the UK since records began. This put most of Somerset under water with a flood of MPs and MEPs desperate to be filmed doing their bit in rubber boots. Apart from Owen Paterson (climate change sceptic and environment minster) who managed to keep his dry. Meanwhile Chris Smith, in charge of the Environment Agency, dodged many pointed fingers followed by the pursuit of COBR, aka “Cabinet Office briefing room A” led by Eric Pickles, Communities Minister.

To dredge or not to dredge was high on the agenda with many experts sharing opinions on more long term solutions such as Bridgewater Bay. Unfortunately the only immediate action was the supply of boats. The army were called in to help but failed to remember their Wellingtons.

Cartoons also conflates; DC’s attempts tp woo Angela Merkel for a better deal with Europe, Alex Salmond’s quest for independance and Owen Paterson’s disastrous management of the badger cull.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/flooding/10655005/The-flooding-of-the-Somerset-Levels-was-deliberately-engineered.html

The cost of floods

Milibanks: Does Size Matter?

Milibanks

Ed Miliband wants to reduce the size of the banks to improve services to those who use them. I think he’s talking about me and you.  Sounds like a good idea when you think back to economic crash of 2008 and the phenomena of “too big to fall” (TBTF).

Large banks making vast amounts of money, taking huge risk and not paying any attention to their lack of reserve.  When they go down they take the economy with them and this is why governments have no choice but to pay the economic ransom. I’m not sure if this is included in the reasoning but this is my take.

Would a group of smaller, mili-banks work?

Ever heard of Creative Destruction? For the long term good make a change at the cost of others. Build a system that lets the banks fail without significant impact. With the threat of collapse, smaller banks might become more risk adverse. In America they have banks of all sizes but it didn’t help them! Could this be due to the TBTF banks underpinning the smaller banks and could the rate of globalisation eventually return the system to similar underpinning?  Difficult to think about.

What about the smaller bank with an anti-big bank cap and independent scrutiny, and I’m not taking about the big audit organisations that everyone seems to accept. If the policy is to be adopted a mechanism to prevent TBTF sounds prudent but will it cope with the developments in technology? At this point I realise I’m asking too many questions and failing to provide answers but heh, I draw pictures.

The Tory part of the UK’s government may argue that The Bank of England (BoE) has been given more responsibility to prevent the issues raised by the Labour party. Who knows for sure? By the way, BoE guvnor, Mark Carney did have concerns with Miliband’s speech and everyone saw a dip in the share price. It’s a safe bet that any threat of change would send ripples through the markets. Improving competition, service, whilst reducing economic risk seems wise at a glance.

One thing that troubles me is what happens to us when the small bank that fails! Will our savings and investments go with it?  The risk of failure will still be present, it’s the likelihood that will be affected but who carries the risk now? Note to self: Buy shares in the insurance industry but sell some cartoons first.

Other news is that Ed Balls wants to return to the 50p tax band for high earners to help with the deficit.  Back in 2011 the Tories were prevented from dropping this to 40p by the Liberal Democrats. I’m surprised that Nick Clegg hasn’t jump on this news but then he’s been busy holding the dirty linen from a sexless sex scandal with a member who has the weight to bring a right downer to the party.

So what is Liberal Democrat and State Secretary, Vince Cable unhappy with? George Osborne’s recovery is too fast and it’s the wrong type. He’s not alone, Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls also thinks the same but that’s to be expected from someone in opposition, not from someone in government.  Then again it’s not news that Liberal Democrats and Tories don’t agree. Mr Cable in his wisdom believes the country’s pace of recovery should be more tortoise than hare and he’s probably right.  Better keep an eye on the flood levels they might burst the banks.

Ed Miliband banking reform

Creative Destruction

Vince Cable in the News

Forever Working People

 

Forever Working People

During these austere times, UK pensioners, rich or poor will keep benefits such as bus passes, heating allowance and TV licenses. In addition, a commitment has been made to keep the Triple Lock system that uses inflation, salary and cost of living to ensure no pensioner goes without. Sounds good.

Unfortunately to secure these deals for all, the next generation will be a lot older when they retire and further benefits will need to be cut elsewhere. The Tory part of coalition government say that this is part of the Long Term Plan to recover the economy. However the more discerning spectator believes it’s a move to attract the largest demographic of the vote, also known as the pensioner. At time of writing, the majority of UK voters are 65+ years old.

Hardly surprising the younger are disengaged with politics when the subject doesn’t even make the national curriculum.

Whilst government seek popular policy, the UK suffers the wettest weather for a decade and the Environment Secretary, Owen “Pitter Patter” Paterson faces the flood defense debate. It’s here where we discover Mr Owen’s appetite for building projects over the need to provide a robust dry infrastructure and green environment. The same attitude supports deforestation with a recent press release of “offsetting” ancient woodland to make way for more building. Now there’s one MP who should consider early retirement.

 

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/101/How-Britain-Voted-Since-October-1974.aspx?view=wide

 

Royal Nuts

Royal Nuts

 

When I heard about the story of the Queen’s nuts, I just had to draw it!

During the phone hackling trial with newspaper editors being brought to account, the British public got to hear about an unbroken story of “Queen Elizabeth losing her nuts”. This gave the court a much needed chuckle with news of the Queen running around Buckingham Palace marking bowls of nuts whilst the policemen on guard helped themselves, allegedly. 

A link to the story

Robust Talks

Robust Talks in Sri Lanka
 
When I heard that the UK Prime Minister was going to Sri Lanka I must admit I didn’t think anything of it.  All I knew was how much the world famous science fiction author, Arthur C Clarke loved it and that gave it an impressive endorsement. This ideal has now been shattered by headlines of a bloody civil war.
 
What I know now is thw UN has serious concerns regarding acts of inhamanity and the man in power at that time, Mahinda Rajarapaksa is the same whom Dave had a cup of tea with. Mr Cameron argues the opportunity is a chance to confront this alleged past. However with 40,000 souls lost I feel the opportunity was missed a long time ago.
 
I have a few questions! Did Dave Cameron’s choice to attend the Commonwealth meeting bring awareness to the suspected atrocities? I don’t think so! We would have questioned any boycott. Was he effective in confronting the Sri Lankan president? Doesn’t sound like it. In two weeks after his meeting and the story lost its momentum, just like Syria. Surely the PM and co could have instigated an enquiry from Westminister. Instead we get hear about visiting politicians trying find good news.
 
I find it hard to listen to UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague talk about the many good things the government of Sri Lanka is doing when the cast of this shadow is so dark.
 
What I expect from our government is to work with other countries to prevent, not react. This needs to be done on a global scale. We cant have one country policing all others. That’s a road to depressing failure. Unfortunately some countries seem to be resistent. Something to hide? Maybe. You can see why Russell Brand gets so disillusioned.
 
Can the world’s leaders be trusted? It seems that parents who want to adopt get more scrunity. May be it’s time to place leaders before a world committee, allowing a morailty assssment before handing over the reigns. This may sound impractical but at least its proactive or perhaps a spring board to something other than dismissed “robust” talks. For now we left to nag the PM for progress.
 

Big Brand Strikes 10: What happens when a comedian tears into Westminster.

Big Brand Strikes

What will October 2013 be remembered for, the storm of the decade or the disillusioned jester?

When Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman, viewers couldn’t believe their eyes. Was this a joke, were “they” having a laugh? Afterall Newsnight had interviewed the Cookie Monster weeks before, why not follow up with a spoof interview. In anticipation we waited for the funny bone strike with a Red Nose or a cuddly Pugsy bear, neither came.

Enter stage left, Mr Serious Brand. But who is this imposter talking about politics wearing a respectable white shirt? He tells us that he has never voted and suggests others should do the same. The political class is full of lies, treachery and deceit . “Planet first, politics later” is the general message and he doesn’t limit himself to TV to voice his discontent with British politics. He also writes an essay in The New Statesman [NS] magazine, one of the country’s top political publications.

While I meandered around Brand’s colourful words of lacquered adjectives something struck a chord. For Red Nose day, celebrities become witnesses of extreme poverty, travelling to forgotten places, usually in Africa, where children fight for survival, scratching for their very existence. Brand describes visiting a rubbish dump in Kibera, watching children scavenge for bottle tops to make enough money to eat, the same tops he so casually throws away at many of the various luxury hotels he frequents. Polar extremes.

The humanitarian in all of us knows this suffering is wrong. We know how fragile life is yet we find ourselves helpless in reaching out, questioning why governments in such places fail to provide the very basics of life for their people .

The morality in Brand’s outcry is without question, no one wants to accept such poverty in the 21st century but what can austerity Britain do about it? It’s human nature to put your family first and those around you second. At some point, like me, you may have forgone the temptation of a gamble on a single lottery ticket in favour of donating to one of Britain’s big charity events instead.

Charity is something we are good at in England, bringing people together, organising events to raise funds, promoting awareness to those who can make a difference.  So if you have listened to Russell and feel depressed, remember we are doing something to help and will soon have an opportunity to make a contribution no matter how small. Where I lose Brand’s rant is when he talks about losing the only voice we have in government, the vote.

Another comedian stepped up to the soap box to say his piece!  Robert Webb said that the essay motivated him to join the Labour party and that Brand was being an arse and should not tell people not to vote. “It’s irresponsible for him to do so. He’s too influential”. Whilst I agree with this, let the party leaders give us a reason to vote, make them stick to their promises and let our local MPs give us a reason to vote.

I admit to questioning the motives of the current government especially the Tory party. Do they represent what I believe in? Not really. The self-interested, aggressive, front bench Politician at Prime Minister’s Questions is an ugly thing. Yet my local MP has done a lot for the town and we did just survive the tempest of the decade, with much infrastructure investment to boot.

And it’s the British constitution of the weather that returns me to our very own entertaining Shakespeare jester, Trinculo, aka Russell Brand, to which I say, keep being Russell and let those around you vote for what they believe in.

Free School Division

Free School Division

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg gives a speech on education and this goes against what Michael Gove, Education  Secretary and the Tories believe in.
Free schools can be set-up by anyone yet funded by tax payers.  One justification that has yet to materialise is to make space where classrooms are full. Unfortunately these areas are not benefiting.
What makes this approach more controversial is the freedom to breakaway from the national curriculum and the lack of qualified teachers that teach in them. Reading this you are probably thinking that these are not such great enterprises of learning but at time of writing the UK has 170 such schools.
In October 2013 one these schools was shut down by Ofsted after the headmaster blew the whistle and this may have been the catalyst for Mr Clegg.  My more sceptical view sees this as an election opportunity to distance Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats from the Conservative Party and repair reputation damage after the broken promise of reduced education fees at beginning of the coalition government.