Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sometimes you really wonder if there's a grown up left running the country and this last ten days has been one of those moments with me. Take taxation for instance, in the UK the tax book is biggest anywhere in the Western World with so many exceptions that even the Tax Inspectors don't really understand it never mind people such as business men and women who are told ignorance is no defence.
Mr Osbourne, the UK's Finance Minister decided there were a number of inconstant rulings and loop holes in Value Added tax, the tax that is levied on goods and services ever since the UK joined the then Common Market (the current European Union) and announced a number of measures to deal with them. It also helped he'd get some money from it too.
One revolves around food. In the UK if you buy food from a place providing an eating experience such as a restaurant you pay the tax (VAT) on your bill. If you buy food from a place that runs a 'take away' service such as a Fish and Chip shop or Chinese takeaway to eat at home then that attracts VAT too.
Until now if you went to say a bakery and bought a cake, pie or sausage roll you didn't and it was this he decided to change. In essence he's saying if it is hot compared to 'ambient temperature' then this counts as cooked so should be liable.
The problem lies in comparing a freshly baked pie to a roast chicken isn't a meaningful one in that the chicken comes as a chicken and is roasted being sold as a roast chicken, which is a service that adds value to the product.
A freshly baked pie has to be prepared from scratch and baked to become a pie so people can buy it, period.
It follows then that the only way of making a distinction is through the temperature which will mean testing each batch before being placed for sale and offering 'cold' and 'hot' for each product.
And this is from a government into reducing red tape???
It's easy to accept the idea that offering to 'warm' a product for a customer to consume immediately is a VAT liable service as would say putting seating by or in your shop for patrons could be seen as 'proof' you were a 'takeaway'.
And it gets worse.
To beat the potential of a oil tanker driver strike, Ministers called for people to fully fill their gasoline tanks (many run with a third of a tank in) and better still to fill cans with fuel just in case'.
The result was predictable - a run on gas at the pumps leading to a good number being out of fuel and severe criticism from fire fighters for the dangers posed by people stockpiling gasoline at home in confined spaces.
If they had to say anything, it would of made more sense to have called on the Trades Union (UNITE) and the Employers to attend talks with the arbitration service ACAS who had offered to step in to facilitate an resolution of the issues between them.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The leader of the pack

The last few weeks have seen me revisiting a few childhood favourites when it comes to popular music .

For instance for a brief period in the mid sixties the Red Bird and Blue cat lables had some of hippest music around from a wide range of artists with a lot of close harmony girl groups such as the Dixie Cups. Unfortunately connected with the reasons the lable shut down, many of the final mixed down 'master tapes' ended going to various odd bods as payment for debts resulting many later release in both the lp and cd eras suffering.

Recently Real Gone Music out out a cd with 20 tracks called "The Red Bird Girls for the Very first time in STEREO" newly remixed from the session floor tapes in stereo offering a new and much cleaner two channel sound on tracks such as Bessie Banks, Go Now, The AdLibs The Boy from New York City and many more.

One of the most famous groups on the label was the unforgettable Shangr Ls's whose dark soap opera in two and a half minutes drama's such as Leader Of The Pack, I Can Never Go Home No More and Past, Present and Future really pushed the enveloped for what could be achieved by soundscapes.
Most of the cds of their hits suffer from poor sound quality but in 2002 Englands RPM records redid the good Myrmidoms of Melodrama compilation improving on the sound and finding stereo versions of several tracks including Remember (walking in the sand) and I recently picked up a copy.

As well as regular readers know I've always loved Bobby Vees music and finally picked up the Bobby Vee singles Collection, a the cd set issued by EMI UK in 2006 covering ever a and b side cut for Libery records by him from the late 50's thru 1978 most of which appear in top quality stereo.
It's the best compilation of his material out there I'd have to say being well worth the modest cost Amazon UK are currently charging for it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Like we care!

Ever heard of the expression the left hand doesn't know what the right's doing?
Well I think it sure applies with the British Treasuries department recent announcements about the program run by Customs and Revenues section to help those usually in work deal with the gap between their pay and what their needs are such as childcare for those with children.
It's set to be formally announced in the Budget that the number of hours a person needs to work to claim Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit is to rise from 16 or more hours per week to 24 or more probably with an eye to reducing the total amount paid out year on year.
The problem with this is obvious, namely that at at time of economic hardship many of those currently working 16 hours cannot realistically demand extra hours from their employer AND because of this will be at least 150 pounds a week worse off as the claims are rejected.
This is at a time of rapidly increasing fuel and food prices where many are struggling.
Not surprisingly it has been criticized by the Child Poverty Action Group, Citizens Advice and many others working with the most vulnerable sections of the community.
The answer if money had to be saved, might of been to have looked at the maximum income levels before a claim not be accepted.
So much for the declared aim of Government being "Making work pay".

Friday, 9 March 2012

RIP Remploy- Does this make sense?

Yesterday it was announced up to two-thirds of the sheltered workplaces operated by Remploy -a non for profit organization in the UK - the result of a change in Government policy regarding money used for helping disabled people of working age.
The Minister said by using this money instead to help secure employment by the majority of disabled people this was a better use of taxpayers money.
It is true that a majority of disabled people are out of work often through employer prejudice, limited opportunities as well as being virtually impossible to place in gainful employment.
What this new policy does effect however are that portion who do not have relatively minor physical disabilities alone but those who may also have emotional, sight, behavioural and others where it may not just a question of getting them in the building but of requiring considerable long term support and not just work related support. It may mean helping them to find groups to socialize with or organizing collective activities where they will be amongst friends and understood.
All to often the emotional impact of being disabled being both unable to do things and misunderstood by others is underestimated.
There was and I believe still is a fashionable view held that "All disabled people want to be out in the community" and not to have special facilities calling them 'patronizing' and while I'm pro-independence, it is a sad fact that some simply could not exist in mainstream employment isolated from like minded people.
I think it is also worth saying government policy hasn't just been with this kind of provision as for as long as I can recall personally, money had been available for transport to work for those unable to drive through their disability to a job and say unable to use public transportation, providing extra equipment to help a person in post and so on.
It's also been the case for at least 15 years of my knowledge this has been cut back just as the cry from the political right about "workshy disabled people" has been mounting.
I suspect it's to paper over these cracks the grant to Remploy is to be cut leading to these closures that will undeniably hit those least about to find alternative work.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee

They're no more sadly with yesterdays sad news of Davy Jones death aged 66 in his sleep.
Davy was a British child actor who was picked as were most of the America 60's group The Monkees for their ability to act and look the part of a struggling pop group for the NBC TV series of the same name than their musical ability.
No one would say that lyrically and artistically they could be put at the same level as say the Beatles, Stones, Kinks or Beach Boys however if anything personified the fun, can-do feel of the era it was them.
Thank you Davy Jones (1954-2012) for being part of my and countless others lives. R.I.P

Davy Jones (above)

The Monkees