Sunday, February 08, 2009

News From BOM Correspondents - 15


We've stretched our telephone hold times to lethal durations

Latest news and links:

Public Sector Pay

Nick W highlights a £70 grand pa call centre job advertised by Northamptonshire Police:

"... offering a salary for a call centre manager "somewhat above" similar positions in the private sector, the [advertisement for the] position of head of the Force Communication Centre... calls for an "inspirational customer service champion".

Another "inspirational customer service champion"? Surely, the public sector must be chock full of them by now. Although it remains unclear precisely how we customers benefit. The local MP is unimpressed: "Northamptonshire already spends a sizeable amount of money on PR and here we are now setting the pace in terms of call centre management salaries. Wouldn't it be nice if we started setting the pace in criminal catching?"

Catching criminals? Steady on, old chap.

High pay for public sector jobs of dubious value is a familiar theme on BOM. And as it happens, the Sunday Times today runs a lengthy article on the whole pay issue:

"Public sector pay has overtaken private sector pay in recent years. Figures from the Office for National Statistics released last week show that the median full-time weekly wage in the public sector last year was £522 compared with £460 in the private sector. The gulf is widest in Scotland, where public sector workers now average £3,600 a year more than private sector workers. In the UK overall, public sector workers do better along most of the income scale."

Taxpayers whose own pay and/or jobs are under imminent threat are moving beyond restive. In Ireland, the government is cutting public sector pay by 7.5% and increasing its employees' pension contributions.


Law Disappears Up Ass

If you've ever tried to disentangle our tax laws, you'll know how quickly you lose the will to live. The level of complexity is mind-boggling, and you spend hours tracking back through incomprehensible link after incomprehensible link. Finally, sometime around 12.38am, you find yourself right back where you started.

Anyway, it turns out professionals find it just as confusing. According to Reg:

"Late last year, an appeal in R. v. Chambers [2008] EWCA Crim 2467 was halted at the 11th hour when it turned out that the regulation which the defendant was appealing and under which he had previously been found guilty had in fact been superseded by new law... some seven years previously.

This only came to light when a draft judgment on the case was passed to a lawyer at Revenue and Customs, who spotted the error and instantly alerted the court."

So just to be clear- the prosecutor in this case did not know the law, and an entire trial went through with nobody spotting the flaw.

God knows what this fiasco cost taxpayers, but the judge blamed four factors. First, most of today's legislation is not properly thrashed out in the old fashioned way, but takes the form of regulations laid before parliament by Ministers (statutory instruments). Second, the volume of legislation has exploded:

"In 2005 alone, there were 2868 pages of new Public General Acts and approximately 13,000 pages of new Statutory Instruments – to which should be added another 5,000 pages of European Directives and Regulations, plus the outpourings of our new devolved assemblies."

Third, our laws cannot be found in one single place but are a dog's breakfast of primary and secondary legislation. And fourth, "there is no comprehensive statute law database with hyperlinks which would enable an intelligent person, by using a search engine, to find out all the legislation on a particular topic".

We've blogged the urgent need to simplify our tax laws many times, but what this tells us is that the whole legal shooting match needs a Big Axe soonest.

(HTP Dave)


Leeching Off The Taxpayer

On Monday, BOM correspondent Nick N got snowed in with the BBC iPlayer. He emailed to share the experience with us:

"One day with the iPlayer and I feel physically sick. First, I watched Natural World about polar bears when every other sentence on the commentary referenced global warming. I am used to this.

Then I watched Panorama about tax havens. The whole basis of this programme was that people parking their money in Jersey et al were being unfair to other taxpayers.

I am sure that the assembled ministers, reporters and of course Jeremy Vine feel that they are taxpayers. After all they pay their tax. But who pays their wages? Beneficiaries of taxpayer largesse sneaking on tax evaders for the benefit of taxpayers. Where is the moral compass in this?

This just seemed like a horrible infantile plea to the public in an effort to pretend that the BBC wants to reduce their tax burden. As if.

I just threw up in my mouth a little."

How very unpleasant. Still, in the interests of research, I steeled myself and watched the Panorama prog. Unfortunately, I'm less robust than Nick in the vomit containment department, and there's going to be a sizeable carpet cleaning bill chez Tyler.

To start with, the prog is presented by John Sweeney - you know, he's that lefty BBC reporter who made a complete tit of himself last year by literally screaming at someone who dared challenge him:




It is an outrage that taxpayers are still being forced to employ such a man, but of course, this is the BBC, and they don't give a stuff what we think.

Anyway, this time Sweeney makes a tit of himself by pretending to be James Bond. No, really - he does the ski scene, the frogman scene, and the sex scene (mercifully, I'd blacked out by then).

And talk about dumbed-down trash telly - just like the Evan Davis City series, it was all 10 second attention stuff, gimmicky, shot to look like a thriller, and backed with those tedious distracting techno beats.

But you know the worst thing? Panorama could have made a good straight informative programme about offshore tax evasion - just like they used to do back in the day. They could have toned down the left-wing hysteria, and given us a balanced view of the facts.

Because as we blogged here, normal taxpayers should indeed feel angry about tax evasion. But the biggest losses are probably not in the postcard offshore havens toured AT OUR EXPENSE by Sweeney: they're right here at home in our burgeoning black economy. And much of what the left routinely labels offshore evasion is in fact perfectly legal tax avoidance, taking advantage of tax codes so complex even judges can't understand them (see above).

Besides, when it comes to leeching off taxpayers, as long as we have the BBC and the client state, evil rich people are not even on the starting grid.


NHS Latest - More 5-A-Day Coordinators Than Beds

Over at the Ferret Fancier, we've had an update on his jaw-dropping list of officials/advisers/coordinators/facilitators at just one NHS Primary Care Trust. You should go over and take a good look through it. Infection Control Champion Programme Facilitator aside, Tyler's favourites are this cluster:

  • Smoking Cessation Adviser

  • Specialist Community Public Health Nurse/Stop Smoking Advisor

  • Specialist Stop Smoking Advisor (x8)

  • Stop Smoking Adviser (x7)

  • Stop Smoking Facilitator

Now that's a serious career path. But how do the various grades work?

For example, could Tyler get a job as a Smoking Cessation Adviser? There are 7 jobs to go for there. Oh, no, wait - there's only one Smoking Cessation Adviser... it's Stop Smoking Advisers there are 7 of. Or might he even aspire to be one of the 8 Specialist Stop Smoking Advisors? Why the different spelling of adviser, and how much more would be expected?

I mean, with the higher grade I presume they'd want more than "my advice to you is to stop smoking". They'd probably be looking for something more like "my specialist advice to you is to stop smoking".

Hmm. Tricky.

Maybe Tyler should lower his sights altogether and settle for being a Stop Smoking Facilitator.

Or is that more senior? There's only one of them.

The Fancier calls it "New Labour's NHS legacy... wasteful, inefficient, foolish, and unproductive."

And baffling.

(HTP Pete S)

WTF British Council

A Reader is not alone in spitting blood over the British Council's ejection from Iran:

"The British Council says it has suspended all operations in Tehran after staff members were intimidated by the Iranian authorities. Iran has denied visas for any British staff and all local employees resigned after being summoned to the president's office, the council says."

The issue of course, is not why the BC has been ejected. It's WTF were British taxpayers still paying for BC services to Iran in the first place? As AR puts it:

"When a foreign country, and terrorist sponsor, denies visas for all your UK staff, the obvious consequence is that you close your office in that country and shut down all your operations there.

Well, not if you are the British Council, it seems. Closure only happens two years later when the foreign country forces all your local staff to resign."


Doh!

Via Obnoxio, the Simple Shopper doing the buying for Labour's sinister and hugely expensive ID cards scheme, has clean forgotten to budget for, or buy, any card readers:

"No police or border station, to say nothing of licensing and job centers, has a machine capable of reading the damn things... Like an inexperienced shopper who buys a digital camera but not a computer to view the pictures on, they are now in possession of a far-reaching and complete ID tracking solution that they can in no way use." (Crunchgear)
Fantastic.


Made Of Sand

HJ points out that Brown's debt castles actually began washing away as long ago as 2003. That's when individual insolvencies and bankruptcies began rocketing.

Back in 2002 they totalled about 30,000 pa. Last year they reached 105,000,and Gawd knows where they're now heading:




PS There are a number of other links we really do need to post, but this blog is getting far too long. We'll hold them over for next week.

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