Monday, 23 August 2010

The Tallyman Cometh

I just got an email from Compass Online telling me about their campaign to put a cap on the rate of all forms of credit. In reality it's an attempt to protect the poorest members of society from what's become known as legal loansharking. This is where short term loans are offered with a very short repayment period ( which is why they're also known as payday loans ) which also have incredibly high interest rates which kick in should the loan not get repaid on time.

A noble cause I'm sure. But who is this going to benefit?

Let's look at why people use these services. In fact go back maybe a hundred years and you would find the same practices going on. In fact you would find this going on as long as our society has been going down the road of consumerism. There is a need within all of us to belong, to be part of something. In our society it expresses itself in conformity or a desire to share in goods or services, many of which aren't essential to life but promise to lift us out of the doldrums of poverty, albeit for a short time. So, many years ago people would use the tallyman to obtain what they needed or desired. And they used the tallyman because they had been disenfranchised from consumerism by circumstance, society and the banks. They didn't earn enough to buy direct, they didn't earn enough to get an official loan from the reputable banks so the tallyman appeared to fill the need. Offering money or goods he met the need of the people where reputable society wouldn't.That's not to say the reason of the tallyman and the organisations behind them was pure. There was a profit, albeit at a higher risk, hence the high interest rate. So you needed school uniform for the kids? Just get the tallyman to call.

I don't know if we still have the tallyman in England but their position has certainly been taken by the payday loan industry. It exists because it meets a need among the poor and dispossesed. And if you legislate out such an industry without having something in place to meet those needs then I would suggest you do more harm than good. There is intense pressure on people and parents to live the lifestyle or to get the 'latest' for their children and they will turn to whatever is there. It's no good pontificating on the evils of the system without offering an alternative. People will find alternatives, opportunists will find ways to meet that need. And you can bet they will be worse than the payday loan industry. Interest rate caps on loans would hurt the poor and vulnerable in society whilst warming the cockles of the capitalist.

So back to the question, But who is this going to benefit? I would suggest that it will be the consciences of the metropolitan chattering classes.

Liam Fox defends call for ban of Medal of Honor game

From the BBC News website.

BBC News - Liam Fox defends call for ban of Medal of Honor game

I'm left virtually speechless after reading that. To think this bloke is considered capable enough for a government job. Not even a humble whelk stall would be enhanced by his presence.

Who cares about Pakistan?

Pakistan floods: thousands of houses destroyed...Image by Oxfam International via Flickr
An interesting page on the BBC News website asking some 'experts' and the public on why donations to Pakistan relief are slow. Some very good points, and some very predictable ones, especially from the public.

BBC News -
Who cares about Pakistan?

I believe donations from the West will perk up when we read that it has been confirmed that Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia have donated sizeable sums.
You bet. Perhaps it's the same sort of scenario when a stranger falls ill in public. Nobody wants to go to their aid, but as soon as one does then others follow. So be the first.
If they can afford to be a nuclear country and boast about it, then they should be able to look after their own people.
What's the betting that the poster of the comment above won't apply the same logic when the ConDem government start chopping his health service and welfare system, or the services that he relies upon?
I don't think it's necessary to donate any money to Pakistan because there's enough money - and support - available within the Islamic community
Well that's ok then.
Pakistan has a long history of corruption.......the slow response for help, I believe, is due to its links to terrorism.
You should spend more time looking at the UK Parliament and local councils. Corruption in Pakistan would likely pale to be insignificant in comparison. And as for terrorism the people of Pakistan have suffered terribly as they seek to deal with the 'war on terror'.

Of course you can always give.

Islamic Relief
Red Cross

Some related reading....

The Socialist Way (1)
The Socialist Way (2)

BBC News - Who cares about Pakistan?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Driver's 30-hour protest in Wembley over clamped car

A heartwarming story from the BBC regarding a man who remained in his car for 30 hours to stop it being towed away after being pressured to pay £365 to remove the clamps.

A man sat in his car for 30 hours to prevent it being towed away after it was clamped.

Haroon Zafaryab began the protest in Wembley on Wednesday when he returned from Ramadan prayers to find his car clamped and was asked to pay £365.

He said that, as he sat in the vehicle, all four wheels were clamped and about 40 tickets were stuck to its window, amounting to £3,565 in fines.

Haroon Zafaryab, nice one!

Details of the incident emerged as ministers announced plans to ban clampers from all private land in England and Wales.

Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said the move would be introduced in the government's Freedom Bill in November, and could come into force early next year.

So the question to ask Labour Party members is why has it taken the election of a ConDem government to start bringing back some of the freedoms that the Labour Party legislated out of our lives? ID cards, CCTV, DNA database, child database anyone?

BBC News - Driver's 30-hour protest in Wembley over clamped car

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Liberation of Council Tenants

Two news stories have got to me recently. One led me to rage, the other to tears.

Let's start with the rage. David Cameron announces plan to end lifetime council tenancies | Society | The Guardian

It seems our ConDem overlords have decided that the destruction of state provided housing will continue unabated. The transfer of housing stock to private agencies has led to the concept of a 'life tenenacy' to all but disappear. To further bury this 'undeserved perk of the great unwashed' the government has now announced available changes to tenancy agreements.

In come short term tenancy agreements to 'help increase social mobility'. Basically this means a review of a tenancy after as little as five years. Not enough people living there? Out you go. Earning too much? Out you go. Mum died and an empty room? You can sod off and find somewhere else to live. The true face of capitalism. It can't bear the thought of common people being in receipt of anything that could be thought of as benefits and could be generating wealth for the monied classes.

The second story, the one which brings me to tears and which is intrinsically linked is that of pensioner Edward Meakins as reported in this local paper

Edward faces eviction for the crime of having his sister die. He's lived at the property in Cricklewood for 74 years and has been part of a family that has paid rent and looked after the place for all of that time. Edward is in his twilight years and following the death of his sister has been told that he's to sling his hook. As he says:

“This has been my life in this house since I was nine. Why do they want to turn me out? I don't suppose I have got many more years to go, so why can't they just leave me here until I die?”
Barnet Homes, the ALMO which took over council housing services and stock responded:

“We sympathise with Mr Meakins’ position, and we appreciate that the prospect of leaving the family home after so many years must be very difficult for him.
“However, Mr Meakins is living in a three-bedroom council house, which are in very short supply in Barnet.
“We have to balance our sympathy for his position against the needs of the large number of people on the borough’s housing register who are desperate for a good quality family home.
“We will continue to offer Mr Meakins all the support we can in finding suitable alternative accommodation.”

Better start packing Edward.

Council accomodation is in short supply because the witch Thatcher decided to transfer as much stock as possible to the private market with the right-to-buy policy. Then they started the process of transferring council stock control to third party organisatons. They they denied councils the ability to use council house sale receipts to build new housing. That's why council houses are in 'short supply'. And this political dogma is also responsible for the existence of organisations like Barnet Homes.

Barnet Homes, we salute your inhumanity to the most vulnerable in our society.

I've also discovered that my widowed mother in law, together with all the other widows in her street is going to be visited by inspectors from the housing association in the next few weeks. I wonder why?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Royal Berkshire Hospital to axe up to 600 jobs

That's what the BBC News headline says - 'Royal Berkshire Hospital to axe up to 600 jobs'

So we'll have a hospital struggling to meet the needs of the community it serves. What's the odds on 12 months down the line our ConDem overlords will offer up private capital to come to the rescue? The dismantling of the NHS continues with renewed vigour.

BBC News - Royal Berkshire Hospital to axe up to 600 jobs

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Council House Tenants Face Regular Eviction

I have to admit that there have been some things that our ConDem masters have done that should heap great shame upon the Labour Party. Things like scaling back on CCTV and the scrapping of ID cards. But underneath these small islands of joy the real shape of their politics remains for all to see.

Now they're looking to target people who live in council or association homes. Regular means testing, getting a job, checking for pay rises or changes in family structure, all could lead to them being evicted, relocated out of where they've lived all their lives or forced to move into private accommodation.

This government, both Tories and Lib Dems can't bear to see the state provide services and not see the private sector have it's hand in the pie. Family friendly this government ain't. There's only one family that they serve and that's the family of the wealthy.

Every bit of progress that the post-war Labour government made in terms of health, accommodation and social welfare is being dismantled bit by bit, being fragmented and torn apart for capital to feast upon. And we're letting it happen.

Voice of the Daily Mirror -

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Britons to pay more for a loaf of bread as wheat prices jump

Image via Wikipedia
As the title says, from the BBC News website - 'Britons to pay more for a loaf of bread as wheat prices jump'

So it seems that lucky old us will be paying more for our wheat, and hence our bread sometime soon. It's all because of wildfires in Russia and flooding in Pakistan. In Russia a drought coupled with wildfires has destroyed 20% of the wheat harvest. In Pakistan heavy rains and flooding have destroyed 15% of the crop.

So because here in the UK we import all our wheat from Russia and Pakistan it's going to be scarce. Actually that's a lie. We don't import any wheat from Russia or Pakistan. As part of the European Economic Community, we as the EU are competitors with Russia with regards to wheat production.

So there's no shortage of wheat and I'm sure that the rest of the world could easily accommodate this shortfall from 2 countries. That means prices shouldn't rise and this fluid 'value' of wheat should stay constant. After all, stability is something that should be sought after. But of course stability doesn't create the opportunity to generate huge amounts of money from doing very little. Because if the price of wheat goes up then those who store and control the wheat, and to some extent those who produce will make a lot of money for very little work.

So remember that when you go to buy your next loaf and find that the price has gone up from the already high £1.35. Every penny counts, especially for those trousering a grand profit from doing very little. As my mum would have said, "Money comes to money."

Britons to pay more for a loaf of bread as wheat prices jump - Telegraph