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Saturday, 20 December 2014

A nation divided


13m will spend £1.2bn on 'Panic Saturday', but 13m others across the country will spend this Christmas in poverty


Black Friday, an American shopping frenzy, has arrived on our shores. Just what exactly is it and is it worth the the hype? (GETTY)the vulnerable will vote 

In the first quarter of the 21st Century, it is a scandal and a disgrace that 13 million people are, no matter what measurement you choose to employ in establishing that figure, living in poverty in this country today. Over 1 million families reliant on Food-banks and other charities, 1 million in child poverty, hundreds of thousands of people homeless, or in inadequate accommodation, many people actually in work who earn less than the minimum wage or are on zero hour contracts, having to claim benefits, which are being further reduced by government cuts, are indicative of a fractured nation. This is a situation which has been created and exacerbated by successive administrations, and is an indictment of a political philosophy, where the “Markets”, the city and the interests of business are infinitely more important than the concept of society and the social welfare of the country. It is the collective shame of a nation where greed and self interest, fuelled and encouraged by career politicians in Westminster and reprehensible reporting from some parts of the media and television, have become a “norm” and an acceptable aspect of many sections of British society.In the first part of the 21st Century we, as a nation, have progressed little since the traumas of the last 100 years and are in many aspects of life, returning to squalor and deprivation not seen since the 1930's

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

It's in the wrong sacks!

Waste partnership is standing firm on rubbish bags despite vermin fears

Uncollected rubbish in East Street
East Street, Weymouth

I drove past this stack of rubbish yesterday 15th December 2014,(and it was not the only one which I passed while in Weymouth). It seems that the waste has been put into the "wrong sacks".
The thought occurred to me that rather than buy "black plastic" sacks to cram the rubbish into, why do the people putting the bags out, not put it into "blue plastic" sacks?
That is of course, provided that the DWP have actually delivered a supply of blue plastic sacks to be used for the purpose. However, so far the performance of DWP in the catalouge of errors, screw ups and general poor management and administration of the "new system" is less than adequate. Moreover, they seem to be demanding more money from the Council to cover "additional costs". You could not make this up.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A complete waste of our money.

The packaging on medications increases the cost to the NHS, and generates even more profits for the pharmaceutical industry.



I have just spent the last hour, filling my pill dispensing wallet. This is a task which I carry out every two weeks, usually on alternate Sunday mornings. The reason for using a pill dispenser is that I have a significant number of various pills, which are usually taken in different combinations each day. Consequently, the possibility of taking the wrong dosage or the wrong pills, is avoided.

It never ceases to amaze me, that at the end of this exercise, I always have at least half a carrier bag full of discarded pill boxes, instruction leaflets and numerous empty sheets of seven empty slots of tinfoil or thin plastic or a combination of both, where the pill for that particular medication was housed.
In many cases the tin foil or plastic, requires a great amount of finger and thumb pressure to eject the incumbent pill. This practice is not only irritating, but it is also bloody dangerous. I, and perhaps many others, have at some time during this process, had to wander off from the task in hand to find an appropriate box of Elastoplast or some other wound dressing. In my case, one of the medications which I regularly take is Warfarin which has a tendency to make even small cuts bleed profusely.

Each time that I carry out this task, I'm always conscious of the amount of waste packaging being produced, all of which has to be gathered up and placed in a carrier bag to be disposed of with the weekly rubbish collection. I may not be alone in remembering when pills came in small brown, clear plastic bottles, usually with a white screw cap, which required an amount of fiddling to remove but usually produced a satisfactory outcome. (It is rumoured that President Richard M Nixon was never able to master this simple task with the result that many of the white caps on his medication were covered in teeth marks witnessing his usually unsuccessful attempts to open the bottle.)

Now all this additional packaging, plastic, foil, cardboard and printed material must have an associated cost. As pharmaceutical companies are not philanthropic organisations, it must be assumed that this cost over and above that of the little brown bottle with the white lid, together of course, with the medication contained therein, is passed on to the government and therefore the taxpayer (that’s us), as additional charges to the NHS. It is little wonder that the cost charged by the pharmaceutical companies, is a significant part of the NHS budget for drugs and medications. It must be possible to find ways to reduce this unnecessary packaging and at least contribute to a reduction in the annual drug costs of the NHS. It may be argued by some, that there is a health and safety issue in ensuring that pills and medications are protected from possible contamination, but there is little justification for the layers and layers of protective wrappings which add nothing to the effectiveness of the medication concerned but only reduce the cost of that medication. 
There are compelling arguments for saving on excess packaging in the pharmaceutical industry, as there are compelling arguments for saving excess packaging in the food industry which is demonstrably present on our supermarket shelves and in our waste bins every day.

The "Blackmail" racket of Royal Mail.

Royal mail can look for other "victims".
A tool used for "Blackmail"

The Royal Mail put a card through my letter box yesterday, (Saturday 13th December 2014)advising, "Unfortunately we can't deliver your item because there is a fee to pay".
Upon closer examination, it seems that "The sender didn't pay the full postage", and Royal Mail are demanding a payment from me of £1.11
This "Fee" includes a £1 handling charge!
The item in question, I know to be a Christmas card which probably exceeds the arbitrary size restrictions (measured by a rather crude template device) imposed by Royal Mail a couple of years back as a means for extorting even more money from the long suffering public.
The "excess charge" of 11p is really neither here nor there, but to add a handling charge of £1 is really adding insult to injury.
I have no objection to excess charges where the sender has either forgotten or omitted to pay any postage, but for Royal Mail to create a plastic measuring device to effectively catch the public out when sending letters is underhand and is used purely as an extra means of generating additional income at both ends of the postal cycle.
I do not play this game. Royal Mail can take this item and any others they may seek to deliver using the same blackmail technique and shove it into an appropriate location.
Ironically, in the long run, it will probably cost them more to measure the offending letter, fill in their card, deliver it to our house, store the item for 18 days, return it to the originating DO, sort the item at that end and redeliver it to the sender. 

The £1 handling fee seems a bit silly.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The renaissance of New Labour?

David Miliband hints at another stint in British politics

Miliband major.
Miliband minor.


 Blair lurking in the background?

Why not go the whole hog and parachute the hypocrite Blair straight into some safe(?) Labour seat, instead of settling for this toadying facsimile of a Blairite lackey?
Westminster if full of self serving career politicians and another one (or perhaps two) would not make one iota of difference. However, the prospect of Miliband major replacing Miliband minor and ultimately being reprised  with Blair as a new "dynamic duo", is a thought too awful to contemplate.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Miliband, drifting even further to the right.

Ed Miliband vows to wield the axe on public services to balance books

Ed Miliband will cut the budgets of most Whitehall departments

A statement of intent, indicating how far away from its traditional supporters and its traditional principles the Labour party has drifted. Miliband seeks to grab power in the "centre ground" as did Blair, and to hell with the ordinary people who historically have relied on the Labour Party and the trade Union movement to provide some alternative and redress from the excesses of Conservative policies and the exploitation by businesses and business interests in this country. The "Centre ground" is populated by Tories, Liberal Democrats, business interests and others, seeking only to perpetuate their own existence by persuading everyone that they are the only ones offering a solution to a problem which they themselves, together with their friends in the city, not least of all the banking sector. have created.
Their reliance on the hysteria, myth and negative smear generated by the media and television and depending which way the "media barons" happen to be leaning this week. usually ensures that one or other of the "main Westminster Parties", will secure for themselves another 5 years membership of that very exclusive Westminster club where the salaries are high, the "perks" are plentiful and the expenses provide a bottomless pit of public money for those “necessities of life” such as second homes, heating for the stables, moat cleaning, restaurant bills, state of the art entertainment systems, tablet computers and other electronic toys, salaries for relatives working as researchers in constituency offices and all the other obscene claims which have littered the expenses office over the last few years.
It is not service to the people of the United Kingdom which is the driving force and motivation for seeking elected office in the Commons. It is the incentive of office, financial gain, image and position which puts the vast majority of these 650 individuals on the road to becoming the career politician. They will say and do what ever is expedient in order to achieve this goal and the day after election day will revert to their task of ensuring that their little bubble is safely insulated from the reality of life outside Parliament. In this regard Miliband is exactly the same as the rest. The pursuit and occupation of the "centre ground" proves that they are all the same once the achieve power.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The continuing scandal of more people being forced to resort to using foodbanks

Tories seek to avert rift with Church of England over food bank report

One Conservative minister claimed the increased use of food banks is due to greater publicity about
A foodbank in the United Kingdom in the year 2014.

A church funded all-party report is published today,(8th December 2014), on the increased use of food banks in this country and warning that Britain is stalked by low pay, growing inequality, a harsh benefits section scheme and social breakdown. It is perhaps fitting that the report is published just two weeks before Christmas, highlighting the growing phenomena of food bank usage in the United Kingdom. The Tories have of course attempted to distance themselves from any blame associated with this scandal, with one minister claiming that the increased use of food banks is due to the greater publicity about their existence. The Department of Work and Pensions, remain adamant that the administration of the benefit system has little to do with people resorting to food banks, notwithstanding the fact that the report is highly critical of the way in which the benefits system is administered and the consequential delays in payment of benefits not only to those unemployed but also to those claiming additional benefits due to low pay.
Over recent months and years, I have been very critical of the circumstances which have led to over 1 million people today being reliant on food banks and food by charities. The number of people claiming additional support due to insufficient income is indicative of a society which has become reliant on low pay employment, zero hour contracts and a high incidence of part-time employment, all of which are used by the government as indications of a growing economy and increased levels of employment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
During this period, there have been voices raised by government ministers some organisations and elements of the press, suggesting that people are using food banks because either they are unable to budget their incomes properly, or because the food is free, or perhaps their priorities for household expenditure are somehow directed towards cigarettes, alcohol and plasma televisions. It is regrettable that this warped perspective has found its way into the minds of many people who would normally not entertain such bigoted views, but have been influenced by the leader items of the Express, Telegraph, Mail and other right wing media. Today's article in the Observer is no exception with one letter in the comments section, actually stating that, “The benefits system as I well know will support you if you budget sensibly these people are so ignorant the word budget is beyond their comprehension”. The way in which this attitude has contaminated large sections of public opinion, is both sinister and worrying. The government has was sometime been engaged in a conscious program of demonisation not only of food bank users but also of benefit claimants generally. The purpose of this program is to ensure that the concept of divide and rule is applied throughout society, where the employed are set against the unemployed, where the sick are set against the able-bodied and where differences between peoples are highlighted and emphasised in order to gain political advantage.
It may well be true that there are some users of food banks and food by charities who abuse the system albeit that with the requirements of referral by social services, probation services or other such government bodies, will make abuse of the system difficult. However, there is little doubt that the vast majority of the 1 million people who currently use food banks or other such charities, are reliant on these bodies through no fault of their own and do not deserve to be targets of bigoted and ill informed individuals spouting bile and other obscenities through the press as with comments columns of online newspapers.
There seems to be little prospect of the numbers rely on food banks will reduce any time soon, as we are promised a further period of years for cuts and austerity to be the norm in British society. It is predicted that the United Kingdom is reverting to a society not seen since the 1930s, without the Welfare State and without any form of social conscience. It is a scandal and an outrage that we as a nation, allow such circumstances to occur and to perpetuate. The blame lies with successive governments going back as far as the previous Labour administration, but exacerbated over the period of the current ConDem coalition during the last five years. It is a situation about which we should all feel a collective shame, for allowing this scandal to continue. Perhaps with a general election due in May of next year, there may be a change but from the evidence thus far, all political parties are promising a continuation of its territory. It is a scandal and it is unacceptable.
Perhaps today's report, may have some influence on the philosophy of this government but the evidence suggests that this is unlikely to be the case.