Sunday, 27 February 2011

Should ALL banks be held accountable?

Barclays pay 1% in Corporation tax, HSBC are keeping their heads well under the radar and Santander wash their hands as they were clearly not in the market back when the financial mistakes started happening. RBS still pays extravagant bonuses while making a loss and Lloyds has made a 'small' profit of a couple of billion whilst under state control, all of the Big 5 are pretty much back to trading where they were prior to them sending the economy over the edge.
To be fair Lloyds and RBS are starting to move their retailing practices to a more customer friendly, more helpful and less aggressive, way of doing things. I would hazard a guess that this is because they are mainly state owned and have been instructed to change their ways.
The other banks and the larger financial institutions have not changed. They are convinced that if they continue to trade the way they did before, this will help the economy because lots of people will be making money.

It is time to tell them they are wrong!

Firstly, It was not just RBS and Lloyds that caused the crisis - it was the actions of all of the banks. Those two got bailed out first in order to stabilise the market. If they had gone bankrupt or into administration, then the confidence in the other banks would have also fallen and they would have needed to be bailed out. Barclays DID get a bail out - it came from the Oil Monarchies of Bahrain and I would hazard a guess that HSBC and Santander also required additional funding from somewhere as well.
For the banks to now stand up and say that they should not be punished is disgraceful. For the Government to say that they don't want to lose 'talent' from the UK banks - hence they will go easy on the bonus rewards is disgraceful.  The fact that we the people swallow the rubbish that they throw at us - makes the problem our fault.

All of the major banks should be paying huge funds to the government to ensure that the deficit is paid off by them and not by the ordinary taxpayer. They have caused the problem, through their ineffective investment strategies. The stock market is over rated as the place to invest your money and banks love the fact that we give them permission to gamble on the stock market with our money and then take any profit that they make from it.

I believe it is in the banks interests to pay off the deficit and the national debt rather than the government making the cuts that it currently aims to do.  As cuts are made, people will restrict their spending and not be able to invest the way they had previously. More people will not be able to repay debt, whether that be credit cards, loans or mortgages and the Banks will end up footing the bill for it.  They will then have to put up interest rates and restrict their retail lending which tightens the spiral.  More people will lose their jobs, on top of the cuts and the deficit and debt will become worse - not better.

If the banks had a bit of long term thinking, they would see the opportunity to become 'the peoples friend' and they would offer to assist with the debt in return for lower tax rates in the future. I would class that  as a balanced pay off - they sort out the mess they have created, we re-structure the way they do business and they then receive a lower tax rate for the next ten years.

Failure to do this, will create the opposite outcome.  At some point, a bank will come along and see that there is an opportunity to improve the way banking is done and they will be rewarded for it.  If we continue as we are - we close down our vital services, we destroy the fabric of a fairly decent society and we widen the gap between rich and poor.  To me, it is a very easy decision to make - but I am not the one making those decisions.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Coastguards and libraries part 2

At last - the have admitted that they got something wrong - selling off forests. All we have gained is that they will now have to look for the money somewhere else because they are obsessed with taking the easy route out.
Why is it the easy route - because they are taking money away from those who do not have power. If you truly want to recover the money to repay the debt, then you start at the top - not the bottom. You certainly don't start by cutting services such as the library. Start with Banks, Investment houses, Insurance companies, Oil companies and the big supermarkets.

Why should my local library, that my children visit at least once a week, be forced to reduce its services or maybe even close completely simply because we propped up the failing financial sector. That financial sector is now firmly back on its feet and should be happy to pay back the lifeline it was extended plus a little extra, in order to support areas of the economy that have been hit most.

What practical use will cutting local services have? Will removing access to books help our society become more literate, will it help people who want to develop themselves but cannot afford to buy the book or will it somehow help those who lack social contact - the answer is no. Our libraries do all of these and more.

A small point for the idiots who are making these cuts - nobody is believing that it is not your fault - you can blame the previous lot or you can blame local councils - we don't believe you. You are making the decisions - you WILL live with the consequences. The rest of us have no choice but to live with the effects - in a few years time - you will live face the consequences.

So, here is my solution to not only keep, but to improve our libraries.

Control of libraries should fall under the same people that control back to work training schemes and job centres. Libraries should become the place where you go to improve yourself. I would like to see training courses delivered in libraries either in person or through interactive video links. The Internet has already changed the way that local libraries are used and this just takes it to a next level.
Hi speed internet links could deliver a huge amount of training to people who would never be able to access that training, whether it be basic computing, managerial skills, creative writing, applying for jobs or a million other subjects. The library then becomes a hub for the community - where people go to meet, interact and grow. Using hi speed internet, people would have more access to  events such as speeches and seminars that they would simply not be able to do previously.
Libraries should have more community rooms, where a variety of groups could meet and use the resources to grow. These would act as drop in centres, where community groups could grow and develop and have a 'home' where they could improve their offering - whatever that may be - from.

Closing these facilities down removes the possibility of developing these services in any shape and kills an opportunity for the next generation to be a step above this one.  I have not even touched upon the joy of reading and of developing your own intelligence.
I doubt that those at the top of government, those that make decisions have ever had to rely on local services such as the library and the Coastguard and I doubt they ever will.

The only way they will find out about the true effects of these decisions is if we tell them.  If we wait four years until the next election, it will be too late. We have an opportunity to make improvements if we choose to - the decision appears to be not to, but we need to act now, before it is too late to turn it around and recover the situation.

Lastly - a quick thought on Coastguards again. If Coastguards were merged with the immigration and customs service, with an expanded role in checking boats etc as well as in safe passage and rescue - would this be a better situation than to get rid of most of them?    Just a thought!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Did libraries and Coastguards cause the recession?

Have I missed something here, we propped up the financial sector, not just the banks, in order to lessen the impact of the recession. Now that we need to pay some of that money back, we continue to prop up the banks and decide to close Coastguard stations and libraries instead. There is a nominal charge for this year which the banks have made a suitable noise about however it will have exactly no effect on their thinking and their behaviours.
How can anyone justify cutting a Coastguard service which actually saves lives and prevents deaths, mainly due to the fact that they have local knowledge and local experience of sailing in the waters that they guard. I am not sure if Cameron understands this but - water is not like land. It moves under you and around you, there are no lanes and no motorways, there are no lights to help you see where you are going and the ambulance cannot get to you inside 12 minutes. If you make a mistake while you are floating in a big lump of metal, you cannot just put the brakes on and come to a safe stop - you need help. If you slip on rocks while you are walking or climbing, you can't rely on a passerby to stop and ask are you ok - there are none. You will need help.
To suggest that my local station which covers the third busiest port in the UK and possibly the most dangerous, as a serious accident with a fully laden LNG tanker would cause an incalculable amount of damage, can be covered effectively from 200 miles away is to say the same as Birmingham Police running the River Police on the Thames.  This actually makes more sense as the running costs and fixed costs would both be much lower.  Do I see this as a proposal for cost cutting - no!
Again, this policy stinks of double standards and the wrong strategy to move forward with.
The over-centralisation of money and power reduces the impact of the voices in the distance and makes it very easy to completely disregard the issues as 'a small price to pay'.  When the government is ready to give control of the river police and the underground police in London, to a control room over 200 miles away - then they can say that they are being fair. Until that day, we must fight these ridiculous cuts. They are not only practically wrong - they are morally mis-guided.

There is no - alternative option on this one - one is not needed. Leave it as it is!

Your local MP will only listen to your voice if you make them, so it is time to start shouting. Make them listen to your opinions and demand action. Request a reply from them that gives you their views and what they are doing about these cuts and then publish the reply on your twitter or facebook so people are aware of what is going on.

Libraries will have to wait till next time - but these cuts are just as mis-guided but I do have an alternative.