Your Tax Money At Work

British exceptionalism

If you ask Maurizio Carta what the mafia looks like, he will take you to the residential areas of the Sicilian capital of Palermo. There, hundreds of desolate, nondescript grey apartment blocks scar the suburbs and a vast part of the historic centre.

It is the result of a building frenzy of the 1960s and 1970s, when Vito Ciancimino, a mobster from the violent Corleonesi clan, ordered the demolition of splendid art nouveau mansions to make space for brutalist tower blocks, covering vast natural and garden areas with tonnes of concrete. It is one of the darkest chapters in the postwar urbanisation of Sicily, and would go down in history as the “sack of Palermo”.

The Sicilian mafia had declared that urban planning in Palermo was to be controlled by Ciancimino, who in 1959 was nominated head of public works by the public administration. “The word ‘sack’ was not randomly chosen to describe that period,” says Carta, professor of urban planning at Palermo University. “Like plundering barbarians, mafiosi devastated the city with cement, disfiguring its parks, landscape and natural beauty.”

Rubble from demolitions and building materials were dumped on the coast, causing the pollution of beaches, many of which remain inaccessible to swimmers today.

The British are indeed different. The Sicilians have an excuse, they were raped by the Mafia. The British architects did the same thing out of conviction, in order to oppress the people instead of profit from them.

They’re insane

This tendency has reached its ultimate expression with the decision that any companies needing to exempt critical workers from self-isolation — outside the small number of approved sectors — will have to send a list of named employees, with a detailed justification, to the relevant office in Whitehall. These requests will then be evaluated by three departments “on a daily basis”, and the firms notified by letter.

Just wholly, completely, whoop whoop doolally.

Yes, of course, mistakes will happen, but…..

People who have been double jabbed face missing out on holidays abroad because NHS errors mean their second vaccination has not been recorded.

A Telegraph investigation has found that a number of people who have had two doses say they have no official proof, despite repeated efforts to resolve problems with NHS records.

Health officials said errors could happen if vaccine centre staff failed to press a final “save” after inputting data, or if fields were not filled in correctly.

Well done to the NHS.

On the other hand, that all controlling computerised panopticon isn’t going to arrive anytime soon, is it – because GIGO.

Idiot tossers

Fast-growing firms working on “gamechanging” technology, including in areas such as life sciences and clean energy, are being invited to apply for a slice of a £375m fund aimed at fostering innovation in the UK.

The future fund: breakthrough scheme will involve the government committing to co-invest alongside private enterprise to give extra impetus to businesses looking for cash to take nascent technologies to the next step.

In an effort to make the UK a “science superpower”, the Treasury will favour industries such as quantum computing, life sciences and clean technology, in an effort to spur breakthroughs that can “solve some of society’s greatest challenges”.

Just what the tech sector is currently suffering from. An absence of speculative capital.

Idiot tossers.

To qualify, firms will have to be UK-based and seeking at least £30m to fund further development.

Private companies will have to make up the bulk of the investment, with applicants required to show that they have already secured commitments for 70% of their funding round.

Applicants must show that they have previously been able to raise £5m without state help, indicating that they are already growing significantly.

Seriously, what shortage of Series B – or even Series C – capital is there?

A little number checking here….

Until 2013, Prime Ministers, former Lord Chancellors and Speakers were entitled to claim half their final salary as a pension from the moment they stood down, regardless of their age and length of service.

Right, OK.

The former Commons Speaker, 58, was plunged into a fresh row on Sunday after it emerged that he had decided to take his final salary pension – reportedly worth more than £35,000 a year

Think it would be more than that. The Speaker gets a whacking great salary, doesn’t he?

Ah, yes, like Ministers. There’s a chunk for the post but that’s a top up over the MP salary. The pension for the post is 50% of the top up…..maybe.

This is an interesting thought

TfL last week published proposals to build across 640 acres by a new subsidiary called Transport Trading Limited Properties. A number of scenarios are being considered with up to 46,350 homes to be built over the next 25 years. Property insiders estimated that the sites would be worth around £10bn.

OK, in London, the vast majority of that £10 billion will be site value. On land already owned. The uplift in value coming from the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.

Mr Khan, TfL’s chairman, is now in talks with ministers over a £2.1bn taxpayer grant to finance the housebuilding project.

Why does anyone need a grant in those circumstances?

Try harder Polly, really

Remember, to qualify for universal credit, a household’s income must fall below £7,400 a year:

That’s simply not true, nowhere near.

For a start the different sizes of households mean that there is no one such limit. Secondly, this is the amount at which UC starts to taper, not the amount at which it ends.

At least, that’s what a quick look around leads me to believe – but whether I’ve done more or less research than Polly is still open.

Having just run a silly example through a UC benefits calculator Polly simply must be wrong. £7,800 a year in labour income for a single person, council flat, in Bath, no HB, gives a UC payment of £3,600 a year. Not a lot, to be sure, but more than nothing.

Failing in basic duties

Clearing up the dead bodies – providing paupers funerals – is one of those basic, basic, roles we institute government to perform for us:

Councils in England and Wales are abdicating their legal responsibility to provide so-called “pauper’s funerals,” often turning away low-income families who cannot afford to pay for relatives to be buried or cremated, according to Quaker Social Action.

The anti-poverty charity said its “mystery shopping” investigation into 40 local authorities’ approach to public health funerals in urban areas of the UK found 10 did not carry out their legal duty, and two-thirds did not follow government guidance.

They’re not even managing that basic, basic, duty. Which is rather why we don;t want them trying to decolonise the libraries, or invest in the High Street, given that they cannot manage those basic, basic duties even. Why allow them to try anything complex if they’re incompetent?

A pension is delayed compensation

A European Union official was sacked for theft and sexual abuse but allowed to keep his pension, a disciplinary report obtained by the Daily Telegraph has revealed.

A second official, who had “a large number of unauthorised absences, systematically refused to work and did not respect the instructions of the hierarchy” was fired in 2020 after leaking documents, the internal report said.

Astonishingly, he too was also allowed to keep his lucrative pension, which is one of the major perks of serving Brussels as an EU civil servant.

So, taking a pension when someone is fired is like asking for their wages back.

Which seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it?

So, interesting question here

Slough goes bankrupt after discovery of £100m ‘black hole’ in budget

Was this another example of politicians being so good at investing public money?

These shortcomings included weak management and oversight of a number of companies partly or wholly owned by the council, exposing it to “significant financial risk”. The council has borrowed £580m since 2016, and the cost of servicing these loans added to the pressures on its budget.

Ah, yes, it is.

Read the detail here

Fraud and error from a loan scheme to help businesses cope with the Covid-19 pandemic could cost the British taxpayer up to £27 billion, on top of some £50 billion a year lost to criminals and mistakes, a report said on Wednesday.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was launched in May last year to allow banks to quickly lend businesses up to £50,000 with 100 per cent state guarantee to help them cope with losses during national lockdowns.

But, the government’s business department (BEIS) estimates that between 35-60 per cent of loans may not be repaid because of fraud or credit issues, amounting to up to £27 billion, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in a report.

This will be read as “fraud”. Damn Tories.

The more perceptive will look at “fraud and error”. Damn bastard Tories.

Very few indeed will look at “fraud, error and credit issues” which is the real point. Some of those loans won;t be paid back because, even despite those loans, peeps are still going to go bust.

Well, that’s the reason for the loan scheme, wasn’t it? To try to reduce this but nothing is ever reduced to zero now, is it?

This isn’t, in the slightest, to argue that it was a good scheme nor well done. Or even that it wasn’t. It’s about the language that will be used to describe it.

Fun, isn’t it?

Egypt’s political prisoners have little hope – and the west must share the blame
Jack Shenker
My friend Karim Medhat Ennarah is among the many victims of a dictatorship reliant on western financial and political support

If we give money to Third World tyrants and fuck ups then we’re responsible for their fuck ups and oppressions.

If we don’t give money to Third World tyrants and fuck ups then we’re responsible for the fuck ups and oppressions because we’re being mean neoliberal capitalists.

Seems fair and sensible

Promise whatever to gain election, then have to water it down when reality hits:

The Treasury has been accused of plotting to scale down the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) scheme in order to shave billions from its £40 billion price tag.

Conservative MPs and other sources close to the high-speed rail initiative, which was a Tory manifesto pledge at the last election, have warned that mandarins are trying to slash major elements and delay a decision on funding for it.

Socialists always do promise sunshine and riches to gain power and then have to tell everyone that the true Nirvana will take some decades to arrive after all…..

Well, no, not really

We have a duty to build more homes, Robert Jenrick tells Tory heartlands

Government might have a duty to allow more homes to be built. Or a duty to bugger off out of the way so that more may be.

But the idea that government should actually build the things, where government decides they should be, is what got us into this mess in the first place.

That’s not the correct comparison

The average fees for privately run children’s homes are £4,100 a week, roughly five times the cost of keeping an adult in prison. Local authorities are legally responsible for children in care and rely on private providers because of a shortage of places and budget cuts.

What we want to know is what is the cost of a local council place for such children?

Damehood?

The venture capitalist behind Britain’s vaccines success is to be rewarded with a damehood, The Telegraph can reveal, as Boris Johnson urges a worldwide inoculation drive to end the pandemic “for good” by next year.

Kate Bingham, 55, is to be rewarded with the honour for her unpaid work leading the UK Vaccines Taskforce and obtaining access to millions of doses of six different coronavirus jabs.

Nonsense. Should be a Countess at least.

That’s also not entirely a joke. Bingham was likely to get a DBE – services to pharma industry or such – within the decade anyway. Bringing that forward isn’t really enough.

Further, it’s about time we revived those higher peerages. Revive that difference between party hacks put in the Lords to vote the right way and those who have actually achieved something. Start issuance of those three higher grades again.

An email from OpenDemocracy

Health data is both hugely sensitive and immensely valuable.

The UK’s NHS data alone has been valued at £10bn. And our GP data is the most detailed, valuable and sensitive of all.

Now, British health secretary Matt Hancock has quietly announced a plan to take the GP records of everyone in England, and enter them all into one massive database.

He wants to make this data available to “third parties” – including private companies. This would mean incredibly sensitive data about all of us who use the NHS – including sexual health, mental health, criminal records – being pooled and shared.

Maybe this is a good idea and maybe it isn’t. Concentrate, here, just on that value argument.

OK, so it’s all worth £10 billion. Cool. How do we get the £10 billion our of it? By collating it and then charging people for access to it. For if we don;t do that then we don;t get the money and it’s not worth £10 billion, is it?