August 2008 Archives
First of all it's worth noting I am fundamentally not interested in politics, as I believe that the soul went out of the whole arena when Kennedy and Gandhi were shot. There's just something that has always struck me as un savoury about the type of person that wants power and dominion over others.
A friend of mine is a policeman and he has always said about validating gun licenses, "there should be an automatic criteria for denying someone a gun license....we don't give a gun to anyone that actually wants one. Instead we should give them only to people that have no interest in them".
I like this type of thinking and have always thought the same thing should apply to politics, the criteria for selection should be only choosing those that don't want the power, but do want the job! I digress....well actually not really. I have just never seen selflessness in the eyes of only but a handfull of politicians.
Say what you want about London's mayor, and Boris appears to have friends and foes in equal measure, but you can't argue with the fact that he is a high-profile figure Just look at the press comment following his cameo at the closing ceremony in Beijing - he seems to have the knack of increasing the press comment on London simply as a result of being Boris.
Which got me thinking: would Brum benefit from having its own directly-elected Mayor?
Central government is certainly keen on the idea. A recent white paper, with the admittedly less-than-snappy title of Communities in Control: Real People, Real Powers , is the first step in its latest effort to encourage more of us to have referendums on whether or not to have elected mayors. Only 13 towns and cities do so at the moment, and the powers-that-be appear a bit stumped as to why more of us haven't jumped on the bandwagon.
After all, even without the changes proposed in the white paper (which may not become law), mayoral campaigners did not have to overcome particularly steep obstacles in order to force a referendum on the issue - all you currently need is 5% of the local population to sign a petition. 7 referendums have taken place since 2004 and only one - Torbay - was successful.
One problem appears to be a lack of interest in the issue amongst the electorate - only 18% of the voters in Bury bothered to vote in their referendum earlier this year (but 60% of those who did rejected the idea). A similar explanation may well apply to the Birmingham Mail's unsuccessful campaign earlier this year - it only raised 12,000 of the 36,000 signatures it needed. The government's response in the white paper? Only require 2% of the population to ask for a referendum.
So are elected mayors a good thing? The answer perhaps depends on who's mayor. Paul Dale, the Post's public affairs editor, is a fan. The main arguments in favour: a powerful figure with a clear electoral mandate has to be better than the slightly haphazard committee system of obscure backroom deals we have at the moment (see Paul's blog for a detailed explanation of how Brum is currently governed) and may spark greater interest in how the city is run. The main argument against? No-one appears to be that bothered.
What do people think?
Information in written answers to Parliamentary questions has shown that security breaches at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have increased significantly since the data discs scandal.
The figures show that since October 2007 there have been 1993 security breaches in all.
Clearly we cannot, as a nation, ignore the substantial benefits that computerisation can bring, nor can we blame Government for trying to encourage taxpayers to submit more and more information to them on line and so saving costs for our benefit.
Why should use an experienced consultant to help with change?
Mario Andretti said,
So it feels right to many Business Drivers to create change, to shake things up or at the very least to enable change that facilitates results. Can't really argue with that.
20 years ago 'stability' was the by-word of the shareholder and the markets, as without stability you are playing games with someone else's pension fund, back then markets were closed or undeveloped, which meant you either refined you organization or grew it......simple, safe and satisfying.
But hey times they are a changing. Not at the rate the doom mongers would have us believe but subtlety, slowly. Consider petrol used to be under a pound and then it switched from gallons to litres, it's now nearly ÃÂ£5 and you are used to it. They changed the pound note to a pound coin and you spend it that much easier, because you are not breaking into a note and you are used to it. They leak the fact that a tax will be ÃÂ£100, then when it comes out its ÃÂ£50, but that's so much less than you'd got used to it being, it feels like a sale even though originally you'd have been annoyed at ÃÂ£20 and you are used to it.
The problems hitting the house-building industry have been well documented in the press, as has the VAT issues which could well hit already beleaguered housebuilders trying to survive by letting out unsold properties... see John Cranage's article recently published in the Birmingham Post.
HM Revenue and Customs ("HMRC") have clearly now woken up to the problem and are planning to issue a Revenue and Customs Brief telling housebuilders how to calculate the VAT disallowable "in response to recent enquiries from the house building sector". They have sent a draft of the proposed Brief to tax practitioners for their comments. This is good news in that it demonstrates that HMRC are aware of the problem and keen to work with tax practitioners on it; but is it enough for hard pressed builders trying to make ends meet?
What do you think is the likelihood that visitors to our fair city could be attracted by a museum called "The Story of Birmingham"?
Perhaps those flocking here for the Tory Party conference in a few weeks time might have been tempted to discover the history of the Second City?
But, love Brum as I do, I have my doubts that the Birmingham Story is really that much of a draw. It is the individual threads of history that are usually far more interesting. That's why Cadbury World and the Jewellery Quarter Museum make more sense - both as tourist attractions and business ventures.
What has all this got to do with potatoes?
The 2008 Finance Act has introduced new draconian powers whereby Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ("HMRC") will be able to enter into business premises without notice and without reference to any third party. Business premises include your home if your business is run from there or if business records are kept there. These powers are greater than those of the police who still need to obtain a search warrant.
Can granting these powers to HMRC who are there to collect tax and make sure we will pay the correct amount really be appropriate in a democratic society?
I'm going to tell you a story about a new manager; he's 34 years old, a dedicated and highly intelligent individual, used to succeeding in life through a high work ethic and a strong line of sight on the end goal.
Promoted to a senior role in a high brand recognition business, he deserved it and started to prove that the promotion was valid and pave the way for even greater opportunities. This showed itself in the way he didn't delegate and I'd go so far as to say in the way that he wouldn't delegate.
As each task came in this chap took it on himself and his workload increased, never mind what this was doing to his team, the belief started to be that they just weren't trusted and people became disaffected and they then started to complain to his line manager (a senior partner in the business). The Senior Partner reacted in a very measured way, first of all he gathered the team together and telling them he'd listened very seriously to what they had to say he asked them a simple question, "Do you trust me?"
Like a slow-to-die Hollywood movie monster thrashing around until the credits roll, the bubble created by central bankers and politicians who mistake living on tick for prosperity may have been pricked, but it is going to do a lot more damage before it deflates to manageable proportions.
The worse of the credit squeeze may be over, with inter-bank three-month spreads well off their peaks, but the retail banks are only now starting to count the cost of their near-criminal profligacy.
By now the 2008 Finance Bill will have received Royal Assent and become the 2008 Finance Act.
Why does this have to be? Income tax is a temporary tax that has to be re-imposed every year. The Provisional Collection of Taxes Act only allows Government to collect tax up until 5 August in any year unless by then the Finance Act has re-imposed income tax.
It is for this reason that there is a four month mad scramble to publish the Finance Bill and get it through all of its stages and into legislation by the end of July. The Parliamentary draughtsman is under huge pressure to produce the Finance Bill quickly, no matter how late in the day that Government decides that it wants to make changes, and no matter how complicated they are.
But it doesn't end there, ...