October 2008 Archives
In November a group of us at the Birmingham Business School working with colleagues at The Work Foundation will report on the initial findings of our study of what happened to the ex MG Rover workers. We've just interviewed over 200 of them to find out how they have got on, what work they are now doing (if any), how much they are earning, what skills they use, whether they have retrained and so on. The project has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and is throwing up some fascinating results. I hope to be able to blog about this in a few weeks' time.
Meanwhile another investigation of sorts has been on-going for three years. That's the DTI (now BERR) Inquiry into the MG Rover collapse.
Setting up the inquiry was absolutely the right thing to do. There were (and remain) some serious questions to be answered about what happened. The 6000+ workers and their families who lost their jobs at Longbridge (plus thousands more in the supply chain) deserve some answers.
OK, I admit I may have exaggerated slightly but there is (I hope) method in my hyperbole. Of course, if you read this after Halloween it might be too late - you or your kids may already have committed a crime or crimes.
Here's why: trick or treat involves kids demanding something (it tends to be money, chocolate or both round my neck of the woods) from their neighbours. If you don't provide the treat, then a "trick" might be played on you. It's the trick, or the threat of it, which might result in a crime or crimes being committed.
And the risk applies to kids and parents alike. Children over the age of 10 can be guilty of crimes (between 10 and 14, they have to know what they are doing was illegal); and parents or guardians (indeed anyone) can be guilty of aiding, abetting or inciting a crime if, for example, they encourage or persuade someone to commit a crime (even where none is committed). So here are three possible crimes to get you thinking:
Deliberately trick or treating a home or family who you know dislike Halloween (perhaps on religious grounds) could constitute harassment and a possible 6 month jail sentence.
Destroying or damaging someone else's property (admittedly a particularly nasty trick) can amount to criminal damage. In very serious cases - a really, really, nasty trick if you like - you can face imprisonment of up to 10 years, although 3 months and/or a fine of up to ÃÂ£2,500 is more common.
Heck - and I must admit to having missed this lecture at college - "wilfully and wantonly" disturbing someone by ringing their doorbell "without lawful excuse" is also a crime punishable by a fine. So don't ring the door of someone you know doesn't want to play ball.
And if you think that's all a bit extreme, the mind boggles at the possible offences when kids try to raise money for a Guy, bonfire and some fireworks...but that's another story.
A happy Halloween to one and all.
There is an old adage, which rings true in many situations, that 'he who pays the piper calls the tune'. Unfortunately in some situations the old adage does not come true and those who pay the piper definitely do not call the tune.
It gave me no pleasure to read in Jonathan Walker's front page article in Tuesday's Birmingham Post, confirmation of my fears that the Prime Minister will indeed be looking to fund his proposed spending spree from future tax revenue's. (See my previous blog)
The fundamental point made in Jonathan Walker's article is that the proposed 10 Eco Towns will be going ahead in spite of the big slow down.
The cost of building one of these new towns (Middle Quinton) alone will cost around ÃÂ£500m. Ministers have not revealed how much of the cost will be met by the public purse but it is expected to run into hundreds of millions of pounds across all ten towns.
The total bill for bailing out the banks and buying our way out of recession just seems to be going up and up. The problem is that eventually the piper will have to be paid.
Gordon Brown has confirmed that the cost will be met by Government borrowing with the money being repaid once the economy picks up and tax revenues rise.
The problem is that pre-recessionary tax revenues were barely sufficient to balance the books. Even if, therefore, they do revert back to those levels it will not give Gordon Brown any spare funds with which to repay the significant borrowings now being talked about.
What therefore is the bottom line on all this?
Significantly increased tax bills!
In an interview with the FT today, the "new, enthusiastic" transport secretary Geoff Hoon says he has ordered a review to find infrastructure projects within his brief that can help Gordon Brown stimulate demand with a spending spree on public works projects.
But, he says, he can't find enough that have existing planning permission.
"I'd like to play my part ... I wish I could get out my spade and start digging," Hoon tells the FT.
Why doesn't he pay a visit to Birmingham then? There is a project right on our doorstep that has been granted a Transport and Works Act Order (the equivalent of planning permission for these sorts of things).
One hot summer when I was a two-packs a day office worker and visited the local M&S every lunchtime for my prawns and BLT rations, I was given a free gift of a branded cool bag to take my sandwiches back to my desk.
This same cool bag it turned out was even better for carrying a single home-made sandwich into work, so it helped me break the lunchtime habit, loose weight and save money.
M&S on the other hand have lost several hundred pounds in lost revenue. It was perhaps not their brightest marketing idea.
Much has been said in the recent press about the need for the UK to bring its tax system in line with EU Law.
The UK is under pressure to ensure that dividends from companies in other EU states attract the same advantageous tax treatment as dividends between UK companies. At the same time, much is also being made of the number of UK companies who are departing these shores for Ireland, to benefit from Ireland's 12.5% Corporation Tax rate.
This is interesting given that it is anticipated that the EU Commission will bring forward a proposal for a common corporate tax rate in the second half of 2008 during the French EU Presidency.
France of course supports the concept of a "common corporation tax" but they are aware that a number of member states have reservations about the proposals.
Is this surprising, given the substantial benefit that Ireland is currently enjoying?
(blogged by David Bailey, John Clancy and Alex de Ruyter)
Henry Paulson on October 14th 2008 believed that he spoke on behalf of the American people that the "Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans - me included". That was before he proceeded to instruct the Treasury to make $250 billion in capital available to U.S. financial institutions in the form of preferred stock.
In the UK, where the Chancellor and Chief Secretary to the Treasury frequently state that they are not bankers and do not want to be in the banking business, there is an as yet undawned, but imminent realisation that the government is now a bank (whether it likes it or not) and the government officers are bankers. As Larry Elliott has noted (see link here) "... it is still unclear whether the chancellor and his team fully comprehend the fin de siecle nature of what has happened over the past month."
Indeed, we are all bankers now. What is perhaps not realised - except by the likes of Will Hutton - is that this may well be the case for the long term. Once Paulson and Darling both realise that this is a pretty permanent state of affairs with very little chance of going back to a completely hands-off banking system, the best long-term decisions will be made for the economy.
As Gavin Cordon's article in today's Birmingham Post made clear; Gordon Brown is still intent on the country spending its way out of the looming recession, despite a massive rise in public sector debt.
This is clearly money that is going to have to be found in addition to the funds to bail out the Banks and Building Societies. The cost of all this is clocking up at an appalling rate. Initially, 'Darling' may be able to borrow even more to meet a significant part of the cost; but as every householder knows, borrowing eventually has to be repaid.
The $64,000 question is... How?
I have just read this article by Matthew Parris, the former MP and distinguished columnist, which was written during the recent Tory Party Conference.
A significant chunk of those attending seem to have avoided Brum for the best part of 20 years or so. The main thrust of the article is that most of the conference was pleasantly surprised to find that Brum is a really nice city and that Brummies are really friendly. Mr Parris also contrasts "the light and space and the indefinable modesty of Birmingham" with Manchester's "snivelling swagger".
The comments on the article make interesting reading, with a number of disgruntled Mancunians raising strong objections and a number of other people suggesting that this is just another example of a London-centric journo patronising the provinces.
I will leave it to Manchester to defend its own honour - my main point is to disagree with those Brummies who feel patronised. Although I can understand where they are coming from, I think the article is good news. What's wrong with a (admittedly London-based) high-profile journalist who hasn't been to our city in ages forming a great impression of the place and telling the rest of the country about it?
Ever since I've moved here, I have received "jokey" comments from friends and family about Brum. And let's face it, if your main impressions of the city are formed by the views from either Spaghetti Junction or New Street Station, you're unlikely to have a positive opinion. I would suggest that the challenge for our civic leaders is to ensure that, on his next visit, Mr Parris can't help but comment even more favourably. At least he didn't compare us (in contrast to Manchester) to a "celestial public lavatory" from which I can only assume that he didn't park his car in one of our less than salubrious city centre car parks.
PR agencies are struggling to get media coverage for their clients at the moment.
So says the weekly trade title PRWeek.
Quoting top people within the profession it says agencies are finding it tough going because the global economic downturn continues to dominate the headlines.
One London agency was forced to delay a client launch (they don't say what for) because finance journalists were preoccupied with the collapse of Icelandic Banks.
Yeh, right. That's what media relations is all about.