Posts tagged ‘government’

As some of you may know, I’m a member of the local Parish Council. Last night was a council meeting. It didn’t go well. We normally meet from 7.30 til 9.30. Last night were were still there at 10.30…

The first problem was a recurring issue with dog walkers and our land. The details are long and tedious, but we did have one of the local dog walkers give at 20 minute long speech in which she said “I’m not suggesting you are all corrupt, but…” and then listed things she considered us to be corrupt over.

Later we had to deal with the precept (our chunk of the council tax charge). This year, our precept on a Band-D property is £70.

The problem is that for the last ten years we’ve set the precept too low, so our funds are running much lower than they should do, and we’ve increased our expenses this year. According to our budgetary team, we need a 20% increase in precept to stand still. To build our reserves back up, another councillor proposed (and I seconded) a 25-30% one-off rise in precept for next year. Not one person agreed with us.

The reason seemed to be that the council are worried that people won’t be able to afford it. At the very top end, that would be £1.50 a month extra for a Band-D or 97p for a Band-A. What’s that? A quarter of a packet of smokes? A bottle of knock-off cola?

No, the council instead decided to go for a 15% increase.

I’m sure it’s entirely co-incidental that the entire council is up for election in three months time. I’m sure that no-one would favour a low precept to keep the electorate sweet instead of setting it high enough that we could actually bloody do something…

The government has decided to ‘help’ the car industry by giving a £2000 discount on new cars if you scrap a car that’s more than 10 years old.

The discount will be funded 50/50 by the government and the industry.

Before you party too much, lets take a look at the figures…

You know that £2000 50/50? Well, car manufacturers are amongst the only industry to have put their list prices up this year. A Ford Focus convertible (for example) is a £1000 more expensive than last year. That £1000 that will now be discounted in this scheme.

You know the carbon that this will save? Well, lets assume you drive a ten year old Jeep Cherokee 3.7l Automatic – you know, a good low emissions car. That chugs through 333g of carbon/km. Replacing it with a new car will generate 10-20000lb of carbon. I’ll do the maths for you… you could do 17,000miles on the carbon generated just by the production of your new car.

Assume you replaced your Jeep with a Prius. That Prius is still generating 103g/km… So with the fuel your Prius has burnt on those 17,000 miles, you could do another 6,000 miles in the Jeep.

You’re looking at over 25,000 miles before the Prius’ even coming close…

So, we’re supporting a crap industry who are ‘discounting’ money they’ve already added while the world is in recession. We’re pumping out carbon for no gain. We’re destroying our future classic cars by crushing good quality cars that have yet to start appreciating back up past the £2000 mark.

I’m really rather disappointed.

I put in a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 13 miles of speed averaging cameras that monitor the road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

Like all such cameras they are front facing, so they can’t catch motorbikes and they have to deal with the glare of headlights. This doesn’t seem much like a ‘safety’ measure to me. If you want to encourage safe driving, surely you would want to have an effect at night, when the roads are more dangerous? You’d also want to keep an eye on those soft and squidgy fast moving types on motorbikes, wouldn’t you? If all you were interested in was making some money, wouldn’t you aim the cameras at the front of the cars where you can take photos of the drivers of cars?

So, I asked for information on how many cars, bike and lorries were given fines every months, broken down by time of day. My expectation was that there would be no bikes at all and that cars and lorries wouldn’t be caught at night.

The response came back today.

Cambridgeshire Police have refused the request on the grounds of law and health and safety…

“For camera enforcement to be truly effective there must be the perception that the chances of being recorded are high at all times”.

“The disclosure of specific data on camera sites would make camera deployment less effective, which would impact on the safety of road users at large”

So, in short, they have refused to tell me about the effectiveness of speed cameras on reducing speeding because they don’t work well enough for the data not to make people think they are crap.

Well done boys…

Apr 2009
Beating the lawyers

Before he died, my grandfather decided to write his autobiography. Sadly, not much of it made it onto a computer and I now have sheets of barely legible scrawl to work my way through. I’ve just found an absolute gem… Before you read on, remember that my grandfather was the head of what was to become the National Archives…

I learnt to get my own back on the nit picking lawyers by throwing back at them some of my own mischievous legal concerns. My best one was to argue that s5 of the PRAct of 1958 did not create a right for members of the public to see documents which were more than 50 years old (the 30 year rule came later). I argued that the act said that “public records in the PRO [...] shall not be available until they have been in existence for fifty years [...]“. I contested that this did not say that such records must be made available. The Lord Chancellor agreed with me; and I was happy to agree that unless challenged we would ignore this bit of bad drafting.

I was also concerned about the definition of “records selected for preservation [...] shall be transferred not later than 30 years after their creation” when I discovered that two or three departments, including the Press Office, would simply create a minute, date is just before the last paper turned 30 years old, thus keeping the file from the PRO for another 30 years. This was not sloppy drafting, but merely a lack of understanding of [unclear word] procedures when senior officials wanted to keep files closed. This teased my lawyer friends, but I did [unclear word] departments to avoid this function (I expect the result was simply to shred such files and register them as ‘missing’).

Check out this rather nicely done parody mashup of the government’s obsession with collecting data and Facebook. Yes, it’s Statebook. Follow Jack Smith’s failures as a human being…

So… apparently 1 million people will have access to the child protection database that the government are calling ‘secure’.

There are 40 million people aged 15-65 in the UK. That’s 1 in 40 people.

Sounds perfectly secure to me…

Petrol is currently about a pound a litre. The Government is still blasting the suppliers for putting the pirces up so high. Here’s the problem though…

Fuel duty is currently 53p/l.
VAT on a product that retails at a pound is 15p.

Total tax on your pound of petrol is 68p.

9p of the remaining 32p goes to the petrol station (of which at least a penny will go in various taxes, including tax on wages)

The last 23p goes to the supplier (who in turn will pay a large chunck as tax).

So, we’re now up to at least 70p of the 99.9p ending up at the exchequer for one reason or another. 70%. Or, if you’d prefer to think of it all as a value added tax, that works out as about a 300% value added tax…

Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

Oct 2008
No words…

Does someone want to explain what the blue buggery fuck is going on here?

As far as I can see, Germany has issues a warrant for his arrest because he is a holocaust denier, which is illegal in Germany. Fair enough.

The problem is that the guy is an Australian, who posted his comments on his own Australian website, and was arrested at in England. In neither of these locations is holocaust denial illegal.

What the fuck is going on, legal system?!?

Aug 2008
Loving Virginia

I just spent an interesting 10 minutes trying to find the correct name for “Loving vs Virginia“. Let me tell you, searching google for “Interracial marriage adultery” really does open your eyes to just how repressed the America religious right are…