Saturday, 30 April 2011

Who pays corporation tax?

Corporation Tax is not fit for purpose. This new Briefing Note for the 2020 Tax Commission, written by Commissioner and Associate Professor of Economics at the ESCP Europe Business School Anthony J. Evans, measures the tax against four key criteria, and finds that it drives down wages; lowers returns for shareholders; and raises prices for consumers.

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Companies don’t pay taxes, people do, whether that means shareholders like pension funds or workers who get lower wages. High corporate taxes are such an economic disaster that cutting them significantly can leave ordinary workers hundreds of pounds a year better off and ultimately even produce more of a return for the public purse. The Government are right to see this as a real priority, and could be even more aggressive to cut taxes so everyone can see a light at the end of the tunnel after years of depressing economic news.”

Read more over at the TPA.

I'd be minded to abolish corporation tax altogether. My only reservation is that it could allow foreign companies to funnel profits out of the UK. If that is a legitimate concern, I expect there are other ways to address it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


I hope to find time for a detailed review of AV vs FPTP at some point before the referendum. It's a referendum that nobody really wanted, and I haven't been impressed by either of the official campaigns.

The dodgy characters at Power 2010, true to their Lib Dem roots, are enthusiastically supporting the "Yes" side. The "No" team, meanwhile, come up with gems like this:
AV ensures that the BNP will get more protest votes, giving them more legitimacy, but won't help legitimate small parties like the Greens win more seats (the British Election Study, for example, showed that the Greens would not have won any additional seats under AV)
I have found myself wondering, though, how UKIP would fare under AV. Here is their official position, which seems pretty sensible to me:

UKIP’s policy is to support the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign in the forthcoming referendum on reform of the voting system.

However, we believe we are being offered the wrong referendum. We are being asked our opinion on the election of a chamber which has a diminishing influence on our lives, while being denied the widely promised referendum on who actually governs Britain.

While we are not at all happy with the Alternative Vote (AV) system proposed, and believe it could dis-proportionately favour the Liberal Democrats, we nonetheless take the view that some electoral reform is better than none.

The First Past The Post (FPTP) system no longer has any legitimate claim to represent the will of the people. In 1955, 96% of voters voted for the main two parties, Labour and Conservative. In 2010, only 65% did. In 1955, 9 out of 10 MPs were elected with majorities of 50% or more; in 2010, it was one in three.

It is clear that a more proportional system of voting is required to represent the many people – many more than the third of the electorate who did not vote Labour or Conservative in 2010 – whose views are not directly represented in Parliament.

We strongly believe that a system which includes an element of actual proportional representation should be adopted. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for proportional representation for a generation, yet are now promoting a non-proportional system simply because they believe that it favours them electorally.

Nonetheless, we recognise that AV does enable all voters to register their first preference vote with the candidate of their conscience, and so demolishes the ‘wasted vote’ issue. Under AV, UKIP could potentially achieve a much higher share of the vote through ‘honest’ first preferences.

Our campaign

UKIP formally supports the Yes to AV campaign, a decision made by its National Executive Committee on 10 January and confirmed on 7 February. Its principal spokesmen on the campaign will be William Dartmouth MEP, and the party leader, Nigel Farage MEP.

The National Executive also resolved that UKIP members who do not agree with this position are entitled to express their personal views. However, it reiterated at its meeting on 7 February that UKIP members are expected not to actively campaign against the party’s policy, to seek publicity for the contrary view or, in particular, to be involved in any direct opposition to UKIP’s spokesmen and representatives in the course of the campaign.

Steve Crowther, Executive Chairman,
16 February 2011

When 100% reserves aren't enough

Toby Baxendale at The Cobden Centre is a big fan of 100%-reserve banking. The idea certainly has its attractions, but he often suggests that cash sitting in vaults is absolutely safe. The usual objection from Fractional Reserve Free Bankers is that the bank may be robbed, or destroyed in a fire, so while a 100%-reserve bank may not be at risk from a run, it still cannot provide any guarantees.

In India, it seems, there's another threat:

Staff at an Indian bank have been blamed for allowing termites to eat their way through banknotes worth millions of rupees.

Staff at the bank, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, are reported to have been found guilty of "laxity".

The insects are believed to have chewed their way through notes worth some 10 million rupees ($225,000/£137,000).

A similar incident happened in 2008, when termites in Bihar state ate a trader's savings stored in his bank.

No doubt the gold bugs will be quick to suggest an answer to this entomical menace.

If you go out in the park today

My wife is back at work, which means we're back to watching BBC Breakfast at ungodly hours in the morning. Accordingly, my blogging rate may increase. There's usually at least one story to get my blood boiling, and today was no exception. It hasn't yet appeared on the BBC News website, but the London Evening Standard has also covered it:
Personal trainers, nannies and even dog walkers could face paying thousands of pounds a year to use public parks for business.

Fitness instructors are already paying Hammersmith & Fulham council to use Hurlingham Park in Putney, and the policy could be adopted by more boroughs.

The council's rules suggest anyone making money in the park will be charged from £350 to £1,200 a year.
So, Jack & Jill are council tax payers in Putney. They go running every day in Hurlingham Park. No problem. Suppose they're friends who run together. No problem. Suppose Jack is the better runner, and offers free advice to Jill. No problem. Suppose Jill returns the favour by walking Jack's dog on Sunday morning, when he's recovering from the night before. No problem. But if money changes hands, suddenly everything changes. The transactions are still voluntary. Jack & Jill are still paying taxes. They're still exercising and staying in shape like good little citizens, reducing the strain on the NHS. But the parasites at Hammersmith & Fulham council are convinced that money is the root of all evil, and that all financial transactions are fair game for their depredations.

The BBC interviewed Robin Cope from British Military Fitness, who predictably said it was absolutely right that his smaller competitors should be forced to pay, and who further suggested that they should be properly regulated.

To be clear, I wouldn't have a problem with private parks charging whatever rates they like, and imposing whatever terms of admission they choose. Unlike public parks, they must respond to customer demand, or perish. In contrast, we pay for public parks whether we want to or not. We don't have the option of withdrawing our contribution if the administrators adopt an unreasonable policy.

Parks, like tips, are among the most valued services currently provided by councils. It is absurd, though predictable, that they are exploiting users of these services before trimming their sprawling mass of inefficient, meddling bureaucrats, and while they continue to offer many services that are simply unnecessary.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Broken Window Fallacy

Through Tom Paine, I discovered a good YouTube video explaining Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy (don't be put off by the baker's dodgy accent):

As I commented over at The Last Ditch, it's astounding that over 160 years after the publication of What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, people still fall for the same Keynesian/socialist nonsense.

The Keynesians were also quick to tout the benefits of the recent Japanese earthquake! The good chaps at The Cobden Centre quickly denounced this lunacy.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Hannan: Ten reasons why Britain shouldn't join the Portuguese bailout

Daniel Hannan continues to speak sense on the Portuguese situation. I can't resist reproducing his latest post in full:

1. We won’t see the money again. It is becoming increasingly clear that Greece will renege on its debts. International loans are always arranged so that the IMF gets its money back first, which means that the EU will take the hit. Portugal’s debt is growing faster than its GDP, making a default almost inevitable.

2. We can’t afford it. If we look only at the cuts in selected government budgets, and ignore the increases in other areas, we can find a total of £6.2 billion. The likely British contribution to a bail-out is £4.2 billion. Why no TUC march about that?

3. It’s illegal. The euro was only agreed in the first place on the basis of a “no bail-out clause” inserted into the Maastricht Treaty in the clearest language that lawyers could devise. Such loans, in other words, don’t simply lack a legal base; they are explicitly prohibited. As Angela Merkel observed, shortly before agreeing to precisely such a bailout: “We have a Treaty under which there is no possibility of paying to bailout states.”

4. It is undemocratic. The Portuguese government fell on 23 March, and a general election is due on 5 June. In the mean time, there is no elected ministry to negotiate the loans. Eurocrats, of course, are delighted by the vacuum: they are much happier dealing with officials than with politicians; politicians, after all, have the inconvenient habit of reflecting the views of their constituents. No danger of that here. As one Commission official observed: “They have to remember it is not their programme, it is ours”.

5. You don’t help an indebted friend by pressing more loans on him. There is an argument for helping Portugal by restructuring its existing debt; there is no argument whatever for increasing its liabilities.

6. This is about rescuing the euro, not about rescuing Portugal. The bailout money will go to European bankers and bondholders, the repayment will come from Portuguese taxpayers. The people of one of the poorest states in Western Europe are being burdened with the cost of propping up the entire European banking system.

7. Portugal won’t recover until it leaves the euro. Decouple, devalue and – if necessary – default. Only when Portugal starts tailoring its interest rates and exchange rates to suit its own needs will it be able to price itself into the market.

8. Greece and Ireland are being forced to contribute. There are two separate EU funds in play: one which imposes obligations only on eurozone members, and one which covers all EU states. Ireland and Greece can stand aside from the first, on grounds that they have already requested assistance; but they cannot avoid the second. They will be forced to borrow hundreds of billions of euros to send to Portugal. Britain should champion the interests of these countries, as well as of every other EU state that has kept its currency. If the eurozone members want to rescue Portugal, let them do it with their own money.

9. Rejecting the deal would strengthen the Coalition. There is a slightly unedifying row going on about whether George Osborne went along with Alistair Darling’s decision to join the bailout fund. Darling says Osborne agreed, Osborne denies it. My guess is that the arrangement was presented to both men as a fait accompli by our Euro-fanatical Brussels officials. The clearest way to end the argument is for the Chancellor to say: “This agreement was reached by my predecessor after his party had been rejected at the polls. I do not consider it binding on this government. I have consulted with Treasury lawyers, who tell me that it is patently against the EU treaties. I am therefore refudiating the deal. I have instructed my department to withhold an equivalent sum from Britain’s EU budget contributions, and I am prepared to fight the issue through the courts”.

10.Portugal is our oldest and truest friend in Europe, and has ranged itself alongside us in quarrel after quarrel. We were prepared, through the centuries, to support our allies against pressure from Madrid and Paris. If we will not now support them against pressure from Brussels and Frankfurt, who will?

It's natural to wonder whether strengthening the Coalition (point 9) is really in the interests of the British people, but the realistic alternatives still seem worse. As bad as things are under our Coalition overlords, think how much grimmer it would be under Labour, or a Labour-LibDem coalition.

My only real disagreement is with point 7, where Daniel says Portugal should "decouple, devalue and – if necessary – default". I think Portugal should decouple (from the Euro), but its next step should be to default, not to devalue. As I noted in the comments,
Honest, outright default is far less harmful than stealth default through inflation, especially for innocents who opposed government profligacy.

It is those who were foolish enough to lend to the Portuguese government that should suffer, not taxpayers.

Although our situation isn't yet as bad as Portugal's, at least according to the official figures, we too should default.

Government bond holders are slave owners. They have no moral claim against us, much less our grandchildren. The debtor-creditor relationship is not equivalent to what you find in the private sector, because it does not involve the consent of all parties.
It's perhaps a bit over-the-top to compare bond holders to slave owners, but the parallel is a strong one. As Rothbard puts it,
The public debt transaction, then, is very different from private debt. Instead of a low-time preference creditor exchanging money for an IOU from a high-time preference debtor, the government now receives money from creditors, both parties realizing that the money will be paid back not out of the pockets or the hides of the politicians and bureaucrats, but out of the looted wallets and purses of the hapless taxpayers, the subjects of the state. The government gets the money by tax-coercion; and the public creditors, far from being innocents, know full well that their proceeds will come out of that selfsame coercion. In short, public creditors are willing to hand over money to the government now in order to receive a share of tax loot in the future. This is the opposite of a free market, or a genuinely voluntary transaction. Both parties are immorally contracting to participate in the violation of the property rights of citizens in the future. Both parties, therefore, are making agreements about other people's property, and both deserve the back of our hand.
Even if you think that Britain and the Portugal should not rush to the bold step of outright debt repudiation, it is plain that the proposed bailout will exploit taxpayers in both countries, for the sake of bankers and bureaucrats.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Iceland shows the way

I've got a massive backlog of articles worth blogging, but this one stands out:

Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has said that the UK and the Netherlands will get back the 4bn euros (£3.5bn) they paid when Iceland's banking system collapsed in 2008.

That is despite the country rejecting the latest repayment plan in a referendum at the weekend.

Mr Grimsson told the BBC assets from the collapsed bank Landsbanki would "in all likelihood" cover what was owed.

The UK has said the matter will go to an international court.

I'm delighted that the Icelanders were given a referendum on whether to assume the liabilities of their banks (they made the obvious choice).

I'm dismayed that we weren't offered the same choice.

I'm unsurprised by the BBC's use of "the UK" to refer to "the British government". To them, it is plain, l'etat c'est nous.

I'm bemused and concerned by the notion that an "international court" could require Icelandic taxpayers to compensate those who foolishly invested in Icelandic banks.

The BBC article continues:

Landsbanki ran savings accounts in the UK and the Netherlands under the name Icesave.

When it collapsed, the British and Dutch governments had to reimburse 400,000 citizens - and Iceland had to decide how to repay that money.

"British and Dutch governments had to reimburse", or "British and Dutch taxpayers were forced, by their elected dictators, to reimburse"?

And did Iceland have to decide how to repay that money? Was Iceland liable? What is Iceland? And whatever it is, is it not distinct from 'Icelandic banks'?


The weekend result marked the second time a referendum has rejected a repayment deal.

Mr Grimsson said that it was not an issue about paying or not paying, but a question of whether there is a state guarantee and how that would be interpreted under the European regulatory framework.

"I think the primary message [from the referendum] is that before ordinary people are asked to pay for failed banks, the assets inside the estate of these banks should be used to pay the subs," Mr Grimsson told Radio 4's Today.

"That is why the people of Iceland emphasised that Britain and the Netherlands are going to get certainly up to $9bn out of the estate of Landsbanki.

"The first payment will be this December, and in all likelihood this will cover what was paid by Britain and the Netherlands two years ago.

"But to ask for a state guarantee and that ordinary people should shoulder the responsibility is highly doubtful and definitely can be disputed within the European legislative framework."

If only more of our politicians spoke as much sense as Mr Grimsson! It is a shame that he feels the need to defer to "the European legislative framework".

It is not merely the case that "before ordinary people are asked to pay for failed banks, the assets inside the estate of these banks should be used to pay the subs". Ordinary people should never be asked to pay for failed banks. If anyone should suffer, it is the shareholders in those banks, and after that, the depositors.

Let us hope that the Icelandic people stand firm, and refuse to pay a penny to 'their' banks, or to those to whom 'their' banks owe money.

It amazes and saddens me that the British and Irish people were not so resolute.

Friday, 8 April 2011

How to help the Portuguese

The main story on BBC News this morning was that 'Portugal' has officially requested a bailout. By which they mean the Portuguese government.

Daniel Hannan has posted a great article on the subject:

Can we please stop referring to what is happening as “assisting Portugal”? I’m enormously and sentimentally Lusophile, and if I thought that a loan would help, I’d be all for it. No alliance on the planet has endured as has the 700-year league between England and Portugal. The Portuguese defied Bonaparte in the name of our friendship, and even entered the First World War for our sake. They joined EFTA when we did, and followed us (ruinously, it now turns out) into the EU.

Yet it cannot be stressed too strongly that the Portuguese did not want this bailout. They resisted the pressure from Frankfurt and Brussels for as long as they could. They know perfectly well what ceding control of their economy means: the loans will end up in the pockets of European bankers and bondholders, the repayment will come from Portuguese taxpayers. The EU isn’t rescuing Portugal; Portugal is being sacrificed to rescue the euro.

Drink and you may die

The lovely Susanna Reid this morning used her most concerned tone to relay the latest propaganda in the War Against Alcohol, which also features prominently on the BBC News website:
The footer of the article points to previous stories on the same theme, and links to the disinterested experts at Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Journal, and Alcohol Concern.

The evidence is apparently so compelling that the BBC couldn't find any opposing viewpoints. So what have we learned?
Drinking more than a pint of beer a day can substantially increase the risk of some cancers, research shows.

A large Europe-wide study in the British Medical Journal found that one-in-10 of all cancers in men and one-in-33 of all cancers in women are caused by past or current alcohol intake.

This research found that individuals who drank more than two standard drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women were particularly at risk of alcohol-related cancers.
I'm not sure what being a miserable git does to your chance of developing cancer, or your risk of death from other causes, but it does tend to dampen your day-to-day existence.

We're all going to die, most of us at a ripe old age (even those who drink). Quality of life is more important than longevity. Whisky and wine, a their best, are sublime — among life's great pleasures. As long as they enhance, rather than diminish, your experience of the other fine things in life, enjoy them!

Nasty NATO bombs friendly tanks

The commander of Libya's rebel forces has said Nato apologised for mistakenly hitting a column of rebel tanks near the eastern town of Ajdabiya.
Rebel tanks?

It started off so simple. Gaddafi had the overwhelming firepower — jets, tanks, artillery — and was using it against defenceless civilians. In a fit of nobless oblige, Cameron ordered the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to intervene.

Together with other NATO forces, primarily French and American, they destroyed Libya's air defences, and proceeded to attack Gaddafi's ground forces. News reports showed rebels cheering over charred tanks, praising the Western leaders.

The BBC article continues:
The rebels hit in the air strike had been moving a group of tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers near the front line between the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega in more than 30 transporters.

One rebel commander told the BBC he saw at least four missiles land among rebel fighters.
There is considerable anger among rebel troops at what appears to have been a terrible mistake, our correspondent says.

They are asking why rebel units were hit, he adds, when they could be seen clearly advancing in a westerly direction towards the front line.

"It is unbelievable," said one Benghazi resident. "Nato, with all the equipment they have - is this the second mistake? Is it really a mistake or something arranged secretly?"
While I hope for a positive outcome, I remain unconvinced that this intervention was wise.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


BBC News helpfully reports on Buying a car with the taxman's help
Buying a car for a family member is often a necessity, and with recent rises in VAT an expensive one.

There are however several little known options that can ease the pain on your pocket (and the environment), with the help of none other than the taxman.
There are hundreds of thousands of privately-owned companies in the UK.

If you own one of them, you can use the current tax rules to your advantage perfectly legitimately.

Consider the following scenario. Your 18-year-old daughter is off to university, and you want to get her a £10,000 car so that she can visit home.

You have two options: pay for it personally or get your company to buy it.

If it is bought via the company, then in the normal course of events you will be taxed on what is called the benefit-in-kind that you are receiving.

A company car with no CO2 emissions - such as an electric car - accrues no benefit-in-kind tax charge at all.
Am I the only one who thinks this is absolutely barking mad, and an outrageous abuse of the tax system?

The main thing that winds me up is the pretence of "benefit-in-kind". It's obvious to anyone that the per-mile CO2 emissions of your car are in no way proportional to the benefit you derive from it (for which you are ostensibly being taxed).

But setting that aside, and accepting for the sake of argument that CO2 really is the greatest threat facing humanity, we must question whether buying a new low-emission car actually cuts overall carbon output.

Even The Guardian admits the question,
it tends to largely boil down to how far you typically drive your car each year and which models you are comparing. As "Livelight" points out:
I drive my old classic car only about 500 miles per year, so if I swapped it for a new Prius, both I and the car would be dead long before there was any carbon benefit!
The other big, and often controversial, question that hangs over this debate is the issue of "embodied energy": how much energy is required – and CO2 emissions generated – to transform a heap of raw materials, some of which are buried under the ground, into a brand new car parked up in the showroom ready for sale?
This article ends by suggesting we all buy a new Prius, but a more recent Guardian article concludes:
despite common claims to contrary – the embodied emissions of a car typically rival the exhaust pipe emissions over its entire lifetime. Indeed, for each mile driven, the emissions from the manufacture of a top-of-the-range Land Rover Discovery that ends up being scrapped after 100,000 miles may be as much as four times higher than the tailpipe emissions of a Citroen C1.

With this in mind, unless you do very high mileage or have a real gas-guzzler, it generally makes sense to keep your old car for as long as it is reliable – and to look after it carefully to extend its life as long as possible. If you make a car last to 200,000 miles rather than 100,000, then the emissions for each mile the car does in its lifetime may drop by as much as 50%, as a result of getting more distance out of the initial manufacturing emissions.

It is far from clear that the government should be encouraging the scrapping of old carbon-spewing cars in favour of new "green" models.

Various lobby groups have benefited from our government's road tax policy, but don't for one minute be fooled into thinking it is for the 'greater good'.

BBC: Census 'dawdlers' face house call

Another story from the 'you shall comply' department:
Seven million households which have not completed and returned the census in England and Wales are being warned that they face a visit from officials.

Some 29,000 census collectors will begin visiting householders who have not returned their questionnaire to help, or persuade, them to complete it.

Completing the census is compulsory and not doing so could mean a £1,000 fine.

The north east of England has seen 75% compliance, compared to London which has the lowest compliance rate at just 60%.

The ONS said it had anticipated that London would be a "challenging area" and almost 6,000 collectors would be door-knocking across the city.

Among those with something to hide, the smart ones have already lied.

Big Brother resumes watch in Oxfordshire

On Friday, The Register reported

Oxfordshire police have turned speed cameras back on as others throughout England switch theirs off, prompting questions as to whether senior police and county council figures are playing politics.

Last August, following the withdrawal of central government funds, Oxfordshire made motoring history by being the first county to switch off its speed cameras. This move is reported to have saved some £600,000 per year.

What was the effect of this switch-off, and why were the police so keen to have the cameras back on?

Figures released today by Oxfordshire Police show that for the seven months from August 2010 to January 2011, the total number of casualties across all of Oxfordshire rose from 1171 to 1179: that’s an increase of eight, or just under 0.7 per cent.

At camera sites themselves, the total number of collisions rose from 60 to 62, with injuries increasing from 68 to 83. Sadly for Oxfordshire’s Speed Supremo, Superintendent Rob Povey, in the press this morning with the assertion that we "know" that speed kills, the entirety of this increase of 15 casualties came from non-serious injuries.

Nationwide figures apparently lend some credence to the claims by police, with a study by Professor Richard Allsopp (pdf) suggesting cameras prevent 800 fatalities or serious injuries each year (KSI):

Professor Allsopp, as most experts in this field, does not disaggregate fatalities, since although the general view is that speed increases total KSIs, the question of whether a particular accident will result in a death is far more complex and related to many factors other than speed.

It may well be that speed cameras in Oxfordshire helped reduce incidents, but the figures provided by Oxfordshire Police – without any analysis by those previously employed as experts – are not, by themselves, enough to draw any serious conclusion. The fact that a senior police officer should claim they [do] tells us more about a lack of Police respect for statistical evidence than anything about what is actually happening.

Run the figures backward, and the actual casualty figures for 2010/11 are very much in line with a long-term trend decline running back to 2001, with blip years in different categories across the period. So, 2004/5 reported overall casualties well below trend, while fatalities in 2006/7 were massively up on the previous year.

The article concludes
But then, it seems likely that this debate was never all that much to do with the evidence. As the BBC reported in November last year, plans to turn the cameras back on were already "under way" then. At that point, it is possible that the police were working, at most, on just two months worth of evidence.
For many police officers, or at least Superintendents, I suspect the real issue is not saving lives, or even making money, but enforcing compliance. They couldn't bear the thought of us exercising judgement, and choosing a speed appropriate speed for the conditions. We are to obey the law, no matter how rigid or unreasonable.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Paying for the tip

BBC Breakfast this morning reported from Crewkerne, where the council is now charging people to use the tip. A corresponding article on BBC News explains

The centres were due to close to save £300,000 a year as part of savings by Conservative-run Somerset County Council.

By changing their legal status they could be kept open as community facilities with people paying to use them.

The town council spokeswoman added that it would underwrite the trial up to a maximum of £10,000 in case there was a shortfall in cash.

"This was agreed at an EGM of the town council on Friday morning. Officers are looking into whether this charge would be subject to VAT in which case it would be £1.20 per visit.

Now, as a libertarian you might expect me to be pleased about this. Unfortunately, waste disposal is one of those very few things that it makes some sense for the government to provide free at the point of use. You need only think of the alternative: fly-tipping, which is obviously grim, and very difficult to prevent.

It's also galling that the County Council would cut this useful service while continuing to provide thousands of non-jobs, and many services that nobody would miss.

According to their 2009/10 accounts, they spent £904 million, 45% of which went on salaries. Their profile on Monster says
With more than 17,000 employees across the region Somerset County Council is Somerset's biggest employer. We offer a huge range of jobs and career development opportunities.
We offer all employees a wide range of benefits, some of which are listed below.
  • Training
  • Flexible working
  • Family friendly policies (such as maternity and paternity leave)
  • Child care vouchers
  • Final salary pension scheme
The accounts also show a pensions deficit of £562 million (Note 4, Table 1) and unfunded pension payments of £1.490 million in 2009/10 (Note 4, Table 9). Staff costs look like their main problem, but Note 4 Table 3 shows they plan to increase salaries at 1.5% above inflation.

Meanwhile, Note 1 shows that the council spent £2.350 million on "Culture and heritage", £2.530 million on "Democratic representation and management", and £2.247 million on "Corporate management". Your guess is as good as mine.

This looks like a classic case of a council targeting a highly-visible, highly-valued service for the axe, so they can play the victim of Coalition Cuts, and justify extracting fees from their already-overtaxed residents, while maintaining cushy jobs-for-life for thousands of useless bureaucrats.

The BBC, as ever, is happy to play along.

Monday, 4 April 2011

R.I.P. Daily and Sunday Sport

Where do you think you might find the following obituary?
The Daily and Sunday Sport, those diligent exponents of tabloid journalism's lower reaches, have folded. Their remains, it can be sensationally revealed with the aid of Photoshop, are located on the far side of the moon.

Having for nearly 20 and 25 years respectively offered a blend of punning headlines, celebrity gossip, soft pornography and, when all else failed, entirely made-up stories, the titles have gone belly, and much else besides, up.

It is an uncharacteristically low-key passing for two newspapers whose content made the Sun's regular Page Three feature look like Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Building sites, men's locker rooms, boys' public school dormitories and other such all-male environments may mourn their passing. Feminists and those who prefer their news headlines unaccompanied by depictions of the female anatomy may not.
Got it yet?
A market for such content was, clearly, out there. At its peak in 2005, the Daily Sport's circulation stood at 189,473, while the Sunday edition reached a high in the same year of 167,473.

But friends of the Sport titles may have predicted their demise when the internet made the necessity of shame-facedly visiting the newsagent a thing of the past for consumers of pornography.

After Mr Sullivan sold up, the Sport was relaunched in April 2008. Additionally, former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik was recruited to lend some of his much-respected gravitas by writing a weekly political column.

But the launch of lads mags such as Zoo and Nuts meant extra competition and owner Sport Media Group's financial figures remained an inverse reflection of those of its female models.

No flowers.
Humorous, in its own way, but relentlessly snooty, sanctimonious, and self-satisfied.

Where else but the Guardian opinion columns?

Oh, wait. This is not a light piece from Polly, but the authoritative, anonymous voice of BBC News Magazine.

Licence-fee payers' money well spent?