Tag Archives: taxation

Missed Gear?

If you’ve made plans for this Sunday evening, cancel them. Immediately. Because – if you’re in the UK at least – you’ll want to be in front of the telly, watching the extended, all-new Top Gear episode that’ll wrap up Series 22 … So says the BBC Top Gear website.

GearStoogesFinal_270But dedicated fans of the show can still watch episodes from the back catalogue on the BBC next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc, etc. And if that is not enough then the BBC’s joint venture commercial channel, Dave, will be showing different episodes of Top Gear on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. In fact some days next week will have no less than five broadcasts of the show on Freeview channels alone. And next weekend the BBC aim to string-out the finale with a compilation of Series 22 highlights. So it seems that Clarkson, Hammond and May – rather than new front man Chris Evans – will be the ghostly faces of Top Gear for years to come.

The choice of presenter for the next series has led to many posting their views online – with the majority saying they will not be watching the new show; hoping that the old team reappear under a new banner elsewhere. Over at the BBC executives must be hoping that their biggest programme can survive the Chris Evans treatment – and that Evans can survive being both its presenter and producer along with all his other commitments.

Some say that the BBC would have been better served selling the Top Gear franchise now. But instead they have opted to spend £3 million on a new format show that risks devaluing their high-profile brand. So can the new Top Gear keep the audience and revenue figures that the BBC has grown to expect? Only time will tell.

Today’s German for future citizens of Euroland (sponsored by Bratwursts of Bavaria) – Das ist mir egal (dass ist meer eh-gahl) = I don’t care.

Back Again

With all our correspondents in winter hibernation nothing has appeared here for weeks. But now the first signs of Spring mean there is some renewed activity.

Heckerslyke_160First up the benefits of last year’s reduction in petrol prices have worked through to the national inflation figures – providing headlines such as UK inflation rate falls to record low of 0.3% in January. That’s good news – but perhaps not quite as good as it could have been. Take our cousins in Australia. They have seen a similar reduction in pump prices. And they buy their oil on the world market just like the UK. However today the typical Australian unleaded fill-up costs around $1.20/litre (62.8p/litre). And this is a big increase over the sub $1 prices they had in January. Just imagine how similar prices here in the Uk would boost the local economy. And give the rest of the world one less reason to think we’re all stupid to pay so much ..

Man1Sticking with fuel costs it seems strange that we are still paying high prices for domestic gas despite cost reductions at source. But these continued high prices may make switching away from gas into a viable choice – even for cooking and central heating. Now it’s doubtful that serious foodies would volunteer to stop using gas for cooking but all fans of burning hydrocarbons do face trouble ahead.

As you may have noticed the massive amounts being spent on green energy are almost exclusively aimed at producing electricity. Few, if any, are trying to provide gas for the domestic grid. The obvious conclusion is that one day our domestic gas supply will cease – either to meet green energy targets or when there are too few gas consumers to cover the costs of supporting the grid. With the government being keen to promote their green credentials, and signing up to some difficult targets, the writing is on the wall for CO2 creators like fossil fuels. In other words the question has become when rather than if. You have been warned.

ps The slow-witted politicians and public service will, most likely, press ahead with replacing all our working gas meters with smart meters even if domestic gas supplies are to be phased out before the project is complete.

History Repeats Itself

The BBC, and British TV in general, certainly cannot be accused of neglecting its old friends. The last week has seen so many repeats, re-edits, remakes and recycling of old scripts that it has been hard to work out which decade, or even century, we are actually living in.

Viewing TV during the Christmas break could result in being time shifted backwards anything from a few days to 70+ years. For example switching on during Chas & Dave’s Christmas Special it was a bit confusing to see a young looking Eric Clapton playing to a pub crowd dressed in 1980s fashions. It was not until the end that a copyright credit dated 1982 explained all.

Then we had the remakes of Open All Hours that featured many of the familiar jokes and cast. But this curious mix of old and new failed to reach the standard of the original. The new wine in old bottles approach did not work.

GearStoogesGrey_270However the most confusion was caused by the latest Top Gear special – in that it had a 20th century script but was apparently being acted out by the fathers of the original presenters. The familiar driving down unsuitable tracks, wrecking cars and crossing dodgy bridges were all there. But sadly this new show lacked the appeal of early versions – partly because the aging presenters were much less capable of recovering from their juvenile stunts. It had become graying, grumpy old men in cars.

Now surely there must come a point where UK TV discovers that making yet another series of an old show – no matter how popular – is not the way to make progress. If not then broadcasting on fixed schedules will – like BBC3 – just fade away.

Hard Realities

After the age of empire it must be very easy for some Whitehall departments to forget that the British government is no longer responsible for Nyasaland, Ceylon, Burma, Bechuanaland, India, etc. In reality all the self-sufficient regions of the former Empire demanded, and won, their independence decades ago.

And not only are these former colonies now independent nations but the British – and often locals with British origins – are largely excluded from any present day roles. Excluded except, it seems, for one specific area – the never-ending provision, by Britain, of aid.

UmBongoLand_300Yesterday we had the UK’s International Development Secretary [Justine Greening] defending giving £300 million of taxpayers’ money to Nigeria. Yet acknowledging the fact that Nigeria is a country with huge oil-reserves. And one that is planning to spend some of its royalty revenue on a space programme rather than on the projects that are so important as to need aid from the UK.

This latest example seems remarkably similar to the case of Britain’s £280 million annual aid to India. A programme that had to be defended by UK’s previous International Development Secretary [Andrew Mitchell] when MPs complained. With India’s economy growing at 8.5 per cent a year and the Indian government spending big on defence and space programmes it seems self-evident that British aid is not required. So even though the MPs sited evidence of corruption and waste in the India aid programme it is to continue until 2015. The fact that India has, this week, launched its first aircraft carrier, to be followed by a nuclear submarine, has made the British position look even more ridiculous.

But the reason all this has been back in the media is not an attempt to bring common sense to bear on Whitehall’s massive over-spending but rather because a UKIP MEP [Godfrey Bloom] had said ‘How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month, when we’re in this sort of debt, to Bongo Bongo land is completely beyond me’. The Prime Minister then jumped in to condemn the term “Bongo Bongo land” as offensive and so divert the media onto a discussion about a politician’s choice of words – rather than the multi-billion pound elephant in the room.

Meanwhile many UK Grandads are left wondering how they can afford to pay for their latest round of household bills out of their declining net incomes. Perhaps Nigeria or India could help?

Parkinson’s Law in Action

Just over two weeks ago we put forward the opinion that the BBC management were running with “.. excessive admin expenditure” and had  “.. too many channels – both on radio and TV – to be serviced out the money that remains”. Hardly a unique opinion – but one that has been confirmed by yet another proven example.Man1

In the past few days the BBC top brass have declared that its Digital Media Initiative (DMI) is being abandoned. Scrapped for having few, if any, results to date despite syphoning off £98.4 million of our taxes since 2008. The manager responsible – the Chief Technology Officer – has been suspended, on full pay of course, pending an investigation. So that’s another BBC employee in the over £5,000 per week group not working. But still no serious attempt to thin-out the vast management overhead that soaks up most of the TV tax before it gets to the programme makers. A fine example of how bureaucracies expand over time – see Parkinson’s Law.

If you doubt the scale of the BBC’s over staffing problem just try googling “BBC head of marketing” and see how many different names and job titles come up.

Something Old, Something New …

That favourite target, the BBC, has long been criticised for airing repeats. Some examples – “David Jason has slammed BBC bosses for screening too many repeats of his classic comedy show Only Fools and Horses” (2005),  “The BBC has admitted that the main complaint from viewers is about a lack of originality. Now its boss has said there will be more repeats in future – to save money” (2007), “Channel 4 and the BBC have been accused of ‘disguising repeats’ by repackaging old programmes as new” (2009), “Viewers face fewer original programmes because the licence fee has been frozen, the head of the BBC admitted” (2010) and this week’s “BBC repeats 75% of daytime shows …”

But it is getting bad when the BBC’s alternative to the FA Cup Final on ITV yesterday was a repeat of a quiz programme. Of course the BBC’s position is that the limited increases in our compulsory TV Tax mean that they cannot afford enough new programmes. But that is simply an excuse to cover excessive admin expenditure and for having too many channels – both on radio and TV – to be serviced out the money that remains.

JoinUs_240Now there is no way that Grandad can actually prove financial wastage – but there are enough examples in the public domain to support the general theory. One current example is a TV presenter who has been reported to have been receiving £250,000 per year from the BBC for many years – mainly for co-hosting a regional news programme. A programme – Look North – that is on air for just 30 minutes per day. But this only became public because the presenter did not return to the screen after a holiday – apparently due to a dispute about a new contract. As a result £5,000 per week comes out of the limited BBC budget to pay for a presenter who does not present.

And the suspicion is that there are large number of key talent contracts that are currently in dispute given that the BBC’s Human Resources (HR) team are trying to move individuals from a self-employed to a salaried status. This month their efforts have lead to the headline – “BBC pay reform is a debacle: Corporation in chaos after trying to force highly paid presenters to become members of staff”. Having allowed – and even required – key talent to be self employed BBC HR heads are now trying desperately to reverse the direction.

Now lots of large corporations include a director of HR post – covering what Grandads knew as Personnel. But the BBC does not have a personnel / HR director – they have ten. Yes – in these cash-strapped times, when 75% of daytime shows are repeats, there are ten separate BBC posts with the status of HR director. And this does not include the other senior HR posts of – Head of Diversity, Head of Training & Development and Head of BBC Safety. Additionally there is the post of Head of HR & Development listed under the BBC’s Finance & Business Division. So that’s fourteen senior execs looking after personnel issues – each, no doubt, with their teams of support staff and inflated budgets.

But they form just the exposed tip of an iceberg of non-jobs that are thought to exist. Even employee Jeremy Paxman was moved to put on record, at the Pollard Enquiry in February, “There is a raft of appointments now that have been made of people who are clearly not the most creative. They seemed to spend an awful lot of time having meetings with one another… I don’t know what they do. I mean, they talk to each other, I suppose, as all these bloody people do.” and Lord Patten chipped in with “I went to speak to the senior leader’s group in the BBC and said they had more senior leaders than China”

Considering just how many of the programme credits we see on screen are down to third- party production companies you have to wonder, like Paxman and Patten, exactly what the tens of thousands of BBC employees actually do …

More BBC Grumbles

First it’s the choice of Bonnie Tyler as the UK’s representative for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in May. Good luck Bonnie – you’ll need it.

EurovisionSong2013_160It’s a heartache
Nothing but a heartache
Hits you when it’s too late
Hits you when you’re down

It’s a fool’s game
Nothing but a fool’s game
Standing in the cold rain
Feeling like a clown

Then it’s the final two parts of the current Top Gear series – which offer yet another variation on a tired and often repeated script (episodes 6 and 7 of series 14). The final part is not due until Sunday but already anybody who has seen any of the 13 earlier series will know what is going to happen.

GearStooges_270The three ageing idiots (called boys by the BBC!) were given three unsuitable cars and sent out to wreck them by driving through some exotic places. Not only has the story line lost any impact but it has become more and more obvious that the cars (and increasingly their drivers) only make any forward progress through the efforts of the support teams standing just off-camera.

So will a BMW, a Subaru with a chair on the roof and a Volvo make it to the source of the Nile? Who cares? One thing is sure – series 14 will make another profit for BBC Worldwide. And equally surely that profit won’t reduce our TV Tax – since the BBC keep it for themselves. And now the BBC web site (publicly funded of course) even provides direct links to repeats on Dave, the commercial channel 50% owned by the BBC. It all helps the profits …

The final words go to the Dave TV web site that headlines – “Top Gear was once the programme your dad would force everyone to watch”. Amen and cue Bonnie to sing us out.

Petrol Price Poker

PokerGameIt’s the petrol producers and wholesalers versus the Chancellor – in a game where the public has to pay-up no matter who wins. With the UK Budget just weeks away the politicians are getting nervous about the planned rise in fuel taxes. So next week a Commons motion calling for the cancellation of the next 3p per litre rise in fuel duty is expected. Not proposed for the effects of a high fuel price on the national economy or on the general public – but to try to save their own seats at the next election.

This has come to the top of the MPs agenda after the average cost of petrol increased to 138.32p a litre – some 6.24p more than at the start of January. So this now puts the average gas price at 628.82p per imperial gallon – for those who are dead against metric measurements or who remember the 1960s. Back then petrol was around 28p per gallon – and that’s when many of today’s Grandads started driving.

But there is no way to go back in time – even if just to fill-up the car. Or is there?

According to various online sources the cost of petrol in some Gulf states is around those 1960s prices even today. So the extra 600p per UK gallon looks to have been added – by the efforts of suppliers and various Governments – gradually over the years. Both are still involved in a price escalation process – with each trying to increase their take while passing the responsibility to the other. Recent price hikes by the suppliers mean that the Chancellor now has a stark choice between upping taxes and loosing votes or scrapping the tax and loosing money. Now this poker game between the suppliers and the Government has been going on for years but we do now seem to be reaching the point where the average citizen just cannot be squeezed any further.

Is there any chance that either side will make a big cut in their take and send petrol prices down to the level of our Asian competitors? Now that really would boost the UK economy – but the odds of it happening are millions or even billions to one …