30 December 2010

Living longer and funding education

BBC Breakfast are running two stories this morning, as separate and distinct stories, which appear to be linked. I emailed in a comment. Unfortunately as my comment ran rather long I doubt they will read it out, I'm reproducing it here.

You appear not to have noticed but two of the stories you're running this morning seem to be linked. The stories are that more people are going to live to 100 and the comparison between students of the baby boomer generation who had free university education and the current (and last) generation who have had to pay.

SAGA say that older people need to work to supplement their income, this of course removes jobs that younger people could have taken up. Your interviewee on free education enjoyed by baby boomers says that had 40% of her generation gone to university they may have had to pay for their education. If older people are to work longer then something must be done with the younger people who cannot then find work. Investing in education (vocational as well as academic) is an excellent way to keep them off the job market longer, maybe change from a working life of 15 to 65 to one of 25 to 75. This would also address the skills shortage we have had in this country since the 1980s and reduce our reliance on skilled migrant workers, or maybe balance the migrants coming in with our own citizens migrating overseas where their particular skills are needed.

We seem to have a choice. Either subsidise young people to stay in education longer and off the job market or subsidise older people to leave the job market and enjoy 30+ years of retirement. I suspect the former would be better for the long term economy. Alternatively we all move to part-time/job-share working and all take a hit over our entire careers.

17 December 2010

Just had a thought about dealing with road tax evasion and uninsured/unMOTed drivers/cars

My manager was just talking about how in sonme continental countries the tax, MOT and insurance certificates are a single document and you can't MOT your car until it's taxed and insured. She suggested that we should implement that here.

It gave me an idea!

Currently in the UK you cannot tax your car until you have an MOT and insurance. If, therefore, you don't tax your car you can get away with no MOT or insurance. My idea is to turn the tax disc into a 2 part document. Retain the current paper disc but add a smart card. Compel all petrol retailers to attach a reader for the card to their pumps (maybe offer grants and/or loans to smaller retailers, in particular in areas where there is restricted availability of petrol retailers). If the card is not inserted the pump will not dispense fuel. The card would store the date the next MOT is due, which garage did the last MOT, the date the insurance is due for renewal, who the insurance is with and type of fuel the car takes (so if you pick up the wrong nozzle the pump can warn you and not dispense fuel until you pick up the correct nozzle or acknowledge the message), maybe reg number, make and model of the car. It could also store when you filled up, how much fuel you had and how much it cost, some retailers may want to offer a service to print off your fuel use for you. If the tax, MOT or Insurance is more than a month overdue the pump either won't dispense fuel or will only dispense a small quantity. I am not suggesting that any central database be kept linking cards to petrol purchases so 'Database State' whiners don't need to get all het up.

The result of this would be that if you don't have a current MOT and insurance you can't buy fuel, or can only buy a small amount. Essentially it's enforcing the rule that if you want to drive you have to do so legally.

The main hole I can see is that people may use the card for one car with another so they might have one car which is taxed, insured and MOTed and use the card to fill up one that isn't and whilst the card may show that the car is insured it doesn't guarantee that the person currently driving it is insured. A smaller hole is that some retailers may use the card as a way to gather marketing information and to make offers, "Hey, you're insurance is up for renewal. Would you like us to get you a quote?" Even that could be an advantage as insurers (and quote websites such as confused.com &c)could put vending machines in petrol stations and other locations to allow people to buy or upgrade their insurance by inserting their card and just tapping in relevant details such as the type of insurance needed and who will need to be insured.

14 December 2010

Directly elected mayor for Birmingham?

It seems that Birmingham is to get a referendum on whether to have an elected mayor. A number of people have expressed interest in the role, including Yardley MP John Hemming.

I like the idea of a directly elected mayor. A major weakness of the current structure (leader of the council being the leader of the ruling party) is that whilst I might like a party or the local candidate and vote on that basis I might not like the leader of the party. The impact of my vote is dictated by an unelected party machine. A directly elected mayor gives me the opportunity to vote for the person I want to lead the council, including an independent if that's what I want.

Whilst many of those who expressed and interest in the role are existing party politicians, John Hemming stated that he would only run as a nominee of his party and not as an independent, a directly elected mayor gives us the opportunity to vote for an independent. We can vote for the person who we believe will deliver what we want, not someone beholden to a party machine and vested corporate interests.

9 December 2010

Student Protests - Again

Just emailed this to BBC Breakfast:

Much as it was suggested that motorists remember which petrol stations inflated their prices now and not shop there in the future, hopefully students (and those who now will not have the opportunity to become students) will remember the actions of the Tory and Lib Dem parties now in their future voting behaviour. Politicians are there to serve us, the voters, unfortunately they will only do that if they know they will be held to account for their actions.

I do think that a lot of the problems with the political system in recent years are that voters have tended to take a very short term view and failed to hold politicians to account for their actions and/or have gotten wrapped up in some short term single issue and allowed unsound ideologies to dominate the political debate leading to a party who are destructive to the opportunities and rights of the majority of people to become dominant.

7 December 2010

Is your journey necessary?

Each time there's a heavy snowfall we're told to only travel if it's really necessary to do so. Thing is, for most of us the journey we're most likely to make is too work. How many of us have a manager who will accept "There was lots of snow and ice, the roads were blocked so I can't make it in." as a reason to not attend work?

There was a letter in yesterday's Metro newspaper from someone who lived in the French Pyrenees, where heavy snowfall is common. Apparently there if people think there's to much snow to make it to work they just go back to bed and wait till the next day when the snow ploughs will have been round and cleared all the roads.

6 December 2010

Student protests

John Hemming MP (LibDem, Yardley) was on BBC Radio WM this lunch time as his office had been invaded by by a group of students. He wasn't there but did sound very unhappy at them being there, complaining they were disrupting the work of his office. He made reference to someone having been arrested in Saudi(was this the Imaam who had been arrest by the Saudi religious police then released when Radio WM publicised the situation or someone else?) and to a couple who were destitute as they had received no benefits.

3 December 2010

Empty grit bin

The grit bin round the corner from my house is empty, again. I jusrt reported this via Fix My Street:
The grit bin on Tomey road (near corner with Albion road) is empty again. It was about half full on Sunday evening so has emptied in the past 4 days.

Earlier this year Cllr Daphne Gaved told me that as the council don't grit side roads and pavements but do provide grit it is the duty of residents to grit their road. Obviously if there's not grit we can't do this.

Please refill the grit bin. Also please advise the process of requesting a grit bin be placed on Gough Road(preferably on the corner with Medley road).


Probably won't do any good but at least when the local Lib Dem councilors (Daphne, mentioned above, is one of three Lib Dem councilors in this ward, the local MP (John Hemming) is also a Lib Dem and the council is a Con-Dem coalition) come campaigning and I point out the lack of grit preventing us from gritting our road and pavements I can also point out that when the bin was emptied I requested it be refilled.

I have been treating the pavement outside my house with salt, hence my house (and my neighbours' due to my salt being carried on people's shoes) are the only ones clear of snow in front.