Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marketing site hacked by "Turkish Attack Army"

Hot on the heels of my blog being banned in China, extraordinary news!

My professional website has been hacked by an organisation called realwar. Not this one, obviously, but LocalMarketingLiverpool.co.uk. It will be a real test for my website provider to sort this out, I wonder how long it will take? And I wonder what anyone could possibly have got excited about in the wonderful world of SEO, leaflet design and marketing strategies, that might lead to this? Watch this space....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Census 2011 - Why it really IS important

And here we are again, National Census day. In another few hours you need to have a look round your home, under the bed, in the shed, the back kitchen... work out just who is sleeping in your house tonight. And then record them all on your Census form.

You can do it online by the way, it took me 4 minutes... I was going to fill it in the old-fashioned way (which is very simple, a pen, a load of forms and an envelope)  but I reckon that my descendants will be interested in 100 years time, when the data is released, in whether I was IT savvy or not. This was my first chance to file online so I decided in the interest of history to be a torch bearer.

Why does it matter whether you fill your form in or not?

There are four basic reasons as I see it.

The first one, and probably the most important, is that the level of funds directed to your local council by the national Government is determined by the number of people recorded on the census. If you dont put your name down then no money will be forthcoming to your council on your behalf. It's like this okay, if you don't register on the census, then please don't put your bin out next week.

The second reason for completing your census is that it helps the Government, the health professionals and all sorts of other folk who rely on statistics to work out what kind of people live in these Isles and what their needs are. The personal information about you is all kept private for 100 years, yes really, nobody knows what your religion is, or who is staying with you tonight, or whether you have a job, or what kind it is, or any of that, for a century. What we will learn however are the gross figures. How many people are religious, how many are in work, how many have a disability, how many are carers, who lives alone (utilising too many bedrooms, like me perhaps with my three) and what proportion of us have a mortgage or pay rent or are sleeping on a mate's sofa. All of this data helps the policy makers to work out what they need to do next. You cannot underestimate the importance of this census data, and on those terms (but with less detail) it goes back to 1086 and the Domesday Book.

The third reason for completing it is because we are part of a history going back in its current form to 1841. Why would you not want to be part of something that has quantified and illuminated our nation for 170 years?

And the fourth reason is because the genealogists amongst your descendants will be waiting a long time to read your entry. Sometime in 2101 they will read your 2001 entry, but there will be some unanswered questions. Did you go on to have more children? Did you move? Did you find a good job? What was your health like? Where was your sister, she having been missing the decade previously. The rules of the game dictate that they will have to wait 10 years to get the next piece of the jigsaw. As each year ticks by they will get more excited, looking forward to 2111 when finally they might find out whether you passed your driving test, whether you embraced technology, whether you made it through University. Are you going to let them down?

I have been researching my family tree since 1983, nearly 30 years, and nothing irks me more than an ancestor who was missing on the census. Didn't they realise how much this would matter to me, even though I was only a far distant twinkle, had they no imagination?

You might like to see a few of the entries that helped me to move forward with my research

Here is Great Great Great Grandfather John Mottram with Great Great Grandmother Mary, at home in Ansley, Warwickshire. Mary went on to get married and bear 15 living children.

Or Great Great Gran Eliza Long in Bradford in 1901. Her illegitimate third child born in 1881 in Eccleshill, Bradford was fostered from birth and went on to join the army, marry and travel the world. He was my Great Grandfather.

And finally, as one Tweeter said today on Twitter, "Be grateful that you at least didn't have to ride to your home town on a donkey in order to be counted!"

March for the Alternative: TUC Demo: London: March 26th 2011

My day on the TUC demo, March for the Alternative, in videos and photographs

The UNISON coach leaves from Liverpool City Centre at 7am, London bound.

We stop at Warwick Services which is heaving with the huge numbers of demonstrators on so many TUC coaches. I run into good comrades, Gary Booth, Dean Sharpe and Alun Parry in the station.

Boro girl finally makes it to Wembley albeit only to park the coach up. We are waved through the tube station and cram onto the train, two local Londoner youngsters are amazed and bemused to see so many folk, all avidly chatting to each other, with placards and furled up banners. Meet Paul Amann on the tube, Liverpool on tour!

We get off the tube at Waterloo Bridge because Westminster has been closed due to the huge numbers, and we walk over the bridge towards the start point. Already we can see many thousands of people marching ahead of us along the Embankment.

As we cross Waterloo Bridge we start to form into a proper march, and move the Strand and onto the start of the official march on the Embankment. This takes about an hour and a half owing to the huge numbers..

Finally we approach Waterloo Bridge, from the other side, two hours after crossing over it. It is good to see the Merseyside banner hanging from the bridge.

An eagle eyed marcher spots Bruce Kent (third from right) as we cross underneath.

We pass under the bridge to great cheers. A baby, blissfully unaware of all the noise, sleeps in his mother's arms.


And on we march, under the next bridge, which I think might have been the New Hungerford. We've been marching for several hours now and are about a quarter of the way round, there is no let up to the crowds who range as far as the eye can see, behind and in front of us.


And at last something we all recognise, the London Eye comes into view


Young people "having a ball" on the Embankment as we draw close to the 3rd hour on the march. Catch a glimpse of Walthamstow Labour Party banner being carried along behind.


It's about this time that I bump into James Anthony, marching with his UNISON group, and then catch sight of Annie Key's children's banner in the distance, having admired it on FB on the coach on the way in.

We reach Westminster just after 3pm, Twitter messages suggest speeches are well under way at Hyde Park but we are still a long way from there. First rumours of trouble on Oxford Street reach us, but a quick look on the map tells us that we are not going that way, so everyone relaxes.

We walk along Whitehall, pausing to boo loudly outside Downing Street. Chants ring out of "What do we want? Regime change! When do we want it? Now!" It takes an hour to make it this short distance and we reach Trafalgar Square at 4pm. It is absolutely heaving and for a while we are unsure how to progress, there are so many people crammed into the square.

On Regent Street we catch up again with Walthamstow Labour Party - it's a great banner

We turn into Piccadilly where we start to see the evidence of the unrest we have heard reported. The atmosphere changes a little bit, and the street is in shade, it feels chilly. People begin to hug their coats a little tighter around their shoulders. We point out paint spatters and broken window panes on several banks and shops. It's vandalism rather than violence, and it looks to be targetted at "the rich" in general, rather than any particular institutions, a jewellers has a broken window. The Ritz looks like it has been hit by a paintball gun. As we reach Fortnum and Mason the rumours tell us that there is an occupation inside, but from the outside there is absolutely nothing to see. A police van draws up to the kerb but there are no sirens.

Two enterprising and athletic people have shinned up two lamposts and are hanging a "Stop The Cuts" sign across the street.

It's half past four by this time, we have been marching since noon and we are due back on our coach at Wembley at six pm. Hyde Park is still at least another hour away and there is no indication that there will be anyone left making speeches by the time we get there, so we bail out of the march at this point and get the tube back from Green Park.

Happy, tired, satisfied, with very sore feet,we head back to Wembley and the coach. We make it with ten minutes to spare...

.... Back into the city centre at 10.45pm, proud to have been part of one of the biggest public demonstrations in decades.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Digital Media Project seeks student support

Are you a digital media student in Liverpool? Do you need to acquire some skills and experience in practical work? I am looking for someone who can create some short videos and podcasts for my growing marketing business and upload them onto my website, I would also like to explore doing the same for this blog.

I envisage us working together on a script, creating the appropriate setting, and then you filming me delivering the content, which is likely to be short bursts of top marketing tips (where it is for my business) or short pieces to camera of local news on location, where it is related to this blog.

You will need access to video/filming equipment, audio equipment (we may wish to create some non-visual content too) and whatever else you need, as I dont have any of that, and also of course you will need some free time. You will be able to use the output as portfolio evidence and I am happy to provide a quality testimonial for the right results.

If you are interested then please email me at louise dot baldock at blueyonder dot co dot uk

I do a lot of interviews with media students, at their request, to help with their practical work, which they show the edited footage of, to their tutors for feedback and marking. It strikes me that we might be able to develop a reciprocal arrangement, at least with the media school, if not with the student individually hence this post. If you are not a student yourself but know someone who you think might be interested, please ask them to contact me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why we still need to fight for equality for women and girls

Thanks to Councillor Mary Rasmussen for sending me the following information which formed part of her speech on International Women's Day

In a world where women do two-thirds of the world’s work, yet receive just 10% of the world’s income; and own 1% of the property. where one in three women have been beaten, coerced into sex or abused and where just 19% of the world’s parliamentary seats are held by women there must be a renewed push for global equality.

Empowering women and girls is one of the most effective ways of accelerating poverty reduction. Yet more than thirty years after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), discrimination against women and girls remains entrenched and pervasive.

Research shows that women in the UK and worldwide still face high levels of abuse, - and violence and gender inequality continues to permeate all sectors of society.

Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women worldwide, aged 15-44, than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war, and three million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, trafficking, forced marriage or other violence each year.

Evidence shows that when women earn and manage their own money they are more likely than men to spend it on educating and feeding their children. Yet women currently earn just 10 per cent of the world’s income (even though they work two thirds of the world’s working hours).

Research shows that peace agreements and post-conflict reconstruction do better when women are involved, and that there is less corruption when women are more active in politics. However, just 19.1% of the world’s parliamentary seats are held by women.

Men currently outnumber women in Parliament 4 to 1. At the current rate of progress a girl born today will be drawing her pension before she has an equal voice in the government of her country.

Every year 70 million girls are deprived of a basic education and a shocking 60 million are sexually assaulted on the way to school.

It will take a man 15 years to pay back a student loan it will take a woman 19.5 to pay back the same amount.

30,000 women in the U.K lose their jobs each year because of pregnancy

1 in 7 female students have been the victim of a serious physical or sexual assault whilst at University

The pay gap between men and women is 10.2% for the same job

The rape conviction rate is 6%

There are almost four times as many women in part-time work as men.

Part-time workers are likely to receive lower hourly rates of pay than full-time workers.

Male directors of large companies and organisations are paid over 21% more than women directors

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Working Class Life and Music Festival

The Working Class Life & Music Festival has launched a campaign to get at least 1,000 fans on Facebook.

The festival, which starts next month, is the largest celebration of working people on the planet.

It has over 40 events and takes place right across Liverpool from 22nd April to 30th April.

Take 1 second to Facebook 'Like' the Working Class Life & Music Festival and help it reach the 1,000 fans target just by clicking this link and pressing the 'Like' button http://snurl.com/26tztk

Ask your friends to do the same!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pulling a wishbone

A funny thing happened on the way to my advice surgery tonight.

I drove through Kensington and along Boaler Street, heading towards Central Youth Club on the Phythian estate, at around 5.30pm.

As I slowly and gently rounded the bend at the back of the Olympia there was a loud clunk and the car stopped dead in its tracks, lurching over to the right. The car immediately behind me – and the one behind that, miraculously managed to stop without driving into the back of me. That was my first good fortune. If I had been travelling any faster then the cars behind me would probably have been driving faster too and might not have been able to stop without hitting me.

It was instantly clear that the car was totally immobile so I came out of the driver’s door with some degree of trepidation as to what I might see.

A woman was walking past and called over to me that fluid was pouring out onto the ground under the car and together we walked over to the pavement and gazed over the collapsed car, shaking our heads in dismay.

What could it have been? Had the gear box or the engine fallen onto the road?

After a few moments of anxiety and uncertainty about what to do next, I had the presence of mind to remember my breakdown insurance.

So I called Britannia Rescue and they answered straight away. They took a few details and then told me that they would contact Intercity Recovery Ltd to come and assist as they were the nearest.

That was probably about 5.40pm.

The car was on a bend so I stood in the road behind the car in case further traffic came, so that I could direct them away from its hidden rear end. It is a very quiet street as a rule and probably fewer than a dozen cars came as I stood there – including an ice cream van, which was astonishing given how cold it was on the street! 80% of them pulled up and wound down their windows to ask what had happened and whether they could help in any way.

While I was on the phone to the Breakdown service, one lady passed going one way, asked if she could help, whether she might phone anyone for me, and if there was more she could do, but as I was on the phone I could not properly respond. She came back in the other direction about ten minutes later and said I should come by to her house if I needed a cup of tea, a warm or a comfort break while I was waiting for the tow truck. She turned out to be the sister of Councillor James Noakes. He contacted me to say his sister had seen someone in the street she thought was me and that she wanted to reassure me that I was welcome to call in there if I needed to, lovely woman!

At 5.46pm I phoned Wendy and Liam in the advice surgery to warn them I would not be coming along, that something dramatic had happened with the car and to update them on a few cases that they might expect to visit surgery for news.

One man on foot came over to have a look and I told him what I had now noticed, that the driver’s side front wheel appeared to have broken away from the axle and the car had collapsed, down onto this wheel so that the arch (and by extension the whole car) was resting fully on the tyre. You could see inside the arch and he bent down for a quick look.

He said that the wishbone had broken away between the chassis and the wheel and that had pushed the wheel out. He then said it was a cheap and easy repair, perhaps it might cost me £30, and that he could have sorted it but he was due to go out with his partner and she would not want him getting dirty! This really made me smile and I was so relieved.

Two people stopped to ask me if I wanted a push (it was not possible to move the car which was totally immobilised) so fair play to them but there was nothing they could do.

As early as 5.55pm I saw the tow truck from my vantage point in the middle of the road but alas it turned the wrong way down Boaler Street and was heading East instead of West. But it was probably only another 5 minutes before it turned round and came back and found me.

The driver was extremely helpful and pointed out the futility of towing the car back to my house because I would be in exactly the same difficult position in the morning, with still no way of moving it. So he made a call to Britannia and to Intercity Recovery and got permission to take the car back to their compound, I am to call them in the morning when they will take it to the garage of my choice.

He didn’t want me to hang around while he jacked the car up in order to remove it onto the tow truck so I walked round to the youth club and found Wendy and Liam at the surgery which I reached by 6.20pm Imagine, all that drama and I was only 50 minutes late!

After surgery, Liam drove me home (en route telling me a fascinating little tale about him and Jack Straw’s hat, which I shall tell you about in the next day or so, something for you to look forward to…) and I was left to reflect upon my incredible fortune.

The fact that the broken piece was called a wishbone is not lost on me.

A pile-up at the moment of breakdown was miraculously avoided. Britannia Rescue were fast acting and Intercity Recovery set off immediately to rescue me. The wonderful people of the Phythian Estate were there to support me while I waited. The driver of the tow truck was great. Then there is the lucky fact that the breakdown happened only 200 yards from my destination so I could walk round there in moments once the tow truck man had finished with me, surgery had not even finished, so swiftly did all this happen, and Liam was able to bring me home easily.

Oh and while I stood in the road, freezing, directing the mercifully few cars that came along the road, so that they would not run into the back of my car, I remembered I had a warm coat in the boot that I could put on. How lucky was that?

A breakdown is never a good thing, but if it has to happen to you, I hope your ending is as happy as mine!

Traffic Calming in Kensington, L6

2020 Liverpool, on behalf of Liverpool City Council, are in the process of consulting the local community in order to obtain their thoughts on the traffic calming measures introduced, and whether or not they have been successful in reducing general vehicle speeds in the area. The results will be analysed and used as a basis for all future traffic calming schemes.

As part of this process, traffic surveys were carried out on a number of roads in the area, one of which was Boaler Street. The combined 7 day average speed was found to be 22.2 mph. The survey results did however suggest that of 2738 vehicles monitored, 4% were recorded travelling at speeds between 30 and 40 mph, and 0.3% at speeds between 40 and 50 mph. Often it is the latter minority of speeding vehicles that create a perception, amongst residents, that there is still a speeding problem in the area. It is worth noting that throughout the survey period; the average speed of vehicles always remained below 23.3 mph. It is also worth noting that the average speed displayed during the school pick up and drop off periods was 21.65 mph.

The entire area is supposed to operate as 20mph zone, with signs at all entry and exit points. If you notice that any of these signs have gone missing, then please let us know and we will ensure that the appropriate LCC officers are informed.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

World Book Night and Our Read 2011

When I was 11, in my first year in "big school", we were asked to contribute to an article for the School magazine about what made us happy and what we dreaded. I remember writing (and being thrilled later to see it reproduced in print) that I would be horrified by "a world without books".

Books are the most wonderful things ever created. I owe the biggest debt of my life thus far to Johannes Gutenburg, apparently, here's to you sir!

It doesn't matter how bad life gets, or how good, how dull or exciting, how lonely or full, reading a good book can change my mood and outlook, it can divert and transport me to whole new worlds.

I was an early reader, Mum taught me the rudimentaries of reading before I went to school (at age 4) by making lots of cards bearing the words "door" or "window" for instance and pinning them up around the house. Books were always my favourite presents, birthday or Christmas. I recall reading in bed at night, at around the age of 7 or 8, and my parents would come into my bedroom and tell me that I had to put the light out now and go to sleep. But I could never put the book down, so I would curl a corner of the curtain back and let the street light outside shine into the window and across my pillow, allowing me to carry on reading for at least another hour. (Sorry Mum if you are reading this!).

Never merely "reading", I devour books, in huge chunks, wolfed down with enthusiasm. As a girl I would read Enid Blyton - starting with the Magic Faraway Tree fantasies and moving on to the Famous Five and then to the school stories, Malory Towers and St Clare's. I dont think I ever got into the Secret Seven, but otherwise I was a very enthusiastic supporter of hers.

My Mum loves reading as much as I do, and she delighted that I loved it too, so she always made sure that she kept me supplied with the best of literature, books and poetry. I remember reading the C.S. Lewis Narnia chronicles, and everything from Nina Bawden and Noel Streatfield. I loved the Railway Children and Swallows and Amazons, and I adored poetry. I still have the Child's Compendium of Poetry, wonderful.

Some books were bought for me, but many came from the library, Tamworth Library to be specific. By the time I was 10 years old, I had read every book in the junior library (and it is quite a big library, we are not talking about a couple of dusty shelves in a corner) and Mum went in to ask if I could be upgraded to the adult library. I think from memory they said that I would need to be a teenager before I could "upgrade", but she fought my corner and eventually they allowed me to have an adult library card all of my own. It was a wonderful moment, if ever a coming of age should be celebrated, it was that one.

Now I had racks and racks of shelving to peruse, an endless supply of new material to wile away the hours.

I tore through huge sections very fast, falling in love with Agatha Christie and Catherine Cookson and all sorts of variety (interesting that they both begin with a "C", did I start with the A's and work my way through?)

And so the reading went on... through O Levels and A levels and my degree...

When I was 15, by now living somewhere else (farewell Tamworth library, hello to the much smaller Yarm library) I pulled some strings and managed to be appointed as my school's pupil librarian. I still have my enameled badge "Librarian" which I wore with pride on my school jumper. There was not as much fiction as I might have liked but I learnt a lot about buying books, cataloguing, shelving and then sharing them. It was in my school library that I first learnt about the joys of reference books as well as fiction. We had a very old book,  hidden away in storage, a large book at least 24" high, which had wonderful templates of handpainted birds and butterflies. Sometimes I see such books on Antiques Roadshow and marvel at the prices they raise. To all libraries facing funding cuts under our aggressively cutting coalition LibDem/Tory government I would suggest having a good look round to see if you have anything special you can sell!

One of my first jobs upon leaving school was to spend two years working in the library at Teesside Polytechnic, when the world of journals and periodicals, non-fiction and reference, as well as fiction and classic literature really opened up and I started reading things from other countries and other centuries.

Today I am still an active library user - mainly Allerton Library now, the most used library in Liverpool apparently, and I hold a surgery twice a month in Kensington Library where I often take a few minutes to take a book out while I am in there. And between Yarm and Allerton, I have held library cards in Thornaby, Stockton, Norton and Meltham libraries, all of which were marvellous and magnificent resources.

I am also, like so many others, a member of a book group. My book group is "The Reading Room" and our deliberations are published online on KVFM. Last month we read "We need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver, and this month it is "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, tune in!

Like my mum before me, I want to encourage others to read and have bought books for my nephews, niece and many of my friends' children, reading is the skill that keeps on giving and an ideal way to idle away the hours.

And I could go on, ad naseum about my reading discoveries, wonderful authors, books that mark the milestones in my life and changed the way I see the world, but I won't, because this entry will turn into a book in its own right!

So, onto World Book Day, World Book Night and Our Read 2011.

On Thursday, on World Book Day, the lovely librarian Joan in Kensington library gave me a free copy of "The Unforgotten Coat" by Frank Cottrell Boyce. This book has been written by Frank, for free distribution, as part of Our Read 20ll.  I read it last night, a fascinating read, aimed at teenagers, about two boys from Mongolia escaping to live as Asylum Seekers in Liverpool. Do look out for your copy, it is not just great reading, but also influential and informative and potentially a tool to tackle hate crime. I heartily recommend it and I wont spoil the plot for you by talking about, but it is beautifully written and illustrated.

And tonight, is World Book Night where across the UK, one million books are being given away free, to people all over the country in different venues, in cafes, on railway stations, in pubs and shops, at football matches and in parks, everywhere. There is lots more about it here but essentially these 25 particularly good reads are being given away by an army of volunteers to encourage more people to get into reading and to share books that they like with each other.

Well done to the publishers and the libraries and the book stores and everyone who has made this possible, well done to the volunteers who are giving the books away and the BBC for dedicating a whole evening of BBC2 to this topic tonight. I'm watching and later I shall be going to bed with one of their recommended titles.

So, if someone gives you a free book tonight, quite out of the blue, do take the time to read it, enjoy and then pass it on!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Liverpool City Council Budget Meeting 2011

I wont go into lots of detail about the budget - you can see it all online anyway on the council's website.

And you will have picked up some of what happened from the Liverpool Echo website article today. However, I did notice that the journalists left before the end of the meeting and will not in any case have picked up every nuance of what was said and done, so I thought I would identify a few things that interested me.

First was the realisation that despite having played a full and active part in a ground-breaking joint budget setting process, acclaimed here, the LibDems submitted several amendments to the budget on the very day of the budget meeting, and then most voted against the jointly agreed proposals.

The proposal to work jointly together was agreed in a concordat by all four political parties on the council and one of the provisos was that any press statements would be jointly issued, and another was that problems with any aspects of the budget would  be ironed out together.

So the discovery that the LibDems went to the press on the Tuesday with notice of their proposals to amend rather than support the budget, 24 hours before officially passing their amendments to the council, was a big shock and a bigger disappointment. It also meant that their amendment had barely any time to be properly concerned by the City Treasurer and was in the end, after many challenges in the chamber, declared by the Cheif Executive to be illegal - or not balanced. Why it then went to a vote was beyond me, but it did. And it fell, as the LibDems could not  muster enough votes.

So, you would imagine that the LibDems would then fall in behind the main budget proposals that they had helped create. But they didn't. To his credit Councillor Lord Mike Storey, Baron of Childwall (think I have got that right) did vote for the budget as he was one of their ambassadors to the budget setting meeting, and some abstained, but most voted against it.

Political opportunism? Let the public decide in May.

Councillor Paul Clein moved the amendments saying they were 99.7% in favour of the budget but had some concerns that they wanted the chance to alter. It was surprising and disappointing therefore that he failed to support the main proposals after the amendments were lost.

He also said during the debate that he wondered whether the Liverpool LibDems should cede from the Parliamentary Party, I thought that was very interesting and some of his colleagues were nodding at this point. There is clearly much unhappiness within the Liverpool group and I watch with interest to see where this goes.

Councillor Paula Keaveney surprised me by saying that she started questioning the value of the City Magazine the day after the LibDems lost power. I think I am right in saying that she was responsible for its publication hitherto, so this rather puzzled me, to  be honest.

It was a long and difficult meeting, running for nearly 6 hours, with a lot of passionate contributions from community groups and organisations, trade unions and the chamber of the commerce at the outset. There was evidently some trouble outside the Town Hall and the staff were left badly shaken after protestors attempted to storm the building after learning the public galleries were all full. Evidently panes of glass were broken in the door after someone hit them with a placard. I cannot but help be suspicious that these particular protestors were more likely to be from far-left parties unrepresented in Liverpool rather than the good people of the various nurseries and child care centres outside but no doubt that will all become clear in time. A lot of us took time to thank the staff who behaved so well in very difficult circumstances. The meeting itself was not interrupted and everyone in the public gallery behaved impeccably.

It was not a good night to be a Councillor, none of us came into politics to impose huge cuts on public services, and I am afraid it is only going to get worse as the reality dawns. One contribution, I think from Alan Lewis at LCVS was particularly thought provoking when he said that after the dust had settled on the cuts we would realise, as a city, just what we had lost and we  might find that some services had gone, or clusters of services, particularly in the voluntary sector, that we can ill afford to lose. I do hope that affected groups take the opportunity to claim on the £1million hardship fund set up to try to  mitigate some of that.

I saw councillors in tears last night, along with their constituents, it was a shameful indictment on the Conservative/LibDem Government. I understand that the councils in which Government cabinet members have their constituencies were considerably better served by the local government settlement, why does that not surpise me?

As many contributors said last night, the really hard work starts now, trying to work out how to implement the cuts agreed. More sleepness nights for our local cabinet members and officers and our constituents...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Is it just a puncture, or have the Wheels come right off for Sheila?

I feel the urge to say something about the ruling of the European Court of Justice to end the ability of Insurance Companies to differentiate between  men and women when setting car insurance premiums.

I am very surprised to hear that it has been ruled unlawful to distinguish between the genders in the matter of car insurance.

There is a real science to the work of an actuarial, there are professional examinations indeed because this is a complicated business.

Insurance companies have share holders and members who pay into a nice big pot and that pot then pays out when it has to, when there is an accident, and it hopes to make a profit for said share holders and to enable it to remain competitive and not have to put its premiums up so much that nobody will pay the rates. And to ensure that the risk is properly assessed for each policy, it has to work out the likelihood of an accident, theft, fire etc for each person. It does this using actuarial tables. (You can skip over all over of this if you already know it).

And the statistics show that young, new drivers are more likely to have accidents than older, more experienced ones. They show that men are more likely to have accidents than women, and younger men are more likely to have accidents than not (I think that is more or less right, I may have exaggerated and the tipping point may not be 50%).

I am also unable to check, without a subscription, whether the OED officially defines the term "boy racer" but I would very much expect that it does. The actuarial tables also show the differences between urban and rural dwellers, city and town dwellers and which cities are more likely to make claims than others.

All of this we have previously held as self evident. It is why when I moved from a village in the Pennines to Liverpool Wavertree, my car insurers refused to let me take my policy with me and I had to find a new supplier.

Women have benefitted from lower premiums not because they are women per se, but because the statistics over the last umpteen years have shown that women claim less, that women need to call upon their insurance policies less, that the risk of insuring a women to drive is less than that of insuring a man.

To insist on parity for the sexes is to ignore this difference in risk. This is quite simply ridiculous. It puts our insurance companies in an invidious position, how are they to manage their actuarial business in future if they cannot draw upon the characteristics that determine that risk?

And, as with the title of the blog, I do worry about the future of firms like Sheila's Wheels who have set out their stall based on their ability to insure women drivers, rather than men, and offer a risk based lowering of premium.

I would be staggered if insurance companies took this decision lying down and did not appeal it. I see a very strong appeal coming to the European Court which will be illustrated by screeds of actuarial tables and statistics and which will demonstrate that if the concept of insurance is to hold any meaning or continue to be the manner in which we all individually protect ourselves from risk, then it has to be allowed to indicate which groups or characteristics are more or less likely to incur a claim.

Insurance will (as with pensions which I am given to understand will be next under the microscope) only work if the financial institutions which gamble on the ability of our driving, or the length of our lives, can be allowed to establish the size of the risk to their enterprise.

I am certain an appeal will be granted and that ultimately it will be successful, but if it is not, then we can all expect to find it considerably more difficult to find anyone to insure us for any risk at all in future.

And it will be at that point that the European Court of Justice will realise their terrible mistake.

Dear Tax Payer...

There are those who would have us believe that what follows is a genuine letter. However, having worked for HMRC, I can say pretty much without equivocation, that nobody there would have the time, the inclination, or imagination or indeed the beautiful turn of prhase to ever have constructed this. It has clearly been put together by a truly creative fiction writer.

For all that though, it still does not fail to delight!

"Dear Mr Addison,

I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise.. I will address them, as ever, in order.

Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last as a "begging letter". It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a "tax demand". This is how we at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy, traditionally referred to such documents.

Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the "endless stream of crapulent whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the doormat" has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from "pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers" might indicate that your decision to "file them next to the toilet in case of emergencies" is at best a little ill-advised. In common with my own organisation, it is unlikely that the senders of these letters do see you as a "lackwit bumpkin" or, come to that, a "sodding charity". More likely they see you as a citizen of Great Britain, with a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of the nation as a whole.

Which brings me to my next point. Whilst there may be some spirit of truth in your assertion that the taxes you pay "go to shore up the canker-blighted, toppling folly that is the Public Services", a moment's rudimentary calculation ought to disabuse you of the notion that the government in any way expects you to "stump up for the whole damned party" yourself. The estimates you provide for the Chancellor's disbursement of the funds levied by taxation, whilst colourful, are, in fairness, a little off the mark. Less than you seem to imagine is spent on "junkets for Bunterish lickspittles" and "dancing whores" whilst far more than you have accounted for is allocated to, for example, "that box-ticking facade of a university system."

A couple of technical points arising from direct queries:

1. The reason we don't simply write "Muggins" on the envelope has to do with the vagaries of the postal system;

2. You can rest assured that "sucking the very marrow of those with nothing else to give" has never been considered as a practice because even if the Personal Allowance didn't render it irrelevant, the sheer medical logistics involved would make it financially unviable.

I trust this has helped. In the meantime, whilst I would not in any way wish to influence your decision one way or the other, I ought to point out that even if you did choose to "give the whole foul jamboree up and go and live in India" you would still owe us the money.

Please send it to us by Friday..

Yours sincerely,

H J Lee
Customer Relations
Inland Revenue

New marketing website launched

If you are interested in Marketing then you might be interested in Local Marketing Liverpool
I thought it was about time I set up a professional site to support the freelance work I am doing.
I would be interested in your comments