British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘northern rock

Tories vow to address the health and safety culture

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Not before time, a UK political party has committed to address the almost farcical health & safety culture that has built up in the UK, not least its affect on the ability of the emergency services to do their jobs.

I remember discussing the case of Jordan Lyon who drowned last year with an ex-fireman. This young boy drowned even though two Community Safety Officers were on the scene, because these ‘officers’ did not have the appropriate training. The ex-fireman told me that the fire service is also tied up with Health & Safety red tape, to the extent, that if a fireman was to enter the water to save someones life, without the requisite support, then he could have faced losing his job and pension. I was appalled. If you take on the job of a police office or a fireman, you know that at times, you will have to risk your life to save others, very often, it is a judgement call, to have that decision made by health & safety officials is deplorable.

Imagine the situation if all our armed forces were forced to consider the health & safety risks before they went into battle. When you join the army, you know that you may be called upon to fight for your country and lay your life down in that service. You are entitled to expect senior officers to complete a risk assessment and not waste young lives, but not a health & safety officer! Yet here we are, with health & safety officers placing a raft of conditions on police officers and fireman. The public are entitled to expect the emergency services to help us when we are in need, they have chosen that vocation, are paid to do the job and they know the risks. They should not be prevented from doing their jobs through red tape.

Clearly this government does not understand the implications of all this, although that is not particularly surprising, given they are so out of touch with the people of this country. I normally have a lot of time for Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, but here is what he had to say about the conservative proposals. “The lives of police officers and Police Community Support Officers are as important as those of the people they serve, and this government will back the police service in the day to-day operational decisions they make in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. “And we will ensure that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim, not the criminal.” Yes, but these officers know the risks and they are paid to do a job, they should be allowed to get on with it.

I would suggest he ask the rank and file members of our emergency services as to whether or not they are in favour of all of these health & safety rules, whether they see it as the government protecting them, or unnecessary interference, in as much as it prevents an officer from making a safety assessment on the spot. There are 167,000 police officers in this country, yet we feel less safe than we did 20 years ago, why is that, could it be something to do with the fact that in many cases, police officers are prevented to go into a dangerous situation, unless they have back up?

We are constantly told that the emergency services deserve good salaries and pension schemes, because of the risks they take to protect the public, yet more and more, they are required to take less risk. Our police officers and firemen should not be risk averse, they must be brave, they are charged with protecting the public and they must be allowed to do so. With this health & safety culture of ours, we will never know whether lives are lost because officers don’t have the backbone to go in, or if they are simply following health & safety rules. I would hope that these officers are not hiding behind these rules, I am sure they are not, but unless they also make it clear that they do not want these restrictions, what is the public to think?

On top of all this, I believe there needs to be a very clear definition of ‘reasonable force’, it is currently very vague. There is a need for the public to act in cases when their are no police officers around, or the police are not allowed to act for fear of losing their jobs. Where the public do act, they must be protected by law, they should not live in fear of prosecution. In my view, reasonable force is any act necessary to prevent the threat and the benefit of doubt should always be given to the member of public that has intervened where a police officer couldn’t or wouldn’t.

But the conservatives should also deal with health and safety regulations in the workplace, this has gone so far, that it is simply killing small business who must either employ and health & safety officer or use the services of a consultant. Yes there must be rules because the public and employees are entitled to be protected, but health and safety has now turned into a massive industry and it is costing every single one of us. There needs to be balance. Once again, I hope the conservatives will be bold in their policies, there is no point in meddling, Health & Safety Regulations need wholesale reform.

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Bankers must accept their own responsibility

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It is difficult to argue with the suggestion put forward by Power to the People, suggesting as it does, that the bankers should be held to account for their poor decision making that has, for the most part, brought about the current crisis.

When the dust settles, governments around the world need to reflect on precisely how a situation arose, where taxpayers were required to bail out struggling banks and insurers. This should be wide ranging and lead to both regulation and prosecution.

Power to the People

There is much talk about government responsibility through the poor enforcement of existing regulation and the need for more regulation and legislation. However, the bottom line is that the whole ethos of the city is that it thrives on being a free market. So yes, by all means include further regulation to avoid a repeat of the current fiasco, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead, remind city execurtives, whether they are from the banking, insurance or any other sector, that they are trustees of the shareholders, they are expected to increase wealth, not take massive gambles, which expose the very assets they are supposed to protect and grow.

There is a very good argument for prosecuting those executives that were involved in the decision making process that brought about this calamity, no matter where they are based. Their assets should be frozen and if they are found guilty, they should be siezed, only then can we be sure that they will have learned their lesson.

 

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Bradford & Bingley nationalisation, is it a good deal?

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As I have said, not for the first time, I am no financial expert, but I am a little confused about the ‘part nationalisation’and ‘part sell-off’ of the Bradford & Bingley deal. I accept that there is probably still more detail to come about, but from the little that is available, I find myself wondering, whether the government, on behalf of the hard-pressed taxpayers of this country, worked out a good deal.

In the past, building societies received deposits, in order that they could then use that money to offer mortgages and loans to others. The saver would receive interest on their money, the mortgage payer would pay interest on their borrowings and the building society would take a commission in return for the introduction and managing of the arrangement. Although this model has been turned on its head, with the wholesale trading of these mortgages, the principle should still be sound.

Therefore, if the government have taken on all of the mortgage debt of the Bradford & Bingley, estimated to be some £50bn, why not retain the deposits as well? Instead, they “sell”, the ambitious Spanish conglomerate, Santander, some £20bn of saver deposits (2.7 million people), for the miserly some of £612m. How can this be a good deal for the taxpayer? How can the government be so sure that the savers interests are protected, given we don’t really know that much about Santander. In fact, if the government were responsible for the sale of these customer deposits and something were to happen to Santander, would the government be culpable or liable, given it was they who negotiated the deal?

This particular arrangement can’t be good for the employees either, because Bradford & Bingley employed some 3,000 people and operated 197 branches. Does anyone imagine that a foreign owned bank, will give a toss about these employees? No, from what I can see, the UK government has passed over the profitable side of Bradford & Bingley to the Spanish owned bank ‘Abbey’, whilst leaving the British taxpayer exposed with just the bad mortgage debt. What was the point in getting rid of depositors money which has traditionally been used to offset mortgages? Looks like a very poorly thought out deal to me and somebody needs to explain why? Santander must be rubbing their hands with glee at the at the apparent naivety of the UK government.

I would not normally be a supporter of nationalisation, although in this case, as in the case of Northern Rock, there was probably no palatable alternative. However, I do believe that the government is responsible for driving home a decent deal for the taxpayers, they have a duty of care to the public purse and a responsibility to the taxpayer. No matter how urgent the problem, they should not lose sight of this. Yet here, from what I can see and perhaps against the views of many other observers, I fail to see how anyone, other than Santander would be considered to a be a winner.

Gordon Brown criticises companies for off-balance sheet activities

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What a hypocrite Gordon Brown is, this man lauded for his so called economic competence. In an in interview with Sky News, Gordon Brown criticises companies for running “large off-balance activities”. He then goes on to say, “We cannot excuse the irresponsibility that took place in a number of institutions. And, you guessed it, he did this with a straight face and no sense of irony.

So, this is the same man, that to be certain that he did not break his own golden rules, ensured that the cost of the Private Finance Initiative’s (PFI’s), were not included on the government’s own books. These are calculated to cost the tax payer some £172bn between now and 2032. This is the same man that forked out £110bn of tax payers money in loans and guarantees for Northern Rock, once again, ensuring that it was not included on the government’s balance sheet.

Then there is a further £1.7bn that the government must pay for Metronet’s debts, this figure is also excluded from the governments balance sheet. There is also a further, estimated £790bn in government pension deficits, this is another liability that is excluded from the government;s balance sheet. Now I accept that this may be ‘legal’ but it is morally wrong and serves only to deceive us all into a false sense of security. Some would argue that the game that these large companies and institutions alluded to in Gordon Brown’s interview did nothing more than he has.

Now, Gordon Brown has says that “It’s got to be cleaned up and its got to be cleaned up quickly.” I would hope, that when he is considering these words, he will consider his own actions, because their are many in this country that would consider his own actions as “irresponsible” and “inexcusable”. Enough said!

 

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