I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Pour yourself a coffee. If you smoke, then light one up. Take a deep breath or two. And prepare to feel completely pissed off about just how crappy this country of ours is becoming.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a couple of stories and you can make your own minds up about the picture they paint.

Regular readers of this blog will be more than familiar with my views on the ‘Bedroom Tax’ that will hit so many, so very hard on the first of April. For new readers, here it is in a nutshell. Take a regular Joe living on his own in a two bed house. He’s lived there for many years. He will have done this DIY and put a shed in the garden and a patio out back. He is in his late 50’s, he’s worked for many years but now he’s unemployed. He lives in a place where jobs are all but non-existent, especially for anyone over the age of 50.

How does life look now? Bloody lousy to be quiet frank. He will be drawing just over sixty quid a week in dole and the power bill, council tax and TV licence will take at least half of that. Basically he is left with £4.50 a day to feed himself, clothe himself and catch an occasional bus. Do the maths. It just don’t add up buddy.

On April 1, things are about to get a whole lot worse. In fact mathematically we can say that things are going to get just over 30% worse. For the rules say that one guy with two bedrooms just isn’t on any more. Not viable. There will be a price to pay for that pesky little box room at the back of the house with the view out onto the garden with the shed and the patio. The price is 11% of Housing Benefit. As a rule of thumb two bed houses in our neck of the woods come in at about £70 a week and right now all of that is covered by Housing Benefit. From April 1 my average Joe will be required to come up with £11 a week himself. Or move to a one bedroom flat of course. But there are virtually no one bedroom flats to move to.

I have no doubt that £11 a week must seem like chicken feed to a Government minister on £100k plus or a senior Whitehall Mandarin on double that. But when you are eking out an existence on £4.50 a day, a drop of £11 a week means you have to find a way to live on £3 a day.

Could you?

Now I am a member of a dwindling minority who has a deal of respect for George Osborne. Once upon a time I was a director of a family business that hit the bricks big time in the wake of the BSE crisis. We owed north of two million to NatWest and a French bank and my oh my did they ever want it back off us. Everything our family owned was hocked and if we had failed to keep the balls in the air it would have been the Homeless Department and probably prison. When you owe an absolute tonne of cash to people who want it back, you really need to have a story to tell. George is the man who is expected to go out to bat for us all and persuade the Chinese and the Arabs to carry on lending us £120 million a day. That’s £2 each by the way – just a quid a day more than my imaginary Joe will have to keep body and soul together once he’s hit for £11 a week for his box room. Now the Chinamen and the Arabs don’t do welfare and they don’t much rate countries that do. Try being on the dole in Shanghai. Not a great look I’ve heard. So they look at us with our NHS and free education and 6 million non workers and they wonder if we are a viable concern. Their view is why should we lend you lot our money to pay six million souls to do bugger all. It just ain’t the Chinese way of doing things. And let’s not forget, they haven’t even begun to forgive us for turning half their population into opium addicts and stealing Hong King in the Nineteenth century. Would we forgive them if the boot was on the other foot? I don’t think so.

But simply sweet talking his way into borrowing the hundred and twenty mill a day is only half of George’s problem. He also has to convince the Chinamen and the Arabs that we are a miles better bet than all the other European basket cases who are queued up at the door. The Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese and Irish are being charged 7% for their money. We are paying 2%. What does that actually mean? Well 2% is costing us £35 billion a year. 7% would cost an extra £85 billion or so. £85 billion is basically the whole of the Defence and Education budget. Just on the interest! There are 30 million Brits working and paying our taxes at the moment. If the Chinamen and Arabs decide to hit us for 7%, we will all have to find £2850 a tear each to stump up for the extra interest. Either that or close down every school in the country, make the whole army redundant and scuttle the fleet.

So we can go on all we like about George being an old Etonian who can’t remember the last time he ate a pasty, but in my book he’s a miracle worker. I mean, be honest, if you had a pile of cash would you lend it to Britain for 2% year? Put it another way – would you lend cash at 2% to a drug dealer who had once got your whole family addicted to Smack and nicked your weekend caravan? I don’t think so.

So how one earth is he managing it? He’s playing to the gallery of course. That’s what you have to do when you owe a tonne of money and you can’t afford to pay it back. You need to brush up on your Arthur Daly routine. The Bedroom Tax will only save a handful of loose change in the great scheme of things. Maybe a billion a year? A lousy week’s worth of interest payments. But that isn’t the point. What it will do is create endless amounts of pain and misery for a whole bunch of blameless people. And their stories will play out in the press and on the TV. And George will collect all the cuttings and put them in a scrap book and show it to the hard faced guys from Beijing. And they will like it. And when he tells them how serious he is about getting a hold of the out of control welfare system, they might just keep on believing him and keep doling out the cash.

At 2%

But my made up guy with his £11 a week box room is only half of the story to be told in this blog. Last week I had a chat in Tesco with a local councillor. He was fuming. In fact I’m amazed the smoke pouring out of his ears didn’t set off the fire alarm. I have to tread carefully here to keep my man’s anonymity in tact. He told me the story of three senior managers in one of the local Council Departments. Like box room man, all three were in their late 50’s. The boss was on £100k a year and his two assistants were on £50k a year. And everything was about to change when it was decided that their department was to be closed down and centralised in six months time. Well, that’s life isn’t it?

So here is what they did. The boss took early retirement and started to draw his final salary pension – 70% of £100k = £70k a year until the day he dies. Very nice. If an ordinary Joe like yours truly was to save enough to get a pension of £70k a year I would have to save up £1.4 million. Let’s say I want to retire at 55 and I left university at 21. That gives me 34 years to salt away the £1.4 million. That’s £41,176 a year for 34 four years! These senior pubic sector managers must be pretty special people to warrant that kind of reward from a grateful public. They must run some absolutely tip top services. Or do they? Visited Germany lately?

Anyway the boss took early retirement and assistant number one stepped up to the top job and trousered a £50k a year pay rise.


And he ran the shop for three months. And then he took early retirement with a package of 70% of final salary = £70k a year.

And you can no doubt guess the next part.

Oh yeah. Assistant number two stepped up, ran things for two months, and took early retirement. Another £70k a year. The enraged Councillors were told that there was not a thing they could do about it. This was an operational thing. Not a democracy thing. This was for the Chief Exec and his minions.

So the good folk of Dumfries and Galloway all got rooked to the tune of £70,000 a year for as many years as the guys in question live and breathe.

Here is the sum that really pisses me off. It will take the Bedroom Tax of 140 guys like the one I described to cover the extra pensions the two assistants got a hold of by playing the system. 140 people are thrown into even more abject poverty to fund three guys living an undeserved life of Riley by playing the system.
Let’s face it, the whole thing was about as bent as it gets. But they had great lawyers of course and they will be at pains to tell anyone who might have a moan that they haven’t broken any laws. Well, not the law of the land. But your morals stink like a truck load of rotten fish guys. You’re a disgrace and you should be named, shamed and banned from every shop, pub, restaurant and golf club in the region. For ever. You should be chucked out of the Rotary Club and never invited to a barbeque again. You are a bunch of Shysters. End of.

So George. Here’s an idea for you to chew on and I reckon the Chinamen and the Arabs would lap it up. Give the bedroom tax a miss and try this out for size. You have told us all that it is wrong for any family to get more in benefits that a working family on the average wage. So you have set a cap of £26k a year and there are very few of us who disagree with that. I for one am more than happy with it. And your reason? The country’s broke and the Chinamen and Arabs want to see us making an effort. Fair enough. So why not take it a stage further? The country’s broke. Agreed. Therefore we can no longer pay any individual a public sector pension of more than £26,000 a year. Imagine the savings George! Just think of all those retired Headmasters and Chief Constables and Brigadiers and NHS bosses and Whitehall Mandarins and GPs and Council Chief Execs…….

And all of them on pensions of over fifty grand a year for ever and ever Amen. You could save fifty times what you are saving on the Bedroom Tax. And would anyone complain? Well the ones having to get by on a lousy twenty six grand a year pension would have a moan, but would anyone else give a stuff? I don’t think so George. Hell, you might even be popular for once!

Oh. Almost forgot. It would mean having a go at the Establishment, wouldn’t it? And we don’t go in for that kind of thing in Britain. Do we George? Of course we don’t. Not ever. That was what they taught you at Eton. We do Empire and slavery and opium and gunboat diplomacy. We can mow down Matabele tribesmen by the thousand until the barrels of our Gattling guns glow red. We can lock away half a million Kikuyu in concentration camps. But have a go at the gilded Establishment? Good Lord no. What a thought! Not done thing, old chap. Not the done thing at all.

One day people are going to get very angry about all this. Very, very angry.     

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