Posts Tagged ‘government’
Sales of petrol fell to a record low in March, as drivers abandoned their cars to do other things, like pay energy bills, feed their children and buy scratch cards in the vain hope that they’ll win £2.
Government figures showed that 1.367 billion litres of petrol were bought in March – a fall in demand of 24.7%. The only similar low figure in recent years was 1.376 bn litres last March. Back then, though, you could see the reason – March 2013 was freezing cold with petrol prices at a sky high £1.40 a litre. But this year was warm, with prices at a steady £1.30 a litre.
So what’s causing us to ditch the car? Well, AA boss Edmund King blames our boilers. He said (well, to be honest, he waffled):
‘Either the fear or reality of gas and electricity price surges has triggered an avoid-the-petrol-pump backlash to balance family spending, or the trauma of speculator-driven road fuel price spikes over more than three years has seared into the psyche of the UK driving consumer.’
We may find out in the next couple of months as the boilers and heaters are turned off – and drivers look forward to summer motoring and trips out.’
Ah, yes, summer motoring….with the hood down and a flagon of ginger beer in the picnic hamper.
Marvellous. (Oh, wait, we can’t do that, because the bailiffs repossessed the car. Oops.)
Hey look, here’s Nick Clegg pretending to be a human in an electric car! That’s going to make us all want to get one, isn’t it? Well, the government seem to think this will be the case – they’re ploughing £500m into a campaign to encourage people to buy glorified milk floats.
The cash will provide personal grants of up to £5,000 towards an electric car, and is intended to boost the ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) industry.
Clegg said: ‘Owning an electric car is no longer a dream or an inconvenience. Manufacturers are turning to this new technology to help motorists make their every day journeys green and clean.”
“This major investment is there to make driving an electric car affordable, convenient and free from anxiety about the battery running out. But it’s also about creating a culture change in our towns and cities so that driving a greener vehicle is a no-brainer for most drivers.”
Between 2015 and 2020, grants will be given to cities who can offer incentives to drivers of electric vehicles, by providing free parking or access to bus lanes. Boris Johnson, smoking a cigar on the top deck of a London omnibus, welcomed the move, tediously and meaninglessly calling it ‘a green game changer.’
All very nice in theory, but where are we going to plug them in?
And a survey by PwC has revealed that older people are sick of the ‘one size fits all’ pension age. Instead we’d wholeheartedly prefer a more flexible ‘state pension window’, which would allow you to choose which age you’d like to knock off work and start your new career of complaining about dog poo and power hosing your patio.
The idea of this ‘window’ would mean that you can select when your pension should start, and will receive an adjusted amount depending on when you would like to retire. Analysts PwC, who asked 2000 people their views on pensions, argue that it’s actually a really great idea, and would fit in well with recent government reforms that aim to give people more pension flexibility.
Half of the people surveyed said they were happy to take a pension cut of up to £450 a year if it meant they could sack the dismal misery of going to work every day a few years earlier. Many people said that they were keen to ‘spend more time with their families’, (ie: watch more daytime TV) and said that their jobs were ‘too demanding’ (ie: not as much fun as watching back-to-back Poirot).
Raj Mody from PwC said: ‘We need to create a state pensions system which is fairer, more stable and sustainable in the long term. Scrapping the state pension age and replacing it with a state pension window will produce better outcomes for people, companies and the Government.’
But with the pension age being ramped up to 66 by 2020, are the government actually going to listen?
The UK Government doesn’t like the idea of Windows XP dying on the 8th April, so has decided to throw £5.5m at Microsoft to continue supporting the operating system for a further 12 months. This will mean that Microsoft will be able to carry on providing support and security updates for XP, Microsoft Office 2003 and Exchange 2003.
Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – one of those new cabinet office departments – said in a statement: “By combining demand, on behalf of Central Government departments and the wider public sector, Crown Commercial Service has demonstrated the benefits of government working as a single customer to achieve best value for the taxpayer, whilst continuing to build good working relationships with our technology suppliers.”
Apparently, this will save the government around £20m and buy them time to migrate to a new OS. It is good news for the NHS though as around 85% of their PCs are still using XP. It is good news for a few of our ATMs too.
A Microsoft spokesperson said: “Many organisations have made good progress in moving to a modern desktop operating system and have successfully mitigated the risk that running Windows XP will bring. However, some organisations will not have moved off Windows XP by 8 April.”
“We have made an agreement with the Crown Commercial Service to provide eligible UK public sector organisations with the ability to download security updates to Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 for one year until April 8 2015.”
“Agreements such as these do not remove the need to move off Windows XP as soon as possible.”
You know what it’s like. You try to find a reputable tradesman, and some pie eating git with a gut the size of the moon comes into your house, whistles through his teeth and tells you it’ll cost a thousand quid to put up a shelf. Then they bugger it up and you have to pay someone else to do it.
Well, last year, incompetent tradesmen cost UK householders an estimated £1.9 BILLION in botched repairs that had to be redone.
The figures, from the TrustMark tradesman scheme, said that one in five people who have had work done in their homes have had to employ someone else to fix problems – costing an average of £600.
The problems start when trying to choose someone from the job. A quarter of us will employ people based on recommendations from friends and family, while 57% of homeowners didn’t bother to check their qualifications. 6% of us simply go for the cheapest quote.
TrustMark is a government endorsed set of standards for tradesmen, which has been updated and is due to be launched soon. Consumer minister Jenny Willot said:
‘Every trader who has signed up to the scheme has been independently assessed for their competence. We want to put rogue or unscrupulous tradesmen out of business. One of the best ways to do this is to pick out the best businesses, so people know where to turn first for their home improvements, maintenance and repairs.I would encourage all legitimate and honest tradesmen to sign up to this scheme.’
That’s all well and good. But if you were a dishonest tradesman, wouldn’t you just sign up for it anyway?
In a move that seems to have been devised by Mr Burns from the Simpsons, the UK Intellectual Property Office is proposing to update copyright law to make it legal, even though everybody ditched CDs and DVDs ages ago.
The IPO announced the news by printing it out on striped green perforated paper and faxing it.
They said: The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful.’
(But apparently it’ll still be illegal to make copies of your CDs and DVDs for friends and family. Hahhahaha.)
The government will actually be debating this in the Houses of Parliament next month, and if it’s agreed, the law will be changed in June.
I wonder whether they’ve heard about these great new things called 78s? You can play them on the gramophone, so I hear.
British Gas has been accused of trying to put the frighteners on people, after gasbag Centrica boss Sam Laidlow warned that an investigation into the energy market may lead to power blackouts.
He claimed that potential investors will be put off from backing an updated energy infrastructure if Ofgem started shaking up the energy industry with its two-year investigation.
His reasoning is that the potential breaking up of the Big Six would create uncertainty and decrease investment in the energy market, leading to what he called a ‘substantial risk’ of outages and blackouts. Ooh, we’re so SCARED.
Obviously, this sounds like a lot of desperate, self-serving bollocks, and everyone in the world has come out to tell him so, including uSwitch, Ofgem, the Tories, the Lib Dems, energy secretary Ed Davey and the Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, who said:
‘Nobody will be fooled by scaremongering from the energy companies. What matters for investors is long-term certainty on returns, not short-term gains based on overcharging.’
So what’s Mr Laidlow got to hide, we wonder? Could it be that he doesn’t want his £2.2m a year wage packet taken away from him? I mean, what’s going to happen if he can’t afford to fill his hot tub with Dom Perignon any more?
Sick leave – it’s all the rage in the UK. As many as 960,000 employees went on sick leave for a month or more, each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, according to new research by the government.
It is said that more than 130 million days were lost to sickness absence in the UK, which impacts on workers, employers and taxpayers, and employers face a yearly bill of £9 billion for sick pay and around £4 billion in lost earnings.
Obviously the government of ‘the hard working’ aren’t having any of it, so as part of the launch of the Health & Work Service, employees will be expected to have health assessments, and also draw up timetables of when they aim to be better.
The Health and Work Service will help employees who have been on sickness absence for 4 weeks to return to work and support employers to better manage sickness absence among their workforce. It’s expected to save employers £70 million a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%”.
The new Health and Work Service will be funded through the abolition of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) – an outdated system which does nothing to promote or support active management of sickness absences by either the employer or employee.
The government has been accused of making a mighty balls up of their 5p plastic bag scheme. The Environmental Audit Committee say that the 5p charge on plastic bags, which is intended to reduce the amount of Morrisons carriers flapping sadly on tree branches, is confusing and ill conceived.
A government plan that’s confusing and ill conceived, you cry? It’s hard to believe, but the problem with it is that under the new scheme, biodegradable bags, paper bags and bags given out by small retailers are exempt – and the ECA quite rightly say that’s silly.
The ECA’s chairwoman, Joan Walley said: ‘Ministers have managed to make a complete mess of their planned carrier bags charge by making it unnecessarily complicated.
Carrier bags litter our streets and harm wildlife, and the Government is right to want to reduce their use. But Defra seems to have made decisions about the design of this scheme that were based more on wishful thinking than hard evidence.’
The charge is due to come into effect from next year in England, but the ECA want ministers to rethink the plan before it goes ahead.
After all, what’s the difference between a swan being strangled by a Sainsbury’s bag or a Jo Malone bag? (Apart from maybe its corpse might smell a bit nicer?)
Ofgem has been about as effective in regulating the Big Six as a squirrel trying operate a fork lift truck, and now ministers say it’ll be scrapped if it doesn’t end the monopoly on the energy market.
The ministers’ exact words were that it was in the ‘last chance saloon’ and if it doesn’t encourage more small suppliers to compete, it’ll be scrapped like broken combi boiler.
The government wants to shake up the energy market and create more competition, and have accused Ofgem of getting too cosy with the Big Six. As a result, the big buggers are profiteering, while insisting to Ofgem that their profit margins are small.
Unless Ofgem up their game and deliver an actual plan to end the reign of the Big Six, and stop customers from being overcharged (which is why they exist in the first place), then they will be dissolved, and energy regulation will be in the hands of the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Ofgem got a bit stroppy about rumours that they might be for the chop. ‘We don’t comment on speculation. We are working with the OFT and the Competition and Markets Authority on our assessment of competition in the energy market and we will be publishing by the end of March.’
Meanwhile, it seems that they’re REALLY not popular in Whitehall – so they’d better watch it.
‘Ofgem have been a nightmare for years.’ Said one government source. ‘They keep Government in the dark about what they’re doing and then spring things on us at the last minute – usually at 3.30 on a Friday afternoon.’
If you feel deluged by PPI pipsqueaks and recorded message junk calls, then here’s why. According to government figures, there are 2 million nuisance calls in Britain EVERY DAY.
Last year, 30 million of us were contacted about misold PPI, but in a separate survey of around 5000 people by the Citizens Advice Bureau, it revealed that personal injury companies made the highest volume of sales calls, followed by gas and electricity suppliers and double glazing idiots.
We’re also regularly harassed by text, too, and other culprits include debt consolidation services and pension unlocking. This is despite the fact that 9 out of 10 of us wouldn’t trust these cold calling shysters anyway. (It almost makes you pine for that advert with that bloke falling off a ladder at work.)
The issue of what can be done about nuisance calls is being debated in the Commons today,with Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart demanding to have them banned. Meanwhile, Gillian Guy from the Citizens Advice Bureau said:
‘It is time companies hang-up marketing plans that bombard people with unwanted phone calls, text messages and automated voicemails. I’d like to see financial service companies banned from cold calling. A ban on these firms would help people know a call out of the blue is one not to be trusted.’
And surely the success rate of these calls must be so low that companies will have to reconsider their marketing strategy anyway? How about something more wholesome and fun? Like blimps? Or sky writing?
The government, in its usual hopeless and clunky way, have launched an initiative called the ‘Cyber Streetwise’ campaign, to encourage people to be on their guard on the internet.
Sadly, it doesn’t feature Zammo from Grange Hill, but the campaign urges people to be more ‘savvy’ with their personal security online, doing things like changing passwords, updating virus software and checking privacy settings in the battle against cyber crime.
No matter that these hooded cyber criminals are smarter than you are, and that their methods are constantly changing. Or that social networks like Snapchat and Google + have massive holes in their security that you can’t do anything about. It’s all down to YOU.
Government security minister James Brokenshire (who probably owns the whole of Brokenshire and a large part of Rutland) said, grandly: ‘As a government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in the world. However, by taking a few simple steps while online the public can keep cyber criminals out and their information safe.’
The campaign comes after a survey found that we really are a bit lackadaisical with our internet safety, with only 44% downloading security software on new devices. But it’s ok, the government is here! And as well as the ‘Cyber Street’ website, they’re also asking websites who have government connections to display a special safety ‘kitemark’.
Aw, how quaint!
Never mind that it would probably take the average cyber criminal about 20 minutes to hack into them.
Ministers are saying that all driving records are being moved online, which should mean that the cost of your car insurance should fall. The days of keeping the paper bit of your insurance with your licence is soon to be over (mid 2015, they predict).
Premiums should fall because insurers will now be able to check you for traffic offences, which means, if you’ve been a good driver, you’ll get a cheaper deal as the insurance companies won’t have to make guesses about the risk of motorists.
Now, all your speeding points and the like, will be available online. If you’ve been a lousy driver, this is not great news. This might not be great news for anyone if you consider the government’s record of IT cock-ups.
The Association of British Insurers says there should be ”significant cost savings” resulting from “reducing the need to obtain paper copies of licences from policyholders” and the DVLA will allow insurers to access information through the gov.uk website using an individual’s licence number, national insurance number and postcode.
This comes after the news that paper tax discs will be scrapped and that the paper counterpart to the driving licence photo card is to be killed off too.
The DVLA said that “although some services cannot be delivered digitally, such as assessing a customer’s fitness to drive, we can improve the processes supporting the delivery of these services through making greater use of digital tools”.
Are you happy for all your details to be on a government website in exchange for cheaper insurance, or is this an accident waiting to happen?
Workers at the Department for Transport have been REVVING THEIR ENGINES during a boring day of admin with some rather racy internet searches, like ‘Big Boobs in Tight Blouses.’
Yes, while your rail fares rise, something else is rising under the Department of Transport desks. According to Freedom of Information figures, Whitehall employees tried to get at porn 47 times last year, attempting to access Playboy and something called ‘Perfect Asians’.
Playboy was the most popular site, though. Maybe they just wanted to read the articles?
A spokesman, perhaps flustered from looking at big boobs in tight blouses, said: ‘The department has measures in place to prevent accidental or unintentional access to unauthorised sites, such as pornographic sites.’
‘Accidental or unintentional.’
It might be time for Whitehall to get their IT problems sorted out. After all, it’s not the first time that government employees have decided to entertain themselves on their work laptops. MPs and peers are by far the worst – they tried to access porn sites 300,000 times a year. That’s 300,000 visits to treatmelikeanadultbaby.com. No wonder this country is in a mess.
Good news! If your phone gets nicked and the perpetrators use it to call their gangster pals in Serbia, or decide to Shazam everything and upload snuff movies onto it, you won’t be hit with a large bill.
The government has reached an agreement with four mobile phone companies – EE, Three, Virgin Media and Vodaphone – to put a cap on bills from stolen mobile phones from next Spring.
If you’ve reported your phone lost or stolen, there will be a £50 limit on bills. Also, phone providers will have to behave themselves when it comes to mid contract price rises. Customers will be able to decide to cancel their contract without any charges if their provider announces a price hike – following a ruling from Ofcom.
It’s all part of what the Government likes to sensationally call ‘the great mobile phone rip off.’ As announced earlier in the year, mobile providers must also work with the EU to end data roaming charges by 2016.
These days, if a Tory minister doesn’t mention ‘hardworking families’ in a speech, they’ll be jolly well egged and chucked into the River Cam without a punt. And Culture Secetrary Maria Miller didn’t disappoint.
‘We are ensuring hardworking families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own. Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise. This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.’