Monday, 25 February 2013

Invitation to View

I often receive requests from individuals asking if they can come and look round my house to which I reply yes - of course - but at a price.  After all  - as the Good Book says; "The labourer is worthy of his hire" and as showing someone round takes up at least an hour of my time - then my minimum charge is £150.  This may sound a lot but then a girlfriend of my wife's is getting divorced and is being charged £700 per hour by some grease ball divorce lawyer (is there lower species of life than a divorce lawyer?)  - so frankly at £150 an hour I reckon I am cheap at the price.  Obviously though this puts a tour out of reach of a lot of people so I  - together with some other house owners in South West England have joined together to do something called -Invitation to View.

This idea originated in East Anglia and is simple. Houses such as mine designate certain days and times when they are willing to show people round their houses.  People book in and pay in advance via the Invitation to View website and then turn up on the appointed day at the appointed time and get my undivided attention. It is good for me because normally there are between ten and fifteen people each paying  £15 a head for 'a tour and  tea' and good for people interested in crumbling piles such as mine which are not normally open to the public. Everyone - in other words - is a winner.    

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Mansion Tax

Living in what is undoubtedly a 'mansion' I am naturally a little nervous now that Ed Milliband has adopted 'Baby Face' Clegg's idea of a Mansion Tax.  For a politician the attractions of such a tax are easy to see.  There are , apparently, some 70,000 houses in the UK worth over two million pounds (out of a total housing stock of some 15.0 million)  of these 70,000 houses some 70% of them are in London and - though no one has mentioned it- some 70% of those in London are owned by fat Arabs, greasy Frenchmen, or criminal Russian oligarchs  and -those Brits who do own houses in London worth over two million pounds - are almost exclusively bankers - and we all hate them anyway.  So actually - for a politician - it is a no brainer - very few votes -if any will be lost - while - at a tax rate of 1% on values it is estimated that £1.6 billion will be raised.

Unfortunately though - for politicians - things are not that simple. If you bung on a tax of 1% on the capital values of any home worth over £2.0 million then something is going to happen and that something is that homes worth £2.0 million or more are going to drop in value probably by around 20%. Why?  Because that's how economics works. Add on an annual cost to owning a property and the value will shrink -that is why -incidentally - house prices in  the USA look cheap to us in the UK  - the reason they are cheap is that property taxes are very high in the States and that is reflected in the price.

So the mansion tax will not raise anything like what Baby face and Ed Milliband think as something like 50% of the properties they hope to tax will immediately fall in value below the £2.0 million threshold.  Then - of course- in rural Britain someone will have to decide what is a mansion. That might sound silly until you think that most houses worth more than £2.0 million in the country come with land attached - take away the land and the house suddenly becomes worth much, much less. So a monster mansion like mine would be worth very little if I tried to sell it with two acres of garden.  Add in the fact that a lot of such properties are Grade 1 listed buildings and you immediately fire up the Heritage Lobby which - after the fluffy animal lobby- is probably the most feared by politicians.

So actually 'the Mansion Tax' is yet another example of 'sound bite' politics to which -sadly - all three party leaders are addicted.  Have a brain wave - try it on a 'focus group' - then make a speech and get acres of newsprint and TV coverage- later -of course -in the cold light of day - harsh realities come to the fore - but by then you are trapped by your sound bite.  that - of course -is how Cameron became entangled with Gay marriage - Overseas Aid - the Royal Succession - to name but three of his more asinine policies.

Monday, 11 February 2013

NHS - What's wrong

Anyone who knows anyone who has had an elderly relative in a NHS hospital knows that the horror stories from West Stafford Hospital are not unique to that establishment.

Thirty odd years ago nurses where revered by all people as being angels in uniform - they were beyond criticism.   How things have changed. Mention nurses now and you are likely to be inundated with stories
which reflect badly on them and their profession. So what's gone wrong?

When I spent a week in my local hospital one thing struck me. I never saw the same nurse twice. The only human 'continuity' on the ward was provided by a super lady who did the cleaning and wheeled a tea trolley round. Now I am sure it is -technically - a lot more 'efficient' to allocate nurses to different wards etc, but if you have no continuity how can you have any pride in your ward and -if you have no pride in your ward - then you will do -being a humane being - the minimum you need to get by.  That -presumably - is why -at West Stafford - no one is being blamed or punished for the appalling standard of care because -to put it simply - no nurse was around long enough for any blame to stick.

So the first reform is to allocate nurses to wards as part of a team under the control of a Matron who has real powers of discipline. That way standards would rise - nurses would be accountable  - and- hopefully - pride in their ward and job would rise.

The real villain though is surely the Royal College of Nursing who - over the last thirty years have presided over a profession which has fallen so far - and so fast -in the public esteem. One of the key reasons for this has to be their insistence that nursing was a 'profession' and not a 'calling' and that therefor nurses should all have university degrees.   So let's throw nursing open to anyone who wants to do it providing they pass the necessary test and abolish the degree qualification.