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In a Pickle

with 12 comments

In more ways than one

Sunday has not started as I might have planned, my monitor on the desktop has died, so I’m having to use my back up laptop which does not give me full access to some of my blogging resources, such as my file to add social networking links and my picture files, but I’ll manage for now until a new monitor can be acquired.

Was interested to learn that Eric Pickles the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government would like to see 55 “Brummie” jobs exported to South Shields rather than India, the big question still remains over whether such a move might save money for Birmingham. One assumes that they’ve already looked at the cost implications of outsourcing this work within the UK call centre industry and not found it viable, hence their decision to move the operation to India. It is a sad reflection on on (a) the unit costs of British contact centre operations, (b) the pressures that local government is under to find new ways to provide “value for money” services, and  (c) the onward shift of economic power towards the far east as the economies of India and China continue to grow at a hectic pace. However, BT South Tyneside, which watches its new HQ at Harton Staithes, South Shields approach completion, can take some heart from the knowledge that UK consumers apparently prefer to talk to home based operators, BT were one of the first major companies to begin returning these jobs to the UK so perhaps they may be able to persuade Birmingham council to rethink. Some commentators at the Shields Gazette website make the salient point that it would have been nice to see our own MP David Miliband making a pitch for these jobs on our behalf, you would imagine that it might be considered part of his job role.

The third pickle to madden me this morning is the attitude of the former Conservative councillor, now independent, David Potts, who continues to tweet a stream of abusive invective against those constituents of his who are calling for his resignation. Cllr. Potts, if in your delusional world you are so determined that you have the support of the people of Cleadon Village and East Boldon then please resign your seat at the earliest opportunity, so that they may test your conviction at the ballot box. I’m sure that they may have supported you as a Conservative some time ago, I’m not so sure that they would repeat the gesture, and I’m fairly certain that they would not support you as an independent candidate. Your continued use of Twitter to abuse people robs you of all remaining dignity and harms the case for those who may seek to launch a libel action against another blogger – just why in Gods name did you get yourself in this pickle?

Finally, in another pickle, I couldn’t make it to the Cookson Parade in South Shields yesterday, but I am glad to learn that it was well attended in good warm weather, “Missy” was there and managed to win a giant teddy bear in the Bents Park, so at least one person is happy this morning!


Written by curly

July 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

12 Responses

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  1. Hi Curly, is it a sad reflection the unit costs in Britain, where I understand people generally earn in the region of £15 – £17k per annum, or a sad reflection on the cheap costs of labour in the far east? I do agree that any jobs are welcome in the north east but of course, as you point out, these are not jobs up for grabs in Britain. A bit unfair to say that David Milliband should have been putting a case forward for these jobs that do not currently exist, but I agree all our ‘local’ MPs should be far more vocal in expressing the lack of government concern for our area . I guess the real ‘Pickle’ though is for the now estimated 40,000 people likely to be made homeless by the new benefits legislation currently nearing its completion in Parliament, this is too far down the road for the ConDems to do another ‘u’ turn. I listened with shame to a number of charity representatives on the BBC this morning and realised that there are many who are suffering at the moment, losing jobs, losing income, support when suffering from cancer, loss of self esteem and now for some the loss of their homes. I know it is accepted that hard decisions had to be made following the collapse of the global economy but it is heart rendering to see the impact that some of these decisions are having, and I guess will have for generations to come. Do you not agree?


    July 3, 2011 at 10:08 am

    • Kevin, i’d like to comment on your digression from Curly’s post.
      Having watched the ITV National News at 6:45pm last night, I can safely say that housing benefit is an area that requires attention.
      A young woman was receiving housing benefit of £500 per week. I don’t even take that sort of money home. I’ve had discussions at work regarding redundancy, and would not be so worried if I could get my hands on say £150 per week benefit, but assume I’ll have to make do with £65 job seekers allowance. I don’t know how to fiddle the system.
      Yes it will be hard on some people, but this sort of thing must stop, the public purse is a finite resource.
      Having given this issue – Housing Benefit – some thought, I was wondering if this is not the inevitable outcome of Margaret Thatchers right to buy policy. This took affordable social housing out of the renting market. It is also a disincentive for councils and housing associations to build new housing stock. This creates an over reliance on the private rented market, which can then dictate large rents.
      It then becomes clear that simply addressing the housing benefit system by itself will not work. Withdrawing the right to buy and increasing the social housing stock may also be part of the answer. Just a thought.

      Steve G

      July 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

      • Hello Steve,
        My family have been subject to the cuts that the government have made by redundancy and I really can understand the concern of receiving ‘nothing’, absolutely nothing, but the £65 job seekers allowance and even then only for a specific time. Having followed the conservative route of planning for retirement, working hard all of our lives, never having been out of work, having performed our work well, buying my own home, working hard to gain a wealth of post graduate qualifications, having savings. We too do not know how to ‘fiddle the system’ to get whatever is out there, much preferring to work rather than take benefits for whatever reason. Fortunatly because of the investment we made in our education long term unemployment will not , we hope, be problematic. We are not from privilaged stock have always been self funded and always contributed, for what reward?
        The current fiasco re housing is more problematic in London where it is hard to get rented property at less than £1000 per month and harder to purchase it. If a person down there loses their job or are unable to pay their way it is proposed that a £500 benefits cap is placed upon them thus in effect forcing them to move away from London to somewhere more affordable, an issue that Boris Johnson calls a type of ‘Kosovo ethnic cleansing’. I agree that we can not find it easy to justify giving out large benefits when those in work are stuggling but my concern with the ConDem approach is its lack of understaning of reality and the difficulties that normal hardworking people can find themselves in.
        pensions also need to be sorted, as does the issue of those on longer term benefits such as invalidity, various tax credits, who have not contributed tax or national insurance for a long time.
        The issue being that Pickles is in there and he knows this yet I fear the issue will simply be diregarded other than some mere salve for those most disadvantaged. At a local level I do wish to see more employment opportunity so that those in the rut can at least be given the means to try and get out unfortunatly this costs investment something that is lacking. I agree that increasing the social housing stock would provide work, ease the housing issue etc. but again would require investment. I would suggest pehaps a shift towards the European model where the majority of people live in rented accomodation may be another route.
        Sorry to be so vocal but perhaps this helps explains why I sometimes need to express my opinion in oposition to some of the issues raised on this blog.


        July 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

      • Steve G, the woman you cited does not receive the £500 housing benefits payable in respect of her rent: the landlord does!

        In large measure you’ve answered your own concerns, namely the failure to build housing to rent and weakened rent controls, factors that have been acknowledged for more than two decades as allowing landlords to push up rent levels exponentially.

        Yes, it is a scandal, but the benefactors of such laxity and failure are private landlords, some of whom play the system much more than their tenants. Indeed, it’s not unusual to discover tenants whose HB is insufficient to cover their weekly/monthly rent having to top up HB from their income support personal allowances.

        Housing Benefit capping, benefits capping and a reduction in the rate of Supported Mortgage Interest (SMI) from 6.08% to 3.63% are all of a piece: poorer householders living in housing adjudged to be too spacious or expensive are being targeted – and this is no accident or oversight.

        Last October’s SMI changes put around 250,000 owner occupiers in difficulty because they too are having to top up the SMI paid to them from personal living allowances. Already, housing repossessions are underway as a direct result of the SMI cut. (For further info visit Channel 4’s Supported Mortgage Interest website).

        You may recall Boris Johnson, London Mayor, referring to the SMI changes as “Kosovo-style social cleansing” . Despite his later qualification and retraction of that statement there is something in what he said in terms of the discriminatory aspect of the above mentioned changes.

        People on income support did not bring about the near financial meltdown of 2008, but disproportionately they are being forced to pick up the tab.

        Michael Peel

        July 4, 2011 at 11:41 am

  2. Will the reduction in housing benefits result in a movement away from some private rented accommodation and a subsequent reduction in rental levels as landlords discover that the tax payer will no longer fund their over priced tariffs?

    Those found homeless will of course add to the pressures on local council who will be duty bound to rehouse them, housing benefit will again be given but now on a property of lower value.

    I have to opine that many of the general public seem happy to see these benefits reduced and many get very irksome when seeing some neighbours enjoying many material benefits such as large screen plasma TVs, foreign holidays, cars, X Boxes, laptops and Playstations in every bedroom, fashionable clothing and jewellery all gained without holding down a job!

    General opinion says that some find it easy to fund this lifestyle when the tax payer provides for their housing expenses.Those who work hard on low wages often cannot afford the same lifestyle.

    Aside from all of that, I’ve no doubt that Cllr. Potts will be delighted that we are not talking about him!


    July 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    • I fear that there is high demand for housing in the London area so prices will remain high for rented properties and the benefits cap will enforce local government to behave in a Dickensian manner, perhaps we should bring back workhouses? The government do realise that those who see others receiving benefits that exceed average earnings are not, quite rightly, welcomed by the general public. However this does not abrigate the responsibility of government. It is a symptom of the housing economic environment. The global recession has placed a good deal of problems on any government that is attempting to control the economy – unfortunatly we have created, since the mid 1950’s a consumer driven society that expects more for less. See Ralph Millibands theory of desubordination.
      As for Mr Potts, quite simply our electoral system allows us to vote in ‘people’ who can change alliegence (remeber that chap Churchill) or be castigated from their party yet still represent. The reality is that the conservatives are more concerned about the damage he may be doing to their party locally, this is understandable. But he has been legally elected, is representing his ward and has every right to remain as a councillor. The real test is whether those who have contected him with a need of his services feel that they have been properly advised and represented. If not they will be able to unseat him at the next election, as you know this is how it works!


      July 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    • Really, Curly, didn’t you forget something? Part of the public perception is that they’re on drugs when not drunk and they breed like bunnies too!

      To resort to what uninformed Joe and Jane Public think about the lifestyles of people on benefits is a very weak coinage in which to trade. Public prejudices can be seen to be rife where emotive issues are concerned, issues such as immigration, the rope and benefit “fiddlers”.

      Such topics are likely to evoke a more visceral than rational response among some of the public and it would be surprising, given the constant hammering by certain newspapers of the unemployed and people on benefit, if widespread prejudices did not take root.

      Doubtless, some political demagogues and populists will seek to transact their politics using such a debased currency, but the reality for the vast majority of benefit claimants bears no resemblance to the grossly disfigured stereotypes portraying a life of luxurious idleness.

      Its also very comforting for the well-heeled to project their own excesses onto people living on income support etc., because such a rationalisation safeguards against a more evidence -based and informed understanding.

      From a footing of 37 years spent in working with individuals and families on benefit, it is the case that those well-publicised examples of benefits fraud are the exceptions that prove the more general rule: that making ends meet on benefit affords much self denial, becomes more difficult over time, assures long term impoverishment and is a far cry from the anti-claimant propagandist claptrap so spiteful in intent and effect.

      As for local authorities coping with the homelessness that follows the Coalition Government’s rather heartless decamping strategy, will cash-strung Councils be given extra resources for the upshot of problems that, the measures for which, the Government did not even subject to an equality impact assessment? Unpalatable though it may be, many people losing their homes as a result of the new measures are pensioners, the disabled and the long term sick.

      These things won’t matter very much at all to those who continue to parrot and peddle the fashionable myths of benefits largesse and endemic fiddling.

      There’s a programme on Channel 4 this evening on private landlords. Should be worth watching

      Michael Peel

      July 4, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      • What I am suggesting Michael is that this “populist” agenda, already emphasised in certain newspapers, is already at the heart of the politicians’ attempts to formulate policy. Some have already identified it as a vote winner, whilst the “counter balance” of the liberal left will try to force concessions, at the least, or a full U-turn (again) at the most..


        July 5, 2011 at 10:02 am

  3. I wonder whether it is a myth that benefits fund a “consumer durable rich” lifestyle, there must be other sources of ” unofficial” income.As regards the most photographed man in ST, in his own inimitable words, zzzzzzzzzzzz.


    July 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

  4. It gives no pleasure whatsoever to witness the unravelling of someone who, plainly, has serious problems and whose downward spiral appears to be out of control.

    Cllr Potts may have some insight into some of his problems, but his failure to address them is suggestive of a need for (more?) counselling.

    His offensive Twitter comments are worrying – and for the simple reason that an advantage of typed or written communications is they allow for greater self-regulation than face-to-face verbal exchanges. Being a public figure, his lack of control over his twittering is revealing of his state of mind.

    While he may have some insights into his own difficulties, they seem to hold little sway in his thinking. This invites for consideration the role of his friends and close family. I invite them to urge Cllr Potts to resign from the Council before he damages irreparably what little is left of his political credibility.

    Paradoxically, perhaps, if he resigns from the Council now he has a better chance of later returning to the Council should he make a full recovery. Ignominious defeat at the hands of the Cleadon and East Boldon electorate in two or three years time will be fatal to any hopes he may have of ever making such a return.

    Should he continue to conduct himself as in recent weeks, it may be that he will force the Council’s Monitoring Officer into action against him.

    Alternatively, Cllrs Jeff Milburn and Joan Jackson could field test Cllr Potts’ claim that he retains the support of a majority of Cleadon and East Boldon voters. They should speak with a random sample of their constituents to gauge the latter’s opinions. If it is clear that Cllr Potts has little or no support they might consider a ward petition, to be presented to the Council, calling for the resignation of Cllr Potts. This would at least give the Ward voters a chance to air their views.

    Whatever, his continuing presence on the Council is both damaging and an embarrassment. That he doesn’t either care or realise this is the the most compelling reason for his early departure from the Council.

    Michael Peel

    July 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

  5. Problem is that he is under what appears to be a form of sustained “tweet attack” and some of his responses to this allegedly contravene the guidelines and rules laid down by STC and the Standards Board; to be fair neither he nor his twittering opponents are making any constructive contributions to resolving or trying to find ways of resolving the serious issues facing ST, such as the decline of the retail trade, the effect of spending cuts, which is what the Kevins, Bryans, Steves, Michael Peel’s et al are doing with the help of Curly on this site. I would be interested in seeing whether or not he in liaison with his opponents can constructively debate and put forward a 10(?) point plan for regenerating and promoting ST.


    July 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

  6. .HOUSING BENEFIT; usual smell of private sector getting as much money as possible from public purse. PICKLES; you support the “free market” so don’t comment, when its “invisible hand” dictates where cheapest option is available. POTTS; as the man says zzzzzzzz…


    July 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm

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