Archive for January 2014

Dr. Wollaston and the Case of the Smartphone Ban

Known bansturbator Dr Sarah Wollaston was reported by the BBC yesterday (before the story was subjected to some rewriting) as apparently being in favour of banning teenagers from using smartphones in order to save them from the dangers of sexting.

The original BBC story was based on the exchange between Dr. Wollaston and Norman Baker (Minister for Crime Prevention) during Home Office questions yesterday afternoon (emphasis mine):

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con):
What steps she is taking to prevent harassment through the sending of unsolicited sexual images via the internet and telephone.[902169]

The Minister for Crime Prevention (Norman Baker):
The coalition Government takes all forms of harassment, whether online or offline, very seriously. We have robust legislation in place to deal with cyber-stalking and harassment, and perpetrators of grossly offensive, obscene or menacing behaviour face stiff punishment. We will continue to work collaboratively with industry, charities and parenting groups to develop tools and information for users aimed at keeping society safe online.

Dr Wollaston:
I welcome the measures that the Government have taken to prevent sexual violence against women and girls. The Minister will be aware that many young people have been pressured into sending intimate photographs of themselves only to find that those images are sometimes posted, distributed or shared without their consent, which is an important form of bullying and harassment. What measures have been taken, and does the Minister support measures to prevent smart phone use by those who are not mature enough to understand that it can result in an important form of bullying?

Norman Baker:
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. We have given teachers stronger powers to tackle cyber-bullying by searching for and, if necessary, deleting inappropriate images or files on electronic devices, including mobile phones. It is critical to educate young people about the risks of sending intimate photographs. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has developed a specific educational resource to tackle sexting that is designed for use by teachers. There are numerous laws in place that can be used to deal with those who behave in this appalling manner.

On the basis that we should be able to trust Hansard, I’d say that the original BBC piece (sadly now lost unless anyone managed to screen grab it) entitled “‘Sexting’ abuse: Wollaston urges teen ban on smartphones” was an accurate representation of the words spoken in the house.

However Wollaston took to twitter after the the story was published and people started to mock her to say that…

before going on to ‘clarify’ her remarks…

All of which may or may not be more reasonable but if that was what she meant, why not say so at the time (she did have follow-ups prepared before she walked into the chamber, didn’t she?) rather than having to issue her clarifications in the face of laughter from an audience all too inclined to believe that yet another MP is out of touch with reality?


SSE also said in yesterday’s statement that it would be investing less over the next five years.

An SSE spokesperson attributed this to “uncertainty in the underlying [regulatory] framework”.

I’m sure that the SSE spokesperson wasn’t alluding to Millipede Jr’s proposed freeze in energy prices. Honest.

On the proposed NMW increase

In an interview with the BBC yesterday George Osborne said that he would like to see above inflation increases in the National Minimum Wage (NMW), potentially increasing the rate for those aged 21 and over to £7/hour. Whether this was a pre-emptive strike or a panicky reaction ahead of Millipede Jr’s speech on the cost of living today is left up to the reader to decide based on their own particular biases.

The bare numbers (courtesy of Listen to Taxman) for someone doing a 37.5 hour week in the 2013/14 tax year are as follows:

£6.31/hour £7.00/hour £ Change % Change
Gross Pay 12,304.50 13,650.00 1,345,50 10.94
Income Tax 572.90 842.00 269.10 46.97
Employee National Insurance 546.78 708.24 161.46 29.53
Employer National Insurance 635.97 821.65 185.68 29.20
Nett Pay 11,184.82 12,099.76 914.94 8.18

Increasing the NMW to £7 would (in this tax year) make the employee £914.94 better off, the government £616.24 better off and the employer £1,531.18 worse off.*

Yet increasing the thresholds for Income Tax and all types of National Insurance to £12,304.50 would leave the employee with an extra £1,119.68 in their pocket, the employer with £635.97 per employee to spend on something else and a reduction in the amount taken by government of £1,755.65 – which would no doubt be offset by a reduction in the need to hand out quite so much in in-work benefits (and, potentially, reduce the admin overheads involved).

Not that it will happen though.

*Obviously this assumes that nobody loses their jobs because their labour isn’t worth the increased amount because at that point the employee and the government are both worse off…

The Archbishop, the banker and the loan shark

“The Most Rev Justin Welby has approached Sir Hector [Sants], who also led the Financial Services Authority throughout the financial crisis, to drive payday lenders such as Wonga out of business and create a new way of thinking about finance.”

Driving the poor into the arms of loan sharks by shutting down legitimate lines of credit hardly seems like a ‘new way of thinking about finance‘…

Alcohol Concern: Still a fake charity

The new year brings with it the plaintive sound of the begging bowl being rattled once again by fake-charity Alcohol Concern in the form of Dry January.

Personally I have no plans to ever stop drinking for an entire month if I can avoid it so will instead be an enthusiastic participant of Drinkuary. No doubt the beer and wine I picked up from Waitrose on Monday will come in handy!

Given that the temperance lobby are going to be all over sections of the media like a cheap suit, it would seem like a good time to take a look at the 2013 accounts for Alcohol Concern – conveniently filed with the Charity Commission barely three weeks ago.

Alcohol Concern’s total income for the year ending 31st March 2013 was £1,028,828. This breaks down into £765,890 in voluntary income (grants, donations etc), £260,449 from operating activities (consultancy, training etc) and £489 in interest.¹

The voluntary income is, as always, the interesting bit. In the 2012/13 financial year Alcohol Concern received grants from the following:²

Name (£) Amount
Welsh Assembly Government 225,626
Department for Education (DfE) 222,298
Comic Relief 106,398
Tudor Trust 50,000
Esmee Fairburn 40,000
Trust for London 29,976

That’s a total of £674,298 from third-party organisations (2 governmental, 4 charitable) and only £91,592 in ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’. In percentage terms:

Grouping Amount (£) % of Voluntary Income % of All Income
Totals: 765,890 100 74.44
Governmental 447,924 58.48 43.54
Other Charities* 226,374 29.56 22.00
Donations 91,592 11.96 8.90

43.54% of all of Alcohol Concern’s income is provided to them by thee and I via the taxes the government levies on us for having the temerity to earn a living and consume things. Less than 9% of their income comes via ‘Donations & Sundry Receipts’ – for which no further breakdown is provided so it may hide a multitude of sins.

Alcohol Concern still fit the Devil’s definition of a fake-charity, me thinks.

¹ Page 15
² Page 18
* Investigation of the finances of these charities to determine how much of their income is via the taxpayer is required.