What a very stupid statement made by Damian Draghici, an advisor to the Romanian Prime Minister

'.. Britain should be far more worried about bankers taking billions of pounds than Roma begging on the streets ..'

Clearly Mr Draghici has missed the whole point of the UK's concern (probably deliberately) - which is lack of control over our own affairs.

The UK can chose whatever measures it wants to take against bankers or anyone else; the fact that it has not done so is an entirely different matter - the choice is available. However, this is not the case with the UK borders where EU rules prevent countries managing their own immigration policies.

It doesn't really matter whether 1 migrant or 1 million gain entry, the principle is the same; countries want control of their own borders and not to be dictated to by the EU as part of their goal for a political power base. Migrants are generally regarded as bringing all manner of advantages to the receiving country, but only if they have the suitable qualifications and not because of an attractive welfare system (Romania £8 per week - UK £80+ per week)

Additionally, it is generally recognised that the UK has a growing element of generational dependency on welfare amongst some of the indigenous population. Bringing migrants in to work at low rates of pay thereby taking the jobs that could be used to wean generational dependents back into work is perhaps not the best approach. Obviously employers would prefer the work ethic of migrants in preference to some of the work-shy native population, but is that the best way to address encouraging existing welfare claimants back into work and off benefits?

Furthermore, these EU edicts fly directly in the face of the basic concept of Subsidiarity - which has been acclaimed as one of the fundamental cornerstones of all aspects of the EU, to prevent members being dictated to by unreasonable central policies

‘.. decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizens of the Union in accordance with Article 5 (ex Article 3b) of the EC Treaty ..’

Why is Subsidiarity not working in the EU - the EU seems intent on breaking their own rules & guidelines to get their own way (now there is a surprise)

The Romanian argument seems to have progressed from - 'large migration will not occur', through 'only qualified migrants will move' and now finally we get to the nub of of the matter where they are acknowledging the probable reality of the Roma population migration and trying to downplay the issue with distractions, such as bankers (who by the way are net contributors rather than recipients)

Yet another red herring from a new entrant attempting to justify free borders, and just as weak as all previous arguments on this subject. Although, it is as good as an admission that one is likely to get about massive free population migration across uncontrolled borders for the hope of a better life in another country.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these aspirations provided the 'better life' includes contributing to their target country and not just taking (welfare in all its forms). Anyway surely the underlying question has to be why has their country of origin not been able to provide this life for them in the first place, because this raises a far more fundamental issue that the EU does not wish to address?

The UK has enacted laws in order to benefit the population and in this respect let us just begin with an easy one. Local Authorities in the UK have a duty to house the homeless, which raises the question of whether this is the case in Romania.

Do the authorities in Romania have a duty to house their homeless? If Romania (or any of the other countries) do not have the same basic enshrined obligations as the UK then there is no level playing field and consequently the UK is expected to provide better conditions than the migrants own country, which is an absurd situation with mass migration.

The UK's resources are finite, quite apart from that fact that the existing population density in the UK is one of the highest around and allowing a greater influx will only make matters worse.

Tags: | Categories: European Union

Substitute a Russian ice breaker / drilling rig for a oil tanker, the location of the Arctic for the Horn of Africa and the white faces of those crewing the RHIB's for black faces

Now one has all the ingredients of potential piracy on the West Coast of Africa

So what is the difference? Ah! the elusive motives of environmental protection instead of ransom, the absence of guns; but how would you know whether arms were present on a RHIB doing 40 mph towards you, in this situation?

Especially as all this culminated in an attempt to board a Russian oil-rig by a group of Greenpeace activists wearing balaclavas - in other words Piracy. However, laudable the motives were in attempting to prevent Russia despoiling the Arctic - "we're going to try and stop the drilling" (tweeted from Arctic Sunrise), it was still attempted piracy.

Russia then went on to take control of the 'mother ship' from which this attack had emanated. Contrast this with world navy's searching for Somali Pirate mother ships far out into the Indian Ocean.

Does the end justify the means? - and if one does believe this, then where are the boundaries. After all the Somali Pirates could claim that hijacking ships for ransom was in order to feed their people - a pretty compelling point of view, how does one argue with that!

The problem with these 'stunts' is that most of the time those involved are rather naive like children and don't seem to realise the impact (seriousness) of their actions.

When caught out we get the plaintiff bleating about not realising what could go wrong or the fact that they were attempting something illegal (piracy). Then the inevitable expectation for the rest of the world to excerpt pressure on Russia, who are depicted as the aggressor in all this, to free those involved

And now we are subject to a lot of posturing and bravado by those who have been released by Russia. Frankly, they should thank their lucky stars that Russia recognised their 'antics' for what they were, and decided that the whole process of arraigning them was more trouble than it was worth on the world stage, at a time when the Winter Olympics were deemed more important

The Sunday Times (29 December 2013) has just run a fairly nauseating story about about one of those released - Kieron Bryan - presumably because he is a journalist; nothing like pandering to ones own! Perhaps he has learn't his lesson and in his own words, will be less 'gung-ho' about future assignments, but as a journalist why was his judgement so awry and naive in the first place?

And as for Greenpeace - they seems to be veering ever more towards the 'boys own' adventure club style, when a rather more considered approach could probably have just as much effect, but 'unfortunately' not so dramatic; so fewer headlines

The following question needs to be asked - How far are Greenpeace prepared to go in 'hanging their own people out to dry' in order to get headlines?

Having taken a quick look at the Greenpeace organisation setup there would seem to a few other areas to be addressed:

  • Greenpeace UK is not a Charity
  • Greenpeace Environmental Trust is a Charity

Charities are permitted to claim Gift Aid on donations, although they are subject to Charity Commission rules such as an annual risk-management requirement and accompanying disaster recovery procedures.

The Greenpeace Environmental Trust accounts (y/e 31 December 2012) under Notes: 7 for grants handed out, shows an amount given to Greenpeace UK of £1,112,500 for the year.

Questions:

  • Is Greenpeace Environmental Trust being used as a vehicle in order to obtain Gift Aid on donations, which are subsequently passed on as tax-refunded grants to Greenpeace UK?
  • Is Greenpeace UK used for high profile demonstrations, bypassing the Charity Commission requirements for risk-assessment and potentially conducting illegal operations (i.e. Piracy) outside the sphere of the Charity Commission - whilst at the same time having these operations funded by Gift Aided donations from Greenpeace Environmental Trust?

In other words is the relationship between Greenpeace Environmental Trust and Greenpeace UK being abused in order to utilise the 'best' vehicle under different circumstances?

References

The Charity Commission Publicatons

Tags: , | Categories: Charity

Is the current principle of gift aid simply robbing Peter to Pay Paul. In these straightened times when Government borrowing is spiralling out of control does this area need to be reviewed?

Bearing in mind that tax revenues in the system are finite, surely it should all be down to the best use of this resource without one party having a short-fall in order to subsidise the other

Unfortunately, taking any money whatsoever out of the tax system does not mean the underlying Government obligations for spending disappear in relation to the gift aid claims. The result is simply that the Government has to borrow more money to cover the resultant loss in tax revenues and the needs of Welfare, Social Security, NHS, Schools etc. do not evaporate. Unless their funding is covered by increased state borrowing they would inevitably suffer

There is however, a sound argument along the lines that charities are more effective at using the money and better at targeting deserving causes.

Nevertheless, whilst Charity CEO's continue to be paid eye watering salaries and individuals such as Sir Stephen Bubb persist in trying to justify excesses Charity boss defended salaries 60th birthday party funded by donations it really only highlights the issues. With this in mind should the Government consider re-addressing gift aid?

Using that same old canard that everyone trots out to justify their excessive salaries '.. the salaries are competitive to those paid in business and will ensure you get the best people to do the job ..' and then trying to compare Charities with Business in this context. Well in the past with nationalised industries we all saw the CEO's of Water Boards on modest acceptable salaries; once these organisations ceased to be nationalised their CEO salaries went up four-fold - for the same people in the same job?

But that it the whole point, Charities should not be in competition with business on the salaries scale. By all means pay a reasonable salary but not to the detriment of the needy who by definition have less money because the balance has been 'trousered' by those claiming to have the their best interests at heart

Also the incestuous practices of re-circulating funds back into other charities should be reviewed as should all the other little wheezes.

How much additional funding would be available for their causes if CEO's had modest salaries (say £60,000 maximum across the board). Alternatively, have a commensurate reduction in gift aid claims (claw-back) in line with CEO salary levels above this level - on a £1 for £1 reduction basis. This would concentrate the mind wonderfully and it would a choice between CEO salary increases or a increased level of gift aid with more going to their causes!

Perhaps one additional measure of performance should be applied to charities - that of declaring on a £1 basis how much money ends up in the hands of the good causes. 

Let us not forget for one moment the underlying mandate of charities, which is not to feather the lifestyles of their staff, but rather to help those in need!

Reference

72 per cent increase in executives paid over 100k a year at best known charities

New crackdown on spiralling charity executive pay

analysis beneath the charity CEO salary scandal - what the figures show

Tags: | Categories: Charity

The Government has a problem reconciling the need for people to save for their retirement, whilst at the same time not being seen to sanction any accrued benefits which can be passed onto their heirs after death.

This stance has pretty much paralysed any rational thinking on the way forward with pensions, which have now potentially become a liability rather than an asset. Given a choice between an ISA and a pension most people today would opt for the former, whereas with proper policies in place pensions should actually be the route of choice.

Governments must also learn not to regard pension savings as a 'cash cow' to be milked at will to top up their spending shortfall. Furthermore, they are a long term contract between the Individual and the State and the rules should only be changed with sufficient notice in order not to disadvantage savers.

And for goodness sake treat pension savers as adults. After all they have built up a pension in the first place, so bullying them over drawdown & capped GAD rates is really rather insulting. Especially, as the 'reason given' is normally that the Government is looking after them for their own good to prevent them running out of money in their retirement. Well hang on! - these are people who have saved in the first place and not welfare recipients who rely on others and have made no provision for later life.

The facts are really very simple - if you wish people to save then make life easy for them to do so. Governments must stop constantly looking over their shoulder to appease those who believe that passing things onto ones children is a bad thing. They become so obsessed with this hang-up that it has a harmful undue influence in all resulting pension polices, which seems to over-ride common sense.

The acknowledged wisdom is that most of us need to save more into our pensions to have a comfortable retirement and the older one becomes before starting the process the greater the monthly amount needed.

However, the ridiculous thing is that is not necessarily the case and it is perfectly possible to accrue a substantial retirement fund, if only Governments would take their head out of the sand and start thinking constructively.

Personal pensions (SIPP's) are already permitted to invest in commercial property. A simple example of enlightened thinking would be to revise the SIPP borrowing rules and allow them to borrow 60%-70% to purchase commercial property, provided the pension had a deposit of 30%-40%; furthermore, this should apply on a property by property basis.

The figures are simple and the loan on the commercial property would be paid off within around 15 years - entirely from rents receivable. Once paid off the property would then yield between 5%-7.5% per annum in rent, as eithe retirement income or to help fund another purchase

Example: Taking a commercial property worth £100,000, a deposit of £30,000 and a mortgage of £70,000 (70%)

  • Current situation - In order to borrow £70,000 the SIPP must hold assets of £150,000
  • Proposed situation - In order to borrow £70,000 the SIPP would only have to put down a deposit of £30,000

However, it is all about fostering the right climate and encouraging people to save into pensions.

Saying that someone must save £500-£1,000 in order to have a decent pension will simply put people off and the net result will be no saving whatsoever, because they believe that the figures being bandied about are beyond their reach and therefore it is not worth even trying to start saving

The benefits of getting it right are immense - now it only requires political will!

Tags: | Categories: UK Government