Monday, 29 February 2016

Another Swipe at the Elderly - Government to Scrap Attendance Allowance

This government has no interest in the welfare of the old, so it is not surprising George Osborne is now proposing to scrap the attendance allowance paid to pensioners who need domestic help to enable them to hang on in their own homes. 
Please sign the petition against it  -  you never know, there might be a miracle.
What is attendance allowance?
We are talking about a relatively small amount of pension top-up for those who are getting too frail to completely care for themselves.

An example would be the 93-year-old father of a friend of mine. Not surprisingly at his advanced age he suffers with Alzheimer's. He was awarded the lower rate, which is only £55 per week. Apart from his state pension, that is the only "benefit" he has ever had. He still pays tax on his company pension, so he is only getting his own money back. His daughter has to do nearly everything for him and her mother. She has to go through their finances making sure they are not ripped off. For example despite his bills being paid by direct debit, the electricity company sent him statements which he thought were bills, so he paid them as well! It took her three months to get them to repay the money. His wife can't walk far now. He can walk but it wouldn't be safe for someone with Alzheimer's to go far from his home, so they need to have the shopping done for them.

The £55 per week allowance means that this old couple can afford a helper for few hours and that means they can stay out of a "home". Surely it is far cheaper than the local council having to look after them.

It is not true that everything is being cut under this regime of "austerity". The government is prepared to find billions for other things, but not for the comfort, dignity and safety of the older generation who worked and paid tax into the system all their lives.

This is not a simple matter of "austerity" - it's a matter of wrong priorities.


Saturday, 27 February 2016

Oxford Pensioner Fined £2,000 for Feeding Pigeons

A pensioner, aged 66, who feeds the pigeons in her garden because they are her only company, has been prosecuted by Oxford City Council and fined £2,000. Surely this is a sign that we live in a police state!
Katherine Spiller lives alone in Temple Road, Cowley, since she has neither a partner nor children. She admits she has been feeding the pigeons for twenty years and treating them as her pets. When they became a nuisance to her neighbours, causing noise, and alleged property 
damage, the neighbours complained to the council, who wrote to Ms Spiller and asked her to desist. She ignored their orders, either thinking it was a joke or not understanding what might ensue under our draconian regulations.

Now she is expected to pay a fine plus court costs adding up to £2,000. Where exactly will she get the money? For someone living on our miserable state pension, or even a modest occupational pension, the amount is unreasonable. Yet if she doesn't pay, she will face menaces from debt-collectors, and will be black-marked by credit rating companies. She may even have to sell her home to pay.

This is insane. We treat old people appallingly in this country.

According to the Oxford Times, Ms Spiller is a poet, and retired librarian. When the council first wrote to her, she responded by sending them poems about pigeons. She sounds like one of the charming eccentrics who make our society colourful.

The Council should use persuasion and mediation, not bullying, to solve such problems. A councillor or representative should have visited Ms Spiller's home and explained why the pigeons were causing a problem to the neighbours. If that didn't work, face to face meetings between all concerned should have been set up to discuss a solution. I would suggest Ms Spiller might get a wild-bird feeding table from the RSPB, and set it up in her garden to attract small, harmless songbirds. She could also get some wall-attached nesting boxes and hanging bird-feeding devices suitable for bluetits, finches, robins, blackbirds and thrushes, none of which her neighbours surely could object to.

If that doesn't keep them happy, maybe ultimately, she could get a cat, which definitely would keep the pigeons away, and give her just as much satisfaction as a companion. All these solutions could have been discussed in a calm, supportive civilised way. But they were not. Instead, she got threatening letters.
Labour Councillor Mary Clarkson says that when you take into account the administrative costs and legal fees involved in bringing such a prosecution, they will exceed the £2,000 fine, so this policy is costly as well as harsh and authoritarian.

The solutions I have suggested would have cost very little. The Council could have paid for all of them, and thrown in an annual subscription to the RSPB too, for a tiny fraction of the money they have spent on bullying a lonely old lady.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Where can Migrants Go?

King Abdullah City on the Red Sea coast has cost Saudi Arabia £67 billion to build. 
It is a stunning modern city with clean streets, tall buildings, public squares and every sort of amenity and luxury you could expect to find. It has an airport, massive commercial docks, houses, flats, shops. schools, hospitals and hotels, all built to the highest specifications. It has an advanced water filtration system than enables it to take sea water and turn it into fresh water to supply the inhabitants.
The only thing it hasn't got so far is...people.

Covering 70 square miles, the metropolis costs £67 billion ($100 billion) and will reinvigorate the country

Only about five thousand people so far live in this city, and they are the people who are employed in building it, and their families. It could accommodate millions.
Now isn't that a strange coincidence?
Here is another city that hasn't got many people in it.

It is one of several cities in Syria that is now devastated by bombing. Certainly it's true that its residents need to go somewhere. 
What a pity the Saudis won't let them into their very under-populated country, where there is no income tax, no council tax, no inheritance tax, no VAT, no national debt, no budget deficit....just a lot of  oil.  And a lot of money.