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Archive for March, 2007

Gordon and the Donkey

Friday, March 30th, 2007

DonkeyI found an article on The Herald today that discusses Gordon Brown and this year’s budget, however I was more interested in the comment left by Alan on 22nd March 2007.

It’s a cleverly written hilarious story and well worth a read if you’ve got a spare five minutes!

Child Exploitation on Cocoa Plantations

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Fair Trade ChocolateAfter watching Newsnight last night I decided not to pick up my usual chocolate bar when I popped to the garage this morning. In fact I don’t think I’ll be able to eat one for quite some time as I felt disgusted by what I saw and ashamed of large chocolate companies profiting from the exploitation of others.

The program focused on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast; children are still being taken out of schools and forced to work on the fields missing out on education opportunities and adults are working they guts out every day for little reward. The money made from selling a bag of cocoa is so low it is hardly worth their while; most African’s who work on cocoa fields earn as little as £100 a year.

If we as a nation continue to demand chocolate products then chocolate companies will continue to exploit African workers. However, if all companies worked under the Fair Trade rules life on the cocoa plantations could be a lot better. I am more than happy to buy a Fair Trade chocolate bar even if it does cost slightly more, but until everybody else has this point of view the exploitation of laborers will no doubt continue.

No Leaving School Until 18

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

GraduateThe Department for Education and Skills has confirmed that children in the UK will be required by law to stay in education until the age of 18. However, this doesn’t just mean sitting in a classroom and following a textbook, children will also be able to receive training outside of the classroom such as an apprenticeship or other workplace training.

Currently 11% of 16 to 18 year olds in the UK are outside education, training or work so hopefully the new changes will mean children who may have lacked qualifications and workplace skills by dropping out of school early may have greater options when they decide to look for a job.

The changes are planned to come into action by 2013 and further details of the proposal are expected to be published later in the spring. More information can be found at BBC News.

Miscalculated Olympic Bill

Monday, March 26th, 2007

London Olympics LogoThe original estimate of £2.37 billion to host the London Olympics in 2012 was badly miscalculated by the Government. Last week Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell announced that the actual bill had rocketed since the original estimate in 2003 to £9 billion at the expense of the taxpayer. Lottery bosses are furious because it is thought that 1/5 of the entire lottery budget until 2013 will be consumed by the London Olympics.

My main concern is the reliability of these new figures, the construction work hasn’t even begun so will the bill double over the next few years, can anyone really be sure? Read more at This is London.

Higher Road Taxes for Gas Guzzlers

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Petrol StationGordon Brown is going green and has decided to increase car tax on vehicles that are uneconomical in Britain today. I personally think this is a great idea but then I would – I drive a Peugeot 106. I know a lot of people who are less than happy about the new changes but then many don’t actually care because the taxes only apply to cars registered after March 1st 2001 – I personally think it should apply to all cars.

Most affected will be owner’s of 4x4s and sports cars; the biggest gas guzzlers of them all. All the new tax bands can be found at the Times Online.

Rory Bremner Does the Budget

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Here is Rory Bremner’s impression of Gordon Brown announcing the budget; it’s very cleverly worded and very funny.

Budget 2007

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

In his eleventh Budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown has rejected Conservatives’ claims that his Budget tax changes were a “con trick”. The basic rate of income tax will fall from 22p to 20p (its lowest for 75 years) from April next year, but the lower starter rate of 10p will also go – which means those who pay income tax will start at 20p in the pound instead of 10p. From 2009, the cut-off point for NI will rise from £34,840 (this year) to £43,000, with 1% NI for earnings above that level continuing, and the top-rate income tax threshold will rise to £43,000.

Beer will increase by 1p a pint, wine by 5p a bottle and cigarettes by 11p a packet. However, some good news for those of you trying to quit smoking – nicotine patches and gums will have their VAT cut to 5% from 17.5% for one year. Other positive changes include a reduction in corporation tax from 30p to 28p in the pound (from April 2008) and the income tax free allowance for pensioners under 75 will rise from £7,280 to £9,770 in 2010.

So what does this mean to you? Mr Brown claims the average family will be £5 a week better off thanks to the income tax changes. However Shadow Chancellor George Osborne challenged Mr Brown to admit that 3.5 million families will be worse off. Let me know your thoughts …

10,000 Passports Wrongly Issued

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

The Home Office has admitted that 10,000 passports were obtained under false pretences in the past year. The conservatives have called this news “shocking” and I completely agree. With everything that’s been happening in this country you’d expect security to be at its highest – but of the 16,500 fraudulent applications during a 12 month period, 10,000 went undetected.

Face to face interviews will now be introduced gradually from May so adults applying for a passport will be expected to know questions about their personal history such as when their parents were born and their previous addresses. Applicants will also be told to allow 6 weeks to receive their passports, instead of the three or four weeks currently allowed.

This has also posed some serious questions about ID cards as false passport holders would be able to get a genuine card.

Read more on the BBC website.

Will Overcrowding on Trains Finally be Reduced?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Train CarriagesI don’t understand this country, we are constantly encouraged to use the UK’s public transport service to save on fuel emissions and to help reduce energy, but how are we supposed to do that if public transport is uncomfortable and unreliable.

I don’t know how many times I have got on a morning train to London and felt physically ill from the crowded carriages, stuffy environment and the aching from standing still for so long.

Last year there was a 10% rise in railway passengers but no increase in space on the trains, clearly this was going to be a problem.

According to an article on the BBC, Ministers are finally preparing to resolve the issue that affects so many people. It is predicted that 1000 extra carriages will be provided to the railways by 2014, these will probably be used to tackle problems in London and the South East where overcrowding is a huge issue.

Are Council Staff the Reason for Tax Increases?

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

This year council tax is set to rise by another 4%, double the current inflation rate, is something going on that we don’t know about? Well apparently yes there is. According to an article on the BBC News website, the increases in our council tax has been used to fund greedy council officials who aren’t happy with there £100,000 a year salaries – they want more.

Last year approximately 600 officials received a salary of over £100,000, ten of which earned more than Tony Blair – the highest being £227,424. It is an absolute disgrace that we have to dig deeper into our pockets so they can buy another holiday home, where’s Robin Hood when we need him?

More information about this story at BBC News.