Saturday, 29 June 2013

It's in Private Eye but no one takes any notice. Why?

It defies belief the corruption, back-handing, bonuses for mediocrity, crooked Councillors, bent Boroughs, putrid planning applications and on and on and on that are reported in Private Eye every fortnight, yet no one in authority seems to take a blind bit of notice.

For example, in this issue, five Network Rail directors reduced their bonuses to £350,000 after train performance targets were not met. Why are they even getting a bonus in the first place? Unless it's because of the entertainment we, the suffering public get as a result of the railways being such a continual joke. £197 one-way for a trip from London to Leeds. I'd expect part-ownership in the train for that price.  Even paying myself 50p a mile, the congestion stealth tax, parking in London and petrol, I'd still come out with money to spare. Yet Megabus or National Express can do it for change out of a tenner. OK, the journey takes twice as long.

Atos, the medical con-sultants are highlighted issue after issue about how they cause genuinely disabled people with disability unwarranted hardship and misery by declaring them fit for work and reducing their entitlements - while Atos laugh all the way to their publicly-funded bank account.

Emma Harrison, boss of another shower of con-sultants A4e paid herself a bonus of £8.4million of public money last year on the back of results that weren't even mediocre. 

And the big accountancy firms continue to assist government departments and official bodies to nothing but hemorrhage public money into their bank accounts with daily rates that would make your eyes water, charging for photocopying, telephone calls, letters, emails, breathing, swearing.

PFIs - Private Finance initiatives - seem to continue unabated, sucking public funding out of the system and again, into the private bank accounts of worthless parasites who don't care about the public they are meant to be serving, just about feeding the goose that lays the platinum egg.

Meanwhile, PPI, Accident Insurance and PayDay Loan advertising continues completely unabated on the very minority faux celebrity-hosting channels that those who are either too idle to work, or those who genuinely can't find employment, watch. No warning from the government in large letters that interest rates are humongous for loans, that you can claim PPI for free yourself instead of paying up to 25% of what is, after all, your money, in commission to these parasites, or that these suave, sophisticated and parasitic accident claims companies are only helping to push up even further our already over-expensive insurance policies.

And then the various comparison websites for insurance, holidays, finance and the rest that have vested interests in not telling consumers the whole story. It's left up to the consumer programmes on television, or Martin Lewis from money Saving Expert to expose them. It shouldn't be this way. The government, in particular the Department for Business Innovation and Skills should be proactively looking into this on behalf of the consumer. Or instructing officially appointed people to so do.

It's a damn disgrace and about time something was done about it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

"If you haven't heard from us......"

As the wild and wacky world of HR descends into its ever-increasing own little downward spiral of the "3D's" - Dysfunctionality, Darkness and Dishonesty - a new 'lark' is emerging to help the job phishers (the less than forthright agencies, but as they say on the BBC, "some  extremely good agencies are available") save time and effort as they cream off a huge percentage for placing someone in a job that the company HR person should have done.

"Due to the volume of applications we receive we are unable to respond to unsuccessful candidates."

So, by this perverted logic in customer service, if you browse in a bookshop and don't buy anything, unfortunately, the staff wont see fit to talk to you. Or "Those six tables in this restaurant aren't mine, so they can die of thirst as it's not my job". Or "You're not a parent at my school, and as the official lollipop lady here, I'm not going to acknowledge you exist, so go and cross someone else's road".

I appreciate I'm like a broken record (scratched CD or jumping MP3 to those of you who don't know what a record is) regarding my views on HR, but the really sad thing is that I and others know I am right. Just like the 40% of employees who responded to a survey who said their HR department lacked any form of credibility whatsoever (my thanks to the wonderful Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times for that snippet). Then again, the inability of these numpties to recruit for their own company proves Rod's point.

I have been scammed by the "our client is a leading" syndrome, where the agency is just phishing, having spotted the recruiter has omitted "no agencies" from the advertising.

In the past I've put a large effort into a job application for an agency only to find they are one of 11 others representing "their client".

I really want to do something about it now, so that when my daughter and son, and family and friends' daughters and sons go job hunting, they have a vague chance of dealing with an honest recruitment process.

Still, pigs may fly.

£3.80 an hour for a professional writer

Like many freelancers do, I scan the People Per Hour (PPH) freelance work site - by all means register and try it yourself (click here) - to see if there's a little bit of extra work I can pick up when there's a lull in my mainstream freelancing.

However, it never ceases to amazes me not only the often straightforwardly parsimonious rates people offer to pay for their jobs, but more, the sometimes crass idiocy of some of the freelancers who apply for those jobs. They fail to realise that by acceding to ridiculously low rates, they are sustaining the cheapskates who use the PPH site not as a recruiting ground for freelance professionals to help get a job done, but as a shop window to get jobs done on the absolute cheap.

It seems to becoming a haven where the unscrupulous take advantage of the unwary.

Let me explain.

I was alerted to a copywriting job today. Looked interesting, but demanded a pound, going on near 20 kilos of flesh. The job-poster wanted someone to write, over the course of one to two weeks (not full-time, of course) 20, original, high quality, plagiarism-free (fair enough!), 500-word articles.  With full ownership of the articles transfering to the purchaser (to presumably enable them to pass off as their own work) when complete.

So we're talking here a good 15 hours work, if the articles were to be professionally and well-crafted.

And the reward?

A whacking, big, £64 Sterling. Less the commission due to PPH for the introduction (I don't for one minute deny the site that at all), bringing it down to £57. That's £3.80 an hour (with tax, costs - heating, lighting, internet access, insurance, PC depreciation - still to be deducted from that, taking it down further to about £2.75 an hour net) for a professional writer willing to give up their full copyright and ownership of original work.

The minimum hourly rate in the UK for an under 18 year-old with no qualifications or experience is currently £3.68 (official minimum wage for an adult is currently £6.19 an hour).

I find this appalling.

Yes, let the customer beware. But why does it always have to be that way? Is there not one ounce of honour and honesty left anywhere in the world today? Always rip-off, rip-off, rip-off.

I challenged the poster to find me a solicitor and accountant at an equivalent rate. I also asked the web-designing poster of a job at similar slave rates if he would design my website at the equivalent of the £4.20 an hour he was offering.

He said 'no'. Quelle surprise!

His rate was £55 an hour. Yet he expected me to write creatively for him at a rate thirteen times lower than he charged for his services.

Sauce for the goose is definitely not sauce for the gander here!

Parasitic hypocrites.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Strange how the death of someone you didn't really know affects you...

Graham Walker, the "wild" man of the Grumbleweeds tragically succumbed to cancer this week. Graham, together with drummer Robin Colvill (who I am delighted to add is very much alive!) were a wickedly funny and entertaining duo - not that the rest of the group were slouches when it came to entertaining people!

I grew up in a house that adored the Grumbleweeds - good old fashioned entertainment, a little bit of innuendo and plenty of laughs - never for one moment suspecting that I'd ever "sort of" get to know them a little.

I first "crossed swords" with Graham (in a very amusing and charity way I might add - and apologies the exact circumstances are now a little hazy) as a result of a fund-raising gig for the RNLI the late Bernard Manning had 'sponsored' at his Embassy snooker club on the Rochdale Road in Manchester ['Embassy', yet Bernard never smoked!].

What happened was that Bernard 'handed over' his club for nothing for the evening, printed proper invitation tickets in advance for you, helped distribute them and then on the evening, provided entertainment in the form of himself and his buddies - all in exchange for punters  buying his food and drink on the evening. A brilliant arrangement and between the few times he did it for me, we raised an absolute fortune (Bernard could be very persuasive when it came to the raffle, for which he always obtained some terrific prizes from his suppliers - a long weekend in Paris was a very big deal before Eurotunnel or budget airlines).

Anyway, amongst the people who appeared with Bernard for the entertainment included (can't remember them all, but Bernard put on such a brilliant show) Charlie Williams, Duggie Brown (was amazed when he revealed he was the brother of Ivy from Coronation Street!), Colin Crompton, Mick Miller (I think), Jim Bowen (lovely, smashing), Stan Boardman, George Roper, Stu Francis and..............................Graham and Robin.

For those of you who never managed to get to the Embassy. Well, it was a barn of a place (size wise), but nevertheless very intimate. So you had the chance to "mingle" with the stars (Bernard in particular used to take it personally if you didn't go up to him and introduce yourself). And as the charity orgainser on the evening, I used to get the honour of meeting and chatting with VIPs during and after the event.

And as you would expect, as the 'orgainser' I used to get great stick taken out of me from the  stage by all of Bernard's special guests. And needless to say, Graham took it out on me because we shared the same challenge - fellow recidivists of the head-hair type!

Another time I met Graham was up in fellow Grumbleweed Maurice's (I think) house in the delightful town of Guiseley (the home of Harry Ramsden's) on the outskirts of Leeds. I was meeting with Maurice's immediate neighbour, the former National and Olympic coach, the late Wilf Paish (his protegees included Tessa Sanderson, Mick Hill and Peter Elliott).

It was a glorious day, and Maurice invited us in for afternoon tea on the lawn. There were a gaggle of Grumbleweeds there, and to cut a long story short (allowing you some imagination here), Graham Walker + a bowl of whipped cream + a Grumbleweed or two = mayhem and chaos of the extreme side-splittingly funny kind.

Yes, he was a 100% entertainer, and a genuinely funny man who will be missed by one and all, more so of course by his family and his wonderful and closest colleague from the Grumbleweeds, Robin Colvill.

It may still be there when you read this - a special fund-raising page for cancer was set up in Graham's memory - if you get the chance and would like to make a donation, the page is here at Many thanks.