Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pension Scheming

When November 30th comes around and you are stuck in traffic because all the trains have stopped running; or you are in your 10th hour of waiting to see a medical professional in A&E; or you are forced to take a day of annual leave to look after your children as their teachers aren't coming into work, think long and hard. Think about whether or not those who have chosen not to come into work and inconvenienced a nation struggling for economic recovery should be on strike.

This week has seen the Government offer farcically large pension deals to public sector workers who have looked that particular gift horse straight in the mouth. One can only assume that the definitely over-generous offer from the Government is a political ploy. Knowing it would be refused by the selfish Trades Unions they are able now to point to the very generous terms they had proposed which are being turned down point blank. It gives them some political leverage, but one hopes they have not gone too far - even with the changes to pensions, many still consider the deal unaffordable. One should hope the deal that is eventually reached has less generous terms, but that is a very unlikely outcome.

Let us look at the other main player in this pensions farce - the ever more idiotic unions (we have been here before). They, the 6-figure salaried morons-in-chief with healthy pay and pension packets, have been rousing their members to turn down a gold-plated offer from a nervous Government. And not actually rousing that many of their members; the strike laws must be changed. We have unions declaring a majority in favour of striking when only a quarter of its members vote for said strike. 75% of people 'represented' in the union have not said they want to strike, yet striking is apparently the will of the people. Barking.

The pension pots that moderate earners in the public sector would still end up with under the new rules are the things of fairy tales for those in the private sector. Little over a million people in the private sector have a final salary pension scheme, yet it is what those in the pubic sector think is their right. Those on relatively small pay packets (say £12,000) up to those on reasonably comfortable wages (say £40,000) all will still receive pension payouts far in excess of what their private counterparts on the same salary could dream of.

Under the new system, a public sector worker on £15,000 per annum would end up with a pension of £12,000. If that was your private wage, to receive the same pension you would have to put away £325,000 from that meagre pay packet - which is never gong to happen. I shan't even go into the pension pots of the rather better off public sector employees - rest assured generous doesn't cover it. The Treasury figures go on, and for a quick look here's a Torygraph article to save me paraphrasing.

In short, the pension scheme being offered is still ridiculously generous. To build up a pension pot large enough to match that of a similar-waged public worker, a private worker would have to pay in vast amounts more of their salary. Yet the unions are not willing to take this on board. The Government is rightly looking to budget - to see what our liabilities are, listing our wants, counting how much cash we have and then managing those liabilities and wants accordingly. One area identified is the largesse of public sector pensions; they cannot be afforded alongside education bills, NHS bills, defence bills - all the things that have to come out of the taxation pot. With the ballooning of the public sector (vastly so under a Labour Government more keen on winning votes by getting people into work in the right constituencies than costing those jobs properly to see if they were affordable) these pension schemes must change. The ostrich behaviour of the Unions is as predictable as it is laughably moronic.

The public must be honest with themselves and not give in to the tired 'underdog' cause that the unions will undoubtedly try to put forwards when they strike. They have been offered a staggeringly generous pension scheme; a scheme that private sector workers of similar wages could never afford. They are turning it down out of pure greed. Yes it is a cut, but a cut to a still high level. There isn't enough money to continue the scheme in its current form. Having been paid a lot yesterday is not a reason for being paid a lot tomorrow.

The demands of the Trades Unions are for the public sector to be ring-fenced, for the economic realities we all have to face to be something they don't. In short, they are demanding we cripple the economy with a pension burden the nation cannot afford. Quite simply, if we carry on like they wish, there will be no pensions because we will be bankrupt. The public sector must not only take their share of the medicine, they must do so humbly whilst realising quite how privileged they are. They complain at having to work longer and pay more to receive less - welcome to the world everyone else is living in. There should be no public support for the proposed strikes. They are not the underdogs. You are.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Not High Standards; Not Cheap Parking

Last week I had to avail myself of some of this National Health I have heard so much about. Having come off second best in a rugby tackle (though heroically soldiering on, stemming the deluge of blood with a little vaseline) I popped off to the local hospital to see about getting them to sew me back up.

After I had explained the ridiculous looking self-help bandage adorning my face to the receptionist I cast my eye around the Wednesday night intake at the A&E department. I had figured I would be in and out in a jiffy, it not being a Friday, Saturday or Sunday and thus missing the majority of the sport and booze related injuries. How wrong I was; 5 to 6 hours was the anticipated wait time.

A Doc popped out and apologised for the "longer than usual delays"; a line I am sure I've heard before somewhere. Anywho, the long and the short of it was I didn't have the whole night to while away sitting in A&E what with a rather early start at work the next day and the requirement to not be asleep at said work. The doc gave me some dressings and suggested I got it seen to first thing in the morning if I couldn't wait. On a side note the Doc the next morning decided my wife had done such a good job with the butterfly stitches he'd just leave it be - clearly she has missed her calling.

Now you may think this is about to turn into a rant at waiting lists, waiting times and the general efficacy of the NHS and its hospitals. It is not. Nope. Maybe some other day - I've not the strength now, though I do remember in my youth when NHS spending was a small fraction of what it is now I never waited more than 4 hours to be seen; money can't buy everything it seems. No, the gripe I have with the hospital today actually doesn't concern the hospital per se, but rather the few acres of tarmac immediately outside its doors. You see, I simply can't stand the hospital parking payment system. My hatred it twofold; I shall, of course, elaborate herein…

Firstly, it seems wrong to me to charge people to visit hospital. If you want to make your go green arguments that we should all take the bus remember you are talking in many cases about people who cannot arrive any other way than by car due to their various ailments. The point is, we've paid for the sodding hospital and its sodding great car park, so how about you let us park there without charging extra? It's not free parking - we've already paid for that too, on top of the middle managers and health based slogans. It seems counter intuitive to penalise those in need of hospital visits or indeed those visiting sick friends or relatives. It minds me very much of kicking a man when he is down.

However, that is not the thing that really gets my goat. What really exercises me is that the slower the service in the hospital (i.e. the worse in a way), the more you are charged. It is the equivalent of the police turning up 2 days late to a burglary and charging the victim whatever the robber did not steal for the pleasure of their wait. When a cab company fails to honour its side of the agreement, we negotiate a discount - if they turn up an hour late, they don't get the full amount. If the NHS fails to provide a timely service though, they are rewarded with extra parking cash and the patient foots the bill.

Perhaps now we see why NHS groups are so keen to treat people in hospital that could perhaps be treated at home. Perhaps this is why despite the billions thrown at the NHS we still have full hospitals and long waits to be treated. Ultimately the sick man is a captive audience cash cow waiting to be milked. Call me a cynic, but when the most efficient part of the department is its car park charging system, it's not that great a leap to hear NHS and see NCP...