Monday, 1 March 2010


I was listening to the news today with growing incredulity.

Early on I heard that councils throughout the UK were expected to make big savings over the next 5 years. A survey, carried out by the BBC and concentrating mainly on England (surprise) but also having effects in the Celtic countries, showed that most councils expected to lose large numbers of jobs, and could expect to see severe reductions in services.

The first cuts will affect the least essential, but still important services like leisure, parks, swimming baths, libraries, etc., but old people’s accommodations and social services cuts cannot be ruled out as time goes on. Birmingham in England, the second largest local authority in the UK expects to lose 2000 jobs, and cannot realistically expect to do this with voluntary redundancies and recruitment freezes.

I was reflecting that at least locally, libraries play a vital part in the lives of some of the poorer people in the city. They provide facilities for those who have no internet access at home. Kids who need to use the net to access information for school projects, unemployed people looking for work, older people who can’t afford computers and wouldn’t know how to set them up use the facilities of libraries throughout the town. They host reading groups for young children and facilities for people with learning difficulties; they run courses more easily accessible and less daunting than the college or the universities. And for some it is a warm place to sit on a cold day. And imagine closing down swimming baths, or reducing access to them, just as we were being told that the Olympics in London were going to be of immense benefit to us all; likewise all the other sporting facilities provided by the local parks department and the community centres.

As I reflected I thought about why we are in this recession. Of course (sorry Danny) it’s all America’s fault... according to Brown, but I have a recollection of Northern Rock having a loan book that even a Glasgow moneylender with access to leg breaking equipment wouldn’t touch. And I remember that RBS was up there lending to people who hadn’t a hope in hell of paying the money back, and who would make restitution to the bank only on the sale of their now much more expensive property....until, woops, the property bubble burst. So no, it was our bankers as much as it was theirs.... Much of this mess is down to bankers and financial institutions.

So I’m betting you can imagine how I was feeling tonight when I noticed that a certain Mr Gulliver of HSBC was awarded a £9 million bonus on top of his £800,000 base pay for “exceptional performance" in trebling the profits of his division to $10.5 billion.

OK this is an extreme case and HSBC didn’t take money from the government, but all over the banking sector, it’s back to business, like all this silliness of the last few years never happened. Last week, Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS gave up his bonus but the state-owned bank revealed it paid at least two of its bankers more than £7 million in 2009.

It’s another of these moments when you ask yourself.... is this a dream? They were greedy; they got into a mess; we bailed them out; because we have bailed them out we don’t have any money and we have to do without basics; and they got greedy again.....

OK. I know it’s not quite that simple, but it’s not far off....


  1. You're right about libraries, but it gets taken a bit further than that Munguin.Frontline staff are cut to the bone(I go to work in one place in the morning and end up going home from another in the evening) while labouring another layer of management, no security is allowed because senior management at Waverly Court(which has security guards) don't want libraries to be "unwelcoming". This can mean seven stone lassies trying to deal with drunken Poles, truculent teens, junkies looking for neglected bags and people with severe mental health problems wanting bus passes.
    Then we have to deal with the free computers...a good idea in theory, everybody gets access to study aye? Aye fucking right, the teens download music, play games and talk to their mates on Facebook...who are sitting four feet away.
    The folk who come in for their God given free session and start being abusive when the servers are down.The folk who ignore the sign eight inches in front of them that the printer isn't working, and you've guessed it, get abusive when their boarding pass doesn't appear.

    And then we have to run a library...

  2. Lord Conan... it sounds like the job from hell. I certainly wouldn't want to do it, although I've always loved the idea of working all day with books.

    (I think I'd be happier at the Bodleian LOL)

    Seriously what's the answer? Well, whatever it is, it's not more cuts so that fat cat low life can break the banks all over again.

    Incidentally, I just had my credit level raised on my card despite being no better off, and arguably worse off than I was 12 months ago. Are they nuts?

  3. Heh, books, I remember when council libraries were all about them...There is a definite feeling that we've gone a bit too far down the youth club route, one of the main complaints I get in the village where I live is the local library is infested with neds playing the xbox, playstation 3 et al.
    A solution? Sack senior management, then hire security so people, both staff and public, get their libraries back.

  4. Well I don't know who it was that thought that you could substitute a library for a youth club... but whoever they were, they weren't too bright.

    The solution you suggest sounds right to me. Older people need a library that is sedate and people who are reading or studying need quiet too. (Although its fair to say that some older people can be loud!)

    I like the idea of sacking tha management. Over and over again I find they are the problem.

    I'd suggest in addition that we look at opening the youth clubs that were closed down, and give young people a place to enjoy themselves too...

    It's simple, but of course it costs money and we've spent all ours on the bloody bankers....

    Best thing is to emigrate.

  5. In a few years folks will forget it was to bail out the bankers that we were left in dire straits (good name for a band that) and will accept the privatization/closure/downsizing of services. So while the bankers enjoy their bonuses the great unwashed lose services and common goods ( Scottish Water?). You think this might have been planned?

    Conan - the library here (originally a Carnagie Library) now acts as a pimp for the security services. Every book you take out, every website you visit, is logged for their perusal. I don't go to the library anymore.

  6. Wouldn't be so bad if they looked to make cuts and savings in diversity co-ordinators and translation services as well as the council newsletter that seems to be de-rigeur for every local authority these days. No they go for the frontline sevices and the libraries to generate sympathy for their next stupendous hike in council tax a good proportion of which is actually going into their pensions pot, not services.
    As for bankers, well it's their job to make a profit, their bonuses come out of the profits. In the case of RBS and Northern Rock, you may have a point though.

  7. Scunnert: It's certainly amazing how people forget.

  8. QM: Agreed about all the useless extras in the council. Our government has negotiated a freeze on council tax here, but your lot couldn’t negotiate a cup of tea. The pensions of council employees and civil servants are another huge problem waiting for us just around the corner.

    Of course HSBC is a private company and if they wish to pay their chairman £9 billion for a year's work, then that is up to them. It’s sad that they are making 3000 redundancies in the UK this year. I suspect that may cover his bones. I wonder how much of a bonus they give their cleaners and counter staff. Probably very little. I'm glad I don't have that on my conscience.

    I wasn’t really suggesting that the government should do anything about it. We all know none of these people is going to touch the banks. They want jobs on the boards, and in any case they are frightened of them. No, rather I was just reflecting on what a lovely place this is to live. A bonus of about 12 times his salary for one person, and a whole pile of job losses and reductions in services elsewhere. I should be used to it by now, but I’m not.