Friday, 21 October 2011

Do you deserve 25% more?

I've been away for a bit. Frankly, i've been trying to figure out how to shave pennies and pounds off of my budgets and trying to help son through the first half term of school. There are lots of things I could have done with 25% more of. Time. There is never enough of it. Somehow the hours between 6-8 am and 4-7 pm vanish in a haze of , in the morning, shouting "Come ON! Get UP! Eat THIS! Get DRESSED!", and in the evening, of urging a tired boy to eat something, read something, go to bed.

Money. Of course, money. Imagine what an extra 25% of your current income could buy. I'm ok for food, mostly, but there are no savings in this household, merely a complex system of robbing Peter to pay Paul. And extra 25% would allow me to put by for the kids, pay off debts, inch back towards the black. Buy the kids shoes without panicking that both of them need them at once. 25% more petrol: more family visits, more friend visits. Heck, just ONE friend visit. I was mortified earlier this month to naysay a trip to London, but as it would have cost nigh on 2 weeks worth of shopping, I just could not do it.
25% is a LOT.
A 25% increase in wages, in anyones' book, is like a dream for most, unless you are a banker. Or, as it turns out, a Cambridgeshire County Councillor. This week, they universally voted, with a few notable exceptions (Steve Tierney, a Conservative who has the odd flash of conscience and a few Lib Dems trying to look as if they were still independent of their masters), to increase their pay allowance by 25%. And on top of this, the expenses, the allowances (SRA's: special Responsibility Allowances, can amount to thousands and thousands more per year, and not all the "responsibilities" are ones you or I would recognise as being useful. How useful, exactly, is a memeber with responsibility for the environment who actively promotes a huge out of town Tesco?) and extras also go up by 25%. This at the same time as public sector workers in Cambridgeshire face pay freezes, cuts and job losses (450 and counting). There are cuts to the police, the fire service (whole stations going), the buses, the provision of elderly and juvenile care. Librarians replaced by machines, if you are lucky and haven't lost your library altogether. The total amount spent on allowances will shoot up by £166,000 to £929,000. Just imagine what that increase could have done to the cuts. Made them far less "necessary" for starters.
Of course, the Conservative stalwarts are edging out and sneering that if you "pay peanuts you get monkeys", neatly leaving aside the fact that if you pay them, you get totally self seeking shits. Fenland Leader, the Bunter-like Alan Melton, gave a hilarious speech in which he bemoaned the fact that without these raises, as in the past, apparently, the Council would be full of "teachers using days off, and unionists", as opposed, presumably, to the fat pigs at the trough we now get. We all know how evil teachers are..... He is not worried about the letter writers and tweeters apparently. Here is his speech, in part, in blue, naturally.
“I will vote in favour and I am not worried about the plethora of letter writers going to appear in Cambridgeshire Times next week,” he said.
“Neither am I concerned about the vociferous and anonymous tweeters without the guts to stand up and say what they think to your face.
“The people I will answer to are my electorate and as I long as they are satisfied I am doing a good job I will continue to stand. I’m proud of my record and I can stand by that record.”
Cllr Melton said he had been a councillor for 30 years, had won 13 elections and “yes I draw from the public purse. I have never tried to hide that and I am totally open and transparent.”
I'm not anonymous, Alan. Come see me and explain your worth.

Ah, Alan. Poor Alan. So poverty stricken that he apparently has to rely on his wifes' wage to survive. I suppose it must take quite a bit to pay for all those extensions to his house, but there was me assuming that the average Council Leaders wage was liveable on. I've tried to pinpoint exactly how much Mr Melton bags pa., but it seems strangely difficult to get hold of the information. Some council leaders bag upwards of 250K pa, others 80K. I've heard whispers of around 139K in this instance, which hardly means he is reduced to eating dog biscuits. If he's having to ask his wife for money, what is he spending it on? Land buying, so he's ready for all the development he's planning, presumably. Or maybe just pies.

Either way, what seems apparent here is not just that the Council are woefully out of step with what the ordinary members of the UK are suffering, but that they don't actually care. Any Council with a teeny tiny modicum of common sense might have delayed any pay rise until, say, they weren't suffering some of the highest unemployment levels or food price rises in 15 years. Any Council with any sense might have thought twice about moaning in public about how dreadfully off the poor councillors are. Whilst laying off more council workers.

What's also a real point here in Fenland is that it shows just how complacent the Conservative stranglehold is. They know full well that they can do anything they bloody well please. And now with the pay award, they'll be the only ones with any money to print off any election leaflets, pay hustings and so on. What is equally pathetic is how Labour have done precisely nothing. They make no effort to field candidates, they don't make mileage out of the sheer crassness of their opposistion, nothing, nada. They have given us up to die. Sacrificed us to Melton, the piemaker of Fenland.

And what is sad is that it can be done differently. Islington Council, never a terribly poor Council, has undertaken to pay a fair wage. It's highest paid worker will never be paid more than 10 times the wage of its' lowest. Furthermore, it's undertaken to pay a living wage to the lowest paid of £8.30 per hour.

If you live locally, or even if you don't, a petition is available from Saturday to protest against this rise. Please do sign it.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Other peoples kids love my house

At some point over the Summer holiday, it became apparent that my house was simply the best house on the street. It has a big flashing beacon above it,visible only to those between 3-12, that advertises the fact that we have a) chickens and b) a soft soap mother inside. From August onwards, every knock at the door was a kid. Sometimes 2 or 3. Sometimes with kids that even the kids I knew didn't know. ("Who's he?" "Dunno. He's got a bike") In the (few) sunny days we had, i'd let them in. They'd play in the garden, bounce on the trampoline, eat all my ice pops,  and basically make my 4 year old feel really cool. He'd show off to them and they'd ignore him.

When school started, it thinned. Now we are down to a hardcore of 4 kids who love this house. They play beautifully with my two, and can while away several hours with a handdrawn treasure map and the garden. But things have changed.

Firstly, it's school nights. Secondly, he's 4. Thirdly, I don't want him up till 8pm playing kerbie. And yes, he IS asking because he sees you do it (even though you are 6). And lastly, don't you have to go home and eat, or something? Turns out, no. The weekend just gone, we had 6 kids, from the street, from 11am  until 8pm, at a barbecue we had for friends. Of course, we fed them. Because they didn't go! And nobody came for them. Son thinks it's great, but i'm wondering.

How can a parent allow a child out for that long, round someones house, without actually meeting me? How can they not ask them home? How can they not? And if they cannot do that, how can I send them away?

I'm thinking back to a time when I was about 13, and in a state at home. I had a friend whose mother was probably sick to the back teeth of me mooching about being grim and sad, but she nonetheless fed me, let me stay till hometime, and never hassled me. It was like a little snapshot of how families were. I would watch the  mum and dad chat and talk to each other happily. I'd be amazed at the meals. So big! So home cooked! So not a Findus Crispy pancake!  I loved them. I wanted to be adopted. I'm pretty sure I went as far as asking. In short, they were a lifeline. So i'm not about to turn away a few kids who want to be here rather than there. But I am thinking ground rules. I'd quite like to hear from anyone who has the problem, to see what you think of these:
My house, my rules
You get it out, you tidy it up
You're only in the rooms i say so, and NEVER in mine
Monday-Thursday, my kids bedtime is your time to go. I know you stay up later. I don't care.
You eat, you wash up with me.
If I say go, you go.
You give me your parents phone numbers.

I'm loathe to rush round the houses of the parents and insist on meeting them, but I do wonder if I shouldn't try to see them. But I fret i'll get me head kicked in. Reading back I sound judgemental. Maybe i'm out of time. Maybe everything has reverted back to goalposts for jumpers and everyone playing in the street. Give 'em a jam sandwich and send 'em off all day. Am I being precious? I'd really like an opinion.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

I'm happy, i'm happy, and i'll punch the man who says I'm not

Well, who knew that starting school could take so long. Now son is onto his full days I may actually get some time to witter. That's when i'm not punching people. Here is a list of people i'd quite like to punch this week.
  • In first place, David Cameron, for having that stupid smug kidney bean shaped face as he tells us we're all in it together, and then lifts the ban on champagne at the Tory Party Conference.
  • In second place, Michael Gove, just because. Cats' arse mouth, limp fish hands, totally empty brain.
  • In third place, the horrible gaggle of mothers round the school entrance who stand around fatly, smoking, and after dropping their kids off in a hurried manner, all retreat to a corner to bitch loudly and horribly about anyone who isn't in their gang. (Usually me). Whilst this might have frightened me as a timid 12 year old, now it just makes me sad for their kids, and them. Mostly their kids, because:
  • In fourth place: the mother of the boy who headbutted mine,for being that sort of mother and bringing up that sort of boy. Poor boy. Mine just looked astonished, because he doesn't know what a headbutt is. (I witnessed it: I was waiting to pick him up), but hers looked like he knew exactly what one was, and how to use one, which is pretty sad in a reception aged child. I was middle class enough to insist that my son be moved away from said child though. I'm not that sympathetic.
  • In fifth place: HMRC for telling us we owe them 6K, even though it was their fault. With nary an apology. We still have to pay it, even though it was their error. Nice job. I'd like a job like that. Hello Sir, that thing I did for you? I did it wrong, you owe me 6K. Thanks for that. Of course, it's easier to go after us, than, say, Vodafone, with their big, legal tax hideewees.
  • In sixth place: The council, who, not content with cutting us to a bus that goes nowhere useful every two hours, now want to cut that bus even further, so I will be forever trapped in the village (fucks sake, it's a VILLAGE people! Yes, I know you were brought up here, but a pub and a cross eyed dog doesn't make it a TOWN) with the bitchy mums who are all related. And they are all related.
On the other hand, son had a glowing report from his first parents evening, and is reported to be a well behaved charming individual, with a big house point collection. Beam. And daughter is now at playgroup a whole day, and this means I have a (semi) whole day from 10-2 to do things in. Beam. I will not clean the loo. I will not. 2 mornings a week I am volunteering at the school, my first foray back into a classroom since 2007, hopefully with Year 6. So some good bits out of the past few weeks. I'm with Ivor Cutler.