Grant Shapps and the Travel Green List

So we all know that the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is out of his depth in a bird bath. He did, after all, go on holiday knowing that his department were about to bring in quarantine last July, and that he’d have to fly back early. What a tosser!

And his incompetence and lack of joined-up thinking continue unabated.

India have only just been added to the Red List of countries where you need to isolate in a designated hotel at £1,750 a time because the Tories were trying to negotiate a trade deal. The Indian delegation then came to the UK and reported a number had come down with COVID-19.

At the same time, UK nationals coming back from India were simply taking a 10 day holiday in Istanbul at a fraction of the quarantine cost and then flying in, so adding Turkey to the red list was inevitable.

Last week, a UK representative told the Spanish that the much-heralded Green List would be driven by the science and the Greek and Spanish islands would be reviewed and treated separately. Then yesterday Shapps revealed a truly bizarre list and noted that Spain (on the amber list) included the Balearics and the Canaries, despite the FCDO website still saying this:

“The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding the Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.”

Now, the Canaries – and Fuerteventura specifically – have really low infection rates at the moment, yet to return to London with its much, much higher rates will require quarantine.

That Green List?

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island

So most of those do not allow travel from the UK in the first place. Ah.

Portugal and Gibraltar? A pretty open border with Spain, isn’t there?

South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands? You can only travel there by sea and there is no visitor accommodation.

The Falkland Islands? You can only fly there … via Chile (Red List) with commercial airlines or with the MoD via a refuelling stop in Cape Verde (Red List).

You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Ask the Right Question… More Idiocy from Southwark Council

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a bit about how Southwark Council had decided to make traffic congestion worse on Jamaica Road, SE London by stopping local drivers from using a ‘rat-run’.  Their consultation paper – sent to a tiny minority of extremely localised people – asked a series of heavily biased questions without a “none of the above” option.

Well these fuckwits are at it again: solving a problem that doesn’t actually exist and thereby creating a new one.

They’ve decided that people daring to park on the Western part of Rotherhithe Street – which is a no through road and not exactly busy – are going to be penalised, including all the residents who currently park there.  Their proposals , published at http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200140/parking_projects/4039/rotherhithe_parking_zone_study – show only very limited permit parking (at £125 each…) for residents with the rest of the area subject to double yellow lines.

Now there really isn’t an issue with parking on that section of Rotherhithe Street: I walk along it every time I walk to work and there’s plenty of space for parking and no trouble with the road being blocked from the (non-existent) through-traffic by these pesky parkers.

So what would happen when Southwark gets its way? Well quite simply all those vehicles will need to park somewhere else nearby and the nearest parking would be the Eastern side of Rotherhithe Street where there are (currently) very few parking restrictions and no resident-only parking spaces whilst still being a busy through road on the C10 bus route. And when all those vehicles park on ‘our’ street, where will we be able to park? Where will all those coaches that park overnight whilst fetching and carrying kids staying at the local YHA now be able to park? After all, Southwark allowed a new housing development to go up where the coaches used to park. Oh and another new development is going up opposite our house with Southwark’s blessing despite all bar one comment (duplicated 40+ times) objecting to it with no parking spaces included within the development because parking’s not a problem!

Now have a look at the questionnaire. See how it asks what times you’d like the restrictions to apply. There isn’t a “Never” option, is there? Ask the right question…

Modern Toss

Bollocks to this!

Ask the Right Question… More Idiocy from Southwark Council

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a bit about how Southwark Council had decided to make traffic congestion worse on Jamaica Road, SE London by stopping local drivers from using a ‘rat-run’.  Their consultation paper – sent to a tiny minority of extremely localised people – asked a series of heavily biased questions without a “none of the above” option.

Well these fuckwits are at it again: solving a problem that doesn’t actually exist and thereby creating a new one.

They’ve decided that people daring to park on the Western part of Rotherhithe Street – which is a no through road and not exactly busy – are going to be penalised, including all the residents who currently park there.  Their proposals , published at http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200140/parking_projects/4039/rotherhithe_parking_zone_study – show only very limited permit parking (at £125 each…) for residents with the rest of the area subject to double yellow lines.

Now there really isn’t an issue with parking on that section of Rotherhithe Street: I walk along it every time I walk to work and there’s plenty of space for parking and no trouble with the road being blocked from the (non-existent) through-traffic by these pesky parkers.

So what would happen when Southwark gets its way? Well quite simply all those vehicles will need to park somewhere else nearby and the nearest parking would be the Eastern side of Rotherhithe Street where there are (currently) very few parking restrictions and no resident-only parking spaces whilst still being a busy through road on the C10 bus route. And when all those vehicles park on ‘our’ street, where will we be able to park? Where will all those coaches that park overnight whilst fetching and carrying kids staying at the local YHA now be able to park? After all, Southwark allowed a new housing development to go up where the coaches used to park. Oh and another new development is going up opposite our house with Southwark’s blessing despite all bar one comment (duplicated 40+ times) objecting to it with no parking spaces included within the development because parking’s not a problem!

Now have a look at the questionnaire. See how it asks what times you’d like the restrictions to apply. There isn’t a “Never” option, is there? Ask the right question…

Modern Toss

Bollocks to this!

City of London 20mph Speed Limit

On 20th July 2014, a blanket speed limit of 20mph was introduced in the City of London:

20mph City of London Limit

20mph City of London Limit

Why did they decide to do that? It was apparently part of their “Road Danger Reduction Plan“. And yet, reading that, it’s not speed that’s the issue with the highest at-risk groups of cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Cyclists:

  • “… 84% of casualties are involved in collisions at intersections or junctions. This is in line with the Greater London average.
  • Collisions are more likely to occur in the middle of junctions rather than on their approaches.
  • Failure to see a cyclist appears to be a significant causal factor.
  • The main contributory factors identified in cyclist casualties are “turning right”, “changing lanes”, “opening vehicle doors” and “undertaking of large vehicles turning left across cyclists path”. The last factor being the most significant in KSI casualties.”

Uh-huh. So speed isn’t really at issue at all here and indeed it looks like the main issue is cyclists with a deathwish undertaking – no pun intended – large vehicles.

Motorcyclists and Scooterists:

“…As 72 per cent of motorcyclists were injured due to the actions of other road users, a significant reduction in motorcyclist casualties will only be achieved by addressing the behaviour of other road users, particularly car, taxi, and goods vehicle drivers and by increasing motorcyclists’ awareness of other road users. The most common causes of a motorcyclist being injured are pedestrian lack of attention, motor vehicles turning right across their path, and vehicles U turning.”

I see. So the trouble here is pedestrians and vehicles doing right and U turns, neither of which are speed-related.

Pedestrians:

“Goods vehicles, coaches and buses are disproportionately involved in collisions….

“Pedestrian inattention” has been identified as the main contributory factor for pedestrian casualties.”

Interestingly, it also notes that there are clusters of casualties around the stations where “the City experiences considerable over-crowding of footways, particularly at peak times, with pedestrians stepping onto the carriageway.” So it appears that people stepping off the overcrowded pavements into the path of slower-moving vehicles is the risk here, again rather than speeding. Perhaps investment/improvement into the pedestrian walkways is the key here?

According to the London Evening Standard:

Michael Welbank, speaking on behalf of City of London council, said: “For the City of London to continue its success as an international business hub it is critical that its streets should be safe for all who use them be they commuters, pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, motorcyclists, shoppers or cultural wanderers and dreamers.”

So maybe infrastructure investment might be a better idea, along with enforcement of other legislation and education of pedestrians and cyclists? Or why not simply reintroduce the Locomotive Act 1875, although this would mean fewer speeding fines and less “Being Seen To Be Doing Something”:

"Red Flag" Act

“Red Flag” Act

Southwark Council and Capita Local Government Services

Even typing that title reminded me that with such epic organisations, the degree of fuckwittery would be of epic proportions.

And so it is with Southwark Council’s “Council Tax Single Person Discount Review” letter which threatens to withdraw the discount if you don’t reply within 14 days.

“We are using an external agency to assist us, which will include checking data from other sources and reviewing details of credit applications made at your address.”

OK, so it’s more jobs for the boys and more cost to the council tax payers.

But you can’t fill in a form online to declare that yes, it is still just you. Likewise a telephone number. No, you have to fill in the form and post it back.

Capita have chosen not to include a reply envelope to do that. Not even one that needs a stamp. Not even a blank one. The reason?

“The Council hasn’t paid us to send out envelopes or stamps.”

So I asked what would happen if I sent them their form in an envelope without a stamp?

“Oh it won’t even be delivered to us and your reduction will go.”

That line was delivered in a really sneery voice too by the ‘helpful’ Customer Service agent on the telephone when I rang them.

So yes, more of the usual bollocks delivered by an overpriced external agency to an unfit for purpose Council. No surprises there, then.

Fixed Penalty Payments

The other day I was “making good progress” and was stopped by a Suffolk Constabulary PC who gave me a fixed penalty for the offence. We won’t even go to the whole “speed kills” bollocks (even the PC said my driving was exemplary but over the limit).

I was pleased that they’ve moved with the times and allow you to make online payments … or so I thought.

The Payment Slip part of the Fixed Penalty Notice has a “Ticket Number” (as do the other two parts you’re given) and there’s a “Payment Methods” box which includes a 24/7 automated payment 0300 line and a link to http://penaltynotice.direct.gov.uk

So off I went. The first step was to fill in the “Notice Number” box, so I entered the eight digit ticket number there … and got an error message saying “Invalid format for notice number”. The website doesn’t give any guidance – clickable or otherwise – as to what a valid format would be for the notice number. I tried losing the leading two zeros to no avail. Nothing.

So I rang the payment line and was given the message to enter the sixteen digit notice number. What? What sixteen digit notice number?

Eventually I was connected to an operator who told me that the “Notice Number” is actually the combination of the following:

  • three digit “Force Code”
  • two digit “Notice Type”
  • single digit “Source Code”
  • eight digit “Ticket Number”
  • two digit “Penalty Code”

Well how could I have been so stupid as to not know this? It’s obvious, isn’t it? So obvious that nowhere on the Fixed Penalty Notice does it tell you what the “Notice Number” is, nor how to work out what it is. So obvious that the website they point you towards doesn’t tell you what it is. And so obvious that the automated telephone line doesn’t tell you either. Or is it the usual Government ineptitude?

More Traffic Mismanagement from Southwark

Jamaica Road in SE London can be a bit of a nightmare at peak times: what is a dual carriageway both ways was transformed a few years back to be a permanent bus lane on each carriageway (with stupid bus lane signs that tell you’re not allowed in them Monday to Sunday at any time … i.e. simply at no time) and just one lane of other traffic each way.

Couple this with width restrictions at the Rotherhithe Tunnel and you’ve guaranteed traffic chaos.

Now some of us locals know of a rat run that allow us to get closer to the roundabout, albeit we’re still messed up by the last section of bus lane, and this works to relieve congestion on the main red route.

But no. Southwark Council know better: they’ve now introduced a one-way flow on the main/only through street which means anyone trying the rat run will now have to try pulling out into Jamaica Road twice (and no doubt there will be many blocking the bus lanes accordingly) and then back into the minor side roads. This was introduced via public consultation that only local residents would have known about. Certainly I don’t remember their useless newsletter making any mention of it.

Absolutely ridiculous and yet another waste of my tax money. What a bunch of idiots!

Olympic Route Network – Clear As Mud

Yet more fuckwittery from TFL and LOCOG, I presume: this time it’s the Olympic Route Network which shows the already-busy routes that will be completely messed up by bussing all the VIPs around in their 4,000 chauffeured BMWs – oh and maybe one or two athletes who aren’t staying on site at the Villages for some unknown reason.

So here’s a map of the routes: London 2012 Olympic Route Network (PDF)

There you go then: the Olympic Route Network … oh and an Alternative Olympic Route Network “to be used if the Olympic Route Network cannot be used”. Eh? Wait, there’s an explanation:

“Some road race events including the Cycling Road Race, the Triathlon and the Olympic and Paralympic Marathons, will take place on sections of the Olympic or Paralympic Route Network (ORN/PRN). During these events, which are mostly at weekends, some parts of the ORN/PRN will be closed and an alternative ORN/PRN route will be in place.  These alternative routes will be open to all general traffic. However, there will be some temporary traffic changes, including changes to traffic signal timings, on these roads so that athletes, officials, media and key Games workers can get to events on time.”

No news as to what other traffic changes will be planned if us common people are supposedly still allowed to use them. And there’s another map for us to look at showing these ORNs … which doesn’t tie-up with the AORNs on the first map, of course: where’s Jamaica Road, etc.?

Confused? You will be…

Unofficial Sarcasm Provider to the London Olympics

I’ve pointed out previously that the last place anyone living in London should want to be in August 2012 will be London whilst the London Olympics is on as it’ll be chaos.

This week, there’s been news about locations for missile batteries in the East End as well. Presumably there to protect the £24bn “investment” that it has grown to (up from the £2bn that Tony BLiar’s Government promised us it would cost when we bid for the Games).

Having decided to spend a whole shedload of our cash, LOCOG have also sought to “monetise” the Games as best they can – no doubt on advice from their Strategic Consulting Provider- and may have taken (or possibly, ignored…) advice from their official market research services provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as to which companies to approach to get an Official Doodah Provider to the London 2012 Olympic Games moniker:

“The Nielsen Company will assist us in the decision making process by testing our ideas in the market place. One of our challenges – and opportunities – is connecting with young people. Nielsen will help us do this and will, I’m sure, prove to be a huge asset to our marketing push.”

Said Lord Coe. In excellent marketing-speak.

Part of this connection with young people, presumably, is telling them they can’t upload photos onto Facebook or Twitter or whatever from the event if they’re lucky enough to have bought tickets for a quick slot to see a heat of an event before being told to bugger off for the next spectator to take their place:

“Sir Keith Mills, deputy chairman of organisers Locog, said said organisers wanted to make sure that media rights which have been paid for are protected.”

The same goes for the 70,000 (presumably young) people who will be acting as “Games Makers”.

And I suppose that this connection with young people will be to “inspire a generation” – how much did that cost? – perhaps by steering them towards some of the other companies who’ve chipped in (despite growing concern as to their products) to be Worldwide Partner (Coca-Cola)Official Lager Supplier (Heineken, with “exclusive pouring rights”), Official Restaurant of the London 2012 Olympic GamesOfficial Treat Provider (Cadbury/Trebor) and of course choose from any selection from drugs company and Official Laboratory Services Provider to London 2012 (GlaxoSmithKline). What could possibly go wrong?

Some smokes, some beers...

 

Still, it’s just business…

Robin Hood, Or What Is “Fair”?

So we had a new Budget with the Chancellor, Gideon, heralding things that won’t happen for another year in the hope that we will assume he means April 2012 when he refers to “next April” when in fact it’s April 2013.

But apart from that, the Government continue to bang on about everyone paying their fair share in taxes, unless you’re Simon Hughes MP, in which case it’s a “fare share“…

This latest statement by Simon Hughes MP is headlined “Budget makes sure the richest pay their fare share – Simon Hughes MP” but then goes on to fanfare that:

“…hundreds of thousands of South Londoners on low and middle incomes given a tax cut, paid for by raising the burden of tax on the wealthy.”

“Liberal Democrats have made sure that this government has done what Labour never did – make sure the richest pay their fair share … despite a cut in the top income tax rate to 45p next year the richest will pay five times the amount in taxes they do today.”

Oh I see! So that’s fair is it?

And where does this magical “five times the amount” come from? I haven’t seen that calculation shown anywhere, or is it just another case of “lies, damned lies and statistics”?

What’s wrong with a proportional tax system whereby everyone pays the same tax in percentage terms? Does a “rich” person use more of what the Government provides from taxes by way of health and welfare than a lower paid person? I’d wager not; probably the opposite with private healthcare being a likely perk. Education? Surely the “rich” are more likely to pay for Quentin and Letitia to go be educated privately too. Local services are paid through Council Tax which increases with property size so the better off are already paying more for local services that way.

If you are going to look at taxation based upon affordability, why not own up and call it that?

For the record, I’m not rich by any means and by a quirk of the tax system which appears bewilderingly complex and confusing, HMRC has already decided that I somehow paid less tax through PAYE then I should have last year – HMRC helpfully provided my tax code which calculated the “incorrect” deductions – and taking that and the tax rules into account, for 2012/2013 I will have a negative code, i.e. I will pay tax on more than I actually earn.

Which is “fair”, if you happen to be a Liberal Democrat politician, obviously. Or a Conservative. Tricky to tell them apart…