Monday, 17 September 2012

Bill vs Joseph

What with all the riots and protests over some schmucks attempt to mock Islam, I'm always comforted that as an atheist, I'm not obligated to inflict my version of a sky-pixie on anyone else.  I wish it were the same in reverse - frankly, causing any harm or injury to another person, to make sure a sky-pixie isn't upset, really should be a reminder to us all that secularism really is the only way forward.  It's such a shame that others can't accept that we're all different, and it's that which makes the world such a wonderful place.  

As long as I don't harm you, and you don't harm me, we can all get along just fine.  I'm quite comfortable with other people having religion, I just despair at how easily led and gullible people can be by the organisations that eschew the more 'evangelical' approach to education.

As a tech, I'm not always that impressed with Microsoft software but here's a great example of an atheist who has morals that weren't taken from a 2 millenia old novel.  Respect for Bill Gates has to be given for the work he's done to spend his fortunes on doing good.... Isn't it funny how the church has been telling us it's doing good, when really.....

Monday, 10 September 2012

Benefits vs tax

I'm not going to give my opinion on this one - I just offer the facts.  Which do you think should have greater priority?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

She canna take na more, Cap'n!

I've never tried one myself, but you have to admire the Scots - take a Mars bar, cover it in batter then deep fry it!  A source of amusement and weight gain for two decades, it seems.

So the story recently published that Mars, the big chocolate company, have asked the takeaway in question to add a disclaimer to their menu, as Mars don't want to be associated with 'unhealthy' foods, struck me as a little 'pot calling the kettle black'.

What fascinates me is that this large, multinational corporation think that if they repeat something often enough, the gullible public will believe it, much in the same way as the Nazi propaganda machine operated.  It doesn't matter if it's true or not - just keep repeating it.

Take a look at the story here, and wonder to yourself - which part of a Mars bar is 'healthy'?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Justice denied

Now I'm not saying either of these people are right.  I am saying the punishment should be roughly equivalent.  If it's not an even playing field, then isn't it clear we have a two-tier judiciary?  More reason to start saying no to those claiming authority, when they're lying scumbags themselves...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Government spending

Here's a neat graphic from the Tax Payers Alliance, showing what is actually happening this year.  You can see that spending is huge, so much so that the tax we all pay doesn't cover it, and that's the deficit, which will be borrowed at interest (for the banks).

As far as spending cuts go, they are minute in comparison, and are then offset by the increase in spending this year anyway.

So although all this guff from the government that they're making savings and reducing the deficit is technically correct, it's not really telling everyone the whole picture.  Are we losing public services just to make this small dent in the huge debt we all carry on behalf of the nation?  That debt stands at over £1tn, or over £16,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK, and it's growing all the time.

Real eyes realise real lies...

Friday, 10 August 2012

BFBC Youth Team - town centre promotion

I was in Bracknell town centre today for a spot of lunch, and noticed the Bracknell Forest council youth service parked up in a kitted out camper van, to sign up new 11-19 year old recruits.  They'd even gone to the trouble of laying on a climbing wall for the teens to have a crack at.
Empty wall...
Empty promises...
One thing I thought was odd though, was that the staff were just sat on chairs or stood around the van, reading newspapers and chatting amongst themselves while the youth of Bracknell wondered past.  No-one handing out leaflets, no-one approaching the kids, just lots of sitting and standing around chatting, in relatively large numbers (I counted 9 of them).  And no-one on the wall!

Thinking of the blog, I started to snap a few photos on my phone - here they are.  You can see the staff stood around doing nothing, while the climbing wall is empty.  And do bear in mind, this is on a warm sunny day, in the middle of town, in the middle of the school holidays at about 12:30 pm - there are kids everywhere.  Click on the pics for a closer look...

I thought that would be that, but then I was approached by two female members of the 'Youth Team'.  The feisty one of the two (noted with a red arrow in the pictures) asked me if I was taking pictures, so I politely pointed out that it was none of her business.  She then asked me to prove I didn't have any pictures of the children, which is inferring  'are you a paedophile? If not, prove it' - how disgusting, sick and perverse is this woman?  I can't imagine how taking pictures of a youth team in a town centre where kids are everywhere anyway could be offensive, but she chose to try and frame it that way.  I take great offence to this - how dare she?  With absolutely no evidence or authority at all, and with her job security staring her in the face, she resorted to the most despicable thought she could dredge from her twisted small sick mind to try and command a situation that was clearly not going her way.

Red arrow is feisty lady, blue arrow is her backup!

She went on... 'you aren't allowed to take my picture without my permission' she quipped.  Wrong again.  No-one has any reasonable expectation of privacy when they're in a public place - the paparazzi prove this point.  Do they ask permission to snap and then publish exposing celebrity pictures?  And we're all being filmed, all day every day - the UK is the CCTV capital of the world!  Just for clarity, here's the official line from the Met Police.  

There's something a little disconcerting at this point too, as she starts to insist she has the right to see the pictures.  Tut tut - if you're going to pretend to be a Police Constable, at least read up on the basics of law.  Firstly, unless she is a Police Constable (and she also has reasonable suspicion that I'm taking pictures for the purposes of terrorism), she has no authority to approach and try to quiz me as she did.  In fact, her aggressive nature and accusations of me being a kiddie fiddler are potentially grounds for a warning to her for harassment from the boys in blue, according to my brief.  Secondly, I'm convinced she was only being aggressive because she'd been caught with her thumbs up her a*se and wanted to see the pictures deleted.  I pointed out that having a van in the middle of town with a climbing wall laid on to attract the youth of the area (and funded by you and me) was a bit of a waste if all they were doing was sitting around and not engaging the youngsters.  She tried to defend herself by suggesting it was a voluntary scheme so they didn't want to approach the kids, but thats stupid logic - why have a van and a climbing wall in the first place, if you weren't trying to promote the service and attract teenagers?  We all remember being a teen - approaching something like this was a social minefield - being given a leaflet was much easier!  Thirdly, and just as importantly, she's a council employee and is paid to serve the public, not accuse them of being paedophiles and trying to enforce her own version of the law.  She should remember where the money in her bank account at the end of the month comes from.

In their favour, her colleague (marked with a blue arrow) did try to remove her from the situation when she realised they weren't going to get their own way, but in the end she just gave up and wondered off.  Ms Gobby then waltzed off too, refusing to give me her name as she went.

I will play fair - I'm not here to upset anyone, I just want to report on what I saw as a missed opportunity by the feckless and lazy, so I told her she could ask me not to not publish her picture if she wished, which she chose to accept.

Here's some of the audio from our encounter (but I'll keep the rest as evidence, if I do have to take it that far).  I'll publish just the last bit of the conversation - you can hear how she is aggressive, and demanding things she doesn't have a right to.  Initially, I agreed to not publishing her picture, as she requested.  However, after the volley of nasty comments from her and her colleagues and friends, I'm going to publish her picture anyway.  Had she not been so aggressive, and had she not asked her friends and colleagues to attack and accuse me, indirectly, of being a paedo for taking and publishing these pictures, I'd have probably stuck to my word.

In the interests of fairness to those who were willing to add their name to their comments, and who asked that I don't publish pictures of their kids, I say this;  It is not illegal to either take pictures or publish them, unless they are for the purposes of terrorism.  If I choose to, I am at liberty to both take and publish pictures taken in a public place, including those that might contain children - that's the law.  I'm not here to upset the public though, and I don't want to offend anyone (other than potentially the slack public servants highlighted) so I've taken the decision to respect parents wishes, and I have blurred out all the faces of anyone other than the two women that approached me.  I wish to leave the blurred images of children in the pictures, as it demonstrates the point I am trying to make, and I have every right to do so.

Additionally, following all the threats and nasty comments, I did take this story down over the weekend until I had a chance to take legal advice.  Now that I have the advice that confirms my assertions, and I have a legal brief who is happy to represent me if anyone wishes to take it further, I've reposted this story.

I do intend to send in a complaint to Bracknell Forest Council, where I'll demand a written apology for being aggressively approached and accused of paedophilia, a sick and evil accusation that I will not accept.  If a written apology isn't forthcoming within six weeks then as suggested by my brief, I shall consider making a complaint to the Police.  And of course, I'll post the response here...

Watch, as the youth of Bracknell wonder past unhindered, and remember - these pictures make me a sick twisted evil pervert, right?! Unbelievable, these people...

UPDATE - it seems I have a small thank you to say to the feisty lady too - since she rallied her minions to accuse me of being a paedo, the hits on the blog have gone through the roof - cheers!

I'd also recommend reading the comments on this post, some of which were posted before I took legal advice - I think you'll figure out which ones are trying to intimidate, threaten or accuse me of paedophillia.  I am not willing to give up my rights to hold public servants to account, to avoid infringing the rights that someone else thinks they have, even though they don't.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Highways Agency 2 - something to hide?

While traveling down the M3 the other day, I noticed a Highways Agency 4x4 parked up in the little area off the hard shoulder, that has a sign that clearly states 'Police vehicles only'.  Now I do appreciate they have a job to do, and that it's convenient to position themselves in these mini lay-bys, but the law is the law, and if anyone else did it, they'd be prosecuted.  I can't find anything in my copy of the Highway Code that allows these 'Traffic Officers' to ignore motorway signage.

So while on the road, I gave the Highways Agency a ring, and got through to Andy.  I told him I was recording the call, and stupidly I mentioned I might broadcast it and surprise surprise, Andy wasn't happy about that.  If he's doing his job properly, why would he have something to hide?!  Have a listen....

I've written to his manager, and will post any reply I get right here!

PS - Work is super busy at the moment, so updates might be a bit light for a few weeks.  If you have something you'd like to publish, please email it to me and I'll do my best!  And keep the site bookmarked - there's more fun to come soon, including my bunfight with the Police over a spurious allegation against me, which I plan to refute in court and following which I have a great complaint to put in ;-)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Barclays bank - closing my account

After the recent scandal involving Barclays and the fixing of the LIBOR rate, to their own benefit but to the detriment of the public, I decided it was time I took greater care of my money, and so I've opened a new current account with a competitive high street bank, although this time with a code of ethics more in line with my views.

The video is a little dull, but shows how you're treated with contempt when you want your money back, even after being welcomed with open arms when there was a prospect you might be taking your money to them.  I must confess to a little pleasure telling the 'meet and greet' lady I was closing my account because I couldn't trust them with my money.  It's worth noting, though, the snotty lady who dealt with me didn't overhear the reason I gave to Mrs Havaniceday - she was purely shirty because I was closing an account.  Laughably, even though she cut my card up in front of me, no mention was made of the cheque book still in my possession - I will of course destroy that myself, but it shows the lax processes the banks employ.

I hope others use the power they still have - the power of choice, to take action, and to take away the source of the banks strengths, their depositors.  Even with the fraud of fractional reserve banking, no depositors means no balance sheet, means no bank.

Phone mast repair - more important than safety?

Another example of those in yellow jackets assuming the law doesn't apply.  We're told double yellow lines are there to ensure safety, and this area is patrolled regularly by a traffic warden.  So why no ticket, clamp or tow-away truck?  It's that yellow jacket superiority syndrome again ;-)  Worth noting - these vans were installing some pretty heavy duty looking mobile phone transmitters (in the wooden boxes), in the building of the new Bracknell and Wokingham college.  Let's hope those fears of physiological damage from mobile phone masts isn't true, for this young generation at least...

David Cameron - moral guidance

This made me smile.  David Cameron seems to have a moral compass with two needles ;-)

Olympic sponsorship

Isn't having McDonalds and Coca Cola as sponsors of a sporting event a bit like Benson and Hedges sponsoring a cancer hospital?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Corporate graffiti - update

As we all suspected, BFBC are too afraid of big, bad McDonalds to prosecute them for graffiti or defacing public property.  Instead, they're just going to take the signs down, and nothing more will be said.  But you see, there's the problem.  If the council don't inform McDonalds, and warn them not to do it again, then what use is the councils policy?  Why does McDonalds get away with defacing public property, but the spotty youth in a hoodie gets an ASBO?  Another shining example of the council having two rules - one for the taxpayer, and another for the corporates.

Here's their response to my FoI request.  Another has been submitted to understand the councils responsibilities in this matter, and the update will be posted here!

FoI response from Bracknell Forest Borough Council

More public servant slacking off!

This one taken in Lloyds bank in Bracknell.  PCSO 9891 taking time out while on duty to perform his personal banking.  Is this what we're paying them to do?  Why is it that these people think it's OK to conduct their personal business while at work, while the rest of us have to do it in our own free time?  A complaint has been submitted - response will be posted here!

PCSO 9891 slacking off while being paid by you and I...

More Elf and Safety muppets....

This one taken at the Fairford Air Tattoo - note the 'Health and Safety Team' written on the back of the yellow jacket, and lack of cycle helmet, just a cap on the handlebars.  More proof of jobsworths telling us how to behave, but having no idea themselves - morons!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Corporate graffiti?

So there I was, walking into Bracknell town centre for some lunch, and I spotted something odd - signs promoting McDonalds, secured onto the railings above one of the underpasses - on public property.  Shouldn't this be done in the proper way by paying for advertising space in a position that's approved for that purpose, rather than littering our public spaces with corporate logos? (Click on the pics to enlarge)

Has this been approved by the council, and if it has, how much are McDonalds paying for the privilege?  If this isn't the case, then this is corporate vandalism, and McDonalds should foot the bill to have someone remove it.  In fact, if this was graffiti or posters promoting a gig for example, and the perpetrator was caught, we'd expect a conviction for criminal damage (Bill Stickers is innocent!).  Can we expect the same when it's a big multi-national corporation?  I'd put money on them being asked to remove the signs with no prosecution for defacing public property (the council are far too scared of taking on a big scary corporation, even though this would be the correct and fair course of action).

Inevitably, I can't just leave it there, so a FoI request has gone in to Bracknell Forest Borough Council to find out if McDonalds have permission to put these signs up, what they are paying if they do, and what will happen if they don't!  I'll publish their response right here...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Barclays - fine or fraud?

It's hard to miss todays news stories around Barclays fixing the inter-bank lending rate (LIBOR) along with lots of other banks, for their benefit, and to our detriment.

What I don't understand is, why do the FSA issue a fine before the SFO or CPS has decided whether a fraud has been committed?  Surely, by announcing the fine and then the CEO and a few senior management folks offering to forego their bonus, they hoped it would all get swept under the carpet and no-one (other than the shareholders who pay the fine) would lose out.

This, once again, seems like the government and the banks working in cahoots to try and get away with ripping you and I off.  How can this be allowed to happen, if the FSA is there to spot it and stop it?  Or is the FSA manned by ex bank executives?

How apt then, this cunning effort found on the web, and clearly what Photoshop was intended for ;-)

Justice, or profit?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lids on ready meals - the test

This one is a mix of frustration and amusement ;-)

Have you ever ripped open a ready meal, and the packaging shreds itself into your dinner?  Are the bits of plastic in your tagliatelle tasty?  I chose Waitrose as I figured if the top notch on quality can't get it right, the lower ranks in the supermarket wars have no chance.  Do you know different?  Can you recommend any tempting tasty dishes that won't drive me potty with amazement?  It makes me wonder - do those who buy this packaging not visit a store, try it themselves, and then think 'this is stupid, we must be able to do better than this'?!

Useless - that's my verdict!  What do you think?  Comments below!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Shocking statistics...

I stumbled across this pie chart on the web this week, and it made me raise an eyebrow.  Certainly not what the media tells us is happening...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday funnies...

It's been quiet in the SRMO HQ after the long bank holiday, so here are a few funnies to finish the week off with.  Purile?  Maybe.  Amusing?  Yes.

Spock swears...

Are we having a summer this year?!

Wouldn't donating it to charity be better than 'destroying' it?!

Topical stuff, this!

Friday, 1 June 2012

£100 profit per mile. Every little helps...

Something a good friend spotted and suggested for the blog, and so I thought I'd look into it - Tesco's selling petrol at rates they can get away with, rather than at a fair profit.  How often do we hear Tesco's telling us they're doing all they can to keep fuel prices low?  It's all boll***s!

This is a simple maths one, this.  The first pic is the price of fuel at the Tesco's store in central Reading, Berkshire.  The second pic is a different Tesco's store, this time in Warfield, a somewhat wealthier area than the first, half an hour later.  It's clear to see that in Warfield, people buying fuel are paying 4p per litre more than those in Reading.
Not sure why petrol isn't visible, but diesel gives you the clue!  This is Reading...
And here's Warfield - a full 4p more per litre
Here comes the science!  A fuel tanker holds about 30,000 litres, so if we add up all the 4p's, that's an additional £1,200 profit Tesco's make from their Warfield customers per tanker.  Let's be generous, and for arguments sake let's take £200 off for the drivers time and fuel to travel the additional 10 miles from one to the other.  That means the tanker earns an additional £100 profit per mile when travelling that extra 10 miles.

I gave Tesco's customer service a call to ask them about it, and here's what Jess came back with - even agreeing with me, brilliant!!  Of course, the reply from the 'unable to communicate with the public' pricing team will be posted here!  It must be odd in their team meetings, if no-one can communicate....

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

RBWM Traffic Wardens - update

Finally, we have an update from the parking department at Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council!  Take a look at the email below, and also have a listen to the lengthy calls to try and get someone to comment (I have removed the several minutes from each call that I was on hold, to spare you the same pain!).
Click to embiggen...
I appreciate Neil has a job to do, but there are a couple of points I think should be made, and publicly.

First, Neil claims that no-one saw the original emails as they had hit their spam folder, so why did I get an auto-reply telling me someone would be in touch within ten days?  That either means that the IT team at RBWM are happy to have auto-responders sent to 'spam' emails, thereby exacerbating the problems of spam for everyone, or it means someone is fibbing, and hoped the problem would go away if it was ignored.  Would it be wise to have emails hitting the spam folder at all, given it's the only contact point for the public when dealing with parking fines?  Something smells of bullsh*t to me, but I could be wrong!

Secondly, Neil suggests it would have been far easier for me to put all the facts together and provide them directly to him.  I could find no process on the RBWM website for reporting this type of incident, and so all I could do was send it in to the email address listed -, in the format I thought would be most appropriate.  And it would be far easier for who?  Isn't he supposed to be working for us, and not the other way round?  I've made it as simple as I can for him to view the information - if he's unable to open a website on his computer and read the words and look at the pictures then perhaps retraining is required?

Finally, he informs me that he will not be able to provide any of the details of the investigation.  Hmmm - so how do we know he will investigate, and not just brush it under the carpet, in the hope his boss doesn't find out?  How do we know any improvement in behaviour will come of this, if we have absolutely no idea if any action was taken?  Could he not provide a simple overview of the actions taken, without any names etc, so we could be reassured?  I wonder if that information falls under the FoI act?  I'll give it a while, and set myself a reminder for a few months time, then put in a request to see if I can find out if anything at all happened as a result. Keep watching this space - and those pesky skiving traffic wardens!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Where's a proper copper when you need one?!

This story caught my eye today.  I'm not one to jump in and accuse until a fair trial has been conducted, but on the face of it, this is quite shocking - anti-bribery officers being arrested for - being bribed.  Do they have anti-paedophile officers out in the streets too, with cameras and contact with kids?  And anti-terror Police keeping us 'safe' by firing into unarmed Brazilians on tube trains in public?

I also recall the recent story of the security services in the UK, while on a conference call to their counterparts in the US, were intercepted and the conversation recorded by teenagers in their bedrooms.  I'd call this dangerous incompetence, and demonstrates the stupidity of the people who claim to be 'keeping us safe'.

Then we had the resignation of the top two Met Police commanders after being found in Murdoch's back pocket - but they can't be disciplined, because they resigned first!

I suspect that we'll see more fallout from the Leveson enquiry - and if those scapegoats for ministers who are caught with their pants down finally have the guts to put their heads above the parapet and name and shame those above them who are really responsible, we might be lucky and get some more senior incompetent fools sacked.  

Given the bungee-like nature of government hiring and firing (remember Peter 'cheap mortgage through a mate and don't declare it, and passports for my Indian friends' Mandelson?), it's only a matter of time before the old boys network sorts it all out, and we see them reappear in a public role again.  What does a public servant have to do, other than murder, to get sacked and remain sacked, as they would in private employment?
Ian Tomlinson, just before being struck by PC Simon Harwood
If the security of the nation, the integrity of the Police, and the legitimacy of our judiciary rests on these people, then I'm worried - very worried.  And if you think you can trust the Police, all you have to do is recall the Ian Tomlinson tragedy.  When first accused of being involved, the Met denied everything.  Gradually, as more evidence appeared, they started to change their version of events, until finally we all saw the video of Mr Tomlinson being struck by an officer, from behind, while he presented no threat at all.  Only then did the Police 'fess up' and push PC Simon Harwood forward to take the heat.  

I was there on that day, and I can confirm first hand the Police were aggravating the crowd, kettling them for no evident reason and looking for trouble to inflame.  I saw plenty of officers with their numbers covered up.  I personally witnessed a very elderly lady (at least 70), who was not part of the demonstration, beg and plead with officers (including WPC's) to let her through so she could find a bathroom to use, and they all simply ignored her, like she didn't exist.  In the end, some protesting girls stood in a circle with a banner around the old lady, so she could pee in the street with as much dignity as she could find - that really appalled me.  It was interesting to note that in the vicinity of the Bank of England where I was standing, the only people prepared for fighting were the Police - everyone else, as far as I witnessed, were impeccably behaved.

Does there come a point where public services are so ineffective, so corrupt and so badly run that they become illegitimate, and should be disregarded, disbanded and replaced with something more akin to what the public expect?  At what point do the public have the right to say 'sorry, not good enough'?  A general election?  I don't think anyone would argue that the government is effectively a corporatocracy, so voting makes not one jot of difference - as Bobby Fleckman once said, money talks and bullsh*t walks!

Perhaps it's time we took things into our own hands, peacefully of course - mass civil disobedience, refusal to co-operate with any government department, blockading government buildings and most of all, refuse to pay fines, taxes, demands - the corrupt can't survive without being fed more money.  What do you think?  Comments below!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

One rule for them....

Less than a week after snapping a traffic warden heading into the bookies to place a bet, today I spotted a different traffic warden on Ascot High Street. This time, he's done a little shopping on taxpayers time, then uses a taxpayer funded van, PARKED ON DOUBLE YELLOW LINES to carry it home.
No response yet from Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council parking department on the gambler - lets see what they have to say to this one! Of course, any and all replies will be posted here...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Saving the planet?

Boy, am I glad I don't live near a Bracknell Forest Borough Council recycling point! It's been like this for 3 days now...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Road to nowhere...

On the 13th April, I was driving to Cardiff down the M4 for the weekend. Between junctions 12 and 13 were around 4 miles of roadworks with a 50mph limit and a contraflow, that I passed at about 2:45 in the afternoon.

While driving past, i counted how many people were engaged with performing the said roadworks, and a separate count on the number of people not actually doing anything. Here are the figures:

No of people sat in vans or trucks reading newspapers or otherwise amusing themselves but not doing any roadworks - 14

No of people actually doing something - 0

The first thing to note here is that in around 4 miles of roadworks, on a regular Friday afternoon, the Highways Agency/contractor thinks 14 people is sufficient.  Are they really that unconcerned with the delays they're causing to thousands of people?

More pressing, though, is if they're only going to deploy 14 people, is it too much to expect them to actually be doing something?

Of course, I couldn't let it lie, so I called the HA and made a complaint. They told me they'd get back to me in a couple of days, and once I'd explained the circumstances, 'Aaron' then went off to investigate.

He didn't come back to me when promised, so I chased them up.

This is what he came back with. You can tell from the management speak he uses, he's not really taken any time to read my complaint, as he makes the assertion that others might have been busy working, or that it might have been break time. Clutching at straws? 

So I called Aaron back, and asked him if he had read my original complaint. We went through the normal 'fob me off' responses before he leapt for and grabbed that holy grail of excuses - health and safety. If there was some sort of issue that had raised a possible health and safety concern, was the appropriate response from the contractor to down tools and collectively skive off? The workmen were scattered randomly in vehicles throughout the roadworks - if a danger was present, did it cover all 4 miles? I doubt it.

This is yet another example of the state, the Highways Agency and their contractors, doing one thing while saying the opposite, and treating the motorist and the public with lies and contempt while they milk the taxpayer for all they can!!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Traffic warden or bookies nightmare - you decide!

While walking down Ascot High Street mid afternoon today, I noticed a traffic warden shouting to his colleague 'I'm popping into the bookies'.

Is this what we're paying them for?  Do we need traffic control, or do we need public servants swinging the lead?  You decide!

Checking the SP's...
Update - I've emailed the Parking department at RBWM and asked them to respond - I'll post any replies here!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A positive to begin the month with...

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Steve Jobs, US computer engineer & industrialist (1955)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Why have cost effective and locally sourced, when branded and expensive will do?

During a visit to Bracknell one lunch hour, I noticed a number of council employees wearing new fleece tops.  I also spotted that they had the embroidered logo of BFBC on one side, and the brand 'Sprayway' on the other.

Inevitably, that made me wonder why the council had chosen a rather expensive brand, rather than something more generic and not as expensive, so I submitted a FoI request, which you can see below.

The response is rather vague on how much has been spent on them in total, so I did a bit more investigating.  The closest fleece top I can find in the Sprayway range comes in at about £100, so if you take a little off for bulk purchase, and then add a bit on for the logo to be embroidered, I'd estimate around £80 per top was paid by the council.

I also buy fleece tops for my employees, and they cost around £25 each, including embroidery.  I purchase them from a local supplier too, who is very responsive when I need changes or different colours etc.  They also pay their business rates to BFBC.

So the question must be asked - why have more cost effective and locally sourced, when branded and expensive will do?!  Or perhaps the more pressing question is, why is the taxpayer clothing the council employees in times of austerity...

Page 1 of the FoI request
Page 2

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Tesco's car parking - or a lesson in alienating your customers...

My local Tesco's store put up signs about six months ago, warning customers that if they were to park there for more than 3 hours, they agree to pay a £70 fine.  This is monitored and managed by a CCTV camera network in the car park, and run by a private firm, not Tesco's directly.

Let's get that into context.  The store in question is nowhere near a train station, a major shopping area, a town centre with a lack of parking, or a sports venue that requires extra parking.  Not once, in the eight odd years I've seen it, have I found the car park full with no spaces available, other than the mad rush on a christmas eve, which we all expect.

The store is, however, on the same development as a number of essential public services and other shops, such as the local library, two doctors surgeries, a hairdressers, the local parish council office, an estate agency and a dry cleaners.

This means that a member of the public, parking to access some of these services, have a maximum of 3 hours to complete their visit, else they face the fine.... Or do they?

It's worth noting, there is no private parking firm that has the authority to impose a penalty on a driver - only the local council and/or the police have that power.  They can write to the DVLA and get your details and write to you, they can make demands of you, they can even pass the fine off to a debt collection agency to collect on their behalf, but it is very simple to overcome - just ignore it!  And don't just take my word for it, Martin Lewis of the website, agrees.  As of the date of this post, no-one has ever been taken to court for the non-payment of a private parking fine.  Why?  Because the contract is called an 'adhesion' contract, and is unenforceable.  The parking management companies know this, but they use threatening and intimidating letters and notices to bully people into paying up, while Tesco's takes their cut, and blames the parking company when customers get upset at being 'fined'.  Every little helps, eh?!

What really gets my goat, though, is the threats, the demands, the intimidation - of customers!  Why would I want to spend my hard earned cash in a supermarket that threatens me before I've got through the door?  Why would I want to support an enterprise that decides, arbitrarily, to restrict peoples access to their public services?  Why would I want to shop somewhere that has this level of contempt for their customers?  Answers on a postcard!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Council cone-tractors

A bit of 'elf and safety muppetry today.  

The first pic shows Bracknell Forest council workers cutting the grass on a roundabout.  Note they have put a ring of cones around the roundabout, as though someone driving straight onto the roundabout in a car and presenting a danger would be prevented by a small plastic traffic cone.  In fact, maybe a FoI request is needed to see how many accidents and fatalities are caused each year by drivers mounting roundabouts and doing some mowing down of their own!

Then contrast that with the second and third pictures of a team painting white lines on the road leading up to the same roundabout.  This time the guy is wondering about in the traffic, with a propane gas cylinder and a naked flame, and not a cone in sight.  Surely the latter is more dangerous, yet no driver warnings required?  Either somebody isn't following the rules, or the council are just looking for more ways to waste time and money...

Cone-sider the dangers of mowing grass!
...and in with the traffic
Explosive gas, no cones...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Vodafone - success story

This is a bit of an older tale, but it might be useful for others so I'll post it anyway.

A few years back, I had a problem after moving to Vodafone, in that they had me on the wrong tariff and did little to correct the problem, even though it was costing me hundreds of pounds every month.  Nothing, that is, until I sent this email to the executive board and everyone I could find with an email address on their various websites.

Result - a refund of £2,500, a new 12 month contract with free data and texts, and a personal account manager to correct any future issues.  I had three calls by 8 am the morning after sending it from the customer services director, the PA to the CEO and the marketing director!

More subway madness

Those idiots at my local council really do take the biscuit for stupidity.  I had a bit of a pop at them a while ago for spending £16,635 painting a subway wall, while at the same time cutting public services for the elderly and in need, and I was, as is normal, given the brush off by the man in charge, Steve Loudoun.  Details on the complaint and FoI request can be found on the Bracknell Blog.

More recently, the council have had complaints about another nearby subway that, when it rains, becomes impassable unless you're wearing wellies (great that it looks nice, shame it can't be used!), so they sent out a team to fix the drainage, and this is what they came up with.

You can see from the first pic, the drain itself is a good three inches higher than the surrounding footpath.  I'm no plumber, but I do know if the plughole on my bath was up where the taps are, not much water would drain away.

They then returned, and added a layer of tarmac around the drain, as though that would fix the issue.  All that happens is the rainwater collects inside the subway, and has to reach a depth of three inches before it starts being drained away (the second pic was taken after a short shower - it becomes flooded in a deluge).

Raised drain, chocolate fireguard
Slap some tarmac down, job done - not!

When I made the original complaint about the painted subway, Bracknell News asked for a comment from the council, and the elected member responsible, Mary Ballin, said “I have full faith in Steve and his team to get the best possible value for money”, so there's another example of bullsh*t to cover up incompetence again - thanks Mary!

So how long do we go on funding these buffoons?  How long will it take before they figure out that leeching money from the public and then wasting it in royal style like this isn't going to last forever?

UPDATE - here's the subway after one of the recent sharp showers.  You can see from the unbroken reflection, the water is wall to wall, making the subway impassable.

Even more worrying, I saw some people today walking across four lanes of traffic and jumping over the railings in the middle of the road, simply because the subway was flooded and that was the only alternative (other than a walk to the next roundabout and back, perhaps half a km) - so now lives are being put at risk because of the councils incompetence.

Is it any wonder we're favourites in the Olympic rowing?!

Banks breaking their own security rules!

How many times are we told by the banks that we shouldn't give any of our details to someone who calls us?  And then they go and call us and ask us to pass security checks - how stupid are these people?!!

Have a listen to these short clips, just for fun!  Clip 1  Clip 2

Barclays contactless cards

I was interested to see the recent C4 documentary on the lack of security built into the new Barclays contactless cards.

When I was first sent a contactless card, I did question the security on it with the bank, and I was given the usual 'we cover you for fraud so don't worry' excuse.  I also have concerns over the security on the chip and PIN system, but I'll post that separately as I'm still investigating that.

However, after the documentary, I decided I didn't want my bank details broadcast around me without any encryption, so I called the bank and asked them if I could get a new card issued, without the contactless technology.  Have a listen to what Alex, the customer service team leader, says to try and overcome my concerns - he agrees that he saw fraud take place on the documentary, and then insists the technology is safe in the same breath - what a moron!  I also find it interesting that the regular customer service agents get panicky when they are told the call is being recorded - something to hide perhaps?!

I think this is a fine example of a corporate borg regurgitating what he's been told by his masters without thinking about it, and it highlights the contempt and disregard Barclays have for their customers.

Fortunately, the web saves the day again - I found this guide to disabling the antenna that transmits the details to thieves, so get busy with a knife and stay safe.

Enough is enough!

So you think you are valued when handing over your hard earned cash? Think again! More and more, government officials and big companies are taking advantage of you and I. Want proof? Think about each of the following, and ask yourself - in whose interest is it?

  • Massive cuts to public services while bailing out the banks to the tune of billions
  • Insurance costs rising by way more than inflation, you’re told it’s because more claims are being made, and yet the insurer announces record profits
  • Talk of limiting bankers bonuses, yet record bonuses paid anyway 
  • 335 MPs caught claiming dodgy expenses, yet only 5 prosecuted 
  • Business leaders making redundancies while awarding themselves record salaries 
  • Big payouts for failure, such as Sharon Shoesmith (Baby P) and Fred Goodwin (RBS) 
  • The Police regularly lying to cover up their own failures or brutality 
  • Courts sentencing minor offences harshly, while letting off those in positions of authority when they are found to be criminals and committing much more serious offences 
  • Successive governments borrowing more than they could afford to win votes, then expecting the public to clear up the mess they leave behind 
  • Bankers who manipulate markets to earn themselves a tidy profit, at the expense of the individual investor or sometimes the taxpayer
  • Energy bills going through the roof, while the energy company announces record profits 
  • Companies hiding behind automated telephone systems to avoid accountability 
  • Lack of security on personal data held by companies, and their disregard for the impact on customers when hacked
I hope to use this blog to highlight examples of these as I find them.  I come well armed!  I have a range of tech gadgets that I plan to use to record calls, video those responsible, and where possible, share any communications on this blog.  Of course, your own experiences are also welcome - just type me an email with what you'd like to post, and if it looks good, I'll share it with all!

The more I look under the bonnet and ask polite but probing questions of those in 'authority', the more I find that the government is run by incompetent, money grabbing thieves.  There has to come a time when we all simply, collectively and loudly say the magic word - NO!

As for corporations, I seem to have a knack of complaining to force them to acknowledge their failings, and this is often accompanied by a compensation payment - in the last 3 years, I have made around £7,000 from LloydsTSB, Barclays and Vodafone to name a few.  Again, I'll happily share the letters, emails and calls with these organisations, in the hope that you feel happy to do the same.  Just imagine if we were all complaining all the time - customer service would soon improve for all of us!

One last note - as a tech, I am fully aware of the dangers of publishing personal information on the web, so much of what you'll find will be anonymised, or 'redacted'.  This isn't a reflection of any ill intent or underhandness on my part, I just prefer to keep my personal business, well,  personal!