All posts tagged 'Europe'

Ferry troubles in Thanet and Kent misses out in Labour's picks for Europe

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Thursday, August 8 2013

The increasingly complex saga of Thanet council's secret deal with Transeuropa ferries, which has left the authority dipping into its reserves to cover the £3.3m debt it has been left with, rumbles on.

Not that we are being told very much more or being handed over any of the documents relating to the deal.

The latest development is an admission by the Labour leader of the council Clive Hart that he is not optimistic the council stands to get much - if any - of its money back. He is also unaware of whether the council has actually started any legal action to recover the money.

This is not too surprising, given that the assets of the ferry company are widely thought to be negligible.

However, what remains unclear is the status of the other companies to which money is owed. The news that the £3.3m debt is actually spread across four companies has only recently emerged, the council seemingly regarding the information as not terribly significant.

Efforts by the Green councillor Ian Driver to elicit further details about the status of these companies have been unsucessful. The council's finance director Sarah Martin has told him that  "as the council is actively working with lawyers to pursue the outstanding debt, I can not comment on the current status of these companies."

Really? Quite what would prevent the authority from providing a few facts about the status of these companies is a little tricky to understand.

But as we have already seen, the council has a curious approach to transparency and openness.

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With the departure of the long-standing Labour MEP Peter Skinner after 20 years in Brussels (and Strasbourg), Labour has been deciding who to pick as its candidates in next year's European elections.

The ten-strong list has been decided but none of the top three candidates - who stand the best chance of winning a seat - has any direct connections with Kent.

This is part of the problem of having regional lists - you are highly likely to end up with candidates who aren't from your immediate area. This is not to say that the would-be MEPs wouldn't be interested in Kent and would probably be competent advocates for the county.

But for all its efforts to persuade us otherwise, voters generally do not see themselves as belonging to a region. They would much prefer to have representatives for a distinct locality rather than some vast bureaucratic contrivance consisting of an electorate of more than 6m voters. But that is what we have and it is not going to change any time soon.

Still, for the record, Labour's top three are:

Annelise Dodds, a Scot who is a senior lecturer in public policy at Aston University and lives in Oxford; Emily Westley, another Scot who lves in Hastings and has previously worked for the former MP Mike Foster and finally, John Howarth, a former Reading councillor.

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Categories: Politics

My rule of thumb is – inches for pizza and centimetres for DIY

by The Codgers' Club Monday, October 15 2012

by David Jones

More than 40 years after decimalisation, a substantial portion of the population still can’t get their heads around the metric system.

We have a bizarre mish-mash of metric and imperial measures, almost as though we wanted to be part of Europe but not quite.

Let’s be honest, most of us were dragged kicking and screaming into the metric age.

Today, you have to be 50-plus to have any detailed memory of imperial measures at all. We all knew this foreign nonsense would be a good excuse for us to be ripped off.

Here’s a case in point. If a quarter (that’s 4oz to us oldsters) of sherbet lemons cost one shilling before decimalisation, they still cost 5p (the equivalent of a shilling) for 100 grams after decimalisation.

But 100 grams is only just over 3.5oz (or should I say three-and-a-half?) yet predictably, the price of sherbet lemons did not come down to 4p for 100 grams.

Admittedly, the world does not revolve around sherbet lemons, but profiteering of this kind was widespread after D-Day in 1971.

Most products, by law, have to be advertised in kilos and grams, with pounds and ounces occasionally as the support act in small print.

But 40 years on there is still confusion and an ingrained suspicion of the metric system.

I realise these anomalies have been around for a long time and that I am not making any dramatically new revelations. But the continuing absurdity of it all came home to me as I was stuck in a traffic jam right opposite a pizza takeaway the other day and noticed a poster advertising two 10in pizzas for the price of one, 10in being a standard pizza size.

So why are pizza sizes still in inches? And take laptop screens. They are measured in inches. Why? I can’t find the answer to that one, either.

Even in France, the spiritual home of the metre and the centimetre, laptop screens are paradoxically measured in inches, though the word “pouce” is used instead of “inch.”

No doubt Gallic pride prevented the French from using “inch,” so they had to find another French-sounding word as a substitute. But a “pouce” is a unit of measurement equivalent to an inch. Possibly the answer is that the “inch” is the industry norm for computer screen sizes, but it’s yet another anomaly.

A quick study of supermarket food shelves reveals still more oddities. Packs of burgers labelled as “quarter pounders” can be found on sale, presumably because this is a “traditional” size and for the more common sense reason that “113.5 grammers” would sound daft.

As if to confuse still further, the total weight of the pack is given in grams – 454 to be precise.

And of course the pint of beer is sacrosanct. Mess with that and we’d have to declare war on Brussels.

The point I am making here is that some things cry out to be measured in feet and inches. In the real world, when was the last time you met anyone who said they were 1.8 metres tall or weighed 63 kilos?

The only concession I will make is to admit that centimetres are more accurate when it comes to DIY.

A measurement of one and seven eighth inches by five and three eighths is likely to result in a brain seizure for individuals like me for whom such calculations have always been as baffling as the origins of the universe.

DIY aside, this mass of contradictions will, I fear, continue until Old Codgers like me have departed this earth.

Then feet, inches, pounds, even pints, will probably be consigned to ancient history.

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Categories: Moans and groans

This week's EU ruling is nonsense

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, March 3 2011

In the weird Alice in Wonderland world of European justice, good drivers who happen to be women will not be rewarded for their ability to steer away from trouble.

Men, especially young ones, who steer into trouble stand to be rewarded Men who are set to die at a younger age than women will now suffer plunging annuity rates.

Although women should benefit from sex equality, fourth fifths of annuities are bought by men. Male pensioners are already penalised in so many ways and this is another blow to their ability to financially survive old age.

All this in the name of European justice. This week’s ruling on a claim by an obscure Belgian consumer group that gender equality should be applied to insurance is nonsense. It undermines the whole basis of risk assessment. It also removes the need for actuaries. Who needs risk forecasts when you treat everyone the same?

The ruling opens the way for younger people to claim they are victims of age discrimination because of high insurance premiums. Older drivers with an immaculate record could then find themselves facing premium hikes to fund the costly accidents of the young.

Will Saga be outlawed for serving the over-50s market? Will young people’s holiday companies be forced to accept pensioners on their camping expeditions?

And as Kent-based insurance expert Danny Cooper rightly asks, is it fair that people living in London should pay higher premiums than those in Cornwall?

Bizarrely, there seems no right of appeal against this ridiculous judgment. Its likely introduction at the end of 2012 will penalise the best and reward the worst. How’s that for common sense, logic and fairness?

The whole thing brings the European concept into disrepute and gives further ammunition to those groups who are calling for the UK to get out of the EU.

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