Lay A Little Egg For Me…..

Lay A Little Egg For Me…..

I’ve gone and got some chickens. I finally did it as I have been threatening this for the last couple of years.

The hen house was donated by friends and I was fortunate to have the enclosure built for me.

I installed the chooks a couple of weeks ago and they were a few weeks from being at the point of laying and I am now just starting to get some eggs.

Me so happy!

The only negative is that Mr Fox is patrolling regularly. Now, I can stop this happening, but what it means is that I have to pee into a plastic bottle and distribute it around the garden every evening. If I maintain the regime, no Mr Fox. If I stop for a couple of days, Mr Fox returns.

Now, I don’t think that he’ll be able to get into the enclosure, but Mr Fox is renowned for his persistence, and one day I may slip locking up the hen house, or shutting the enclosure door. So, considering that, I drink lots of fluid, fill up the bottle and spray liberally every evening. Great.

Bank of England Chief – “Sod you lot, I’m alright, Jack”

Bank of England Chief – “Sod you lot, I’m alright, Jack”

Okay, Andrew Bailey didn’t quite say that, but I think that is the essence of what he said.

In a nutshell, he’s gone on record warning about inflation; energy prices, food prices etc. And he’s also said again that workers shouldn’t request pay increases to help dampen the inflation increases. By this, he means you need to suck it up and suffer in silence.

I guess this is another one of those “We’re all in it together” moments. Except we’re not. We’ve already seen that.

MP’s received a 2.7% pay increase last month, this is approximately £2,200 per year and was done after the first time that the Bank of England asked workers to not request sizeable pay increases.

2.7% of the average wage as at February 2022 is £780. Quite a difference. So, Joe Average would get £1,420 less than an MP with the same percentage increase.

Oh, and Mr Bailey earns £570,000.

Michael Gove on BBC News With A Liverpudlian Accent

Michael Gove on BBC News With A Liverpudlian Accent

I had to share as I didn’t believe it myself until I had seen it. Probably not long before Boris Johnson goes on record claiming it’s a deep fake.

Words fail me, I’d hope that he’s not intoxicated, but it would appear that he is. Just after 07:30am. Wow.

This is a government minister on our National Broadcaster.

This should be a moment that causes his political career to tank. But this is the Conservative Party 2022. And we know it doesn’t happen like this. Promotion, maybe?

The Word On Everyone’s Lips; Inflation

The Word On Everyone’s Lips; Inflation

I’ve been meaning to put my two penneth in for a few months now, but events keep happening, things keep changing, I’ve been busy. It’s pretty dynamic out there, but the one thing that is certain, the price of everything is on the up, it’s just a matter of how much. Different things are increasing by different rates for different reasons; there’s the direct costs or input costs for the physical product, there’s distribution costs, there’s scarcity which pushes the cost up, and in the worst cases, a combination of all of the factors.

At work last week I tried to order a couple of boxes of plain copier paper, each box comprises of 5 reams, and a ream is 500 sheets. I’ve been buying these for the last decade for somewhere in the region of £10 plus VAT per box and the last time I purchased was December 2021. This time the cheapest I could get was £21.50 plus VAT, a jump of over 100% in five months. The supplier has largely attributed that increase to scarcity and a quick check with other suppliers revealed the same.

We’ve all seen the jump in the fuel prices in the UK with diesel in the £1.70-1.85 range on average, this is despite the government cutting fuel duty and the barrel price of crude dipping.

We’re being warned that domestic energy prices are likely to jump again by another 40% in October 2022 just in time for the cold weather and dark evenings. I’ve noticed that the wholesale gas price has decreased, so I cannot work that one out – further investigation required.

For those of you with mortgages and other debts, interest rates are on the up and show no sign of stopping; the rate of increase is currently around 0.25% per month and members of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) that set the rates are starting to lean towards higher monthly increases. Only this month three of the nine members wanted to increase rates by 0.5%. To put this into perspective, if you had a £250,000 standard variable mortgage and the interest rate is currently 2%, your monthly interest payment for that debt is £417. Now, if that interest rate increases by 0.5%, the monthly interest is now £520 a month, an increase of over £100 per month, or £1200 per year. And that increase could take place in a month. And on several months in a row.

Regarding rented accommodation, I’m starting to hear a lot of anecdotal accounts of landlords increasing rents as their tenancy agreements allow. One local case that I’d heard of recently was of a mother with three children in a three bed house renting for £950 per month being told by the landlord that the market rate for the property was £1450 and that this would be the new rate of rent. That’s an increase of over 50%.

Food pricing is concerning too. Around 80% of the UK’s food is imported which makes us particularly susceptible to global price changes, supply chain disruption and scarcity. Farming UK is a consortium that represents many of the UK’s farmers. Its inflation index showed a 22% increase in input costs to September 2021, and 23% to March 2022. These increases have not yet fed through to the consumer, so that is yet to come.

I’ve been concerned for a while that we’re heading into a perfect storm, things are already horrible for so many currently and it looks like things are going to get far, far worse.

When peoples disposable income reduces or disappears completely because they cannot afford to meet the cost of living, whole industries will start to collapse – hospitality, entertainment. With this, unemployment will spike, there’s increased automation of jobs, it’s looking awful and I cannot comprehend that magnitude of what’s about to happen. There are too many variables and I just cannot process it.

And all the time that this has been unfolding (and if it’s been abundantly obvious to me and many others), our government has either been sleep walking into the situation, or wilfully ignorant of it. Or should that be criminally negligent? I don’t suppose it matters too much, whatever they do, whatever label we apply, they are wholly unaccountable and appear to more non-stick than Teflon Tony himself.

Be safe, be kind and look after one another. The government certainly won’t look after you and it’s going to be awful out there.

Will Tesco Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

Will Tesco Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?

John Allan, Tesco Chairman was speaking today (10th May 2022) on Radio 4 regarding the cost-of-living impact on customers and how some customers were asking checkout staff to stop scanning items when the shop got to a particular value. Staff were being asked to stop at £40, for example as they didn’t want to spend any more than that.

He then went on to detail an “overwhelming need” for a windfall tax on the energy companies and for the money to be diverted to help the public. I couldn’t agree more.

Great sentiment and whilst that’s being worked on, let’s have a look at Tesco themselves;

To the year end of February 26th 2022, their pre-tax profits trebled from £636m to £2.03bn which is pretty impressive. In fact, they haven’t done bad at all during this COVID malarkey and out the other side.

When these profits were announced in April 2022, the Chief Executive Ken Murphy said, “Against a tough backdrop for our customers and with household budgets under pressure, we are laser-focused on keeping the cost of the weekly shop in check – working in close partnerships with our suppliers, as well as doing everything we can to reduce our own costs.”

He added that Tesco was keeping the rise in cost of living “a bit under the number for the overall market”.

Let’s break down his statement a little, he’s acknowledging the difficulties that his customers are experiencing, which is nice, he concedes that prices need to be kept low, good. Now, considering Tesco’s historical reputation of poor treatment of its suppliers, and its sharp practices the “working in close partnerships with our suppliers, as well as doing everything we can to reduce our own costs.” is a bit concerning. I wouldn’t want to be a supplier to Tesco, I think that I’d end up being squeezed and feel the pinch far more than they would. Somehow, I think they’ll (Tesco) find a way to maintain their margins.

And what if Tesco do this? Then just apply a windfall tax on their profits, John Allan is already on board with the concept for the energy companies, I’m sure that he won’t mind if it’s applied to his company for the greater good.

And for the other supermarkets? We’re watching you.

Bank of England Base Rate Increase?

Bank of England Base Rate Increase?

Wow, here I am in the first week of May 2022 and Boris Johnson is still our Prime Minister, just. I cannot believe that he’s still hanging on in there, he obviously doesn’t get embarrassed. I guess few of his ilk do and it reminds me of Shiv Roy and her unforgettable line “We don’t get embarrassed”. If you know, you know.

Anyway, moving onto business.

The Bank of England (BofE) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meet tomorrow, I think everyone is expecting there to be a change, and realistically, it’s only going one way, and that is up. I’d expect 0.25%, but we could see more, who knows.

One lender got a little over-excited and announced a “change” a day early. Yup, you, Halifax.

They then realised their mistake after a fair few hours;

However it goes, I hope that whatever the changes and how they affect you, that you you keep safe and solvent. The next year or two has the potential to be very ugly….. sending you my very best.

£200 Energy Bill Discount?

£200 Energy Bill Discount?

I’ve not really been keeping up with the news too much of late, all I know is that Boris Johnson has still not resigned. Unbelievable.

I received the following Whatsapp over the weekend;

“There is something very wrong about this ‘loan’ from the energy sector:
‘RE: imposed £200 loans for energy bills. Thanks to Richard Else – I have just reworked and generalised a message he has written to his energy provider and to the Cabinet Office (and I’ve cc’d my MP, who is in the Treasury)… Feel free to copy, adapt and send to suit your purposes… ‘

“To whom it may concern,
With regards to the recent news that all customers of energy companies in England will be given a £200 loan from the Government to be repaid over following years.
I would like to state that I do not want this loan. I have not asked for this loan and I certainly do not want the government interfering in my finanical affairs. I do not wish my energy company to transfer the loan to my account, nor take repayments from my account in the future, and I shall be writing to them to this effect.
I have several reasons for this decision.

  1. I have not given the Government permission to provide me with a loan. Legal requirements within the Consumer Credit Act require both the lender and the applicant to accept the written terms and conditions relating to specific transactions. I have not received contractual paperwork and would not sign an agreement, should I be provided with one. Without such an agreement, I believe the imposition of a compulsory loan would be unlawful.
  2. Since the most vulnerable in society are much more likely to be using pre-payment meters for their energy supplies, this loan scheme is completely misguided. Such people do not receive or pay bills, so cannot be helped through this proposed plan. Please reconsider and change this.
  3. Since I am a customer on a fixed rate tariff my unit costs for energy will not rise in April when the government removes its cap. Therefore I do not need a loan to help me.
  4. Within my contractual agreement with my energy company, there is no reference to the provision of credit from third parties without the consent of the customer. If the government continues with this course of action, it could cause contractual problems for the energy companies.
    This imposition is of great concern.
    For the Government to create a situation where they can enforce financial debt upon citizens, then control their personal finances – through their energy account – to repay a debt they have neither wanted nor authorised, is a worrying authoritarian development in the relationship between the state and the citizens of this country.”

Okay, if any of this is true, it’s quite troubling, so I immediately forwarded it onto a friend and tagged at the end that it looks like I need to read about the proposal and his response was;

“You do, I think that covers it.
It’s also a loan that is forced to play the market.
And it’ll be managed by who?”

This is starting to sound a little sinister.

Some reading reveals that the discount is in actual fact a loan for £200 which will be applied to this years bill as a credit to the account, and then be repaid at £40/year from 2023 to 2027.

The process is that the UK government loans the money to the energy suppliers, and they distribute it from there.

The reason for this is that energy bills will be going up for users on standard rate variable tariffs from April 2022 to the tune of 54% if you are on an account or prepay meter.

You have absolutely no say as to whether you have the loan or not, it will be applied to your account regardless; the loan is being forced upon you. If you do not have an energy account, i.e. you are on a prepay meter, you will receive a voucher or cheque.

If you don’t currently have an energy bill of your own, such as you’re living with parents and you miss receiving the loan, if you then move out and into your own place, you will then have to make the repayments at the £40/year between 2023 and 2027 for the loan that you never had!

There are so many questions bouncing around in my head, I just cannot think of where to start.

I think the best point is to look at other European countries. The jump in energy prices is affecting the entire continent, so what are the governments doing there?

In France, the government is forcing EDF to limit the increase to 4% this year, this means the company will take a financial knock to the tune of around £7bn. I’d say that this was fairly effective at protecting the consumer.

In Spain, the government there is applying a windfall tax on the electricity and gas producers that doing rather well out of the escalation in prices to distribute to people in need. How this manifests itself and how the consumer will be benefit will need to be seen.

In Germany, their government has cut green surcharges on bills. This is a start.

And in the UK……the government indebts the population, regardless as to whether they want the money or not, and will recover the money from them, whether they have had it or not.

And the amount of money that we are talking about is a paltry £200. This will barely touch the jump in bills for this year alone.

So, the energy producers and suppliers in the UK will continue to be allowed to make huge profits from something that is essentially costing them the same as it did before the increase in prices, and to add insult to injury, most are foreign owned and the suspicion is that they are using the profits from their UK operations to subsidise their home ones.

Council Tax and Waste Collection

Council Tax and Waste Collection

Normally I don’t pay too much attention to my waste collection at home, but I noticed this week that my recycling bin was getting full and I had a sort through it. There’s stuff in there from Christmas and today is Saturday 29th January, therefore it hasn’t been emptied for 5 weeks, and as of Monday, the stuff in there will be into its sixth week of residence.

Where I live, the waste is collected by the local authority (LA), in this case, Canterbury City Council. There are three types that they expect you to sort it into; General, Recycling and Garden. Now, I have only lived where I do for a year or two and my experience is that the General and Recycling and collected on a Tuesday, alternating weekly, and that the Garden waste is collected during the spring, summer and autumn months alongside the Recycling.

Knowing when your collection is can be fairly important as the convention appears to be that you put the correct bin for that weeks collection type kerbside and the operatives empty it. Sometimes they even replace it on your property after emptying. On the occasions when I have forgotten to put the bin out over the last year, often the operative has got it themselves, emptied it, and replaced it, which is kind and gratefully received.

Over the Christmas period the collections go out of whack when the collection day falls on a bank holiday or whatever, and how the the individual LA deals with this varies wildly. My last one seemed to be governed by the alignment of the stars and the tides. Well, that’s how it appeared to me.

I’ll be honest. I’ve not put my bins out since Christmas. Any of them. I normally use what my neighbours are doing as a measure of what I should be doing and on my Tuesday mornings before work, I have a look up and down the road, see what bins are out and copy. This has been a great guide over the last year, but over the last month it looks like my neighbours are as clueless as I am – it’s utter disarray out there. Less than half the bins are out, and the ones that are, are mixed. Maybe they use the same process for selecting which bin to put out as I do, in which case we are all screwed. At this point, as it is a dark and cold early morning in January I’ve just given up on deliberating which bin to put kerbside and go to work.

As I mentioned before, I don’t pay too much attention to this stuff, all the time that it is trundling along, mostly working, that’s fine by me. No investigation or energy is required. Perfect. I mean, I’m so out of the loop with this stuff which is a good sign, right? It’s only when stuff doesn’t work that it commands my attention, so I started looking at the situation. I was unaware that the LA had a pretty good web site with a good section covering waste, whereby if you supply your address, they can tell you the time and date of the last collection, and the date for the next one. These government sites have got a lot better since I last checked; they used to be static sites that were never updated…. I know, I’ve been living under a rock.

Now, generally I don’t generate a lot of domestic waste, in fact, I generate considerably less than the majority of people I know. This isn’t an opportunity for some irritating virtue signalling, the reason for my sharing this point is that it means that I am extremely fortunate, after 5 weeks without a recycling collection, to not be drowning in my own waste.

My General waste looks like it has been collected, so I am thinking that the crews that collect General and Recycling are different, and the General guys are far more forgiving and benevolent regards collections and placement of bins.

All of this got me thinking, we as a society are actually drowning in our own waste, we over consume, we buy, we throw, we buy again. Because we can. There is no incentive for reducing the amount of waste that we generate…..

The funding for my waste collection comes from my Council Tax (CT) bill. I currently pay £1,508 per year to Canterbury City Council for CT. There is nothing that I can find on their website that shows how much of that money goes on waste collection and management. I’ve done a quick search and there are reports from the last decade that estimate as much as a third (approximately £500) would be spent on this based upon Freedom of Information requests (FOI’s) looking at this question on a national basis. That is a heck of a lot of money.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if I generated less waste, and paid less? That would make sense, right?

Hold these figures in your head and have a look at my email to my LA this evening;

Hi There

My blue cardboard and glass recycling bin has not been collected since before Christmas.

I’ve just visited your website regarding future waste collection dates and past collection dates and times, and I am impressed. I was unaware that you made this information available and if it is as accurate as it shows, then I am really impressed.

I think part of the issue with my bins not being collected is not knowing when the collection was to put them roadside as it got out of step over the festive period; there was no collection on the usual days (which I put them out for) and looking at the placing of the bins on my road during this period, it sure confused my neighbours too. I think it still does confuse some of them even now.

I am guessing that the operative that collects the bins isn’t allowed to access my property if my bin is not by the road? It’s just three steps inside the boundary and just a step from the roadside and is easily accessible, so it’s surely got to be that you don’t allow them to do it, right?

Regards the missed collections, do I get a refund/rebate for this?
If you are able to divide down my annual waste collection charge to a weekly value and credit me back for the missed weeks, I will have no issues whatsoever. I will however be disappointed if you insist on charging me when no transaction has taken place.

At my work, I get the bins collected each week and they never miss a week, and I only pay per collection. My bin size is 1100ltr which is approximately 12-15 black bags up to 90kg. Per collection I get charged £15.00 plus VAT. I could probably fit at least five of your blue bins in there, so that would make my cost per bin approximately £3.00 each using my work costs. One bin a week (one week black, the next one blue, alternating), would be £156 per year. That would mean a collection up to every five weeks, which is a couple of weeks less than I will be up to with you when you next get the blue bins on 8th February.

I could even go a step further and see if my neighbours wanted to get involved, I live in a cul-de-sac, so I could organise the waste collection for the 14 houses.

I reckon I could do all 14 houses for £45.00 plus VAT per week, which is £2340.00 per year. This would also leave some spare capacity for an extra bin each week, something that you don’t allow for.

How much do I get charged for waste removal per year please? I cannot seem to find that data on your website. Is there a facility to opt out of your waste service and make my own arrangements if the company that collects from my workplace is cheaper?

Thanks in advance.

You can see where I am going with this. 14 houses in my road multiplied by the rough calculation for my waste cost comes in around £7000 for the LA to undertake, I could get it for £2340 plus VAT, which is around £2808. A potential saving of over £4000. Nearly £300 per household, per year.

If the LA are not able to accommodate this, surely they should be making provision for not charging for missed/not required collections, if not on fairness grounds, on environmental ones? Incentivisation of waste reduction can only be a good thing, surely?

I’ll update with the response when it is received.

UPDATE 31/01/22 – Response received to my email from a Canenco Helpdesk stating

Good afternoon

I will pass your correspondence directly to Canterbury City Council.

Kind regards”

This is a little awkward as a quick search reveals that Canenco is the short name for Canterbury Environment Company which is a private limited company owned by Canterbury City Council. I was unaware of its existence until just now. More research required and a response is still outstanding.

Storing Solar Energy

Storing Solar Energy

The Guardian has some excellent articles on the energy industry, often they initially contain errors, but these are usually quickly updated/amended as people start complaining.

A recent one which I enjoyed is regarding storage of surplus renewable energy when demand is low and what the current spread of options are, and where the research is leading us, this can be found here, first published in January 2022.

The section that caught my eye was Concentrated Solar Power Storage; it focused on the Crescent Dunes solar energy project near Tonopah in the Nevada Desert. Essentially, the project uses the heat of a solar farm which consists of concentrated mirrors to heat salt to temperatures of up to 560C turning it into a molten state. The salt is kept at this temperature until electricity is needed, the heat is then used to run a conventional steam turbine which generates enough electricity to power 75,000 homes into the night.

Whilst the project is pretty exciting, the article refers to the project as “pioneering” and “new”, which is not the case.

The Gemasolar Power Plant near Seville in southern Spain started operating on similar principles in 2011, and another outside the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate started operating in 2015/2016. Other solar power plants are available.

Late to the party or not, Crescent Dunes is a damned fine example of how to harness renewables to ensure a continuity of energy supply, this is exciting stuff and not to be sniffed at. When renewables get this good, you really have to ask yourself why bother with fossil fuels?

With a future this bright, you just gotta wear shades.

UK Government Deletes Net Zero Research Paper

UK Government Deletes Net Zero Research Paper

I meant to cover this at the time, in October 2021, the government published a research paper with a number of considerations and recommendations, which it quickly deleted.

The paper was produced by The Behavioural Insights Unit, which is also known as the Nudge Unit according to the paper itself. This is the same unit that was responsible for the design of the sugar levy.

It mentioned shifting dietary habits away from meat and towards plant-based foods, taxing producers or retailers of high-carbon foods such as sheep and cattle meat to incentivise take up of plant-based and local food diets.

Another area it touches on is implementing stronger carbon taxes for flying and shifting social norms to make international flights a sign of immoral indulgence or embarrassment.

Have a read, the paper is available here thanks to Alex Chapman at the New Economics Foundation.

If the link ceases to work, please let me know; I’ve downloaded a backup copy.

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