Monday, February 28, 2011

Newtown Traffic : The case for a protest vote on Thursday

I am working in Prague this week and was on holiday in the Lakes last week, so I have already voted in the referendum to give the Welsh Assembly Government the ability to make laws in devolved areas without recourse to Westminister.

Certain events which are quite minor make you think if this deserves a protest vote. I am quite supportive of WAG, they have done some good work and have many good A.M.'s but on somethings you have to wonder how capable the underlying civil service really is.

Returning from the Lakes on Friday at about 2pm, we spent 90 minutes crawling through Newtown. Having a phone with Internet I looked up the Powys Highways number and found out that the design work for the new junction layout was paid for by Tesco and done by an external consultant. W.A.G. should have overseen the work. I normally travel through Newtown before 7am or after 8pm, so its the 1st time I have seen this chaos. Talking to a few people who travel that way regularly they say it has been bad for a long time, but got much worse as Tesco opened.

A quick Google search yields this, this and this, plus lots more. This is a high point though

I was told today that the Assembly’s experiences elsewhere indicates that traffic flows will improve as drivers become familiar with the new layout and that WAG does not intend therefore to make any fundamental changes immediately. I accept that flow will improve a little as drivers get used to the layout, but WAG are just not in touch with what is happening here in Newtown and are making excuses.
I understand that is a a report by an interested party, but if this really is true, then it shows a complete lack of understanding of the problem and its impact. The cost to mid-Wales in lost productivity must be in man years per week.

In the world I work in that size of mess would have resulted in the responsible person at worst being sacked and at best getting a serious roasting and moved to somewhere they can't do any damage. If W.A.G. were responsible for oversight of this, how can they

  1. have let such a scheme be implemented by Tesco
  2. To have ignored the need to short term remedial measures [if shutting Tesco till the underlying issue is resolved is the only option, then so be it, this is a trunk road after all]
  3. To only have a long term plan of a by-pass which looks to be at least 3 years away
This is not the only case where WAG has let itself down. Traffic modelling is not an exact science, but to have got it so far wrong and failed to even try to provide a short term solution (6 months is more than long enough) shows a serious weakness.

Its unfortunate that some people will think about voting no on Thursday because of serious deficiencies in WAG's Civil Service capability.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Banker Bonuses : the case for no restraint

So let us assume that a Banker get a bonus of exactly 100,ooo pounds to make the sums simple. We can quite safely assume he is earning more the 37,000 pounds for sure and almost certainly more than 150k, so they will be paying 50% income tax.

12% for class 1 national insurance contributions, but lowered to 9.4 as they are probably contacted out in terms of pensions, so lets assume 10% for easy sums. They will probably be NIC class 1, so that is 10% the employer has to pay.

They could avoid having to pay any tax by making the 100k a pension contribution which would also avoid N.I., but only for the 1st 50k.

V.A.T. is 20%. We might assume that the bonus pot is being spent on fast car or some other luxury because all bankers are flash gits (other than the ones I have meet who seem to be mostly grounded people, but I suspect this is self selecting subset).

So after tax they get 40k to spend, the government gets an other 18k in tax take from the employer and from VAT (if they spend it). Thats a total of 78k for every 100k of bonus, so apart from the way that bonuses distort the behavior, why the hell do we care?

I suspect 2 reasons
  1. Bankers have found a way of avoiding various taxes that I am not party to.
  2. Bankers are an easy media and political target.
There may be a good case that the bonus culture should not be constrained provided they do pay their tax and there is sufficient moral hazard (here is one option I can warm to) to manage the risk of systemic banking failure and the associated wider implications.

Can the 3(I guess) people who read this blog cite specific example of how paying tax on a bonus can be avoided other than the obvious 50k of pension and buying a VCT?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time to reserect cognitive bias of the week

I have let my mild mannered battle against my seething mass of cognitive bias slide a bit. New job, starting BGR training again lost some focus on it. So lets wonder off to Wikipedia, look at the list and see if we can find a bias that I am willing to admit I been guilty of in the last few weeks.

So this week in a glass 1/2 full spirit lets look at negativity bias. So I was guilty of it this week when I had an interaction with the office of a Plaid Cymru A.M. (not the building, but the press officer). I was with an equal measure of self interest and community spirit offering to help raise some issues with B.T. I basically got back flannel from the press officer with a email which could be read at least 4 different ways, none of them positive.

I see this as a lack of understanding by the A.M. of the importance of effective Broadband to workers like myself (there is an Oracle manager lives about 5 miles as the Red Kite flies I found and an Animator works from home in the next village). Other possible explanations abound, but it is the one I drew as most likely.

I was reading this by the Druid who writes about Ynas Mon issues and the link I made was that Plaid from top to bottom just don't get business and how to promote business at any level from someone working from home to seeding a business environment for large companies.

Now these two bias views may or may not be true, thats not the point. What is the point is that my minor negative experience with 1 A.M. who has previously been only positive in their dealing with me lead me to see the rest of the party in a negative light. Short term and recent negative experiences outweigh positive and longer term interactions.

Still bloody annoyed with the A.M. and her press officer.