UK Politicians – Sack the lot!

I wonder…let’s say I decided to put in a claim for tax relief on something to which I’m not entitled. Or, how about something that doesn’t exist? Better still, what about if I submitted an expenses claim to my employer for say £10 that was for something which doesn’t exist or for something I actually paid £5 for? What would happen if I claimed hundreds or thousands of pounds in benefits to which I was not entitled? Let us supposed I was subsequently caught for any of the above? What would happen? Could I expect to be let off? Would the police be called in to investigate me for fraud? I doubt I’d walk away from something like that, and quite rightly so. Yet, those people we elected to run this country have done essentially the very same thing in principle, and have the nerve to say sorry and walk away. Or, in at least one case, stated that if it weren’t for the pesky Freedom of Information Act, us peasants wouldn’t have our sticky mits on the incriminating evidence of their very wrongdoing! Arrogant bastards! They ALL deserve to be dragged through the mud. Every last one of them. If they weren’t complicit, they at least knew the system was rigged and had an ethical duty to put a stop to it from the inside. NO excuses are good enough. That is what we pay them for. That is why we elect them!

Imagine all those scenarios above, where I was in reciept of money each month or even just once when I really shouldn’t have been. Firstly, I’d have to be exceptionally wealthy NOT to notice such large sums being deposited into my bank or to NOT notice and question them! I think I would probably notice if I was still claiming money for a mortgage which no longer exists. I wonder how many of you wouldn’t take note of the date upon which your mortgage is paid off? Probably none, I’m willing to bet! Yet, our beloved politicians have done exactly that. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice the few hundred quid entering my bank account each month. Silly me! So sorry. Let’s just forget about it eh?”.

Every single politician who made a claim for expenses they were NOT entitled to, should be made to pay it back, apologise to their electorate (and the rest of us) and be sacked immediately. In any other sector, they would be held accountable for committing gross misconduct at the very least and possibly even fraud.

To clarify that point, let me quote the definition of the word “fraud” from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
“Deception deliberately practiced with a view to gaining an unlawful or unfair advantage”

I wonder how closely that definition fits?

It was reported today that poor old Gordon Brown admitted to having a tough time of it recently. So sad, isn’t it? The poor fellow is getting up to go to work every day and finding it all a bit stressful. I wonder why? Could it be that he and his cabinet are NOT up to the job of running this country? The cracks are certainly getting much wider. Are the conservatives any better? Nope. Few of the UK’s politicians deserve to have jobs at all right now. At least some of them had the decency to bugger off to find gainful employment elsewhere! I wonder how long they’d get away with claiming expenses like that in their new private sector roles? Five minutes at most, and they’d be out on their arse. Says it all really!



How to claim £16,000 for a mortgage that’s paid off? Become a Labour MP!

Yep, you read the title correctly. Our beloved Labour MP’s are falling over each other in the queue to outdo themselves on what absurdities they have claimed expenses for. I think the prize really must go to Mr Elliot Morley. Apparently (according to a BBC story posted here: Mr Morley had to pay back a whacking £16,000 for a mortgage that was already paid off and which presumably no longer existed!!!

To be fair, Mr Morley did realise his genuine mistake and paid back the money. So, that’s allright then, yes? Well, er, no actually. What amazed me most about this latest in a long, long line of the comedy of errors that is our current UK government is that the mortgage payments were £800 per month. Do you see where I’m going here?? The eagled eyed readers amongst you, which obviously wouldn’t include Mr Morley, will already have done your sums. Yes, £16,000 divided by £800 equals 20. So, our Mr Morley MP appears to be so hopeless with his household income that he didn’t notice the £800 per month coming into the old current account, for TWENTY months?!?! I’ll say that again, for those who missed it the first time….he claimed 20 payments over 20 months, which is almost 2 years, of £800 per month and didn’t realise it was for something which didn’t exist?!?!?

Obviously, I’m not quite as well off as Mr Morley MP because I think I’d probably notice an extra £800 per month. Not to mention the odd fact of having no mortgage with which to pay the money towards tends to be a bit of a giveaway!
The really scary things about this story and all the many others is that not only are these morons getting away with it by apologising (which makes it all better, of course), but that they, as a collective set of idiots, are supposedly running our great country. They cannot seem to manage their own finances, so you’d think that the UK should, by rights, be in some kind of dire straights financially………..OH!

What a crazy world we live in eh?! Oooo, I wonder if you can guess which party I won’t be voting for at the next, long overdue, General Election??


The Rich Get Poorer – How Sad!

Browsing the BBC news website this morning led me to two interesting and contrasting stories, which I really must comment on.

The first is about a 19yr old woman called Suada Hamidi who has to live on £50 per week. Out of that, she has bills to pay and travelling costs in order to sign on as unemployed. By the time she’s finished, she has less than £5 to spend on food and living expenses for seven days. She has done a video diary for the BBC about her plight and search for work. The thing that amazed me most is that she manages to smile through the obvious pain and fear she must be feeling. I have so much respect for her courage in the face of such hardship. At her age, she should be earning a reasonable wage and going out enjoying herself while she’s still young and free. The government has absolutely no clue at all. How can they say they are helping people like Suada? If she takes a full time job on the minimum wage, she’ll actually be worse off financially because she would then become liable for payment of the full amount for her bills as she’d lose the financial “help” she recieves via state benefits. Her story and video diary can be found here:

Which brings me on to the next story I read and the one which made me feel sad. Apparently, many of our richest pop stars are struggling with their finances because of the current downturn in the UK economy. As many of them rely on investments to fund their so modest lifestyles, they are finding themselves losing money, hand over fist. For example, Sir Elton John has seen his tiny bank balance drop from £235 million to £175 million (yes, that’s pounds sterling!) in the last year. Well, how will he manage? Where is the next Porsche coming from? How will he feed himself on £175 million pounds? I feel so sorry for Sir Elton. Really. If it carries on, he’ll be so poor, he’ll have to sell a mansion or two. My heart bleeds for Sir Paul McCartney too. He’s really suffering. According to the story, he’s seen his measly £500 million drop to a terrifyingly low £440 million. What on earth is he to do? It’s dreadful to think that he’ll have to seriously reconsider purchasing that yacht he’s been eyeing up or the tenth holiday in Bali this year may have to be downgraded to Monte Carlo. What a crying shame. This story can be read here:

I’m not sure whether the BBC story about those poor music stars was meant to garner sympathy or was dripping with sarcasm. You decide. The point is that it makes me sick to think of the people out there in desperate need of help, with nowhere to turn and the contrasting wealthy elite are crying into their Amani suits about the loss of a few million quid off their immense fortunes. Who cares? Yes, some of these people do have incredible talent and deserve to be earning lots of money for their artistic contribution. However, it still saddens me to think of the people at the opposite end of the spectrum, who are promised help by our government, to no avail. Empty promises of help getting back into work and retraining and financial support for their plight. It clearly doesn’t work. So, although the rich are currently getting poorer, I would contend that many of them have no idea what the word “poor” really means, government ministers with their second homes least of all!


Pipex Internet – rip off!

I’ve been with Pipex for quite some time and an annual contract with them was due for renewal in July this year. So, I rang them to see if I could get a deal in order for them to keep my business. Here’s the timeline of what’s happened and who I’ve spoken to. Unbelievable as it may be, you really couldn’t make this shit up!

Pipex main number: 0871 222 5550

Thursday 12th June 2008 – afternoon
I spoke to Tom in the retention dept – he offered a reduction of monthly charge from £24.99 to £14.99 +free wireless router to be sent to me within 5days.

Wednesday 18th June 2008 – afternoon
Carla in customer services – she has the record of status change to my account pending, but nothing about the router.

Wednesday 18th June 2008 – afternoon
I rang the retention dept again to speak to Tom if possible. Spoke to Nicola in the retention dept. She went and spoke to Tom, who remembered the conversation with me. She promised to sort it all out for me and gave me a reference number: 338xxx (I won’t mention the full number here!).

Thursday 3rd July 2008 – 6pm
Spoke to Ram in Pipex customer care. He confirmed the ref number, the conversation with Nicola and that the router was supposed to be sent out. He couldn’t explain why I’ve not received it. He’d check it all out and re-action the order.

Friday 11th July 2008 – 5pm
Tristram in Tech Support (as I couldn’t get through to any other dept!!!) – He couldn’t pull up records of reference number I’d been given. He said I need to speak to retention dept again!

So, I rang the number he gave me for the Retention Dept: 08450722865. This number pointed me to: 08712226366. When I rang, this number then pointed me to: 0871 222 5550 – Back to square one!

Friday 11th July 2008 – 5:15pm
Spoke to Rachel in the Cancellation Dept – She authorised release of the router and put note on the account that it should be sent and with me within five days and confirmed that the reduced payment would be in effect from July.

I finally got the router! Payments continued to come out of my bank account for £24.99.

Tuesday 30th September 2008 – 11:45am
Spoke to Christenson in Customer Care – Gave him names and dates of all people I’ve spoken to, along with the reference number. I explained the overcharge and asked when it would stop and when the refund would be applied. He told me to ring Credit control dept as customer care can’t change amounts. Number: 0871 2212212 – This number is just the same as the main one!

Tuesday 30th September 2008 – 11:50am
Marius in credit control – He says they can’t change amounts or issue refunds until customer care apply a note to the account to this effect! I have to ring customer care back! He says there’s no record on the account for a reduced payment.

So, where does that leave me? I haven’t the patience right now to ring the incompetent arseholes again. Basically, Pipex are defrauding me of £10 per month and deny all knowledge of all the above. Fucking priceless.


Hoyle Bros – Customer Service second to none!

Ok, to even the balance a little and as we’re on the subject of used cars…here’s an interesting experience we had a few years ago with another local car dealership. This is an example of excellent customer service and restored my faith that there are some good car dealers out there.

The dealer in question is Hoyle Bros. They are based in Denholme (West Yorkshire) and specialise in 4X4’s, mostly Japanese. We were looking to buy a Landrover Discovery and Hoyle Bros had one in stock that fitted the bill. The price was good, it looked to be in good condition and was automatic. I had a test drive (Note: actually before having to do any deals!) and decided to buy.

My wife and I sat with one of the owners and sorted out a mutually agreeable deal over a coffee. There was no pressure, no hard sell and it was all very informal and friendly. Perfect! They were more than happy for us to go ahead with an AA inspection too. So, subject to the satisfactory inspection, we had a deal.

I booked the AA inspection for the next day, at a cost of £250 to myself. I would very much recommend this to anyone who knows as little about the mechanics of a car as it can save a lot of money in the long run. To cut a long story short, the AA inspector couldn’t get the car started on the day and found a major fault with the vehicle. It turned out to require a repair costing around £1,500.

This turn of events surprised everyone, not least of which, the guys at Hoyle Brothers. I was going to put this one down to experience. After all, it’s got to be better to lose £250 than have a £1,500 repair bill on a car you just bought! I needn’t have worried though…

Hoyle Brothers were obviously not happy about any of this and were very apologetic. My wife and I said, no problem, no hard feelings. They explained that they’d checked the car over as usual and had it prepared for sale. Nothing had shown up as being a fault. Even my test drive was fine.

As a gesture of goodwill and because they pride themselves on good customer care, Hoyle Brothers offered to refund the £250 we’d spent on the AA inspection. They were adamant that their philosophy is to make the experience of buying from them and the after sales service good enough to make people want to come back. To say we were impressed by this is an understatement!

If this is typical of the sort of service people can expect from Hoyle Brothers, then I cannot recommend them highly enough. I would buy a car from them without hesitation in future.


Wilsden Autos – No sale, no test drive! Eh?!

What a day! I’ve just returned home after spending the past few hours of this glorious Sunday wandering around used car showrooms. Not my ideal way of relaxing, but it needs to be done.

Anyway, in almost 25 years of driving, I have purchased a number of used cars and spent many hours in literally dozens of showrooms, shopping. In all that time, I cannot remember ever encountering the strange and rather illogical way in which Wilsden Autos (Wilsden is a village just outside of Bradford in West Yorkshire) do business. Perhaps they have their reasons, but I’m damned if I can figure them out, or more to the point, am willing to put up with them as a “customer”.

I had a twenty minute walk around Wilsden Autos this afternoon, looking at the cars they have in stock. All well and good. They do have one make and model in particular that I’d been looking at for a while in general and knew I’d want it.

The car they have in stock is around about the right money, age and spec and I have the money sat in the bank waiting to be spent. I’m fairly easily pleased and would hardly have been a difficult person to make happy as a customer.

So, after a quick sit in the car, I asked the hovering salesman when I could make an appointment to test drive the car. He asked when I’d want to? After a brief discussion with my wife about working times, we agreed any evening next week and suggested as much.

The salesman said “So, are you happy with the car, spec and price and can we do a deal?”. Not so fast. I decided not to say what I wanted to in response, as I really detest pushy sales people. I asked him how much he’d be willing to drop the price and he said a couple of hundred.

Anyway, this is the punchline and the part of the very short conversation when I thanked him for his time and walked away….

Apparently, Wilsden Autos don’t let people test drive their cars until a deal is already done. Nope, this isn’t a joke! This guy actually wanted me to do the paperwork and agree to purchase a car for £6,500 without my actually driving it! Erm, hello?!?! I don’t know what the weather is like on his planet, but it’s sunny here today.

He flatly refused to let me test drive the car until I did a deal and just said “That is how we do business. No deal, no test drive. That’s it”.

Now, here’s a direct quote from the front page of Wilsden Autos website. Which in light of their salesman’s comments, is very misleading: “We welcome any trial or inspection of our vehicles…“. Call me picky, but doesn’t the word “trial” mean “test drive”? How can you “trial” a car without driving the damn thing? Isn’t that the whole point?

Here’s another I found quite ironic under the circumstances: ” We are committed to providing the very highest level of service to all of our customers…”. I wonder if anyone imparted that little gem to their salesman?

I said my goodbyes and will spend my money elsewhere. Perhaps I am a little niaive, but it seems fairly reasonable to me that I should be allowed to have a go in any car I may wish to buy before signing away such a huge amount of money?

Anyway, my wife and I are still quite perplexed by the business philosophy of Wilsden Autos. So, I’ve decided to email them with a request that they comment on this blog post with an official explanation as to why they choose to lose customers in this way. Perhaps their salesman just couldn’t be bothered moving a few cars (at their convenience!) in order to let me test drive it? Was he suffering from sun stroke?

Never let it be said I don’t give people a fair crack at the whip. I will give the people at Wilsden Autos a chance to balance out this post with their take on it. As I have done in the past, I will post their reply (within reason) here for all to see. I sit with baited breath awaiting their reply. Definitely watch this space…!

The really disappointing aspect for me is that I always try and support local businesses if possible and would rather buy from a local independent dealer like Wilsden Autos than one of the multi-region franchises. I also do have the money to spend and would have bought the car without a second thought after a decent test drive as I did fall in love with it. Oh well, maybe Wilsden Autos make so much money in this booming economy that they can simply put people off who are cheeky enough to ask for something so fundamentally obvious as a test drive up front!


Black Horse Finance – Absolutely Bloody Useless!!

So, I’m after a new car. As I’ve dealt with Black Horse Finance in the past, I thought I’d give them a ring this evening when I got home from work to enquire about a new agreement.

I rang their main number (0870 242 7878 ) as quoted on some correspondence I had with them and was greeted by their very irritating automated menu system. Nice idea, but the voice recognition just couldn’t understand my postcode no matter how clearly I spoke.

Eventually, I managed to get to the queue for speaking to someone. This was at 5:45pm. I was still on hold at 6:18pm when the line began ringing at the other end. Woohoo, I was through to someone…..Well, no.

Here’s how the phone was answered:

You have been forwarded to a voicemail service. However, the person at 7998 does not subscribe to this service.
A valid attendent identifier number could not be obtained.

Followed by the continuous tone when you get cut off. Aaarrrgggghhh! Almost as bloody useless as BT eh? I wasted 33 minutes of my time and however much on my BT phone bill for nothing!

Well, screw Black Horse. If they can’t be arsed answering the phone, I’ll go to another company. I wonder how much money they throw away each year by having a crap phone system?


Thanks for reading,