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Category Archives: Charities

Bits and pieces…

Stuff happens and sometimes it’s worth a comment. On that basis I shall rant and ramble along on this fine December day.

I’ve been particularly recalcitrant with regards to Judith Ralston, the Scottish weather presenter who has been referred to as “Miss Whiplash” by others but certainly not by me. On the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum BBC presenters of all shapes and sizes of a Scottish nature were usurped by an influx of people from south of the border as was the BBCs want.

This seems to have led to JR presenting the weather on BBC radio and since then she has made a few fleeting weather appearances and a singing gig on BBC Scotland Children in Need. Not solo obviously, but as a backing singer with Jackie Bird.

We need more of JR on our screens. As I may have mentioned in the past, her weather forecasting is probably pretty fine but many a chap in Scotland may have no recollections of what she was saying at all. We may have to start a campaign? Bring back JR!

Wait a minute that may have been used before?

Were you heading southeast down the A1 last weekend? Well obviously you weren’t but you may well have wanted to be since it was closed. A large bang was heard at or near the Catterick Army Base not far from Scotch Corner, which is a significant misnomer since it’s not in Scotland, Scotch is a drink only and there is no corner.

The loud bang was heard by locals and by people in Glasgow and other places. I, myself didn’t hear a thing. The Polis shut the road for a short time of some 16 hours. Well you can’t be too careful now can you?

Anyway, it’s a mystery and we’ll never know. Probably, it was down to the military since there is the Army base and an RAF base also close by. Since loud bangs were heard all over the place some say it might have been meteors whilst others think it must have been a secret aircraft creating a sonic boom or three.

Maybe it flew in from the USA with a flight time of 45 minutes? Pity BA, Virgin etc. can’t buy the technology so we could get longer holidays on the beach rather than spending hours on slow drones? 15 minutes to Ibiza anyone?

The new Drink Drive limits in Scotland come onto force on the 5th I believe. This is a good thing, well almost a good thing, Firstly, the limit is now so low that it may catch people who have not actually been drinking. Secondly, should they not have gone for a no limit (see first point) and does that mean the Polis will stop breathalysing anyone stopped for any reason in a car?

Interestingly, it seems that the makers of Harris Tweed have recently produced a tweed jacket, which has an aroma of whisky. You can just see it now. Old guy gets pulled over and winds his window down. Polis stick their head in his window and get a wiff of whisky. Polis ask man to get out of the car as they suspect he has been drinking alcohol. Old man says he has not been drinking and it’s his jackets fault…

 
 

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Save a prayer…

Religion is a tricky one is it not? You choose a religion or you have it chosen for you and then you have to get on with it. Some religions are more difficult than others. They need more time given to them, they all seem to need money to be provided to them although some of them are the richest organisations in the world.

Of course you can also choose not have any religion at all. It’s not compulsory yet.

Years ago one of my workmates went to Nepal and brought back some really great photographs. One featured a number of lines of prayer flags. Lines of them all blowing in the wind. The deal was that the prayer flags were blown by the wind and the sentiments written on them were carried away with the wind to land somewhere and do some good.

I kind of also think that it’s actually a very shrewd move on the part of those writing the prayers. It’s like write once read many. Instead of having to go to church/monastery/chapel/cathedral and say prayers, which is time consuming etc. you just write it on a flag and every time the wind blows the flag flaps and your prayer is said in effect. The beauty of this system is that you can be getting on with your life and save huge amounts of time going to say prayers etc.

A fabulous efficiency.

Think of the productivity gained!

So if you’re driving through Edinburgh anytime soon and you spot a line of brightly coloured flags blowing in the wind from an upstairs window those’ll be mine.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Charities, General

 

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Charity “Dons”

Stay with me for a few paragraphs would you please…

I quite enjoyed the original “Godfather” film. Probably the most memorable quote was “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”. It was said a few times in the film and of course backed up by “additional incentives” to ensure the “offer” was acceptable to the recipient. I’m sure you’ll remember the horse’s head in the bed scene?

The Godfather was about the mafia. They had “business interests” which kept money coming in on a regular basis. If you had a factory, shop, bar etc. in their area of control then a couple of nice gentlemen would maybe visit you and suggest that you should consider providing a tribute in cash to the local “Don”. (No connection whatsoever to anyone from Aberdeen obviously). Declining to do so might result in an increase in accidents in your premises, a nice simple protection racket then.

In todays world we probably still have a modicum of that sort of thing but we don’t really believe it’s that bad. Nonetheless things are happening and to all intents and purposes they look a lot worse than anything that the godfather did.

Lets start with the Brent Spar, which was to be submerged in the ocean. An organisation thought that wasn’t a good idea and used all the muscle that they could muster to ensure it was disposed off as they saw fit. In the end the disposal was more polluting than the submerging but let’s not allow a great PR exercise get in the way of the facts.

Then we had the recent Starbucks saga. They weren’t paying their taxes apparently.  People should boycott the shops, don’t buy from Starbucks was the cry of the day.

The shops are franchises and most of the people who thought the boycotting was a good idea didn’t know what that meant. It would just be so much corporate bunkum and who cares anyway. Well the people who owned the franchises minded, they minded a great deal.

You see they paid their taxes and they paid the taxes of the people they employed, They also paid for the on going franchise and for the supplies they had to buy. Starbucks, the holding company, paid their taxes too. They just didn’t pay them in the UK. They did this because the EU ruled that companies could pay their corporation tax in any country in the EU.

Some EU countries immediately reduced their corporation tax to attract these large organisations, Starbucks being one of many. Ireland was one of the countries to reduce their corporation tax.

The coalition managed to create quite a furore to the extent that Starbucks had to do a deal to pay some tax in the UK. The UK made them an offer they couldn’t refuse you see.

There are other examples of this. An organisation is picked out and then a third party (Don) starts to complain about something they are doing which is normally fully legitimate. They then threaten to interrupt their business through bad publicity and stop people spending with the chosen business.

The business then tries to work out a deal. Perhaps they could provide funding for a project for the “Don”. Nothing wrong or illegal with that is there? Or maybe they should provide funds on a longer-term basis for other stuff? Cue lots of handshaking etc.

Did you notice the sudden upswing in charities advertising after Christmas?

Have you noticed the latest advert from one of these environmental charities. Apparently in their world polar bears are a threatened species. Canada doesn’t think so, based on their science and experience over decades, which doesn’t actually count at all however. Expect a turnaround from them soon on that one. Perhaps that nice chap Obama might ask them to help revisit their position?

The environmental charity advert shows a polar bear and a couple of cubs frolicking in the snow and ice flow. They are having fun but they are endangered. The ice is melting (no it’s not actually and even if it did it wouldn’t affect them).

Then along comes a special moment. The end part shows a can of Coke resplendent in its red and white corporate colours with some polar bears added to it. They aren’t there because Coke has suddenly started selling a version of Coke, which is polar bear, flavoured? Of course not.

They are helping the environmental charity protect the poor polar bears by providing cash to them from each can purchased. It’s a shame. Polar bear numbers have gone from a few thousand to over 20,000 and counting.

That sounds like the polar bears need a lot of support does it not?

Don’t worry. The “Don” is on the case.

 

 

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Where’s the payback Splashback?

The deal is that an under performing asset is to be sold off for £1.5 million pounds and significant overhead savings totalling another £4 million over the next twenty years in subsidies. This is written into Edinburgh Council operational plans with £1 million of the proceeds of the sale going towards the renovation of the Commonwealth Pool.

Yes I’m still banging on about Waterworld in Leith. The leisure pool has been closed for a year now and the Splashback group have had support to form an offer and build a realistic business plan. Last week saw this going to The Councillors who were evaluating the bid which has been dragging on for at least a year so far. The bid has made little progress although a business plan has been completed which doesn’t address any of the issues required to demonstrate that the group could successfully operate a challenging business.

Challenging. Yes. There’s a simple way of evaluating the success of any business. Does it make a profit? Not a huge profit just enough to build a rainy day fall back fund, continue to invest in the plant and machinery which needs to be maintained and replaced and use some of the profit to further support the growth of the business. Simple.

Except it isn’t. It’s even harder when you are planning to operate a leisure pool. Why? Well how many private facilities which are not subsidised, such as Waterworld, have you seen on your travels? Well none, none that are privately owned. There may be smaller facilities, which are a bit similar, but none of the scale of Waterworld. Why? Very simple. It is almost impossible to operate such a facility and get customers to pay enough to break even never mind make a profit.

Gym and hotel pools? An amount of money is added to the membership fees or to the room rates to cover the cost of gyms and pools etc. If they don’t make money they are gone. Simple.

Council run gyms, sports facilities, athletic stadiums, pools etc. never make money. They are subsidised. All council tax payers subsidise these facilities and the people who use them.

I’m not going to discus the pros and cons of subsidising. I’m certain that Splashback will be seeking as many subsidies as they possibly can get. Where will these subsidies come from? Take a wild guess? From taxpayers. Either directly from government or via various part government funded charities.

You think I am misleading you? The Councillors decided at the meeting last week, against the advice if their officers, that Splashback should be given £100,000 and twelve months to fully develop their plan. If the plan is good they will be given £350,000 over three years to “help” run Waterworld. So that’s almost half a million pounds of taxpayers money.

But it doesn’t end there. Oh no. Remember the £1 million, which was earmarked to go towards the upgrade of the Commonwealth pool? Obviously that won’t be forthcoming. No problem though. The council will borrow a million to meet the shortfall. Now when I say that the council will borrow the money that’s not true. The Edinburgh taxpayers will be the ones borrowing the money and they will also pay all of the instalments including the interest.

The only question I have is WHY?

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Charities, Edinburgh, Politics

 

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An Olympic legacy?

At the bottom of Leith Walk on the right hand side is Waterworld. It’s closed. It was one of those leisure pools that became popular of few years ago, you know the sort of place? They had flumes, various different sizes and depths of small pools, chutes and other sorts of things you might have expected to see on a beach holiday.

It’s closed because it was costing the Council £400K in subsidies each and every year due in no small part to the lack of paying customers who wanted to partake of it’s facilities such as they were. Councils never, ever seem to make money out of pools and sports facilities and to a degree that’s expected and understood.

However, when the venue isn’t sporting and can’t be put under the Olympic legacy banner, is hidden away and has never been much of a success it becomes harder to justify. Waterworld only opened two of three days a week apart from school holidays when it opened pretty much everyday.

Anyway, Edinburgh Council decided that it was time to close it. Their strategy was that the money saved and the money they might receive from any potential purchaser of the site which they estimated in total at some £1.5 Million would go towards the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The budget for the refurbishment reflected this.

Waterworld was to be closed at an agreed date and people using it were aware of this. A few weeks before the closing date a group suddenly came forward to try to stop the closure. The group is made up of people who live locally and are involved in the arts and various community projects.

They petitioned the Council to delay the closure and the sale of the site. The Greens supported them, which I find to be rather odd. A swimming pool requires significant heating, as does the building in general, which means it will emit a lot of CO2. But still the Greens support it being kept open?

The new coalition of Labour and the SNP on the Council agreed to put back the sale date to allow the group, calling themselves Splashback, time to produce a bid to take the site over.

Today, the 20th Sept 2012 the council are meeting to make a decision on a further extension to the sale date. The bid from Splashback does not provide a bid of at least £1 million for the site. It does contain an offer of £1 for the site, which would be rented from the council and then a plan to extend the opening hours, develop more activities and to refurbish and reopen Waterworld. They would aim to reduce the deficit to around £240K per year by year three. They would also try to obtain grants from various public charities, the Lottery etc. etc. They would not be putting their own money in and would really only be managing the site.

The Council meantime have had GVA the property specialists assess the site and they have stated that it is not viable, additional costs of some £155K will be required to reopen it and most damaging of all the potential purchasers have withdrawn their bids because of the delays and alterations made to the bidding process.

In other words Splashback has stopped the site being sold. Splashback has been costing the Council a minimum of £2000 per week for the continuing security and minimum maintenance of Waterworld. If the Councillors agree to give Splashback another three months or so to find the money needed the cost to the Council taxpayers of Edinburgh will be over £100,000.

Tom Farmer has, at the last minute, jumped on the bandwagon and given his support to Splashback. But has he got his chequebook out? Will he finance it? Of course not. Why? Because it is not financially viable! He knows this.

I’ll report tomorrow in a brief post on the outcome.

The bid makes no sense. It will never work. The Council will need to find at least £1 Million plus £155,000 plus at least another £1 Million over the next three years to keep Waterworld open. That would be less any grants Splashback might be awarded although they will probably never manage to get enough people through the doors to meet their own figures.

This is democracy apparently but not as we know it Jim.

 

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Help for Heroes (H4H).

Isn’t it about time that the scandal that is H4H is dealt with? What scandal you say? They do great work you say? I don’t disagree. They do.

The scandal is that they, and similar organisations, should have to exist at all. The government recruits people for the armed services, buys them guns and stuff and then sends them into a war. The people who signed up follow orders, take the money and go on active duty.

Whilst on active duty they are killed or injured. The government then brings them home patches them up a bit and then leaves them to get on as best as they can; hence the need for H4H. This is not just disgraceful it’s shows a degree of arrogance which is hard to understand.

The government having used these injured people have a continuing duty to them and their families, a duty of care. The government doesn’t do anything about this however. The government just recruits more people. The injured and bereaved just have to manage as best as they can. They took the Queens shilling after all.

If a member of the armed services is killed or injured the government should immediately support them and make sure that they can live the best life possible within the bounds of their injuries or grief for the rest of their lives. That’s fair. That’s how armed service personnel should be treated is it not?

The wars fought recently aren’t the Napoleonic wars. Military tactics and weaponry have improved dramatically since then but the after care of injured armed service personnel has not improved to nearly the same extent. Sure the hospitals and medics are much better at saving and healing people but the after care is just  – out of sight out of mind – by the government.

Instead of supporting these charities we should be shouting very loudly indeed, for the government to take responsibility. We shouldn’t be donating money to charities to help injured armed service people. We already pay our taxes, which the government spend in part on big shiny guns, missiles and other such stuff, which they deploy in their wars.

The budget for fighting wars should include the cost of looking after the wounded properly and for as long as it takes. Maybe the budget would need to be so big they wouldn’t be able to afford to go to war.

Good deal for us all then!

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Charities, Justice, Politics

 

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School meals, a girl and a camera.

The case, a few weeks ago, of the school girl who was banned from putting photographs of her school lunch up on the web along with a critique of each days offering showed how ridiculous Councils have become. Okay they climbed down following their attempt to “ban” her from doing so, but why and under which regulation would they have enforced the ban? They would have done it to “protect” the staff who prepared and served the food. If that hadn’t worked I’d imagine that they would have used either health and safety or the photography being inappropriate on the basis it MIGHT have shown other pupils etc.

Firstly, the meals are appalling. The portion size is ridiculous, the actual food looks plastic for the most part, there’s the enforced glass of water for rehydration of the brain nonsense and if course it’s all nutritionally balanced, but according to whom? The lack of quality in the food is fairly easy to prove, just take a look at the examples of school dinners kids have sent from around the world to her blog. The food is much more “real”, the portion size is bigger and definitely looks tastier and inviting. The staff preparing the food are not to blame it’s down to the budget they are given.

It’s such a tragedy that Jamie Oliver has become involved in this too. His previous attempts to encourage his views on school food haven’t exactly been a roaring success. Apart from him living in a very elite bubble, having strong feelings about the quality of ingredients and then ranting on about nutrition, he himself cooks food, which is high in sugar and fat content in his restaurants. If he’s serious about improving the quality of food available in schools the solution is extremely simple. Never mind the content as much as making sure that the money used for the ingredients, preparation and cooking is of a high enough level too ensure the resulting meal is good. Just like he does in his restaurant.

The food on display at the school has been prepared to a price which is obviously too low. Nutrition is not the prerogative of a school or a council education department. It’s for the parents to decide. The state has no part to play. The lefties with their over strident shrieking about obesity is, as tediously usual, based in politics rather than reality. They know best. Parents know nothing, unless they are lefties too.

A few years ago food was simple. Breakfast was toast, porridge or cereal, lunch was significant sandwiches and dinner was a cooked meal of two courses. It was like that for a reason. Most people worked physically so they needed a diet, which provided them with the calories they required to sustain them through a working day. Work patterns and content have changed dramatically with work becoming a sitting exercise for most of us.

The salt, various types of fat and sugar scares are just that, scares. Our bodies regulate our salt levels; what isn’t required is got rid of by our bodies. We have to have fat in our diet although not too much and we have a liking of sugar. Bear in mind that fruit has lots of sugar for example so no chocolate but plenty of fruit still gives you lots of sugar.

A balanced diet is the best way forward by far. Balanced as in varied and not dependent on either too much of some things or too little of others. Traditional diets contain a mixture of fruit and veg along with red meat, fish and poultry. Almost all of it cooked from scratch. The traditional cooking of our youth worked pretty well did it not? We managed fine and continue to do so.

There was obesity around in the 60s and 70s it’s not a recent development although, at times in the media, you would think that it is. The amount and variation of sugary foods and sweets seems wider these days but we managed just fine with choice we had. I’ve already owned up to spending my dinner money on pints of milk, mars bars and white chocolate drops during my final years at high school. Mind you when you bought crisps around that time some brands provided wee bags of salt in the bag which you could sprinkle on the crisps or not.

Balanced diet! Just like your granny told you. You can’t go wrong.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Charities, Education, Health

 

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