Budget Bullshit

George Osborne, a man who looks his sex life is exclusively a sad hand job on his birthday, unveiled his final budget before the election on Wednesday. The Chancellor’s 59 minute speech had us subjected to hearing him inform us that we’re “All in this together” (apparently) which is a hard sentiment to stomach knowing he once ‘flipped’ his second home and is estimated to owe the public purse £55,000. Then came the news that had The Sun and The Lad Bible raising a drink to George Osborne; beer duty is to be cut for the third year running – a whole penny off a pint.

While the quintessential public school boy may seem like the ultimate LAD, helping us booze more for less, let’s look at the bigger picture. The NHS is on the brink of collapsing, millions of families reliant on food banks, and a whole generation barely able to afford rent, let alone a house deposit, yet the Tories want to distract us with the fact they’re knocking 1p off a pint. A penny that you’ll probably leave on the beer soaked mat at the bar (or if you’re in the bottom of your glass if you’re a student playing ‘Save the Queen’.)

 “More pubs saved, jobs created, families supported – and a penny off a pint for the third year in a row” George proudly declared to the Deputy Speaker. More jobs.  Jobs where the workers have less working rights than an animal appearing on TV, but jobs none the less.

While he may have been quick to claim that citizens of the UK are now better off than five years ago, Osborne neglected to mention that an estimated 5.24 million people in the UK earn below the Living Wage, and over 1.4 million of us are being exploited by zero hour contracts. With last week’s budget, and the Tory peer boss of Next slamming The Living Wage, claiming £6.70 is enough to live on, it’s about time we started asking some serious questions about the Living Wage.

With huge support politically and hundreds of companies already signed up, The Living Wage has heaps of benefits for individuals, businesses and society but worryingly, hardly any hospitality businesses have signed up. From the 1113 businesses that are Living Wage employers, just 24 of those are linked to hospitality jobs. That’s just a 2.1% representation from an industry that accounts for so many professions across the country.  The hospitality trade is one of the biggest employment sectors, demanding 855,000 new staff by 2017 to replace those leaving the industry, yet an estimated 85% of employees earn below the threshold.

Tories

Officially the lowest paid occupation in the UK, hospitality workers know better than anyone the appalling working practises allowed to go on in 2015 Britain. It’s not the unsociable working hours, or the oh too sociable customers, that make pulling a pint much less fun than it looks on Corrie – it’s the fact you’re more often than not working 50 hour weeks for National Minimum Wage (or less) to make ends meet while on an exploitive zero hour contract.

“My experience with a zero hour contract was absolute hell,” admits Chloe from Liverpool. “I was employed on a zero hour contract at a local pub, which I was wary of, but had no other option with the job market as it was. Initially it was fine – I was a full-time member of staff, regularly doing 35 plus hours a week, and the first time it became an issue was when I became sick and learnt that as a zero hour contract employee I wasn’t entitled to sick pay.”

“One morning I travelled all the way into work to discover the doors were locked and a letter from the bailiffs’ plastered to the window. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I spent all day trying to get through to the owners, who ignored my calls, and eventually learnt, through the local press, that they had fallen behind on rent and the pub would be closed until they paid their back payments. I didn’t get paid on time that week and spent the next two weeks in limbo. I couldn’t go sign on as I technically still had a job so I started to look for other work. The pub eventually reopened two weeks later but the owners didn’t feel the need to apologise to us, or even acknowledge what had happened – it was a fortnight where I didn’t receive any income and truly learnt just how little working rights I have.”

Stories like this are all too common. I’ve personally worked in venues that would take money out of staff wages to cover till shortages (yet bar staff never received a penny should the till be up), bars that forced employees to work on Bank Holidays for regular pay or face being sacked (and that’s totally legal thanks to those lovely zero hour contracts) and clubs where you’re expected to work until 2am, go home and be back in by 9am. What’s that you say, the Daily Rest Rule clearly states you must have an 11 hour break between shifts? Oh that’s so cute. Sadly, zero hour contracts are normally clever enough to include a section where you waive your right to this ‘luxury’.

 “Why don’t you just stop complaining – either go on strike or start working in a new industry?” many reader may be pondering right now, mainly those who’ve never had to endure someone ordering a Guinness last on a 20 drink round.

It’s just not that simple. While firstly, we all know how the current job market can be, but have a think about; can you imagine what would happen if say a waiter went on strike? Fed up of having their shift cancelled after already paying to travel in to work, or tired of cleaning human shit from a glass (Yes, I’ve actually heard this happen to more than one person) for no additional pay, a waiter goes on strike to the amusement of their employer. It’s the shortest strike in history as they’re sacked within seconds of expressing disgust at their working environment. You may claim this is unfair dismissal but that’s not something hospitality workers can do, as John tells us.

“I had been working at a city centre restaurant for a few months. It was all going pretty well,” the waiter from Manchester recalls. “But then one shift my manager made a mistake regarding a customer payment from a table in my section. It was quite a large amount and as the owners were in he didn’t want to admit fault so immediately sacked me instead. I got home and straightaway started looking at claiming unfair dismissal. However, I learnt that you can’t put a case forward unless you’ve worked for the employer for at least two years. So that was it – I had been unfairly dismissed from my job and unable to even apply for benefits for weeks.”

While George Osborne and the rest of the Conservative Party may want to think ‘Britain is Working’ they must admit that it’s only working for employers.

Fuck spending a million pounds of tax payer’s money to celebrate the Battle of Aignort, whatever that is. Fuck your insult to the 5.4 million single parent households with the bullshit marriage tax break. And fuck your measly penny off a pint.

Give us a decent living wage and worker’s rights – that’s something I’d drink to.

See also: A Biased Guide to the UK Parties & Who to Vote For

Cheryl Cole’s Tax Factor: Poor Little Rich Girl

Cheryl Fernandez Versini (aka Cheryl Cole) is the latest celebrity to air her concerns regarding the proposed Mansion Tax that could come into force should Labour be elected this May. The X Factor judge, who is estimated to be worth £20 million, has some reservations about the levy that would see her pay an additional £3000 in annual charges (£250 a month) as she already pays a “f**king lot of tax” and a mansion tax would “f**k her over”.

Cheryl, who grew up on a council estate in Newcastle (not that she ever likes to mention that fact), has spoken about her decision to “listen” to other parties and that she wants to hear what they’ve got to say for herself; now that she’s a grown woman.

“I feel like a greater responsibility now to vote for who runs our country. And I pay a f**cking lot of tax. So I think that I need to have a really well-informed, well-educated opinion.”

While it’s great that Cheryl is taking an interest in politics, at the age of 31, I can’t be the only one judging what’s prompted her to speak out – the threat of an increased tax bill. The self-styled “Newcastle’s People’s Princess” hasn’t chosen to air her concerns about the future of the NHS, or the fact that the numbers of families relying on food banks is rapidly increasing. She didn’t raise her voice when the country’s poorest where hit with the unfair bedroom tax, but instead, decided it was time to chat politics when it looks like her accountant may have a little bit more work to do in the future when doing her books.

Back in 2009 Cheryl was rumoured to spend over £250,000 a year on her appearance alone. That’s a quarter of a million pounds, almost 10 times the amount of the average UK salary, on things like hair and makeup. As she claims that a tax that is estimated to cost her £250 a month (or £125 if she splits the bills with her fellow millionaire husband) will “fuck (her) over” she neglected to mention that by taxing the richest a bit of, to them, loose change, nearly £2.5b will be raised to go towards the NHS etc.

Let’s get a few things into perspective. Here are a few Chezza’s past expenditures:

see In 2009, it was reported that Cheryl spent Nearly 10 grand a year on her Hollywood smile. The very same year, the media reported over 40% of the population had no NHS dentist and on more than one occasion, surgeries had seen queues of people hoping to secure the services of one.

Methocarbamol 750 mg street value For The X Factor, Cheryl worked with two stylists; both said to cost about £45,000 a year. While the former Girls Aloud star is in the position to splash out that much on someone to pick out a dress for her to wear, it’s estimated 1 in 4 parents borrow cash to finance the cost of their child’s new school uniform.

tastylia side effects Cheryl once famously bought herself a £36,000 Hypoxi therapy bike (nope, I’ve no idea what one is either), alongside a £14,000-a-year personal trainer. While the former Mrs Cole can splash out on fancy bikes, NHS patients can be waiting up to 27 weeks for physical therapy services.

Of course, she’s free to spend her hard-earned cash however she pleases; if I earned even a tenth of what she takes home I’d have some questionable purchases. These comparisons weren’t to make me look bitter towards a woman spending her wealth – it was to point out whether we really can believe she’d even notice £250 a month leaving her account?

What I do resent is that throughout her career as a pop star, reality show judge and hairspray fan, she has marketed herself as a ‘working class girl done good’; someone who can relate to her fans. Never one shy to speak about her roots, she’s now just as keen to tell us about her ‘Poor little rich girl problems.’

“I know there are people out there who think, ‘Oh yeah, someone with money telling us that money doesn’t matter,’ but the truth is I’ve experienced both. There are big downsides that come with having money.”

Hey, she may be rich now but she too has been on the bones of her rose tattooed arse. But has she really? Aged 19 when she appeared on Popstars: The Rivals, Cheryl was barely of voting age when she propelled into stardom and a world of wealth. I very much doubt she’s had to rent a shitty flat,while on a zero hour contract minimum wage job; trying to make ends meet. She may wear her working class upbringing as a badge of honour but, speaking from experience, it is very different growing up a member of a poor family and actually living below the bread line as a working class adult; out there on your own.

Ms Fernandez Versini is angered by taxes that aim to create a fairer society for all , yet is happy to associate herself with Comic Relief, a charity that thinks investing in the arms trade is a wise move. But in her defence, paying your taxes just isn’t as PR friendly (or tax-deductible) than climbing a mountain or sticking on a red nose and asking a country, where more than one fifth of us don’t earn the Living Wage, to donate what little cash we have.

If Cheryl does want to defect from Labour due to their take on taxing the rich, then she should do. But she also bear in mind she probably won’t be able to continue her ‘Working class hero’ image, and just how much would a re-brand cost her?

UPDATE: I tell a lie, Cheryl has spoken out regarding politics and taxes before –  with the odd claim that she would have been penniless as a teenager had the Pasty Tax been in place then.

See also: Jeremy Clarkson: Political Correctness Gone Mad?

Jeremy Clarkson: Political Correctness Gone Mad?

I’ve had some arguments with my dad in the past but I’ve never hated him enough to buy him a Jeremy Clarkson book as a ‘present’. While I’m no fan of Top Gear, mainly because I participate in sex positions other than missionary, many enjoy the programme; it’s estimated that the show has an audience of 350 million worldwide.

This week the nation’s most infamous petrol head, and host of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson was suspended by the BBC for his involvement in a ‘fracas’ (posh people speak for ‘a fight’). The exact story isn’t yet known but Clarkson apparently punched a producer due to his dinner not being served correctly. This has caused outrage amongst many across country; over 460,000 people to be precise. That’s the number of signatures, and counting, on a petition urging the BBC to reinstate him immediately. You read correctly -they’re not horrified by Clarkson’s alleged assault, but that the public service broadcaster BBC have finally suspended a man on his final warning by his employers after his racial slur shame last year. That’s more than put their name to a past campaign to end female genital Mutilation (FGM).

For those of us amongst us that don’t feel the need to label bigoted Clarkson ‘a total ledge’, or declare his suspension as ‘political correctness gone mad’, we possess the common sense to see that if someone is constantly reprimanded for multiple counts of racism, general sexism, making disgusting  comments about the disabled and the mentally ill, constant homophobia, and let’s not forget, drink driving, eventually you’re going to be suspended from your job.

For me personally, it’s not just the fact he wants to check every box on the ‘How to be a bigot’ checklist; he’s just not funny. He reminds me of a tragic, sad old man at a party who goes around sexually harassing anyone under the age of 30, as everyone looks at each other as if to say “Don’t worry – with the amount he’s smoking and drinking he won’t be at the next function with any luck.”

As soon as you argue that you dislike David Cameron’s driving buddy you get accused of being a part of the ‘PC Brigade’ or an oppose of free speech. Not me. You can’t offend me. You can anger me, insult me and disgust me, but it’s pretty hard to offend me.  Not wanting Jeremy Clarkson to appear on your TV isn’t a strike against free speech; it’s the perfect execution of freedom of speech actually –voicing anger that a publicly funded television company continues to employ one of their most profitable cash cows. People can say whatever they want but others don’t have to like it (or be happy that their licence fee goes towards Clarkson’s estimated £12 million salary).

Jeremy Clarkson may be a ‘breath of fresh air in a PC world’ to some but to me that breath stinks of stale fags and bigotry.

If you really must sign the Jeremy Clarkson petition, do it. But please, also spend 5 minutes of your time signing something worthwhile too. Here are three petitions close to my heart:

ASK YOUR MP TO BAN RIP-OFF LETTING AGENT FEES

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll probably be aware of the fact that letting agents are one of the reasons I have high blood pressure in my early twenties. I can’t say anymore through fear of being evicted for complaining – 2015 Britain, eh? Before moving into their new home, renters often get hit with spurious fees supposedly covering administration, inventory, references, guarantors, deposit protection, maintenance charges and credit checks. Then letting agents find other excuses to charge more fees, for example when someone moves in or out of a shared house or at the end of a tenancy. Follow @genrentuk for more about the current renting and housing crisis.

SAVE THE NHS

The NHS is one of the few things that makes me proud to be British. Whatever your political stance, it cannot be denied that our national health services is crumbling and on it’s way to be privatised. This isn’t necessarily a petition but you can sign up to learn more about the biggest battle the NHS faces to date.

STOP THE CUTS TO FURTHER EDUCATION IN ENGLAND

A huge majority of my friends are teachers, and while I may make awfully tired jokes about their holidays etc, the work they do is under appreciated by many. They may get six weeks off in the summer but I know most of them to currently be working 60 hour weeks as the norm.

The cut to funds for further education will leave millions of the most vulnerable adults without access to any opportunity to improve their education or retrain and put thousands of FE jobs at risk.

And if you really can’t help yourself when it comes to silly petitions:

MAKE WRONGLY DESCRIBING A CASSEROLE WITH A PASTRY LID AS A PIE A CRIMINAL OFFENCE

This piece originally featured on Scarlett Wonderland. Below are few more articles of mine from the site:

The Emotional Stages of Quitting Smoking

The One Before The One

Why You Should Date a Scouser

Life Lessons From Bring It On

Get the Grand National Look

Liverpool Is Now In the Top 10 Cities with the Highest Growth in Jobs

Originally published for Downtown in Business

Merseyside’s economy has seen a significant boost in recent years and Liverpool is now in the Top 10 cities with the highest growth in jobs.

According to a recent think-tank report, the city was ranked number five in the UK, ahead of Nottingham and Leeds, and only just behind Manchester, which came fourth. Between 2010 and 2012, almost 13,000 private sector jobs were created across Liverpool.

One local company reaping the benefits of this is Downtown’s JCS Cleaning (NW) Ltd. The Liverpool based commercial cleaning company, who work with the likes of the NHS, Living Ventures and San Carlo, saw 2014 prove to be one of their most successful years yet; all thanks to the rejuvenation and development happening across the city.

“It’s non-stop – every day you can spot a new building site, or a venue getting a revamp,” said Zoe, the company’s Business Development Manager. “Obviously this is fantastic for us, as we’re able to go out and get the post construction Builders’ Cleans after the work is completed. These last few months alone we’ve worked with Morgan Lovell (on behalf of The Amey Group), Beech Construction (On behalf of Greystar) and Gleeson Homes.”

The North West Cleaners are now officially in the top 4% of all UK cleaning companies which is quite a turnaround from the darkest days of the recession where development across the country came to a halt.

“I only come into the company just over a year ago and I’ve been lucky to start work as everything seems to be getting back on track,” Zoe reveals. “We’ve got so many big hospitality venues on our books; Panoramic 34, Gusto, The Bierkeller, Hannah’s Bar, San Carlo – there are just too many to list. Bars and clubs are spending thousands on their interiors and have realised that they need to hire specialists in order to maintain their investments – that’s where we step in!”

“We’re also expanding alongside our clients – take Fazenda, for example; we started working with them from day one, with a builders’ clean on their Liverpool site, and now we’ve gone with them on their new Manchester site too. This has happened with a few of our clients – it seems to be a logical trend for restaurants to expand over to Manchester, and vice versa, and that’s what we’re doing too – we’re moving with the potential clients. The North West is a great place to be at the moment – both professionally and socially.”

By the sounds of things, 2015 looks set to be another successful year for JCS Cleaning (NW) Ltd.

Other press releases related to my role as Business Development Manager for JCS Cleaning (NW) Ltd:

JCS Cleaning (NW) Ltd in the top 4% of UK cleaning firms.

North West cleaning firm secure Merseyside bars contract & talk Manchester expansion.

Liverpool Echo Small Business of the Week (Interview)

Are You Registered to Vote?

The general election will take place on Thursday 7th May 2015, less than 100 days away, and shit loads of us (that’s an exact & official figure) haven’t yet bothered registering to vote. In 2010, only 44% of people aged 18-24 actually went to the polling stations, the lowest level among any age group of voters. Let’s not have a repeat performance – regardless of what Russell Brand says, you have to vote. Yes, you can point out that all the major parties are essentially the same, and if you really want to get all ‘Joey Barton A Level Philosophy student’ about it, you could argue that nothing will change; no matter what ‘shape shifting lizard’ is in power, but just get down to the sodding polling station, yeah? Even the most apathetic amongst us would be outraged if we one day we lost the right to vote and elect our own government.

*adopts a mum voice* Don’t give me the whole ‘oh politics burns my head out– I don’t really understand anything’ speech. You don’t need a PHD to vote – do a bit of googling and give yourself a quick education. Don’t pretend that you haven’t got the time to do this – if you’re reading me rambling on right now then you’re not too busy to learn the difference between the right and left-wing. Here’s a good place to start – read that, have a click on some of the related articles and you’ll be up to speed in no time at all.

Look, even if you want to vote Conservative, it’s your right to do so and you should (if you really must). Just remember, no one wants to shag a Tory so think before you choose where you mark your X. And all you lot on Twitter that enjoy calling out ‘Tory behaviour’? You’re going to have to vote, otherwise you’ll have to retire those shouts.

Register to vote HERE. It takes just five minutes to do – I suffer terribly from CBA Syndrome but even I’ve managed to do it. Also, more than nine million women didn’t vote in the last election; Come on, girls; suffragettes died so we had the right to vote -don’t be ungrateful bitches.

Originally published for Scouse Bird Problems. Below are some links to more content I have provided for the site:

Restaurants – Pack It In

Men to Avoid 

Valentine’s Day for Side Chicks

New Year, New Positivity

Who is Your Champion?

Where Are All The Fit Men in Liverpool?

Nu Clinic: Mother Pucker

10 Reasons You Need to Ink