Category Archives: Uncategorized

A fear of… well, everything, but mostly change #EURef

This whole referendum campaign has been awful. All it has done is divide the nation even further. The only winners in this are the Conservative party, because whichever way this goes they’ll be able to say they couldn’t do certain things because of the outcome, in the same way they’ve used the “Labour created this mess” line for the past six years.

There is so much misinformation flying around from both side, it really has shown politics up to be the filthy, corrupt mess we all know it is, and that’s why I’ve stayed out of posting anything other than fact-based articles until now. The truth is that we don’t know what effect an exit would have, either on the economy or on immigration figures, but both sides have been pushing fear regardless.

I don’t want to live in a world of fear. I want to live in a world of opportunity. I want to live in a world where the vulnerable are looked after to the same degree as the most privileged.

And that brings me to my vote. I’m not scared of change. Indeed, I would suggest that if the world was less scared of change, we would make progress at a much faster rate. If we could open ourselves up the fact that due to technological advances we no longer all need to work (and haven’t since the seventies), then we could create a world far more equal and full of opportunity than the one we already live in. Full employment is not something to aspire to. We should be looking towards near-zero employment.

With near-zero employment there would be no wars, there would be no fear of immigrants taking your job, there would be no fear of loss of control, there would be no fear about job insecurity, because your needs would already be met. Want to know more? Start with The Choice Is Ours or Paradise or Oblivion.

Anyway, I digress. As I said, I’m not scared of change. However it has to be considered that throughout history, at times of significant economic change, it’s the most vulnerable who are the worst affected. You only have to the look at the effects of austerity to see that. If there is a shortage of any kind during the transitional period, it will be the people at the bottom that suffer, not those at the top.

I might be able to consider voting leave more seriously if we didn’t have a government that has proved itself keen to exploit the vulnerable at every opportunity, but the humanist inside of me is the overriding factor.

If we’re to bring about genuine peace, then we need to work more closely with our neighbours, not isolate ourselves from them. Yes, the EU needs a lot of work. Yes, the EU is corrupt – as is all politics. Yes, the Remain campaign has been as full as misinformation and lies as the Leave campaign.

But it we want to change that, until such time as we are genuinely ready to start talking about a Resource Based Economy, then we need to remain part of the conversation, not the neighbour everyone is talking about behind their back.

I’m voting REMAIN on Thursday 23rd June.

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Screwed in all directions

I’m seething.

Having just got my head around the government’s latest budget, and trying to work out how it will affect my disabled girlfriend (summary: income reduced, and outgoings increased), I’ve just got in to a lovely letter from HMRC. A threatening letter, in this government’s usual condescending tone. Here, take a look yourself.

HMRC_letter

So, let’s go through those key points, shall we?

My self-employment needs to be done on a commercial basis, with a view to making a profit

Oh, silly me! Here I was deliberately trying to lose money that I don’t have, to make my life even more difficult.

My self-employment needs to be done regularly and in an organised way

Fair enough. Well, that is, if I trusted this government to define what “regularly and organised way” means. I take it that the inspectors will fully understand the showbiz industry, will they? They’ll know that there’s no such thing as consistent work? They’ll understand that 95% of actors are unemployed at any one time? They’ll understand that you could make one year’s salary in one day, or no salary at all for several years, for reasons out of your control?

And what does “organised” mean? I spread myself across as many business types as I can just so that I can make ends meet. Will the government inspector view that as disorganised? I strongly suspect so, because as usual, this is another exercise to take money from the people that need it the most.

I may not qualify if I don’t make a profit

Brilliant. So instead of going after Google and Amazon, they’d rather take a few hundred quid off a sole trader who is struggling to make a profit. Someone that spends that lavish income on luxuries like food and toiletries. With no knowledge of their background, their endeavours, or the intricacies of any given market.

They may want to inspect my business records

Again, fair enough – come and have a look. But why are you wasting tax-payers resources in pursuit of a few hundred quid (which you won’t get, by the way, because I’ve nothing to hide) when THERE ARE BUSINESSES OUT THERE THAT OWE BILLIONS IN TAXES?

You know what? Don’t even answer that.

Why am I so upset? Well, let’s look at my current financial situation – laid bare:

Income: Part-time monthly salary- £470 approx
Self-employment for 2015-16 – total £1400 so far – approx £116 pcm on average (skewed by the fact that £700 of that came from October alone)

Expenditure: Rent+bills, car tax, savings (£10pcm!), phone bill, credit card repayment, car insurance, computer finance, WWE Network – total £610 approx.

TOTAL: A loss of £24. You may notice that apart from the WWE Network (at £9.99pcm) there are no luxuries in there. Even if you were to remove my car costs, I would spend twice that amount on public transport in a month.

You’ll see then, that my working tax credit covers my living costs and nothing else.

Oh, and by the way, in managing a social enterprise, a community website and a community festival, on top of part-time employment and pursuing paid acting work, I generally work at least 60 hours per week.

Now my business decisions lie in the hands of a government that doesn’t understand community enterprise. A government that could decide that I haven’t made enough profit for their liking. A government that only sees the word PROFIT in front of their eyes when they make decisions with community services. A government of multi-millionaires that don’t understand that you can start a business with no money, but to compensate you have to give it extra TIME.

The biggest irony is that if I stopped my claim and closed my businesses, I could then be forced to do “community work” while claiming JSA.

Now this alone I could stomach if they weren’t hitting my girlfriend doubly-hard at the same time.

My partner has MS and is unable to work. In today’s budget, another raft of cuts to disability benefits were announced. At the same time, her entitlement to housing benefit and council tax reduction were being reviewed by the Labour council. It’s likely that not only will her income be reduced, but the small amount she receives to help manage her condition will now have to be spent on additional costs forced on her by local government – namely making up the shortfall in housing benefit, and council tax reduction.

And this all on the same day that Gideon announced MORE tax cuts for higher rate tax-payers, and for companies that don’t pay what they owe anyway.

It’s easy to see that this government are coercing people to take their own lives. I’ve had too many conversations with vulnerable people recently that are in complete and utter despair because it doesn’t matter how hard they work, or how many hoops they jump through, this government is making their lives tougher by the minute.

No one that I have spoken to wants anything more than their basic human rights – the right to shelter, heat, food, and to live without persecution.

I live in one of the richest countries in the world. The rich are getting richer.

How are those struggling bankers doing?

RedWiz, The Green Party and, *sigh*…

…and I’ve found myself using my blog for personal reasons again.

Just to be clear from the start, this blog is no criticism of the Green Party.

A few weeks ago I accepted some work doing some fliering for a company called RedWiz, who guarantee

“…a fast, reliable and professional service with fully trained staff to meet your requirements. We operate 6 days a week from Mon-Fri 8am to 8pm for distribution.”

The fliers I was asked to deliver were for The Green Party, and were about the upcoming local referendum here in Brighton & Hove. RedWiz appear to be established in London, and claimed to be new to Brighton. They posted some adverts (which  have since been removed) for leaflet distributors on Gumtree and despite the incredibly low rate of £32 per 1000 leaflets on offer (on a self-employed basis), as I had no work, no home and no income (I’m still waiting to hear whether I’m entitled to JSA) I emailed to enquire. It was 9pm on Monday 10 February 2014, and within ten minutes I received a phone call from a lady called Beth. She explained that the leaflets needed distributing by the end of the week, and that she would drop the fliers round to my partner’s house the following day and email me details of the area that needed to be covered. So far, so good. Beth also explained that they use GPS tracking software to provide a report to the customer. The software, when activated on your mobile phone, produces a map your journey. Unfortunately none of the software they used was compatible with my BlackBerry. Not a problem, she said. They needed delivering anyway.

The fliers were delivered the next day (Tuesday), and I was given a map of the area they wanted me to cover, including Hollingdean, Stanmer Park and Coldean. It wasn’t ideal. They were a bit spread out in places, but I sat down that evening and worked out my route for the following day.

Wednesday came and the weather was horrendous. I took the car out to my start point and sat inside it for half an hour, before deciding that I would do the deliveries tomorrow instead. Aside from the fact I would have been drenched to my pants within 15 minutes, I figured that it was probably more important that the leaflets were delivered in a readable state too. I called the number that I had been given to communicate with the office, and left a voice mail saying that I would do the deliveries tomorrow (Thursday) instead. After all, they needed delivering by the end of the week.

At 9pm that evening I received a text message asking me how the deliveries had gone. I replied saying that I had not done any deliveries, and I would be doing them tomorrow. I received a reply saying that they would send someone to help me. Then just after midnight, I received a further text message with the details of the person who would be working with me. I was asked to meet Dave (not his real name) at London Road station, which wasn’t ideal.

The next morning (Thursday) I called Dave to arrange a more appropriate meeting place. He was grateful for the call because he had not been given my contact details. We talked about the best way to tackle the route, and it soon became obvious that we were talking about different routes. Dave had been given a map of streets in Kemp Town, Hanover and Queen’s Park. No wonder I was confused.

Thankfully, I logged on to my emails before leaving the house, where I found a new map waiting for me. Not idea, given that I’d already spent an hour planning my route. The map was at least the same as Dave’s, so we arranged between us for Dave to print off two copies and we would meet at 10.30am near Queen’s Park to plan our route. At 11.30am I received a text asking me to download another piece of GPS tracking software, but this again was not available on my BlackBerry.

In printing off the list of streets, it became clear that we had been given all streets beginning with the letters P-Z within a certain area. This made no sense at all. It meant that we had huge long walks between streets, and this ate into time that could have been spent delivering fliers. To compound our misery, occasionally we would see the fliers in letterboxes, suggesting that someone had already delivered in that area.

A job that should have taken us four hours ended up taking eight hours. We started at 10.30am and we returned to the car at 6.30pm.

I called the mobile number and spoke with Ferai, the proprietor of RedWiz, and explained the situation. She was grateful that I had taken the time to call and explain all the challenges that we had faced, and asked me to put them all into an email for her. She asked if I would be interested in helping them work through these problems, and suggested that they would need team leaders soon. I said I’d be happy help while I am still looking for work. Ferai said she would call me at 10am the next morning to discuss this. Ferai also assured me that we would be compensated for our time, as they make sure that they never pay less than minimum wage.

I sent the email, and close to midnight I received a text from Ferai expressing her “utmost appreciation for the time you have taken to give this feedback”. I also sent an email containing my bank details.

10am on Friday came. No call. I text her to remind her that I had a meeting at 12pm and that she would need to call soon. No response.

On Monday 17 February I received an email containing a statement which indicated that I would be paid £78 on Friday 21 February 2014.

At 8.26am on that day I received the following text message:

All wages will be issued automatically at 5pm. If we haven’t yet received your bank details please send them through today. We want to thank everyone who worked on this campaign. If there are any corrections regarding pay you will also be notified today. Kind Regards on behalf of RedWiz

This was then followed up by another text at 5pm:

Good afternoon all, all wage payments have now been issued. Please allow upto 2 hours for funds to clear depending on who you bank with. Please note some banks take 1 working day to clear funds, please be aware of this as today is Friday in that instance the next working day is Monday. Thank you all once again on behalf of RedWiz

I didn’t think any more of it until I received a text from Dave on Monday 24 February:

Hey man, Dave here, did you get payed yet? Me an another guy i know who also done one day that same week still haven’t been payed? Ive emailed them and tryed to call but kno reply so far (sic)

I checked my bank balance and no, I hadn’t been paid. I figured that 24 working hours still hadn’t passed, so said I’d chase it up on Tuesday 25 February. Then at 11am on that Tuesday I received the following text message:

Good morning, it has come to our attention that some of the leaflet distributors have not yet received payment. This has effected a few of our London and Brighton distributors. If this has effected you can you please send an email through to payments@redwizads.com as soon as possible with your full name and banking details so we can look into this and ensure everyone has their payment today. We apologise for difficulties this may have causes. King regards RedWiz

I immediately sent them an email as requested, but received no reply, and no payment.

On Friday I emailed them again. On Saturday I received a bounce-back. Alarm bells started to ring. I text them on Saturday. I received no reply. I am now unable to get hold of Dave too, so I have no idea whether he has been paid or not. I tried to call RedWiz yesterday on both the phone number they provided us with, and their main number. Both went straight through to voice mail. I even called the Green Party to find out if they had alternative contact details, but their office was closed so I left a voice mail. Just to be clear – in no way am I criticising the Green Party – I just thought they might like to know what one of their suppliers gets up to.

Then I spotted the online chat facility on the RedWiz website.

I posed as a potential new customer. I had a brief online conversation with Ferai, and she said she would call me. In less than five minutes I received a call from Beth. I immediately confessed who I was, calmly explained my reasons for doing so, and asked when I could expect to be paid. Beth explained that it would be Ferai that I would need to speak to. I asked that Beth ask Ferai to call me back, but I have heard nothing.

So, as RedWiz do not appear to want to talk to me, I thought I’d ask them some questions publicly:

  • When am I going to be paid?
  • How many other people are still awaiting their wages?
  • How many other desperate, vulnerable people did you take advantage of?
  • Why won’t you talk to me?
  • Do you treat all of your suppliers this way?
  • Why were you able to respond to a potential new customer so quickly, yet I am still awaiting an answer one week on?
  • Do you break the promises you keep to customers, or is it just staff that you think are expendable?

You have my email address, and I would also welcome your response here if you want to reply publicly.

I look forward to hearing from you.