Facts The BBC Forgot To Tell You (But You Really Ought To Know)
1. There has been much talk recently about international companies (for which we really mean American companies) not paying much in the way of tax. But did you know that a quango called Scottish Enterprise (funded, no doubt, by English taxpayers) has given Amazon a £2.5 million grant? This generous sackful of taxpayers’ money will enable Amazon to continue to destroy British shops such as HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters. Former employees of those companies will no doubt be grateful to the Scots for giving them so much more free time.
2. A company in South Wales called Next Generation Data set up a data centre to store, well, data. The company has space equivalent to 17 football pitches. Sadly, however, it has leased only one ninth of its available space since opening in 2009. Why? Computer and internet data takes 1.6 milliseconds to travel from London’s docklands to south Wales. And that makes the Welsh site unsuitable for storing data. Honest. Well, really, would you want to wait 1.6 milliseconds to read your emails?
3. By 2015 Britain will become the most ethnically diverse country on earth. There may well be long term residents who don’t remember voting for this dramatic change.
4. Britain is facing bigger debts than any other major country other than Japan. The British Government is currently (2013) spending 8.3% more than its income. Our national debt is already 89% of our national income. The Coalition Government led by Cameron and Clegg claims to be tackling the debt problem created by the criminally imprudent moron Gordon Brown. But they’re not. They’re making the problem worse.
5. Since 2007, the Bank of England has been forecasting steady growth in Britain’s GDP. Sadly, they have been wrong every year. And, surprise, surprise, all their forecasts have been wildly optimistic. Their forecasts about inflation have also been wrong. The Bank of England has proved itself to be grossly incompetent. Why hasn’t the entire staff been fired? (Well, they could keep the cleaning staff. They probably didn’t play a big part in producing those egregious growth and inflation forecasts.)
6. High street shops aren’t just closing because of the internet. Local councils are also doing their bit to ensure that shops continue to fail. Absurdly high car parking charges are keeping shoppers out of town centres. And commercial rates have been soaring for the last few years. Between 2008 and 2010 rates went up by an almost unbelievable 30%. And the Government hasn’t been helping. The extra rates, national insurance costs and VAT rises mean that companies are now paying 40% more in tax than they were paying when the financial crisis started in 2007. So we shouldn’t be surprised when even more high street stores close down.
7. Readers often write and tell me that I’m wrong to predict problems with oil supplies. They kindly send me clippings showing that companies have discovered more oil. Oh dear. The truth is that the last large scale discovery of a conventional oilfield was in 1979. The oil fields discovered since then have been rather tiddly. Like it or not the cheap oil is running out. And, just for the record, the cost of obtaining oil from shale is $100 a barrel. And oil obtained from the Arctic costs even more. There is more about the coming commodities crisis in my book Stuffed!
8. Offshore centres known technically as `Britain’s overseas territories’ have given in to pressure and agreed to share details of bank account holders with the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and, of course, the USA. And so now anyone with a bank account in Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey can feel comfortable in the knowledge that details they thought were private will be shared with just about anyone who wants to look at them. The information shared will include names, home addresses, bank account numbers, dates of birth, account balances, details of money going into accounts and details of money moving out. (At the same time, of course, actually gaining access to and using our own money will become increasingly difficult as anyone who has tried to do something as reckless, dangerous and daring as move money from their deposit account to their current account will have discovered.) None of this would matter terribly if Governments could be trusted to look after all this information properly. Sadly, however, information will continue to be leaked and shared and given away and sold and just plain old fashioned lost. The new rules have done nothing to stop fraud, money laundering, terrorism or global warming but have greatly enhanced your risk of having your identity – and your money - stolen.
9. Network Rail costs British taxpayers £3 billion a year. It has missed all its (rather pathetic) targets on financial efficiency and trains running on time. And yet the incompetent buffoons running Network Rail have just received huge bonuses on top of their huge salaries.
10. Both the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Grand Robert dictionary in France are now available only in digital form. The books are history. In June 2013 the German publisher Bertelsmann announced that its two hundred year old encyclopaedia brand Brockhaus will close. The end of proper encyclopaedias is something we should all worry about. A worrying number of people now rely on free websites for information. Wikipedia, for example, is widely used by students and teachers – many of whom actually think the information available is reliable. The problem is, however, that whereas old fashioned encyclopaedias were written by learned people (whose work was carefully checked by experienced editors) online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia are written by desperately sad individuals (many of them spotty, teenage nerds) who write them for free because they want to feel important- and because they want to share their personal prejudices with the rest of the world. Entries on Wikipedia et al are as reliable as gossip picked up in the corner of your local pub – and nowhere near as much fun.
Copyright Vernon Coleman