Meaningful Exam Grades

Give employers and employees the Right to meaningful exam grades at GCSE and A level.

What does an A level "A" grade actually mean?

Has anyone seen a definition? No other grade system in public or private life is to poorly defined.

This does not do pupils and young adults any favours, as hard work and top grades are ignored and ridiculed.

It does not do employers any favours as they simply do not know how to discriminate between candidates, and probably reject potential excellent employees at the shortlist/sift stage without ever reading their achievements let alone meeting them.

Introduce a legally enforcable definition of the top 2 grades and the pass/fail boundary (others will follow naturally). For any subject with more that 1000 candidates an A grade could be defined as the top X%, a B the next Y% and fail less than Z% or less than U partly correct questions. (With over 1000 candidates there should be a "normal" and representative spread of abilities that is consistent from year to year, unless a particular subject is targetted by head teachers as being easy for thick pupils.)

To be honest, employers are less interested in absolute measures of ability, and more interested in comparing between candidates for selected key subjects – and that is not possible if a single grage covers a 40 point range.

Alternatively there needs to be some clear objective qualative definition that inspires confidence that an A grade in one subject represents the same level of intellegence, hard work, practice and learning as an A grade in a wildly different subject. Yes I realise that contradicts the above paragraph, but … this is very difficult to do without testing actual exam questions on statistically valid large number of benchmarked candidates – and that would of course mean revealing exam questions in advance.

Why is this idea important?

Give employers and employees the Right to meaningful exam grades at GCSE and A level.

What does an A level "A" grade actually mean?

Has anyone seen a definition? No other grade system in public or private life is to poorly defined.

This does not do pupils and young adults any favours, as hard work and top grades are ignored and ridiculed.

It does not do employers any favours as they simply do not know how to discriminate between candidates, and probably reject potential excellent employees at the shortlist/sift stage without ever reading their achievements let alone meeting them.

Introduce a legally enforcable definition of the top 2 grades and the pass/fail boundary (others will follow naturally). For any subject with more that 1000 candidates an A grade could be defined as the top X%, a B the next Y% and fail less than Z% or less than U partly correct questions. (With over 1000 candidates there should be a "normal" and representative spread of abilities that is consistent from year to year, unless a particular subject is targetted by head teachers as being easy for thick pupils.)

To be honest, employers are less interested in absolute measures of ability, and more interested in comparing between candidates for selected key subjects – and that is not possible if a single grage covers a 40 point range.

Alternatively there needs to be some clear objective qualative definition that inspires confidence that an A grade in one subject represents the same level of intellegence, hard work, practice and learning as an A grade in a wildly different subject. Yes I realise that contradicts the above paragraph, but … this is very difficult to do without testing actual exam questions on statistically valid large number of benchmarked candidates – and that would of course mean revealing exam questions in advance.

Encourage British Authors

Encourage British authors by giving them a financial lifebelt. Make the first £5,000 they earn from book publication each year tax free. even if they already pay income tax. Incentives will help first time authors and encourage published authors to go full time.

Expand the number of libraries monitored for author reward schemes and increase the number of British authors – not books – who receive payments based on library lending to 1,000. Raise the maximum author payment to £5,000 per year. (This might seem like spending more public money, but it will be self funding due to wages and taxes of publishers, printers, tax on films, etc – tax from just JK Rowling film would help hundreds of fledling authors.)

by lessimon

Why is this idea important?

Encourage British authors by giving them a financial lifebelt. Make the first £5,000 they earn from book publication each year tax free. even if they already pay income tax. Incentives will help first time authors and encourage published authors to go full time.

Expand the number of libraries monitored for author reward schemes and increase the number of British authors – not books – who receive payments based on library lending to 1,000. Raise the maximum author payment to £5,000 per year. (This might seem like spending more public money, but it will be self funding due to wages and taxes of publishers, printers, tax on films, etc – tax from just JK Rowling film would help hundreds of fledling authors.)

by lessimon

Restore Parents Rights To Detailed School Data

Ofcom school inspections used to provide parents with a wealth of factual data that could help parents see through wooly waffle and vague statements about "values" and "nurturing every child" and help parents decide if a school was good or not.

The right to this data has been destoryed with new simplified Section 5 reports. Restore this right now. At low cost schools could publish data every year. Or Ofstead could publish it for them. They already collect this data for the Government, so the extra cost would minimal.

Here is the information that I, as a parent, would look for when trying to shortlist schools or when considering moving to a new area:

Number of pupils (years 7-11 and sixth form separately), male and female numbers.

Number of teachers

New teachers in the year

How many established teachers have left

Teachers who have joined and left in the same year (staff turnover is an important indicator of an unhappy school).

Number of pupils who took every GCSE subject and numbers by grade band, by age or 1st attempt/2nd attempt (there is a huge difference between a school where most pupils take GCSEs in Hairdressing, Geography and Art at 16, bumping up the league table results, and schools where 14 year olds routinely sit Maths, and a third school where a minority of pupils sit hard subjects, and the same pupils resit once or twice if necessary to improve grades, but all three would score the same in league tables).

Number of pupils in GCSE points bands (do 10% of pupils get no GCSEs or 20%? Averages won't tell you that).

Ethnic breakdown of the school.

Class sizes.

Number of temporary exclusions and indication of how many pupils that refers to.

Number of permanent exclusions.

Pupil outcomes – number of Y11s gone on to further education categorised by 6th form in same school, Other 6th form, FE College, not gone on to further education.

        – number that have gone to University by rough Uni category (Oxbridge, Russel Group, middling, desperate, USA Ivy League) and subject or type of subject.

       – number employed / unemployed after 5 years.

by lessimon

Why is this idea important?

Ofcom school inspections used to provide parents with a wealth of factual data that could help parents see through wooly waffle and vague statements about "values" and "nurturing every child" and help parents decide if a school was good or not.

The right to this data has been destoryed with new simplified Section 5 reports. Restore this right now. At low cost schools could publish data every year. Or Ofstead could publish it for them. They already collect this data for the Government, so the extra cost would minimal.

Here is the information that I, as a parent, would look for when trying to shortlist schools or when considering moving to a new area:

Number of pupils (years 7-11 and sixth form separately), male and female numbers.

Number of teachers

New teachers in the year

How many established teachers have left

Teachers who have joined and left in the same year (staff turnover is an important indicator of an unhappy school).

Number of pupils who took every GCSE subject and numbers by grade band, by age or 1st attempt/2nd attempt (there is a huge difference between a school where most pupils take GCSEs in Hairdressing, Geography and Art at 16, bumping up the league table results, and schools where 14 year olds routinely sit Maths, and a third school where a minority of pupils sit hard subjects, and the same pupils resit once or twice if necessary to improve grades, but all three would score the same in league tables).

Number of pupils in GCSE points bands (do 10% of pupils get no GCSEs or 20%? Averages won't tell you that).

Ethnic breakdown of the school.

Class sizes.

Number of temporary exclusions and indication of how many pupils that refers to.

Number of permanent exclusions.

Pupil outcomes – number of Y11s gone on to further education categorised by 6th form in same school, Other 6th form, FE College, not gone on to further education.

        – number that have gone to University by rough Uni category (Oxbridge, Russel Group, middling, desperate, USA Ivy League) and subject or type of subject.

       – number employed / unemployed after 5 years.

by lessimon

Keep Civil Servant Details Private

The Conservatives pledged to publish the job titles for every member of staff in the Civil Service, and presumably all other public bodies.

This is dangerous.

And a massive breech of privacy.

There are good arguments for publishing some details of top staff, who suggest top level policies and brief Ministers, but 99% do not have this level of influence. Some have good reason for being selective about who they give their details to. A cousin of mine works for a Policing body. If her children's classmates knew that they would be beaten up regularly. Her car would be vandalised or sabotaged. If it were known that her husband has access to senstive data he would be a target for terrorists and organised crime. Most people have one or two dodgy relatives, some might be tempted to ask for favours. Neither my cousin or her husband are influential (or rich) so it is difficult to see what publshing their details would achieve. And publishing their grades would tell the whole world what salary they are on. From there it is a small step to putting peoples bank details on line.

By the way, their employer does not allow out-of-office phone messages, because that would make it easy for naughty people* to impersonate them while on holiday and exercise some Policing advantages or possibly hack their computers. Their neighbours know when they are on holiday, but not who they work for. These are genuine security and lifestyle issues. Redacting data would be unreliable and error prone.

Why is this idea important?

The Conservatives pledged to publish the job titles for every member of staff in the Civil Service, and presumably all other public bodies.

This is dangerous.

And a massive breech of privacy.

There are good arguments for publishing some details of top staff, who suggest top level policies and brief Ministers, but 99% do not have this level of influence. Some have good reason for being selective about who they give their details to. A cousin of mine works for a Policing body. If her children's classmates knew that they would be beaten up regularly. Her car would be vandalised or sabotaged. If it were known that her husband has access to senstive data he would be a target for terrorists and organised crime. Most people have one or two dodgy relatives, some might be tempted to ask for favours. Neither my cousin or her husband are influential (or rich) so it is difficult to see what publshing their details would achieve. And publishing their grades would tell the whole world what salary they are on. From there it is a small step to putting peoples bank details on line.

By the way, their employer does not allow out-of-office phone messages, because that would make it easy for naughty people* to impersonate them while on holiday and exercise some Policing advantages or possibly hack their computers. Their neighbours know when they are on holiday, but not who they work for. These are genuine security and lifestyle issues. Redacting data would be unreliable and error prone.

Stop Clampers Charging Extorionate Fees

Many reputable businesses hand car park management over to reputable clamping firms. They allow them to run car parks as a money making concession. Worse than that, the owner requires clampers to do that.

The reason is simple: the owner does not pay the clamper. The only money they get is when they actually clamp a car or van. They don't get paid for patrolling, putting up signs, deterring car thieves, etc. These routine activities are 100% cross-subsidised by clamping.

It does not cost £130 to fit a clamp when patrolling a car park anyway. It does not cost £130 to travel 100 yards and remove it. But it may cost that to employ someone full time and patrol at other times. This cross-subsidy is fundamentally wrong.

Make these contracts for no set fee illegal. Require the land owner to pay a Patrol Fee that covers the clampers day to day costs (or give them a cut of parking meter) and limit Release Fees to a cost that reflects reasonable time and effor for someone already in the area, with a mild punative element – say £20 total. Do not factor in the initial cost of clamping, as that can onlt happen if they are already in the area.

Why is this idea important?

Many reputable businesses hand car park management over to reputable clamping firms. They allow them to run car parks as a money making concession. Worse than that, the owner requires clampers to do that.

The reason is simple: the owner does not pay the clamper. The only money they get is when they actually clamp a car or van. They don't get paid for patrolling, putting up signs, deterring car thieves, etc. These routine activities are 100% cross-subsidised by clamping.

It does not cost £130 to fit a clamp when patrolling a car park anyway. It does not cost £130 to travel 100 yards and remove it. But it may cost that to employ someone full time and patrol at other times. This cross-subsidy is fundamentally wrong.

Make these contracts for no set fee illegal. Require the land owner to pay a Patrol Fee that covers the clampers day to day costs (or give them a cut of parking meter) and limit Release Fees to a cost that reflects reasonable time and effor for someone already in the area, with a mild punative element – say £20 total. Do not factor in the initial cost of clamping, as that can onlt happen if they are already in the area.

Ban Party Lists at Elections

For some types of election votes get to choose between Party LIsts. This is profoundly undemocratic. Voters who are, say, left-leaning, cannot diffrentiate between a hard left idealist and a compromising pragmatist, whatever their preference.

Instead of decisions about which person is elected being made by 30,000 voters (or whatever), the decision is made by a selection committee of perhaps 12. Worst case the reality is that the Selection Committee Organiser effectively puts the list together on his or her own. The top candidate is guaranteed to be elected. The 20th placed is guaranteed not to.

If a prospective candidate upsets the wrong person a jumped up Party Discipline rule is invoked to get them suspended, and Hey Presto, they don't get on the list. Party machines have favourites and will do anything to displace who is at the top of the list and gettheir candidate there. Thatcher and Blair were outsiders would never have been high on a List (OK, bad example). Churchill was seen as a troublemaker past his prime – a List system would have put Chaimberlain clones above him.

It's a scheme that Danton would have loved during The Terror period of the French Revolution. Or Stalin.

Why is this idea important?

For some types of election votes get to choose between Party LIsts. This is profoundly undemocratic. Voters who are, say, left-leaning, cannot diffrentiate between a hard left idealist and a compromising pragmatist, whatever their preference.

Instead of decisions about which person is elected being made by 30,000 voters (or whatever), the decision is made by a selection committee of perhaps 12. Worst case the reality is that the Selection Committee Organiser effectively puts the list together on his or her own. The top candidate is guaranteed to be elected. The 20th placed is guaranteed not to.

If a prospective candidate upsets the wrong person a jumped up Party Discipline rule is invoked to get them suspended, and Hey Presto, they don't get on the list. Party machines have favourites and will do anything to displace who is at the top of the list and gettheir candidate there. Thatcher and Blair were outsiders would never have been high on a List (OK, bad example). Churchill was seen as a troublemaker past his prime – a List system would have put Chaimberlain clones above him.

It's a scheme that Danton would have loved during The Terror period of the French Revolution. Or Stalin.

Secure Bank Payments

The right to secure banking must be restored. Debit cards are not a secure payment system and are worse than cheques. Banks must be forced to give customers a secure payment system.

 Banks have decided to eliminate cheques just as soon as they can get away with it. They have already forced customers to have debit cards, and persuaded most retailers to drop cheques in favour of debit cards.

 Why? Supposedly because debit cards are safer and cost less to process. The reality is that debit cards transfer all risk from the bank to the customer – if the customer alleges a fraudulent transaction it is the customers problem, not the banks. In the past the bank had to prove that the customer had been negligent, now it is the other way round.

 Cheques provide clear physical proof of a transaction. Debit cards do not – there is no signature to be proved and no proof of time or location (there have been instances of these being faked). Every single time someone makes a transaction, they give the other party all the information required for fraudulent transactions by phone – 16 digit card number, account name and expiry date. No biometric is required – signatures may not have been perfect, but a fake can usually be spotted. No finite document is required – the card details do not wear out.

 Debit cards were supposedly more secure because the chips could not be copied. But 4 years after introduction pretty well every debit card still has an easily copied magnetic strip.

 Anyone can use a stolen or fake card with impunity. Cards must carry photos and, to detect different photos, the photo must be displayed and transmitted to the bank and stored each time the card is used.

 Banks must report all fraudulent use to the Police, no matter how small. Currently handling is delegated to banks, who may be tempted to sweep it under the carpet.

 All fraud must be deducted from bank profits and clearly reported as such in Annual Reports to shareholders. It must not be considered an operating cost, or passed on to customers.

Here is what is essential:

Change the law so the main theft risk lies with the bank, not the card holder.

Change the system to one where data used in one transaction is useless for another.

Validate all transactions with a random biometric including cardholder not present.

Withdraw all magnetic strip devices urgently.

Report all theft/fraud to the Police.

Deduct all financial losses from theft/fraud from profits and clearly report this to shareholders.

Why is this idea important?

The right to secure banking must be restored. Debit cards are not a secure payment system and are worse than cheques. Banks must be forced to give customers a secure payment system.

 Banks have decided to eliminate cheques just as soon as they can get away with it. They have already forced customers to have debit cards, and persuaded most retailers to drop cheques in favour of debit cards.

 Why? Supposedly because debit cards are safer and cost less to process. The reality is that debit cards transfer all risk from the bank to the customer – if the customer alleges a fraudulent transaction it is the customers problem, not the banks. In the past the bank had to prove that the customer had been negligent, now it is the other way round.

 Cheques provide clear physical proof of a transaction. Debit cards do not – there is no signature to be proved and no proof of time or location (there have been instances of these being faked). Every single time someone makes a transaction, they give the other party all the information required for fraudulent transactions by phone – 16 digit card number, account name and expiry date. No biometric is required – signatures may not have been perfect, but a fake can usually be spotted. No finite document is required – the card details do not wear out.

 Debit cards were supposedly more secure because the chips could not be copied. But 4 years after introduction pretty well every debit card still has an easily copied magnetic strip.

 Anyone can use a stolen or fake card with impunity. Cards must carry photos and, to detect different photos, the photo must be displayed and transmitted to the bank and stored each time the card is used.

 Banks must report all fraudulent use to the Police, no matter how small. Currently handling is delegated to banks, who may be tempted to sweep it under the carpet.

 All fraud must be deducted from bank profits and clearly reported as such in Annual Reports to shareholders. It must not be considered an operating cost, or passed on to customers.

Here is what is essential:

Change the law so the main theft risk lies with the bank, not the card holder.

Change the system to one where data used in one transaction is useless for another.

Validate all transactions with a random biometric including cardholder not present.

Withdraw all magnetic strip devices urgently.

Report all theft/fraud to the Police.

Deduct all financial losses from theft/fraud from profits and clearly report this to shareholders.

Allow Own Electrical DIY

Recent laws make it illegal to do any electrical DIY more complex than changing a plug. A qualified electrician must be used.

A full time Electrical Engineeers who designs missile systems would not be allowed to add a simple junction box or change a one way light swich for a 2 way one. Likewise someone with a science degree. Or a garage mechanic who specialises in car electrics.

This is absurd and out of all proportion to the number of actual accidents over the past 10 years.

In fact it is nothing more than back door closed shop rules and restraint of trade.

Why is this idea important?

Recent laws make it illegal to do any electrical DIY more complex than changing a plug. A qualified electrician must be used.

A full time Electrical Engineeers who designs missile systems would not be allowed to add a simple junction box or change a one way light swich for a 2 way one. Likewise someone with a science degree. Or a garage mechanic who specialises in car electrics.

This is absurd and out of all proportion to the number of actual accidents over the past 10 years.

In fact it is nothing more than back door closed shop rules and restraint of trade.

Don’t Give Clampers People’s Addresses

When people register cars it is so the Police can trace car owners if they break the law. There is a high standard of proof and the Police have high standards.

People do not give their details so some licenced ex-nighclub bouncer can make a trumped up allegation and harass them at home. But that's exactly what happens. Any "person with a valid claim" eg a car park attendant or clamper – can write to the DVLA and get the owners details for a can registration number.

This WILL be abused. Owners of expensive cars will find themselves burgled. Attractive women will gain stalkers. Grudges will be pursued.

There is an altenative – the DVLA should never disclose an address but should instead forward communications for a modest fee, say 50p.

Remember, convicted hammer murderer Levi Bellifield was the owner of a clamping business. He could have got your home address without any questions.

Why is this idea important?

When people register cars it is so the Police can trace car owners if they break the law. There is a high standard of proof and the Police have high standards.

People do not give their details so some licenced ex-nighclub bouncer can make a trumped up allegation and harass them at home. But that's exactly what happens. Any "person with a valid claim" eg a car park attendant or clamper – can write to the DVLA and get the owners details for a can registration number.

This WILL be abused. Owners of expensive cars will find themselves burgled. Attractive women will gain stalkers. Grudges will be pursued.

There is an altenative – the DVLA should never disclose an address but should instead forward communications for a modest fee, say 50p.

Remember, convicted hammer murderer Levi Bellifield was the owner of a clamping business. He could have got your home address without any questions.

Let Owners Build Big Houses On Own Land – With Garages

If you own a piece of land you are not allowed to build a comfortable house to your own design. Government rules effectively forbid you from making the rooms large enough to be comfortable. You probably cannot build just one house either because Minimum Density Regulations mean the land only gets planning consent if it is split into two or more. And no way will you be allowed as much parking as you want. Two adults and two teens who will soon be working 20 miles away – no the PolitiKal Kommisars in most areas order a maximum of 1 parking space per household (often less, 0.8 for flats) in order to force people onto public transport. Which is fine except late at night, early in the morning, on Bank Holidays, if providing any kind of emergency response, or simply if one has back pain and cannot use badly driven busses.

Do not impose maximum standards on property owners that they cannot exceed.

Why is this idea important?

If you own a piece of land you are not allowed to build a comfortable house to your own design. Government rules effectively forbid you from making the rooms large enough to be comfortable. You probably cannot build just one house either because Minimum Density Regulations mean the land only gets planning consent if it is split into two or more. And no way will you be allowed as much parking as you want. Two adults and two teens who will soon be working 20 miles away – no the PolitiKal Kommisars in most areas order a maximum of 1 parking space per household (often less, 0.8 for flats) in order to force people onto public transport. Which is fine except late at night, early in the morning, on Bank Holidays, if providing any kind of emergency response, or simply if one has back pain and cannot use badly driven busses.

Do not impose maximum standards on property owners that they cannot exceed.

Right To Evict Squatters

At present if a householder leaves a window open, squatters can get in and can legally occupy a house until an expensive High Court order has been obtained. This can take weeks or months.

If a small landlord is doing up a property and builders leave a window or door open to bring building materials in or let paint fumes out the same applies.

in 99% of cases squatters are parasites who leach off property that would genuinely be owner or tenant occupied. It is very rare for property owners to genuinely be unaware of property that they own (the GLC famously forgot to transfer some expensive Council stock to London Boroughs but that is rare).

Change the law so a High Court order is unnecessary. If a house already has an occupant or building work is in progress, give the owner the owner or tenant the right to call the Police and regain the property the very same day, subject only to proof of identity, eg Debit Card checked against Electoral Register.

"Squatters Rights are important because some landlords deliberately keep property vacant" ~ if the Government wants to preserve David-v-Goliath laws, keep Squatters Rights, but only where the squatter can proove that a property has been unoccupied for more than 6 months, eg dated photographs showing the passing of the seasons.

And put effective laws in place to recover court costs and repairs – "Oh I found it like that" should not be an excuse.

Why is this idea important?

At present if a householder leaves a window open, squatters can get in and can legally occupy a house until an expensive High Court order has been obtained. This can take weeks or months.

If a small landlord is doing up a property and builders leave a window or door open to bring building materials in or let paint fumes out the same applies.

in 99% of cases squatters are parasites who leach off property that would genuinely be owner or tenant occupied. It is very rare for property owners to genuinely be unaware of property that they own (the GLC famously forgot to transfer some expensive Council stock to London Boroughs but that is rare).

Change the law so a High Court order is unnecessary. If a house already has an occupant or building work is in progress, give the owner the owner or tenant the right to call the Police and regain the property the very same day, subject only to proof of identity, eg Debit Card checked against Electoral Register.

"Squatters Rights are important because some landlords deliberately keep property vacant" ~ if the Government wants to preserve David-v-Goliath laws, keep Squatters Rights, but only where the squatter can proove that a property has been unoccupied for more than 6 months, eg dated photographs showing the passing of the seasons.

And put effective laws in place to recover court costs and repairs – "Oh I found it like that" should not be an excuse.

Pensions

The Labour government was a major factor in the decline of Final Salary pensions over the past q0 years. The Coalition can change laws to make them more attractive.

Factors Making Final Salary Pensions Less Attractive

  1. Demographics – Aging Population
  2. Allowing Risky Investments
  3. Banning Over-Funding
  4. Showing Pensions As A Liability
  5. Share Collapses

Point 1 – pensioners living longer and a lower birth rate – is not the Government's fault

Point 2 is directly the fault of Westminster. The law was changed to allow pension funds to invested in riskier shares and other investments. Pension fund managers are competitive and went for maximim growth. This exposed pension funds to the 2001 Tech Share Collapse and the 2008 Banking Crisis, both wiping out 50% of the value of some funds. If pensions had stayed invested in Bonds most funds would still be in surplus.

In the run up to the 2001 Tech Share collapse some companies actually wanted to put more into their pension funds, but were banned by Government rules preventing what the Government saw as "over-funding". A few years later and those companies have sadly been proved correct – the funds are now in serious defecit and closed to new entrants.

Also if a pension fund is technically over-funded the company becomes attractive to predators. It can be taken over and run with zero employers pension contribution until the surplus has evaporated. Close the company and the so-called surplus can be "returned" to the new owners.

Company pension funding is formally assessed every 3 years, but under accounting changes introduced in the 1990s, a pension fund defecit has to be shown as a liability on the companies books every time they are published. For companies that have 1/4ly reporting this can have a massive impact on the apparent value of a company every 3 months as the stock market fluctuates. This is despite the reality that pensions are investments accumulated over 40 years and paid out over 15-20 years, enabling them to smooth out short term fluctuations and rely on "underlying value".

The chilling effect of showing short-term shared-price based pension liabilities on company books is that even if a company is well run, stable, profitable, and has a well funded pension fund, the company's official book value can fluctuate wildly. Regardless of how much money the employer has to put in, just this fluctuation makes a Final Salary Scheme threatening.

Most of  these points can be addressed by Government making changes to UK law.

As for demographics, the real figures are not as bad as the scare stories quoted in the papers. One factor is the number of people who could work but do not, and what figure is used for "working population". Secondly the pension age will inevitably rise,even if only to equal Male and Female retirement, improving the Worker:Pensioner ratio. Taking millions of teens out of employment and encouraging them undertake 5 years of Further & Higher Education is a deliberate political decision that has an obvious impact on the size of the workforce. However it makes sense if it increases productivity over a person's lifetime – that increased productivity should be taken into account.

Why is this idea important?

The Labour government was a major factor in the decline of Final Salary pensions over the past q0 years. The Coalition can change laws to make them more attractive.

Factors Making Final Salary Pensions Less Attractive

  1. Demographics – Aging Population
  2. Allowing Risky Investments
  3. Banning Over-Funding
  4. Showing Pensions As A Liability
  5. Share Collapses

Point 1 – pensioners living longer and a lower birth rate – is not the Government's fault

Point 2 is directly the fault of Westminster. The law was changed to allow pension funds to invested in riskier shares and other investments. Pension fund managers are competitive and went for maximim growth. This exposed pension funds to the 2001 Tech Share Collapse and the 2008 Banking Crisis, both wiping out 50% of the value of some funds. If pensions had stayed invested in Bonds most funds would still be in surplus.

In the run up to the 2001 Tech Share collapse some companies actually wanted to put more into their pension funds, but were banned by Government rules preventing what the Government saw as "over-funding". A few years later and those companies have sadly been proved correct – the funds are now in serious defecit and closed to new entrants.

Also if a pension fund is technically over-funded the company becomes attractive to predators. It can be taken over and run with zero employers pension contribution until the surplus has evaporated. Close the company and the so-called surplus can be "returned" to the new owners.

Company pension funding is formally assessed every 3 years, but under accounting changes introduced in the 1990s, a pension fund defecit has to be shown as a liability on the companies books every time they are published. For companies that have 1/4ly reporting this can have a massive impact on the apparent value of a company every 3 months as the stock market fluctuates. This is despite the reality that pensions are investments accumulated over 40 years and paid out over 15-20 years, enabling them to smooth out short term fluctuations and rely on "underlying value".

The chilling effect of showing short-term shared-price based pension liabilities on company books is that even if a company is well run, stable, profitable, and has a well funded pension fund, the company's official book value can fluctuate wildly. Regardless of how much money the employer has to put in, just this fluctuation makes a Final Salary Scheme threatening.

Most of  these points can be addressed by Government making changes to UK law.

As for demographics, the real figures are not as bad as the scare stories quoted in the papers. One factor is the number of people who could work but do not, and what figure is used for "working population". Secondly the pension age will inevitably rise,even if only to equal Male and Female retirement, improving the Worker:Pensioner ratio. Taking millions of teens out of employment and encouraging them undertake 5 years of Further & Higher Education is a deliberate political decision that has an obvious impact on the size of the workforce. However it makes sense if it increases productivity over a person's lifetime – that increased productivity should be taken into account.

Limit EU Powers To Mimimal Intervention

The EU legislates in minute detail on every aspect of trade and commerce. It cannot resist the urge to intervene and thinks that more rules and regulations improve business. Drawing up laws that cover every national variation inevitably makes the rules lengthy, complex, difficult to interpret and largely irrelevant. The rules on coffins in hot climates, for example, are not relevant in icy ones.

The EU constitution in the form of European Union treaties must be amended so that EU laws, rules and regulations are only valid so far as they are the very minimum necessary for international free trade in goods and services.

Business should be free to ignore excessive regulation without fear or years of delay while court cases drag on.

Why is this idea important?

The EU legislates in minute detail on every aspect of trade and commerce. It cannot resist the urge to intervene and thinks that more rules and regulations improve business. Drawing up laws that cover every national variation inevitably makes the rules lengthy, complex, difficult to interpret and largely irrelevant. The rules on coffins in hot climates, for example, are not relevant in icy ones.

The EU constitution in the form of European Union treaties must be amended so that EU laws, rules and regulations are only valid so far as they are the very minimum necessary for international free trade in goods and services.

Business should be free to ignore excessive regulation without fear or years of delay while court cases drag on.

Abolish Anti-Post Office Rules

Rural Post Offices are becoming increasingly unviable and closing daily. This is partly because of restrictive Government rules about how they conduct their business. Abolish these rules.

In many villages a Post Office function is provided as part of a shop that employs just 1, 2 or 3 people. The Sub-Post Office is not a viable business propostion on it's own, but is a small section at the back. But Government rules say it must open exactly the same hours as a busy Post Office in town employing 10-20 full time staff. Increasingly the owners find they cannot put in 5 1/2 full days without employing extra staff that they just can't afford.

But their customers would easily adapt to different hours. The alternative is that the Post Office closes and they get no service. How is that better?

Also the tiny Sub-Post-Office has to provide a full range of services, many that are never used. Most people want to be able to post things, buy stamps, have a basic banking system, buy car tax and TV licences. Anything else is an optional extra.

Remove these restrictions, or accept that Sub-Post Offices are not run on commercial business lines and heavily subsidise them.

Why is this idea important?

Rural Post Offices are becoming increasingly unviable and closing daily. This is partly because of restrictive Government rules about how they conduct their business. Abolish these rules.

In many villages a Post Office function is provided as part of a shop that employs just 1, 2 or 3 people. The Sub-Post Office is not a viable business propostion on it's own, but is a small section at the back. But Government rules say it must open exactly the same hours as a busy Post Office in town employing 10-20 full time staff. Increasingly the owners find they cannot put in 5 1/2 full days without employing extra staff that they just can't afford.

But their customers would easily adapt to different hours. The alternative is that the Post Office closes and they get no service. How is that better?

Also the tiny Sub-Post-Office has to provide a full range of services, many that are never used. Most people want to be able to post things, buy stamps, have a basic banking system, buy car tax and TV licences. Anything else is an optional extra.

Remove these restrictions, or accept that Sub-Post Offices are not run on commercial business lines and heavily subsidise them.

Repeal H&S Law Banning 2-in-a-bar Pub Entertainment

In about 1999 Labour enacted a new Health & Safety law.

Until then any pub could stage occasional enertainment with 1 or 2 entertainers with no paperwork whatsoever, under the "2 in a bar" rule.

Many pubs used this for folk singers or kareoke. Some had aspiring stand up comics. Some had talent nights. A few even had one stripper once or twice a week. For many pubs this was an essential lifeline when finances were tight. It was easy, there were no complex forms or assessments, no licencing hearings, fees or delays.

Then Labour introduced compulsory Health & Safety assessments, even for one stand up comic appearing for an hour twice a year. The cost of expert assesments could easy be the cost of a barman/woman's wages for a year. And that was without expensive H&S adaptations in case the perfectly ordinary pub suddenly became unsafe. Measures seen as appropriate for crowded pubs with off-West End theates upstairs and audiences of 100s packed into small spaces were applied equally to rural pubs with 10 customers and 3 exits.

Result? Overnight closure of many small struggling pubs including my favourite, The Fort.

This is H&S overkill. And anyone who says won't it being back strippers, I say they were in most towns until then, and had been for at least 20 years, on an occasional discreet basis. By all means have licencing for all-day 7-day-a-week establishments that don't do anything else, but this ban closed struggling community pubs. It destroyed a financial safety valve, diversity, and directly lead to concentration of all-day 7-day-a-week establishments specialising in pole dancers because only the big operators could afford the operating costs. And that concentration is not a good thing for custoers, neighbours or dancers.

Why is this idea important?

In about 1999 Labour enacted a new Health & Safety law.

Until then any pub could stage occasional enertainment with 1 or 2 entertainers with no paperwork whatsoever, under the "2 in a bar" rule.

Many pubs used this for folk singers or kareoke. Some had aspiring stand up comics. Some had talent nights. A few even had one stripper once or twice a week. For many pubs this was an essential lifeline when finances were tight. It was easy, there were no complex forms or assessments, no licencing hearings, fees or delays.

Then Labour introduced compulsory Health & Safety assessments, even for one stand up comic appearing for an hour twice a year. The cost of expert assesments could easy be the cost of a barman/woman's wages for a year. And that was without expensive H&S adaptations in case the perfectly ordinary pub suddenly became unsafe. Measures seen as appropriate for crowded pubs with off-West End theates upstairs and audiences of 100s packed into small spaces were applied equally to rural pubs with 10 customers and 3 exits.

Result? Overnight closure of many small struggling pubs including my favourite, The Fort.

This is H&S overkill. And anyone who says won't it being back strippers, I say they were in most towns until then, and had been for at least 20 years, on an occasional discreet basis. By all means have licencing for all-day 7-day-a-week establishments that don't do anything else, but this ban closed struggling community pubs. It destroyed a financial safety valve, diversity, and directly lead to concentration of all-day 7-day-a-week establishments specialising in pole dancers because only the big operators could afford the operating costs. And that concentration is not a good thing for custoers, neighbours or dancers.