Join the Suckers’ Revolt


IT COULDN’T happen here, could it? A revolution, I mean.
We have seen a wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Greeks are staging national strikes. Irish are emigrating en masse, which is a sure sign of things going bad.
Revolutions have a way of spreading like swine flu, but Britain has avoided most of them throughout history, usually by giving the middle classes an impression of freedom.
Now, though, there is a sense of the squeezed middle classes becoming increasingly fed up at being milked like faithful old cows.
Revolutions are fuelled by a sense of injustice, and there’s plenty of that about. For an example: Plymouth City Council will approve its 2011/12 austerity Budget on Monday. This will see about £10million wiped off spending for the year, which will have huge consequences across the city.
Meanwhile One Hyde Park, the newly completed residential development in Knightsbridge in London, is selling bottom-of-the-range one-bedroom flats for £6.5million. A penthouse apartment there will set you back £140million.
I’ve never been one to resent people making lots of money through enterprise and hard work, even a bit of dumb luck. But I’ve never enjoyed being ripped off – and never before have I felt so thoroughly ripped-off.
Just one of those one-bedroom flats would more than halve Plymouth’s deficit and transform the fortunes of an entire city of 260,000 people. That can’t be right, surely?
SO WHO might buy a £6.5million one-bedroom apartment? Perhaps one of the Royal Bank of Scotland high-flyers.
The bank, which was rescued from collapse with £45billion of taxpayers’ money, posted its 2010 results yesterday: it lost £1.1 billion last year.
Meanwhile, RBS is paying its investment bankers bonuses of about £950million for 2010.
In 2008 there was an almighty train-wreck in our economy, caused by bankers worldwide. While you and I staggered from the debris in a state of shock, the bankers were running down the carriageways rifling through the pockets of the victims.
They have walked away with almost a trillion pounds of public money. And still they’re reluctant to lend to businesses and house-buyers who are desperate for capital to kick-start the British economy.
Last year Bob Diamond, the Barclays chief executive received more than £63million in a salary, shares and perks package. Let no one say that bankers are stupid.
THIS is no time to be picking on bankers alone. Perhaps you’ve noticed the soaring prices of food in your local supermarket.
It was the shortage of affordable food which triggered the revolution in Tunisia this month, and ultimately led to the bloodshed in Libya.
Across the world, from India to the Americas, food prices hit record levels in January.
That’s OK, then. Not the fault of the supermarkets: it’s down to poor harvests and rising populations.
Except that Sainsbury’s reported that in the six months to October last year its underlying profit before tax rose by 8.1per cent.
Tesco (profits up 12.5per cent in October 2010) has also been caught red-faced.
The company had to back down on credit card charges after a newspaper investigation discovered that millions of Tesco customers were being charged over the odds for using their cards abroad. The chain had introduced its own exchange rates.
All we need now is a name for the revolution. The Suckers’ Revolt?
BEFORE they join the revolution, people from the Weston Mill area in Plymouth will be going on the march against the proposed waste incinerator at North Yard.
Am I the only one who has noticed an oddity in the acres of documents published about this incinerator?
When MVV Umwelt did early exhibitions of its plans last year, it showed pictures of a building with an interesting curved roof and a minuscule pair of chimneys.
This month, having won the race, MVV has launched the obligatory second round of consultations.
As if by magic, the building has been transformed into a bog-standard industrial blot on the landscape with an 85-metre chimney.
So far, so bad. The project still has to go through the planning process, and the planning committee often demands architectural improvements. Don’t they?
Unfortunately… on Page 15 of the incinerator final business case I read this: “… additional costs which the partnership [Plymouth, Devon and Torbay councils] may have to bear could include requirements connected with obtaining planning approval such as additional architectural enhancement….” No wonder MVV was able to win the bidding.
*A version of this column was published in The Herald on February 23, 2011

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