24

A4e scandal

2012 at 16:27 by Liz Hodgkinson

I had only vaguely heard of the welfare-to-work company A4e before the scandal broke. Until then I had no idea of the scale of payments made to the company bu the government; that's us, the taxpayer. Nor did I know that Emma Harrison, the charismatic, pushy woman who started the company, pocketed over £8 million last year of public money. The contracts awarded by the government to this company ran into the hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet why was this outsourced in the first place?

As I understand it, A4e (Action for Employment) is a training company which imparts skills to the long-term unemployed to get them back into work. But they can't get them back into work if there are no jobs...

01

Leveson Inquiry

2012 at 16:25 by Liz Hodgkinson

The Leveson Inquiry has got us thinking about journalism as never before. But what Lord Leveson and the various barristers don't quite understand is that you need a particular mindset to be a journalist in the first place. So what is that mindset? First of all you need to be curious. Then you have to want to communicate. Then you have to have a sense of fun and be irreverent and iconoclastic. You have a desire to be dramatic, to want to shake people up, startle them, report what has never been reported before. Above all, you want to find out.

It's not so much that you want to get information by illegal or questionable means, as that any means which will secure a good story can be...

30

Why would anybody be a landlord?

2011 at 19:37 by Liz Hodgkinson

Many media commentators, particularly in The Guardian Money section, have inveighed against landlords, depicting them as greedy grasping moneymakers, intent on squeezing all they can out of poor hapless tenants. For most of us it's not like that at all. We became landlords for no other reason than we wished to secure some kind of reasonable income for ourselves in our old age. Pensions didn't do it, savings didn't do it, and the expectation that we would be able to work and earn money into our dotage, didn't do it either. So, we invested in property because there seemed nothing else, quite simply, on offer. So we bought properties which we hoped we might be able to rent out for a...

21

News of the World Scandal

2011 at 20:12 by Liz Hodgkinson

The non-Murdoch media has predictably been crowing over the phone hacking scandal presently engulfing the Murdoch empire - New International and Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and others have appeared before a House of Commons select committee. But what does it all mean, in reality? Yes it is totally unacceptable that the phones of murder victims werek hacked -- and yet one can see how it happened. The Milly Dowler case was high-profile and although her family may not have sought publicity, they were sucked into by the murder of their daughter. And really, that is what tabloid newspapers like the News of the World have always been about - getting deeper into the story than weekly papers and...

03

Care home scandal

2011 at 12:21 by Liz Hodgkinson

The story of the Southern Cross care home company should make us all think and ponder hard. It's something which should never have happened, never have been allowed to happen. Briefly, somewhere along the lines somebody saw a way of making big bucks from these vulnerable elderly people and the local councils who were responsible for the care of those who could not afford to pay for themselves. Instead of being non-profit, these homes, or their owners at least, began to view both the actual premises and the old people who lived in them as cash cows.
Many of us thought - if indeed we gave it any thought - that local authority care homes were owned by the local authorities. But no, they were...

31

Save our libraries

2011 at 15:07 by Liz Hodgkinson

The campaign to save our libraries is gathering force in Oxford -- as one might expect, where there are a lot of readers and writers. Several famous local writers, including Philip Pullman, have enthusiastically joined in the campaign. So why save libraries? In the first place, libraries are welcoming, friendly places where the staff are helpful, knowledgeable and professional. There is hardly any book that they cannot get for you and they will scour everywhere to find it. In the second place, the computers in libraries provide an essential service for those who cannot afford or who don't have, their own home computer. In the third place, they have useful reference sections where you can...

24

Banks, fat cats and breaking up

2011 at 12:33 by Liz Hodgkinson

I've been saying it for years and now it seems they're finally listening -- not to me, but to sense. Banks must be broken up into retail and investment areas which are quite separate from each other and never overlap. It can't be right that banks gamble with our money. We deposit our wages and savings into bank accounts because, quite simply, there is nowhere else to put them. In the old days you could get paid in cash or keep your money under the mattress but those days are long over. Everybody has to have some kind of bank account, even people on benefits. It's easy to see why; it's so the government can keep a check on how much money everybody has got and what they do with it, for tax...

06

the VAT rise

2011 at 11:34 by Liz Hodgkinson

VAT goes up to 20% and one thing is certain -- it will never come down again. When VAT was first introduced, it was 8% and has steadily risen to its present rate. Not only that, but VAT has been gradually levied on an ever wider range of goods and services, such as gas and electricity. Another thing is certain and that is that governments will take ever more money off us. It was not the fault of the great British public, or American public, or French public, that we now have such a huge deficit. Although there are many factors, a lot can be blamed on governments allowing banks to get away with what is little more than organised, sanctioned fraud or theft. What can we do? Very little,...

25

The Cameron new baby

2010 at 07:49 by Liz Hodgkinson

 

The world is, apparently, excited and thrilled that Samantha Cameron has had a fourth baby, delivered by Caesarean section at Truro Hospital. It is a girl, weighing just over six pounds (amazing how they revert to old weights at these times)  and David Cameron is on record as saying he is a very proud dad.

Cue gushing from such as Sarah Brown (‘lovely announcement of the new Downing Street baby’) and congratulations from both the powerful and the powerless.  But let’s unpick all this for a moment. Firstly, should a responsible world leader be setting an example by having four children? Isn’t two more than enough in today’s world where there are not going to be enough jobs for...

26

Liz’s booksblog: books I have enjoyed or read recently

2010 at 13:17 by Liz Hodgkinson

Lynn Barber: An Education. The book of the film of the book; vastly expanded version of Lynn's original memoir. It tells not only how she fell for a conman aged 16 but of her marriage, career and husband's ghastly death. Lynn's story is particularly interesting to me because I am exactly the same age and like her, I came from a very ordinary background, went to university and had an exciting, if nerveracking, career as a journalist and author. But as this book proves, we are all very different creatures, even when we have so much in common. Lynn's parents encouraged her to get an education and go to Oxford; mine didn't. They would have been happy enough for me to leave school at 16 and...

26

Where is feminism now?

2010 at 10:24 by Liz Hodgkinson

Have we forgotten about feminism? Or do we imagine the fight is long over? Certainly there have been many gains for women in the past 40 years or so. We have access to effective contraception, equal education and we have long been able to secure our own mortgages and bank loans and set up our own businesses. In fact, in the secular world, the gains have been spectacular.

But in the religious world, women are still seen as secondary. I can’t believe the fight that is going on to ‘allow’ women to be bishops, especially now that most (as it seems to me) urban and rural vicars are now female.  What difference does the gender make? After all, bishops dress up in female clothes and always have...

25

Health in old age

2010 at 16:15 by Liz Hodgkinson

I want to get a forum going about health in old age. First of all, I wonder whether I'm unusual in that, at 66, I seem to be completely healthy and take no pills or medication at all, not even vitamins or minerals.
I never go to the doctor - haven't been for about 20 years - and I refuse all the check-ups that are offered by the NHS. My own health regime is simple and works for me. For over 30 years now I have been vegetarian and although I've been told that I may be deficient in protein, I'm not quite sure how such a deficiency would manifest itself. Certainly there don't seem to be any obvious deficiencies: I don't suffer from undue tiredness and have plenty of energy for my daily tasks,...

23

Distressed properties: should you buy?

2010 at 14:29 by Liz Hodgkinson

My inbox – don’t know about anybody else’s – is currently littered with ads to buy distressed properties, currently on offer all over the world: Bahamas, France, Italy, Greece,Spain, US, Bulgaria, UK.

The prices sound tempting enough. Many Florida properties are on sale for what seem like very small five-figure sums, such as $45,000. They are often described as rent-ready and in immaculate condition.

But am I tempted, and should you be? No! Why would you want a ‘distressed’ property and why is it distressed anyway?  The term does not refer to the condition of the property, but the fact that it has been repossessed or foreclosed by the bank. Very often, these sales are released back onto...

21

Should you invest in property right now?

2010 at 06:56 by Liz Hodgkinson

If you have some spare cash or are considering downsizing, is now a good time to invest in property?

Fears about capital gains and VAT rises, plus the continuing uncertainty of the property market, has understandably made people very jittery about risking large sums of money on bricks and mortar investments, both in the UK and abroad.

At the same time, the internet is littered with apparently wonderful bargains: Buy a Caribbean hideaway for just £1 down; come to our free distressed property seminar; make a guaranteed 20% profit every year, are examples of the kind of offers and promises you now see.

My advice is: take no notice of any of them and do your own research. Never, ever rely...

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See my brilliant article on The Quakers in the new edition of The Idler.
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13 October 2014
I am now an Airbnb host and hosting guests from all over the world. To see my listing, go to the Airbnb site and look up 'Oxford'.
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