Monthly Archives: November 2014

How Labour WASTED £12.4 billion on NHS IT System

UPDATE MAY 2017

I originally wrote this article over two years ago, but I am re-publishing it in the light of the latest success of the worldwide hacking attack that has hit the NHS so hard.

This blog is essentially about property and general money matters, so admittedly this is a little out of its normal scope. However, it certainly IS also about money and, given that Labour are endlessly preaching about spending more of our money on their sacred cow, the NHS, I feel compelled to try to remind people of Labour’s incredible ability to waste massive amounts of our money on it.

The way the NHS has been affected by the latest worldwide hacking attack underlines the low quality of senior management in the NHS. This though is not a party political failing, more one of complacent and inefficient management.

NHS Computer System – what was it?

Simply put, it was envisaged that it would be a national patient record IT system, linking health professionals, hospitals, GP practices etc. The project was originally started in 2002, with a total budget of £2.3bn envisaged! Imagine you asked a builder to estimate for some work on your house and he quoted £50,000 but when he gave you the bill, it was for £269,000!

In 2005 a government agency, grandly called NHS Connecting for Health was formed to administer the project.  Various private IT companies were subsequently awarded contracts by the Department of Health and the whole bloody fiasco was presided over by a succession of ever so well-meaning Labour Secretaries of State for Health. So let’s remind ourselves of those names…

The Ministers Responsible

Alan Milburn  (October 1999 – June 2003)
John Reid  (June 2003 – May 2005)
Patricia Hewitt (May 2005 – June 2007)
Alan Johnson  (June 2007 – June 2009)
Andy Burnham (June 2009 – May 2010) (as of December 2014 – current Shadow Secretary of State for Health)

Yes Minister

As usual, it seems impossible to uncover all the names of the useless senior civil servants in the DoH and this is the way they always work, by remaining effectively shadowy and anonymous. Thus we have phrases like ‘The DoH decided that’ or ‘The DoH awarded the contracts to’ etc etc.  It’s as if a huge stone building in Whitehall actually signed off poorly drafted contracts. Various names are available however, such as David Nicholson (associated with the Mid Staffs scandal), Richard Granger, Gordon Hextall, Richard Jeavons and Harry Cayton.

Saving contractors money

Richard Granger is of particular interest. He was the Director General of IT for The NHS, on a basic salary of around a £280,000 a year. And that was back in 2006 when £280,000 a year was good money. The ridiculous costs for this project should have been lessened by clauses in their contracts which made the contractors liable to pay massive compensatory sums to the DoH in the event that they withdrew from the projects.  Accenture, just one of the contractors, withdrew in 2006 and, instead of charging them £1 billion, as their contract allowed, it’s reported that Richard Granger charged them just £63 million – a massive saving for Accenture of about £937 million – and an extra cost of £937 million to all of us! Granger apparently started his career with Andersen Consulting…which subsequently went on to become Accenture. Interesting.

The project was FINALLY abandoned on 2013 with total costs of around £12.4bn – a revised cost that had already been predicted by the National Audit Office as far back as June 2006.

‘Doctors and Nurses…Doctors and Nurses’

When justifying yet another raid on our pockets in the form of higher taxes, the Labour Party are fond of endlessly talking about ‘Doctors and Nurses, Doctors and Nurses’ and that if we want enough ‘Doctors and Nurses’ we must pay even more tax.  So, next time you hear the lovely Andy Burnham bleating about ‘creeping privatisation’ by the Tories and  preaching about ‘Labour’s Commitment to properly funding the NHS’ and that the NHS is only ‘safe in their hands’…remember The Great NHS Computer System Scandal. Mr Burnham admittedly came in on the tail end of it but it WAS a Labour project from the start.

This Labour Government Project WASTED £12.4 billion of OUR MONEY. They might as well have stuffed it all down the nearest drain – except of course that it made a few (private) IT companies very rich indeed and helped pay the mortgages of a number of obscenely overpaid civil servants like Dave Nicholson (‘Sir David’ to the sycophants in our society), Richard Granger and many others.

£12.4 billion – How else could they have spent it?

I’ve done a few back of fag packet calculations (as Nigel Farage would say). Naturally they are very approximate, although nowhere near as approximate as government estimates of costs!

  • Assuming an average salary of £22000 pa…approximately 563000 nurses for a year or 28000 nurses for 20 years!
  • Assuming a very generous salary of £100,000 pa we could have employed 124000 GPs for one year.
  • Don’t know how much a hospital costs but I reckon we could have a had a few of them for £12.4 billion.

And finally, if they hadn’t WASTED this mountain of money maybe the inappropriately named NIHCE would have been able to license more expensive life-saving drugs and therapies.

Of course, this scandal is symptomatic of how government and the civil service waste our money on an industrial scale. I seem to remember that Phillip Green was commissioned by the Government in 2010 to find ways of saving cash. He estimated that up to £20 billion a YEAR could be saved with more focussed and aggressive procurement strategies.

I have to credit the majority of the informational details here thanks to the great Wikipedia. So if you don’t believe me, just check it out. Of course I want a great NHS that is free at the point of delivery only to settled citizens of this country, but we don’t have to pay more tax for it, they just have to stop wasting our money.

As a footnote, when I entered the search term £12.4 billion NHS Computer System into Google, even Google couldn’t believe it and said ‘Did you mean £12.4 million?’

 

Landlords and Letting

Yet another landlord Law on the horizon

It seems that Buy-to-Let Landlords are slowly joining bankers, estate agents and MPs as the latest pantomime villains. “Oh no they’re not!” you may say, but I would say “Oh yes they are!”

For the past few years there have been rumblings from the Labour Party about Rent Control and a number of lefty councils have for several years been operating a compulsory registration schemes for landlords. These are ostensibly designed to control ‘rogue landlords’ who let out sheds in their back gardens in places like Tower Hamlets, Newham etc, but in reality it’s yet another money-making scam to milk landlords, because of course there’s a handy Registration Fee.

Attacking the Evil Landlord over ‘Revenge Evictions’

There have been documented cases of rogue landlords evicting tenants after the tenants have complained about their accommodation, such as a boiler not working properly etc. LibDem MP Sarah Teather is introducing a Private Member’s Bill designed to put an end to this outrageous practice – and it is outrageous. The bill will have received its second reading by the end of November 2014 and the aim is that it should become law next year.

“Buy to Let Landlords are a disaster for Britain and the economy”

“Outlaw Revenge Evictions’ so says Shelter, the housing charity “…”It’s time to stop the light-touch approach to the private rented sector” – Tom Copley, New Statesman, “Buy to Let Landlords are a disaster for Britain and the economy” – Phillip Inman, The Guardian (who else!). And so the fashionable anti-landlord rhetoric mounts…

It seems that Ms Teather’s Bill will receive Government support, so there is a fair chance that it will make it on to the Statute Book by next year – no doubt it would have to be before the election, because after that the LibDems will no doubt all but disappear!

Sarah Teather’s Bill

Landlords can already suffer if it is found that they have not dealt with the security deposit in the prescribed manner and it usually mean that should they seek a Repossession Order that a judge will not grant it if he or she discovers that the deposit has not been ‘protected’. The idea of this bill is that landlords will suffer the same fate if it is found that they have evicted a tenant ‘without good reason’. Obviously it will be for a judge to decide whether or not a landlord had ‘good reason’ to evict a tenant.

The Road To Hell

Like all recent dewey-eyed government legislation it is very well-intentioned but let’s hope that it is not something that can be abused by bad tenants. Of course we must remember the old saying that ‘The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions’. The problem with the current bunch of boys and girls (most of whom have never done a proper job) is that they are obsessed with ‘rogue landlords’. They forget that there are many ‘rogue tenants’ too.

But, as I said, there is a fashionable tide running against buy to let landlords, who are increasingly being portrayed by those of a liberal tendency to be the root of all evil. I think all landlords should be aware of this tide because there will be more and more anti-landlord legislation on the way – particularly if that bunch of Labour losers get in again in May 2015!

UPDATE DECEMBER 2014

Looks like this legislation has been delayed by the actions of Conservative MPs at Westminster. But we’ll keep you posted.

 

Landlords and Letting

 

 

 

Estate Agents’ Boards – A Personal Rant

Hands up who likes estate agents’ boards? They are everywhere and the agents say that it helps them sell your property quicker because people see them and call up. There are For Sale boards, To Let boards, Sold By boards and Let By boards. And they all have one thing in common – the agents love ’em.

To let sign UK

Using your property for free advertising

Agents love them because, simply put, it’s free advertising for their business! It is usual practice to ask the vendor if they would like a board but sometimes they don’t even ask and suddenly one appears outside your house. This happened to me recently when an agent was marketing a property I owned in Rotherhithe. Admittedly, as soon as I complained – and boy did I complain – they took it down.

I guess it CAN be argued that a For Sale board helps the vendor, although in these days of the internet it’s a dubious claim. But a Sold By board helps no one apart from the agent, with the idea that other potential sellers will see it and put their property with that agent.

In fact, I said it is free advertising. In fact, thinking about it, it’s worse than that – YOU are paying for them to advertise their business!

Agent boards and blocks of flats

This is where I really take exception to their damn boards. You must have seen small blocks of flats, maybe a short road and at the head of it on the communal ground there they are – loads of ugly agents’ boards all vying for attention. And by ‘ugly agents’ boards’ I don’t mean that the agents themselves are necessarily visually challenged. Unless you have a vigilant management company, there they stay – a complete eyesore! It’s the typical problem where no one person actually takes responsibility for forcing the agents to remove them. They are there TOTALLY as free advertising as no one knows to which flat each board refers.

Let’s make them illegal!

Agents’ boards exist for the same reason that many other nuisance things exist – just because they always have. I feel that these boards should be outlawed everywhere and local authorities should be empowered to force agents to remove them under pain of stiff fines. No exceptions.

Agents’ boards may have served a slight purpose once upon a time, although the ‘Sold By’ and ‘Let By’ ones never did. But in a world of Rightmove, Primelocation, Zoopla and others, agents’ boards are an anachronism and a real blight on the environment.

I’d be interested to see what others think – maybe I’ve got this wrong?  There’s a simple poll at the bottom of this item.

Should we ban estate agent boards?
Yes
No

Poll Maker

 Landlords and Letting – Landlord Insurances

Improving the English Conveyancing Process

They say that moving home is one of life’s most stressful activities, along with bereavement and divorce etc and particularly so if you are actually buying and selling.  If so, why doesn’t the Government try to improve it and make it less stressful? I believe that it can be improved – after a brief outline of the way it is now I suggest how this might be achieved.

The fact is that the English Conveyancing System is as they say ‘Not Fit For Purpose’ and it’s a testament to the dismal quality of both civil servants and particularly legislators.

1930s_houses

Buying and Selling basics

You find your ideal home, make an offer and if it’s accepted, both parties pass relevant details to their solicitors and then the whole rigmarole starts. The buyer’s solicitor requests endless documents, mortgage companies are alerted, removals companies contacted, a survey is commissioned and so on. At some point contracts are exchanged with an agreed completion date. The whole tortuous process can take up to three months…if you’re lucky!

Of course, the point at which both parties can reasonably relax is Exchange of Contracts, when the buyer contracts to buy and the seller contracts to sell, both being liable to lose a large amount of money if they renege on the deal.

Subject to Contract

But as we all know, at any point right up to exchange of contracts either party can withdraw, or simply demand a higher sale price (gazumping) or demand a lower sale price (gazundering). And unless agreement can be reached, the whole process collapses, the buying chain is broken..along with the hopes and dreams of all the rest of the people in that relevant chain. Also huge amounts of money, on solicitors, surveys, reports etc are wasted by the would-be purchaser. Then the whole tedious process starts again.

This absolutely ludicrous, because the whole English Conveyancing System is  not so much based on ‘subject to contract’ but subject to a nod and a wink!

Putting your money where your mouth is

What I suggest, is that once an offer to buy is formally accepted and a survey completed, an Initial Deposit be placed in escrow by both parties. This deposit will then be forfeited to the aggrieved party in the event that the other party seeks to change the agreed sale price or withdraws from the process before actual Exchange of Contracts.

Of course the devil is in the detail, as they say. There will have to be very carefully specified reasons for a buyer to withdraw, such as a search revealing that a motorway or similar is planned to go through the sitting room or at least within hearing distance of the property in question and that was not revealed in the initial Property Details. Precise grounds for parties to withdraw from the commitment to buy and sell will need to be established but the current system is ridiculous and badly needs reform.

But how much should the Initial Deposit be? I would suggest 0.5% of the agreed sale price but obviously others would have a view on that. But it has to be sufficient to ensure that both parties are serious about the transaction and really ARE willing and able to proceed. It will also at least go towards compensating the aggrieved party for wasted survey and legal costs.

Who benefits?

Serious purchasers will benefit, serious vendors will benefit…even estate agents will benefit! The only people who won’t benefit are mortgage companies, surveyors and of course…solicitors – but that’s not a bad thing is it!

Tell us what YOU think – take our poll

Should we reform the UK property buying process?
Yes
No
Don’t know
Other
Please Specify:

Poll Maker

Landlords and Letting – Landlord Insurances

 

 

 

 

Estate Agents’ Time Wasting Guide Price

As we all know, the property market, at least in London and the South East, is at the time of writing (early 2015) a sellers’ market.  As such, sellers are in the driving seat and feeling very bullish. Of course, as always, that will change but at the moment that is the way it is.

What IS the Price?

Once upon a time when you saw a property you were interested in, you’d look at the price, view the property and if you liked it, make an offer either under the advertised price or perhaps at the actual asking price. Then the vendor could choose to either accept or reject your offer.  If accepted, then a Memorandum of Sale would be produced  and you would proceed with the purchase.  The thing was, you KNEW the maximum price they wanted before you even phoned the agent. But that has changed…enter the Guide Price…

The Guide Price

For the past year (2014) many agents have been advising their clients to not set a maximum or asking price, but instead to agree with them a ‘guide’ price.  This being an attractive price, often at the lower end of the vendor’s expectations. And a price that the agent believes will ‘generate a lot of interest’. Thus, a buyer may look over a property, sometimes travelling a long distance to view it, only to discover that the price asked is not really the price, and in fact, ‘Someone has already offered £25,000.00 over, because we have had a lot of interest in this house…’

So, this practice by agents in collusion with vendors, just wastes buyers’ time on an epic scale.  Bear in mind that many buyers may spend several hours travelling to, viewing and travelling back from a property they might be interested in. Virtually everyone has a maximum they can spend and also a maximum they wish to spend, so if they see a property they like advertised at, say £600,000 and after viewing it it transpires that the vendors have actually been offered £625,000 then, assuming £600,000 is the purchasers’ maximum budget, then the agents have completely wasted those people’s time!

Auctions and Blind Auctions

Of course auctioneers have always used a guide price to tempt buyers to auctions, but that is different, because everybody knows that it’s an AUCTION and that the property may fetch less or more than the guide price.  And what’s more, everyone will actually be aware of what the bids are in the room at the time of the auction.  It’s close to what economists call a perfect market.

However, this new practice of agents using ‘guide prices’ to generate interest is very different.  Sometimes you find that they even ask purchasers to submit full and final sealed bids – thus buyers have no idea what others are bidding, so it’s effectively a blind auction.

It may back-fire

Obviously estate agents quite rightly try to get as high a price as possible for their clients’ property – that’s their job. But not when it involves wasting buyers’ valuable time and money.

It’s hard work enough as it is buying a property, particularly if it’s for owner-occupation, but this scurrilous practice of encouraging vendors to tempt buyers in with a juicy low guide price only for buyers to find that they have been ‘outbid’ could, I hope, back-fire.  I think that many buyers will withdraw from viewing properties simply because they just do not want to waste their time…but time and perhaps Mark Carney and his interest rates will tell.

 

Landlords and Letting

 

Immigration – An alliance of right-ons and righties

Immigration has finally become a very hot topic in the UK, thanks of course to UKIP.  And what we are talking about is LEGAL immigration, mainly from the EU.  For years, thanks primarily to the policies of the slimy Tony Blair and his bunch of Labour Losers, if anyone called for immigration to be reduced or controlled they were tagged as ‘racist’ or xenophobic.

Immigration – what’s wrong with it?

The real problem with EU immigration is not that people from the rest of Europe are undesirable or unpleasant people, it’s simply a matter of space and resources, particularly in South East England.  This part of the UK is probably one of the most densely populated parts of the world.  Look at the difficulties of seeing a GP, getting your children into a school of your choice, travelling by train and even just driving on our massively overcrowded roads.

So who likes immigration?

Well, apart from the immigrants themselves, who are often moving from countries where the standard of living is way below that of the UK, there is an interesting alliance of others who favour or benefit from large scale immigration.

Lefties like it

The Liberal Elite and Lefties generally love it, because they claim it makes our society more vibrant with broader cultural base and well…they want to be seen as inclusive.  It also means they get cheaper nannies, home help and can get their properties refurbished for less. But interestingly there are two other very different groups who really benefit…

Landlords benefit

The first group of course is us landlords – particularly in London and the South East. Immigration means that the demand for rented property is at an all-time high, with large numbers of tenants chasing after a limited amount of property.  It’s typical that an average two bedroom flat can now be let for over £1200.00 a calendar month in the London area.

Mature Property Owners benefit

When I say ‘mature’ I am of course referring to the owners rather than the properties!  These are people (like me) who bought property in the 1970s and 1980s and if we managed to hang on during a couple of crashes, have seen massive rises in capital values, particularly since 1998. Of course immigration means increased demand for housing, and more housing needs more land and to partly quote Mark Twain, ‘…they’re not making it anymore’. As we know, young people now find getting on the property ladder an impossible dream.

Business benefits

This is the most interesting category. Business, particularly big business LOVES immigration.  It means that salaries can endlessly be held down because of the huge army of people desperate to work for ludicrously low salaries.  Labour, who officially favour immigration, bleat on about strengthening the minimum wage.  But the minimum wage, is absolutely pathetic at £6.50 an hour (November 2014).  Who can live on that!?  Of course, big business also gets the benefit of a larger market for its products and services into the bargain.  Finally, these ridiculous salaries are often topped up by tax credits, paid for by the government (you and me). So we are all helping to subsidize huge companies wage costs!  An of course Mr Wonga and other pay day loan companies love it because some people are paid so badly that they regularly need to top up their inadequate salaries with credit.

How things have changed in the past 30 years

In 1984 I had an assistant who worked for me on a part-time basis for £10.00 an hour and I am not known for being unnecessarily generous! My house in north London was worth about £210,000.  Thirty years on, people in medium level jobs are often lucky to get much over £10.00 and hour, and the current value of that house (which I unfortunately no longer own!)?  Well, on Zoopla it is estimated at £1.8 million!

Of course we do need a certain amount of immigration, particularly to cover skills shortages in areas such as engineering and medicine.  And people say that an ageing population needs young people to look after it, but of course that assumes that immigrants will be forever young. So, in conclusion, I feel that even though I actually partly benefit from large scale immigration, we need to really control it before life in the south east of England becomes intolerable through simple overcrowding. This alliance between lefties and big business has to be challenged.