Saturday, October 11, 2008

Only in Britain

Gardener Ordered to Remove Barbed Wire Fence on Grounds It Could 'Wound Thieves'

A British gardener's local council has ordered him to remove a 3-foot high barbed wire fence around his property in case thieves hurt themselves on it, the Daily Mail reported Thursday. Bill Malcolm, 61, installed the wire at his Worcester property after burglars robbed his tool shed and vegetable plots three times in four months, stealing more than $500 worth of hardware.

But Malcolm's local council told him the wire was a health and safety hazard and warned him they would remove it by force if he did not do it himself, the Mail reported. "The council said they were unhappy about the precautions I had made but my response was to tell them that only someone climbing over on to my allotment could possibly hurt themselves," Malcolm told the Mail. "They shouldn't be trespassing in the first place but the council apologized and said they didn't want to be sued by a wounded thief."

The council said that a fence on the property must be a post or rail fence, not barbed wire. "With regard to the barbed wire, when this is identified on site, we are obliged to request its removal or remove it on health and safety grounds to the general public as this is a liability issue," a council spokeswoman told the Mail.


British council workers fired over giving mother $340,000 a year in welfare benefits

Publicity works (See here): Three council workers have been sacked after an Afghan mother was given $340,000 a year in benefits to live in a $2.4 million home

Ealing Council was paying mother-of-seven Toorpakai Saiedi housing allowance of 12,458 pounds a month, nearly five times the rent for a similar property in the same road. She also received 400 pounds a week in benefits. The sacked housing officers, David Lewis, Gemma Calliste and Salma Khan claim they have been made scapegoats by Ealing Council.

Mr Lewis, 37, said: "We are shocked and stunned that we've lost out jobs as we were just doing what we were told. "We were just doing our job, but it's a stupid system. I thought 12,000 a month was a lot but it was agreed by Rent Services so it was OK. "We have basically been sacked with no notice. We were about to get permanent contracts and all of that has been taken away from us."

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell has now called for a review into housing benefits. Mr Purnell said: "It was never intended that the Local Housing Allowance could result in a payment of this magnitude and I am shocked and concerned by this situation. "I have already asked my officials to carefully examine this issue as part of our current Review of Housing benefit and expect them to report to me as a matter or urgency."


UK's new 'Climate Change Secretary' mocked

Whether you are a climate-change denier, a sceptic or a believer in the scientific consensus on global warming, you have to admit that there is something preposterous about making someone Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. It's a bit like giving King Canute added responsibility for sea level rise: it implies that he can do something about it.

Given that there is a less than 50 per cent chance, in my view, that mankind could do something about its greenhouse gas emissions in time to prevent dangerous climate change - thereby proving itself rational - Ed Miliband, the newly appointed Secretary, would appear to have his work cut out.

Given, too, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that there is only a 95 per cent probability that man-made factors caused the warming we have seen, you might think that Gordon Brown might have seen fit to create a few more new posts in his reshuffle.

The suggestion from the sceptic, Philip Stott, is that if the Prime Minister wanted to leave no stone unturned, he might also have created a minister for cosmic ray fluxes, solar magnetic cycles and sunspots; a minister for meteorites and cosmic dust, a minister for the earth's orbit, tilt, wobble, shape and velocity; a minister for volcanic eruptions and ocean circulations; and a minister for water vapour, clouds and atmospheric gases.

All of those have something to do with climate change. The unresolved question is how much.

Seriously, though, the new Energy and Climate Change post is a way of dealing with a serious problem: relentless squabbling between what used to be called BERR and what still is called DEFRA. That was a recipe for nothing happening at all, for example, on the timetable for cleaner coal-fired power stations.

One can see the point of the tradeoffs being made in Mr Miliband's head, rather than in two separate departments, between the long-term need for clean coal and the short term need to keep the lights on.

But there is no use pretending that the political landscape hasn't changed. With the new remit comes new dangers - in this case the suspicion is that what has been created is the ministry for nuclear power, wind farms and the Severn Barrage. And toffee nuts to the environment.


British bureaucrats are STILL losing data: "A computer hard drive with the private details of 700,000 Armed Forces personnel and potential applicants is missing, The Ministry of Defence said today. The portable drive contains the names, addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth and driving licence details of around 100,000 serving personnel across the Army, Royal Navy and RAF, plus their next-of-kin details. It also has data on 600,000 potential services applicants and the names of their referees. Officials are 'not ruling out' the risk that bank account details of personnel were held on the drive, which belonged to its IT contractor EDS. The department said it learned of the loss on Wednesday and MoD Police were investigating. The missing drive is the latest information security breach to hit the MoD"

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