Wednesday, 29 August 2012


So, my last post was February, and now it's August more than a year later.  I guess it might be time for an update...

In some ways a lot has changed and in some ways it's the same.

The biggest change is that I have a new job.  I started in March last year, and am now part of the dreaded public sector.  The job is very different from my last role, and so far I am loving it.  It's a great challenge, but has commensurate renumeration.

I'm still happily married and have a beautiful wife who works in retail. She has recently started a new job, and the pay is slightly worse but the hours and travel are much better. I also have a lovely dog and cat at home.

I'm registered self employed but the income hasn't been more than a few hundred pounds a year so far. With the new job, I just don't have a lot of time or energy for building apps or the like.

I have basically stopped role playing (by which I mean games like dungeons and dragons, and not anything kinky) and as a consequence haven't seen most of my friends in a while. This was more due to a growing discontent with the gaming that we were doing than a falling out with them, and truth to tell I do miss the gaming and the social aspect.

I have been following a few projects and recently received the pdf of Torchbearer by the Burning Wheel crew. It looks great! I've also backed exalted 3e and will have to get my wife to play when I  get the pdf of that.

My wife got me a kindle so I have been devouring books on the way to and from work - if anyone can recommend some good fantasy or SF let me know.

I'll try to be somewhat active on here going forward...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Cutting the Pension Annual Allowance

As some of you may be aware, I work in pensions so I tend to keep half an eye out for pension-related news.  I saw this article earlier today.

It seems to be the usual scare tactics to sell newspapers.  Apparently the government is thinking of cutting the annual allowance.  No quotes from anyone in government of course, and nothing concrete, just a lot of speculation.

There are two good reasons why I don't think that this will happen:
  1. They only just cut the allowance from £225,000 to £50,000
  2. The people most affected would be higher rate taxpayers, and most of them usually vote conservative.  Hitting them in the pocket would be a great way to lose votes.
 This sort of story just puts people off pensions for no good reason

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Not sure if anyone even reads this, but if you do and you use Dropbox, I've put together a short guide on how to get over 8GB of free space at

If you don't use Dropbox, but have more than one computer, you really should check it out - it's very cool and easy to use :-)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Shock TUC report says Unions should get taxpayers money!

I saw that there's been a report from the TUC that says that Union Reps being paid by the employer is a good thing.  Shocking position for a report from the TUC to take, right?


It seems that part of their argument is based on survey data, and the rest is questionable:

They rely on data from a previous report that cited savings as follows:

i)Dismissal rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps – this resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £107m-£213m pa

Surely this is because the Unions make it hard to fire people.  So if someone is crap at their job, you can't replace them with someone good at the job.  Without looking at the relative productivity rates of unionised vs non-unionised workplaces this is meaningless, but I reckon that preventing you from firing people who are crap would lower productivity and thus constitute a cost, rather than a benefit - and the magnitude of that cost will be significantly greater than the benefit, as you'd not want to sack someone unless you could get a better person in and make more money after costs were taken into consideration, so the costs must be smaller than the benefit.

ii) Voluntary exit rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps, which again resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £72m-143m pa

People stayed longer (albeit because the benefits/pay were likely better) - this could be a valid benefit.

iii) Employment tribunal cases are lower in unionised workplaces with union reps resulting in savings to government of £22m-43m pa

See (i) - this is likely because tribunals were threatened in any number of cases, and the employer forced to back down.  If you sack less people, less people will complain.  I'd count this as a part of the cost of replacing crap people with good people, and would expect the benefit thus to far outweigh this cost.

iv) Workplace-related injuries were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £126m-371m pa

Really?  What were the additional costs of complying with increased health and safety requirements placed there by the Union rep?

v) Workplace-related illnesses were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £45m-207m pa

What about non-workplace related illnesses?  Is this just a case of the union rep saying "don't put it down as workplace related, or you could get in trouble"?

Taking points (i) and (iii) as negative (i.e. assuming that the productivity increase from replacing bad staff would be at least enough to cover the costs of replacing bad staff twice) and disregarding point (iv) as we have no idea of the actual costs involved in reaching this point gives a total saving from having union reps on the order of £40m (using average figures).

By the methodology in the report, 60% of this is public sector, so £24m.  Uprating to now gives £28.7m - call it £30m if you like.  So we get a benefit of £30m for an expenditure of £113m.  Sounds like a good deal to me... 

They question the £113m figure, suggesting that £80m is more reasonable - so we're getting back a massive 38% of what we spend.  That's the kind of deal our government should be fully in support of!