I’m sad to say it’s official: Beck’s Bargains, one of Beeston’s friendliest, cheapest and most unique shops, is to close. They were informed at the weekend and will be shutting up in three/four weeks. I chatted to the staff earlier, and they are pretty upset but resigned to their fate ‘I’m going to put my feet up for a couple of months. I’ve been working since I left school and I’m now a grandmum so I think I deserve a bit of time off’, said the lady I spoke to.
It is a real shame: the staff were lovely, and will be greatly missed. Pop in before they leave, and tell them as much; they’ll really appreciate it.
I attended a meeting at The Nottingham Post yesterday with the (Beeston-based) deputy editor Charles Walker; digital publisher Natalie Fahy and a smattering of other local bloggers/writers. There are great changes afoot at the papers website, and thankfully so. The present model is famously awful, but I always assumed this was to strong-arm you into buying the physical edition. However, it now seems that they have seen the sense in having a strong online presence, especially as they think they can monetarise it. The model will be simpler to navigate, more user-friendly, and crucially: featuring more content from bloggers. This means the Post will no longer be under one editorial yoke, but have a greater plurality in content. There are moderators, but I asked a few questions on what could get through and it seems that it’s pretty much hands-off. So, very soon I’ll be posting/ mirroring content there and piggy-backing their presence to get Beestonia out to a wider audience. I thus will be needing some quality content, so I need YOU to send me ideas and content that I will post up under the Beestonia brand. I’ll still be writing here, and won’t be changing anything stylistically, merely using the Post to get a wider audience.
Of course, saying that, I still intend to take them over in 2016 when The Beestonian really hits its stride.
Thursday was odd. As I’m officially unemployed, I have to attend various state-sponsored events to help me get back into employment. However, as I’m presently setting up a small- business, I get sent to different ones with the focus on those who wish to be their own boss, and so it was on Thursday afternoon. An hour of fairly straightforward tips were given by the woman running it, followed by questioning us about how we intended to give flesh to our ideas. She reaches me:
‘So, Matt, what is the next step you’ll take to get your small-business up and running?’
‘Well, in an hour I’m off down the road to meet the Shadow Minister for Small Business, Toby Perkins MP’
Which sort of was taken as a generally positive step. So off I trotted, down Chilwell Road to The Other Space (not been there yet? It’s great). Toby Perkins MP, the aforementioned shadow, was there with erstwhile (future? I’ll be writing about that tomorrow) MP Nick Palmer, hosting an event for small businesses in Beeston to see what the opposition would change/retain should they seize power in 2015. A good debate ensued, with Toby holding some good ideas, if not necessarily much different than the incumbent government, until a question was asked about a move towards local banking, micro-financing and credit unions.
He was generally enthusiastic about this, yet didn’t explain how this would be funded, rather optimistically thinking they would be self-sufficient. I am sceptical about this, and asked if it might be a much better idea if these more localised institutions would have a greater competitive edge if they were underwritten by a fund that was paid for by a Tobin Tax. What’s that then? Well, it’s also called a Robin Hood Tax and is 0.05% levied on all financial transactions. For more details, this is a very helpful resource: http://robinhoodtax.org.uk/how-it-works/everything-you-need-to-know . I was under the assumption that Labour would find this is a policy that is well worth looking at, and making a manifesto commitment as such.
It seems that’s not the case. Toby dismissed it vehemently, giving the reason that London’s financial institutions would be ‘driven away’. That’s a worrying thing to say, for a variety of reasons. First, there is no evidence that taxes like this do have any effect on big banks: this is the result of a detailed study by the IMF, not some pointed, agenda-driven leftish group. We already have some of the most liberalised laws concerning finance in this country, the City being a virtual tax-haven just as much as the Caymans or Switzerland. The economic value of the City is also questionable: many figures are bandied about but I do not believe it’s anything like the 20%- Toby quoted. There are even arguments that they actually have a net loss on the country, due to off-shoring their bonuses and profits, and creating a very insecure foundation to base spending on. As we’ve seen over the last five years, a sizable amount of the activities in the City are no more than smoke and mirrors: mere manipulation of figures rather than a tangible product.
Eleven countries in the EU have already committed to bringing in a Tobin Tax: these include France, Spain, Germany and Italy: this thus would not be a unilateral move. I argued this point and Toby pointed out that the City may not decamp to Frankfurt, but further. Again, this is scare-mongering bunkum. The Obama administration are looking into the levy imposed on Wall Street: if we were to show commitment to it, then the US would have fewer reasons to demur.
There is a difference between small businesses and large businesses right now. There is a unlevel playing field. Firms like Starbucks, Google, Amazon, TopShop -even our own local Boots- can afford to avoid taxes in this country by finding loopholes that small businesses cannot. This creates a hole in the economy, that must be filled by smaller firms, or, as we are seeing now, swingeing cuts to services and benefits. Boots head office used to be in the Rylands. Now it’s a Post Office Box in Switzerland. Such things are unfair.
If the Opposition is serious about their plan to develop growth from grassroots methods, then they need to stop being so in awe of the big financial institutions and large businesses. They should show courage in tackling the massively inflated salaries and bonuses of those who drove us into the financial crisis, and stop falling into a supine stupor every time some cretin in a pinstripe threatens to pack his Luis Vuitton at the mere mention of narrowing the cavernous maw between rich and poor. I was disappointed that the Shadow Minister is still holding to a pre-2008 mindset; and worried that if they don’t start to listen to the public and stand up to those who have given a free rein to take the piss for so long, Labour can forget about returning to power in 2015.
Segueing nicely, I met Tim Pollard, aka Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood, last week, and had a good chat where I discussed my plans for an article for The Beestonian (he lives round here). He’s a great guy and I’ve got an utterly inspired idea to run a feature about him soon: I’ll keep you informed.
And for the sake of making the headline to this article to work: