Dealing with England

So, I might want a national bank holiday in aid of England and all English stuff, but I don’t want one for a) Banks b) Government stuff.

I was on hold to my bank for 23 minutes whilst they put me through to someone who said the complaint I made in November hadn’t been forwarded and there was no record of my calls from January. No, they can’t stop posting me the same thing over and over, every single week and no they can’t put me through to someone from Complaints who can actually deal with stuff.

The second call was to the TV Licensing company. First, I object to the BBC tax. I think all ‘compulsory’ taxes (including insurance) should be handled by the Government itself and part of our income tax, not just some add-on stealth tax, like car tax. Second, I object to the fact that it’s automatically assumed you have a television. Now I’ve had a Sky dish and paid my dues to Sky, but I’ve never had a television aerial and I don’t agree with how the TV licensing company operate. This is: they automatically assume you have a television and that you are watching it without paying a licence. Several of my friends don’t pay TV licence tax and have constant knocking on doors from the ‘enforcement’ squad. I should add, they don’t have TVs or radios. Sure, they have laptops, but as far as I know, they’re far too modern for television!! But, the automatic assumption is that you are just skiving off paying it, rather than you don’t have one. I hate that we’re automatically assumed to be dishonest liars who can’t be trusted. Likewise, the council who keep writing to say ‘you still single?’ or ‘you still not living there?’ – as if I’m just some con-woman who’s getting out of paying bills.

In France, there is no car tax. Sure, there’s fees on motorways, but if you don’t use them, you don’t pay them. Also, television fees are included in your council tax, unless you opt out. If you opt out, you tell them when you’re opting back in. They don’t send you letters every five minutes to threaten you with ‘enforcement’ people in case you might be sneaking a peek at Downton Abbey or Songs of Praise. I like that they assume that you are capable of telling them. This doesn’t tie in with that ‘honest’ English person – corporations and government departments just act as if you’re out to rip them off.

I’m also morally opposed to compulsory insurance that can be operated by private companies. If Governments make laws to say motor insurance, health insurance, house insurance or life insurance are compulsory, then they should be run as not-for-profit agencies, not farmed out to insurance companies who make money hand over fist. In this case, England wins, a bit. Last year, when Tempest Xynthia hit France, most insurance companies put their excesses up – some by 160€. So people whose excess was about 200€ found themselves unable to claim for anything less than 360€.

The trouble is, insurance is based on actuarial activity. These people basically predict stuff using some complex maths and a whole lot of faith and confidence. It’s not much less than someone who knows the football really well betting on a win or loss. In fact, regular horse race bets are more accurate than actuarial predictions in many cases. They take some stuff and work out how long you might live, or how much you might claim. Except, it can’t keep up with how long we’re living or patterns of behaviour, like the shift to compensation culture.

One thing that makes me mad is when car insurance companies ‘promise’ a courtesy car. I’d rather they didn’t try to make that promise. For instance, when the Manchester bomb went off, thousands of cars were damaged and I’m quite sure there weren’t that many courtesy cars available. There just can’t be that many available. It’s like the AA saying there’ll be there in the hour, except when you really need them and everyone else needs one too because something major has happened. We’re sold on a promise that can’t always be kept and yet we’re never allowed to question the system. 20% of the British Stock Market is based on the profits and losses of insurance companies. Companies who we are legally obliged to pay are taking our money and gambling with it, then saying with the slightest provocation that we have breached the conditions of our policy.

Not only that, but there’s little parity between insurance in an ‘open’ capitalist market. For instance, my car insurance quotes in England were between £600 and £2000. That means that £1400 of that, if I went with the first company I came to, would be sheer profit. The excess was the same; the coverage and payouts broadly speaking were the same. So, where does the profit go? AIG sponsor Manchester United. That’s reputed to be almost £60 million over 4 years. It’s fine for overtly profit-making companies to spend their hard-earned pennies from the beleaguered public coffers on pointless advertising, but really, must insurance companies do it?! AXA are in the Fortune 500. Surely no company that insures people should be running at such a profit?!

The irony is, the longer recessions continue, the more we need insurance. Life insurance, indemnity insurance, insurance against unemployment… And we keep paying. Last year, I paid out over 10% of my income on insurance. It wasn’t a choice. I have to pay this if I want to own a house or drive. I’m not allowed to risk such expensive items, by law. But insurance is the business of risk. That’s all it does – calculate risk. So how come they’re allowed to mess with risk and I’m not?

Hmmmm. Another cynical moment for me. I’d like to see all insurance companies being nationally owned. I don’t think any insurance company should be in the Fortune 500. And I don’t think anything that is a compulsory tax should be called anything but that.

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4 thoughts on “Dealing with England

    1. Yes – partly because I don’t have much by way of bureaucracy to deal with yet. It’ll come!! I could get all worked up about social security and so on here – still waiting for my number 5 months later, but hey ho. Watch me when I get a big bill for something I can’t afford because they’ve not been invoicing me regularly 😉 I’m reckoning October when it’s Tax time!!

  1. I wonder why we have a licence fee. Why not make the BBC, ITV, CH5 et al a subscription service? Now we are almost all Digital it should be easy, then again, I work in Government and nothing is easy, ever.

    Sky manage it, if you don’t pay your monthly due you get cut off. In one fell swoop you dispense with the need for enforcement officers and a whole swathe of bureaucrats (do they still have those Detector Vans I wonder?)

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