Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Copydex Jointmaster instructions never used

Maybe nobody has ever used Copydex Jointmaster instructions in the history of the world, but a few people might be interested to know what they said, now that bits of these kits turn-up in junk shops.
Maybe someone can use these images to help put the things back into production if they were ever any good.

Copydex Jointmaster box - fee inside, detaild plans for making two superb coffee tables


Someone else's jointmaster pictures and comment.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

1980s recession

Related: Bad Economics Teaching for the twenty-teens from data on Unistats, 2015 Better Economics Teaching: some off-the-cuff suggestions based on being a 1980s student The British Economic Crisis - a similar book to Robert Peston written in the 80s - Star Courses: the least satisfied, most bored and lowest paid UK graduates, written 2015 Boring Economics Teaching is interesting: how someone managed to teach economics from memories of an old textbook at the peak of the worst recession since the 1930s, and tried to cover-up for government causing the recession. Journal Articles by Professor Les Fishman - unbelievable beliefs - 1980s recession explanations I wrote - UK unemployment 1980s from the Begg 1984 textbook

1980s recession caused by deliberate government policy

The 1984 Begg textbook says what caused the 1980s recession. It was caused by a policy of raising the value of the pound by tinkering with interest rates. As a result, export industries had to close. Begg was a teacher at Oxford Uni when he wrote his first textbook, and recent politicians like David Cameron and Ed Balls were students on a PPE course there, but said very little about the problem. As though they didn't know. The Bank of England had to explain to a treasury select committee how the system worked; a report with a neat flow diagram. The bottom line of arrows shows the rate of interest - that government can influence - effecting import prices. In other words it effects whether a lot of UK manufacturing has to close because of a deliberate government policy.

I have a long blog post about being on a college economics course at the time, and imagined that someone might read it and simply not know what the economic problem was, so I started writing what came into my head, but for a proper read you could skip this and try the Kieth Smith book quoted in full on another post.

I guess something about the teaching of compact economics degree courses in 1984-7 left students like myself unaware of other students' views, but rather sure of their own views. I was rather sure anyway. I had been to posh school with loads of essay-writing about things like the origin of the first world war and thought that I could have sorted it in a few sides of A4. The difficulty was that people with different views - people like Dave at Oxford - were just as confident. Boris Johnson is reported as writing two essays to himself, pro and anti EU, in order to help him decide on the strength of his own prose.

The Times
, my dad's old employer, reported that everything was wonderful in the UK and that is the view that's now recorded on TV and among pundits. Recent prime ministers, historians and such were at college at the time - they are in their early fifties now - and seem to believe that some kind of painful but useful reform happened in the 1980s. That's self-delusion based on ignorance and bad newspapers. Unemployment was caused by a Kamakazee economic policy that continued until 2009 with support from the three main Westminster parties.

My dad sold advertising space for a few years for The Times and The Observer in the 1950s - he was the same age as Professor Fishman - and kept-up the newspaper subscriptions for ever. I got to know the newspaper habit of putting the paragraphs in order of importance: the proprietor's view at the top, and the contrary facts at the bottom of an article or said in a different way. The Times also noted graduate unemployment in a different way. It said that nearly all graduates from Trinity College Dublin had to emmigrate about that time, even though things were going so well. I remember the article, with a formal graduation picture - like a victorian sports team in dressing gowns - and a list of how few of the graduates remained in Ireland to find work. Ireland had a cheaper currency from 1979 so it missed the worst of the Thatcher recession, but shared the problem of trying to sell to a dole queue in the UK; everything in the UK was not wonderful. Even Micheal Gove, the politician, had a dad who wound-down a business in the early 80s but the Micheal Gove version of events is fiddled. Everybody seemed to have redundant or out-of-business parents.

The Times' proprietor-top-of-the-page view is the one most recorded, for example in Daniel Sandford;s TV History "The 80s" Maybe he read The Times as well. Early 80s unemployment, in this history, was caused by privatisation of a big public sector, but that doesn't make sense except to people who believe blatently untrue things in economics text books written on a pattern set in the cold war. According to the textbooks, the UK was half way to East Europe in the share of GDP controlled by the "Command Economy". It follows, to Daniel Sandford, who studied history at a similar university further south about that time, that 80s unemployment was a bit like the East German unemployment that followed unification and attempts to close or reform firms like Skoda in East Germany. If you asked someone who was in a country like East Germany after unification, they'd probably recognise the process far better than anyone in the UK in the 1980s who just experienced a fiddled exchange rate, a flood of imports that closed all kinds of industry, and fiddles to reduce services we'd paid-for in taxes.


Degrees of Market Orientation:: the role of the market in allocating resources differs vastly between countries. At one extreme, in the command economy, resources are allocated by central government planning. At the other extreme, in a free market economy, there is virtually no government regulation of the production, consumption and exchange of goods. In between lies the mixed economy where market forces play a large role but the government intervenes extensively.This is a strange point worth repeating. Textbooks like Samuelson contrast the market economies like the US with the state-run economies like the Soviet bloc at the time. What's stated is that the UK is half way between the two. Stated in a strangely blatent and serious way for such a misleading point. I googled "cold war economics teaching" to see whether this has changed now, and the first link that came-up suggests not; words like "social insurance" or "Social Democratic Party" would not fit the definition "Socialism is an economic system that features public (government) ownership and production of goods and services".

The scan here is from my 1984 Begg textbook, written by a teacher at Oxford Uni where they have another short course in Economics, as part of the PPE degree done by so many wannabe politicians from David Cameron to Ed Balls. They both probably stared at exactly the same diagram. A few even went to ordinary colleges like Keele where Claire Short and Priti Patel studied, and looked at the same diagram or something just as misleading.

There are no numbers next to the diagram, but if you take it as a measure of the percentage of GDP controlled by the state - say 50% in the UK at the time - then the picture has a false simplicity to it. Since the 1980s, much more work is contracted-out but public-funded. So still public sector in a way. Other bits are more regulated, like banking, but still private sector in a way. When I started at Keele, National Express Coaches was used to a monopoly on long routes given in hope that they would return the favour by running short routes as some kind of back-room deal. I'd bought tickets on a rival - the tiny Stagecoach service from London to Scotland - but they were small and new and obviously private. Later-on, the roles were reversed. Stagecoach had a skill at predatory under-pricing that far out-gunned the ability of rival bus commpanies or the monopolies and mergers commission, so they could just take-over a 'hood like gangsters. They were specially interested in bus companies that owned valuable bus stations, to be sold after take-over. In a way, the monopoly power transferred to them and they became something a bit like the public sector in the sense of being the establishment or the big organisation with unfair power.

There are other services, called public sector on the statistics, that would have to be re-invented if the public sector didn't so them like compulsory insurance for sickness and unemployment. Every special case bamboozles everyone who isn't much intersted in it, and those who study the subject are not helped by the diagram above,

If you have a look at .gov.uk and the names of the ministries, it's clear that UK government is a kind of big insurance company providing services that we might use at some points in our lives but not at others. There was no ministry of economic command. There was no slice in the spending pie-chart for "propping-up three million pointless jobs in nationalised industries to close in the early 80s". There is no Ministry of Economic Command to spend that budget. Simply not.

This is a breakdown of spending in 2010

This is a breakdown of spending in 1980

As a big insurance company, the state can be more efficient than a private one, and it can also be more inefficient. This is one of the topics that economically-minded people discuss and it's a pity that economcis courses like this didn't promote discussion and evidence either way.

A big public sector GDP can include a large number of payments made by a computer with few staff involved, paying a universal benefit like Child Benefit. The cost can be far lower than some private sector pension scheme like the one my dad tried to work for, which provided some pretty awful annuity deals to fund high sales & admin costs, and wouldn't be able to quote for providing child benefit or accident and emergency services, nor any services like school-fee schemes for the parents who can't pay.

One difference between then and now is the proportion of taxes spent on debt repayment. In these area, the Thatcher government spent more than before. Most borrowers would seek the lowest rate at which to pay interest. I think Disreali was good at finding good advisors and someone knocked-up the idea of a government bond for him - or something like that (it's a long time since history O-level). Economists after 1979 added another constraint when advising governments: if the interest rate can be tweaked-up a little higher than other similar interest rates around the world, funds will tend to flood-in and raise the value of the pound, followed by cheap imports flooding-in and reducing inflation. The treatment has side-effects: higher public debt and demoralised survivers among a bust UK manufacturing industry, because manufacturers deal with international trade much more than the people who commentate like broadcasters and ministers and newspaper owners.

An obvious difference between the 1980s and 20-teens is the amount of people on the dole. Broadly, a policy that puts people out of work will cost a lot in benefits, government schemes, and quite likely other services as well, so a government that is remembered for cutting subsidies to state industries is in fact one that increased demand for public services like benefits.

A third difference is that there are pieces of the public sector that seemed a bit odd, even at the time, but the difference is not clear-cut. Nowadays the fiddles or the problems are PFI hospital buildings, or the the Palace of Westminster that funds staff to do pagentry but not mend the roof, or the nationalised banks. In the 1980s there were another lot, but not so very different. A strange example was that only gas and electricity boards were allowed to sell new cookers. You queued-up at their show-rooms and filled-in triplicate form to order one for you, then they would book one of their own qualified staff to plug it in when  it finally arrived. Nowadays the system has evolved: you go to a private shop, they order a cooker, and when it arrives you can get any Corgi-registered gas plumber to plug it in.

The oddest thing then was a kind of trade war going-on between European countries subsidising over-capacity in their steel industries in kind of game, to find out which one would stop first, close steel works, and make the capacity in other countries more profitable. EU rules wouldn't alloow it now. Lastly, councils and ministries tended to own the organisations that provided services like schools and hospitals in a more clear-cut way than now, so more of GDP counted as public sector. Even so, the proportion of GDP that counts as public in the stats is still high; there was no wave of privatisations big enough to cause 1980s unempoyment.

The Begg course textbook comes back to a similar point on other pages, but in a more detailed and rather opposite way. It says that UK government makes a lot of transfer payments to provide a lot of public services, rather than being half way to a command economy as on the scale above. It even quotes words like "national insurance". The textbook is funny like that; it puts conflicting points of view on different pages, like an encyclopedia.

Talking of privatisation as a cause of three million people being unemployed, there were more jobs on state-owned or council-owned payrolls in 1979, or payrolls that were private but felt a bit like state. No one individual knows the status of all the organisations like the Welsh Water Authority of the Potato Marketing Board, the National Lottery, the BBC, The Cheese Bureau or Universities, that tend to feel a bit like the public sector even if they're private and vica versa. Even ministers and journalists don't know: they tend to assume that it's all part of government under the Merit Good heading.

Anyway, there were not three million less jobs on taxpayer-funded payrolls in 1987 than 1979. I don't know how to research this but it seems too straightforward to be worth researching. Some of these jobs were transferred to privately-owned empoloyers who employed fewer people to do the same thing, One example is the electicity board shops that used to have a monopoly on selling new cookers, just as British Gas and elictricity boards had a monopoly on plugging them in. It was daft and jobs had to be lost, but someone still had to sell cookers one way or another, and there is still a Corgi licencing scheme to replace the old British Gas monopoly on plugging-in a gas cooker. Much of what changed was a rather fuedal way in which government worked, and made itself unpopular, by insisting that people outside of any state payroll could not plug-in a cooker, but the change was not quick and consisted of large public organisations becoming a state regulator and a large private organisation. There was a state-owned railway, but the Beeching cuts had already happened and a lot of the infrastructure - now Network Rail - remains in state hands after a brief attempt to be Railtrack PLC. I think the National Grid remains nationalised, and, as with electricity supply, the private part co-exists.

Nationalised and slightly nationalised industry in 1979 - reminiscence

My recollections of 1970s nationalised industry don't fit the story that privatisation caused 1980s unemployment. Nowhere near. Which is no reason not to write some reminiscences about large organisations trying to do things. so skip down a paragraph if you want to read the next thing. I write this because I enjoy reminiscence.

Before the 1980s, as now, employers like banks or steel works or the odd car manufacturer had swung in or out of public ownership for reasons of policy or panic, but they behaved in fairly similar ways whoever owned the shares. The Chrysler Avenger was just as bad a car as the Morris Marina. Other firms in the private sector had tended to merge rather than invest. There was a trend towards the big and corporate and the nationalised and the council-run, which both political parties seemed to like and encourage.

Car manufacturing is often quoted as an example of a nationalised industry at the time because everybody looked at cars on the street and even tried to mend cars on the street because the factories were new to cheap mass-production as were buyers, and the result was cars that fell apart. Less of the car industry was nationalised than current high street banks and, like them, it had other problems that had caused state intervention as a kind of short-term emergency treatment for the last remaining UK-owned conglomerate. The real state-run attempts to make cars were in East Europe and included a couple of models from Trabant, some Skodas and a car known in Poland that I'm told was known as "The Sock" for its shape and smell. Emmissions laws prevented The Sock and most of the others from being offered for sale in the UK. A delux model of the Trabant was offered for a while before emissions laws caught-up with it and sales ceased. The Skoda did OK, but  by the late 70s most Eastern-bloc manufacturers tried buying-in designs from Fiat instead, and using thicker steel so they didn't rust-through like my brother's Italian fiat 600.

UK telephones were an odd bit of industry. I saw on TV that the Post Office controlled a little empire of other parts of the economy, including telephones, land, and a catering college, but not a lot of expertise in the new generation of digital phone systems. There was a digital scheme called a System X telephone exchange, but that was considered special. The organisation charged £15 a month or so for a landline, but that's the odd bit. It still does, and people still volunteer to pay that kind of amount to the mobile operators too instead of using pay as you go. And if someone reading this knows about the phone industry, I gues they'd say that a lot of low-tec analog infrastructure still exists; there were not a million people made redundant by the privatisation of British Telecom, how ever a good a video it makes on a TV history.

UK car manufacturers still tried making their own models, but had run-out of petrol for the expensive bits of research and development and run-out of nous for having those ideas on the cheap as smaller firms sometimes do. They were like a 70s pomp rick group attempting the difficult 3rd LP. I saw somewhere the there is a firm that can make engines for Foumala 1 cars by cutting moulds out of very hard wood, and do it for some high number of thousands of pounds, but to develop an engine that scores well on comparison charts and avoids bad reputation costs millions - so much that manufacturers now club together to do it. In those days the conventional wisdom was to merge-together rather than club-together. Why one figure has so many more naughts on it than the other is a mystery and good subject for economists. Obviously a good result for something like petrol consumption or starting ability involves a lot of trial and error, but are the trial and error tream as good at nous and innovation as the people at Formula 1? Nobody knows.

Jeremy Clarkson's brief interview with the designer of the Algro car went something like "do you like it?" "no" "was it a result of too many committee meetings?" "yes" "Do you want to drive it for the video?" "no". 1970s cars were OK for steering because they all shared a supplier for that, and somehow they did well on the new sheet metal chassis-less chassis, but other bits of research and development were kept in-house which meant not being done at all because of the cost. The Allegro was made in Belgium while the Marina and MG were made in the UK, but I guess they were all low in comparison charts for things like
  • engines good enough to start in cold weather & score well on comparison charts,
  • undercoat that stopped the chassis-less monocoque chassis rusting through
  • gear boxes that you would want to use as a sales rep driving every day
(sales reps were a post war pointless industry; their cars counted as a business expense so most brand new cars sold to sales reps and then dads would buy them a year or two later)

When you look at the dashboard of a 70s car - there is a Chyrsler Avenger in the National Motor Museum but few 70s cars survive in the wild - you see very scary silver paint and printed wood which scream "fake". (I guess: I have walked past that Chrysler Avenger but don't remember the dashboard.) If the car dashboards could talk they would say "I am a fake. You are a fake for choosing to buy me. Why don't we both just drive off beachy-head in a suicide pact together?" A slush-moulding technique allowed very detailed fake sewing to be moulded into plastic door panels as well, just to make fakery worse. Technology was used as the Blair governement later used technology for PR. And the cars had trouble starting in the morning. You had to fiddle with the choke on my parent's Ford Cortina while the evil engine went "he he he he he. HA HA HA HA HA. he he he he he".

There is a web site somewhere that publishes how many cars or a type survive over time. I haven't got the link but it's good material for economists to prove what was obvious in the 1980s: some cars were slightly worse than others but not much worse.

Something about the prople chosen to design new cars and car factories, their budgets or the fragmentation of some of their budgets and combinations of others, and the people who bought the cars and decided where the market went, and the structure of the pension and share-buying industry that provided only short-term investment - something was bad for research and development. I suppose you could say the same for political parties' relationships with votors, or tabloids relationships with their readers, then and now.

<Digression on colleges>
Digressing from cars to colleges for a second, there was a fault with the customers. They were new to car-buying. A lot were sales reps  looking for status in the car park. They looked for something classy, and the ranges of cars had a kind of class system with woodgrain veneer on the one you couldn't afford, all the way down to the one without a radio at the bottom of the range. They chose rather as people choose college places, looking for the classiest college, discovering that it's too selective, and working down the list from Oxford and Cambridge at the top to Burnley FE college's coaching for mail-order degrees at the bottom. When I chose a course, it was hard to find-out what was on the course and whether it was what I wished to study. Looking on the web, I see that newspapers still encourage people to choose by instutution rather than course, tweaking league table data to promote unpopular courses in popular institutions against popular courses in unpopular institutions. The differences between a course called "Economics" at one college and another one with the same name down the road are glossed-over altogether.
</Digression on colleges>

The Roots Group merged with Chrysler of Detroit that had the same problem, so neither side could help the other. There may be records of how long Chrysler Avengers lasted - probably less than ten years for a lot of them. I knew one still in circulation after ten years would emit a kind of blue smoke if driven faster than 60mph. Another UK car manufacturer was short of money for research and development and got a government bail-out. It produced the Morris Marina, likewise. 1970s and 1980s cars were a spectacle in themselves - the National Motor Museum in Coventry says that factories were new to competative, fast, cheap manufacturing and not every good at it. I'm sure that consumers were not very good at choosing cars either, getting more skilled through the 80s and 90s. TV remeniscences about Ford of Dagenham state how the jobs were organised in a madenning way for people who worked there. My own remeniscences were of patching-up my dad's Ford Cortina with plastic padding, sanded and covered with careful spray and T-cut to fill the rust-holes. Once the gear lever came-off in my dad's hand, revealing tarmac underneath. Morris Marinas were only slightly worse, but sufficiently worse that sales reps (who's employers got a tax rebate and were the only people to buy cars new) only bought Ford and Vauxhall; Chysler and Leyland's Austin and Morris brands were stop-gaps.

UK coal mines were more what you'd imagine of the public sector. British Coal had been in the public sector for as long as NHS hospitals and the thing was run rather more like a ministry, with the benefit of cheap government loans to buy machines. It also had very cheap central accounts systems, rather like government: all pensions were paid-for out of the current account. If the payroll shrank in an area, that area showed a loss in later financial years because it still paid the pensions of previous generations of miners. Like a ministry, the National Coal Board had a head office near Whitehall - in Buckingham Palace Road alongside British Steel Corporation. I expect that was so that National Coal Board could sell coal to British Steel without having to pay delivery costs. There was probably a gateway between the two in the basement.

The pruning theory - dead wood - green shoots of recovery

The pruning-view came-up on Google just now, in the first half of a book synopsis published in the late 80s. The book was called Shaking The Iron Universe, apparently, and there is a link below, but it represents a common view among commentators.
At the time, international trade had become a lot easier as the port of Felixtowe allowed cheap surface mail for container-sized parcels addressed to the kinds of firms that liked to pay suppliers after recieving money from customers, and could afford high rents in the new retail planning zones. I guess a bit here - I don't have evidence for every clause - but I did see on telly that supermarkets were able to pay suppliers after the retail customers paid the supermarket were a new thing - often based on the ring road with a favour given to the council for planning permission. I am really not sure what I'm saying here but the ideas are worth writing. There was anyway a hike to the value of sterling caused by North Sea Oil. Norway had similar oil but a different system. It put the new tax money in a fund. Maybe it avoided massive rises in the value of its currency. But in the UK, government tends to put all money into the current account and tends to think a high currency is good for no known reason.
The book reports under-investment as over-staffing or low production per worker. These are close to being the same thing, but if you call it over-staffing then you can dream of a situation in which factories and jobs can close to encouge the others. Metaphors like "dead wood", "prune", and "green shoots of recovery" come to mind, specially if you read the Sunday Telegraph and watch Gardiner's World and are a core conservative supporter who might respond to this message..
The cruel truth was that many of the companies that went out of business, and many of the managers who lost their jobs, got their just deserts. British industry was overmanned and in large part poorly managed. By the middle of 1981, the recession was already lifting, and company bosses - some newly in place, others terrified into action - realised something must be done. Throughout the Eighties, the quality of the manufacturing base improved greatly: proper financial controls were introduced, factories were overhauled, so were industrial relations. - Online Synopsis from The Independant of David Bowen's "Shaking the Iron Universe"
The theory put in this book is that bad product lines like MG closed and that good ones like Morris Marina bounced-back revitalised. Bad Steelite closed. Good staffordshire figurines continued. Bad aluminium bicycle parts at GB Sport ceased production. Good cast-iron ones at Tube Investments stayed in production. Bad small computer firms like Acorn closed. Good computers like GEC's mainframe continued.

I'm not convinced.

What put the steelworks and the car-makers out of work was the exchange-rate hike caused by Sir Geoffrey Howe's interest-rate decsions, and that was what I had gone to Keele to study, as part of an economics degree course, so it should have been an exciting time to study economics. It turns out that an ex shadow chancellor and an ex prime minister went on a short economics course about the same time, and I don't think they learned anything either; I guess they both accepted the official view put in newspapers about what happened to the economy in the 80s.

Talking of excitement, I don't know how to refute an economic argument or talk reasonably about it and the evidence, among people who have opposite ideas. For example, if someone seriously believes that the Olympics benefit the UK economy, I can't easily refute that. I have had a look at a report claiming that London Fashion Week benefits the UK economy, and think I can pick holes in that, but even if someone has an economic point to make, there is nowhere to make it.

The Begg Economics textbook has a paragraph about that, aimed at 16 year-olds, headed "common fallicies", one of which is "economists don't agree about anything". I think that's missing the point. Economists are bad at disagreeing because don't learn their trade in tutorials, so they don't learn from people who they disagree-with, and they end-up arguing against things that they don't really understand. I find the same; I find it very hard to read more than half way through a book about economics without getting too annoyed to continue.

Related blog posts

Related: Bad Economics Teaching for the twenty-teens from data on Unistats, 2015 Better Economics Teaching: some off-the-cuff suggestions based on being a 1980s student The British Economic Crisis - a similar book to Robert Peston written in the 80s - Star Courses: the least satisfied, most bored and lowest paid UK graduates, written 2015 Boring Economics Teaching is interesting: how someone managed to teach economics from memories of an old textbook at the peak of the worst recession since the 1930s, and tried to cover-up for government causing the recession. Journal Articles by Professor Les Fishman - unbelievable beliefs - 1980s recession explanations I wrote - UK unemployment 1980s from the Begg 1984 textbook

The author sells vegan shoes for a living, mainly made in the UK. Veganline.com is the web site.

Friday, 2 September 2016

P2P lending risks and rewards

Moneywise misses the point about P2P lending in their article, which is called the same as this one:

P2P lending risks and rewards (scroll down for rewards)

After a few weeks of wanting to write some kind of blog post about P2P, there are a couple of triggers.
  • Bondora ring-up and email and avertise to suit the shareholders in their business, while their P2P lenders are let-down. Nobody comments.
  • Funding Knight is a bit quiet and short of new loans after letting-down the investors who helped fund their office and salaries, but it still does a good job for lenders. This has put journalists at Moneywise into a panic and they have warned lenders not to take-part.

Lending on P2P sites is partly an emotional choice. You decide to take a little flutter, and then more, but spread the risk. You glance at a few facts about the loan if you have time, just to avoid feeling silly if it goes wrong and it's a big one. A few bad experiences persuade you to avoid certain types of lending in future or to keep them on a small scale. Generally, in my experience, the results are much better than shares and bank accounts, and sometimes more socially useful. The only problem is how to encourage other people to enjoy the same results without annoying those with no money to invest and without sounding like a sales rep.

I should start with the bad news by saying what's wrong with Bondora, even though it has no stack of licences or big number of lenders in the UK. Bondora management used to be a thrifty cautious bunch, but sounded as though they had swallowed a textbook about ending their "bootstrapping" and reaching a tipping point at which equity finance could help them expand to a new level. This is a very very bad idea for companies that lend; it forces them to take uncomfortable risks. Fundingcircle suffered the same process in the UK with Alex Moulton's equity finance company pushing them into ever bigger and riskier loans.
Clicking-around on the internet, you find reports by disgruntled Bondora lenders message boards like P2Pmoney.co.uk and now even in the Financial Times .

Bondora's estimated future returns are in double figures; reality is 2.68%
Bondora's estimated current value of my loans are €5,730; reality is €8 today

So that's the glum news.
There is a huge amount of extra detail now on the Bondora site, with videos and technical jargon, but, frankly, I have seen enough. There was also a head of investor relations, presumably on a high salary that adds to cots. You can look it up because he quit and they're advertising the job - https://www.bondora.com/blog/bondora-capital-is-searching-for-head-of-investor-relations/

Moneywise on Funding Knight changing ownership, which really is fine; it doesn't matter.

"putting 900 savers’ money at risk"

Funding Knight's statement about change is much like any other P2P lender:

"In the event that FundingKnight ceases to trade, we have appointed Complete Cash Management Limited to administer the collection of loan repayments and apportion them to the relevant investors. You will continue to receive the interest and capital payments due to you."

"Any un-invested funds held in your investor account are held by our bank in a designated client account and ring-fenced from the assets of FundingKnight. These funds would therefore continue to be separate from FundingKnight Ltd and not available to its creditors."

Reasons to believe Funding Knight and not Moneywise:

(1) Experience

I lend about £100 on any P2P platform that seems to offer a good return over 10% and have invested over a dozen. (Except Bondora where I lent too much). They don't close, raid the client account, and leave remaining loans un-collected. It simply doesn't happen. Fundingknight got me about 11½% with their auto-lend system, now dropped to 9½% while they've had less staff to recover bad loans and get new ones. Rebuildingsociety, on which I lend with my own rough hunches as well as auto-lend, got me 8% at minimum now risen back to 12½%. The rough hunches are often to invest at 20% as well as lower rates, and hope that the 20% bids are among the winning ones.

The only one that seemed to loose money from the client account was Quakle, a tiny social enterprise that offered consumer credit without credit checks. I don't know how much went missing from the client account towards winding-up costs - possibly none - but the site dissapeared offline a few weeks after ceasing to take-on new business with nothing but an email address for explanation. I think that anyone investing, like myself, could see that it was a pretty strange idea, and knew that there was no Financial Conduct Authority regulation of P2P lending at the time. That's why I only invested about £50, and I doubt anyone else invested more.

Bondora has a few thousand euro of my cash listed in un-salable loans and a quoted return of 3% at the moment, because I have turned auto-lend off and withdraw when possible.

In contrast, 20 other P2P lenders have simply ceased to take-on new lenders, failed to start taking-on business, or merged into rival companies, as you would expect in a new market. Here is a list:

The only similar companies to Quakle trading today are the bitcoin P2P lending markets, which have software and people interested in lending and borrowing, but not many borrowers who look plausible and evidence-based in their requests. The options are to wait, or to invest one bitcoin on the most slick-looking platform, which I think is Bitbond, and see how it goes by investing the minimum amount that can be invested whenever cash comes-back in repayments. I would like to this but their ID recognition system has just changed, but I hope to get back into the habit after re-proving my ID. So far, there is some turnover of money but my loans are still too young to judge. The platform itself is odd too. Slick and well-funded by venture capitalists, I guess that some of this money goes towards pretend loans placed just to make the site look busy. When that money runs out and more of the other kinds of borrowers take-over, then returns may fall, and whenever the people running the sites learn how the market works and what debts are collectable, returns may rise.

An old Funding Knight borrower has just asked for a new loan and dozens of current lenders have bid to fund it, so I am not the only one who thinks this platform is still worth using.Funding Knight has a very good web site for presenting data, which I suppose it what keeps the lenders lending. It tells me that I have earned just under 10% on new loans and just over 10% on second-hand loans bought on the after-market, mainly with their auto-bid system set to re-invest my earnings.

(2) References regulatory checks and reviews

These include interim licencing from the Financial Conduct Authority, and membership of trade associations that have minimum standards for members. Lenders on the site are free to post on public message boards, with their detailed knowledge of individual loans that the company has offered - which is a far more transparent system than applies to banks. Lenders can also check prospective borrowers against check-business.co.uk as well as reading the detailed story that's offered behind each loan request. If I take the first loan, alphabetically, on my list of loans I see that it's descibed as "above average risk" and "lower than average equifax credit score".  I only bought £30-worth with the auto-lending robot, but the people who bought more asked eight earnest questions on a message board while the loan was auctioned, and read a more detailed breakdown of what the assets are. Stock has no value because the business is a school, but are other assets apparently. The blackboards or "tangeble assets" are valued at £792,374 which looks high. If I were investing hundreds, I would check all the questions that lenders have asked and the replies. Someone probably asked about the assets, and got a reply.

There are regular articles about Funding Knight on sites like P2Pmoney.  So, without knowing how to check the contract between Funding Kight and Complete Cash Managment or how it would work in practice, I think I can trust that it would work. It may be in place at the moment: Funding Knight hasn't posted any new loans for a while, but if one came-up, I'd consider investing.

Nothing much - just wondering how to price risk

I suppose that a 50% instant risk of total loss is worth 200% instant interest to a robot with money to spare and no costs, or a hobbyist like a mild gambler.

Anything more complicated, I find, is better expressed in some form like building-blocks than algebra, but one more layer of complication might be worth a shot.

I suppose that a typical risk on a P2P lending site is that loan will fizzle-out to less value after a while. I would like to see this expressed as building blocks but here is an example. A loan defaults after one year and there is nothing to recover. Supposing I am a person who invests other cash at about zero percent in a deposit account, and has money to spare, does this for fun, then I suppose this is the same as it happening tomorrow; if half of loans do this I want to earn double my investment on all the ones that pay.

I must come back to this.

Rewards over 10%

I did found calculators for internal rate of return and applied them to Property Moose estimates of how much will come back as rent and how much as capital gain after three years, and the result was under 9% so I'm taking money out.

I do see measures of the percentage I am making on loans to small business, which vary a lot in results. These are higher and have an extra benefit of encouraging employment and tax-paying in the economy where I live.

https://p2pblog.co.uk/10-percent-club/ is a blog post about the less useful but high-paying sites that fund bridging loans and maybe the odd second mortgage. I've found similar results.

This blog is here to promote Veganline.com , the first shop to sell vegan shoes online in the UK

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Free online book-keeping software for simple accounts

Choosing a UK business bank account
Free, Fast and Pretty: shopping cart software for ecommerce
Simple Bookkeeping and Account Agregators
Free Online Bookkeeping Software for Simple Accounts < this page
These free online accounts programs are in alphabetical order with a link and paragraph for each. A few more details could appear over time. The list is Beanbalance, Brightbook, Slickpie, Pandle, and Wavapps.

Introduction to free online accounting for income tax

I pay UK self-assessed income tax, using software to help with the job. That's what I know. I may pay UK VAT and Corporation Tax in future and look for programs written for the UK market. UK payroll is specialised too, and I mention something about that at the bottom of the page.
UK income tax self-assessment requires
  • transactions, probably imported from a bank statement
  • categories of transaction: income, cost of sales, overheads, non-business, and probably loads of others added out of curiosity, or to match any income tax expenses that have their own box on the form or their own rules.
  • payments can be split into two categories, such as splitting electricity into home and home-based office costs.
  • A total for a year for each category.
  • Cash accounting by default, with the option to measure invoices un-paid and bills un-paid if the business ever gets large. At the moment I just check against a bank statement - if my accounting is double-entry (I'm not sure) then that's only because it's checked against the bank statement; I try to enter things only once and in as automated a way as possible. 
I guess all the programs below can do all of these jobs and more; it's what they're for. That's what they know.

Oh, this follows a previous post on account aggregators - mainly based on yodlee - that extract data from your bank accounts to save you downloading the things. One of them - Moneydashboard - can automatically log-in to a single bank account via the yodlee system and store your transactions, which you can download as a form of .csv file, without totals, linked from the bottom left of their page. However your bank lets you download data, it can probably be converted to something you can upload to an accounts program. Cruch Accounting have a Santander Text File to CSV converter for example, Beanbalance have a Co-Op Bank .csv to .ofx converter, and CSVconverter.biz can handle other formats for free.  Midata, the .csv format used for comparing bank accounts, goes back a year but has some of the payee descriptions asterisked-out. As a general rule, .csv data is good but requires your accounts program to learn which column goes where; .ofx data is good, .qif data was accident-prone last time I used it. Accounts programs like my version of Wave often ignore the column for totals, if it's available, which it often isn't.

I've put quotes from company web sites in italics. There's a little bit at the bottom of the page about downloadable programs.


No premium service vs Free; everything is free but commission paid by accountants for referrals

Bank statements:

download and upload. You have to log-on to see the formats which in August 2016 were: Microsoft Money (any version) .ofx format .qbo or Quickbooks format Sage Line 50 .qif format

Transactions to categories:

Probably smart, but I don't see a quick note on their web site


No premium service vs Free; everything is free. A dot next to a circle on their front page converts the screen to a less bright colour, and the screen art might change if someone sends them another suggestion.

Bank statements:

.ofx or .qif format. We recommend.ofx format, if it's available, as it provides more transaction information.
(Co-op Bank .csv to .ofx converter Use this tool to convert Co-op .CSV exports into .ofx files, ready for upload into Brightbook. Note: this only works with Co-op .csv files) .qbo format; Sage Line 50

Transactions to categories:

With your help, Brightbook can recognise what the items on your statements are. For example, if your statement shows the description 'TELEPHONE CD.286', you simply choose the Bill Type (Telephone) and Payment Method (Direct Debit) and tick the box next to the save button - Brightbook will then remember it for future imports.


Slick service with a premium version coming soon and a promise to keep a free version forever. Pandle.co.uk/pricing/ suggests that invoice reminders, bank feeds, stripe and paypal integration will be paid for.

Digression on Fremium services like Quickfile

(There can be no promises about what will be free. Quickfile.co.uk is based in the UK and worth a look at £45+VAT a year, but was initially free and still has a free version for something like 80 lines of bank statement per month with only the features that you find on other free programs. When the price hike happened, they let me download my data and I found ways of uploading it to another program. While using it I found that it took a while to turn-off or work-around the double entry booko-keeping system of an invoice account to balance payments made, but it worked. You can teach it to recognise bank statement lines and categorise them ).

Bank statements:  

We have developed integrations with all the major banks in the UK. So no matter who you bank with Pandle will be able to automatically import your bank statements. - presumably this is Yodlee. For upload instructions, there is a video headed Select one of our pre-formatted upload types depending on your bank account and easily upload all of your transactions in one go. I tried uploading some Waveapps data, converted to .ofx by csvconverter.biz but just got error message number one each time I tried a variation. It says something like "does not match". Pandle is very new and this quirk might be sorted by the time you try.

Transactions to categories:

Learns from previous category decisions


(Getapp lists this service but doesn't list most of the free ones or allow comparison of any)

Bank statements:

To import bank statement in SlickPie, you need to download your bank statement in .csv (Comma Separated File) or .ofx (Microsoft Money) format.

Transactions to categories:

Probably something slick, but I haven't found a quick note on their web site

This program doesn't seem to have a version for the UK market, but has subtle tweaks and instructions available for setting-up tax systems and a helpdesk who tout for trade asking if they can help with anything.

In contrast Kashflow can upload a VAT return automatically to a UK tax office but costs so-much a month - a price that rises steeply from £5+VAT if you use it much.


(Getapp lists this service but doesn't list most of the free ones or allow comparison of any)
No premium service except payroll, which is only available in the US and Canada anyway The free version can recognise bills and receipts sent from your own email address and keep them ready for matching against the bank statement. There isn't a page of features because the url is broken-down by features, which are /accounting /invoice /payments /receipts

Bank statements:

Imported on request, by pressing a button, once set-up. The feed system used is from Yodlee, which has been criticised by accountants as accident-prone, but works for me. I still have to learn how to import bank and card statements into their separate bank and card accounts. Or you can upload saved statements from your had disk. The .csv option shows you the top few lines of result and asks you to confirm which one is the date, description, and payment column before recognising the rest automatically. It claims to be able to flag entries that you upload twice by mistake, but hasn't done that for me. .ofx Microsoft Money .qbo QuickBooks .qfx Quicken .aso Simply Accounting .csv CSV file

Transactions to categories:

The system is slow to list a load of transactions on the screen, even when you try to think of knacks like only showing a months' transactions at a time. This makes manual processing slow, but it's necessary as Yodlee bank feeds have been known to mess-up. There is an automatic system that counts a paypal payment as "computer services". There is no way to change the automatic system. The nearest is to wait to the end of the year, list the ledger screen by the description column, click the tickbox beside every paypal receipt, and then press a button to reclassify the lot as something else.


The program has heard of VAT so I expect it can be set-up to handle UK or non-american taxes, but one review is less sure: "Basically Wave Accounting doesn’t handle VAT properly. There is no option for cash accounting or the flat rate scheme, trying to incorporate VAT in transactions is difficult and the VAT return is useless, does not transfer anything into a liability account and no ability to reconcile VAT transactions.". Wave themselves say that the program is fine for VAT

Chance findings - the programs that cropped-up and don't qualify for the list but might interest someone

Never do anything for the first time: paying self-assesed income tax with software as a guide
...can be a strain on anyone's ability to make sense of HMRC web sites and guides. There are cheap bits of software for the purpose, with their own guides, prompts and estimates as well as special cases like paying from abroad where the HMRC website doesn't work. The Guardian had a joint deal one year with a firm that is now called GoSimple; others are among the list on https://www.gov.uk/software-tax-returns . I guess that they are less for book-keeping than the software listed at the top of this page, and more for help filling-in the tax form. Some of the programs have free trials, so you can use them for the help screens to check that you've got the hang, and then fill-in your own figures on the HMRC web site if you would rather save the cost of the software.
Payroll programs
I've never done UK payroll, but found-out some software for it by accident.

http://www.payerti.org/RTI-UC - guide to real time reporting requirements for employers

http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/tech/tech-pulse/rti-payroll-software-free-options lists software.

HMRC list a few online programs that can report detail for less than ten UK employees alongside paid versions of the same software that can do more, as can HMRC's own downloadable software which is also free and has no limit on use. Gov.uk/basic-paye-tools

is a down-loadable accounts program that can do UK payroll for over 10 employees. The payroll was developed specifically for the United Kingdom. It can submit information to HMRC using RTI, and we believe at this time, it's the only free payroll that will allow in excess of 10 employees. The maximum is 250 employees. However, Adminsoft Accounts is primarily an accounts system, and so the payroll is basic. While very useable, and fully compliant with payroll legislation, it does not have some of the 'bells ad whistles' that some of the paid for (and rather expensive...) alternative products may have. For example, things like the amount of SSP, SMP, student loans, etc. have to be worked out by hand, where as a more sophisticated payroll would work out the amounts automatically.

Adminsoft describes itself as a double-entry accounts program that handles stock control and has addons for cafe-restaurants and motor repair or car parts shops, so it's a different animal to most of the programs listed above. It's also coy about importing bank statements; I can't see anything that says what formats it accepts from your hard disk, and it doesn't mention yodlee connections. It's supported as free software - like Wave - by ads on your working screens and a credit on your invoices. They're more intrusive than the add on Wave, but Adminsoft does do stock control and payroll, and has modules for car parts shops and cafes. Unlike Wave, Adminsoft can't be used online like a web site; there is an faq post about how to use if over an internal network. The fact that it's on your hard disc ought to make it faster than Wave on a bad day, when Wave is very bad; downloadable software might be more efficient. I don't know how much.

Payroo.com looks next cheapest from a quick search of HMRC's first list of programs - Gov.uk/payroll-software - the ones that are free for the first three or nine employees. Payroo is cheapest on the list for employers of ten or more, who pay £3+VAT a year when submitting an end of year report. It runs from a web site, like the list of accounts software above. A couple of posts on the accountingweb link suggest that when something goes wrong there is no way to put it right; you can't contact Payroo to ask them to put right a mistake even if it's their mistake. On the other hand, the £3+VAT cost is yearly; other companies charge per month.
Downloadable open source and free accounts software
There are plenty of downloadable open source programs, but so far as I know they all make double entry a priority which makes the learning curve steep and accounting slow. This is a problem with Gnucash and its simpler relative, Grisbi, as well as the now open source Turbocash. I have not tried VTCashbook which is often mentioned on other sites. When I used downloaded software for work I used Acemoney, which is free for one or two tracked accounts or freemium for more and geared to a sole trader or freelancer. It claims to download data from some of the US banks automatically, but I don't have any US bank accounts to test it on and UK banks aren't so easy to deal with. I guess that open source software is more of an option when looking for larger-scale more complicated options with different names like "ERP" and more functions. You might prove me wrong by checking Wikipedia
Time tracking programs
This is a feature on some account programs but not others. I haven't spotted whether it's on any of the list above, but the american program https://zipbooks.com has it. The program is funded by commission from services like Paypal in North America, so it won't include specialised features for the UK any time soon, but hey: it has time tracking and something called Project Management as well.

Installable open source and free accounts software for web servers

Web servers nowadays include an easy software installation panel called something like Vistapanel, Softulicious, Installatron or Fantastico. Even the slow, free servers like Byethost have it. If you search the web sites of these one-click installer companies, or sign-up for a web host, you'll see the list of what they can install which is mainly rather corporate multi-purpose stuff.
Stock control programs and ERP
One of the hassles of growing a business is that after a while you want to integrate things like the accounts software and the e-commerce software, and find that it can't easily be done and that you need something like a Drupal set-up or some sprawling-great program do it, and apparently sprawling-great programs are called ERP, which probably stands for sprawling great program in some language.  Oodoo is an example.
I haven't reached that stage; I hope to use the stock control software that's glued to the back of Prestashop e-commerce. For the moment, I just count the shoe boxes on a shelf. Anyway, one of two of the programs above might do stock control.
The purpose of all this blogging is to promote an online vegan shoe web site called Veganline.com that sells vegan shoes boots belts and jackets mainly made in a democratic welfare state - the UK.

Monday, 13 June 2016

London Housing Trust

https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2016/06/08/revealed-homeless-housing-trust-accused-letting-domestic-violence-victims-400-week-rooms/ ... A lot of this blog post repeats what's on the link - skip down the page for how to run an organisation that is not like London Housing Trust or read-on to see why not to copy them. If you are just loking for London Housing Trust's office address: 8b Evelyn Court Business Park, Grinstead Rd, SE8 5AD.

London Housing Trust & funders

The BBC version of this story confirmed that London Housing Trust defrauded the local housing benefit office by claiming for a "concierge service" at a place where there wasn't one. The fraud is as simple as that. The building housed victims of domestic violence amongst others, so there's a good reason to have someone paid to answer the door, but no such job existed. This is a straightforward factual statement, easily proved. The Guardian re-reported the story with quotes from several residents.

There's also money from Supporting People, a scheme like Housing Benefit which I don't understand, and depends on residents needing some kind of extra service beyond what other landlords can provide.

Meanwhile the organisation insists on online referrals which could be good but leaves less paper trail to say what these residents' support needs were or are - always a problem when the residents are not there for any specific treatment that might help define them. I don't know if this is a problem, but it was certainly a problem at Kids Company, where the founder made repeated implausible claims about the needs of her clients and instructed staff to upgrade every one of them on the database in the last few days that staff thought they were paid.

London Housing Trust & suppliers

The BBC confirmed that London Housing Trust defrauds ex-residents as part of a scheme to defraud suppliers, showing an interview with an ex housing support worker who said something like "this has happened loads of times. We put any ex-residents' name on the electricity bill, and when it isn't paid we say 'look: we're a housing association; the resident has moved-on', and the electricity company don't cut us off." The BBC backed-up this general story with a specific ex-resident who had been chased for forged fuel bills, and a current resident who had confronted the landlord. The BBC had a third piece of evidence - a photo of an emailed reply from a current housing support worker saying that the director - "Steve" - had instructed her to put "the longest residents' name" on an electricity bill.

London Housing Trust & staff

The organisation seems likely to treat staff so badly that ex-staff can be called bad witnesses, as though this was normal. As though it's normal for ex-staff members to want to contact the press: "The programme ... arose from one complaint from one client and the malicious intent of a former employee". If the organisation does treat staff like this, the result for some staff is obvious. There is another result for tenants and taxpayers: organisations who hire staff like this will get the ones so unimaginative that they didn't see anything wrong, or so cynical that they worked the system. They won't get the perfectly good staff who made a fuss. Such people would be given a bad reference if they tried to get another job after being employed at London Housing Trust or any of the other organisations like it.

London Housing Trust & donors

The BBC added a story of food bank parcels being delivered to the head office, and interviews with residents who said they had never seen any food from food banks; none reached them.
London Housing Trust urges residents to complain to the BBC about unfair reporting.

It's easy to see why this sort of organisation should be short of cash, but the high housing benefit payments ought to go a long way if the organisation is run efficiently, without anything being syphoned-off to other companies. London Housing Trust is certainly a thrifty organisation in terms of self-written web sites done on open source software, clients on the board instead of external trustees, and an organisation that seems to run on the say-so of a director rather than a committee-cycle. This could be a good thing if it allows the organisation to run on the current grant system, including special high-rate housing benefit, rather than a begging-round of grants from all-over-the-place and housing provided cheaply by sympathetic housing associations, as was the system when I worked in supported housing (we used to have fake consultation where a team leader would be required to get consent from staff for some distant committee's decision). Firms that pay low wages and are generally cheapskate like NACRO or Stonham or English Churches had all the advantage that bad employers have, and were still short of money when I did temping work for them. But that doesn't change the starting point; the housing benefit payments should be not be syphoned-off to other companies; they should be spent on what it said on the form.

London Housing Trust & trust

By the time the story was on TV, some of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports of obvious and deliberate-looking conflicts of interest, like awarding a contract to a company owned by a director Steven Dellar, had been acknowledged to some extent. Dellar resigned on the 4th of June, while another London Housing Trust director, Winsome Chambers, resigned a directorship of Limitless Care Ltd on the 3rd of June. The names of both director's other companies suggest that they are contractors for the likes of London Housing Trust, and so able to get work in a way that isn't transparent. They could move money in or out of the organisation in a way that isn't shown on the books by charging less or more for work they are bound to get.

This is not worth a news report when a private company does it - maybe to avoid Corporation Tax - but if there is charitable-style funding or volunteer work done to help a poor organisation, then it ought to be known. The organisation claimed on its web site to be a charity until quite recently, when it was pointed-out to them that larger charities have to register or stop using the word. It still calls itself a "Trust".

London Housing Trust & trustees or residents

LHT has some residents on the board of directors.
Trustees sometimes justify bad management of voluntary organisations by saying that it's the clients that are the first priority, and so all the other stakeholders - funders / donors / volunteers, staff, or suppliers - come second. Usually the same point of view comes with a lazy approach to who the clients of a charity are - such as the particular residents at any one time - rather than the potential residents and ex-residents as well in part of a process. Anyway, clients of a service suffer too. For example, if you had a problem with domestic violence, you want to live somewhere with a "concierge service". If it it's funded but not supplied, then nobody can have the service. Either the hostel tries to avoid housing clients who need it, or they take a chance and maybe it's needed but not there.
The effects on clients go-on. Staff who make a fuss leave the trade or are forced to leave the trade without a reference. The next agency down the road hires staff who got their first jobs at this place, and can get a reference from it. After a while, the whole trade gets to be staffed by people who are loyal to employers, not to the work, who lack curiosity about what they're doing, and don't make a fuss. These aren't good people to run anything,. An organisation which was much more transparent could do a lot more for everyone, including clients.


In everyday life, you don't trust dishonest people; you don't hire someone to do a job if they did a fraud on another job.

The shocking and depressing thing is that the organisation is so dishonest that it doesn't apologise or understand the problem; a statement on their web site urges residents to write-in to complain to the BBC. The notion that a dishonest person should not have been a director, nor a biddable person still work as a housing support worker, isn't addressed in their reply. Facts are not important to them either. My hunch is that words and facts are less important than status in way that the organisation is run.

This is the kind of management that you have to put-up with if you work for grant artists. I once worked for a firm called Equinox, working for rough sleepers in South East London, that treated funders, residents, and staff in a similar way. Not exactly the same way, but fraudulently. Equinox is still going. Quo Vardis Trust, a company and registered charity run by Steve Dellar, does joint work with Equinox apparently.

Dishonesty is often the end of a process that began with an attempt to run an honest service. People set-up organisations to do impossible or difficult things because they don't know that it's difficult. A general point of view emerges among trustees and around the office, which happens to be the easiest and cheapest thing to believe. Then when managers are hired over time, it's convenient for them to believe the unbelievable. These are London Housing Trust's specialisms, according to the Care Quality Commission.
  • Dementia
  • Mental health conditions
  • Personal care
  • Physical disabilities
  • Caring for adults under 65 yrs
NHS consultants have trouble specialising in one of those areas and finding a way to help; this rental agency claims to specialise in all of the. It's not unusual. TurningPoint has a similar note on its letterhead, as does English Churches Housing Group. The letterhead says something like "drug alcohol learning difficulties ... those sort of people", and the service is described as "housing", or "working with", or "anything to claim a grant to be honest". The reality is that someone from the temping agency or a junior inexperienced job applicant is called-in to do the job. Whatever it is. Job qualifications and interview questions can mention subjects like "awareness of alcohol issues" in passing, underneath the bit that says "able to use an impress petty cash system". This was the norm in the kinds of housing support agencies I used to work at while temping, and it's only a few steps short of the the fraud that follows. It's a very hard norm to change, because there is no set of people you can ask about what the organisation does. Some staff do a lot; some a little. Some talk a lot, and rise to be team leaders. Others come-in from other jobs and become the grander staff who talk to consultants about how very, very junior their junior staff are.

Afterthought and digression about schools

As most secondary schools now work on with similar principals, this it's hard to guess what will happen to secondary schools. Will they become as bad as supported housing agencies? There are reports in the Times Higher Educational Supplement staffroom section of free schools awarding over-priced contracts to their own senior staff under other company names.

Italics are direct quotes from the London Housing Trust web site - scroll down for a bit about how to be an honest skinflint in the voluntary sector

Jun 16

BBC London News Broadcast – Response by London Housing Trust

Many of our clients and agencies who work with us, may have seen the BBC London News broadcast (08/06/16) about alleged malpractice occurring within the Trust. We unreservedly deny the reported allegations and intend to make a formal complaint to the BBC and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The broadcast was littered with factually inaccurate details and was based on a complaint from one client, who in collusion with a former employee, collaborated to bring the name of the Trust into disrepute. The Trust supports over 200 clients across 47 properties. The journalists honed in on two properties and interviewed two clients and from this made an exaggerated claim of “widespread malpractice”.
On seeing the broadcast, a number of clients have contacted us voicing their astonishment at the biased reporting and volunteering to give video testimonials of the support that they receive from the Trust.
If you have any concerns about our work, please do not hesitate to contact our Operations Manager, Winsome Chambers.
London Housing Trust has not yet been inspected by the Care Quality Commission, after registering in January 2015.

The Homes and Communities Agency has a very public online notice to say it's inspecting London Housing Trust as a registered social landlord, and links for detail to this page about how to be a registered social landlord. I haven't read the detail but I was in the trade the inspections were from the Housing Corporation and about things like rent, repairs, and the role of staff.

Dec 2012

LHT Signs up to the London Living Wage (£8.55 ph)

On the 31 December London Housing Trust raised all its employees wages to at least the London Living Wage (currently £8.55).

We believe that, like Boris Johnson “Paying the London Living Wage is not only morally right, but makes good business sense too.”  As a Registered Provider of Social Housing, LHT  provides supported accommodation to over 150 clients in London.  Our commitment to our clients must be reflected in our commitment to our staff.

“Support is one of the lowest paid sectors and providing a living wage means that we can attract the best people in the sector to offer the best support to our clients.  Its part of our people strategy and our corporate responsibilty agenda.” – Dr Stephen Dellar – Director @ LHT

Update: London Housing Trust has extracted "messages of support" from other organisations as their website described them for a while, Or at least it has extracted feedback about the referral process; quotes show replies to that question. It's not stated whether these were phone interviews or email or what, but the quotes were all made on the same day - eight days after the broadcast - so they were probably obtained by cold-calling people who need referral options for their clients and so are likely to be polite.
Heather Lord (who works at The Depaul Trust)

‘Most referrals have been a positive outcome. I have not faced any issues with LHT.  
The referral process is not the best although it is online.  LHT could improve the referral form to suit referral agents and well as LHT staff.’
Malcom Williams (who works at The Passage Day Centre)

‘The referral process is fine. I do not have any issues with LHT however they could improve communication with referral agent in regards to clients who have been referred.’


Tracey Hamilton (who works at Tower Hamlets Council)

‘The referral process makes it easy to provide the client information.  LHT is very informative; they call you back regarding a client and if not when you call, they provide you with enough information, so your up to date with everything.’
 Gary Bird (who works at Thamesreach)

‘The process of referring clients is very straightforward, its nice quick and easy.  I personally have not faced any issues with LHT and in my opinion there are no improvements needed.   I’ve referred many clients and I will definitely refer more.’  
Homeless Support Worker (no name, team, or organisation given so this is looks very much like a made-up quote).

‘bla bla bla bla bla bla bla this is probably a made-up quote para one’
‘bla bla bla bla bla bla bla this is probably a made-up quote para two’
‘From all of our Team, we would like to say thank you to the London Housing Trust and at a time like this when you are going through difficulty holding on to positive thoughts and feedback is far more important than journalists causing distress’    

How to be an honest skinflint in the voluntary sector

A happy event: https://knowhownonprofit.org/ is a good site about how be a good skinflint and other subjects that interest prople in the voluntary sector - all published as a wiki with help from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations

This is quite different to the kind of thing that used to be on head office desks when I worked for the voluntary sector. Subjects like how to work without an office or a landline. Whether there is something on how to work without a Microsoft and and Adobe licence I don't know - that used to the last badge of rank that voluntary sector managers wanted to give-up, even when they were plotting fake gross misconduct allegations to get rid of expensive staff without redundancy, or ripping-off funders and clients with lies about services provided or letting down suppliers. I worked at one place that simply decided not to pay rent on an office in order to rip-off the landlord.

Oh - here is a clue:
This author suggests using one donated piece of microsoft software one one remote server. I disagree. I think the default option should be to use free open source software like Libre Office on all machines, updated every few months, so that everyone is using the same software and nobody has to trouble donors. There is a side effect that everyone associated with the organisation learns that free software exists, which is the kind of objective that charities are set-up for; they can pass-on the knowledge to their clients.

Traditionally, voluntary sector trade associations have had to advise a broad range of organisations, defined by the type of organisation (however broad) rather than a purpose, which is usually something more or less impossible like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, healing the sick and providing community to those who are hard to reach. All with or without a grant from some government body which is probably reducing while demand increases.

I found a couple of pages on making the landlord redundant and cutting energy costs legally -both by the same author. They read like something from Moneysavingexpert, which is another good place to look.


And I almost forgot to add a link to my job - flogging vegan shoes mainly made in the UK, along with boots, belts, and some vegan jackets.

How to set-up a better firm to your boss's one in the voluntary sector

When I worked for Drink Crisis Centre, as it then was, there was a rapid turnover of people who were often not on speaking terms with each other, working for the outreach team. My project - hostel liaison - was merged into it on the management diagram, but really I was self-employed with hindrance from a voluntary organisation that took a large grant, kept some of it for management fees or ghost staff, and paid me the rest as salary till on a whim they closed my part of the project and used fake gross misconduct accusations dismissals to remove remaining staff without a reference. What surprised me was that there was no way to set-up a rival organisation with the same staff and the same funder, given that the management team provided next to nothing. All we needed was a formal way of meeting, because we were not all of us on speaking terms, and a bit of free advice from a consultant on how to transfer the project over to a better management team. At the time there was another management team called Rugby House Project that we trusted a bit more and had managed similar things. We needed a union branch that was interested in this kind of work. All the rest would become obious once a union branch had started the process, as, between us, we have most of the knowledge about how the grant system worked and who organised it. Now, people who work with people don't often want to go and work with more people in the evenings in some kind of branch committee and there is a good site about how one of these worked very badly a decade ago, but the idea remains worth a try.

I doubt the idea would work for London Housing Trust because the staff would more often be on a first job in the trade and keen to move-on to something better-paid rather than stay and do something. This is more of an idea for jobs were people like the work, but don't like the employer, but it might apply.