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The Other News From England.

27 Sept 1999.

Only a day late. These things can happen.

This week.

Index of earlier issues - click here.

Advance warning.

THE RSI is still a little bit of a problem, so there may yet be further interruptions in the regularity of The Other News.

This week, the RSI continues, so articles will be short.

(Those who like digging about will find that there are hundreds of articles on many subjects to be found on this site. Look at the Index of Earlier issues for a start. There are also some drawings and sheet music.)



The academic year got off to a blindingly enthusiastic start, with managers from all about giving us a rousing appraisal of the superb service they are offering the customers. The director of education was particularly impressive with his speech in which he told us that Britain is now a 'socially inclusive nation' (hence all those people sleeping on the streets, see?), telling us how the adult education department was a fine example of Investors In People (IIP!) dazzling the assembled teaching staff with the wonders of administrative organisation that go into achieving this completely meaningless and unattainable piece of paper ('not just a piece of paper, but something very real...' he said), explaining it loud enough to keep them awake, cajoling them with glasses of wine (tends to make them even less interested than they were pretending to be in the first place), and finally telling us that (as part of the socially inclusive nation, I suppose) 'we are one of the best educated countries in the world' (if we are, it surely must be despite these fools).

This IIP stuff - has anyone out there experienced it doing anything useful? Our managers talked about:

Then, with the excitement of the new term and the new hype well in place with enrolments expected to excede all previous years - a large number of classes were cancelled because they did not enrol enough people to run!

Why? Well, for a start they all had to be relabelled to reflect the new (reborn, anyway) dynamic management and their commitment to........blah blah. Such ridiculously soft things as people being in the habit of attending a class because they liked it had to be sacrificed, as must any class description that did not in some way imply that instead of being education it was a class aimed at exams.

Not quite the formula for adult education, I am sure you will agree.

I don't really know how they measure the fact the we are 'one of the best educated communities in the world', so I cannot easily argue that it is untrue, but I have to conclude that by my own yardstick I would not consider us to be particularly well educated. It is probably true that large numbers of young people pass exams, but it is even more evident that most of them know very little - which may be what the British idea of education is. The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives it as: 'bringing up (of the young); systematic instruction; course of this, (classical education, etc), development of character or mental powers; training (of animals).etc...'

I will concede that a surprisingly large number of young people in our society can read, and therefore have the potential to be educated. The next thing is to make enough clear space and time and the right atmosphere for them to educate themselves - which will be a very difficult task indeed if we continue in the direction we have been going in.


IN SOUTHWARK, THE COUNCIL appear to beleive that it is cheapoer to have a complaints system than it is to do the job in hand.

My friend Daisy, who is 74 and lives in a flat belonging to the council, has suffered constant damp for the past five years, most of the time so extensive that the paper is falling off the walls. This she complains of regularly, but nobody actually ever does anything. What happens instead is that the council writes to her to tell her that they understand she has a complaint, and, explaining the complaints procedure (about 6 months if it ever went the full course, but who has the patience?) they then forget to try to do something.

I can only presume that they have nobody capable of doing the work, since they don't pay enough money to get anybody capable of doing it (building and technology is an area about which I know quite a lot, and I cannot remember meeting one person in the building trade capable of doing a decent day's work who would work for council pay), and the reason they cannot afford to pay anybody properly to do the work is because they spend so much money on three or four executives and a huge team of complaints processors.

In the light of the huge number of people I have met who had complaints about the council failing to do things, it is surprising they even have enough money to pay the caretakers, let alone some builders who know what they are doing.

And as for Southwark surveyors.. ..!!!!*@@*&**!!

The Market Rental Fiddle

I HAVE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME that the local county court is bent when it gets wind of a landlord - near enough every prejudice available to mankind comes out and is well excercised whilst the landlord is being shown exactly how little regard may be had for the law when it comes to certain groups of persons.

And I always knew the rent officer was bent, and I always knew the reason. The reason is a curious mixture of envy and the notion that they are protecting the vulnerable and dependant. The envy comes from the the envy of someone apparently getting paid for doing nothing (which is why local authorities are ridding themselves of their landlord roll as fast as they can, you see!), whilst the 'protecting the vulnerable' comes from a knowledge of the fact that some people will never be able to own a house as long as we live in a capitalist society, this all coupled with guilt about one's own behaviour towards some inadequate at some stage in the past. It makes you want to 'do good', and can be a bloody menace.

What I didn't find out during eighteen years of contact with these ill people was that the rent officer actually systematically, steadily and regularly bends the facts. Analysis of a registered rent can reveal a wide selection of 'adjustments' to all aspects of the matter, to bring the final rent set by the rent officer - even by his or her own spuriously scientific methods - something in the region of twenty percent below that which it would otherwise be. Floor areas are adjusted a little here and a little there, 'scarcity' (a factor in the final setting a 'market rent') is found to be greater than it really is, the extent of the tenancy is adjusted to cover more than it started out covering (but miraculously not increasing the floor area or the amenity value), the condition of the building and amenities are played down if it is exceptionally good, the distances to the shops and schools increased, the number of shops and schools understated, until eventually the rent officer has effectively stolen substantial sums of money and territory - or both - from the landlord.

Rent officer rents would normally be re-inforced by the local Rent Assessment Panel in the event of any landlord being fool enough to appeal, although they do normally have the subtlety to realise that the addition of 5% to the rent objected to will be sufficient to stave off an appeal to the High Court (which is manned by the same sort of people who man county courts, so I don't know why they are worrying.)

If you are a tenant you may well think this is a good thing, and if you are a landlord you may well think it is a bad one. But bearing in mind that we live in a capitalist society, and that even a tenant would expect to be paid a rent for something that had cost a lot of money, it is reasonably safe to say that it is OK to pay rent for property, and so it is really a question of how much.

I think it would be reasonable to say that a rent should not be more than a person can afford, and it would also be reasonable to say that it should not be less than a landlord can afford, and herein lies a very big problem. The landlord has paid so much for the property that unless a market rent is charged he or she is gradually going to go bankrupt (not that the rent officer cares about a thing like that), and the tenant when paying the rent, if they are paying a true market rent, should be able to choose to buy a house with the same amount of outgoing money if they felt it to be a better option - thus giving homesearches a real choice between the two instead of the present situation where tenants are kept in dependancy by the fact that the rent is cheaper than a mortgage would be.

I cannot emphasise enough how dependant this system of fiddling the market rent makes people. You only need to look at the difference between the day-to-day cost of buying and compare it with the day to day cost of renting to realise it takes somebody with considerable financial understanding to see why buying is worth the trouble - and buying is what the government wants us all to do. A tenant is unlikely to know that they are so uncreditworthy because they do not own property, and by and large do not seem to realise that the money borrowed to buy a house stays the same whilst the value of the property goes up, or even that as time passes the amount left owing after paying the mortgage represents less and less of the 'value' of the property even if property prices get stuck - they need educating in this, but there is no reason to suppose that they would not understand.

But they need educating in other matters too. In capitalism, no gain is made (as far as I know) without a risk being taken, and sometimes a loss, so they need educating in how and when to take risks.

But then nobody wants them to become so independant that they cannot be kept in order!


The stuff that doesn`t often get changed now follows:

This is a site concerned with one of the most unpopular planning decisions ever made in Greater London, the Crystal Palace Complex. It is so stunningly awful that only a handful of people who do not live near it appear to approve, whilst the rest are not entirely uninclined to mention such things as payola, name it! The site belongs to the London Borough of Bromley, but the aggro generated by it and the destruction of amenity caused by it will be almost entirely suffered by residents of adjoining boroughs and not the people of Bromley themselves.

This is a recycling site based in London, and offering materials to anybody. The organisation is a charity seeking to link suppliers of surplus materials with users. Especially good for the more ingenious designers amongst us.

The email of the people who run the above site is They are called Creative Supplies. Look them up for more info.

Here's an interesting education site - particularly for those who have young children and are not quite sure what to do to avoid the worst of what`s on offer in the mainstream of education.They are called

early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.

Early Other News essays.

There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.


The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.

Friday Woodworkers.

(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.

Episode 17.

(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)

Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).

Progress is slow but we`re still moving on.

We are still redesigning The Other News From England. Noticed the change so far?

There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).

Index of earlier issues.

Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.

A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but I think will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.

Cartoons and graphics.

drawings click here.

sheet music click here.


(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).

So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.

So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.

A site for forward-looking people, in fact.

It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. Authors will be named if they so wish. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.



One week carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.

Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".

There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.


(see several weeks back).

This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.

In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.

The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for 28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 22.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!

I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.


A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email

8- or more-track tape recorder. email

Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email

2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.

All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:

From The Other News From England.

That`s all this week folks