Friday, 2 September 2011

Recycling, still lagging behind.

A report from Flanders (Belgium) on BBC Breakfast this morning described how local authorities have addressed recycling and household waste issues. It seems to be the same formula introduced in Luxembourg in 1997, where every household had their waste and recycling bins electronically chipped to register how much weight was collected from each home.

The key to introducing the change in Luxembourg was excellent communication and a fair system of reward. Backed by statistics of average weight collected per household, itemised council tax bills showed the cost attributed to waste collection. This element was removed from the charge when the new 'chip' system started, replaced by details of the weight of recycling collected at a cost of x (cheap) and waste collected at y (more expensive). In most cases, this worked out to the same or less, providing a controllable incentive to become 'greener' and save money.

At that time, only compostable waste was collected. As in most western European countries, large containers for glass, paper, plastics, etc. are placed on street corners and collected regularly. In fact, in many countries, all waste is collected daily from large containers placed within communities rather than from each house once a fortnight. Managed efficiently, this could reduce the burden on council tax payers in suitable communities in Britain.

Way back in 1998 when my local council invited people to share their ideas for recycling, I submitted the Luxembourg case study. I did get a 'thank you' but here we are, years later, still failing to encourage people to recycle, still focusing on fines for non-compliance rather than rewards for our efforts.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Sole Traders & Partnerships not keen on becoming Employers?

There was a snippet on BBC Breakfast News this morning, related to small businesses unwilling to create jobs because the employment laws are too complex.

As the owner of a small business established over 20 years ago, I have shied away from becoming an employer, preferring instead to combine forces with other small businesses or self-employed people. There are many reasons why this suits me because, whilst my services are geared to helping small businesses to grow, plans for my own company do not include expansion beyond current capacity (ie, using my network of business contacts).

However, somewhat hypocritically, helping the UK economy and local job-seekers is a cause I believe in. Would I be tempted to employ someone - albeit part-time - if it was easier to do so? Here are some of my fears of becoming an employer:

  • finding the right candidate with the right attitude (without breaking discrimination laws)
  • the need to sustain almost 100% increase in current business
  • time/effort to be spent on employment issues (time/effort not spent on core business) 
  • hours and hours of one-to-one training
  • how to cover the extra work during holidays and sickness
  • and, if it doesn't work out, redundancy or dismissal can be costly and messy

I needn't go on. I'm convinced that this is not for me. But, for small companies with greater and sustained growth plans, there should be financial incentives as well as business support. I am aware of possible grants for training plus local networks and organisations that offer advice and business support but not of meaningful incentives for small businesses to employ someone currently receiving job-seekers allowance.

Regarding the Government's wish for UK business to employ UK residents rather than opportunists newly arrived from overseas, how about financial incentives such as paying the equivalent of 3 months job-seekers allowance to the employer, providing the person is still employed after one year?

The real problem, though, is attitude. People coming from overseas are willing, desperate, to work and will often make great efforts to contribute to the success of the company whereas, unfortunately, the attitude of some Brits stinks! Whether this is a lack of confidence in themselves or over-confidence that the 'system' will or should look after them, I don't know. Either way, as I said, not for me - but don't let it stop you!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Mobile Phone / Cellphone / GSM Emergency Numbers

Even if you don't have International roaming on your mobile 'phone, here is a good reason to take your 'phone with you anyway ...

It's unclear which emergency numbers you need to use from a cellphone from various countries; the generally accepted norm for the UK is 999 or 112, 112 in Europe, 911 in the USA (other countries' emergency numbers vary).

Emergency numbers will generally work on the nearest available network and, usually, even with the keypad locked. Most sim cards will have world emergency numbers pre-coded so that travellers won't need to know the specific number for the country they are in. For example, 112 should automatically route to the appropriate emergency number for the country where the cellphone is dialling from.

*** UPDATE FOR HERTS July 2011 ***
Call 101 for non-emergency police matters.