Saturday, January 31, 2009

Freedom consists in service - part 2

As Reggie Perrin's boss CJ used to say " I didn't get where I am today by..." followed by a reasonably fatuous statement.
Well, I didn't get to be the cynical, bitter and twisted person I am today by thinking that anything ever works. I may have thought so once, but not any more.
So a couple of little stories. Mrs. Lear's accountant, filling in her tax return online some weeks ago, discovered there was no way to enter a minus figure. For anything. So a paper form has to be submitted. This then gets followed up by HMRC reducing Mrs. Lear's tax code from about 591 to 16, and when queried we are told - and I quote - " Oh there are thousands that have been sent out in error." I suspect this is probably millions.
When a friend was filling in his form - admittedly at the last minute - it wouldn't work. It kept asking ridiculous follow up questions " Are you a company director? Answer :yes. Up pops : "Put in your Teacher's pension number" I'm not joking. They have spent several billion on this IT system, especially to bring Revenue together with Customs. This particular bit of genius is a forgotten bit of Brown's idiocy which will eventually degrade tax and other levy gathering.
So you can see I have reason to be cynical.
Oh, and sending out all the wrong tax demands? Well that's quite sneaky. When the Pre-Budget report is done, the Treasury can say " X is the amount of tax we have to collect, so the borrowing requirement is Y." Unfortunately, X is complete rubbish, as HMRC makes such a hash of everything that X is probably nearer zero than even half X. So the next time round the borrowing requirement - surprise surprise - has risen. This is why the budget each year for the last 5 has had to admit that the borrowing requirement is higher than the one promulgated 4 months earlier.
So it is with great pleasure that I report on two things that happened this week which have restored my faith in whatever it is.
Firstly, Scottish Power - not noted for their efficiency - spoken to on Wednesday, appointment made for Thursday 10am, hole dug Thursday PM, connection installed by 11:30 Friday morning. Unheard of. I can only think they have nothing to do at the moment as there are little or no new buildings to install power into.
Secondly, my mobile died on Friday morning - not the phone bit, everything else, reducing me to a text that only fitted the outer screen, didn't store any of them, made no record of calls made etc etc. Disaster. Phone call to Orange. Diagnostic over the ether. New phone dispatched and told it would be with me Saturday morning by 10am.
Huge cynicism. Dispelled by ringing of door bell at 9:15am and delivery of new phone.
Now maybe both of these straws in the wind are down to the recession ( and believe me it is, and its still getting worse) with companies desperate to keep their clients.
If so, and to make sure opprobrium will be heaped on me from all angles, recession is a price worth paying to get service.
Of course, the difference is these are both private enterprise companies.
HMRC is not.

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