Comment: Good Lord, whatever next? / Is that all we’re worth?

Comment Austin Leisure grants
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Good Lord, whatever next?

Now Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber is promoting civil disobedience! If you were in government, you would know you are pushing the population’s sense of proportionality, patience and the Great British virtue of fair play when (Lord) Andrew Lloyd Webber (a former Conservative Peer no less) is splashed across the front page of The Daily Telegraph screaming at anyone who will listen that he’s prepared to be arrested should the restrictions prohibiting normal life not be lifted as per the 21 June road map.

As Downing Street awaits yet more Covid data before making a decision which is due to be announced next Monday as to whether the reopening in England will take place as planned, the 73-year-old Lord issued a defiant come and arrest me challenge meets invitation to the powers that be. \

He declared: “We are going to open, come hell or high water” adding that if the Government delayed or postponed the lifting of lockdown that the strong arm of the law would have to “come to the theatre and arrest us” adding perhaps more convincingly that he would take what he describes as “the mother of all legal cases” against the Government if the PM does not stick to the roadmap.

At stake for Lord Lloyd-Webber is Cinderella his first new musical in six years which represents a £6m investment. Lloyd Webber has even re-mortgaged his Belgravia townhouse in order to keep his six theatres closed at a cost of £1m a month.

Hats off to Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Why, because he has done every business person and entrepreneur a huge service by going public with his position which is essentially an amplified version of the situation facing thousands and thousands of business owners the length and the breadth of the country.

What’s most infuriating is the access and influence that statistical modellers have with policy makers despite this occupational group’s shoddy track record in forecasting.

And it’s not just the business world saying this. Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers has gone on the record to confirm that NHS Trusts remain sceptical about the value and accuracy of predictive forecasters, who he says have consistently overstated scenarios and got it badly wrong.

Instead, Hopson has called for a grown-up debate, a debate in which the data is transparent and all of the issues are laid out on the table including what society is prepared to accept which includes balancing the risks and benefits of lockdown easing.

As Hopson acknowledges, these represent difficult decisions which is why the debate has to take place rather than simply rely on the crude forecasts derived from statistical models.

How refreshing to hear a public servant call for a 360-degree discussion which doesn’t seek to polarise the situation as simply a crude choice between ‘lives and livelihoods’.

Unless we are pursuing a Zero-Covid strategy the next step has to be a conscious decision to reopen society at the same time as continuing the world class immunisation programme.

 

Is that all we’re worth?

Austin Leisure endured an excruciating journey for a recovery grant. They got their £8,000, but it wasn’t easy and it isn’t enough.

It says something about the confidence of a sector when it celebrates a hard won battle to secure an £8,000 grant for a supply chain business nowadays. But that, it seems, is the level of expectation in the amusements sector currently.

This week Bacta issued a statement of a significant win for the industry – the trade body’s intervention secured Austin Leisure a discretionary award – a restart grant in all but name – amounting to £8,000.

The significance of this announcement is actually a little more weighty than the £8k suggests – Austin had tried no less than ten times previously to secure a grant. Two unsuccessful attempts through its pretty important MP, cabinet minister and secretary of state for justice Robert Buckland, the other eight at its own behest. But thanks to some “highly skilled” expertise at the 11th hour – Bacta’s intervention won the day and a grant was made. So, well done Bacta and well done Louise Austin for her “persistence”. No one is more happy than Coinslot that this victory has been notched up.

And I genuinely mean that. But you know what? It’s shit.

It’s absolutely disgusting. It’s an insult to 54 years of Austin’s business, nine employees and an independent company’s hard earned battle to stay alive in an economic environment not of its own design.

Eight thousand pounds – if it weren’t so important in the current climate, one should have told Swindon Council to stick that money – preferably in 2 pence coins – up its back passage.The one that it uses to communicate shit news to its local businesses. Austin Leisure, and every supply chain company, should not be reduced to holding out a begging bowl and pleading for a discretionary cash hand out.

And £8,000? What ignorant snot-rag came up with that amount?

Not even £80,000 would help restore the position that companies like Austin Leisure and the entire supply chain find themselves in after 15 months of destructive indifference from this government.

And yet we celebrate.

But, surprise, surprise, Coinslot’s in a pissy mood – so forgive us. The Austin tale leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

And we’re bitter at Swindon Council for refusing to assist Austin Leisure eight times directly and twice via its local MP.

And we’re bitter at Robert Buckland MP who was pretty lucky that Pontius Pilate was back in town to help show him how to wash his hands of any responsibility for Swindon Council’s piss take on Austin Leisure’s efforts to get a grant.

A note of clarity for Mr Buckland; Austin were asking you for assistance. Instead of twice passing the buck to Swindon Council, perhaps you could have gone to a cabinet meeting and asked your other ministers if they had consituents experiencing the same difficulties securing grants?

And then perhaps, you and your other cabinet colleagues who have been elected to make and change policy, should have sat down and addressed the misappropriation of these awards and the gaping hole the supply chain has been shoved down where there is no support at all. Sidestepping the issue, passing the buck and washing your hands of the responsibility – it’s no wonder Coinslot’s always offending people.

But then the truth can be pretty offensive. And that, as I’ve just discovered is a statistical fact.

Because when you add up what the supply chain has effectively received from this government: fuck all plus fuck all actually equals fuck you.

And the government has delivered that message very clearly to the supply chain. Unless, of course, you consider £8,000 a life-saving grant for a business?


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