Am I wrong in Thinking we are having our pockets picked day and daily, in every sphere? Take Computing, what with broadband, the vast Internet and the improvement in artwork currently available on the home computers, it is a new and wonderful world, but expanding at an unnecessary rate. I wrote novels, on the BBC. B computer, that only had 32 kb. of ROM. I was able to conduct all my affairs, draw graphs, and do my accounts. Now it seems that on a regular basis everything is upgraded, particularly Microsoft, as are the programmes that go with it. When they introduced XP, after Windows 98, there were constant problems and we are still getting updates, Perhaps we need another company which will manufacture a computer for our basic needs, will talk one with another, communicate across the board, and not need upgrading on a regular basis with downloads arriving daily. My old computers, including the BBC are still working, but they no longer relate to other computers, like Appl;e, and some programmes from the past, and so I will soon have to upgrade again. I believe that very few of us need the vast memories and the high complexity we are now forced to purchase, although some companies will go out of business if we don’t continuously upgrade. So it is not being done for our benefit, but their bank balance. Is there no way that the man in the street can assert himself, stop this exponential upgrade? Thank God we can’t upgrade the kettle any more!
Television has now joined the bandwagon, through the programme supply industry and some of the hardware suppliers. The former, I suspect because its programmes are not being accepted in the quantity they had hoped. I refer to the in-house rented films, each at a price for which one could rent three, for three days, from a DVD rental. Someone taking the full package will be paying more than £600 per annum, without paying for additional material. There is now a new alternative which also costs more. Some of the better films can now only be obtained on ‘High Definition’ requiring a telephone call. I believe this may also involve upgrading the receiver. Then there is Plus, containing a ‘hard-drive’, which allows one to pause during viewing and return later and pick up where one left off. The manufacturers are now offering equipment which not only gives the hard-drive service, it enables people to download and play later, on disk, material of their choice – breaking copyright? Unfortunately the repair and installation companies on the ground are lagging behind this technology and are insufficient to maintain the industry.
Parking is another case. We all realise the new policies are merely moneymaking schemes, without regard to the individual’s acceptance of these policies. The changes are causing the cost of parking to be ever dearer, and wider in application, to the point where the individual will have no freedom to use his car without risking penalty. As to pay as you drive, this seems iniquitous! The unfairness of all this, which started with Beecham, with no real reference to public opinion, or a true assessment of the growth of need, has placed us in a situation where public transport, an essential alternative to mass parking, is needed both in cities and even more in rural areas, but is almost non-existent. This too, it would seem, is costing ever more, instead of being subsidised as a National need, precisely to reduce congestion. There seems to be no move to upgrade public transport on a national level.
Taxation is no longer straightforward, we know our taxes are increasing year on year, we are not always sure precisely what proportion of what we spend is tax and what the money is intended for. In Northern Ireland, for years our annual council tax included water rates . It is believed, that money was never used for the purpose intended. Now Imperial Government demands our water rates will double year on year, to include all the updating, renewing and maintenance not previously done, as well as an enlarged supply system, hence we will be paying twice for the same service. Road tax is not, I believe, used to improve roads. The basic principle of the return of surplus money, destined originally for specific work, and accruing through not being spent, but needed later, which is now returned to the treasury at the end of each financial year, only goes to confuse the bookkeeping at the end of the day. We should all demand from our MPs that tax is separated from all other spending, (except import duty,) up front, so we know what we are paying and what it is applied to. It is a matter for our representatives to take up, urgently. I realise that this is more complicated than it will appear, as manufacturers and suppliers will include their taxation in the cost of what we purchase. We can all bleat away, but when Government has an overall majority, and apparently no one is individually responsible, let alone culpable, change is unlikely.