Plumbing The Depths II

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A very quick one this time as it really speaks for itself. Following on from my previous post regards doing website development work for a Blackpool plumber, I just had to post a copy of a picture he sent me for inclusion on his website.

Look away now…

If you’ve just eaten or about to eat, I’d advise you turn off your screen now. The photo is of a customer’s unblocked drain and the rather unpleasant contents which were blocking it!

Eeewwwww!!!

I don’t know how much he charges for call-out, but whatever it is, he ought to get more…

There, told you it was a short one!

Holiday Scaffolding II

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Okay, so we know that it has to be done. Old buildings need to be restored, repaired and generally supported to prevent them falling down before future generations get a chance to enjoy them.

But why does the scaffolding always have to be there when I visit?

A Familiar Picture

You know the story. You’ve flown half way round the world to see something and get a photo to show off to your friends back home… …and when you get there, it’s covered in scaffolding.

It happens to me all the time. Well, not all the time obviously, as I’m not continuously on holiday, but…

Notre Dame in Paris? Scaffolding. York Minster in England? Scaffolding! Angkor Wat in Cambodia? BLOODY SCAFFOLDING!!

“Aw, come on, that’s not that bad”, I hear you say, “it’s still a beautiful picture”. True enough, but it is likely to be the only time ever that I visit it and wouldn’t it just look so much better without the scaffolding?

The Solution

Fear not, scaffold-a-phobes, for I have a potential solution. Provided the scaffolding is of a sufficiently small size, simply place a loved one in front of it for a comedy shot:

Not quite the same classic postcard / calendar shot, but at least we can pretend there was no scaffolding. Yes, yes, I know you can see it under her armpit! I never said the solution was perfect did I?

As an aside, if you’ve never been to Cambodia or Angkor Wat, it is well worth a visit, scaffolding or no!

Blackpool “Scaffolding” Tower

And with a fairly tenuous link, we move onto scaffolding in Blackpool, my home town and another infamous (at least within the North of England) landmark.

Blackpool Tower has had scaffolding on it for ages now whilst it is undergoing a major overhaul, thus ruining thousands of holiday-makers’ snapshots, .

That said, the overhaul will include a new glass observation deck where people can stand on a glass floor looking down towards the promenade. Provided their nerves will take it that is!

At just under half the height of the Eiffel Tower, that’s enough to make your legs tremble. Can’t wait to go up and have a look.

In Conclusion

Well, as the above shows, I’d grudgingly have to admit that scaffolding is a necessary evil, preserving and improving our historic buildings and tourist attractions.

But just once, I’d like to turn up to somewhere famous and not see any…

This time next year Rodders, I DON’T want to be a millionaire…

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A shout out to the legendary line from the BBC classic sitcomOnly Fools and Horses“, but with a slight twist.

No, not the one bought to you by Chubby Checker, although it is a cracking song!

What twist then?

Well, I’ve been doing website design for local businesses in Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster and surrounding areas for 1¾ years now and I’ve been encountering a worrying trend.

Many of my clients have been trading for a number of years and obviously when enquiring about a website, they want it to bring in more customers.

BUT… and this is the twist…

Not too many!

“Porquois?”, I hear the French readers ask

Why indeed? Exactly what I said the first time a self-employed businessman said what I thought equated to “I want to be comfortably off, but not rich”.

In fact, what they were actually saying was “earning more money just isn’t worth the hassle”. WTF?!?

What they were referring to was Britain’s over-bloated legislation, bureaucracy and health and safety culture, which cripples our business at all levels.

Y’see, gaining more work eventually means that you need help to fulfill the extra demand.

To employ or NOT to employ?

And that’s where it begins for most businesses. Introduce an employee and all of a sudden you’re faced with:

PAYE, health and safety training, fire safety training, risk assessments, audits, inspections, sick pay, maternity leave, paternity leave, added insurance, ad infinitum.

Suddenly the businessman is buried under a mountain of paperwork and bills that prevent them from doing the day job. i.e. the bit that actaul makes them money.

And after fighting their way through this minefield of bureaucracy, many are faced with the dawning realisation that despite having a much higher turnover, the add-on costs of having staff (combined with paying them of course!) means that they themselves aren’t actually any better off than before!

They’re effectively flogging themselves to death on the governement’s behalf to provide a livelihood for others.

Not so “Casual” labour…

The admin and cost involved also means that casual labour is becoming a thing of the past for all but big organisations.

This in itself is ridiculous as it is small businesses (particularly tradesmen) that are more likely to require it. Keeping regular staff might not make financial sense for a one-man band, but dipping into the labour market when you land a big job definitely makes sense.

And with millions on the dole, it makes sense for the country too.

Not to implicate anyone I’ve ever done work for, but the end result is often “cash in hand” work, where the governement receives no tax and ironically the individual does not benefit from the very health and safety which is supposedly so important.

And then we have…

Where there’s a blame there’s a claim!!

Come the revolution brother, these parasites should be the first ones against the wall.

Oops! Bit too harsh?

No-one is suggesting that people placed in genuinely dangerous situations which they’re not trained to handle shouldn’t be compensated, but common sense needs to apply.

Why should a chap who has manufactured wrought iron gates and railings for over 25 years without managing to seriously injure himself  pay out compensation to some pillock stupid enough to drill through their own hand or weld without provided goggles?

The answer is simple. He doesn’t, because he chooses not to employ anyone.

For him on his own, health and safety consists of one thing: good old fashioned “common sense”. Add an employee into the mix and the law starts to apply, along with the risk that that employee really shouldn’t be allowed to use scissors, let alone a blow torch.

Keeping it in the family

One option many businesses use to get round some of the risks and extra costs of  employees is to employ family members either to fill in when busy or as permanent staff.

A husband and wife team I worked with in Lancaster offering embroidered clothing were a perfect illustration of this, both working full time on the business regardless of current demand.

Even where they’re not an official partner or employee, many a husband or wife of a self-employed person find themselves dragged in every now and then to help with fill-in tasks, answering the phone and paperwork.

Avoiding the dreaded VAT threshold

The other huge hurdle that many small businesses don’t want to cross is the dreaded VAT threshold and all the extra administration and costs it brings, combined with the need to put your prices up and therefore risk losing some of your hard won existing customers.

Working with a plumber in Blackpool, he asks the obvious question. If I can come to your house and unblock your toilet for £50, why would you want to pay me £60?

What Hope For Britain?

Without getting overly political, but if that’s the understandable attitude of our small businesses, how are we to compete with the likes of Germany, Japan and America on the economic world stage.

Is it any wonder our unemployment is so high when businesses are so actively discouraged in so many ways from reducing it?

Surely it is in the country’s interests to stem this flow of legislation?

And having raised the issue and asked the questions, there I leave it. The myriad of factors to blame are far too many to be covered here and would require a much longer post. Perhaps my next one?

Is it all bad?

Well, obviously not. I have also dealt with many small businesses that employ staff and have worked through everything outlined above, but there is also a pattern to those businesses. See if you can spot it.

How easy is it to erect scaffolding on your own, fit double glazing or parcel up and post hundreds of thermometers a day for your on-line mail order company?

Answer? Nigh on impossible.

Thought you’d spot it.

In Conclusion…

Whilst I’m now nearing being well established and comfortably in work without needing to regularly check direct debits aren’t going to make me overdrawn, I’m still a long way off needing staff.

I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it, but I think the answer has already been made for me.

Does that scaffolding meet EU regulations?

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Well, in this instance it doesn’t really have to as the scaffolding in question is in Marrakech in Morocco.

Whilst working on a website for a local business that offers scaffolding in Blackpool (my home town) and surrounding areas, we discussed the health and safety training required for his staff.

You said Marrakech?

Indeed I did. During our chat I chuckled to myself as I was reminded of a couple of holiday photos snapped whilst visiting North Africa.

Needless to say, I don’t think health and safety is top of their agenda:

The first one is my favourite, but I wouldn’t like to be carrying breeze blocks on a hod using these ladders:

C’mon mate, what would you prefer, “‘health and safety gone mad”?

Well now I’d be the first to deride the EU and the entire western world for taking health and safety too far, but surely there ought to be a happy medium.

In Conclusion…

It doesn’t require a risk assessment, cones, signage and a qualified electrician to change a lightbulb, but scaffolding on building sites should feel safer than this…

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