HOW TO DRIVE AWAY YOUR CUSTOMERS…

April 16, 2011

 

So, Land Securities who own The Centre in Livingston is going to start charging for parking. Well, that’s good news. It really is.

Well, it’s good news if you happen to be a shopowner in any of the county’s towns other than Livingston. If you run a little hardware store, grocery shop, hairdressers, Post Office or stationery shop then your business is about to rocket.

For years now we’ve grown accustomed to “nipping down to the centre” for odds and ends.  You need a pair of shoelaces? Or a lightbulb? No problem. Zip into the centre carpark, run into the shop, grab what you need and get out again quick.

Livingston residents didn’t really think about it. A pen, or a newspaper – some small item that you urgently needed – you would jump in the car, zoom down to The Centre, pull into a parking space, get what you needed and be gone again within minutes.

Easy and free car parking was always one of the major attractions of using The Centre.

But that’s no longer the case. Now, a pair of shoelaces will cost you 50p, plus whatever they decide to charge for the pleasure of shopping there. That’ll be right.

Want to post a letter? Or check your bank statement? Then add the parking charges. And if you think you’ll be able to park in the streets around the centre, we have been warned of “resultant traffic management issues”. You can bet you life the area will be crawling with Parking Wombles.

And if you think you can go by bus, think again. Have you ever tried getting a flat-pack wardrobe onto a bus? Or what if you get your purchase home and find it doesn’t work? That’s right; back you go and pay the parking charges again!

I predict that sales over the Internet will rocket throughout the county.

You know, I have shopped at – and supported – the centre since 1976, when Woolco was the only shop that was there. Remember that?

Well, no more.

There are plenty of little towns around the county that offer quick and simple shopping – with no parking fees. If you’re a butcher, a baker or candlestick maker in Broxburn, Bathgate, West Calder and so on… you have a new customer the minute they turn the ticket machines on.

And I suspect I’ll not be the only one. Good news for you, eh?

Drew McAdam

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ATTENDEEISM – A NEW KIND OF HOLIDAY

December 11, 2010

Here’s a new word for you: “attendeeism”. Perhaps it is easiest to explain if you consider it the opposite of “absenteeism”.

Let me explain. During the recent bad weather the local authority took the decision to close the schools. That was their decision. Even if a teacher was willing and able to work, they couldn’t. They had, effectively, been laid off.

Clear? So why does Oor Cooncil then tell those on whom they padlocked the doors that they can either agree to make up the time, or treat the lost days as part of their annual leave? Seriously, that’s what they’re telling them!

So, even if a teacher trudged all the way to the school and then pounded on the locked door… tough. You lose a day’s holiday.

Does that seem reasonable or fair to you? No, nor to me either.

Even the LGE (Local Government Employers) website states that “By closing an office or a school or by instructing employees not to travel to work, the local authority is preventing the employee from working on that day and, as this is through no fault of their own…” Quite right.

And the TUC states that “Scrooge bosses” who… take away holidays are needlessly adding to their business woes by creating resentment amongst staff.” Doesn’t take a genius to work that out – which is why Oor Cooncil haven’t worked it out, presumably.

They go on: “Workers who have been prevented from getting to work… should not have to foot the bill for the bad weather conditions.”

Do Oor Cooncil think the teachers were on sun loungers sipping drinks at the side of a pool? No. They were not on holiday. They were digging their cars out of the snow and trying to clear streets so that if the weather eased they would have a better chance of reaching their place of work the next day. Some “holiday” that. And yet they are being penalised for a High Heid Yin decision to shut the schools.

If I was a teacher being robbed of my holidays I would be making an appointment with a solicitor. There are complicated rules surrounding lay-off clauses, including rules about statutory guarantee payments and so on, and in terms of the law and adverse publicity for their bonkers policy of attendeeism, these couldn’t-hold-down-a-real-job rulemakers wouldn’t stand a proverbial snowball’s chance…

It’s just another example of ill thought out, silly muddle-headedness by Corporate Services (yes, them again) numpties who couldn’t hold down a job in the real world.

Get a life, boys. And let the teachers have their life – and their holidays – too.

Drew McAdam


SNOW SHIFTING. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

December 5, 2010

 

Hats off to them! Oor Cooncil has done a sterling job during the recent cold snap.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. The pen-pushing plonkers in Oor Cooncil have come in for a bashing on several occasions in this column. But, my goodness, the real workers among their number really got stuck into the problem of clearing the streets with a vengeance.

Last year, you may recall, West Lothian was more or less left untouched until the snow had all but gone. Other councils had conscientiously cleared up to our borders; so when you hit West Lothian you knew it, because instead of roads we had snow tracks.

As for theside streets and pavements, they didn’t see rock salt until Spring was about due. Then some wee workers came round in a yellow van and spread messy, gritty, ineffective whinsand. They would have been as well tossing out cheese and onion crisps for all the good that was – and as about aseffective. The A71 – along with other major thoroughfares – was left untouched for days, and everything simply ground to a halt.

But not this time. A foot of snow, on top of everything that had fallen before, fell in two hours. And straight away they were out there, dealing with the situation. Pavements were being cleared. Roads were being snowploughed and gritted. Men with high-viz jackets, with shovels and barrows of salt moved in.

I tell you, something has changed somewhere in the council policy. And whatever that change might be, it is to be applauded.

Mind you, it’s also hats off to the people of Langside Crescent in Polbeth. I had to walk to West Calder, and after a couple of hours I returned to find the snow cleared from the majority of the street. Snowplough? No. Kids with shovels – a squad of them – then the parents joined in, and before long there was a human snowplough working its way down the street.

And one kid I spoke to refused to take any money for his efforts.

So, to all of you who helped keep the county moving, council and communities alike, well done. In the face of one of the worst snowfalls and freeze-ups in living memory, you proved your salt.

And that’s heart-warming no matter what the weather might be outside.

Drew McAdam


PICTURE THIS

March 7, 2010

 

I’m disappointed.

Have you heard of Google Earth? It’s an amazing website that explores satellite photographs of Earth. You can magnify any part of it, closer and closer in steps – a satellite view of your town or village.

Then, just to make things even more interesting, they brought out something called Street View. (If you haven’t seen it before just put in a search for “Street View”, enter the name of your town, and there you have it. It’s a view of your street… at eye level.)

Amazingly, you can click along the road and you will travel in that direction. Or you can stop and swivel the scene around to get a view of your surroundings: the shops, houses, parks and gardens.

It was all done last summer by strange little black cars with towering cameras mounted on their roofs. These cameras take a 360 degree pictures as it travels along, so what you end up with is a massive wrap-around jigsaw picture of a whole area, including your old school, the house where you used to live, or your unwashed car sitting at the gate of your house.

Of course, it caused an outcry because people were concerned that it invaded their privacy. They worried that some master criminal could log on, visit the street and see the MacGlumphey family loading up the car to go on holiday, and their devious mind would think, “Aha! I’ll go round and rob their house!”

Of course, the surprise would come when they broke in and found the whole MacGlumphy family sitting there watching TV. It’s not a live feed, it’s based on photographs that were taken months ago, remember?

Anyway, back to my original point: I am disappointed. Why so? Because I saw the camera car scooting in and out of the West Calder streets and so I spent most of the morning trying to get myself in front of it, or as near as possible, every time it nipped in or out of a street.

I thought it was rather funny. It meant that when anybody logged on and looked at West Calder in Street View they would see dozens of me at various locations and in various bizarre poses.

But you know what? I do not appear in a single shot! It’s as though I was never there – even though I almost smashed head first into the camera car as I roared into one street in an attempt to get ahead of it again.

I can only think that they were on a dry run that day and took the actual photographs later. What an utter waste of time.

Still, if you visit the web site you can explore West Calder and the A71 into Livingston to your heart’s content.

And I utterly refute the rumour that the little fella’ stumbling out the pub in a chicken suit  is me. Okay?

Drew McAdam


A CUT THAT’S NOT A CUT

February 27, 2010

 

Bureaucrats have a wonderful way with words.

For example, a recent document from West Lothian Council was entitled “Partnership and Resources Policy Development Scrutiny Panel”. At 90 pages and 24,000 words, it’s not something you’d take along for holiday reading. It’s filled with phrases such as: “… sphere of governance … combat the persistence and the reproduction of inequalities, and to promote a truly egalitarian society.”

Yeah, right.

However, a third of the way into the document you might just happen across a section that outlines the horrendous state of financial affairs and the vicious cuts being introduced to balance the books. And do you know the amazing thing? Not once – not once, mark you – is the word “cut” actually used!

Well, except where it lays out one of the proposals as “reducing the frequency of grass cutting.” And that doesn’t count.

Instead, the writers have managed to use phrases such as “reductions”, “rationalisation”, “termination”, “phasing”, “changes” and “discontinuing”.

Part of the plan to reduce expenditure by £45million includes things like stopping the provision of hanging baskets, allied with reducing the frequency of street sweeping and gully cleaning. Well, there’s a couple of hundred quid saved.

More seriously, there will be a reduction in the provision of older people care homes, and an increase in class sizes. Also buried in the document is the mention of staffing reductions of up to 1,000 employees. Oh, yes, and a reduction of council offices from 43 to 17.

It all sounds like cuts to me, despite what the Council Scribes call it.

I have little doubt that the council could easily afford to get rid of 1,000 professional pen pushers and paper shufflers with their “in”, “out” and “shake it all about” trays. Whether they can find a real job in the real world remains to be seen, though.

But there is no humour in the loss of jobs – and so many jobs. The seriousness would suggest it should be dealt with more openly than being included in a massive document that prattles on about “egalitarian society” or “gender assessments” or “challenge stereotypical views of women and men”.

And it’s serious enough to be called what it is. It’s not a “phasing”. Neither is it a “rationalisation”. What we are talking about here – and no mistake, despite the flowery language – is whacking great cuts.


POVERTY – MORE THAN JUST A WORD

February 7, 2010

 

According to a recent press release, a community in West Lothian received almost £50,000 to raise awareness of climate change. This includes the appointment of a climate change officer “to tackle fuel poverty”.

And “considering your carbon footprint” hype combats poverty, how exactly?

Well, according to the report, there will be surveys, events, workshops and a local environmental group.

Meanwhile, according to another story, almost half of West Lothian children and young people are living in poverty in households dependent on benefits.

I’m in no way belittling the plight of those who suffer financial hardship and worry – I’ve been there myself. But “poverty”?

To help combat this, the council says it is providing an additional 1,620 free school meals, free swimming on Friday afternoons and nursery places for children three and over.

The report also identifies Livingston North and South wards as the most deprived areas.

Well, let me tell you about another town that shares the same name. Livingstone, in Zambia.

A few months ago I visited the place. There, appalling social conditions means that four out of five people live below the World Bank’s definition of poverty: living on less than $1 a day. (And just so you know, shop food prices are about the same there as they are here.)

Extended families live in squalid shacks or mud huts – no bigger than the average garden shed – without water, sanitation or electricity.

If they can get one meal a day, they are lucky.

There is neither light nor heat during the bitterly cold winter evenings, nor cooling systems during the sweltering summers.

The hospitals have no equipment for even basic surgery. Patients must take in their own surgical gloves, syringes and anything else the doctor might need. Even so, the under-fives wards are packed – with children suffering from starvation and malnutrition.

I walked with some of the tiny kids – many in bare feet, over stones and thorns – who will cover around eight miles to get to school each day because education is seen as their only way out.

And they are the lucky ones.

The number of children orphaned by AIDS in Zambia is expected to rise to one million this year. That’s almost a half of all children. As a result, many children are abandoned and simply live on the streets.

That’s a whole different Livingstone, is it not? And it’s a whole different “poverty”, too.

I wonder what these orphan street-survivors would think of our definition of poverty. What, I wonder, would they pray for in their disturbed and frightened dreams.

I doubt very much that it would be an awareness of their carbon footprint, a climate change officer, surveys or workshops. I also doubt if it would be nursery places and free swimming.

I’m sure they would use any £50,000 grant in a very different way.

Lying awake in bed worrying about how to pay a bill is one thing. Lying in an open gutter scared to go to sleep because you might not waken in the morning is another.

There is a difference between the two towns that share the same name. Just as there is a difference between “hardship”, and genuine die-in-the-street-from-starvation poverty.

A world of difference.

Drew McAdam


IT’S IN THE BAG

January 17, 2010

 

WELL, that was weird.

I wandered into T.K. Max at the Almondvale Centre recently to buy a pair of salopettes – GREAT prices, I have to say. Unfortunately, I have no idea what size I am so I asked for some assistance.

The very nice young lady (VNYL) picked out a pair she though would fit. So off I toddled to the changing rooms.

As I made my way across the shop I was aware of a fair amount of giggling and pointing going on amongst the staff, but I couldn’t think what it had to do with me; I checked my flies just in case.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

On approaching the till with my purchase I could hear people being told that if they wanted a carrier bag it would cost them. However, the VNYL stepped up to the person who was serving me and said: “Don’t charge him for the bag – he’s off the telly.”

So there, you go. Somebody who watches daytime TV – and I get a free plastic carrier bag.

Now, I know that celebrities get free stuff all the time. Designer clothing, gifts of jewellery and watches, the best tables in the best restaurants and even the occasional complimentary car.

Me? I got a plastic carrier bag. It lets you know your place in the pecking order.

In all seriousness, it was very nice of her; and the girlies were all excited. And that’s a bit of great fun.

But you know what? I love my job; I really do. One recent performance was at Gleneagles Hotel where I did a twenty minute spot and was interviewed by Kaye Adams. Then I was back on stage with that brilliant impersonator Rory Bremner. From there, it was a quick drive to the STV studios for a spot on “The Hour.” Oh, and an episode of The Interrogator had gone out on The Trisha Show that morning. I was in three places at once.

What’s more, I get paid for all this! And fed. And accommodation.

I can’t remember the last time I had the Monday Morning Blues.

It’s true: find a job you love and you’ll never work again.

Believe me, I DO realise how lucky I am. So I say this: for those of you who dream of grasping your life and taking it in the direction you want, then go for it. What’s the worst that can happen?

You might find you get the occasional free carrier bag, too.

Drew McAdam