Review of the year - June 2011

diesel pumpJune commenced with serious worries about the rising price of diesel - a big concern to many readers, and bought on many reader responses. The UK Petroleum Industry Association warned diesel fuel imports could triple in the next decade likely making any fuel saving much less attractive. And in a supply emergency, costs could absolutely rocket it said.
A huge concern for the UK because we now buy more new diesel cars than new petrol cars. However half our UK refineries were up for sale. And existing refinery players face huge competition from Asian operators who aren't clobbered by environmental taxes. All over for Dr Derv? Well, plainly not yet, given the continuing popularity of diesel cars throughout the year.

BBC expenses came in for a grilling next. Taxpayer funded expenses for cushy BBC execs soared 60% with first class and business travel expenses accelerated - even though the BBC has claimed it was cutting expenses back in line with the nation's own cost cutting. Ground Control to Planet Beeb?

It turned out that much of the expenses was much more to-ing and fro-ing to the North of England as some staff prepare to relocate outside London (50% of the Beeb's budget will be spent away from London by 2016). Yet the BBC last year also managed to run up a £13.3m bill on taxis - an integral part of the Beeb's expenses culture.

June was when the public was alerted to Plymouth City Council workers having problems working out the time, despite an array of clocks, watches, mobile 'phones, computers and other devices clue-ing them in. It had been discovered that council workers paid more than £440 on calling the Speaking Clock - while calls to directory enquiries elsewhere came to £3,724.

June was also the month of the £135m EU cucumber bail-out. Who was to blame for the E coli break-out? While debate raged over Spanish killer cucumbers or German bean sprouts, UK taxpayers were likely to be in line for an EU £135m compensation bill to support vegetable and salad farmers over their unsold, fast-rotting veg.

The honour of the Spanish cucumber was subsequently restored however - European Health authorities confirmed that the strain did not originate from the Spanish cukes.

The honour of the much-maligned Reliant Robin was also part-restored when Confused.com claimed just 0.9% of Reliant owners had claimed for crash damage cash in the last five years. Reliant Robin owners were also eight times safer on the road than many other road users, claimed Confused - and made Reliant Robin drivers the UK's safest road user with just 11 out of 1,174 Reliant owners claiming for accident repairs.

June came to an end with news of massive pay-offs - up to £275,000 - for some quango bosses. An investigation claimed that the average UK quango bureaucrat was leaving with a pay-off of more than £26,000.

These sort of redundancy packages would make those in the private sector particularly angry. Because, typically, many public sector bodies shell out one month of pay for each year worked. Contrast that with one week's pay per year - the benchmark commonly used in the private sector for working out redundancy packages.

Then, new Ministry of Justice figures came out: £10m in compensation had been paid out UK prisoners in the previous year. Medical negligence, release delays due to bureaucratic bungling and even a £1.14m payout to one ex-prisoner left crippled after treatment at Chelmsford Prison, all piled on costs on the taxpayer.

Where does the compensation culture end? Somehow it had got to a point, we said, where the UK would paid £5,000 to a soldier who had his leg blown off serving in Iraq - while the MOD paid out far more to a poultry farmer whose hens laid fewer eggs following a Red Arrows display. Mad.
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