Tag Archives: London

Two streams, one view

As I see the news pass by, events shown on separate media, I notice myself wondering if my life had any meaning at all. I was young and I went to the Middle East in 1982, I would return in 83 and 84 only to learn that there was change. Terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas were only small and Hamas rose as I would see in 1984, yet I thought that change would be inevitable. I saw Hezbollah as nothing more than pesky small minded terrorists, a tool to be used by Iran and Syria. Yet even as Lebanon was trying to move forward, there were signs in media and some places that the US needed Syria too much, in their case dealing with Saddam Hussein and as such many of us thinking we would fight for peace, we only fought for the borderlines that the US decided needed to be in place. It must have been the late 80’s, I was not longer in the Middle East and not all clued in towards the events of the day there. You see DARPA had not rolled out the internet at that point; ARPANET was not available for the audience at large. So today I see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Now we see another push against Hezbollah. You see Saudi Arabia has had enough of those terrorists and is pushing back hard, it is also willing to push against Iran. I see two issues. One is that this issue will be bloody and even as we hope for the victory of Saudi Arabia there, there are more than just a few markers showing us that the three largest players (US, Russia and UK) are not completely in agreement whether the Middle East should have one clear dominant party. The issues in Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait that have been going on for half a century should show that. If that had not been the case Hezbollah and Hamas would have been little more than an inconvenience and they would have been dealt with a long time ago. So even as I see certain steps being taken I need to wonder if Saudi Arabia is pushing for a resolution, what will the larger picture show as it shifts. As that unfolds where will the US and Russia stand? What actions, or inactions will they use to leave the Status Quo in the middle east in a place called ‘as is’? The evidence for the longest time has shown that they pronounce whatever allies they have, but in the end, they only care for their needs and options. Now, this is not wrong or immoral, it is merely the way any nation plays its game. It is not a new game, it goes back even before Nicola Machiavelli thought it was a god idea to write down certain options for politicians to be.

As per Friday morning, we see: ““Due to the circumstances in the Lebanese Republic, the kingdom asks its citizens who are visiting or residing there to leave immediately,” a Foreign Ministry source quoted by the news agency said, adding that Saudis were advised not to travel to Lebanon from any country“, so even as we can merely speculate on what comes next, the onus is now pushed on Iran and what it is going to do with its terrorist ally Hezbollah. There is one opposing side which was shown by Reuters (at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-saudi-insight/deep-in-yemen-war-saudi-fight-against-iran-falters-idUSKBN1D91UR). With: “The dysfunction is a reminder to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that his campaign to counter arch-enemy Iran in the Middle East, including threats against Tehran’s ally Hezbollah, may be hard to implement” we acknowledge that Iran has resources and skills and they are driven, both sides clearly are. In my mind, is the additional theatre (read: change of scenery) a workable factor? It does put larger pressures on Iran to get the logistics and goods underway, which will be their weakness to some extent. It is equally an issue how Russia will react. They might not openly act in this placement, yet the clear support to Hezbollah and as the times of Israel states: “the truth is that since Russia began its open military activities in Syria, Hezbollah fighters are also learning Russian methods of war, becoming familiar with advanced Russian weaponry, coming to understand the latest Russian technologies, and in some cases, actually fighting alongside Russian special forces“, we might comprehend the skills and training of the Spetsnaz Malcheks, or the ‘Войска специального назначения’ as they call themselves. In one part Avi Issacharoff omitted or decided not to implement one view in his story. In the end when the Spads are not holding their hands, Hezbollah remains what they were trained enthusiastic terrorists, they are only an army in the smallest sense of the total concept, this also means that as logistics falters, as support dwindles the armed Saudi forces will be more than a match and should gain the upper hand. Now, this can only play out if there is a stalemate between Russia and USA, because if the USA backs down and Hezbollah gets open on the ground Russian support, it becomes an entirely different slice of cake and all bets are off at that point. Only the Russians could push Hezbollah in way that the Iranians could never do. You see, if Iran enters the theatre the game changes as they become a clear and present danger to the state of Israel, their vocal insinuations made that so, so as Iran is trying to get a foothold whilst Israel has a few ways to counter them, we will see a more underground event of escalations where Iran is unable to counter a war they never have faced. You see their words (Iran that is) might look good on the news and on PowerPoint presentations, yet in the true data parks there is no setting, because in the end, this generation of Iranians have never faced anyone like Israel before and their faith in their own internal governmental presentations will make them even less prepared. So at that point it is merely a scuffle between Hezbollah and Saudi armed forces and in that equation there is no option of even a remote stalemate for Hezbollah. Is that the goal? I believe that Russia saw Hezbollah as a tool for what they needed, the US has always been hostile and Europe requires high earnings, so the ECB is very much not in favour of any outspoken hostilities against anything that can downgrade their earnings, so they are seemingly steering away from these events as much as they can, yet I will admit that is just me speculating on European events in this case. Even as London is more and more outspoken anti-Hezbollah. Amsterdam and Stockholm are not taking that path. In my mind it is the liberal multicultural flag that they embrace, in that atmosphere a group like Hezbollah can easily hide under this ‘veil’ whilst hating multicultural events as much as possible.

This again has speculative sides, but it is based on solid data and events. You might think that it does not matter, but it does. As more and more nations in their liberal mindset hold off on an actual war on terror, being it for economic or philosophical reasons. Not being part of it is equally a problem down the track. So as we move back towards Lebanon and Hezbollah, we need to realise that not only will this become ugly to a larger degree, there is every chance that unless certain actions are taken the issues seen in Aleppo will be seen in Aleppo too, there is just no way to tell to what extent. In this we can look at Survival Analyses (or listen to the song ‘as time goes by’), where the point in time and the prolongation of all this is the setting on just how much Beirut will look like Aleppo in the end, time is the only factor required here and the people in Europe know this. So as we see the news prepare on how there should be talks and there should be armistices, they all better remember that it was their need for status quo that is pushing the consideration for a terrorist organisation.

Who in Europe would have ever thought that support of a terrorist organisation would be the cool thing to do on September 12th 2001? So consider that and now wonder why Europe is, for now, again sitting on their hands or even contemplating siding to the larger extent with Hexbollah? Yet there is also good news because with the actions by JP Morgan to push into large chunks of the Middle East and more notably the push towards the Kingdom Holding Company. You might think it is not related, but it is. It gives the view that JP Morgan is a facilitator for setting maximised profits and these profits are not to go towards France. There has been a thought that the US is not commitment, but as there is profit in war, the clear fallout of any war is opportunity. It seems to me that the US wants to get as much profit out of that as possible, so as the dominoes are pushed into place, we see a situation where the media proclaims JP Morgan to be a mere financial advisor. I believe that to be incorrect. Even as Reuters reported “JPMorgan is in early talks with Saudi Arabian companies about overseas listings“, that might be true, but JP Morgan has been pushing itself and its ‘friends’ into powerful places where lucrative revenues are not set in millions, but in billions. I cannot answer whether Credit Agricole did the right or wrong thing, they are pretty clever all by themselves. I think that the Saudi issues in play now are pushing for polarising fields of options and opportunity on a global scale. In this case my view will be proven over the next 2 years as we follow the money. They question is where the source will be set and who gets to fill their bucket list from that well. when the options are returned in billions there will be plenty of players, although in this instance I believe that the outside opportunities (non-Saudi based companies) are offered to the friends of JP Morgan and them only, which is again a speculation. Whether I am right or wrong will be initially shown in the next 20 weeks.

There are however facts available to see that there is a direction in place. Reuters show on part (at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-jpmorgan-saudi/jpmorgan-sees-more-saudi-firms-looking-at-overseas-listings-after-aramco-idUSKBN1D7107), some might think that “He said listings in New York, London, Hong Kong or Singapore might help increase the liquidity of these companies and make them attractive for international investors, he said” is the part that gives the goods, yet it is the part not seen and more interestingly not implied that gives power to it all. The implied part is seen with “Commenting on the anti-corruption drive, Pinto said: “If it is done in the right way and for the right reasons it is good to do for the future of the kingdom.”” It is however only the first part. The news given with ‘Saudi Arabia detains 201 princes, businessmen in $100 billion corruption probe’ (at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-10/saudi-anti-corruption-probe-finds-$100-billion-embezzled/9136608). This was not a sudden part, this had been in play for some time. It was not merely the fact that at present 201 people are now in custody. Even as we see mention of Iran and the Lebanon pressures, we see that there is a larger play. His Royal Highness King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud have been on a path to get the nation reformed and moved away from oil dependency. In this the pool of plenty does not last too long when 100 billion get lost one handshake at a time as more and more people are connected to unlimited resources and wealth. As the press seems to be focussing on the crown prince and the ‘wild ride’ he created, there is a larger issue that is not too much in focus. No matter what the sceptics state, There is a clarity that Saudi Arabia is seriously considering that the age of oil is dwindling, as this happens they need to be able to push into other directions and they do have the wealth to create vested interests in pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, consultancy services and educational advantages. Forbes has had its share of articles on the matter, and whilst some look at ‘Saudi Arabia Looks To The Private Sector To Meet Growing Healthcare Demands’ it seems to me that 5G facilitation has much larger and more profitable sides as other providers are considering what to do, Saudi Arabia has the option to facilitate to the largest 4 cities and exceed in opportunity what Sweden has for its entire nation. When there is such a population (9.5 million) in 4 cities, there is an option to grow and grow fast. Now we know that there is a lively market already, but the idea that other services could be added grows the Saudi options to add markets and manufacturing opportunities through investment. I all this JP Morgan is potentially the spider in the centre of the web, growing in value and wealth from all sides at the same time. There is no way to state why Crédit Agricole walked away from those opportunities, but I feel certain that they did not walk away, the merely moved to a place around the corner. Even as the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/0e629bab-494c-34d0-8fe0-f71c8b089118) show mixed results, yet I believe that this French bank is moving into different fields, acquiring other banks and setting new goals. I have no way to tell on the why of it but I feel that moving away was only one as the clever people in this bank have agreed on a strategy that allows to grow faster and on larger fields. How?

We will learn this over the next 20 weeks. Yet no matter what is done and how the banks react is not a given, the direct dangers on how things escalate in Lebanon and with Iran seems to be crucial in all of this and I reckon that we will see the shifts quite soon. These shifts will not be through armed conflict, but will rely on the pressures and stresses that exist at present. In this Europe seems to take a ‘diplomatic’ stance (at http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_destabilising_lebanon_will_only_strengthen_hezbollah_7235), yet with “Europeans should veer the other way, taking measures that aim to preserve Lebanon’s stability and governance structures, and to prevent wider conflagration. Iran is clearly a key source of regional instability, and Hezbollah has become increasingly assertive in Lebanon” it seems to advocate a path of inaction, 3 decades of inaction have shown that there is no solution on that path, a stream of casualties, of non-actions and broken promises. Saudi Arabia (and the USA) both had enough, and as Iran seems to be an annoying thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia, they have seemingly decided to take Hezbollah out of the equation. This will be interesting, because the moment Hamas and Iran realise that the gig is finally up, I wonder how must tearful pleads of ‘negotiations’ will be shown on nearly every soft hearted news channel on the planet. Perhaps a recollection of March 2016 is needed. With: “Hamas on Sunday sent a delegation to Egypt in an effort to beseech Egyptian security officials to stop destroying its tunnels out of Gaza. These terror tunnels, employed by the terrorist group for nearly a decade, are used to store weapons, smuggle supplies, and infiltrate enemy territory – Israel – as well as carry out surprise attacks in which people are killed and soldiers abducted.” (source: Breaking Israel News). It reads like “please let us be terrorists a little longer, we need the tunnels to do naughty things”. There is every chance that this falls on deaf ears, because as Israel is optionally no longer pressured in possible two front wars, they can fully focus on Hamas whilst Saudi Arabia will only have to deal with Iran after that. It will truly change the Balance of Power in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia as the only true power in that region, all because to a larger extent, Europe decided to remain in a self-imposed state of inaction. After three decades they still haven’t learned that inaction against terrorists will never ever lead to any solution.

Yes, there are a few elements of speculation from my side, but it is based on gathered facts and it I do not believe it is less likely on the balance of probabilities, it is merely one optional setting in a larger game that has been played for much too long.

 

 

 

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Rulers of London

The times are changing, that has always been known, yet the events made me remember some political satire Newspaper comic. In it you see two Arabs, one stated “Did you get anything nice today”, and the other Arab stated smiling “I bought Bond Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly“. The image was clear, the Arabs had loads of cash and they were spending. That image remained for the longest of times and as oil went to $147 per barrel in 2008, the cash was good, because the US needed millions of barrels per day. Yet now the sands have shifted, the stage is set to what I personally call a very nice building has been sold to the Chinese. The controversial Walkie Talkie Tower has been acquired for £1.3 billion. It was purchased by the Lee Kum Kee condiment company, makers of Oyster sauce. (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/27/walkie-talkie-tower-stark-reminder-of-forces-that-rule-the-city) we can read all about it and about the infamous architect who brought Star Wars to London as the building had the ability to send a sun based death ray to the streets, and as quoted “succeeded in melting the bumper of a Jaguar, blistering painted shop fronts and singeing carpets“. Yes, the building became a little too futuristic. In opposition to Feargus O’Sullivan, I do not consider it to be the ‘the ugliest British structure‘, it is actually ‘very Apple‘. I would love to see the new Apple G6 Tower to look like that (preferably as a RISC system of course). Yet in his article (on https://www.citylab.com/design/2015/09/londons-worst-building/403684/), I see that there is no reason not to admire the Victorian buildings in the foreground. Weirdly enough, the photo he added to the article (by Frank Augstein), shows that there is place for the old and the new. It shows clearly that as residential shortages grow that there will be a transfer to different styles of buildings. I would never want to see the Victorian buildings leave the face of London, in opposite directions, we can look at the Battersea Power Station and see how this evolves, yet there is a side not reckoned with, for several reasons there needs to be the evolution and growth of social housing. I like the blend as an offering for developers, yet as the Malaysian consortium pulled a fast one to maximise profits and diminish the amount of social apartments, changes will need to be made.

We can wonder whether the current approach is the best one, or should we examine the options? There is another option that works for developers and the London city council. A company called Nearmap (at https://go.nearmap.com/desktop-assessment-empowers-appraisers), has a ‘Desktop Property Assessment that Empowers Appraisers‘, yet as I looked at the paper and some of the presentations, I figured out that it had other abilities too. In metropolitan areas, when you change the scope and add a dimension, you can do something entirely unexpected. The idea came with the quote by Mal Harrison, project manager at Zinfra. The quote was “Nearmap’s accurate photo imagery is extremely helpful when risk workshopping remote from site as well as reducing site visits required to plan the works“, this is a well stated compliment to the makers of Nearmap. I figured they missed something else, another larger player as a potential client. Not to their disadvantage mind you, but they missed a range of tycoons that could have been looking at as well (for the price of a 7 figure number per seat). You see, consider the current planning settings in London, now consider the Nearmap solution, not just with the London area mapped, with in addition, the roads, infrastructure and ‘plumbing’. Now consider that a developer would want to set up a new high-rise, the options are Poplar, Beckton and Rotherhithe. Now consider the elements, Nearmap could have the ability to ascertain risks that usually are done in person, with proper parameters set the data might reveal options not considered before. You see, most people will shy away from Beckton because it is by the airport, yet new buildings have the options of superior sound cancellations. In addition, when considering that housing prices fluctuate between £2200 and £11500 per meter, the risk factor becomes a more intense issue. Yes, we know that everyone wants to be a developer in Chelsea or Kensington, yet when the option is offered (as an example) as the building in either Beckton of Rotherhithe would get a profit close to £2100 per square meter, yet Poplar offers £2700 per square meter profit, yet when looking at the elements, the risk factor for Poplar might be up by 17%, in the long term, how will development costs and delays impact the choice? When the profit margins change, so does the risk to some extent, an expert can make all the calculations, yet with additional solutions, the risk could be anticipated in advance by a much better degree. That premise holds equal ground for councils, when they can see the evolution of risk, they can in equal measure take steps to lower the risk and become more appealing for the developers to approach them.

Good business is where you find it.

That becomes more and more of a slogan for London. It is no longer just, because it is London, it will become increasingly where the margins are. Even as we see that the Battersea location had hit snags and there was suddenly the twisting arms of local councils to concede in retrenching of 25% of the social housing offer, or else… Councils will soon no longer have that option to merely give in, there will be long term repercussions and they will count sooner rather than later. The rich don’t care and the councils can ill afford the consequences they would be confronted with. There is the chance that certain places like Los Angeles, Tokyo and Kolkata would get the effect of ghost towns and London is not that far away from that. It is so nice that a place like Kolkota has luxurious places like Rajahat new town, South Kolkota and Alipore, yet when the sun goes down, we will see that the infrastructure not merely flows away, it is reduced to zero. That seems peaceful, yet it is in actuality very dangerous. As the travel times increases, these people will more and more eagerly take any job that is closer to home and takes away elements in the cost of living (fuel and travel time). As the infrastructure remains absent, the value of these places will drop like a stone. In addition there would be an increasing chance of crime rise as the area remains empty at night. As people are pushed more and more away as we see in London, there is an increasing risk that not only the businesses go away, as these places are more and more settled with high end owners who are there less than 30% of the time, those remaining will find it harder to get the things they really like to have at a moment’s notice.

How real is that risk?

Well, at present it is really an unrealistic stretch to call London an upcoming Ghost town (read: Ghost Council), yet some areas are already too empty like Kensington, where an astounding amount of places are unused. They will not turn London into a ghost town, yet as the drop continues, having a house there seems fine, yet when you become dependent on businesses from Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush, taking a walk to get a few things becomes a much less rewarding event (at £10880 per square meter). Plenty of people do not feel that way, which is fair enough, but the changes will also change the vibe of a city, which has dangerous consequences in the long term, that is an issue for ANY city. That is also a real main reason to not decrease but to increase the social housing percentage in places like that. Those are the people who bring in the need for Pizza, for groceries on the corner, which brings in the restaurant getting the good stuff from shops like that. Growing the micro economies of life goods is what brings life and traffic to places like that, soon thereafter not the outrageous mega night clubs, the a few smaller bars, the places London was always famous for will re-erect themselves and soon a large complex becomes the magnet for a growing infrastructure. As long term empty houses (read: unsold places) have risen by 25% and in Newham (by London City Airport) has fallen 55%, we see another diminished risk of choosing Beckton. All this would be possible to set when we see this implemented as factors in mapping solutions like Nearmap.

It is a given that houses in transit with short terms become increasingly important to developers, and as such they will need to ascertain risk in different ways. there is a consideration that the Battersea Power House will be the last of the truly large development projects in London for some time to come, so the need to diversify and select something unexpected. Some state that Aldwych Station could become the premise for underground cycling, which also implies that as an underground place for student studios, it could be a place to revitalise the area. The idea of a path clear to Holborn, with apartments, studios and 1 bedroom places on 1.5 floors, could give rise to a lot more than merely revitalise the area. The fact that it is next to King’s College and halls of Justice as well as Inns of Court is almost weird that no one had moved into that area sooner.

Yet we digress, it started with the good businesses in London and the impact that foreign investors have on the place. As we see the increasing number of Asians who struck it rich move into London we also see a changing dynamic of London itself. A first connection here takes us back to 1999 (at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1369585/1/LDPREPSUM%2026.11.99.pdf), when Sir Peter Hall and Michael Edwards of Bartlett School, University College London gave us the works with a slightly altered view of London’s spatial economy. In this the introduction gives us “The issues have been discussed in a practical way to help explore how far the proposals could be taken forward by the new London Government as real contributions to improving the working of the London economy, helping to provide more and better jobs, and to making transport more efficient“, which had traction and a level of importance in those years as the wild growth of London as Financial services brought billions to London, an issue partially ignored after the meltdowns of 2004 and 2008, both affecting the UK (read: London) economy, the plans have not (as far as I am aware) been picked up to the degree it should have. In addition, as the development game changed with foreign investors as we see it, the plan is not completely up to scrap to the degree the councils would need them to be. An element discussed in the ‘old’ paper is “PPG6 policies should restrict further Out of Town Centre growth in and around London. Within the framework of these policies there is scope – and an urgent need – to innovate ways which will give centres and local shops a new lease of life and reduce Londoners’ needs to travel“, yet (at https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/the_london_plan_2016_jan_2017_fix.pdf), which seems counterproductive to the need of London city, they are no longer actually valid, and more of a guideline, yet (at https://www.sepa.org.uk/media/60125/ppg-6-working-at-construction-and-demolition-sites.pdf), you will wonder on how it relates. We see with not merely the changing dynamics, but with the need to know the risks which starts at step 1 of their ‘presentation‘, with “Identify surface waters and groundwater on, under or adjacent to your site. This also includes any small (dry) ditches capable of transporting water” and “Find out if the groundwater is in a protected zone as you may need to take extra steps to prevent pollution“. Now, the consultants would know things like that, yet when were they last mapped? And this is merely one city, a solution like Nearmap has the ability to list the level of risks on several levels. the document from Sir Peter Hall (and others) gives us “The main questions here concern the spatial fields Market, where Life have dropped a major proposal after transferring from open outcry to electronic trading, and the very large Bishops gate Goods Yard site which is currently the subject of an architectural competition organised by the Architecture Foundation. The latter in particular suffers from poor accessibility, located half a mile north of Liverpool Street station although close to the present Shoreditch terminus of the East London Line“, yet it is merely one of close to 30 elements that could have been mapped and weighted as a risk in one mapping solution. In all this, the time that developers need to ascertain their possible margins of profit could be negated in one clear updated solution that moves the discussion from ‘possible margin‘ elements to ‘optional margin‘ available. That is quite the change of venue and with the capitalist Chinese population growing, attracting them To London to see if the social housing could be resolved to a better degree requires developers and councils to have a much better grasp of the risks. The nice part is that the Chinese have always been in favour of good business, as that also reflects the better margins of personal (read: family) gain. Even now as we see people write excellent materials on a Dynamic London, based on open data, we see in addition that most are not looking at the margins of risk and the additional risk of margins as they are impacted by this so called dynamic London, in this is see that there are additional paths of data requirement, not merely in mapping, but in the need for a predictive risk path, because it is not merely what is known today that matters, it is the need for considering the risk over the next 10 years that gives rise to the profitability of other new projects, or even more optionally rewarding are the options for the discarded and abandoned places that are in locations where new options will not come, on what the options are for those places.

Now we might be happy that there are foreign investors in the UK, yet the part we seem to ignore is that the Saudi investments alone was set to be worth £60 billion in 2016. That is just the Saudi side and that is not including the Qatari’s with massive contributions in Mayfair and other places. Now we see a growing Asian population investing and in all this the London Councils might have to consider that when £100 billion is invested, these people expect to get well above £150 out of that, that is how investments work so as such to keep the money flowing the councils would needed to consider some time ago where growth is optional and how to offer it, not merely in spoken work, but in the facilitation of solutions. Because no matter how sexy London seems to them (for now), the moment that Paris offers a much better deal, these people will take their billions 283 miles in a SSE (read: South South East) direction.

In this, no matter who the non elected ‘rulers’ of London are, if the profit moves, so do they and they will do it in a heartbeat!

 

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Betrayed by government?

That is how you should feel in the UK. This is not some issue with the conservatives, I myself am a conservative. The issue is on both sides of the isle. That issue was shown to be very much the case yesterday in an article by Robert Booth titles ‘Tower cladding tests after Grenfell fire lack transparency, say experts‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/26/tower-block-cladding-tests-after-grenfell-fire-lack-transparency-say-experts). Yet, Robert is skating around a few issues, and he should be confronted about this. You see, I covered a few of them three days before that and it took less than an hour to get those facts, they are out in the open. I published them (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/23/under-cover-questions/), with the actual brochure. You see, the Arconic brochure, which I had in the article as well. Stated: ‘it is perfect for projects less than 40 feet high‘. So please give us the name of the project manager who allowed for this cladding to be chosen, please give us his/her name. So when I read “The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, announced on Monday that samples of aluminium panels from all 75 buildings that had been sent for fire retardancy testing had so far “failed”“, I am not that surprised as the Arconic brochure states on page three ‘a polyethylene or fire-retardant compound’, so which is it, because polyethylene is a combustible element, so there must have been two options here. And there is, you see whoever made the choice chose the Reynobond (PE), which is the combustible edition, that is what earlier news gave us. So in that case, who signed off on that idea?

The actual Arconic leaflet gives you this information BEFORE purchasing. So when Robert gives us “The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked councils to cut samples of at least 25cm x 25cm from the cladding of towers and send them to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at Watford for testing but has not said if the tests show whether they meet a British standard test” I wonder who are they kidding here. My question would be ‘Did the DCLG know that they were enabling their buildings to become Roman Candles with the option to kill anyone inside that building?‘ it is not really the same question, yet with Grenfell, we have the ‘evidence‘ to the better extent. The next part is even more hilarious, although not on the side of Robert Booth. The quote “Experts have warned that far more comprehensive tests on the entire cladding system are needed to establish if buildings are as at-risk as Grenfell was, including the insulation and design details such as fire stops. The shadow housing secretary, John Healey, told the House of Commons that “cladding is not the whole story”.” You see, here John Healey is as I personally see it the joke and it will be on him. There is indeed more than Cladding, yet the Celotex RS5000 seems to hold water as there are comprehensive fire tests, as one would expect and the brochure does not beat around the bush. They are giving the reader the test names, what and how it was tested. Unless specific combinations crop up (which is possible), the French firm who resides in Saint-Gobain did a decent job. Although in the last days there is an update that they are withdrawing their materials for any project on buildings that are taller than 18 metres. That is a fair step to take, yet with the possible impact this offers, certain parties could under common law now find themselves in a torts case for loss of economic value and losses, which could be a very large amount. This is what a lack of transparency gets you and Robert Booth does point that out. And yes, after my article, Celotex gives us “Celotex is shocked by the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this devastating human tragedy. We have been supplying building products for over forty years and as a business our focus has always been to supply safe insulation products to make better buildings.” I find that acceptable. Their brochure is to the point, gives us a lot of good and the architects should have had the info they needed as well as a handle what else to ask for or what else to test for. At present, unless there are inconsistencies or misquotes, the work of Celotex is all above board and all good (me speaking as a non civil-engineer). The second person now under scrutiny should be Barry Turner as we read: “Barry Turner, director of technical policy at Local Authority Building Control, which represents council building control officers also asked: “I would like to know just what tests these panels are failing.”“. You see, in opposition I would ask, what tests were performed, how was testing done and who signed off on that? Again Arconic gives us in their own brochure: “the ASTM E84 test” and it passed with a Class A. Yet, that test involves a horizontal test sample’, so how horizontal was the Grenfell tower when people were living in there? Perhaps a vertical test would have been needed. I am merely going for broke with the questions. Of course the press will soon focus on the ‘savings of £1.5 million‘ yet I wonder if there is a real story there. It could be, but I am not convinced. You see, the directive to choose away from the initial builder as to the why, and the shown facts beyond the mere cost saving that will impact it all. In addition, the fact that the cladding was done to appease the luxury flats around that building is another matter for discussion. You see, when a building was safe enough, adding a fire hazard means that those requestors can also be interviewed very visibly now. They wanted a better view, so how was that view on June 14th? Yet we see little of that in the article. At this point, Robert gives us a gem, one that is interesting. The quote “The London Borough of Hounslow, where the Clements Court tower failed the DCLG test, panels are being “swiftly” removed, but the council stressed: “The insulation material behind this outer cladding is a ‘Rockwool’ material which is a non-combustible product, unlike the case of the Grenfell Tower, where the insulation was a combustible type“. You see, when we look at the RS5000, we see “Due to its excellent thermal insulating efficiency at service temperatures ranging from -297°F to +300°F, polyiso foam has become the standard for low temperature insulation applications“, this is the information we get on ‘Polyisocyanurate Foam‘ which is what is used in RS5000. So who are the members of that council, can we get names please? With the encountered allegations that go nowhere, we do not seem to get any names, so shall we get all the members of the Borough of Hounslow in the dock and ask them some questions? The fact that the insulator seems to fail is that vertically burning polyethylene (Raynobond PE) tends to go beyond 300F really fast, and we can agree that under normal weather conditions, the temperature of 150 degrees would never be met, would it? The final quote to look at is “One architect responsible for some of the projects where cladding has been ruled to have failed, asked: “What are they testing to what standard? This could be a massively costly and disruptive error to thousands of residents.”“, what standard? Well the one that does not burn people to a crisp would be nice. And if it is a costly, does that not make the test still valid? Also the given term “’costly and disruptive error’ to thousands of residents” by that architect? Perhaps his comment was taken out of context to some degree, but it still leaves me with questions. The disruptive error we see now is that those people who died do not complain, the ones burned and still living will complain as will their family members. The fact that I as a non architect, with limited firefighting expertise (a remnant of my merchant navy and marine rescue days) was able to question the validity of choosing Raynobond PE the moment I had gone through their 7 page marketing brochure. There remains an option that there are questions regarding the Celotex RS5000, yet with the massive failure that the cladding was, the insulator has no real way of proving itself. All this was obtained from merely watching 30 seconds of news film and one product brochure. In that we see that over half a dozen councils need to reassess their values and choices as we now see that changes made in haste are done in Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Salford city and Camden. I reckon that a few more are to follow before the week is out. In all this I love the BBC radio 4 quote the best: “Cladding is being removed from three tower blocks in Plymouth, which were found to have the lowest possible fire safety rating“, how does one consider going for the LOWEST possible fire rating? It almost sounds like a Victorian advertisement: “Pay rent until the day you die, we offer both in our places of settlement!

Grenfell is showing clearly that the focus of the government failed, not just this one, both Labour and Conservatives are equally guilty here. Having seen the paper trail as a foundation of non-clarity for far too long, I wonder how this was not brought to light a lot earlier. The complaints from the people in Grenfell can be used as evidence in this case. This time it got a lot of people killed and as he Tottenham MP, David Lammy stated the term “corporate manslaughter“, it leaves me with two things that you all should consider carefully. The scope implies that it is not just corporate and there is every chance that MP’s and council members could share the dock here in court. The second one is that when the evidence shows that it was about cutting costs at any expense, we see that with the BBC4 radio part. Is it still manslaughter, or does it become murder? Is leaving people in death-traps, with such intend manslaughter, or should we call it the way it is “casualties for the sake of profit margins“. There is no common law part in law or in UK cases to make this an actuality, but perhaps it should. Perhaps it is time to make that change, if only to stop greed to some degree, because 149 victims in one building would sanctify such a change in law. The government that does not give that honest consideration in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords during at least two sittings each is betraying the trust you bestowed upon them. This is now becoming a job for the Law Lords and as the blogger Lawlordtobe I call upon them to make the UK a safer place to be.

 

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Sex Driven Developers

There are always ways to find weaknesses in government; there is a decent chance that we find them on a daily basis. Yet, how must we react when the foundation of those making the decisions are now in a runt of enabling? What happens when the government first decides on cyber rules for the safety of all whilst opening a bordello around the corner so that those in dire need of affordable housing are getting screwed over?

This is what is on the goose feather of Julia Kollewe as she dipped it into the ink jar and gave us ‘Battersea Power Station developer slashes number of affordable homes‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/battersea-power-station-affordable-homes-almost-halved-by-developer). She is trying to wake up pretty much everyone with this and it should wake us all up. You see, the next decade is about the dire need of affordable housing, London is in danger of alienating the very population that is the means for its survival. You see, in my mind, greed is not a ‘technical issue‘. Greed merely is and never goes away. A technical issue is when you get the cement batter wrong in one shipment, a technical issue is when you are looking at a square and you calculated for 5 corners. When you have a £9 billion project and you have to redesign 40%, you are in my humble opinion screwing people over for your need of greed and profit whilst ‘putain‘ the 250 people now left outside in the cold (pardon my French). So as we see that someone clever from these Malaysian investors, are now trying to maximise profit by slashing the affordable housing part as we read: “The affordable home proposals amounted to 15% of the total 4,239 homes planned, which included luxury pads ranging from £800,000 for a studio atop the former power station to £4m for a four-bedroom flat (the three penthouses have yet to be priced).” there is no other option but to fight back. In this there are two options left to the government. One is to get the list of investors and they are to be banned from any other real estate investment in the UK for 5 years. The second option would be that if the apartments are uninhabited for over 40% of the time, there must be a large service surcharge to the building services. Once that these investors have to report these surcharges in the upcoming sales bill, they might have to let slip some of their expected profits. In all this, the ‘compensation‘ of mentioned “build the 386 affordable homes three years earlier than previously envisaged, which means residents will receive their keys in 2020. They will be located in apartment blocks near the power station“, is only a small band aid, because it is not just about time, it is about space and location, the space of 250 apartments is now gone! We sometimes state that no man is an island, but the UK kind of is, so that means that once the space is gone, it is definitively gone. We also get the quote “an assessment of the profits the developer expects to make. Independent adviser BNP Paribas advised the council that it is “very unlikely” that the 250 homes will materialise“. So when we see this ‘independent’ party. Have they been on this project from the very beginning? You see, if that is true than we see a feigned level of incompetence. From my point of view, BNP Paribas is not just the largest bank in France; it is one of the largest banks in the world, so when they make an £9B ‘oopsie’, something else is going on. From my speculated view is that they had made for whatever plan they could offer so that they could get the project, whilst down the track they adjusted the view to get the results their investors needed and submitted the new plans so that they end up getting what they wanted in the first place. I cannot tell how deep BNP Paribas is into this as ‘Independent adviser‘ implies that they could have been called in down the track, not initially. In support of this view the article also gives us: “Keith Garner, a local architect who has campaigned against the Battersea project for years, said: “Underlying it, the financial model is all wrong. A developer-led project to conserve, repair and bring back in to use a famous London landmark is turning in to a predictable disaster“. This now gives us two parts. The first is that this is not just coming to view and even as the lord Mayor Sadiq Khan is only now coming into view, his administration as well as the previous one, will now need to show clearly that due diligence was maintained throughout the project including the view and calculations before approval was given. This puts Boris Johnson equally on the hot chair as his team comes under scrutiny. If we are to maintain the push for affordable housing, we cannot accept screw ups of this magnitude. Because once the cashable buildings are gone, it is over and no other option remains. It is the curse of sitting on an island. Keith Garner has been vocal in the past, going back even before January 2015, yet from this point onwards we see Keybridge House in Vauxhall where only 4.5% became affordable (19 out of 419), it seems to me that when we tally that part the failure is a lot larger than most realise. Even then there was a list for the PowerStation with a setting of ‘3,444 new homes at the power station 560, or 16%, will be affordable‘, so the list got slashed before and it got slashed again. Actually, the numbers changed as 3,444 became 4239, so there has been more ‘revamping’ it seems that a project this much in flux implies that certain elements were either never set or set in a questionable way. Now, we get that things change, there are always details that need ‘alteration‘ yet when you ‘suddenly‘ add 795 apartments (which under normal conditions seem to be 2-4 additional towers, we should agree that ‘questionable‘ is very much the better word to use (without getting to rude and rely on the ‘putain’ word).

Another issue is seen in “Officers appreciate the level of stresses a scheme of this size and complexity has and that the main priorities of the scheme have been the conservation and redevelopment of the listed power station building, the delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station and the jobs to be created as part of the new town centre“, you see, as investors are always happy to sue the pants of any official, the mention of ‘delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station‘ is not a problem to the Malaysian investors, so if the UK government had impeded the development of an agreed project, the government get the invoice. So there is now the implied issue that there was a mere trade off and 250 affordable homes were scrapped. Is that not a view you would envision? In addition ‘jobs to be created as part of the new town centre‘ sounds nice, but how is that part of the powerhouse building project? So as this all comes to heads in “A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved, ahead of a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday evening“, there is the speculated issue that the Wandsworth council made a right mess of things and they are trying to appease the situation so that they keep their jobs and possibly avoid the wrath of parliament, there was just the need to scrap housing for 250 people who desperately needed them.

So, feel free to object and oppose my way of thinking, but that is how I see it. I understand that the UK needs economy, it needs houses and it needs jobs, but when a limited resource is wasted to this degree we need to ask questions loudly and there needs to be the revision of policies to make certain that affordable housing remains at the top of the list, and remains the top priority of the list of achievements. Yet in the last 2-3 years, there is additional evidence growing that what was a desperate need is ignored by those, because it does not really impact them.

Yet the 2015 article also gives some opposition. We see this in “Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, says: “In fairness, the developer is being required to pay for a lot of other things. The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for.”“. OK, this is fair enough. My response would be: ‘I agree, but that is the assessment of an investment opportunity. The numbers are done and in the end it is either feasible or it is not!‘ So the investor could have walked away from it. If the government had found the £9B, it has the option to do it themselves, with a very different balance, and perhaps with only one penthouse, the other 2 could have become 3 3-bedrooms apartment each. In addition, as it is now less about profit, there could have been 900 affordable houses instead of the 636 initially envisioned. As I read the articles over time and the sources given, it seems to me that orchestration might have been at the centre of things from the beginning. That feeling is gotten from ‘The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for‘, you see, like some naval projects, where voting for adjustments is often much better than being the messenger on a failed project, because those investors would sue, and the eagerness of the Wandsworth council implies to some degree that there would be a case and a court settlement of £9B might not be the best way to go forward. And as we see in the past “Many flats were sold off-plan and, still unbuilt, are back on the market at higher prices. Just before Christmas one unbuilt studio flat in the power station, which had sold for close to £1m, was back on the market for £1.4m. Last week, estate agent Chestertons was reported to have other unbuilt flats on the market for £865,000 – £150,000 more than their original asking price” implies that investors are getting rich fast, so the entire drop of 250 affordable apartments is becoming more and more of a debatable issue.

Yet the final issue not seen in the latter article is most damning on both the houses of Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson. The quote “the lack of a master plan for the area” is damning because it implies that the area could lose its identity, and I am willing to buy either a coffee with a cream cheese bagel with Salmon if they can clearly oppose the drop of value for the loss of identity validity. Those who truly move to London want to be in an area. They want to be part of Islington, Hammersmith or Chelsea. Some will prefer Southwark because of Hay’s galleria, yet in reality they might just do it because the hookers give much better value in that borough. Whatever reason we hear the identity of the place matters. And this requires a clear master plan. to some degree when it is in the hands of foreign investors, things go into flux, yet a clear master plan is essential the prevent London of becoming an anonymous place of chaos.

In this we remain at minus 250 apartments. You see, no matter how grand it all looks, the immediate need for infrastructure is simple. When the people have to travel too far to work, the job will no longer be a feasible solution. Even as some are pointing to an extension of the Northern Line, the simple truth is that it is an additional 15 minutes, meaning that some people will travel 90 minutes each way to get to (or from) a place where they can afford to live, on top of that travel costs are rising too. So the new place ends up being a ghost town without infrastructure. How is that an interesting investment when some could go in and out of this ghost town to burglar it into heaven as they get to do that unopposed? How many paintings and electronics need to be removed before the investors seek another place to go to?

All elements that seem to have been missed, all part of a master plan not in place and all linked to investment and economic plans that might have been dubious from the beginning. As I personally see it, a lack of long term oversight, checks and balances all cast aside for the quick profit and the marketable view of mentioning, to merely look good. And now Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan has the mess on his plate and he gets to see what might be salvaged, because when I see ‘A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved‘, I wonder what has not hit the light of day yet and what else has to be sacrificed (or additional costs received) in the next upcoming year. Would you not wonder (read: worry) about that very same thing?

 

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Saturation in Denial

Last week the Guardian published one of the weirder stories. It’s from Lisa O’Carroll and Gwyn Topham with the title ‘Ryanair ‘will have to suspend UK flights’ without early Brexit aviation deal‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/06/ryanair-uk-flights-brexit-deal-wto), why do we care?

The subtitle is a little more interesting, but for very different reasons, so when you see ‘Falling back on WTO rules without a bilateral arrangement would be ‘disastrous’, says airline’s finance chief‘, you need to look beyond the claim given.

Why is this funny?

When you see the quote “Ryanair has warned it will have to halt flights from the UK for “weeks or months” if Theresa May does not seal an early bilateral Brexit deal on international aviation“, we need not worry, we can howl with laughter at the implied push for stress, both Lisa O’Carroll and Gwyn Topham should know better! You see, when you go to www.skyscanner.com.au, and I seek a flight from London to Amsterdam, I get flight offered from $198, for a return. Now, the issue is not the price, the issue is that between the 9th and 10th of April, I get offered 1295 results, stretching 130 pages of flights over a period of 24 hours. Now, we can agree that this does not apply for all locations. For example flights to Munich will only give 934 results and Stockholm gives me 981 options. So basically, there are more options to get from London to either Amsterdam, Munich or Stockholm, than there are trains from London to Birmingham! Now, it is a fair call that this place is filled with Ashton Villa fans, so why would you want to go there, but the direct issue is given. When we see the quote “Ryanair’s UK flights were only 2% of its business, said Sorahan“, so why on earth are we wasting time on a non-issue? Especially when the quote “He said: “We could still operate within that 1960s bilateral agreement” which established mutual flying rights between the Netherlands the UK” is found down the line. It is actually Pieter Elbers, the chief executive of Dutch national carrier KLM, who gives us value with: “It’s a worry. The instability and uncertainty is not good for business. However, it’s premature to go into this will or won’t happen“, which is actually right on course. Any action now is just premature for now and this visibility for Michael O’Leary whilst this is 2% of a saturated business is a bit out of whack on the best of days. A small outdated statistic is: “On a typical July day there are around 30,000 flights across European airspace“, 30,000 flights! Now we can agree that in July plenty of people get on a plane for an annual vacation, yet consider that we are talking about 8-12 million people per day (a wild guess in action). So when we consider Ryanair giving us grief over his 2% fleet, he should perhaps take a gander towards other shores?

This all follows with two more quotes “Brexit has already forced other airlines such as EasyJet into moving aircraft to enable continuity of business” and “Sorahan said Ryanair had planned to grow by about 15% in the UK last year but had instead posted growth of about 6%” The first part gives strength to the statement by KLM executive Pieter Elbers, ‘it’s premature‘ which gives us that some executives like those in EasyJet have a bigger grasp on their continuity of a bonus, than a sound approach towards a saturated market. The second one gives us that Ryanair missed its forecast by nearly 10%, so is this really about some Brexit deal, or is this about an airline that missed its target by 10%, from a 2% group. I am even amazed that this is on the radar of Neil Sorahan. When we consider the Financial Times last year, we see (at https://www.ft.com/content/f337fb7f-b4ba-3ad8-b50b-c698dd7a2adb), where we see “Revenue was €6.54bn, up 16 per cent on the year and only a nudge below analysts’s forecasts of €6.55bn” as well as “Ryanair said it expected net income in the current financial year to increase 13 per cent to between €1.38bn and €1.43bn“, which was off by 50%, so as Brexit was not in the referendum at that point, we get a slightly different view. There is no doubt that there will be a few issues in the post-Brexit era, yet to immediately go into ‘panic mode‘ by halting flights seems like an overreaction, especially as there are 1294 alternatives.

Saturation, when you can no longer absorb or dissolve!

Market saturation is a weird point. I remember meetings in the 90’s where I was part of a group of Americans and they were unable to fathom the term ‘market saturation‘, they regarded it as some fictional state of mind. The question becomes, are the airlines in a state of saturation? Now, consider the question how many of the 30,000 flights are actually an issue, especially with the fact that Ryanair has a mere 2% vested in the UK flights? Now we get that we have to look at it from the other side of the table. 10% of its fleet operates from one of 19 UK airports, so we get that there is a possible issue in the future. Now consider that Ryanair is a commercial operation that requires to have profit, which means it needs to keep its cost as low as possible. Which is a fair goal to have and when you are working a low cost range, you are definitely worried on what Brexit will bring, yet at present, it remains a premature act. Still the underlying score remains a valid one, what does a company do in a saturated market? Well, apparently they whine against journalists. OK, that is not really fair! I admit that, but jumping the shark at this point as politicians are still trying to get their bearings in a place where the facilitation of profit is the major taco to content towards, against whatever natural confrontational issue gets in the way.

That was a mouthful, so let me take a moment to set that in its right perspective. The EEC, EU, or EC; whatever name you want to give that bunny, it seems that the bulk of all European governments are focussed on profit in a place that has a stagnating economy. The problem from my point of view is that profit in a stagnating economy tends to limit those pursuing it to a spreadsheet life merely focussing on next quarter. In this economy the essential need will be to set an agenda towards the next 10 years, not the next quarter. The stock market, the speculators and forecasters state. They are setting the tone for panic modes and sour feelings, even as Ryanair is still moving forward. So, even as Ryanair is trying to get a stronger handle on its ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme, it needs to remain flexible to stay afloat (or flying). In this, they will soon feel a pressure going towards dashboards and short term reporting instead of growing a big data collective where they will enable themselves to get ahead of their main competitors. For that they need visionaries, not reactionists. In that Brexit will fuel the need for reactionists in panic mode, whilst the larger players need to do the exact opposite, take the possible hits they might get and after that move forward stronger, because if Brexit is any indication, the European mainland side will be hitting a recession shelf that is not unlike the 2008 events, but will take longer to overcome. In this several parties have been trying to postpose these events, yet the more postponing we see, the larger the effect will be when it hits and the longer it will last.

Again in this side we will see another emerging wave. The wave of saturation will reflect onto corporations and they will give us new waves of redundancies, where the groups of less significance will collapse opening up options for the flexible larger players, when that happens, those who do not have the data collections in place will lose out on several percentage points of margin in their commercial options. The size and scope cannot be predicted, anyone who claims to do so will not be worthy of your time in this. The fact that these systems have been delayed by a large amount of players will set them back and whilst they start fighting to get ‘something’ in place in the 11th hour does not mean that they remain a player, it merely means that they have invested in a system too late. In this I do believe that if we see a serious approach to their ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme, they could have some benefits, yet that can only be stated with any certainty if we compare what their main competitors offer against what is currently in place. Brexit has nothing to do with that, it is optionally pushing some players to up their game, we must accept that there is a reality that some industries will feel the impact of Brexit, the extent cannot be stated and should not be speculated on, the best solution is to be vigilant and see what improvements can be installed to increase the value of their company and the services that they provide. Big data is only one element and it is not a prophet on a pedestal, it is a tool that allows options if the company has certain levels of flexibility, whether that market is saturated or not, focussing on an event that the people want is not productive.

 

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Calling a centre

It seems that BT is one of the first one making a step back, a step towards the old times. They are moving away from those bulk cheap Indian call centres. I wonder if they are just the first. The title ‘BT hires 1,000 UK staff after complaints over Indian call centres‘ is not wrong, but I feel it is misleading. The article (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/bt-hires-1000-uk-staff-after-complaints-indian-call-centres),

I have had my share of experience with Indian call centres. The quote “The recruitment drive follows reports from customers that they preferred speaking to people in UK call centres rather than Indian staff based in Bangalore and Delhi. BT said the new jobs would be “frontline roles” in customer care“. You see, there are many places where the solution might to some degree work, yet the UK is different in many ways. They excel in dialects and expressions, so when an Indian call centre has an employee that would speak ‘English’, the idea that all versions of English are the same, they will come back from a cold turkey dinner with an added icy cold shower.

The fact that 80% of the call must be repeated because the friendly voice on the other side did not understand it is at the core of what is wrong, and it is one of two massive issues. In all fairness, none are actually the fault of the friendly voice on the phone, they are the core of the issue the flaw of the boss of his/her boss, likely even one level higher. Talking to someone in England in BBC English works perfect for the person on the non-Indian side of the phone conversation, the person responding is for the most ignorant of the BBC English condition and before the Indian call centre operator realises it.

So when the call starts and that person hears “I needed a bullseye before going off to Bedfordshire, now the fast sausage and mash machine has gone bollocks and ate me card!

How long until the call centre operator gets a clue that the man is trying to get $50 from the ATM and it swallowed his bank card? It could take 10 minutes just to get that sentence translated. I know it is an exaggeration, but consider how inaudible some dialects are especially from people in places like Hounslow or Cardiff. Now most UK people have a small problem comprehending people from there, so how will someone in India have a clue? These examples are a little out there, yet considering the vast wealth of expressions and dialects, the issue remains and for BT and some banks, the Indian call centres are not a solution, they never were and I personally talked to people in the late 90’s where that prediction was clearly given, yet it was all about cutting costs and getting a solution where people could live with a degradation from 100% service to 80% service, not just in the UK, this issue is nearly global.

The second issue is even more of a problem, again, the kind Indian voice should not be blamed, for the simple reason that this was all management. To get a certain path, people were ‘taught’ scripts and clear paths of choices. Almost like the automated system when you call places like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone (and Vodafail too) and many others. The system that takes you from choice to choice, a path with 1-5 choices, the call centre person got a similar path, and for 70% it works, for 70% of the issues, that they are receiving a call for, that gets resolved. Yet the other 30% are out of luck. The system is unrelenting and the call centre was not allowed to deviate. Having have worked as a Technical Account Manager in the service field, I saw and have been through many iterations where the customer has that 1% flaw, a dozen a day, data fields can be a relentless one and as more systems interact, more flaws creep into the connectivity. Now add the language to the procedural part and yes, now 1 in 3 would have an issue and the call centre would see new escalations on how one would infect another and soon the system was unworkable, the call centre person never had a clue on how things went from bad to worse and the worst part is that this is not some average count, in this system, the issues stack, so we get issue on issue with an ever increasing population who go from ‘tolerating’ to ‘extremely oppositional’.

A flawed system that came into play from the need of cost suppression. A sales driven industry that would never properly value the power of quality service, interesting is that it took this long to realise it. or is the issue not really costs, but the need for having home shaped jobs, more and more are needed in a current economy where local jobs are essentially more important.

In all this, we now need to consider the following: “But while BT performed badly overall, data on how quickly telecoms firms resolved complaints undermine reports that customers find it hard to communicate with Indian call centre staff“. Here we see two parts, the first one is ‘how quickly telecoms firms resolved complaints‘, there was not a technology part, for the most the issue was communication, clear communication both ways, when you consider that the UK population side does not speak BBC English (apart from perhaps those in the BBC building, and those in that large London donut), so as far as I can tell, most issues could be easily resolved though ‘proper’ English and the actual issue when identified would be resolved almost immediately. The part ‘hard to communicate with Indian call centre staff‘ gives the other part from the resolution, but overall there is another question, how do the numbers hold up when every case from beginning to end is checked on timeframes and quality? The given statement might not hold up, for the simple reason that the operational system is still an issue that path will not be the greatest issue when it is all in the UK, but overall there is an operational side that is not addressed. What operational call centre solutions will become part of the BT frame? Because the data that follows will need to be monitored and even as places are ‘preparing’ for the new solution, the question that follows is ‘are the right metrics being considered?‘ When we take that into consideration, we would need to see who will be looking at those metrics. A sales person will look at different metrics than a solution, service or consultancy manager, even though the consultancy manager is about sales, it will be about the satisfaction of the sold solution, so there will be a much stronger overlap.

The question now becomes, what will be the next hurdles for BT?

The infrastructure and the technology is one, the IT and the call centre system will require different solutions today than most solutions offered a decade ago, are those solutions up to speed to remain scalable, evolutionary and easily deployable? You see, the Indians who developed those solutions have created a decade of infrastructure expertise, that knowledge is partially lost to the UK solution industry.

the final quote to consider is “It said staff had recently agreed to more flexible working hours, to make sure calls could be answered from the UK at the weekend and in the evenings. “This demonstrates the commitment from everyone at BT to work together to improve customer service and to make things easy for our customers,” said Barr“, part of this has always existed, many places, including in the late 90’s required solutions to be working for a longer time. In that part there are two solutions, one is the variable times, which are at the current core of the solutions, in some cases (possibly not in the case of BT) is to have a time zone coverage, where large corporations have coverage in Europe, the US and Australia, creating a near perfect 24 hour coverage. When one call centre shuts down, the other one starts, or has been operating a few hours, meaning that any issue not dealt with in call centre one, the one to the east will pick up those issues as well as the ones they receive until they shot down, this moves forwards and in that solution a global service system comes to play, that level of service is now more and more required, because saving money was only an option where sales is king, in a system where sales is no longer staying up to speed, services needs to create a pillow for new sales and new steps to higher revenue.

That time is now returning, or perhaps better stated, the core of business needs to return to their home fields. In a state where mobiles rule, where Telco’s can be started from a living room with the mere need to have access to bandwidth to sell on, the home field advantage relies on service and interactive response, that step is now the place for the larger home players to get back their consumer base and from that step, reclaim the foundation of income to return to those large players. The sharks are returning and they are getting rid of the pilot fish that have been feeding themselves on too much food, the shark has been hungry for too long.

In that example, we all understand that in the healthy environment the shark will need, allow and even require the pilot fish. Yet as its food supply has been reduced to a mere fraction of what it was, the shark needs to evolve into being better and more efficient in devouring the food it gets, as there is less. So it sucks to be the pilot fish, but for too long every shark had not one but 5-10 pilot fish around its teeth, that part can no longer continue, whether those 5-10 were ‘validly’ there. In the end, cutting costs for those banks might have been a jump that is a lot more expensive than they bargained for, which will be at the centre of the numbers that the new call centre solutions would be trying to show in the pursuit of growing their grades, qualities and key result areas. So where is the flaw in my last statement?

You see, past the shark we get the issue that it was about cheap that was not, which is not completely correct, it is the change towards the new location that is the new cost, not the lack of old profits. We can argue that the not predicting that change is short sighted, but is that the flaw of the past, or our obsessive need to lay blame in the now?

It seems to me that BT is only the first in many, for those who have the quality and the knowledge, this will be an evolving field of need. Personally I see that this could be a potential job bringer to places like Scotland and Wales. When this evolves into a separate global call centre with a global coverage, those who have it will come to a decent growing field, a field of need where for the last few years there was none.

You see, there is another side in this, in the last few weeks there have been reports from places like Digital India we see titles like ‘Digital India will take off on the strength of call centres in small towns‘ (at http://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/digital-india-will-take-off-on-the-strength-of-call-centres-in-small-towns-ravi-shankar-prasad/) which makes perfect sense for their local market, a local market that has been evolving for some time now. Now consider the quote “There is enough data work available in the country (to be handled by these centres)”, which remains a fair call, yet the article is absent of international parts, which is a little odd, considering that this is about Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology. Yet, in that same line of thinking we now get lines like ‘Serco on the road to recovery with £250m sale of Indian call centre business‘, Serco seems to be on a road, leaving that outsourcing solution to Blackstone.

The issue is a little hard to set, as Serco has had its fingers in so many pies, many failing to a larger extent, so that issue on Call centres is not easily settled here, but consider the dive they took by ridding themselves of it at this time and at the massive discount it was sold at, it starts to form a speculated pattern. You see, the fact that Indian call centres are all growing in their local market, and ‘speculated’ must remain the operative word here, because the needs of one Telco, does not give way to an early summer feeling in the employment market. For that we need to take one additional look to the BBC article (at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31762595), called ‘The country training people to leave‘, the quote there is ““British companies love us because our English is not accented. The brightest graduates from our universities fight to get a job here. We only take the smartest kids. And after we’ve finished training them they even get your British sarcasm,” says Tubbs“, which is actually at the heart of the matter for one of the Indian issues, yet the part that is not addressed is that India had grown a strong infrastructure. That part was shown in the NY Times a year earlier, “The 2.2 million vehicles a day that grind away on Manila’s crumbling road system cost the country 876 billion pesos a year, or more than $20 billion, in lost productivity and wasted energy, according to a recent study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. That is a serious drain on an economy of about $250 billion“, now add to that “Manila is plagued by power failures, chronic water shortages and an antiquated telecommunications system“, I am taking the airport out of that equation, which remains an issue too. The bottleneck was not addressing the growing options that required a massive overhaul, now it is too late, the power from Manilla in language was shown, making the move back to the UK an easy step. Consider the earlier BBC article, which gave “the government teaches thousands of people the skills they need to get jobs abroad“, we now have a rolling economy moving back to the UK, with additional options for workers who could be relocated to the UK should the call centres run dry on willing staff, even more optional is getting a hold of all that call centre staff, should the UK market not be providing enough early on, the UK has options to home grow a market they had lost, even more important is that this is a service filed Scottish workers could be trained in, giving additional solutions when the cost of corporate costs in the greater London area falls short, that is providing Birmingham does not pick up this opportunity.

As stated, it is speculated, but I see that BT has opened a door, a door that remains ajar for others to consider. Even if they are not in the UK, large US and Japanese corporations requires more and more the need for service solutions in the European timeline, the Indian solution was not the success they expected and the Manilla crises will continue at least 4-5 years, that is, if the infrastructure gets a massive overhaul as per immediate, if not, they lose the market too and Europe is hungry for real revenue, revenue that requires a service solution, one they had abstained form for too long.

Will this pan out correctly?

Even as the Philippine government is projecting a 15% growth from 2014 onwards, getting it from $11 billion, to $15 billion this year, the issue remains infrastructure, they have no real solution and the issues started to play in 2014, whilst no true overhaul had commenced, which means that it needs to address a near 32% growth and need in resources, whilst Manilla has no way to deal with it. This means that the summer drains will leave systems collapsing, something that we would start to see soon enough, it also means that those with Manilla support choices will need an alternative they did not bargain for. So the BT move is timely (in Philippine terms), if not essential to their path to repair.

Whatever comes next will be interesting to watch, because when that move does go forward, it becomes interesting to see how the larger corporations deal with their vested interest in places like Germany and France. In that regard, BT’s step (as stated by the Financial Times) comes with additional needs, as Sir Mike Rake saw the outsourcing as an ‘Achilles heel’, which might have been an understatement. In all that, Deutsche Telekom, who is connected in all this, might be seeing new trends to insourcing (pushing for could be a better word), as it also closes the door for the UK to leave the EEC as insourcing becomes more and more successful, which means many business players will be pushing for this success.

That part has additional reasons when we see that Sir Mike Rake, possibly UK’s largest Europhile in history gets to voice on how UK business at large does not want any form of Brexit, a move that can be given strength as call centres will grow in need within the EEC, which is just what the UK Conservatives hoped for, they just never expected to get saved by a call centre, which is amazingly hilarious in its own right.

 

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Costing in the key of life

Over the last decade, political parties have squandered the needs of their constituents. Liberals, conservatives and Labour alike in both the UK and Australia. I have seen the pressure as housing is no longer an options for many. It is a skewed approach to a solution that fit only the truly wealthy. It is a system that has been ignored, shovelled all over the place and no one has done anything serious to address it. How much longer can this go on?

Yesterday’s article in the Guardian by Robert Booth is only the tip of the iceberg that sank the good ship lollipop (at http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jan/01/london-flats-costing-up-to-1m-outsell-more-affordable-homes). The title ‘London flats costing up to £1m outsell more affordable homes‘ is on one side deceptive on the other side it is illustrative of several administrations that have not considered any solution, just a propagation of the Status Quo. The quote ‘sold more than twice as many two-bedroom apartments costing between £650,000 and £1m as cheaper homes priced at about £300,000‘ is partially deceptive. You see when you see the data ‘Sales of London homes banded by asking price per square foot’, we see the numbers, but what is missing is not ‘what is sold‘ but the metric ‘available places that people can afford‘, Even higher educated barristers admitted to the bar will not be able to show an annual income of £200,000, which means that even the highest educated are not in line for anything decent any day soon. In Australia the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is now marketing the alternative in the trend of ‘Use your spare room to help pay off your mortgage!‘, they voice it like ‘my new business‘, but in the end, it is a risky approach to either a mortgage that is higher than you bargained for or one that was outside your reach an they are voicing the ‘entrepreneurial’ edge to hide the risk. What if that person suddenly gets into a financial wash? What if the Granny involved dies? All elements that take weeks if not months to resolve and the mortgage is still due. In addition permits might be needed. Nothing of that is clearly shown. The entire housing market is in a dangerous place because the political parties have ‘conveniently’ ignored the lower branches of income and in all that the rent is also still rising whilst incomes are not moving forward. So we are in a place where London, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are pricing their cities into non-sustainable situations and it has been going on for the better part of two decades. All these places have been trailing demand for over a decade by a decadent amount, whilst they should have been ahead of the curve for at least a decade.

When we look at the following quote in the Guardian “Campbell Robb, the chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter. “It is promising to see the government finally focusing on building more homes. But the only way to truly solve this housing crisis is for both the mayor and central government to finally prioritise building homes that Londoners on ordinary incomes can afford to rent or buy, instead of just higher earners.”“, question marks should be clearly placed, because ‘finally focusing on building more homes’ should have started in 2003 in both London and Sydney. Now, we have to accept that the city is no longer an option for many, yet when we look 4 minutes away from there we see the same trend of shortage. We are face with either not enough, or not affordable. A increasingly larger population in Sydney is now confronted that their income will at best support the rent of a mere studio apartment, meaning that the bulk must rely on 2 incomes to get anything above a one bedroom apartment, more than that, the current growth of rent means that any year that an annual increase of 3% is not met or exceeded, the living standard goes down on a quarterly base. These numbers might sound scary, but compared to London it is nowhere near as bad as it gets. The political parties have abandoned its population all for the need and premise of inviting wealth into the UK and Australia, whilst there is no evidence that these people are spending a great deal in those places, other than supporting and funding new unaffordable buildings. This goes far beyond these mere borders, we see a similar evolution in the Netherlands, where the issue is even more interesting as larger proportions of the Netherlands are facing a similar issue we see in London and Sydney. There is no ignoring the act that the Netherlands is only a fraction of the size of the UK (and an even more diminishable part of Australia), which of course drives prices up even faster. The Guardian article shows the most dangerous part at the very end with the quote “Since 2009, the fastest growing locations for new housing have been Barnet, Brent, Croydon, Newham and Wandsworth. In Croydon, the price of dozens of flats in the Coombe Cross development have increased by around a quarter, with one-bedroom flats rising £63,000 to £287,950“, now implying that the outer doughnut is no longer affordable, moreover, the fact that not more alerts are ringing all over Whitehall with an increase of 25% is even more unsettling. The average UK salary might be set at £26,500, but that implies that well over 50% of the UK is faced with a house price well over 1,000% of their income, making it never an option. That same trend is seen in Australia, where the median house price is now set at one million, setting the house price on average between 1,500% and 2,000% of their income, an issue that could have been avoided if the parties a decade ago had set clear paths in motion to battle this dangerous trend. Whilst both places are steering towards the New York unaffordability we are also faced with a situation that our values of life are in equal decrease, because as we move from nations that are no longer ‘working to live’, but nations that moved to ‘live to work’, our values will diminish faster and faster and it is all due to a path of greed and a path of flaccid and unreliable politicians. Labour UK 1997 – 2010, Labour AUS 2007 – 2013, in Australia partial fault is also with the Liberals as John Howard was sailing the good Ship Wallaby from 1996 – 2007. All parties that seemed to forget that not everyone can afford to live on a $100K+ income and we will be paying for their shortcomings for a long time to come.

I wonder if it ever gets properly solved without having to resort to ‘culling’ the population at large.

 

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