Wednesday, 23 January 2008

It's the economy, stupid!

'It’s the economy, stupid!'. That slogan served Bill Clinton well in his 1992 presidential campaign - and it still applies ... although green thinkers might have a different idea to Clinton's about what makes a healthy economy.

We could point out all sorts of changes that would make our economic rules more useful to 'people & planet' : on taxation, regulation, employment, wages, benefits, localisation, fairtrade ...etc.

While those 'big themes' can be a bit daunting, by working collectively we can keep up the pressure for change ... and meanwhile there's been an increasing awareness that as individual 'consumers' in the 'marketplace' we can use our spending power and choose local / organic / fairtrade / cooperative, etc. In our busy lives though, it can be easy not to get round to a simple step we can take which would make a big difference : choosing better personal banking and finances. By, for example, switching bank, it means you are ‘making your money work for you' round the clock towards making the world a better place. And ‘ethical’ finance is no longer a complete 'fringe' activity. Some of the best performing institutions are also the most ethical (now why are we not surprised?), and there are now plenty of options to choose from.

It's always worth getting tips from an independent financial adviser, but for starters, you could consider :

1) Switching your bank account to the Co-operative bank (or Smile, their internet bank) or similar.

2) If you're thinking about savings or other 'products' another option is things like Triodos Bank - to get an idea of how these types of bank work differently/greener, have a look at

Switching my own finances has definitely been a good decision - so if you haven't yet, what are you waiting for? (Imagine if we all did it?!)

Happy banking

Aldo Mussi

Parting thought :
If we want to win the lottery, are we losing it? :o)

Monday, 7 January 2008

Tax on car parking

Benefits and favouritism – what do you make of them?

Let’s say you go to work and you are paid for what you do, do it well – as does the woman at the next workbench. The boss, however, gives, for no charge, a massive lunch daily to your colleague as a reward for some lifestyle choice or principle – for instance being a vegetarian. That seems fair surely – that money spent at the burger van could be saved by adopting your colleague’s lifestyle.
The taxman thinks otherwise, however, as your free lunching colleague is effectively being paid extra and must be taxed on the value of that lunch. Is that fair ?
The taxman takes a different view when your employer spends a few thousand pounds to build a car parking space and annual maintenance and then lets employees use it. You might be taking the bus to work (and paying full price) but your neighbour is having part of the cost of the home to work car journey, the car parking, paid for and not taxed. At one time the gift of car parking was counted as a bonus to be taxed but was decided to be too complicated. The result might anyway be that people would park on the street and that surely is worse than having a well organised car park. Added to that, without a car, journeys to some places (such as Birmingham Business Park would be, without a car, protracted). You as a bus user could start travelling by car and so could everyone there, until the firm went out of business through spending all the profit on tarmac.

So try to work out what you think of the ‘workplace parking levy plan’ for Nottingham (Local Transport Today 20 December 2007). The idea is that people driving to work are imposing a cost on Society and are being subsidised by being given free car parking at their workplace. In Nottingham it is the City Council who are pressing ahead with a levy (or tax) on parking. The levy will be charged on each business who will pay a charge for each parking space for each employee parking space. Naturally there are exceptions to the levy and relaxations of the rules proposed. The money raised would be spent by Nottingham to expand their street tramway network.

John Hall