Class, My Ass

The Class SystemDriving back from Reading tonight, following a great day with my son, his fiancée and his mum, I was listening to Radio 4. Following a rather interesting program about credit, the good and evil aspects of borrowing and the social stigma of bad debt, there was an article about the BBC part-sponsored, BBC Lab UK’s Great British Class Survey.

I had heard about the new classes, seven in all, that had been observed, following the compilation of the survey, in which over 161,000 people took part. The seven classes range from the Elite, the most privileged group, set apart from other classes because of wealth. Highest scoring economically, socially and culturally, to the newly classified Precariat the poorest, most deprived class who score low economically, socially and culturally.

I’m not convinced about all this, so I decided to conduct my own little one man survey, to see whether it stood up to scrutiny. I went to the BBC Class Calculator page and entered my current details, with all the financial, social and cultural options. I came out as an Emergent Service Worker, who are typically young, have little money, but are very social and cultural. Well they got the bit about little money right at least.

Then I entered my details from a few years back, before I was made redundant, lost my home and my marriage failed. The social and cultural options haven’t changed, only the earnings and the property, but amazingly I used to be Elite.

It is complete twaddle. Money doesn’t give you class, nor does losing it take your class away. All this little test proved was that we, as a society, value people far more for what they earn and own, than who and what they are as people. I know several people who don’t really have two pennies to rub together, yet they ooze class. On the other hand, I know lots of people who have more money than sense and who wouldn’t have any class even if they could buy it.

Why don’t we try to conduct another survey, where people’s class is measured by their sociability, their altruism, their compassion and their caring for those around them. That’s what gives a person class, not obscene amounts of filthy lucca tucked away in tax havens, or tied up in second and third homes, pushing prices still further out of the reach of the people who really need them.

We are being governed and controlled by those people who are, by and large, in the Elite class, and who will do their utmost to keep themselves there, not to say, keep the rest of us as far down the ladder as they possibly can. The UKIP results this week may be a protest vote, but by all that’s holy, it’s time for a serious shake up in the way this country is structured.

Taxing Times For Starbucks?

Starbucks looking to buck the trendI was pleased to hear, on the radio today, that Starbucks the US coffee chain, are in conversation with the UK tax authorities (HMRC) with a view to restructuring their business in order to pay, what is deemed to be, a reasonable amount of corporation tax on their UK based operating profits.

Whilst it should be stressed that Starbucks are not breaking the law, their methods of doing business, using tax differentials across Europe, through which they can actually post an operating loss in the UK, has been seen by many to be wholly unethical.

Naturally, the accountants and tax planners employed by Starbucks are actually only doing the job for which they are paid. So a degree of the blame for this situation must fall on the HMRC and the Treasury for the way they have structured UK tax law.

With other companies such as Amazon and Google also falling under the ‘tax-dodging’ spotlight, it is heartening that the bad publicity, combined with a drop in customer figures and brand respect, has actually forced the company to think again about their social responsibility.

Whilst these companies undoubtedly bring a significant number of service related jobs to the UK economy, this is no excuse for allowing them to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to paying their fair share of tax. As customers, we have a very powerful lobby against these companies, by voting with our feet, and must keep up the pressure until justice is seen to be done.

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at the meetings going on in Starbuck Central right now. You can bet that one of the phrases being used is ‘how little can we get away with’ and not ‘won’t it be great to pay our share’.

Having two brothers in the accountancy game, I’m loath to question their motives. But it would be really great to think that this dose of ‘enforced responsibility’ might ripple down (or up) into other areas of society whose ethics fall too close to ‘poor’ on the social responsibility scale.

%d bloggers like this: