What they don’t tell you about the debt crisis

When you hear Cameron and Osbourne pontificating about the national debt mountain and blaming Labour for the massive amount of money owed do you ever wonder – just who do we owe this money too? This very pertinent question seems to be side-stepped most of the time so I’ll tell you – it’s us! You might imagine the government trawls the global money markets looking for cash but it doesn’t work like that. The government issues bonds known as gilts and 75% of the near trillion pounds debt pile is held in the UK by pensions funds, insurance companies and even individuals. Around a fifth of this, £200bn, was pumped in by the Bank of England who created this cash ‘ out of thin air’  – it was never printed money though, it was created electronically to buy gilts and corporate bonds.  So, the government doesn’t actually owe this £200bn money at the moment – when the time is right the quantitative easing will be unwound ie sold back to the marketplace.

Good news eh?  SORRY ITS MUCH WORSE THAN THAT.

There is much confusion over the figures bandied about by the Bank of England, the Office for National Statistics and the Debt Management Office.  The figures don’t include the trillion used to bail out banks, £103bn held in National Savings, state pension requirements , public sector pensions, PFI and Network Rail debt.  All this combined with household debt all adds upto around 5 trillion.

So, although the figure the government uses to determine debt , the money owed on bonds, is around one trillion, it doesn’t tell the full story. And by the way this figure represents 58% of GDP,  historically not that big as it has been on many occasions.   Any clearer?

Latest: A Bank of England spokesman has just told me the bonds they bought are a government debt but will be sold on the market. Work that out.

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Councils out of pocket but insolvency professionals reign supreme

News has emerged that UK public sector organisations that pumped millions into the ill-fated
Icelandic banking system will at least see some return on their investment.
Merseyside Pension Fund and Wirral Council have seen 65% of their £2.5m and £2m deposits clawed back from Heritable Bank, a subsidiary of Landsbanki.
But uncertainty remains over whether another £5m of MPF cash lodged with Glitnir will
ever be returned. The fund holds the pension pot of thousands of local public sector workers.
All told 145 councils across Britain hurtled lemming-like into Iceland’s banks on the promise of high returns. The only check they made about the wisdom of this,  was with credit ratings agencies who were all going along with the idea a tiny country like Iceland had banks that were suddenly global financial behemoths.
When the meltdown happened, billions were at stake.
Take Heritable Bank, a modest London operation that was a safe player until taken over by Landsbanski when risky mortgage loans overnight became all the rage.
The bank, with just 133 employees, ended up owing £1bn. Administrators in the form of Ernst & Young popped up to sort it all out.
They must have been rubbing their hands with glee. Despite attempts to  reduce huge fees in the insolvency profession – profit out of misery – little has changed.
E&Y has to date creamed off £19m from Heritable’s failure – senior partners are on £721 an hour and even a trainee is billed at £149 an hour.
Some of Heritable’s executives are up to £300,00 out of pocket – shame that.
At least in this case the administrators will be able to recoup a big slice of money initially feared lost.
In many other cases that doesn’t happen yet they still walk away with millions. When will this particular gravy train be halted?l

Wild and stormy night in New Brighton

Turners
New Brighton seafront
THE moaning wind buffeted and battered the seafront like some unhinged ghost train careering out of control.
Clouds blotted out the moonlight and, as I looked up from under my hood, pellets of steely rain hit my face like the lash.
It was a hellish night, a mix of King Lear’s blasted heath and the torture endured by trawlermen riding the mid-Atlantic rollers. Welcome to New Brighton! Thankfully we only had to brave the squall for the short distance from the car to the entrance of Turner’s Restaurant and Bar.
Preconceived plans had been literally blown away by the foul weather, so a visit to the city was postponed in favour of a venue closer to home.
Now we had been down this particular road before, New Brighton not exactly being renowned for its gourmet dining, but optimistically had the notion that there must be more on offer than flaccid chips and a tiddler ensconced in a torrent of batter.
Turner’s is in the Queens Royal Hotel building situated next to the grotesque eyesore that was once the resort’s Ritz – the Grand Hotel. This dereliction on a prime site is a striking emblem of the once-bustling resort’s decay.
Inside, the restaurant is made up of a large room with a bar at one end and a separate smoking/library area. The decor is reminiscent of a granny’s parlour, walls festooned with framed pictures and also garnished with decorations at the moment; a tip of the hat to the looming festivities.
The menu is varied with a reasonable selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. My starter was king prawns (pounds 4.45), presented standing to attention around a sea of storm-tossed salad and, although the dearly departed crustaceans were succulent enough, they would have benefited from a piquant sauce.
My dining companion preferred pate au maison (pounds 2.95) and seemed to relish each mouthful, her lips and tongue engaged in some sort of torpid pas de deux of appreciation, like a ruminating bovine.
To accompany the meal I had chosen a bottle of Sancerre (pounds 12.75), although it appeared the waitress was a little perplexed by this and a staff discussion I could not but help overhearing included something about it being “the pink one”. I awaited its arrival with interest but instead of the rose I was anticipating sending back, it was actually the correct bottle.
It was zestful, citrussy with a tantalising melon perfume, a typical Loire Valley sauvignon blanc that just fell short of matching the coquettish appeal of some New Zealand counterparts. A perfect ally for the prawns, it was later overpowered by a tangy main course.
The wine list was not extensive but with examples priced from pounds 8.50 appeared to be present value for money.
For the main course my cutlery took aim at a plate of duck a l’orange (pounds 11.50) which was imaginatively presented with portions of fowl fanned out in some sort of symbiotic nod to the orange wedges they nestled under. The meat was tender if a tad overdone while the sauce lacked body, comporting itself rather more like a gravy, which is not to my particular taste.
My companion was immersed in a dish of salmon and prawns (pounds 9.50) languishing in a butter sauce but occasional vocal emissions resembling some sort of rapturous crooning seemed to indicate all was well. Despite this mysterious melody the dish began to recede from view and this was no mean feat for my petite partner, consisting as it did of two imposing fillets of fish accompanied by a shoal of prawns.
Each meal also came with a side dish of sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and a boiled potato lacquered in butter which were perfectly fine. The encore was ice cream (pounds 1.75), a light dessert being preferred, bearing in mind what had preceded.
There were a number of other diners but those closest to us seem to have been offered a Christmas menu and, as that was not passed our way, I cannot tell what it consisted of.

Sheldrake’s restaurant

AFLIGHT of birds, silhouetted against the pink-blush dusk sky over the Dee estuary, resembled rising smoke.
It was like watching a slow moving picture show, the sound track provided by two dogs barking a duet in the distance.
A faint breeze tickled a nearby collection of flowers, encouraging the petals to dance a strange, silent salsa on their stalks.
The city had been left behind barely an hour before and the contrast to this bucolic scene was stark. The area is revered for its wildlife; birds such as pink foot geese, oystercatchers, spoonbills, redshanks and birds of prey abound.
After watching the flock we spotted drift off,it was time to head for nearby Sheldrake’s, the restaurant on the beach at Heswall.
It transpired that the timing could not have been worse. After a considerable period on the market it has now been sold and is due to receive a complete makeover, including interiors, furniture and food. Perhaps this will require a return visit,because at the time I was not aware of the change in circumstances.
On entering the premises,I was immediately thrown back in time by a conversation I heard at a table where three diners were in debate. I recall as a junior reporter being assigned the crucial task of answering the readers’ telephone hot line to the editor’s office.
The idea – not new then or now – was to encourage readers to ring up with their stories, the added bonus being a chat with the boss who almost invariably had something else better to do.
It had been sold to me as a vital piece of community work that could yield untold benefits and even scoops. Alas, there were no deep throats but plenty of crackpots. There were mind numbing appeals for lost dogs, a request for an umbrella repairer and most bizarrely a chap who nonchalantly enquired: “How do you make an eggnog?” These thoughts passed through my mind swiftly as I heard one of the diners utter this selfsame question.
We were then seated close to a window affording panoramic views of the river and Welsh hills and orders were taken. My starter of smoked salmon timbale (pounds 6.50) was like an orange big top, masking inside an acrobatic array of crunchy salad accompaniments.
A sideshow of bread and butter was also presented.
My dining companion was lured towards the nouveau-style black pudding (pounds 4.50) which appeared to contained a rich harvest of offal. This was ho overed up in no- time, a rapturous expression telling its own tale.
I chose the house speciality, chicken Sheldrake (pounds 10.95),for my main course; a mistake, in hindsight,as it clashed with the starter, containing, as it did, smoked salmon.
The chicken fillet was a colossus, stuffed with salmon and cream cheese and capped by a delicious diaphonous sauce. A selection of fresh vegetables cowered in deference.
My partner’s Cajun chicken(pounds 9.95) was wedded to a piquant sauce suffused with chilli and garlic. Chips and a Greek salad were bridesmaids to the tart and expressive fillets.
A half bottle of white burgundy (Maon Villages pounds 7.95) was an elegant companion for my meal, the Chardonnay grape providing understatement and balance without the depth or complexity of Maon’s illustrious neighbours, Mersault or Montrachet. Needless to say,it was clearly not a harmonious match for Cajun chicken – a fact blithely ignored by my escort who glugged it back like fizzyade anyway.
The two boys, aged four and five, attacked sausage and chips, wielding the knives and forks like weapons of mini destruction.
The restaurant is pretty laid-back offering the prized window tables along with others more intimate. Dining as the sun goes down is the optimum time to vist and,in warm weather, the terrace is a place to watch the world go by.
New owner Helen Demetrios,a former finance manager,promises big changes to give Sheldrake’s a more contemporary feel.
“I was really taken with the location, which is a fabulous spot,and my family who work in the restaurant business persuaded me to buy.
“We will be open seven days a week, with a bistro at lunchtime and up-market during the evening. We are also starting barbecues this week and carrying out a refurbishment. New furniture will enable people to sit out on the patio.
“A new head chef David Owen is on board and we are looking at creating a more exciting, Mediterranean-stylemenu.”
I gazed wistfully out of the window, watching the sun slipping away, much like my chances of retreating peacefully to the study at home with a bottle of Riesling to watch the golf.
Sheldrake’s,Banks Road, Lower Heswall Tel 0151-342 1556 Smoking: Yes,in the bistro, not in the restaurant.
Children: Welcome anytimeDisabled access: YesDecor: Dated but about to receive a makeoverService: Perfunctory Value for money: ReasonableMENUSmoked salmon timbale Black pudding Chicken Sheldrake Cajun chicken Sausage and chips (x2) Soft drinks (x2) Half bottle of Maon Villages Glass of house redTotal …………. pounds 53.15

Freelance writer and blogger

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