Thursday, December 28, 2006

Crawley News Update

After last month's RMF exposé on the double-standards of the Crawley News, it seems that the paper has taken some action.

Firstly, after Skuds linked to the article here, he received an email which seemed to suggest that it was the News' duty to publish the story because otherwise they'd be accused of burying it to placate advertisers. Personally, I'd think it a better idea to refuse the advertising to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, but hey?

Now, after becoming an avid reader of the back pages of the News' classifieds, section, I've noticed this disclaimer appearing above the 'Adult' ads this week:

Notice to Readers
East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers advise readers that the content of the advertisements in this section relate to products and services of an adult nature. We accept these for publication in accordance with guidelines issued by the Newspaper Society and the Advertising Standards Authority, together with our own policies and procedures. If you have any concerns or comments about the nature of the material in this section, or complaints about specific advertisements, please contact Jo Mockford

Well. That's us told! The adverts have also changed slightly, perhaps because they've been rejected or simply that the payment for them has ceased. Certainly the one for 'The Honeypot' has gone. The one looking for 'Glamorous ladies' has also gone.

But the kicker is this: Scattered throughout the classifieds are little boxes which advertise the - News classifieds itself, either in general terms or for specific services. Most are for recruitment. And the little box in the 'Adult' section is no different. 'Do you have difficulty finding staff? Call our dedicated Recruitment Team'.

Now why would they put that in the section dedicated to Adult Chat lines, Escort Agencies or 'Massage' services?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Crawley News for sale?

Trinity Mirror today announced that it would be selling off a number of its titles (story here). They are keeping hold of their major national papers (the Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People) as well as the regionals in Scotland, Wales and northern England.

However, they will divest of the Racing Post along with all sports titles, and local/regional papers in the Midlands, London and the South East.

The Crawley News is part of 'Trinity Mirror Southern', and so I assume that it is up for grabs. Whether a buyer would take on the whole stable (the Birmingham Post, Croydon Advertiser and Surrey Mirror are also going), or it would be broken up piecemeal isn't clear. Of course, the main alternative chain of regional newspapers owns the Crawley Observer, and so if they bought out the News, they could create a monopoly. Alternatively, a new owner may take the News in a radically different direction.

We wait and see.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crawley Tories lose their Head

Fresh from Skuds, and supplemented by the Lib Dems, the story of how Marcella Head has defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, meaning that Crawley Borough Council now has no majority group:

Conservatives: 18
Labour: 16
Liberal Democrats: 3

The Lib Dems now hold the balance of power and could, if they wanted, cause the Tories to lose their cabinet seats. What will actually happen? Perhaps the main area of change will be on the Housing Transfer, but it's a bit late to do much about that now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Old book meme

Searching around today, I found that I'd been 'tagged' by snowflake5 back in September. Ho hum...

1. Name a book that changed your life.
'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' by Tressell, which for the first time introduced me to what this socialism thing was all about. Until then I'd been simply tribal in my politics, but at the age of about 14 I borrowde my dad's copy and started to understand

2. One book you've read more than once
'Sideshow' by Sheri S Tepper. It's where I got my pseudonym from.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island
Can I take the entire 'Baroque Cycle' by Neal Stephenson?

4. One book that made you laugh
Any by Pratchett. 'The Colour of Magic' is still the best one of all the Discworld novels

5. One book that made you cry
I'm a bloke. Books don't make me cry. What utter nonsense!
(ok ok, I did sniff a bit while reading 'Feersum Enjinn' by Iain M Banks, when Bascule is trying to climb the fastness - but don't tell anyone, right?)

6. One book you wish you've written
'Harry Potter and the thingummy wotsit'. Then I'd be a squillionaire!!

7. One book you wish had never been written
Anything by Ayn Rand. Particularly 'Fountainhead', which I tried to read but gave up as I hated every single character and what they stood for, particularly her 'hero' and 'heroine'. There'd be a lot less nerdy american libertarians about if it wasn't for her drivel.

8. One book you are currently reading
'Basket Case' by Carl Hiaasen. I like a bit of Floridian sleaze and intrigue.

9. One book you've been meaning to read
There's a few that I have on a shelf waiting for me to get to. 'The Euro-killers' by Julian Rathbone, which is a book he wrote a long time before his historical novels.

10. Now tag five people
What, and make them go through this? Nahhh.

Housing revisited

Thinking of the last two posts reminds me that a while ago I wrote a letter to the Crawley News which (as well as pointing out that Fastway was down to the Tories at Chichester) said that I thought tenants should vote against transfer as it was in their best interests.

Shortly after that, Duncan Crow challenged me in a reply to say how. I didn't bother, mainly because Martin Ballard does a far better job. But here's a few ideas:

  • Tenants will pay higher rents.

    Ok, rents go up every year. But Housing Associations generally charge more than councils.

  • Tenants will pay higher rents

    What is more, the transfer documents do not include anything to stop a revaluation of the stock by the new HA after transfer (this was one thing that the Council referred back to the Executive on Nov 22). A revaluation would probably lead to steep rises for at least some tenants. Would we be hugely surprised it it turned out to be most tenants? Shouldn't the stock have already had a recent valuation as part of the process going on now?

  • Tenants will pay higher rents (so will home-owners)

    If they are also renting a garage. In fact, most garages are rented by homeowners. When I asked a flippant question from the gallery on Nov 22 about whether garage rents would rise to meet the levels of house rents (as the valuation of the average house is about £2000 and the valuation of the average garage is about £2600 by the latest figures), I was surprised to get the answer from Bob Lanzer that the rentable value per square foot for a garage is indeed apparently more for a garage than for a house.

  • Tenants will pay higher rents

    The way the finances work is this. A new Housing Association will be set up to buy the housing stock etc from the Council. They will pay £30M, or thereabouts. As a brand new entity, it will not have the cash, so will have to borrow at market rates to do that. So, immediately, the HA will not only inherit the liabilities that landlords have (sitting tenants, repairs & maintenance), as well as assume new promises made for them by the Council to replace over 4000 kitchens and 5000 boilers in the next five years, but they will also have a massive debt. Who pays the interest on that? Tenants do, through their rents. If interest rates increase, we can expect that to be passed on.

  • Did I mention that tenants might have to pay higher rents?

    Of course, I could be spouting fearmongering propaganda (but at least I'm not spending £30K of public money on DVDs to do it). After all, the council sets up a rent agreement with the new HA doesn't it?

    Yes. But the National Audit Office has found that 17% of transfer associations had ripped up those agreements. Scottish Borders was supposed to limit increases to inflation plus 1%. But instead rents went up by 5.5% (inflation plus 3%). Increases in tranfer associations in Scotland are higher than increases in pre-existing Housing Associations, which are higher than for councils.

    And of course these agreements have a time limit. What happens when the time runs out? Well, look to Hastings, where the transferred tenants of 'Ten-Sixty-Six' found that the average rent went up by 10% in the year that the agreement lapsed.

  • Not to labour the point, but rents might increase

    Housing Associations are beholden to their 'owners' and creditors, not to the tenants. If there are financial problems, there's no hefty bank account to help out (Crawley Borough Council is £100M in credit), and so the choice is to increase rents, to sell assets, to cut services or to borrow (which will of course mean higher interest payments).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Crawley News sensation!

Today the Crawley News had a splash on the front page (actually page 3 as it had yet another of those outer-page advert thingys):


Teenage girls could be lured into £1000-per-night escorting work from an advert placed in a shop window"

Pretty shocking stuff, huh? The advert reads "Wanted - female 18+ to earn good money. £30+ per hour. Open minded, fun work immediate start".

In a masterpiece of investigative reporting, a female reporter called the number and got more details. A few residents, and a councillor are reported as (surprise surprise) thinking this advert is 'shocking', 'outrageous', 'wrong for this sort of area' and so on.

Well, I'm certainly glad that the Crawley News brought this to our attention. After all, it's not as if Crawley is already fairly well known as having a number of adult services being offered - apparently the airport draws in a lot of 'trade'.

However, I wonder if the Crawley News reporters ever read their own paper. For example, this week on page 55 we have the 'Adult' section of the classifieds has:
  • 6 ads for Adult Chat lines
  • 1 ad for 'The Honeypot' for Adult Massage
  • 1 large ad for 'No strings dating contacts' with 8 ladies briefly described
  • 2 ads for Escort services

But best of all under the heading "Staff Required":

"GLAMOROUS LADIES REQUIRED for prestigious escort agency. Please leave name and number for interview"

Below which is a blue box to try and encourage people to place ads in the Crawley News.

Now, did the reporters really have to expose the dodgy nature of an ad in the Tilgate newsagents, when pretty much the same thing is being delivered to every household in the town? I would call the number myself, so as to launch my own 'exclusive', but my impersonation of a female is not very good. Perhaps the Crawley Observer will look into this possible scandal? (of course, I don't buy the Obs, so I have no idea if the same sort of ads appear in their classifieds, or in the Herald, which I think is part of the same stable).

Local newspapers - as ethical as ever, eh?