Sometimes you just have to admit you are wrong?

I have to say that the story hitting the front page of the Nottingham Post this week leaves me (almost) speechless. The story concerns a Sherwood landlord, Robert Kerr who had his house broken into by the Nottinghamshire Police. They kicked his front door down searching for a stolen iPhone.

The story unfolds to marvel at an app on the iPad which allows you to track your phone, send a message to it and even wipe it clean – rendering it useless. The GPS technology had pinpointed Mr Kerrs house – and so the Police entered ‘in good faith’. I don’t have any issue with this – if they catch a baddie then that’s all good for us.

But alas, there was no one there – nor was the stolen phone. But the Police did leave a broken door.

Although the Police sorted out some temporary repairs they are refusing to make good the damage – which is going to cost around £500. Of course there is a bit of legislation which gives them the rights. It says that if the action was proportionate and reasonable then no compensation is payable.

My take on this is that this is morally wrong. Technically this man isn’t seeking ‘compensation’ – he just wants the damage making good. Had the Police caught someone or found the phone I’m all for the proportionate and reasonableness too. But the fact is that they didn’t.

So a paper war has ensued. The Police Solicitor has written a letter and now the matter is being referred to the Police Complains Commission. How much is all that going to cost?

Come on Mr Chief Constable – hold your hand up. You got it wrong. This man has been wronged. Pay up and put it behind you. And restore a bit of faith – hiding behind a bit of legislation is neither big not clever.

The future looks bright

All to often we read headlines about the ‘lost generation’ of young people. There are estimated to be over 1 million 16-24 year old NEETS (not in employment, education or training). In the current climate the prospects are not good for them. It’s a true fact that it is easier to get a job when you have a job.

Sat Bains - watch out!

Last week I was at a Dinner where I heard an inspirational talk by Michel Hyman – an entrepreneur who has helped set up StartUp Britain. You can read about the organisation here on their web site. But in essence they are an organisation set up by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. The intention is to try and harness the talented people around. The object is not to take jobs but make jobs…

Michael talked about the future – citing Shakespeare’s idea that it was un ‘undiscovered Country’. It should be regarded as something to look forward to! We should enjoy the challenge.

But there were some other more down-to-earth points. I full agree with these. Success is about doers and grafters. Making progress in business and life requires some effort. Sadly no one gives you anything for free. Lottery winners are few and far between.

One of the young speakers at the Dinner was a restaurant manager from La Rock – a local restaurant. Matt Roe is 21 years old and spoke eloquently about his apprenticeship. I spoke to him afterwards and asked him what his ambition was. He wants to be the next Sat Bains. I was impressed!

The only fly in the ointment was that Matt had told his teachers that he wasn’t going to University – he didn’t feel it was for him. The reaction, in my view, was appalling – most teachers thought it a ‘waste’ and some rolled their eyes. We need to get away from this notion that everyone should go to University. It isn’t for everyone.

I was heartened to hear some great stories of some of these young people. It looks pretty bright up front there to me!

Win win win

It was a good day on Friday last week.

My firm won a prestigious award from the Estates Gazette. We were named the “Most Active Agent 2011” – for the East Midlands. This was fantastic news on tow fronts. Firstly we are an East Midlands based firm – this is our patch (we have offices in Leicester, Derby and Nottingham). Secondly, this was the fifth year running we have won this award.

As well as the overall award we were top in the categories of Office and Investment deals. We acquired or disposed of nearly 500,000 sq ft of offices last year.

We live to do deals, so being recognised for this award makes us like pigs in muck – especially in the current climate. And to carry it off for 5 years in succession is pretty amazing!

But I also was very happy as I won a magnum of champagne! Coincidentally this was from the Estates Gazette too. I never win anything, but had completed a survey about the state of the uK’s retail sector – and was drawn out of a hat! I found out by twitter that I had won.

So the question is – should I share my Champagne with my dealer colleagues who have done brilliantly? I have carefully thought this through and have decided that I would like to. But I’m not going to…

I am now wondering if I should have bought a lottery ticket!

This is brilliant

Every so often you come across a piece of video that needs little introduction or explanation – this is such a piece. This has to be there best football celebration of all time…


By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Football, football celebration, Icelandic

The economics of it all….

In the week I was sent this rather brilliant essay. I am not sure who wrote it, but I think it is brilliant!

An economics teacher at a local school made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Gillard/Brown socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The teacher then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on the Gillard/Brown plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the teacher told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, and gives to those who do nothing, no-one will tryor want to succeed.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You can not legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what theywork for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

MIPIM – and wrestling pigs

You may know that I am part of a self-styled group of people who call ourselves “Team Nottingham”. We exist to promote Nottingham at the forthcoming property show (MIPIM) in Cannes in two weeks time.

It’s simple really we all believe that the City should be present at MIPIM. We all previously sponsored the City Council, but two years ago as the cuts started to bite, we took over the running of the event. We organise three events to try to encourage inward investment. And we sponsor the presence at the show of Officers from the City Council.

In this week’s Nottingham Post we seem to have upset Mr Colin Raynor from Gotham.

OK, here goes (I know this is like wrestling pigs!) but it might make me feel a bit better.

1. The “Free” tickets aren’t like tickets to see, say, The Killers. It’s for entrance into a Conference Venue. It’s lovingly known as The Bunker – on account of the lack of natural light! I hate the place.

2. Tax Deductible? Well yes promotional costs are an allowable expense in part for my business. But this is against the firms Corporation Tax bill – along with the other promotional costs we incur.

3. Officers should be barred from receiving “Freebies”. I’m not sure what these are. We pay the cost of the flights, accommodation and Ticket. We also pay for three events. We neither get, nor expect, preferential treatment. We believe that the presence of the Officers helps the wider cause of attracting investment.

4. Foreign Investors investing in ‘certain communities’. gobbledygook – we are interested in people building commercial property to bring jobs.

5. Who is running Nottinghamshire? Not a clue. Perhaps Colin can help? Team Nottingham aren’t. Rest assured that organising this event I do for free. It has taken around 6 months to get to this point – and my partner organisations have spent a lot of time and effort in getting to a stage where we hope we can show off Nottingham to the World. Who knows we may even come back with some good news.

I wonder Mr Raynor what you are doing to help? Writing ill-thought through sour-grape flavoured letters to the local paper isn’t exactly positive?

How many tickets do you need to board a train?

I am getting into that dangerous territory of becoming a grumpy old man. Children , windows logos and now trains – all in the space of a week.

There's no collective noun for a group of tickets - a pack perhaps?

I was in London this week and purchased my tickets on line. This relatively pain free on the east-midlands trains web site. You collect the tickets at the station. The machine took an age – mainly as the train was pulling up to the platform. It was like watching the kettle boil – it always takes longer when you watch it? That wasn’t my gripe.

On the way back I was earlier than anticipated – and had pre-booked a seat on the 4.15 train. Ideally I wanted to swap, but knew that on the train if you board the wrong one – you buy a whole new ticket at full price. So, sensibly, I went to the ticket office. I was ripped off £30 to change on to an earlier less busy train. Irritating.

But look at how many tickets and bits of paper I accumulated:

2 x tickets outbound
1 x ticket for underground
2 x tickets for return
1 x receipt on card
2 x tickets for ‘new’ return (I have lost one!)
1 paper receipt for ‘new’ return rip-off charge
1 x credit card paper receipt for ditto

10 pieces of paper / card. I need a new wallet to hold them all.

My warning though is that fortunately I hadn’t thrown my ticket away – because when I needed to upgrade the cheery lady told me that I needed every piece of paper the (slow) machine produced earlier on that day. So you do need a bigger wallet?

Come on East Midlands Trains – we surely don’t need all these pieces of paper? It cannot be beyond the wit of man to print everything you need on one (or perhaps two) pieces of paper. I am sure that in foreign climes they clip your ticket as you use it. EMT scribble on it – very high tech!

Oh, and one other thing, I don’t want a reserved seat. I don’t get a choice. I am perfectly capable of choosing a seat myself. I don’t need your computer choosing a tiny seat on the two-seater tables with the only other person in the carriage sitting opposite me! Especially when there are 25 empty four person tables…

Salary Levels 2011/12 – the surveying profession

The latest salary survey of Surveying professionals has been published by the RICS and McDonald & Compnay (recruitment specialists).

It makes sobering reading – but is perhaps not all that surprising. Some of the headlines are:

Average Annual Salary – £48,329 (£50,250 in 2010)
£13,461 was the average bonus enjoyed by around 32% of the respondents
The average value of being qualified to MRICS level is £13,000pa
25% of respondents expect a salary reduction in 2012
81% of respondents are happy with their current employer

So, the averages are considerably above the national average wage. of £26,200pa. But behind Air Traffic Controllers at £55,552pa.

Of course, averages hide a lot, so whilst interesting these figures don’t really tell us very much. There will be huge differences in salary levels within the profession.

Perhaps the real headline here is the anticipation of further salary cuts. This means that the respondents to the survey do recognise that this is a pretty tough market (which I guess is why 81% are happy!). The problem, of course, is that the salary bill is the area of a consultants business which can make a huge difference to profit or loss. It is difficult to cut down on other things – our fixed costs are much more difficult to shift – electricity, gas, insurance et al.

We also see some other factors too – price cutting on fees to almost suicidal levels. This doesn’t help anyone. I am not against competition – but what is the point in doing work at a loss? We are seeing a fair amount of this at present with some firms simply ‘buying’ work.

So the immediate future still looks to be quite challenging. The key will be flexibility – of both employer and employee? To ride this storm out, the days of upward-only salary reviews seem to have gone!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Nottingham Tagged FRICS, McDonal & Co., MRICS, , Salary, Survey

Children – don’t you just love ‘em?

For some reason when I am allocated a seat on a plane the nice man/lady at check-in must take an instant dislike to me. They invariably ensure that have small children either behind me – or just in front.

Turin to Birmingham shouldn’t be a long flight, but when three six-year olds are in front of you, it is. They seemed to think that bouncing up and down on their seats would somehow make the flight better. Well it didn’t for me. The good thing was that their parents were three rows away – close enough to keep a beady eye, but far enough not to feel the seat jamming into (my) knees. How thoughtful.

On the way out I had to endure a ‘little person’ behind who I think may have been a future Beckham. His parents did keep telling little Tarquin not to ‘express himself’ in that particular fashion. Tarquin thought it necessary to continue expressing himself with my seat as a target.

You do have to be careful on aeroplanes as I believe they take quite a dim view of public floggings. It’s quite easy to get banned I think.

Personally I would thrash the parents first.

I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ at the moment (something that I will come back to) and he highlights some very bright kids who are taught to question things, to be inquisitive and not afraid of speaking up. I can see the merit of this, but I don’t think he was advocating a lack of manners. Because this is what is is. You parents who were on my two flights need to teach your kids some basics. Like that there are other people on this planet – not just them (and you).

In Italy they have an interesting way of dealing with unruly children….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Aeroplanes, Behaviour, Birmingham, Children, irritating, Malcolm, Outliers, Turin

Nottingham’s Economic Growth Plan

Nottingham City Council has published a draft Growth Plan. You can see it here. It’s an ambitious look forward for the City to try to tap into that magic elixir of growth in economic terms against a backdrop of austerity measures.

If you are at all interested in Nottingham it is worth a read – and worth commenting on it before it finally gets published in the spring.

It is clear that we need to have a plan – times are not going to get easier in the foreseeable future.

The document picks out seven key areas – Education, Transport, Digital connectivity, Start-ups, Commercial and City Centre Development, Reputation and Emerging sectors. This is where effort is going to be concentrated. As the document suggests we have to have priorities which can be delivered.

There is one thing that I picked up on immediately – which relates to the use of the Castle. The draft proposal says that we should look to “Establish a new high quality, new visitor offer, centred around the castle and the links to Robin Hood.” Back in September 2009 – two and a half years ago, I sat on the Sheriff’s Commission – which looked at this (almost) exact same proposal. We did a lot of work; I gave up a lot of my own time. We had started to develop a number of themes.

But then it all fell apart.

In a funny way – I don’t think the City want a themed visitor offer. I don’t know why I think this, but we have wasted two years and lots of ideas. It’s not difficult, but I am still of the view now, as I was then, that the City cannot run a world-class attraction. You have to bring in experts (and that’s not me!)

I was reminded of the power of the brand last week in Cervinia when I was speaking to a Russian, he was from Moscow. I told him “Nottingham” was home which prompted a blank look – until we did the robin hood pose – it elicited a big smile!

I hope that this document will have some credibility and some of the ideas will come to fruition – I’m just not holding my breath on the Castle!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham, Robin Hood