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UK local authorities are famously poorly funded and have been squeezed by the government further over the last 5 years. The one that sticks out for me is Newcastle Upon Tyne - here's some pretty astonishing figures from a long-ish article[1]

"In fact, the city’s predicament already seemed impossible. The council cut £37m from its spending in 2013-14, and another £38m is set to follow this year. Then, according to current projections, there will be further annual cuts of £40m, £30m, and £20m"

I think "cash-strapped" is putting it lightly.

[1] = http://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/nov/24/-sp-is-saving-ne...


In the interest of balance:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/...


I had no idea, that's very eye-opening. When pension funds go underwater like this, what are the options? Do the council (or indeed any organisation) have any ability to renegotiate them if they are as "gold-plated" or outrageous as the Telegraph suggests?

Not usually. Final salary schemes were considered normal, not "gold plated", and of course worked ok while average wages were rising, council revenues were rising, the stock market was rising, and interest rates were high (which makes the value of future liabilities lower). Now they are becoming a vast income transfer from poorer young people to well off old people. In the US bankruptcy has been tried, but not sure that is an option in the UK.

> vast income transfer from poorer young people to well off old

Hooray someone who gets it. How on earth did you escape the UK hive-mind?

Do you like how they put all the UK pension costs under the main "welfare" heading then demand benefit cuts (excluding pensions) because the welfare bill is too high?

Do you know anyone else in the UK who knows or cares about any of this?


Heh.

I think essentially every young person in the UK realises this and cares deeply.

I have a bunch of middle class friends. Many of their parents started out, got a decent job, bought a house. House is now worth 500K+.

For us to ever obtain that (without inheritance; i.e. in the same way they did) we would have to earn over £100K, or have dual income of 70K, ish. That's 5% if not 1% territory; it's essentially limited to business owners/senior mgmt and bankers.

So everyone rents. Who are they renting from? Well, not young people.

Of course, all of this capital will flow down the generations eventually, but only to a select lucky few. It's as if we had a golden age; a few decades of mobility for people to work hard within; and now family wealth is basically crystallised.


> Final salary schemes were considered normal, not "gold plated",

These days defined-benefit schemes are "normal" in the US only for government employees. In the private sector, they were largely phased out in favor of defined-contribution pensions, decades ago, with only a few labor-union-negotiated holdouts. This is probably a good thing for workers whose employer may go out of business or go bankrupt some day (cough GM cough) in a way that governments theoretically shouldn't.

Meanwhile in actually-bankrupt US cities, look at Stockton, California... especially renowned for government employees working insane overtime in their final year to make final-salary calculations as impressive as possible.


A good man, beat me to it. Boomer pension haircut time.

No chance, they are the biggest group that the politicians can pander to.

Local government is really broken in the UK, I think the root of the problem is people vote in local elections on national issues, there is little true local democracy in council elections.

My problem with local government in the UK is the absolutely dire quality of the candidates.

Most MPs seem to be generally knowledgeable about the world, well educated, qualified and have something to say about what they believe, even if you don't agree with it.

But most local government candidates seem to be retired nobodies with no experience of anything substantial and nothing enlightened to say about anything.

They always come across as the worst kind of petty lower-middle management on a power trip. Very uninspiring.


It's kind of a cycle. Being a local councillor is a part time position with almost no pay, so you basically have to be retired with an interest in meddling. Local news is terrible at holding them to account and also has no money. Voters care mostly about issues that affect them directly (bins, and whichever planning policy is closest).

If the position of council chief exec (which is often very well paid) were elected, things would be different.

Oh, and the funding situation for councils is a mess.


A huge amount of cash from councils goes straight into funding their disgusting defined benefit pension schemes.

28% of council tax bills according to this:

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2048574/Town...

Perhaps it's time for a boomer pension haircut before making further cuts on services that effect our kids.


Of course. Pensions are by far the largest part of the UK welfare bill. But pensioners are a very important voter demographic...

People are paid pensions because they're owed pensions. They've been paying into the system their entire lives, and are entitled to that money. To describe it as 'welfare' is entirely misleading.

You could argue the same about other benefit claimants, but this is besides the point. Most of the welfare budget is spent on pensions.

No, I couldn't claim that a 19 year old claiming JSA had been "paying into the system their entire lives". Do you not see the difference between someone in that situation and someone who's been paying NI for the past 50 years and is now claiming their pension?

The fact that pensions happen to be grouped in the same category as benefits is irrelevant. If they were in a separate category it would hardly change the figures.


Correct. And there is zero info on this in our media. Same as local council pension spending which another poster had no clue about until informed.

No flag whatsoever, really.

Though exploring that tangent a little, I wonder if there is a any sort of study on flags\countries and their association with quality (specifically engineering\tech). Off the top of my head I'd guess people associate places like Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria - I'm not sure why.


Do not confuse Germany's prior superiority with made goods with their IT skills. As a German, I can tell you: We're becoming a 3rd world IT country real quick. Plus the USA is our best friend, including the NSA.

While that may be true (I do not know) it's still a connection I subconsciously make

>We're becoming a 3rd world IT country real quick.

How so? I usually think of Germany as being pretty good technologically.


As a german i can tell you having the german flag on anything is a bit weird.

Yeah I recall reading that there's some uneasiness around flag flying and national pride in Germany - I think it came to my attention ahead of the World Cup in 2006.

Yeah, but "Made in Germany" is usually printed with extra-large letters.

I wouldn't go with Sweden.

A pirate flag might work.


I think London has a better reputation as a cultural melting pot really

And unlike Berlin, it is very expensive to live and work. That being said I <3 both, but think Berlin is a much better place for startup culture.

I would have to agree about Berlin (I'm in London), if not the language I'd be there already.

I grew up with these Lada jokes and for me Ladas were just something ridiculous and for some reason I can only remember them in this godawful cream colour tinged with rust around every possible edge. Then a couple of years back I visited Georgia and Armenia and I saw moderately well maintained Ladas in black and I have to say there was something very charming about them! Tbilisi can be pretty hilly and steep and I was pretty surprised to see Ladas zipping up and down them with ease, side by side with shiny BMWs and Mercedes[1]. I also loved the GAZ Volga, I think they're a bit rarer though.

[1] there's heaps of new-ish Mercedes, BMW, Audi etc (many right-hand drive) in Georgia which is confusing as it's not a wealthy country at all. I got talking to an Insurance guy who'd told me this is because Georgia is the end of the line for a chain of insurance fraud starting in the UK\Germany, where cars would be "stolen", claimed on insurance and then moved on + re-registered somehow in the next country. This process is repeated until they ended up in Georgia and were sold for a knockdown price because they'd already recouped their money many times over. Ex-USSR countries are really interesting and I'd thoroughly recommend them for a visit, just learn a couple of phrases in the local language or Russian to make things a little smoother :)


Ladas were a common sight in the UK on the early 80's. Especially in Scotland where they did well in the tough conditions. They were also cheap.

I've still not figured out how, if Top Gear was to be believed, how the BMW 3-series became the best-selling vehicle in the UK.


It seems unlikely to me that enough people are tech savvy enough to downgrade a version of windows but can't (or don't want to?) switch from IE8 - which we can probably all agree is not a particularly nice browser

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You don't have to be technically savvy to take advantage of downgrading though, resellers will do it for you. If you go to CDW, TigerDirect, NewEgg, etc. they all are selling PC's now, new and referbed, with Windows 8 licenses but with Windows 7 pre-installed. All you have to know from a technical standpoint is that you prefer 7 over 8.

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My gut feeling says that a consumer that isn't savvy enough to upgrade a browser is most likely shopping at a big box store, or maybe Amazon.

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Corporate images are almost all Windows 7... 8 is basically son of Vista.

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    At 22, I went to work at Microsoft. When I tell young people that today, they look as if they are embarrassed for me. And I have to tell them, 'No, no — it was like getting hired at Google back then, or Facebook. This was 1993.
Who on earth is reacting like this?

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You would be surprised at the number of Millennials and Digital Natives who only ever heard of Microsoft's fumbles in the past 20 years. For me (born in 1977) it was Apple who was the red-headed stepchild of the computer world when I was growing up; if you had a Mac in the 90s you were a know-nothing "luser" with a toy computer. Every generation has its heroes and villains, and for the current teen-to-twenties hipster crowd, Apple is king and Microsoft is lame. And I suppose GNU/Linux is that weirdly interesting know-it-all uncle your parents don't want you hanging out with.

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I know it's glib, but young people. People that got into technology from mid 2000s and beyond just see Microsoft as a big fumbling giant.

I think the Zune and the botched attempt into the smartphone market are what come to mind when they think of things Microsoft Works on. Either that, or it's the image of the giant enterprise company that only innovates in the way it bundles licenses to the markets it has monopolies on.

I know it's unfair and judgemental, but it's even the way I unintentionally react when I hear about friends working there. I just envision mass paralysis around innovating on the products that make money, and no real weight given to new projects because the cash cows need to be tended to.

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God, when I think back at Microsoft I could only think at Age of Empires and Age of Empires 2. God how often did I played the Age of Empires 1 Trial that were part of Windows 98..

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Precisely what it says: young people.

Source: I'm majoring in CS in university right now, and most of my colleagues hold startups/Facebook/Google in high prestige, while older companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are often seen as second tier.

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Amazon was founded in 1994, Google in 1998. Do those four years really make the difference? I believe the reason for Google being hold in high prestige must lie somewhere else than being a 'young' company.

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I think Amazon and Microsoft are also known as being bureaucratic-heavy companies, another big factor against being a good place to work as a software engineer (at least this is the impression we have been given).

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You're right, it's about more abstract prestige. I'm also a current CS student, and among my peers working for Google is "cooler" than working for Twitter, even though the latter is much younger.

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I guess CS students can't be bothered to know anything about companies, because there's no rational way to rank companies the way you described.

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The "Pocket CHIP" edition reminds me heavily of the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator, which is another extremely cool piece of stripped-down-but-functional electronics which manages to be very functional at a decent price: https://www.teenageengineering.com/products/po

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Whoah hold up, barley being considered horrible seems like a cultural thing. Certainly in Scotland and Czech barley/kroupy is considered a damn tasty ingredient, I even use it in place of Risotto rice (I acknowledge that it's not the same thing as a rice bowl)

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Well, it's cultural in the sense how you cook rice or barley is cultural, but if you cook 100% barley in the way you cook rice in Japan (or Korea), most people will agree that it objectively tastes worse.

(Well, I guess the way some people refuse to have even 5% barley is probably cultural...)

I can't speak for Japan, but in case of Korea, generally people don't consider barley horrible. They just find it a bad substitute for rice.

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I think your last sentence is the one you might have led with in your previous comment. Barley is perfectly good, prepared plain or in other dishes. It just isn't rice and anyone expecting rice and receiving barley would likely be horrifically disappointed. I know I would (and I love barley and almost never eat rice)!

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To me "Withings" sounded like an English surname featuring "wi" as in "with" and a voiced dental fricative "th" (like in "though"). Like "Witherspoon" or similar. It didn't even cross my mind it could by "wy-things" or "wee-things".

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Take the numbers you've used and switch them around slightly to reflect the NYC pensions situation and you can see why they'd be upset. It's not $4 in fees to an additional $96 returned to the client, it's $2billion in fees versus an additional $40m. Scaled back to your example that'd be like hiring a guy who gets you $200, keeping $98 for your $2.

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That would be incorrect. I just used numbers that weren't reflective of the article.

To keep (dumbly) using my simple numbers, while still using their percentages, it would be more like this:

You could get $100 by using an index, but instead, you hire a guy who gets you $103 for not using an index, then charge you a $2 fee, leaving you with a "profit" of $1.

At the end of the day, the fund recipients still come out ahead, just not as much ahead as if the managers charged no fees. If you can figure out a way to get people to work for free, and do a good job on top of it, then you'll have surely cracked the code (or reinvented slavery). Until then, it's hard for me to demonize a money manager who charged two percent over ten years, even if it was two percent of a very large number.

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