One of the nice things about eating in pubs is that you do not have to worry about the awkward moment at the end when your card is put into the machine to pay. They do not ask for a tip in pubs, do they?
Well, if it is the Plough and Sail at Snape they do now. I went there yesterday and on the card machine up came the dreaded question: “Would you like to add a gratuity?”
These machines all seem to be slightly different, but in this case the waiter was helpful and said, “Press the yellow button if you don’t want to.” Waiters turn their backs as you put in your pin but you know they will see there is no tip when they print the receipt.
For years I have suffered from indecision but solved that a some time ago by deciding I would always answer that I did not want to tip.
I did not remember a tip being suggested when I was last in the Plough and Sail. A web search showed that the pub had changed hands in March.
The whole idea of tipping is bizarre. As a business model it is awful. Adding a 15% service charge is simply a way of misleading customers about the price they will pay, while expecting tips simply suggests the staff are being paid less than they are worth.
You might not expect the Daily Telegraph to be so vehement on the subject of tipping as this:
Tipping is at root a feudal concept: a system of economic carrots and sticks used by people of higher social status to reinforce their authority over people of lower social status. Grovel to me and I will make it worth your while. Get uppity and I will hit you where it hurts. The subtext could hardly be more blatant – or more objectionable.
As another Telegraph article by the same writer reported last month a survey showed 62 per cent of us were fed up with tipping and annoyed be service charges. He suggested tipping was making us act out feudal rituals “like characters in Downton Abbey”.
Will you join me in saying no “No” to the “feudal concept” of adding a gratuity?
It might just bring restaurant owners into the 21st century and make them pay their staff living wages.
Ipswich Spy is having a go at Ipswich MP, Ben Gummer, for not updating his web site with sufficient frequency. “Mr Gummer is, once again, failing to communicate,” it says of the lack of post on his blog since January.
Failing to communicate through his web site is certainly true but there are other ways of using social media. For instance, he told his 2,200 followers that on Tuesday he had a sandwich in the Brewery Tap. It was the best he had ever had and, he says, he was not drinking.
That news came via twitter of which Gummer is a frequent and regular user. Yesterday he gave us a more serious insight into his views.
So perhaps the performance indicators which the Spy complains are not being updated should include a running total of the number of tweets he has made.
The Spy does not mention the other Ipswich MP, Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) who has posted three news updates on his website this month (not bad in the recess) , the latest on his reappointment “as Chair of the influential All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity. ”
So far as I know Poulter does not tweet. Please do not confuse Dr Dan with @dan_poulter who recently told his followers “Jet washing your foot hurts”
Apocalyptic stories in the papers today. “Anger spilled onto the streets of Southwold after a national coffee chain was allowed to open in the town centre,” according to the East Anglian Daily Times.
“The locals of Totnes have gone to war,” says the Guardian.
Can the Costa riots be far away? In both towns there are loud campaigns against plans to open branches of Costa Coffee.
One of the pleasures of Southwold is that it is not filled with the same shopfronts as everywhere else. It is a long time since I have been to Totnes, Devon, but I recall another town centre worth exploring.
At the same time I do use Costa branches, although it is relegated if there is a branch of Caffé Nero around. Why choose one of these over-priced national chains before a locally-owned cafe when I am an unfamiliar town?
I guess I have had too many experiences of finding the the only other option is stale filter coffee. Or, if there is an espresso machine, asking for a cappuccino and getting something like a latte with froth. So I go for the familiar brand.
Sometimes there are local places that beat the national chains. In Woodbridge my choice is Browsers Bookshop ahead of the Cafe Nero, a few doors away, or the Costa a bit further on.
Given the the way the planning laws and free market work, probably the only thing that will keep the chains away is the prospect that they won’t make sufficient profit.
The rapid growth in the coffee shop market is underlined by Costa which contributed nearly a third of the Whitbread group’s £1,788 million sales in the 2011-12 financial year. They opened 332 new shops, more than half of them in the UK in the year.
This year they plan to open 350 new stores. Clearly there is a growing demand which can be met profitably despite the group having to refinance £441 million of debt in the last financial year.
Italian visitors to England are shocked at the price of a cup of coffee in England. Surely the way to keep the coffee chains out of high streets of towns like Southwold and Totnes is to have places that offer a similar experience at a lower price.
The way to keep out the chains of shops and restaurants must be to offer customers something better for their money.
Seckford Foundation boss Graham Watson has resigned from the board of Suffolk Libraries. He was one of the directors nominated by community groups.
One of the foundation directors appointed by the County Council, Clive Fox from Aldeburgh, resigned as chairman of Suffolk’s Libraries Industrial and Provident Society in March but said he would remain on the board at least until June. He has also resigned from the board.
A spokesman for the IPS confirmed that Watson had resigned on June 16 because, “He felt that his other work commitments meant he could give the IPS the time and energy it needed at this critical time.” He added they would “like to thank Graham for everything he has done to bring the IPS forward.”
Watson is Director of the Secford Foundation and Bursar of Woodbridge School, a public school, which it runs.
The most recent annual report, for the year ended August 31, 2011, of the Seckford Foundation says:
The desire of Suffolk County Council to divest itself from certain activities has led to a number of potential activities being examined during the year including the provision of local library services and expansion of the provision of care homes. Whilst these activities met the charitable objectives of the Foundation these have not been taken further at the current time, largely as a result of changes in policy by Suffolk County Council, but the Governors continue to keep such potential activities under review, not least as part of the current strategic review.
Watson has been heavily engaged in Seckford’s plans to set up a chain of free schools. This scheme took a blow last month when a bid to open a Free School in Stoke-by-Nayland was rejected by the Deartment for Education.
Its other two free schools, at Saxmundham and Beccles, are to open in September but have been hit by a low uptake of places.
Figures given by the Foundation to the East Anglian Daily Times this week show 64 children have chosen to attend the Beccles school and 163 at Saxmundham. These figures are higher than those released under a Freedom of Information request to the County Council. These show pupil counts of 42 for Deccles and 85 for Saxmundham.
Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council opposes the Beccles Free School and will be giving evidence to the scrutiny committee of Waveney District Council next week.
This post has been edited to remove factual inaccuracy.
In 1863 Debenham’s volunteer library, the Literary and Mechanics Institute, held a series of public readings. The final event of the season included a song, There’s a Good Time Coming Girls which starts:
There’s a good time coming girls,
A good time coming.
Old maidens may not see the day,
but still shall give a loud hurrah!
for the good time coming.
From 2012, this feminist song, which looked forward to the time when “women rule instead of men”, looks over optimistic.
In the middle of the 19th century, public, rate-funded libraries were in their infancy. For most places a locally volunteer library was the only option. Gradually they were replaced by council-run libraries, a better way of creating a service accessible to all.
Yesterday, Suffolk County Council handed control of its 44 libraries to an Industrial and Provident Society. The council will continue to provide the core funding for a free library service operating across the county with a common book stock.
And the IPS now running Suffolk libraries has women, Shona Bendix, chair of the board, and Alison Wheeler, general manager, at its head. So in this little world of libraries, that song recited in Debenham 149 years ago has come true.
They are starting on what Public Libraries News today describes as the “Suffolk Experiment”.
Under the heading Suffolk transfers to control by Industrial and Provident Society PLN writes:
In a move that is being welcomed by some and feared by others, Suffolk has transferred its entire library service to a mutual society. As with a Trust, the main advantage of this is that there are tax savings, or more accurately money back from non-domestic rates. In addition, supporters and even the Council itself says that savings will be made by no longer being part of the Council bureaucracy. All libraries will retain paid staff and generally appear unchanged in all major ways. However, the amount of money expected to be saved by the transfer – a £2.6m cut – is a tough target. The Suffolk experiment, for that is what it is, also runs the danger of being used as a model by other councils desperate to save money without closing libraries. It may be too soon to do this with confidence but these are the toughest of times and many would prefer being a library user in Suffolk than in Doncaster about now.
I too have reservations about how this experiment will work. But the most important thing is that we still have a free county-wide library service and staff are not being replaced by volunteers (there are likely to be more of them to help improve the service). See Shona Bendix’s message to users.
It means that no libraries are being closed. That is hugely important because it is much easier to close a library than reopen or replace one that has been closed.
The arguments for a library service run by democratically elected representatives (i.e. councillors) are strong and my preference.
Yet the optimistic view of many, but not all, campaigners in Suffolk is that the IPS and individual library support groups can make a better job of running the service in straitened times than the county council.
The hard work is only just beginning. No one really knows how it will progress, but the way will be bumpy, for sure.
I agree with PLN there is a danger of others grasping the IPS model without really understanding what it involves or that it is, at the moment, an unproved approach.
The process by which Suffolk got to the point it is at now, is not the same as that in most other parts of the country. For a start, I can’t think of another area which has lost it council chief executive and leader in the middle of the decision making. That forced fresh thinking on all sides.
For places facing library closures, the IPS model is worth looking at if it will avoid closures.
Generally, I just hope. “There’s a good time coming…”
Suffolk libraries believe they will remain a part of the Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme when they are transferred to an independent Industrial and Provident Society on August 1.
The Society of Authors is concerned that volunteer run libraries would reduce the basis on which loans are calculated and lead to reduced incomes for writers.
This week they wrote to Culture Minister Ed Vaisey. quoting PLR registrar Jim Parker saying:
Under the PLR legislation, PLR only applies to public libraries administered by local library authorities as defined by the Public Libraries Act (1964). This, therefore, would exclude library branches no longer run by the local authority and taken over by voluntary groups.
The letter added that Parker said it would be a “grey area” in locations where local authorities were allowing volunteers to run branches while still remaining under their umbrella.
It looked as if Suffolk, currently one of the PLR sampling areas for calculation of loans of individual books, might fall into this “grey area”.
But I am told by the Suffolk libraries IPS that it believed that they will be eligible to continue to be a part of the PLR scheme.
There would be no advantage in not remaining a part of the scheme as the payments to authors are funded by the Culture Department.
In its letter to Vaisey, the SoA General Secretary, Nicola Solomon, said:
I accepted in my previous letter that taking volunteer run libraries out of the statutory scheme will not have an immediate effect on authors’ incomes as the Government allocates a fixed amount to PLR (around £6.3 million for 2012/13) and the calculation of the rate per loan is essentially a mathematical exercise, dependent on the number of loans and the money available. The rate per loan in 2012 has been fixed at 6.05p and this rate has been falling steadily in response to Government cuts. We are concerned that taking volunteer libraries out of the scheme will lead to an apparent drop in book loans which will encourage Government to propose cutting the already meagre fund still further. We seek an assurance that the overall fund will not be cut due to volunteer run libraries being removed from the scheme. Please let me have that assurance by return.
It is a complex issue and the SoA is asking that the government find a statutory solution that would avoid the possibility of volunteer libraries being sued for copyright infringement. They are also asking for a part of the Digital Economy Act which extends PLR to audio books and e-books to be implemented.
So the threat (Daily Telegraph: Sarah Waters among authors threatening action over ‘Big Society’ lending libraries) is that volunteer libraries which ae not part of the wider system that continues to record all loans and is capable to providing figures for PLR, could be faced with paying copyright fees.
That would face local volunteer libraries with added costs which, I suspect, the Government will want to avoid.
Libraries already pay copyright fees for music through Performing Rights Society licences.
I asked why my local library had to have a PRS licence. It was explained that sessions where children sign along to music needed the licence.
The biggest of the pilot schemes for a divested Suffolk library service, a co-operative in Ipswich, has collapsed.
The news, first revealed by James Hargrave on his blog, was confirmed in an email to library supporters in Ipswich. It reads:
After several months of hard work we have decided that the Ipswich Libraries Co-operative proposal did not fit with the ambitions of the Ipswich County Library and that of the Gainsborough Community Library. With the best intentions of the users and staff in mind it is felt that an independent activity would be more able to meet their needs.
Each of the Ipswich libraries will now be working directly with the IPS until it is clear what form of governance for each library will best work within the new set-up. We will of course let you know when we have made alternative plans, please do get in touch if you would like more information or would like to offer your assistance. We understand that this may have caused inconvenience but we believe that the decision will lead to a better future.
This will be a blow to the County Council which had established a number of pilot schemes to test various approaches to local management of libraries under a county-wide Industrial and Provident Society.
The IPS itself is looking increasingly fragile, under the chairmanship of Clive Fox whose library manager in Aldeburgh, another of the pilots, has resigned over the plans there.
Another pilot scheme, the cluster of Debenham, Eye and Stradbroke, has yet to make much progress because of the range and complexity of property issues to be settled first.
The County Council has always know that the IPS to run the service under contract to the council was the riskiest of the three options it considered.
As the risk analysis considered by the council said, the deciding factors between a continued in house service and the IPS were, “likely to be the risk appetite of the County Council and the level of commitment to community governance”.
On both counts they seem to have called it wrongly. And there have been scant signs yet of leadership from the IPS. There are whispers that contingency plans are being prepared.
Rural poverty comes with a thatched roof, John Gummer told a fairly well-heeled audience for Opera in the Barn, at Crows Hall, Debenham, on Saturday evening.
Lord Gummer was quoting someone else but the point was well made for the audience at the event which was for the benefit of the Suffolk Foundation which raises and allocates money to a wide range of projects throughout the county.
Last week the foundation published a research report, Hidden Needs, into deprivation in the county. It was prepared by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research in the University’s Department of Land Economy.
It shows that nearly 78,000 people (more than one in ten of the population) live in income deprivation at the most minimal living standard provided by welfare benefits and will below the “poverty line”. This includes 19,000 children under 16 and 24,000 people of retirement age.
While Ipswich and Lowestoft have the worst areas of deprivation, the “hidden” poor of rural areas are vulnerable when resources are allocated to areas with the greets need.
Shockingly, the report shows than in the past few years poverty in Suffolk has risen relative to England as a whole.
The distances that residents in many parts of the county must travel to buy groceries, see a GP or post a parcel are among the highest in England.
On government spending cuts, the report says:
The Local Government Finance Settlement, the Coalition government’s decentralisation policy, the Localism Bill, the Big Society agenda, and outsourcing of public sector services in Suffolk present both challenges and opportunities for different sectors of Suffolk society.
While these changes may present opportunities for social enterprises, charities and small businesses to grow and develop, it is possible that the impact of funding cuts and restructuring of public sector service provision will have most negative effects on the most disadvantaged groups and individuals.
This is a report that should be read by every member of the county and district councils. If they don’t they are not doing their jobs properly