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Interesting Links for March 24th.

These are my interesting links for March 24th:

How to save £6.8million?

The simple answer is, according to Warwickshire Police, to

changing the way you responds to calls, review police posts, and reduce waste in day-to-day expenditure

Simples!  This all stems from my Council Tax Demand for the financial year 2010 / 11, which arrived recently.  For those of you outside of the UK we pay Council Tax based on property value to our local council and it is comprised of amounts for the local police authority, the district council and the county council (this is slightly different for people living in cities where the district and county council are the same).

Council Tax Demand 2010.
Council Tax Demand 2010.

As you can see from my Council Tax Demand (click to see it larger), this year for my property the tax has risen by roughly 2.2%, which is actually not too bad given the current rate of inflation in the UK, which is 3% or 3.7% depending on which measure you want to use according to The Office Of National Statistics.  Which makes this, in real terms, a decrease – so I should be filled with joy by this.

Alas, of course, I am not.  It would only be a real terms decrease in taxation if I had a pay rise in line with inflation; which very few people will get this year, especially those who are self employed like myself!  But, it is the lowest rate of increase in Council Tax since it was introduced to replace the massively unpopular Poll Tax (I am too young to have ever paid that!), so I shan’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

However, what really got me chuckling / angry / wondering was the section on the bottom of the demand which details the statutory “efficiency information” which the public bodies have to produce.  It seems Warwickshire Police have, since 2008, saved £6,829,000 in efficiency savings – a staggering amount for an authority with a budget of only approx £90m, and a large area to police.  I thought I’d read their leaflet and see how they account for this (the cynic in me thinking its just a number game).

But no, lo and behold, they have saved £6.8m by simply changing the way the answer the phone.  Oh, and of course the “reviewing of police posts.”  Details of which are actually in the same leaflet.  Warwickshire will lose 58 police officers, out of only 1,005 (Warwickshire is the smallest police force in the UK, bar City Of London), a reduction of almost 6%.  Luckily though, we gain 51 “police staff” which brings their number to 780, an increase of 7%.

How can this be an efficiency saving when the definition above it is given as

An efficiency saving occurs when the cost of an activity falls, but the level and quality of service is not reduced.

I don’t think anyone would define having fewer police, but more staff as not affecting the quality or level of service.  So that leaves the phone answering and day to day costs to explain the £6.8m savings.  Thats a lot of unanswered phones and paper clips!

More complicated than you’d think…

Well, I am a few days into my blog now and have  spent a great deal of time setting the site up; certainly more than I imagined I would.  Despite WordPress’s famed “5 minute install,” I have found myself spending my spare time over the last few days adding tweaks, plugins, themes and debugging the same to try and get the blog nearer to where I would like it to be.

I’ve read multiple websites and other blogs which contain advice for new bloggers and (see interesting links) and most of the advice seems pretty sensible.  In the hope it might help other new bloggers, here’s what I have added to the base WordPress 2.9.2 installation so far, and why.

  • Awsom News Announcement.  My theme doesn’t allow for a static message on the home page, and I wanted a little introduction.  Having used this plugin before elsewhere, it was a must.
  • Contact Form 7.  Not wanting to fill my inbox with spam by putting my email address on the internet, I wanted a contact form, and this was highly recommended.  I did have some problems with using it and permalinks on my server (I use an IIS server and a 404 error handler to handle permalinks) – but found a solution on the WordPress forums.
  • Postalicious.  This required me to sign up for a Delicious.com account too, but came highly recommended as a good way of automatically posting the links which interest me on a daily basis.
  • WP-Cumulus.  Rather than a normal tag  cloud which just lists your tags as plain text, this takes them and turns them into a small flash “movie” which is more interactive, and I think better looking.
  • WP to Twitter. Pretty much as the name suggests, this plug in tweets an announcement of new blog posts on my twitter account.

And there is still more to do!  I need to improve the prominence of my RSS feeds, put more useful information in the right hand column, improve the SEO, and do some layout tweaks at the least…  but this could just be my being a perfectionist.  All / any suggestions greatly appreciated – leave a comment!

Interesting Links, 23 March 2010

One of the bloggers whose blog I read most days (I have set routine of sites to check first thing every day, working left to right on favourites bar in Chrome) often posts links to interesting articles that have caught her eye.  I think its a great idea… so I hope she doesn’t mind if I do the same!

  • An Eclectic Mind. This is the blog I was referring to.  Maria Langer is a freelance writer and commercial helicopter pilot from Arizona, USA.  Her blog is very addictive because of its diverse subject matter and the quality of the writing.
  • Virgin Galactic’s First “Captive” Flight. and Photo’s. Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise has made its inaugural captive flight, attached to VMS Eve from the Mojave Space Port.  Thanks to @mlanger and @richardbranson on Twitter.
  • First Flight of Chinese heavy heli.  Aviacopters AC313 has made its first test flights and secured a launch customer, but will it succeed against the likes of AW101 & S-92 given its near 50 year design heritage?

Hello world!

Well, it seems appropriate to leave the title of the first entry on my blog as “Hello World!” partly because its nearly always the first example in any computing book and partly because this is my first foray into the world of blogging.

I’ve been inspired to start blogging as a result of a couple of blogs which I read regularly, some are Helicopter related exclusively but some have mixed content which reflects the authors life (although I probably started reading them because of the flying content).

I hope my blog proves to be interesting to people, but my motivation is a little selfish too.  I often have thoughts about subjects which I think if I wrote about them it would help me think about the topic in greater depth, rather than being naturally dismissive; a tendency of mine.

I’m now faced with the dilemma’s of coming up with good tags & categories to help with the SEO of the site, tweaking the theme, finding the right widgets and all the other stuff which makes for a good usable blog which (hopefully) generates repeat visitors.  So, be prepared for the site to evolve over time… and thanks for visiting!