In the same hour this morning I both got mad and felt sad, and it struck me that ‘unaffordability’ was at the heart of both issues. In these times of austerity, lots of changes are being made and far too many of them can never be unmade. I’m not talking about things like closing swimming pools and libraries which are the very big face of the cuts, but the smaller things than pass under the radar until it’s too late.
The first one was trying to find a surveyor to carry out a valuation on Withington Baths. Not a value on the building itself, what it’s worth per se, but rather its re-build / reinstatement cost so we can get an insurance quote to run the building. The basic cost just to give a figure (not survey the site or do any measurements etc) ranged from £900 – over £2000. Not to insure it, just to get the figure so you can insure it. I was shocked and had some discussions with local surveyors who told me that although they once did commercial surveys, their Professional Indemnity premiums to undertake commercial work had sky-rocketed so much that they no longer undertook it. I quote one surveyor: “It now seems to be down to the elite few which does not bode well for fees”. The implications are huge aren’t they? Insurance isn’t optional and many small businesses may now be forced to pay much higher survey fees for the same job just because far fewer people can afford to pay the premiums to allow them to do that job. That’s rubbish!
The second was getting a letter from my old school telling me that the regular news letter posted out, which I enjoy reading a couple of times a year, is going to be stopped because “The cost of postage has now reached impossible levels and is too high to afford”. Yes, I could get it via email but I wouldn’t read it, it’s not ‘urgent’ so will inevitably sit forlornly in my inbox, prioritised below bills, clients queries and Facebook updates. Whereas that printed newsletter sits winking at me on my desk and gives me a break from staring at a computer screen or getting mucky on site. A small thing to moan about, I know, but what has the world come to when people, businesses, schools freely admit they can’t afford to post letters?
Unaffordability no longer simply applies to treats and the ‘special stuff’, when it hits the business basics, it’s a very bad sign. Don’t even get me started on energy bills…… and the price of building materials, food, fuel…….