Reality Resumes

Posted on Mon 12 February 2007 in misc

After a very pleasant weekend I am back to the grind. I spotted a bit of a flaw in my assumptions at the end of last week which called into question the use of templates for my static compile tables. Luckily today's re-factoring of my code seems to have worked out well without breaking the general look of the code. It's arguable if templates are truly needed in the codes current iteration but I can see it will be more useful as that section of code grows.

It was interesting listening to Today this morning on the twin issues of flexible working and pay-as-you-drive.

I'm fortunate to work in an industry that flexible working is becoming more and more the norm. It's not with fondness I remember the long early hour commute when I worked at Marconi or the upper managements intractable approach to implementing any sort flexible working. Being able to leave early to catch a show or work from home when I'm expecting a delivery is certainly liberating. I really appreciate the fact I can work on the train when visiting Fliss (which saves money by avoiding the major Friday Eve/Sunday Eve price trap). If I ever look for a new job the lack of flexible working arrangements would certainly be a deal breaker. Of course not everyone is so lucky - it's hard to imagine a nurse being able to pick and choose when they come into work. Some areas are always going to need some sort of shift system if they need to cover all their operating hours. Part-time working can help by allowing people to have 3 days weeks, however there are issues with that. Firstly the employee is trading full-time pay (and no doubt promotion prospects) for flexibility. This is a factor which already biases the gender pay gap somewhat. Also the employer still has to suck up the fixed costs of employing someone which won't go down in proportion to the reduced hour. Still these issues aside I'm definitely a proponent for more flexibility at work and improving that elusive "work/life" balance.

Pay as you drive is more emotive. Assuming the government reduced other costs of driving* (lets remember the duty on petrol is effectively a pay-by-mile) I'd probably be better off as I use public transport every day, drive at the weekends (if at all) and can telecommute. However I'm lucky living in a metropolitan area with decent public transport and flexible hours. I worry about the costs falling hardest on the rural poor who currently have little choice but to use the car. I assume** that the costs will be structured based on local congestion so hopefully journeys on under-capacity roads won't attract the same usage charges as sitting on the M6 at 8.30 in the morning. However this brings it's own issues. The proposed satellite tracking system is a privacy nightmare. Imagine the abuses that could be made of a central database that can tell you where every car has travelled to at any particular time? This alone is enough to raise my opposition to whole scheme.

In the end road pricing tackles the problem the wrong way around. It attempts to solve congestion by making it too expensive to use a car. What we should be doing is making other forms of transport more appealing or accessible. There should be a solid push to improve our rail network to move freight off our roads as much as possible. We should be rolling out more flexible working to make the idiocy of rush hour seem like a quaint 20th century phenomenon. If that fails then we'll have to roll out the personal jet-packs ;-)

*Stop laughing at the back. We can but hope
**I know, 2 assumptions that may not come true. I'm taking a gamble that the department of transport can sort it out.